Category Archives: My story

Guest Article in Recovery Today Magazine

Just a quick post to share a guest article that has been featured in this month’s Recovery Today Magazine.

Thanks to Sherry Gaba who approached me to write the article and who let me know today that it was up:

Yea!!! Your article ran this month.  If possible please let your followers know.  Thx you again for your contribution!!!!

I am so proud of my audio interview with Russell Brand.  He was absolutely brilliant!!  Subscribe for FREE at www.recoverytodaymagazine.com.

PS We flew into Mount Isa today and we’re busy settling into our new life so will update you again soon! 🙂

PPS This also popped up in my FB feed today featuring yours truly at No 8! 🙂

Top 60 Living Sober Blogs And Websites For People Who Want To Live Sober Life

Oz Dream 2018 comes true!

This weekly dose of daring from Brene Brown sums up perfectly how I’ve been feeling for the last 6 weeks since we found out I’d secured a job that has helped us fulfill our dream of moving to Australia.

So our hope was fading that I’d be able to find a professional position with employer sponsored visa and the week-end after my birthday I decided to give it one more push of responding to jobs advertised and approaching agencies with my resume.  Little did I know that this final act would turn everything around.

Having emailed them on the Saturday I got a phone call from Brisbane on the Monday morning.  And then 3 weeks later a phone call came on a Friday morning saying that the job they had put me forward for, although not the one for me, had put my CV in front of someone who knew someone who was looking for a nurse with skills and experience just like mine.  So much so that they wanted to interview me the following Monday morning!  And they were so keen they offered me the job on the phone then and there – twice!!  And of course I said yes because this was the job:

Clinical Nurse (Consultation Liaison) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Service
Queensland Health (Organisation site)
North West Hospital and Health Service, MOUNT ISA

The Clinical Nurse (Consultation Liaison) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Service position provides a range of alcohol, tobacco and other drug assessment, screening, early and brief intervention, treatment and intervention services that address the health needs of clients with substance use issues.

The North West Hospital and Health Service covers an area of over 300,000 square kilometres and services the rural and remote communities within North Western Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Health Service includes the City of Mount Isa and the towns and areas of Burketown, Camooweal, Cloncurry, Dajarra, Doomadgee, Julia Creek, Karumba, Normanton and Mornington Island.

So my dream job in my dream country – the universe had my back all along 😉  This blog and all the resources I’ve developed were an important factor in my being successfully employed which just thrills me and fills me with pride.  Everything I’ve been doing since I got sober has played a part and led to this moment and opportunity.  As Belle said to me:

if you’re sober, then shit happens. and you’re living proof of that 🙂

It’s in the same state as my family who are a 3 hour journey away by plane and car.   It’s a 4 year work visa but we’re hoping we can turn that into longer so that my children can finish their secondary education in Australia but we’ll see.  Right now we don’t know and that’s okay.

Huge thanks goes to Tyler Dewar at HealthX who has been superb in sorting things out and supporting the process despite the time difference between here and there!

And where would I be without all of you?  This blog, and by extension my sobriety, may have stumbled and ceased without your ongoing support, love and compassion and for that I am eternally grateful.  I don’t know what the future holds or how the blog will proceed but I’d like it to continue to share my ongoing journey.  I have enough blog posts scheduled to see us through until April and by then I’ll have had 3 months to settle in and learn how my new employer and this alcohol addiction and recovery blog will work in documenting both my professional life and my ongoing personal story of recovery.

We fly out in the next weeks in preparation for me starting my new job so bear with me over the next few months as there may be delays in my responding to requests and replying to comments while we find out feet in Oz.  I never thought I would be typing those words and that this dream would become a reality.  In the words of Faithless & Dido: ‘It’s been a long time coming but it’s well worth waiting and I raise my hands and ask for nothing more‘ *cue happy tears*

So my word of the year for 2018 is fulfilment which follows on from abundance in 2015, clarity in 2016 and liberation/freedom in 2017.  All have been incredibly prescient!

If you’d like to follow me in Oz I’ve set up a new Instragram account specifically for it which goes live today!

https://www.instagram.com/ahangoverfreelifeinoz/

1500 days!

Well how about this for kismet?  Tomorrow is my belly button birthday and today I hit 1500 days sober!  Thank you Universe for tying that up so neatly 😉

Wow – just wow.  Such a big number and yet day 1 doesn’t feel that long ago.  So much has happened, so many friendships made, so much gratitude.  Who knew that such a small change could make such a big difference to my life and the lives of those around me?

So you may have noticed that my post frequency has reduced again as I enter my fifth year sober to once a week.  The fire in my belly doesn’t burn so fiercely for me now on this issue.  I’ve realised that I can’t change the world of public health and alcohol single handedly – no matter how loud I shout or how many words I expend in effort.  So I’ve contented myself on changing the lives of those who matter to me most – my family and to end the intergenerational transmission of alcohol dependence here.  I have above my desk a note that reads:

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

That was reason enough for me to stop drinking and remains reason enough to never start again.  And to support that reasoning is new research from the Institute of Alcohol Studies

Download “Like sugar for adults: The effect of non-dependent parental drinking on children & families” [pdf]

and as reported in The Guardian last week reads:

At least 30% of parents admit being “tipsy” or drunk around their children, a study has found, prompting calls for a national conversation about alcohol consumption and the harm that exposure can do to youngsters’ emotional development.

Such behaviour can trigger family rows or leave children anxious, embarrassed, worried or disrupt their bedtime, according to research by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS). The findings include that 15% of children have asked their parents to drink less, and 11 to 12-year-olds think adults drink to “solve their problems”. There are now calls for the government to strengthen official warnings about how much it is OK to drink, and when.

“All parents strive to do what’s best for their children, but this report has highlighted a troubling gap in their knowledge,” said Katherine Brown, the IAS’s chief executive. “Parents who have a glass or two of wine in the evening deserve to understand how this might affect their children and the steps they can take to minimise this impact.”

Alison Douglas, the chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “As well as the negative impacts on children’s wellbeing, seeing how adults drink can have a big influence on our children’s future drinking habits.” Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, who has spoken about his father’s death as a result of drinking, said: “Children are incredibly perceptive of their parents’ drinking habits and this analysis must serve as a wake-up call to the government.”

So news continues to present itself as the battle rages for our hearts and minds on the subject of alcohol and addiction.  We still await the outcome of minimum unit pricing (edited to add: although Wales announced Minimum Unit Pricing today!)

PHE continue to produce resources to support alcohol awareness:

PHE ‘All Our Health’ alcohol resource

The alcohol industry continue to try to subvert the public health message:

Drinkers’ Voice Vs ‘anti-alcohol’? Guidelines, pregnancy & cancer risk messages

Drinkers’ Voice labels itself as a consumer organisation and says ‘the anti-alcohol lobby has dominated the conversation on alcohol and your health, resulting in misleading statistics and scaremongering news headlines’

And so it was ever thus …….

Unbelievably this blog has now had over 500,000 views.  Who’d have guessed that when I started it back in October 2013?  Thank you to all of you for being here, for reading, for commenting, for supporting me in my journey from terrified, reluctant ex-drinker to relaxed, contented ‘not interested even if you paid me’ non-drinker and proud member of the soberocracy! 🙂

Edited to add: Plus an extra 1500 day gift of a mention in Single and Sober My Top 20 Recovery Blogs and Sites

 

Thursday Sober Inspiration: 4 years clean and sober! (Straight Sun)

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.

What is the link between insecure attachment, alexithymia & addiction

If I had to write a time-frame of what this journey has been like to date I would say this:

  • Year 1 was about escaping the physical & psychological pull of drinking & getting through all the social triggers or big sober milestones (week-ends, weddings, parties, Bank Holidays, birthdays, Xmas & New Year, holidays, seasons).
  • Year 2 was about living sober – having made it through the milestones this year can be harder than the first because it is now ‘normal’ to be a non-drinker rather than a drinker in these social situations.  As Mary Karr writes in Lit: “If you live in the dark a long time and then the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling.  There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then – for me, anyway – a profound dislocation.  My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new one’s aren’t yet operational.”  Sums it up beautifully 🙂
  • Year 3 was where I started to process the emotional sobriety elements of living in recovery.  It was too soon to start deep diving in to the issues but I started to tentatively explore the work that needed to be done later and build my emotional resilience in preparation.
  • Year 4 has been the mother-load of emotional recovery work for me.  Now I’ve felt emotionally robust enough to deep dive on some of the underlying reasons why I drank and to be resilient enough to sit with those feelings and it not trigger an emotional relapse that is then a risk for a full relapse.  And again in the words of Mary Karr from Lit: “A lot of therapy is looking through a child’s eyes, she says.  This is looking through an adult’s”  Again, absolutely bang on!

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 🙂

Sober Inspiration: How to Be a Little Less Certain of Yourself

I’ve been reading this book over the summer and really like Mark Manson’s writing.  Thought I’d share his wisdom about how being less certain of ourselves can be valuable in terms of personal growth and insight.  This excerpt is based on his blog post that you can read in it’s entirety here: https://markmanson.net/wrong-about-everything

Over to Mark –

Questioning ourselves and doubting our own thoughts and beliefs is one of the hardest skills to develop.  But it can be done.  Here are some questions that will help you breed a little more uncertainty in your life.

Question 1: What if I’m wrong?

As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves.  When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last one to figure it out.  And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armour of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves.

“Am I jealous – and if I am, then why?” “Am I angry?””Is she right, and I’m just protecting my ego?”

Questions like these need to become a mental habit.  In many cases the simple act of asking ourselves such questions generates the humility and compassion needed to resolve a lot of our issues.

But it’s important to note that just because you ask yourself if you have the wrong idea doesn’t necessarily mean that you do.  The goal is merely to ask the question and entertain the thought at the moment, not to hate yourself.

It’s worth remembering that for any change to happen in your life, you must be wrong about something.  If you’re sitting there, miserable day after day, then that means you’re already wrong about something major in your life, and until you’re able to question yourself to find it, nothing will change.

This was me when I was drinking.  I KNEW something was wrong and I was unhappy but this thought was cognitively dissonant to my belief (beliefs drive values) that my life was not worth living if I couldn’t drink alcohol (my addict voice could be really melodramatic!!)

Question 2: What would it mean if I were wrong?

Many people are able to ask themselves if they’re wrong, but few are able to go the extra step and admit what it would mean if they were wrong.  That’s because the potential meaning behind our wrongness is often painful.  Not only does it call into question our values, but it forces us to consider what a different, contradictory value could potentially look and feel like.

Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.  Being able to look at and evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is perhaps the central skill required in changing one’s own life in a meaningful way.

Probing questions are necessary in order to get at the core problems that are motivating our dickish behaviour.

So the contadictory value I needed to consider was that a sober life or a  life was worth living if I couldn’t drink alcohol.  I had to consider the possibility – which is where sober blogs and communties are so powerful!  Here’s an excerpt of a recent post of Prim’s saying pretty much the same thing!  Thank you Prim 🙂

“If you are in the early days of sobriety – which I would classify as at least the first 200 days – then you may well have taken that decision because all the evidence has been proclaiming to you that your belief that consuming alcohol is an enjoyable and vital part of life is NOT TRUE, at least for you. and after decades perhaps of drinking, and social conditioning, that is an immensely hard belief to back away from, to challenge, to change.

one of the reasons I blog is to try to help those who HAVE identified they have an issue with alcohol, and to offer hope and example that life without alcohol is not lesser, but vastly more. that it is not a case of not being able to drink, but not having to drink. which is something I am still thankful for, every day.”

Question 3: Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?

This is the litmus test for determining whether we’re got some pretty solid values going on, or we’re totally neurotic fuckwads taking our fucks out on everyone, including ourselves.

The goal here is to look at which problem is better.  Because after all, as Disappointment Panda said, life’s problems are endless (but equally happiness comes from solving life’s problems).

With drinking my options were – Option A continue drinking or Option B mistrust my  (addiction driven) belief that my life is not worth living if I can’t drink alcohol and remain humble and open to the idea that a life without booze might very well be the better problem to have.

Option A felt easier for sure at the time and Option B appeared hard and painful so it felt like the more difficult choice.

I try to live by a few rules, but one that I’ve adopted over the years is this: if it’s down to me being screwed up, or everyone else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that I’m the one who’s screwed up.  I have learned this from experience.  I have been the asshole acting out based on my own insecurities and flawed certainties more times than I can count.  It’s not pretty.

That’s not to say there aren’t certain ways in which most people are screwed up.  And that’s not to say that there aren’t times when you’ll be more right than most other people.

That’s simply reality: if it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.

It was me versus myself – well actually me versus my addiction.

Our most radical changes in perspective often happen at the tail end of our worst moments.  It’s only when we feel intense pain that we’re willing to look at our values and question why they seem to be failing us.  We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we’ve been  deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course.  You could call it “hitting bottom” or “having an existential crisis”.  I prefer to call it “weathering the shitstorm”.  Choose what suits you.

If you’d like to read my answer to Question 3  I was recently a featured Sober Story on Living Sober: http://www.livingsober.org.nz/sober-story-lou/

Learn to sustain the pain you’ve chosen.  When you choose a new value, you are choosing to introduce a new form of pain into your life.  Relish it. Savour it, Welcome it with open arms.  Then act despite it.

I won’t lie: this is going to feel impossibly hard at first.  But you can start simple.  You’re going to feel as though you don’t know what to do.  But we’ve discussed this: you don’t know anything.  Even when you think you do, you really don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.  So really, what is there to lose?

LIfe is about not knowing and then doing something anyway.  All of life is like this.  It never changes.  Even when you’re happy.  Even you’re farting fairy dust.  Even when you win the lottery and buy a small fleet of Jet Skis, you still won’t know what the hell you’re doing.  Don’t ever forget that.  And don’t ever be afraid of that.

If you’re certain about your drinking not being a problem  – maybe it’s time to ask yourself these questions?  And if you’ve hit bottom please reach out.

 

 

Revisiting my moderation warzone

So Prim & were discussing my recent interview on The Bubble Hour and how she had learned new things about me.  These were primarily to do with my time before I started blogging so that murky past that was my repeatedly attempted and spectacularly failed attempts at moderation.  I think you have a flavour of them from my shared last drunks and final drinking horror but not an appreciation of the total warzone that it was.  I was battling myself and my desire to drink on a daily basis and those internal emotional battles spilled over into external marital discord and parental shame.

We wondered maybe if there existed this perhaps self-limiting belief that those of us who blog out here just decided one day to stop and that was it – bingo, job done – which fails to recognise that there were many quit attempts that preceded that final desperation driven decision and the need to ‘up the ante’ by adding visible social accountability to the mix.  So in an attempt to debunk that potential myth about myself I’m going to provide a brief history of those years of moderation between the end of 2008 and my quit day in September 2013.

To set the scene before we moved to France in early 2008 and up until that point my drinking was problematic but still manageable.  That’s not to say I didn’t do incredibly stupid things when drunk and have many shameful memories of drink-driven drama and mis-behaving.  France changed that and we spent all our time after France trying to regain control and never succeeded.

Because it’s almost 10 years ago and I can’t recall all the details – hangover securely in place – I’m going to do a timeline to paint a broad brush outline:

  • End 2008 returned from France to home county in UK with baby and small toddler in tow.
  • Early 2009 returned to work nursing full-time, MrHOF stayed at home and cared for children.  This was a difficult time for all of us, readjusting to returning to where we grew up, me working, he house-husbanding and not working and two small people in our charge.  Our daily drinking continued unabated and our marriage was showing the strain.  Days of not drinking would follow particularly shaming altercations by way of reparation.
  • 2010 decided to enter London Marathon ballot – started running.  Tried to decrease drinking and smoking as I tried to get ‘healthy’.  End 2010 – lost my maternal grandmother and my step-father became ill.  Was struggling psychologically so started anti-depressants and returned to therapy.
  • 2011 Marathon training in earnest so this is when the stopping and starting drinking started proper.  Gave up for New Years resolution to aid training.  Remember attending 40th b-day party in Feb and had managed 6 weeks.  Mid 2011 – lost my step-father, who was my father from birth in all but genetics.  Two close family deaths meant my drinking spiralled once more (which is the reason for the image at the top of the post, because these types of huge family loss events can be deeply traumatising and can tip us over from coping to not coping).  Remember noticing first Dry January posters for 2012.
  • 2012 did Dry January and carried on to do six weeks – partly I think to prove to myself that I didn’t have a problem!  Drinking less regularly & frequently but when I did they were spectacular binges.  Trying not to drink in the week so the week-ends were horrendous.  Started my Health Visitor training and gave up smoking for good.  During training was working professionally with families where drink was a problem and the cognitive dissonance created began to become unbearable.  I knew that if I didn’t get this under control I was in danger of visiting my own childhood on my children.

“The best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to his parents as children, but rather how his parents made sense of those childhood experiences” Dr Dan Siegel

  • 2013 did Dry January again and carried on to do three months so more stints of not drinking interspersed with spectacular blow outs.  Early physical signs of damage from alcohol abuse and ongoing symptoms noted with alarm.  Becoming weary of the whole process and drinking was no longer fun in any way, shape or form.  Still in therapy on and off although had never discussed my drinking!  London Marathon running buddy came to stay for week-end and had just mentioned my drinking to my therapist as a ‘door handle moment’ in my final therapy session with her.  Decided to stop for good.  Had night of heavy drinking with her, bought Allan Carr’s book on Kindle, read it all week, final drinking week-end.

So as you can see there was a huge amount of back-story to my stopping which I haven’t fully disclosed here before.  I’m not sure why.  There is a sense that in talking about it I am somehow condoning moderating – which I’m not.  Equally I think we have to acknowledge that this period of one step forward two steps back is part of my story and part of many people’s journey.  So if you’ve read my blog before and thought ‘well she’s different from me because she just stopped’.  I’m not and I didn’t.

As we head into the end of January and you may be considering going back to drinking because you’ve done a month to prove you don’t have a problem I just ask you to pause and think again.  The reason I did all those stop and start attempts is because I started to see the benefits and knew that there was potentially something better on the other side of the difficult first few months if I just stuck with it.  I urge you to consider doing the same because you can always go back to drinking later can’t you?   What have you got to lose? 🙂

A conversation with Jean: Interview on The Bubble Hour

So I have been a long time fan and follower of both Jean at Unpickled and The Bubble Hour.

For those who  haven’t yet discovered the wonderful resource that this is here is how they describe it:

The Bubble Hour is co-hosted by Ellie S., Amanda F., Catherine M. and Jean M. – sober women who are dedicated to breaking down the walls of stigma and denial surrounding the disease of alcoholism. Alcoholism effects more than 50% of American adults, either directly or indirectly, and yet it still remains a “taboo” topic and is still mostly misunderstood by the majority of people (even those effected by alcoholism and their loved ones). The Bubble Hour seeks to inform, educate and help people identify with the stories they hear, the conversations and interviews with people who are just like they are, and let people know they aren’t alone. Nobody can take the first tentative steps towards sobriety without first getting past denial, but even once they are past denial the stigma surrounding alcoholism is so strong that people are reluctant to seek help. The Bubble Hour would like to change that stigma. Our Co-Hosts, and the vibrant community of sober people they know, will be recording and downloading this show for anyone to listen to for information, community, empathy and understanding. We are so grateful for the sober people who came before them to help them find this path; this is one way they feel they can give back. Please help us spread the word about this website and the pod casts; you may be helping someone you know well but don’t even know they have a problem. Alcoholism thrives in the dark. Together, we bring light. And hope.

They have interviewed and recorded over 200 episodes that you can find on iTunes or BlogTalkRadio.

So how excited was I to be interviewed for their 202 episode!  We had a wonderful conversation and it felt like two old friends catching up.  As I say in the discussion Jean was one of the first sober blogs I discovered in my very early days and I am so grateful to her for leading the way for me 🙂

If you want to hear me talk about my drinking (we lived in France for 6 months not 1 year – nervous brain fart moment!), my recovery and all the things I’ve been up to since I stopped 1214 days ago you can do so here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bubblehour/2017/01/17/a-hangover-free-life-author-louise-rowlinson

Supplementary links to the discussion should you be interested to read further:

The Conscious Parent is written by Dr Shefali Tsabary, Clinical Psychologist.

Attachment theory where I talked about secure and insecure attachment and omitted a very important word in the insecure categories! I should have said insecure anxious-avoidant and insecure anxious-ambivalent.

Alexithymia which I described as emotional constipation!

The groundbreaking work of Dr Dickon Bevington and team: Adolescent Mentalization Based Integrative Therapy (AMBIT)

Thank you so much Jean for hosting me and I hope you enjoy listening in 🙂

Edited to add: 20th January 2017.  I didn’t mention running in my conversation with Jean which I should have done as part of my sober toolbox.  It set me on the road to sobriety when I trained for the London Marathon in 2011 and has been a vital decompression tool ever since.  Which ties in nicely with this clip from T2 Trainspotting which is released next Friday and boy I can’t wait to see this film.

Renton is so right – be addicted to something else ……

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 😉

Saturday Sober Jukebox – When Everything Was New

G’day sober lovelies!  Long time no write but boy have I been busy exploring lots of new things.  Getting up early with the sunrise and the sound of kookaburra’s as my alarm clock, going to bed early and happily exhausted from so much travelling, doing and seeing; watching possums crawl across my tent roof at night, sand tobogganing, running along beaches, stroking kangaroo’s, eating concrete – an extra hard ice-cream (and how about liqourice flavour? – it’s delicious!), snorkelling among the turtles, rays, reef sharks and tropical fish with my children at the Great Barrier Reef and watching hump back whales and their calves.  I could go on and on and on  🙂

Australia was AMAZING.  I love everything about the place, the people and the food – being eaten alive by sand flies not so much.  I won’t bore you with all my holiday photos but will share these three which sum up the whole experience so well.  Magical beaches, sunsets and memories – like seeing pods of wild dolphins 5 times and feeding them by  hand not once but TWICE!!

Did the thought of drinking cross my mind?  Maybe fleetingly once or twice.  Did the thought of managing a hangover with all the activities we were doing puncture my consciousness?  God yes.  I would have wanted to stay up late after the kids (we went to bed at the same time as them pretty much all holiday) drinking.  Those early morning wake-ups would have been a nightmare and I would have been a grumpy tired resentful parent.  My focus would have been finding an excuse to drink at all times and time, activities and experiences would have been prioritised around that or the resulting hangover.  I suspect we wouldn’t have done half as much as we did or travel as extensively as we did.  We were so lucky as the family member we were travelling with also doesn’t drink and decaff tea was the drink of choice for all of us.  Yes the family we were staying with drank but when we went out for dinner at another of their friends houses my sis in law said we were teetotal and that was that 🙂

Australian supermarkets are very sensible and you can only buy alcohol free products in them – I found and sampled a couple of AF beers which were very nice and saw a small selection of AF wines.  You have to go to a bottle shop or liquor store for booze – although there were plenty about including drive through!   Plus RBT (random breath tests) are a big thing both on the roads and water at any time of day.  And my new favourite AF drink?  Lemon, lime and bitters (from Bundaberg the biggest rum distillery in Oz who do a great range of AF drinks too).

brew-lemon-lime

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as for sober treats?  How about an organic doughnut with macadamia nuts, mascarpone and fresh strawberries (this was sampled at Byron Bay)  😉

organic doughnut oz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as it’s a Saturday sober jukebox an Aussie tune too by Flume aptly titled When Everything Was New.  It’s nice to be back, but truth be told I’d have happily stayed ……

Will be back tomorrow as taking my daughter to see Little Mix tonight!