Category Archives: Thinking about stopping

2017: Freedom & Liberation

Firstly Happy New Year to you from me! 🙂 What does one write about on the first day of a new year that holds so much promise and optimism?  I think the best place to start are with my words for 2017 which are freedom/liberation.  I think they stem from the discoveries I made as I approached 3 years sober.

Perhaps to appreciate my sense of freedom & liberation I have to revisit the life I left.  Once more Sally Brampton in ‘Shoot the Damn Dog‘ describes it more eloquently than I so I’m going to quote a passage from her book here.  The conversation between her and a friend could have been my ‘now sober self’ talking to my ‘old still-drinking self’ and so it feels really fitting for today and this post.

Suddenly she said, ‘Tell me about the drinking too much’.  I shrugged. ‘I drink too much, end of story’.  ‘Shall I tell you about my drinking? Would that help?’.  ‘If you like’.  I was awkward, unused to somebody being open about drinking.  I kept mine secret, even from my closest friends.  I liked to drink alone.  That way, I could drink as much as I liked.  That way, I was the only witness to my shame.  And I was ashamed.  Alcohol does that to you

Lulu said, ‘Every night, I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink the next day and every morning, when I woke up, I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink that day.  As I left the house to go to work, I promised myself, again, that I wouldn’t drink that day’….  I said nothing.  Those promises were familiar territory.  I had made them to myself, countless times. 

‘I’d get through the rest of the day somehow, but my mind was always fixed on alcohol.  Perhaps if I just had one drink, after that I stop completely.  Just one couldn’t hurt, could it?  Then I would decided that, no, I would be good.  I would go home, have a bath, make myself something nice to eat and have an early night so I’d be fresh for work the next day.  She looked at me, her eyes clear. ‘I knew that was what I was going to do.  But I still stopped at the off-licence and bought myself a bottle of wine and got straight into bed without washing or eating and I drank until I passed out.’  She grimaced at the memory.  ‘I don’t even like the taste of alcohol’.

Nor did I.  In fact, I’d come to hate it.  But I loved the effect, the way it stopped the pain, stopped me feeling.  She said, as if reading my mind, ‘I drank to change the way that I feel.’.  I wanted, right then, to change the way I felt, or how she was making me feel.  Even thinking about it made me want a drink.  What could be the harm in having one drink, to make me feel better? Perhaps she didn’t know what she was was talking about.  After all, it wasn’t as if she had been drinking that much.  I knew people who drank far more and they didn’t think they had a problem.  ‘It doesn’t sound too much’.

‘It’s not how much you drink.  It’s how you drink and why.’

‘I only drink because of the depression*.  If it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t drink, I laugh nervously.  ‘Or I wouldn’t drink so much’. [*You could change the word here to stress, anxiety, debt, work, family, children, boredom, need to get things done, all my friends do/partner does, insert your word(s) of choice].  ‘Seriously though, a drink doesn’t make it better.  It only makes it worse.  How much are you drinking?’  ‘A bottle of wine, perhaps two a day’.  ‘Can you stop?’  ‘Yes, no,’ I sighed.  ‘I don’t know …. No.  Well, I find it hard to stop.  But I’m not an alcoholic’.  Lulu’s smile curved.  ‘What’s an alcoholic?’  ‘Someone who sleeps on a park bench? Who passes out? Who gets violent? Who can’t hold down a job?’  Lulu’s smiled curved even higher.  ‘I am an alcoholic.’  I looked down at my hands.  Her voice was gentle.  ‘Sal, I know exactly how you feel.  I tried to do it on my own too, and it doesn’t work.  We need help.  We cannot do it on our own.’  ‘But you look so well, so happy.’  I shook my head.  ‘I don’t know.  Maybe I can stop on my own.  I’ve done it before’.

Lulu got up and hugged me.  ‘We’ve all done it before.  We’ve done it so many times we’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  We all think we can do it on our own.  It’s just that we don’t have to.  We don’t have to be alone.’

I nodded.  For some reason, I wanted to cry. ‘OK’.

If this resonates for you too, know that you are not alone and if you are looking for freedom and liberation from booze you can always reach out and email me at ahangoverfreelife@gmail.com.  Or if you would like help to cut down or quit drinking I run an online course and you can use the link here to get a 25% discount 🙂  

If I can do it, you can do it …….

 

 

Sponsored blog post: Baclofen revisited

uk-rehabSo earlier this month I was approached by AddictionHelper (also known as UK Rehab as pictured to the left) about them providing some sponsored content and they suggested the subject of Baclofen.    I have written only one post about this medication that you can read here.  And then serendipitously someone in the UK who had recently used Baclofen successfully (and will be 1 year sober on 1st January 2017) left a comment on that  blog post and wanted to speak more about their experience.  So I put the two in touch and here is the result 🙂

Baclofen: A new remedy for alcoholism?

Baclofen is a medication used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. Over the last decade, however, it has been put to the test in different quarters as a treatment for alcoholism.

The increase in the frequency of baclofen usage can be attributed to the fact that it has shown a proclivity for reducing withdrawal symptoms in alcoholic individuals. Presently, baclofen is still used in the treatment of alcoholism in an “off-label” manner (use outside regulatory approved boundaries).  However, trials over the last decade, point to the possible removal of the “off-label” tag.

Related studies on baclofen and alcohol relationship

Many baclofen related studies have been completed in the past. One of such studies shows that only high doses of baclofen can lead to the desired indifference towards alcohol.  Another study highlighted the relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed before treatment and the right dosage required by patients to achieve desired results.

Bacloville is one of the main studies that have been done on the drug. The study was conducted at the Paris Descartes University and led by Philippe Jaury.  During the study, high doses of baclofen (average of 160mg per day), was administered to 320 volunteers aged 18-65 over a twelve-month period. 56.8% of the subjects on baclofen decreased their consumption to normal levels or became abstinent at the end of the period.  36.5% of subjects who were given placebos posted similar results.

The latest study at the Paul Brousse hospital, led by Michel Reynaud featured 320 subjects who were already abstinent for 20 weeks. They were given baclofen at 153mg per day. The results were less than stellar. Only 11.9% of subjects taking Baclofen remained alcohol-free while 10.5% of those on placebo did (Note from Lou: daily recommended maximum dose of Baclofen is 100mg within the UK).

While the evidence exists about the efficacy of baclofen in the treatment of alcoholism, addiction experts believe that it may not be a definitive solution for a while yet. Although clinical trials have been positive, more data is required to come to a conclusive agreement. Many, however, agree that baclofen has a higher chance of ensuring positive results in individuals that are more severely dependent on alcohol.

Side effects of baclofen

A study revealed that 88% of patients reported at least one undesirable side-effect as a result of baclofen usage. In some cases, the severity of the side-effects led to the cessation of baclofen-based treatment.

Some of the common side effects of baclofen include memory loss weight loss or gain, dysphoria, bowel disorder, sensory alterations, fatigue, sleepiness, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, paraesthesia, decrease or increase of libido, different forms of pain among other symptoms. There have been some documented cases of seizures and breathing problems as a more serious side effect.

The result of the baclofen-induced chemical alterations in the brain can equally lead to reduced efficacy of other vital medications in use by an individual.  Contraindications include psychological conditions, epilepsy, ulcers and heart-related ailments.

The dosage is decreased strategically, to combat the adverse effects of baclofen, over a two-week period with the aid of a qualified medical personal.

The effects of baclofen on alcoholism may be inconclusive, but past results make it a worthy option for alcoholics seeking remedy from their condition. However, baclofen based treatments for alcohol must only be administered by qualified professionals to avoid debilitating side effects that could prove fatal.

Personal Experience of Baclofen C Allan

I read about Baclofen and Olivier Ameison on the web-forum mywayout,org, an American based site covering most areas of alcoholism and the various methods of over coming this disease – I am not a “meeting” type of guy and indeed the thought of a meeting worried me as it would “interfere with my “drinking schedule” as every meet would be a driver away

Following a TIA in March 2015 – My Neurologist informed me that I had to make a considerable change to my personal circumstances, in particular my diet and my alcohol intake needed to improve – The results of the TIA are not noticeable externally, however there are occasions when my motor skills are confused, for instance I have to think before I can react to left and right handed commands (it is a bit like being spoken to in a foreign language and having to translate it first) and I also tend to type a lot of my words with letters the wrong way around – For instance I just wrote tpye instead of type

Having read many clinical trials papers following up on Ameison’s personal findings and the titration schedule as drawn up by French Physicians I started my initial titration on 20th December 2015 – On the 2nd January I stopped drinking, full stop, this was surprisingly easy, bearing in mind I had over the past 3+ decades consumed the equivalent to 180 units a week as I learned to pass out from the 220-250 a week unit intake I consumed at my peak – I put this solely down to Baclofen as I had tried (oh so) many times with self control – My Baclofen dosage at this time was 60mg a day. This dose was not sufficient to prevent my cravings so I continued titrating until I reached 180mg a day when my cravings ceased – As had the anxiety that I thought was a usual thing that on reflection had been the catalyst to my epic drinking history – It is moot as to whether or not Baclofen has reduced my anxiety or if the lack of alcohol has effected this – I suspect a little of both although without Baclofen, I could not have stopped drinking – Chicken and egg scenario

Anyway, I titrated up as per the French Physicians Guide (Translated by my friend David Harris), although I was not drinking against my will, I noticed a distinct lack of anxiety – I suffered this compulsively, some of the anxieties I had are on reflection, quite laughable now – At the time I did not realise that this was not normal – I thought everyone fet this way – I use an analogy to describe the feeling

It is like having a car, over the years the suspension becomes soft and saggy – You only notice how bad it has become when you replace the suspension – Because of the gradual effect of the loss of performance – My anxiety mirrored this

I was luck to make some good friends, mainly in the US, one in particular, who is IMO, a leading knowledge in Baclofen for AUD having correlated vast amounts of information and trial data over the years – He himself is an alcoholic, in remission thanks to Baclofen

I approached my GP in the early part of my titration and explained to her what my plan was – I had in the past I had heard some bad stories about GP’s reaction to non prescription medication, indeed one girl from Kent had been told to “find another GP” – My GP was terrific, she asked me to send her some information and as she could clearly see at that stage (BP and weight down) she even intimated she may even prescribe “off label” – So I took her up on her offer and sent her basically everything I could find on Baclofen 

I went back to see her four months later and she was pleased with what she saw (BP perfect and 5 stone shed) – She then prescribed me my maintenance dose of 150mg a day by prescription – It was not a financial issue, the prescription, it was the recognition by the medical profession that Baclofen has a place in alcoholism – The French, who do prescribe Baclofen for AUD are generally limited to 100mg a day with therapy – She was keen to prescribe Baclofen to her other patients – Currently I suggested this may not be a good idea for reasons I may elaborate on at another time when i have some more time

So today I am indifferent to alcohol, I can drink coffee while the others get drunk – I don’t currently need alcohol to make me someone different – 150mg a day, with a NHS prescription and the support of my GP – Cannot get much better than that.

Thank you to Mark from AddictionHelper (and Chris Allan) for this content.  I can’t advise on the use of Baclofen or the best rehabilitation for you, if that is what you need, so please do contact UK rehab who will be able to help.

 

Soberistas launch new website

soberistas-new-siteSo today is the day that Lucy Rocca of Soberistas launch their new website!  This is a screen grab of the new live site 🙂

This is why:

Hopefully you will be aware that we are currently in the process of having a new website built which will be a much improved Soberistas and result in a better user experience for all our members.

We are aware that the current site is not perfect and there have been issues that will be eliminated in the new Soberistas.

One of the main issues has been the complicated login process. On the new site there will be one simple login process and the site will know if you are a paying member with out having to sign into Tinypass and this can be done on any device.

I’ve always been a fan of the community that Lucy has built because it was one of the first that I discovered.  In fact I talked about Soberistas in my very first blog post which you can read here 🙂  I’ve talked about Soberistas more than once too!  If you want to read all the blog posts where they’ve had a mention you can go here to read them all!

I’m all for supporting other UK initiatives that help us ex-drinkers, alcohol free warriors or recovery folk – whatever you liked to be known as and having met Lucy know that she is doing an amazing job over there in supporting thousands in their sober journey.

Do go check out the new platform and raise a cuppa in thanks.  I will be 🙂

Well done and good luck Lucy with the continued growth of Soberistas <3

PS Apologies for posting this up this morning and then taking it down until this evening.  The new site launched this afternoon so I was a bit premature in my announcement earlier!

Surrender

surrenderSo today my family & I fly to Australia for a month.  A hard earned & saved for treat for over 1000 days sober (1043 today to be exact!)  I can’t quite believe we’ve achieved this many days or this extended holiday.  As with my other breaks it will also be a cyber holiday so I’m leaving this post up until I return and linking a copy of my e-book here for you to download while I’m away should you want to:

Free ebook here 🙂

My online course is self-directed so remains available during this time but can I direct you to Udemy if you have any technical issues.  Equally any comments on the blog or emails sent to me during this time will not be responded to until my return at the end of August.

Plus I’d like to thank a member of the BFB Yahoo for this blog post they called Surrender and if you’d like to read more of their writing you can do so here (she’s on day 145 now!)  Over to them and see you in a month 🙂

Good morning BFBers

Today is day 30 for me. It’s been a ride and a half and I am so grateful for the support of this group. The longest I have ever gone without alcohol with the exception of three pregnancies and a few military deployments was 11 days out of the last 20 some years. Ridiculously, I used to congratulate myself on going more than 24 hours without a drink and never could have fathomed a whole month. Yet, here I am.  And I feel deep down that I will never drink again. I made myself a promise that if I could make it this first month that I would come clean and share my story here.  There are obviously years leading up to all of this, but this is how I came to SURRENDER.
Thirty days ago I drank an entire bottle of whiskey in an attempt to “feel better” after I had a series of unsettling events. I see it all now as what it was: a painful wake up call from God. The day before my last drink, I had worked a twelve hour shift in the ER, 10 of which were spent taking care of a patient who was an alcohol overdose who was found unresponsive by her family. She had aspirated (inhaled her vomit into her lungs), then had an anoxic (lack of oxygen) brain injury and a stroke as a result. She was 4 years older than me and will probably never wake up again. She left three kids.
Instead of coming home and recognizing that situation as a cautionary tale and using it to examine my own drinking, I did what I always did after a rough shift: I drank. I drank about 5 shots of whiskey and then restlessly went to bed at 0300. My sweet son who has a lot of sensory issues and learning disability had a giant meltdown about his socks the following morning which, in my probably still intoxicated state I did not handle well. I yelled at him which made it all worse and he went to school feeling misunderstood and sniffly.  I sat down after taking the kids to the bus feeling like an utter failure, trying to shake the images of my patient the night before. Her kids crying at the bedside, her slack jaw, the medications I was using to keep her alive, the rhythmic hiss and whoosh of the ventilator that was breathing for her.  So… I drank some more. A lot more.
I fell asleep, and was awakened by my phone ringing; the school calling to tell me that I had forgotten to get my 5 year old off the bus. I stumbled to my car, looking like God knows what and went into the office.  I could hear my words slurring, burst into tears when she came out of the nurses’ office and made some probably unintelligible statement to all of the office ladies that I wasn’t feeling well and had laid down and not heard my alarm. I have no idea why they didn’t call the police or why they let me take my daughter.  Unless the idea that I, a mom with three kids at that school who is active and “together” could have possible been severely intoxicated at NOON was just too difficult to imagine.  Maybe they truly believed that I did have the flu or something.. I drove home the 0.8 miles to our house (yes, I’ve measured just how far I drove drunk with my precious daughter in the car), remember trying to make her a PB and J. I took another shot to  manage the guilt I felt when I realized that instead of jelly, I had dumped out a jar of olives onto the sandwich and had to start over.  That was the last shot in the bottle, so of course I opened the second. I made her a sandwich and then I don’t remember anything after that.  Apparently, my subconscious knew that I was in trouble because I called my husband (I don’t remember) and told him he needed to come home right away because I was messed up.
The next thing I remember was lying in the tub vomiting up my guts, with my husband trying to get me up and out of the shower. Me crying that I just wanted to die and finally saying out loud to him over and over “I’m an alcoholic.” Then passing out again.
I finally woke up at 11 pm that night in my bed, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I had bruises on my entire body; my face was throbbing.  I looked down and realized that my left knee was completely dislocated. It was like looking at someone else’s knee. I literally felt nothing; just thought, “huh, pretty sure my knee cap shouldn’t be sticking out the side of my leg.” I stood up shakily and it popped back in. I hobbled to the bathroom to see my face. My lip was swollen, my right front tooth was broken and the whole side of my face was purple.. I have no idea how I sustained those injuries.  My first thought was of my kids. I asked my husband where they were and he told me “you made R lunch, called me and set her up with a movie. She was watching Strawberry Shortcake when I got home an hour after your call. The other two are fine. I was here when they got home.”
I see all of those things now as Divine providence. The school staff should have called the police. I was in a grey-out when I drove my daughter home and didn’t crash or hurt anyone. I could have killed both of us driving like that. I gave myself a concussion smashing my face into something because I was too intoxicated to stand. I knocked out my front tooth and tore a ligament in my knee.  I could have been more severely injured, passed out, aspirated and been just like my patient the day before.  It had been building for a while and my husband had never seen me like that. And though the signs were probably there if he had been looking, he never noticed. What a spectacular reveal!  Like whipping that curtain away from Oz, everything was out in the open, warts and all and now this is the new reality.
My thoughts during that first night were so full of shame that I just wanted to die. I was in severe physical and emotional pain. I didn’t want to see my kids in the morning, knowing that I had failed them so utterly.  Whatever any one tells you or what you want to believe, this disease is PROGRESSIVE…  over the last two months that I drank I had reached the point that I had become the clichéd slurring, falling down mother who endangered her child, and endangered other people on the road with me. I never would have imagined that a few ” You deserve it/ Mommy’s time out” glasses of wine (which became bottles which became day time drinking which became binge drinking vodka or whiskey because I had so much tolerance) after my children were in bed would swallow me whole; destroy my self-respect, make me a caricature, a failure and shatter every illusion of perfection or control I had ever clung to. And all of that happened in the span of two years. To anyone on the outside, I looked like a “together” mom of three adorable kids who is a damn good nurse, a tough lady with a great sense of humor who has survived a lot of tough times in life, the tall redhead with the quick wit who has a reputation for being able to handle anything.  Except I couldn’t handle alcohol anymore. And I felt like a fraud. If anyone knew….
If you are struggling with moderation, thinking you can control it, I am here to tell you that if you are truly an alcoholic, this disease will not allow you to do that indefinitely.  At some point, down the road, and I can’t tell you when it will be for you…Something will happen. That feeling of dread you have, that worry about being a news story, or being the next Diane Shuler… That is the voice of God telling you to STOP NOW.
That first morning, hurting and hungover, it was clear that I could either choose death or choose to accept  the idea that I could never, ever drink again.  I was living on grace and borrowed time. Because I should have been in jail or dead.  So I chose SURRENDER.  If you are reading this and haven’t gotten to that place yet, I beg you to accept that you may not be given the choice later.  So pick life.
Ironically, the last two days have been the hardest of these 30. I’m struggling with sleep again, feeling down and lacking energy. My anxiety is flaring and I had two panic attacks in the last few days where I honestly thought I was having a heart attack… But fortunately I’m able to recognize all of this as symptoms of PAWS. So, I’m pushing through, trying to rest when I need it, giving myself slack and working on doing a LOT of breathing and pausing.  The biggest thing I’ve learned in this last month is that just because I’m feeling something uncomfortable, I don’t have to fix it immediately.  I’m a person who hates unresolved things… always had to fix everything the very second that it cropped up. And if I couldn’t fix it, then I would just drink to feel better about it. Now, I’m finding that I don’t have to have knee-jerk reactions, don’t have to sacrifice my own well-being to make others feel better, or manage their emotions to the detriment of myself. I don’t have to “fix” it all right away. It can just BE for a while.
This of course makes me very uncomfortable and uneasy. But I have that little voice in the back of my head that says ” This sucks, but did you DIE?” Nope. Still alive and ticking. This month has been rough. Lots of firsts, some easy, some very difficult. But I’m still here, taking it a day at a time. Knowing that drinking just isn’t an option has freed me to get to the real work of unraveling myself.  Which is scary and some days like today I just don’t want to go there. The same stresses exist. I’m still suffering career burn out. I still have three kids and no local family support. My son still has very very bad days that throw everything into disequilibrium.  My husband still has PTSD and is too proud to get help. My marriage is still very rocky and probably even more so now that my husband who is a normie can’t understand what the big deal is and why I’m not just magically all better now I’m not drinking. If anything, all of this hurts a thousand times more because I’m not anesthetizing myself anymore. But I’m not drinking.
I know I can’t control and fix all of that so for THIS DAY, in this moment I will pause and  just be grateful that I’m sober.  I’m finding that though painful, this coming back to life is indescribably worth it.  I know that all of this hard work, these tough (often invisible) moments will be worth it. Because I am also open to the good things: laughter, joy; the million small details you can’t see when your edges are blurred.  I’m not sure I will ever come to a place where I can be “grateful” for being an alcoholic.  I still struggle with a lot of shame and regrets. But perhaps as this journey progresses I will eventually see it as a gift.
In the mean time, thanks for listening. Thanks for “getting” what it means to have the courage to unflinchingly take stock and face this disease.  And I hope you can be encouraged by reading my story.  Because if anyone as stubborn as me can finally learn to let go, there is hope for you.
Surrendering On

My Struggle With Alcohol: Why I Said Goodbye

40th bday cardSo I was busy spring cleaning and letting go of things that should have been let go of a long time ago when I came across this card.  Yep given to me by MrHOF from the kids believe it or not!  As I reach 1000 days tomorrow it feels like a great segway into that milestone and this piece which could have been written by me as it expresses so well my struggle and why I chose to let go of booze too and say goodbye.

When I quit drinking, outer appearances said I still had it all together. My life, family and career were intact and fully functional. Like so many problem drinkers—especially mothers—I didn’t fit the alcoholic stereotypes.

And yet, I came to the painful decision that if I wanted to live a healthy life and continue to be a good mother to my children, I would have to say goodbye to alcohol. Who would’ve though that I would actually come to love living a sober life? I loved drinking so much that this is still incredible and kind of amusing to me. It’s just another way that life is full of surprises.

Denial being one of the hallmarks of addiction, I was very good at finding logical reasons why I couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic. My drinking had not created any crises in my life and I had plenty of alcohol free days (although if I were honest, most of them were due either to my work schedule or to appease my increasingly worried husband). I didn’t quite fit the progressive disease mold. My wild party girl days were long gone. I had settled down in my thirties, got married, had two kids, got a master’s degree, and drank moderately without much thought. I was a real grown-up now, taking care of all my responsibilities. I was just having some wine in the evenings with (and before, and after) dinner. That’s normal, right?

Except that now, in my early 40’s, it was pulling at me and beckoning to me more and more by the day. On the nights I didn’t drink, it had become a “thing.” It took conscious, deliberate effort—forcing, almost. I became increasingly preoccupied with thoughts about when and how much I would drink. Which nights this week? How many would I allow myself on those nights? Would I be able to stick to that number?

I often started in the early evening while making dinner, but I did my heavier drinking after my kids went to bed. I could still call myself a good mom because my kids never saw me drunk. And I was a good mom, for the most part. But in retrospect, I know my kids felt the effects of the irritability and anxiety created by my struggle with alcohol.

During the last couple years of my drinking, while I had acknowledged that this was an “issue” in my life, I thought it was purely a symptom of other problems. I thought if I learned to deal with stress better, I would surely be able to drink in moderation without struggle. So I did more yoga and meditation, more exercise, journaling, therapy and read countless self-help books.

At the same time, I began a series of moderation plans to control my drinking (I even tried “mindful drinking”). All of them failed eventually, but I had some temporary successes with my moderation attempts, which fed my denial. For a while, I would be able to stick to my self-imposed limits. If I really had a problem, I wouldn’t be able to do that, right? Obviously, I just needed more practice to make it stick!

Wrong. All the trying and failing, the growing knowledge of what that must mean, and the sheer effort of keeping some sort of lid on this thing created mounting anxiety I could no longer ignore. I had to accept that my drinking problem was more than just a symptom of other issues. It was its own animal, and I felt it steadily gathering strength and momentum right alongside all my moderation and personal growth efforts.

I would have to deal with the elephant in my room. I decided I ought to do that before it started trampling everything, rather than after, for my family’s sake if not my own. I had too much at stake to wait and see how bad it could get.

Thankfully, the occasion of my last drink was nothing dramatic or disastrous. I stopped at the liquor store after work on a Friday night, planning to have a glass or two of wine. My husband put the kids to bed and fell asleep himself. By the end of the night, the whole bottle was gone, and I wanted more—I had to force myself to stop there. I had decided long before that this was unhealthy and I didn’t want to do it anymore. And yet, I had done it. Again.

The next morning, I woke up with a hangover. It struck me how ridiculous and sad it was that I would be unable to enjoy a beautiful summer Saturday with my family. I had written in my journal a couple months before that this moderation attempt was my last chance, and if I couldn’t stick to it this time, I would have to quit entirely. The jig was up. I read everything I could find online about quitting drinking and called an old friend who I knew had been sober for many years. That was a year and a half ago and I haven’t had a drink since.

Why do some people travel farther down the rabbit hole of addiction than others? There are a lot of complex factors, no doubt, but I know something about two of them—shame and fear. Admitting addiction means facing shame from the inside and social stigma from the outside. How long does this keep people desperately clinging to the hope that they will be able to figure out a healthy relationship to alcohol, despite all evidence to the contrary?

Then there is the fear of life without alcohol. How many people put off doing something about their drinking problem because they’re convinced that living without alcohol is going to suck indefinitely? I know I thought so. In the beginning, I viewed sobriety not as a path to a happier, more meaningful life, but simply as the necessary lesser of two evils. Now I wish I had quit sooner.

It did suck for a while, for sure. Those first weeks and months, I was raw and disoriented and weepy. I grieved hard for the loss of my trusty old friend. I’ve always eschewed labels, and this one was a doozy—I hated that “recovering alcoholic” would now become part of my story. On brief, rare occasions, I still hate it and wish it were not so. Mostly, it’s OK now. And I’m more than OK.

There is difficult work to do when all the feelings previously numbed by alcohol come to the surface, but it’s worth it. I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost, and I have more to give to others. And I am not unique. With time, a sober life can become not something to endure, but something to gratefully embrace.

Tomorrow is a BIG day 😉

 

 

Starting Addiction Treatment

starting addiction treatmentThis was an excellent blog by Castle Craig looking at starting addiction treatment.  Therapist Christopher Burn speaks about the feelings of anxiety patients experience at the start of treatment and the challenges of committing to the treatment process.

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ (Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities)

When starting treatment, you may feel trapped and anxious. But this is an opportunity to deal with your addiction problem and turn your life around. Make the most of it! If you can take a positive view of entering treatment, then you’re off to a flying start.

Please do not think that treatment means that you sit and wait for others to fix you. That may work for a broken leg but it does not work for addiction. You must be proactive. Others can give guidance. They can even give you inspiration. They cannot change you. Only you can do that.

Some choices will be taken away – no drink or drugs, probably not much entertainment or lying in bed. But gradually these choices will be given back. You have to learn to make the right choices – between what you want and what is good for you. You will be encouraged to take responsibility for your recovery.

The treatment process is one of change – you are here to change yourself. Change happens through constant challenge, support and education and this process happens all day, through your interaction with your peers. This is what being in a therapeutic community means.

Your therapist will meet you and will help devise a treatment plan to take you through the process of change. It will be tailored to your needs but it will be flexible.

A vital part of treatment is group therapy. For newcomers this can be frightening. Very few people have had any prior experience of this. Participation is vitally important; the peer group is the most effective medium for change and the most important recovery tool that you have. Learn to put yourself in the spotlight – by doing so, others will be able to help you.

For most people, the stages of treatment happen like this:

  • Face reality, learn about addiction and deal with denial;
  • Become willing to change and ask for help;
  • Discover and explore spirituality as a source of help and a means of ‘filling the void’;
  • Engage in self discovery;
  • Identify, with the help of your group and therapist, obstacles to change;
  • Commit to make changes;
  • Take action to change.

Treatment is a mirror of the world outside and a place to practice life skills. Everything that happens is a chance to practice – if someone annoys us, ask why, and devise ways of coping; if bored, challenge that feeling and learn to deal with it; see everything as an opportunity.

As you progress through treatment you will learn to make better use of the tools at your disposal, especially your peer group. You may be challenged but you will also be supported. This may be painful but it will also be hugely rewarding. By the time you leave treatment you will have a different attitude to life – a change for the better. You may not want to repeat the experience but you will never forget it.

Treatment is the start of change but that process goes on for the rest of our lives. You are on a journey but you will never arrive at your destination. Enjoy the ride.

I volunteer at a local drug and alcohol treatment centre and the change I see in clients between admission and graduation is astonishing and so profound it’s amazing.  If you need professional help to stop there is no shame in that and could be the extra step you need to take.  Do reach out and seek help either through your local Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service or GP.

Friday Sober Jukebox – I wish I knew how it would feel to be free

Boys are back in townAnother excuse to post a picture of the lovely Phil Glenister as this track is also on the soundtrack to Life on Mars 😉  This song spun round and back into my consciousness recently and bought tears to my eyes.  Beautiful song, lyrics about being free and a reminder of the Barry Norman fronted BBC1‘s Film programme which I used to love to watch.

Why did it resonate so strongly?  Well a couple of things – I’m 2 weeks off of 1000 days which is a MASSIVE milestone and will see me stop counting days!  Plus I had a week-end recently where I felt like I had met my ghost of drinking future.  We were staying with very old friends who we used to drink with heavily.  We haven’t seen them for a couple of years because of the changes and choices we have made in our lives recently.  It was so lovely to see them but their drinking remained as before so things felt discordant between us.  We were now living completely different lives to our shared past.

I was also mindful about my co-dependent traits and people-pleasing ways and desperately wanted to fit in with them again.  That manifested in me and MrHOF having a few drags of a cigarette (which tasted vile and disproved my fear that this action would lead me back to drinking!).  Such was my need to feel okay.

I felt so sad and guilty around them – survivor’s guilt maybe?  I wanted them so much to know that I understood, that a happy life was possible without booze and that I was an ally not a threat but they were still so stuck they were beyond my reach.  In the end I couldn’t wait to leave because it just felt so uncomfortable for all of us and was making me feel very anxious.

Hence why this tune caused tears.  Tears of joy.  As Nina sings ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ and that’s the thing, I do!  This stopping drinking thing is the most liberating thing I have ever done and that week-end was a stark reminder of where my life would have been if I had continued and where it is now having stopped.  I would not trade it for any thing or any amount of money.  It is literally PRICELESS to me and my family 🙂

Over to Nina ……

PS New Seedlip alert!

INTRODUCING…

The launch of the second addition to the Seedlip range, a free spirit inspired by the English countryside:

 Seedlip Garden 108.

Boasting strong green and floral top notes, Seedlip Garden 108 is a blend of individual copper-pot distillates including traditional herbs; spearmint, rosemary & thyme as well as handpicked peas and hay from founder Ben’s family farm.
Best sipped long with bitter lemon or elderflower tonic.

BUY SEEDLIP ONLINE

Seedlip Spice 94
&
Seedlip Garden 108

are now available directly via their beautifully designed new website here:

https://www.seedlipdrinks.com/

Which means those outside of the UK can now order them! (with shipping costs) 😉

Why do humans like to get drunk? You asked Google – here’s the answer

booze autocomplete google March 2016I really liked this Guardian article in March about booze and getting drunk.  None of the information in the piece is new to readers of this blog and I cover this topic in detail within my Udemy course 🙂

Alcohol is a very simple molecule with incredibly complex effects. Although I already knew a bit about the neurobiology of alcohol, I just spent an afternoon reading a dense journal article that described roughly 50 different neural mechanisms it affects. After which I felt like I needed a drink. It’s widely known that alcohol reduces stress temporarily, and many people use it for just that purpose. It reduces stress by increasing the uptake of a neurotransmitter called GABA, the brain’s primary inhibitory molecule. (And by “inhibitory” I don’t mean that it makes you feel inhibited. Quite the opposite, of course.) By sending more GABA to your brain cells, alcohol works much like common tranquillising drugs such as Valium and Xanax. That’s why you start to stumble and slur if you drink too much. But alcohol acts on many other neurotransmitters too.

I’ll mention three important ones and show how they contribute to the joys of inebriation. While alcohol increases GABA, it reduces the uptake of glutamate, the brain’s premier excitatory molecule. Less excitation and more inhibition? That sounds like simple summation, but GABA and glutamate have different effects on different brain regions, and that’s where things get complicated. In the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain you use for thinking and planning, the net effect is inhibition. That’s why your judgment is flawed, your decision-making is set to “whatever” and your ability to see things from any perspective other than your own approaches nil. The remarkable side effect of this general dimming is that your thoughts seem amazingly clear – which is nice – while in reality they are just amazingly limited. Meanwhile, GABA is also busy turning off the brakes on a system that releases dopamine, the molecule that takes centre stage in all varieties of addiction. What’s that again? Well, when you take off the brakes, the car starts to move. So what you get is a stream of dopamine coursing into the striatum (or reward system), the brain part that generates desire, anticipation and (once you’ve finally brought the glass to your lips) pleasure.

So far, you’ve got physical relaxation, which diminishes stress, reduced judgment, allowing you to talk and behave however you want, and stimulation of the brain’s reward system, which makes you feel like something nice is about to happen. But the fourth neurotransmitter tops the bill: opioids. Sometimes called endorphins or internal opiates, they get released by alcohol too. Everyone knows that opiates feel good, but did you know that you can get your opiates legally by downing a stiff drink? The American martini – which consists of three ounces of gin and little else – feels particularly nice for a very simple reason. The faster the alcohol goes in, the more internal opiates get released. Hence the aaaaahhhhh.

Given all the things that make up an alcohol high, it shouldn’t be surprising that inebriation feels different to different people, feels different from the first to the last drink, and definitely feels different once it becomes hard to stop. People who carry around a lot of stress drink to relax. People who spend a lot of energy controlling their impulses drink in order to let themselves go. The first drink of the night excites you, the last drink of the night sedates, and that isn’t nearly as much fun. College kids indulge in binge-drinking because they’re still bright-eyed novices when it comes to taking chemicals that alter their mood – the more the merrier. Twenty years later, they may drink to feel less, not more, because life has become oppressive, and anxieties seem ready to spring from every train of thought.

But once people become addicted to alcohol, as many do, the fun of the high is eclipsed by two opposing fears. The fear of going without, versus the fear of being unable to stop. That clash of concerns comes from several sources. First there are the unpleasant bodily effects that plague big drinkers when they stop for a few hours or, worse, a few days. Add to that the emotional emptiness, depression, and increased stress responsiveness that overcome the drinker’s mood at the same time. Taken together, these effects make up what George F Koob calls the dark side of addiction. But I think the real bogeyman, the unbeatable Catch-22 when it comes to alcohol and other drugs, is the realisation that the thing you rely on to relax is the very thing that stresses you out the most. It’s hard to find a way out of the recurrent cycle of anxiety and temporary relief, over and over, and that’s the epitome of a losing battle.

People like to get drunk because alcohol smacks your brain around in a number of ways that feel pleasant, or at least different, or at the very least better than going without. And that’s really how all mood-altering drugs work. Which is generally OK, because recreational drug use, including drinking, doesn’t lead to addiction for most people. But for those who get caught, the fun soon disappears.

Drugs, including alcohol, fashion neural habits: get it, take it, lose it, then get it again. And those habits narrow the brain’s focus to a very singular goal, at the expense of everything else. The striatum – the brain’s reward system – is responsible, not just for pleasure, but more seriously, for feelings of desire. And desire isn’t fun, unless you’re just about to get whatever it is you want. Then, the more you get it, the more your striatum gets tuned by that surge of dopamine, modifying its synaptic wiring a little bit at a time until other goals just don’t count for much.

But alcohol has one advantage over drugs like heroin and cocaine. It’s legal, and socially sanctioned. In fact drinking has become deeply enmeshed with themes of social engagement, joyful celebrations and all the rest of it.

Drinking doesn’t make you a bad person – in fact it seems to put you in good company and thereby make you a good person – if you can resist its addictive lure. The problem is that people who start to drink too much get pulled by two conflicting emotional beacons: feelings of connecting with those around them and feelings of shame that toxify those relationships. That’s a conflict of interest that gets increasingly difficult to resolve. So, just as they say in the fine print on the back of the bottle: “know your limits”.

Know your limits and when to ask for help if for you the fun has disappeared ……

PHE One You

PHE One YouIn March Public Health England (PHE) launched their brand new health campaign One You. They reported that the response so far was fantastic and they were delighted to see such a positive reaction in the media, from our partners and from the public online.

The image is a screen grab of what it looks like and here are some of the categories and areas for information around drinking.

Drink and you

It may seem like you don’t drink much, but a drink or two most evenings can do harm to your body. From making you gain weight to increasing your risk of cancer, alcohol can have serious effects on your body.

The more you drink, and the more often, the greater the risk to your health.

It has further information headings covering being drunk, booze and your body and other health worries.

Why cut down?

If you regularly drink above the lower risk guidelines, cutting back on alcohol can help your general wellbeing. Once you start cutting back, you’ll probably notice the benefits. The biggest benefit is the reduced risk to your health, but there are lots of others, too.

Medical warning: If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (shaking, sweating or feelings of anxiety until you have your first drink of the day) you should take medical advice before stopping completely – it can be dangerous to do this too quickly and without proper advice and support. Call Drinkline free on 0300 123 1110 for more advice.

Further subheadings look at: Be healthier, save some cash and feel full of beans.

Drink less

It’s important to know how much you are drinking and that there are easy ways you can cut back, without cutting alcohol out completely.

You could try making some simple swaps when you’re out, or, if you drink every day, having at least a couple of booze-free nights each week.

And further advice entitled: Tools to cut down, top tips to drink less and need more support.

Read more at https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/drinking#3ojU5h2PDSQRhXjK.99

It looks really good and is an improvement on the Change for Life campaign in my opinion.  Thanks Public Health England! 🙂

PS New header image time – the Great Barrier Reef in preparation for our summer 1000 day reward 😉

The Drink Less Alcohol research app

UCL drink less appA new app with added research benefits!!  This app shows how your drinking is changing, how close you are to achieving your goals and some simple things you can do today to drink less.  It’s been developed by the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change, London

Drink less alcohol app

FAQs

So what’s this experiment you’re running?

We’re testing which app components are most effective at helping people reduce their drinking. We know that certain techniques work when delivered face-to-face but we don’t know how well they work when delivered by an app. The findings will form the core part of the PhDs that David Crane and Claire Garnett are completing at UCL and will hopefully help other researchers understand more about this important area.

Do I have to take part in the experiment to use the app?

No, all the app’s features will work regardless whether you participate in the experiment or not and you can opt-out of it at any time. However, we’d greatly appreciate it if you took part fully, as the information you give us will help us understand which techniques are most efective at helping people drink less.

Do I have to give you my email address?

No, and you can use the app fully either way. If you give us your address all we’ll do is email you with a brief questionnaire, the answers to which will help us learn which techniques have and haven’t worked. Plus, you’ll be entered into a draw to win a £100 voucher.

Is my information safe and am I anonymous?

Yes and yes. We treat your data with the greatest respect and make sure it’s both anonymised and stored securely.

What else can I do?

There’s a good few options in the app itself. Have a play around, you probably won’t break anything.

Any other questions? Please get in touch.

Edited to add: back from the seaside and these news stories appeared relating to this app last week!

New brain-training tool to help people cut drinking

An internationally-renowned LSE expert on happiness and behaviour has launched a free online tool to help people who want to cut down on alcohol | LSE, UK

Drink Less: Get help reducing the amount of alcohol you consume – free app

Are you looking to cut down how much you drink? If so, we can help. Drink Less is a super-easy to use app that allows you to keep track of how much you drink, set goals to drink less, get feedback on whether what you’re doing is working and access some unique and fun ways of changing your attitude towards alcohol |  Susan Michie, UK