3 years and what next?

the fortune tellerThis is the drinks coaster that sits on my desk beside my laptop where I write this blog.  I bought it when I was District Nursing on our return from France so probably in 2009/2010.  Edward Monkton’s quirky works always make me chuckle and cider was one of my drinks of choice so that is undoubtedly why I chose this.  I am also really struck by how prescient it was too – my subconscious was trying to tell me something which took  me another few years to finally ‘hear’.  3 years ago today was my last hangover – the last time I woke up feeling like shit, both physically and psychologically.  I had planned 6 days before to stop drinking once I had finished reading Allen Carr and had one final week-end blow-out.  I went out not with a bang but a whimper drinking not for enjoyment but in grim determination thinking what next?

Back at the beginning of the summer the lovely Prim asked me whether I would write a list of all my achievements since quitting both external and internal for the blog, her or myself to mark the occasion of reaching 3 years and I said I would let it percolate in Australia and write it on my return.  So here it is 🙂

The external stuff is easy to list and quantify:

  • I started this blog which has been awarded 2 top recovery blog listings at the end of 2015 (After Party Magazine & Ocean Recovery) and 2 in 2016 (The Fix & Port of Call)
  • I had a piece published in The Guardian about alcohol and public health
  • I left my job as a school nurse and set up my own business
  • I had 20 sessions of CBT
  • I started a post graduate qualification at the University of Cambridge (which included being in weekly therapy)
  • I wrote and self-published an e-book on Amazon
  • I created, designed and published an online course with Udemy
  • I had academic research about alcohol and PSHE published in the Community Practictioner
  • I started volunteering at  Focus 12, a local drug and alcohol treatment centre
  • I created, designed and ran How to Quit Workshops with Club Soda in London
  • We saved up all the booze money we would have spent and as a family went to Australia for a month  (£10,000!!)
  • I lost 12 lbs in weight
  • I didn’t drink no matter what happened or how I felt

I got very busy doing lots of things to prove that I was okay, I was good enough …

And as time passed, my self esteem recovered from not making a tit of myself under the influence of alcohol, my self-worth climbed as I was accepted and welcomed unconditionally out here in the sober blogging world and new friendships were made, lunches and week-ends away with sober friends had, and as I worked on my psychological core strength through CBT and therapy I began to change emotionally.  It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that I wouldn’t be here without each and every one of YOU so a massive THANK YOU for your love and support!!

My final 8000 word assignment this year for Cambridge was about the link between insecure attachment, alexithymia and addiction in adolescence.  I was basically doing a literature review on myself looking for answers.  And what I found is that research has shown that an approach called Adolescent Mentalization Based Integrative Therapy (AMBIT) is working.  Where an adolescent experiences a healthy, secure attachment with a counsellor or team that allows the role-modelling of positive, supportive relationships and the repair of attachment traumas they heal and their sense of self-worth begins to recover.  This relational repair with self and within the self allows reconnection with the felt senses and allows the development of understanding and recognition around somatics felt in the body and their connections to feelings experienced.  Plus the therapeutic role-modelling allows the learning of words to express them cognitively, so they basically recover from alexithymia.

And guess what? When those things happen rather than attach to a substance or behavioural addiction the link to it is weakened or broken.  And that is exactly what has happened out here for me in the last three years.  Because I had drank for so long I was stuck emotionally at an adolescent level and all the work I have done has allowed me to move beyond addiction and mature emotionally into a more adult way of thinking, feeling and being.  And critically it has allowed my self-worth to flourish and to feel that I am good enough.  Several people have suggested I seek to publish my academic literature review as it is an under-researched area and if I’m successful I’ll share a link here so you can read it 🙂

And in doing that work it has had a knock on effect on my ways of relating.  As the adult child of an alcoholic I used to be a chronic people pleaser with very porous boundaries.  Everybody’s needs were more important than my own so I put myself last all the time and poured wine down my neck.  But now with the help of therapeutic support and lots of appropriate self care my boundaries are strong so that I know where I end and another starts so I don’t feel compelled to fix things.  It is their stuff and they’ll figure it out.  The rescuer in me has retired!  This means the way I relate to everyone has changed but most importantly it has strengthened my relationships with MrHOF and the children.

And a strange thing happened.  The more I felt okay in myself the more those external things ceased to matter until I have reached the place where now, in the words of my therapist Anna, I have learned to stop trying so hard.

So what next?

Well since March we’ve been busy exploring the option of moving to Australia more permanently and I applied for my Australian Nursing Board registration.  It has been successfully granted and so I’m looking for a nursing job hopefully in the Bundaberg area (yes home to Australia’s famous rum – how ironic is that!!).  I don’t need to continue on the  Masters at Cambridge to prove that I am good enough.  I know that I am.

I don’t need to keep producing sober resources to prove that I am good enough.  I know that I am.  So I’m going to stop writing the blog so frequently.  Here are the links to my news sources (DrugWise Daily and Alcohol News) so you can find them and follow them yourselves if you so wish and everything I have written will be left here as a resource.   I’m going to pin the ‘Drinking Guilt and its Big Brother Shame‘ post as the landing page as it remains the most popular blog post by far.  I have removed the HelloBar email subscriber bar and password protection from my e-book so you can access it freely from the front page of the blog.  I will leave the Udemy course running as it is self-directed and the e-book will remain listed on Amazon.  If you would like 1:1 support from me about your drinking just drop me an email at ahangoverfreelife@gmail.com.  I’ll still swing by regularly and post a Friday Sober Jukebox to let you know how I am but mainly I’m planning on spending time with MrHOF and my kids playing outside in the sunshine and exploring the world Hangover Free 🙂

This is what happens when you take a chance ………

PS Don’t worry the sober advent calendar will still be here to help you rock your alcohol free warrior moves through the booze fest that is December 😉

23 thoughts on “3 years and what next?

  1. Many congratulations Lou! What a wonderful post…super exciting about your move to Australia also. Thank you for all the great content you’ve posted over the years xx

  2. How exciting to read of your recovery and how it’s opened up so many opportunities for you. Enjoy your life in Australia and thank you for a brilliant blog!

    1. Hi Lee Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog 🙂 It’s amazing what happens when you change just one thing!

  3. Fantastic blog post that really hits home, as usual. 🙂 Thank you for helping me finally “grow up” in my fifties. So much of what you write about helps not only me, but the people around me. I teach at a school with a high poverty rate. For many of my students, chaos and trauma are a given. I’ve read some articles about how behaviors attributed to ADHD may actually stem from PTSD. Your research seems to dovetail with this theory. Your blog also reinforces my commitment to support the child first and teach content second. Exciting times ahead for you! I’m looking forward to hearing where your journey takes you. Thanks for being a role model to me. Best wishes and much gratitude to you!

    1. Hey Julie Thank you! 🙂 It absolutely dovetails with PTSD as (without divulging too much) I suffered from [Complex] C-PTSD as a result of some of my childhood experiences and many of the adolescents that the researchers are working with using AMBIT have C-PTSD issues. It is a fantastic tool and it is Open Source so maybe you could share the link with some of the other professionals you work with? I’m very excited too!! xx

  4. Wow, Lou, such exciting news! 🙂 You have so much to offer from your research and experience, I truly believe finding your blog saved my life(NOT an exaggeration!) I wish AMBIT had been around in my younger days. I will definitely follow your news sources, along with anything else with your name on it 🙂
    Wishing you & the HOF family much success and much love!! xx

    1. Hey Lori 🙂 Thank you so much for being here with me – commenting and sharing your experience. I couldn’t have done it without you either! xx

  5. Wow, wow, and more wow. Congratulations. I love your blog. You have come so far in this journey!

    1. Hey Joan 🙂 Thank you and I completely agree – so far from those early days …..

  6. Wonderful post, Lou – in particular how you’ve drawn it all together with the perspective of long-term sobriety. So very proud of you, not merely for what you have done but mainly for who you are becoming.

    Can I be cheeky and add a couple more things to your list?!

    Firstly, that you and Mr HOF are modelling alcohol-free living for your children, breaking that desperately powerful inter-generational cycle, which is a massive, ongoing achievement.

    Secondly, that you have personally supported so many people (including me!) in their own journey away from alcohol, and in doing so have helped them make the steps you describe so powerfully above in finally becoming more emotionally mature.

    Wishing you every good thing in your future. You know I will continue to be around for you (just try and stop me!) much love, Prim xxx

    1. Oh Prim – where would I be without you? You can add absolutely anything to my list 🙂 I’m afraid you are shackled to me whether you like it or not on this side of the globe or the other 😉 Much love in return xx

  7. Thank you, thank you! I have journeyed with you by reading your blog. What you have accomplished professionally and personally is amazing and i wish you all the best in your exciting new adventure. Thank you also for the info on your research. I hadn’t heard of that approach before but I’m excited to look it up. I work in a program for women who are pregnant or parenting and affected by substance use. 100% have experienced trauma. We work in a trauma informed, relational way and I would love to see if there is more we can add to our approach. You have been a great help and inspiration to me, thank you again xx

    1. Manda this information will be invaluable in supporting those women and helping them process their trauma. If I can benefit from the approach at the grand old age of (almost) 48 then there is so much good that can be done by doing the work now before they potentially and subconsciously pass on the trauma to the next generation xx

  8. Hello Lou!
    What a great post to a great happening. 3 Years! Wow! You have achieved a lot in that time, really wonderful. And well, as you know: thank you for walking this road before me, before us and reaching out, sharing your experience and knowledge. I definitately hope to see you in person before you move to the other side of the world!
    xx, Feeling

    1. Thank you so much feeling! It has been such a joy to journey with you as we have both grown together 🙂 I’ll be around for a bit yet so hope so xx

  9. I am SO happy for you!!
    You have done so much!
    You have shown me that being sober is the ONLY way to go…for our bodies, minds and spirits!!
    Much Love From Minnesota, USA!!!

    1. Thank you Wendy!! 🙂 Much love from Suffolk, UK – for now 😉 xx

  10. Congratulations Lou on 3 years! What a wonderful achievement and you have done so much in that time. You have helped me so much. I found it really interesting what you said about therapy and secure attachment. Re your other post I loved ‘cold feet’ then and now! Enjoy all your new adventures and family time. Congrats again xx

    1. Hey Hope! Oh yes secure attachment – the basis of healthy relational human development but like anything else we can overcome a lack of it 🙂 Me too on the cold feet 😉 xx

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