Category Archives: Sober treats

Guest Blog Post: Mindful Drinking Festival & Alcohol Free Drinks In Recovery

So this is a quick plug for my friends over at Club Soda and a guest blog post they have written in support of their upcoming Mindful Drinking Festival (see details to the left)

Over to Jussi:

Alcohol-free beers and wines can be a controversial topic for people in recovery. Many feel that they should be avoided completely. Why keep drinking something that reminds you of alcohol? Won’t they just lead you back to the full-strength stuff eventually? These are all valid points, coming from years of experience by many people.

Club Soda is a Mindful Drinking Movement, which means that we support people whatever their drinking goals are. Some want to quit completely, some want to take a temporary “sober sprint”, some want to cut down in some way. We believe these are all valuable goals – any reduction in alcohol use is good news.

Alcohol-free beers and wines is a topic that comes up regularly in our online community. There are strongly held views both for and against them. It was never our aim to promote any particular drinks. But we have heard from so many of our members how swapping their usual beers and wines to a non-alcoholic or even a lower alcohol version has helped them to dramatically change their habits.

But we also believe that only you can decide for yourself. If you don’t think a non-alcoholic beer is right for you, then absolutely do not try them. We do always say that if you find a drink a “trigger” for alcohol, then it is best to stay away. There are plenty of soft drinks to drink which will not remind you of alcohol.

A further interesting twist to this discussion took place recently on our Facebook Group: how does people’s relationship with AF drinks change over time? This is what Ellen wrote:

“At 8 months sober, I can really take them or leave them. However in early sobriety, especially over Christmas, I TOTALLY depended on them. There was a time I could drink a whole AF wine fairly fast and open another. Now though, I honestly hardly even want a bottle.”

Melanie responded in a similar way:

“I’m at 8 months and like you drink a lot less af drinks now than I first did. A weekend treat or if the girls are over. They have their uses but I guess I’ve now broken the habit!!”

Many others added comments on the same lines: used to drink more or less the same amount of AF drinks as they used to drink alcoholic drinks in the beginning of their sober journey, but have reduced their consumption over time. Many of the people with a few sober months under their belt said they only drank AF drinks on special occasions: most often when out in a pub. Partly to “blend in”, partly to have something “grown up” to drink, rather than a sugary lemonade.

The good news is that there is a real revolution going on in the drinks industry. There are more and more good quality non-alcoholic beers and wines available both in shops and bars. And many other new drinks are also making an appearance, from craft sodas to fermented tea drink kombucha.

Many of the new drinks can still be difficult to find though. That is why Club Soda is organising the UK’s first ever Mindful Drinking Festival – bringing together all the best alcohol-free drinks (0.5% and below) in one place: not just wines and beers, but also soft drinks, kombucha, mocktails, fine teas and much more. The event is free to attend, and lets you taste all the best new drinks, and find some new favourites for every occasion!

The Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival is on 13th August, from midday to 6pm, at Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN. Entry is free, and you can RSVP online at

We would love to see you there and hear your views.

I would love to be there that day but sadly will be working my day job 🙁  If you go do drop me a comment here to tell me what you sampled!

20 things to replace 2!

So I’ve been having a massive clear out following stumbling across the blog of Be More With Less.  As part of that I was having a good old sort through of my office and came across this list that was clearly written back in the days of my drinking and smoking because of what I called it!  Its ‘replace’ sub-heading was healthy relaxation methods as I was desperately looking for ways to relax that didn’t include booze and fags.

The reason for writing this post is two fold.  Firstly to share the list so here it is:

  1. Aromatherapy
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Hot stone massage
  4. Reflexology
  5. Flotation tank
  6. Reiki
  7. Meditation
  8. Swedish massage
  9. Exercise = running
  10. Music
  11. Chocolate
  12. Mindfulness
  13. Diet + increased water intake/Less caffeine and sugar
  14. Bath
  15. Scented candles
  16. Cup of herbal tea
  17. Reading
  18. Sleeping
  19. Cinema
  20. Yoga

If you’re looking for even more inspiration how about this:

The Mayo Clinic say to get the most benefit, use relaxation techniques along with other positive coping methods, such as thinking positively, finding humor, problem-solving, managing time, exercising, getting enough sleep, and reaching out to supportive family and friends.  They go on to say that by practicing relaxation techniques we can reduce stress symptoms by:

  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Reducing activity of stress hormones
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving concentration and mood
  • Lowering fatigue
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • Boosting confidence to handle problems

And secondly I am pleased to say that I have finally signed up for the one thing on my list I’ve avoided up until now – the body technique at no 20!  I’ve been resisting it because I have sensed it is going to engage me to work on some somatic elements of my recovery that I know is going to potentially be hard so I’ve been procrastinating.  I know how beneficial others have found it and that many in the recovery community are big advocates of it so I’m finally diving in and I’ll let you know how I get on.  If you want to share your experience of yoga in the comments along with any hints and tips please do 🙂

Friday Sober Inspiration: Stop Abandoning Yourself

chris-carr-stop-abandoning-yourselfThis is another excerpt from Sally Brampton’s ‘shoot the damn dog’ because her words are too powerful not to share.  This passage is about self-abandonment where she has a discussion with her therapist who explains that she needs to stop abandoning herself.

“‘Stop abandoning yourself’ a therapist, Elizabeth, once said to me.  ‘What?’ I didn’t understand.  She explained it like this: 

  • Every time you feel sad and swallow down your tears, you abandon yourself.
  • If someone hurts you and you pretend that you are fine, you abandon yourself.
  • Every time you don’t eat, or fail to feed yourself, you abandon yourself.
  • If you are tired, but refuse to rest, you abandon yourself.
  • If you drink too much and poison yourself with alcohol,  you abandon yourself.
  • If you don’t ask for what you need from someone with whom you are intimate, you abandon yourself.
  • If you don’t ask for help when you need it, you abandon yourself.

‘You suffer’ Elizabeth said, ‘from a failure of care’.  From who? ‘From yourself’, she says. And before that, from your parents.  They are the ones who should have taught you how to take care of yourself.

An inability to take care of oneself or soothe oneself is a sign of immaturity.  It is a failure of understanding, or of teaching.  If you are not taught as a child how to take care of yourself, you do not know as an adult.  The pattern becomes ingrained.  You are now an adult inhabited by a child.  The child pleads, the adult overrules.  You deny yourself proper care.

And so, as I understand it, I adjusted to constant loss as well as the inability to articulate any distress on, as one therapist described it, an ‘adapted’ level.  The term, ‘adapted child’ was originally used by Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis in the 1950’s.  Essentially it means the compliant, orderly side of us that hides anger, pleases others and generally acts the good boy or girl.  The more the behaviour is rewarded (and the more that any other behaviour is punished or, more usually, ignored) the more we adapt ourselves to keeping quiet and not making a fuss.  Put in another way, we adopt the position known in therapeutic terms as ‘abandonment or withdrawal’.

It is not, either, only the still, pale, silent child who has withdrawn.  Withdrawal takes place at a far deeper level and may be disguised by a bright, lively and social exterior – the sort of exterior that indicates compliance because compliance brings its own rewards.

A child who feels ignored or misunderstood turns that message against themselves.  It becomes, ‘I have no right to  feel the way that I do’.  And an analyst will, inevitably, take that to yet another level.  A child whose deeper feelings are constantly minimised, challenged or simply ignored, ends up believing, ‘I have no right to be the way that I am.  I reject myself’.”

We unconsciously reject ourselves so don’t even realise when we are then abandoning ourselves.  And booze is a really good salve for self-rejection.  No pain, no feeling right?  It also helps us play up to that bright, lively social exterior that hides our withdrawn inner self.  This could have been describing me.

Now you see why sober self-care is such a big deal out here in the recovery and sober blogging community.  Self care is the opposite of a failure of care.  Self-care is nurturing and restorative.  January is a good month to start non-alcohol focused self-care 🙂

Who needs a drink when you’ve got the Feel Stress Free app?

feel-stress-free-appSo managing all feelings, and particularly difficult feelings like depression and anxiety, was a big part of the early days and months of getting sober for me.  Even now I’m always on the look out for new sober treats and self-care tools to make this easier for all of us.  The new Feel Stress Free app released this year, is the second mindfulness app I have tried as I have talked on the blog before about Headspace.

For me psychological self-care and fitness is as important as physical fitness and self-care so this was a great addition to my sober tool-box particularly on the go when life gets tricky.  As you know I’m a District Nurse and some patient visits can be emotionally difficult so having an app in my pocket that I can tap into, potentially between patient visits if needed, is a much welcomed respite.  The apps image and sounds of a desert island, lapping waves and seagulls with background calming music was lovely every time.

This above image is the first screen that greets you once you have downloaded for free the Thrive’s Feel Stress Free Mobile App which is available for iOS and Android.  It works on a subscription basis,which can be purchased for one month, three months or a year. For one month it will set you back £4.99, for 3 months it will cost £3.33 each month and for a year it’s £1.99 each month.  I was lucky enough to get a month’s free trial from the developers 🙂

This is what their website says:

Be Stress Free has been created over two years of development and research to pro-actively prevent and manage stress and anxiety.

  • Keeps track of your mood over time
  • Enables you to train your thoughts so you can manage how you feel about different situations
  • Trains you in 4 relaxation techniques that give you control over your stress

Stressed or anxious? We can help! Using evidence-based techniques, we help you learn to relax and build your resilience to these common—yet hard to conquer—problems. Featuring our thought trainer, zen garden, and unique ‘message in bottle’ social feature, there’s plenty to explore!

I loved the zen garden and ‘message in a bottle’ social feature (that enables you to send a message of encouragement to others using the app) and fed back to the developers:

“Have recently spent a year training part time to be a child and adolescent psychotherapeutic counsellor at the University of Cambridge and one of the therapeutic tools we used was a sand tray!  It was lovely to be able to immerse myself in that way again and very valuable.”

I wasn’t the only reviewer who really liked this as Moonlolly in the City agreed: ‘If you swipe left, you go to a second island called the ‘Zen Garden’, a virtual Japanese rock garden used to aid meditation. Here you can design your own space and save your best designs.  I loved this part, probably because I’m a big kid – it was one of those absorbing exercises akin to adult colouring books. Totally on board with this.’

One of the things I liked about this app is it is designed by clinicians:

Dr Andres Fonseca – CEO, is a psychiatrist with almost 20 years of clinical experience. He believes the way mental health services work at the moment is very broken. Services are focused on intervening when people are in crisis, which is already too late. He believes therapeutic software that is fun to use is the way to help people Thrive.

A bit more detail about some of the key features:

Mood Meter

Start every day tracking your mood to receive the best recommendations to get through it. Based on your results the Mood Meter will recommend different activities. It will record your results on your progress so you can look back and see what works for you. It will learn itself what you find helpful and get better at advising you over time.

Thought Trainer

Our cognitive behavioural therapy based thought trainer is how we help you to re-frame your negative thoughts. We all have negative thoughts at times, but is there a better way we can think about things? That is what the thought trainer is here to do. It tracks how you feel, giving recommendations and helping you to see a positive in the negative. With everything tracked in Progress and the app learning more about you as you use it, the Thought Trainer will soon personalise itself to your experiences.

The evidence

Computerised Cognitive Behavioural (cCBT) therapy has accumulated 10 years of evidence. It has been shown to work as a self-directed treatment without intervention from a therapist. In 2016 Jill Newby and colleagues from St Vincent’s Hospital in Australia undertook a review of all the evidence of cCBT used for depression and anxiety showing it is a very effective technique and comparable to face to face therapy. Here is a link to the study.

Calm Breathing

This is the simplest technique, one that you can learn in the app and practice anywhere you are. It is based on the fact that increasing chest pressure by taking very slow and deep breaths, and then reducing by slowly breathing out, triggers a reflex. This reflex slows down your pulse and gives you a relaxed feeling in your body. As body and mind are connected this then results in relaxation in your mind. Give it a go for 3, 5, 7 or 10 minutes!

The evidence

Deep slow breathing is an essential technique incorporated in many relaxation exercises. It has been extensively examined in the literature in different setting. A good review of the evidence behind it and its uses can be found in General Principles and Empirically Supported Techniques of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Chapter 14 by Hazlett-Stevens and Craske. You can read a preview of the chapter here.

Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation

In this technique we also take advantage of the mind-body connection. We will teach you to contract and relax various muscles progressively allowing you to enjoy the difference between the tense sensations in the muscle and the relaxed sensations that come after you have let the tension go

The evidence

Since its description by Jacobson in 1938 this technique has a record of proven efficacy. There is a 2007 review of the literature that summarises all the available evidence up to that date which you can find here.

Self Hypnosis

Not for everyone but those of you who are able to reach a state of hypnosis can benefit greatly from this technique. We will try to teach you to put yourself into a hypnotic trance. If you are able to achieve it, he will help you teach yourself a word of phrase that will quickly bring you back to that state of relaxation whatever your circumstances.

The evidence

It has proven efficacy in anxiety related to many situations. It has been particularly studied in people going through different medical treatments like dialysis, chemotherapy, surgery and dentistry. There is a 2010 review that goes through all that evidence. The main issue with hypnosis is that the person must be suggestible to benefit from it. Here is a recent study on how suggestibility influences outcomes in using hypnosis to manage pain.


Simple to learn but hard to master this is quite a powerful technique for relaxation.  It requires dedication and practice but if you persevere it can bring about the most benefits. You will need a quiet space and to achieve a sensation of comfort. You will be able todevelop a passive attitude that allows you to just watch your feelings, sensations and thoughts as they pass through your mind. You will also use word or phrase to help you refocus.

The evidence

This is probably the technique that has received the most attention recently. It requires practice to master but everyone can use it if they devote the time to learn it and practice it. There is a complete review and meta-analysis of all the evidence of meditation in the management of anxiety published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2012.

And you can track your progress:

Progress keeps track of everything you do in the app. It is what the app uses to give you better and better tips. If you are working with a therapist you can use Progress as your full-fledged therapy journal.

You can choose how long you want to do each exercise for, from a quick 3 minutes of deep breathing to 25 minutes of meditation, which is great if you want to fit a session into a busy day.  The app also remembers which exercises you’ve done before and how many times, encouraging regular use and making the whole experience feel very personalised.

Echoing the words of Moonlolly: if you’re going to invest in a mindfulness app, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is one of the first to have actual CBT therapy incorporated and be officially ‘clinically proven.’

So next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious rather than reaching for a drink, or thinking that a drink would help, why not try this?

Here’s how I’ll be celebrating my birthday :)

vegan-birthday-cakeSo it’s that day again 🙂  Another year older and another year hopefully wiser 😉

This is the kind of cake I’ll be celebrating with this year – vegan!  As we’ve gone further into recovery we’ve been looking at our diet and MrHOF hinted at it in his post recently.  I’ve been eating increasing amounts of chocolate by way of treating myself and in the guise of self-care.  Dare I say habitually even, almost like I used to justify drinking every day to myself (cross addiction anyone?) and my weight has been creeping up.  Plus I know that my diet has needed looking at for a while but I have been procrastinating waiting until I was really solidly grounded in my sobriety before I started changing big things again.  I watched a few films Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and its follow-on Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2, Forks over Knives and Vegucated in the last month and this has kick started my endeavours.

We’re not planning on going totally vegan but are reducing our intake of processed food, meat and dairy so that includes chocolate.  We started the transition about 5 weeks ago and I’m feeling great!  I’ve already dropped 6lbs and am not really missing it to be honest as Davina’s power balls have come to the rescue like they did when I went sugar free for Lent in 2015.

I’ll also be watching this again.  My favourite things all combined – Tara Brach talking about attachments and addiction.  Thank you to my gratitude buddy Beccy, who is the most amazing friend/godmother/ textile artist/nurse, for emailing this to me <3

The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Working with Attachments and Addictions

In Buddhist cosmology the torment of intense desire that can never really be satisfied is depicted as the realm of Hungry Ghosts. This talk explores the attachments and addictions that so many of us struggle with, and the teachings and practices that can liberate us.

A gift to you from me 🙂

The Zero Alcohol Awards 2016

Zero-Alcohol-Awards-LogoSo the alcohol industry is probably  hoping this is some April Fools’ joke but I’m happy  to say that the Zero Alcohol Awards is definitely real 🙂  Here is the list of nominee’s from Alcohol Concern.

Congratulations to our shortlisted nominees.

The Zero Alcohol Awards sponsored by Britvic are the first of their kind to recognise and reward the range of zero alcohol drinks provided by retailers, bars and pubs across the country, alongside the innovators bringing new products to the market and creating new environments to enjoy them in.

Best Bar/Pub Award

  • All Bar One
  • Browns
  • Pitcher and Piano

Best Multiple Retailer

  • Asda
  • M&S
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco
  • Waitrose

Best Independent Retailer

  • The Alcohol Free Shop
  • Dry Drinker

Best New Product

  • Belvoir Elderflower and Rose Cordial
  • Fentimans Cherry Cola
  • Frobishers Classics: Apple Pear and Elderflower
  • Frobishers Classics: Sparkling Raspberry
  • Green Lady Sparkling Tea
  • Nix&Kix Cool Cucumber and Fresh Mint
  • Peter Spanton Drinks
  • Seedlip
  • Rochester Ginger

Best Zero Alcohol Award Initiative

  • Dry Bars: The Brink, Liverpool; Redemption, London; Sobar, Nottingham
  • Dry Scene
  • Morning Gloryville
  • Warsteiner Fresh partnership with Jurgen Klopp

People’s Choice Award: Favourite Drink

  • Bavaria 0% Beer
  • Becks Blue
  • Belvoir
  • Bottlegreen
  • Shloer

People’s Choice Award: Favourite Location

  • The Alcohol Free Shop, Manchester
  • The Arkle Manor Bar, Surrey
  • The Crown, Henlow
  • Granger & Co., Kings Cross
  • Sobar, Nottingham
  • Strada, Nationwide

So lots of good recommendations in that list for things to drink, places to buy & go visit 🙂

Winner’s announcement here:

The winners of the Zero Alcohol Awards 2016 sponsored by Britvic have been announced.

Happy Hour Without the Booze

Happy hour without the booze LABeing the truly international jet set crowd that us sober warriors are I have to thank one of my lovely readers in the US for sending me this piece courtesy of the front page of The New York Times no less!  It would seem that sober cool is gathering momentum stateside too as this article ‘Happy Hour without the Booze’ describes 🙂

On a recent rainy afternoon over veggie burgers at NeueHouse, the co-working space in the Flatiron district, three Vedic meditators were discussing drink options for a new kind of happy hour they were organizing.

“Tonight would be a good night for tea,” Katia Tallarico, 33, a lanky psychotherapist from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said to Light Watkins, 42, an organizer from Los Angeles typically partial to a hot lemon-ginger elixir.

“It’s O.K., we have a really great water, from Australia,” said Andrea Praet, 34, a trend strategist from Greenpoint, who also runs an urban retreat series, with Ms. Tallarico, called the Uplift Project.

Around 5 p.m., the three made their way over to set up a “bar” and buffet at General Assembly, a fourth-floor technology school and site of New York City’s inaugural Shine: an inspirational, alcohol-free evening.

Founded by Mr. Watkins, the bimonthly after-work party began in Venice Beach, Calif., where it quickly grew to 200 attendees from 12. On this night, for about the price of a glass of nebbiolo at the NoMad, 90 New Yorkers were submitting to an evening of meditation, “enlightertainment” (including live music and film) and vegan food. “Though meat is an option,” Mr. Watkins said. “We want to be normal.”

And “normal” in Manhattan typically involves booze. “Alcohol is such a part of the city’s culture,” said Ms. Tallarico, who drinks occasionally but said her social life doesn’t revolve around it. “There’s nothing wrong with drinking. But people are looking to evolve. They’re looking to wake up.”

Though malbec has arrived at the movies, and brunch cocktails now go way beyond Bloody Marys, some are seeking social gatherings where alcohol isn’t even a temptation.

A recent 50-person “juice crawl” through SoHo was so enthusiastically received that the organizer, Anna Garcia, said she would be hosting them weekly this year. The year-old Manhattan-based social group Clean Fun Network was so overwhelmed by the initial response, it had to temporarily shut down, said Jimmy Hamm, a founder.

And tickets to the Shine sold out within a week, with a lengthy wait list. “We didn’t even do anything,” said Ms. Tallarico, who donned a shimmery top for the occasion. “It is the Shine,” said Ms. Tallarico, putting on lip gloss.

Ms. Praet, who pumped her shoulders to a silent beat as volunteers unloaded bottles of floral essence water, said, “Fun, fun, fun.”

Ambience, though, was a bit of a concern. “The light is definitely too bright,” Mr. Watkins said.

That’s the thing about alcohol-free events — they tend to be “unsexy,” said Catherine Salway, owner of Redemption, a new “bar” in London’s Notting Hill that opened last August, serving beet-o-tinis, coco-ritas and the like.

“A lot can be done with décor and music,” Ms. Salway said. “It’s not alcohol creating that vibe, it’s the people.” She opened a second location this month in the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood. A former brand director for Virgin, Ms. Salway is also eying New York and (brace yourself) Las Vegas. “If we can convince Londoners to take a night off booze. …” she said, trailing off.

Back above Broadway, doors opened to a disproportionate number of tall, willowy women with flawless skin and a blasé, “I-just-have-more-fun-without-it” attitude toward alcohol.

At the name-tag table, everyone was asked an icebreaker: “What actor would you cast to play you in a movie?”

Elle Fanning. Kate Hudson. Several Natalie Portmans. A man in a blazer scanned his phone, stumped. “You know, in ‘Sex & the City 2’? When they’re in Dubai? That butler?” asked Siddhartha Banthiya, an investment banker.

People lined up for sunchoke salad and kale-pumpkin-seed pesto. “This is truly a breath of fresh air,” said Porl Gordon, a multimedia designer and regular drinker, guzzling a green juice. “Conversations are more solid and rooted than any alcohol-fueled chat.”

Nick DiMattina, 28, an Australian life coach, said that he had come looking for love, and that he prefers to date sans alcohol. “It’s the only way to see the real person,” he said. “I told my friends, this is where you’ll meet a cool girl.”

Likewise, Jennifer Ekeleme, 37, a freelance brand strategist, thought she had decent odds of meeting “a straight, down-to-earth, culturally aware man” — at least better than during her drinking days at an ad agency. “Booze was always flowing, people would just get hammered and start talking about how unhappy they are,” she said. “It was getting too hard to justify the toll alcohol was taking on my body, wallet and spirit.”

At the Shine, though, people were all smiles. “This is the only real happy hour happening in Manhattan right now,” said Mr. Watkins, kicking things off with a human massage chain.

Next, Emily Fletcher, a meditation guide, took the mike and commanded people to close their eyes and plug their right nostril with their thumb, exhale with the left, then alternate.

Meditation Bar in Austin, Tex., offers “Happy Hour” classes, and MNDFL, which opened in November on East Eighth Street, has quickly morphed into more than a place to just sit in silence.

“We dedicated half the space to feel like a living room, with couches and free tea,” said Lodro Rinzler, MNDFL’s co-owner and author of “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar. …” “We have real mugs,” said his partner, Ellie Burrows. They also host MNDFL Taste, a partly silent organic catered dinner, paired with water.

“Today, we had training that ended with a happy hour, but I didn’t go,” said Stephanie DiSturco, 26, a digital media planner who chose to go to MNDFL instead.

At the Shine, as people sipped water, some vowed to start meditating more and many exchanged business cards.

A 40-something woman who works in finance, was glad to have a new kind of night out. “Rarely, do I ever come home from a bar and say, ‘That was really amazing,’” she said.

And Shine gets a mention again in this piece:

It’s Hip to Be Sober

London, New York, Los Angeles ……. the sober wave crests over the world 😉

Edited to add: 23rd April 2016

Sober is the new drunk: why millennials are ditching bar crawls for juice crawls

Is being sober finally trendy? Juice crawls are just one of many booze-free events in the US catering to millennials who are ditching the hooch in favor of clarity | Guardian, UK

Friday Sober Jukebox – we don’t need no education

we don't need no educationSo this post is triggered by two things – a sample of this track spinning round during a run one time over Xmas and a post by Kristen over at ByeByeBeer.  I’m mixing my metaphors somewhat because initially there will be some expression of defiance about brainwashing, as this song so brilliantly illustrates, & then it will become about education, growth of self and homework for life! 😉

The defiance is about the brainwashing, aka PR & advertising might of the drinks industry, that cranked up it’s messaging that booze is good and excessive drinking is normal over the Xmas & New Year period that made me increasingly angry and resentful.  Not a good  place to be & I had to work very hard to manage that around my family.  I don’t know but the lyrics of thought control and being a brick in the wall resonated for me.  We become so co-opted by it all I despair and for me it really is that matrix red pill blue pill moment.  So you can take the red pill and keep drinking or take the blue pill and do it a whole different way.  Which requires commitment and faith that those who have been before you are not lying to you and that it is so worth it.

Which segways with what Kristen featured which is a TED talk called Homework for Life.  If you click on the ByeByeBeer link you can watch it there which is where I saw it 🙂

“Homework for Life” is a strategy that I originally began using to generate more story topics for the stage, but as I began to use the strategy daily, it changed my life. It made everything about my life so much more vivid and slowed my life down remarkably. It’s a strategy I teach to my storytelling classes often, and I’ve had people tell me that it has replaced therapy and meditation for them. It truly changes lives. Powerful.

He talks about spotting the ‘danders in the wind’ which really resonated for me.  So to counteract the ongoing onslaught of ‘life requires booze to be good’ message I’m starting to practice homework for life as an additional sober tool to support the therapy and meditation I already practice.  At the age of 47 life is already speeding up way too much for me so if I can slow it down & notice the beautiful in the benign that has got to be a good thing.  Plus it supports my word for the year ‘clarity’ 🙂

Now that tune 😉

PS If you’re looking for a new eaterie & are East London way can I recommend Redemption?  I’ve blogged about it before here.  They opened their West London venue in Notting Hill back in August & now they have one in the heart of Shoreditch!

This is what Catherine had to say:

Redemption Bar’s new Shoreditch restaurant will be located at 320 Old Street, London, EC1V 9DR and will open to the public from Monday 4th January for a lunch service. 

redemption old streetOpening hours:
Monday – Friday 12pm – 11pm
Saturday 10am – 11pm
Sunday 10am – 5pm

Chocolate meditation

So it’s one month to go to my 2 year sober birthday.  Whodathunkit? 😉

chocolate 2

And after listening to Mary O’Malley talk to Tommy Rosen during Recovery 2.0 at Prim’s recommendation I’ve this to add to her words of wisdom.

Mary talks a lot about how our poisons can turn into our medicines and that the waves of compulsions we feel mean we have something to learn.  As she says:

Compulsions aren’t an indication that something is wrong;
they are doorways into the joy of being fully alive in each moment.
By learning to respond rather than react,
we can gather the gifts that they hold.

So much of what she says makes so much sense to me.  She talks about the stories and spells of childhood that lead to our control issues and struggle as adults.  How learning to numb saved our childhood.  And that this desire to control and our struggle is made of fear glued together with shame and judgement.  It’s that old chestnut about what you resist persists.

So in an effort to turn my current poison into medicine I’m going to detail a chocolate meditation 😉  This is taken from Psychology Today but there are lots of others available online.

The chocolate meditation
Choose some chocolate – either a type that you’ve never tried before or one that you have not eaten recently. It might be dark and flavoursome, organic or fair-trade or, perhaps, cheap and trashy. The important thing is to choose a type you wouldn’t normally eat or that you consume only rarely. Here goes:
• Open the packet. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.
• Break off a piece and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
• Pop it in your mouth. See if it’s possible to hold it on your tongue and let it melt, noticing any tendency to suck at it. Chocolate has over 300 different flavours. See if you can sense some of them.
• If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, then gently escort it back to the present moment.
• After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.
• Repeat this with one other piece.

Mindfulness meditation is often seen as an austere practice (possibly because of all those monks getting up at 4 am and meditating before breakfast). While simplicity has its place, it also pays to remember that Mindfulness is first and foremost about compassion towards yourself and to others. Enforced austerity should play no part in the practice at all.

And that to me encapsulates Mary’s wisdom.  This process isn’t about enforced austerity it’s about learning what we do and why we do it and to have compassionate curiousity towards ourselves.  Mary says in shame there is no healing and by using compassion we can unhook ourselves from the core struggles that keep us stuck in our compulsions.  I’m all for that – with a bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure 😉

Week 2 of sugar free for Lent!

Boy I am missing my ‘Friends’ sugar and sweetness in my life right now 😉

matthew perry

So I began to write daily notes of the experience and to compare and contrast it stopping with drinking.  Turns out for me it’s much the same it would seem!

Day1: Was looking for excuses to cave.  Went to Cash & Carry in day and spent ages deliberating over whether to buy a HUGE bar of 70% dark chocolate (told myself it was for cooking!).  Resisted.  On way home thought about taking kids to MaccyD’s – dressed up as a treat for them but just as much for me. Can’t have sugar – how about a shed load of processed food instead? Didn’t.  Started to feel itchy in my skin around 16.45 –  just like with booze.  Wasn’t hungry, it was almost like an emotional itch I felt the need to scratch.  Not sure why.  Ate 3 Davina digestive biscuits.  Same squirrelly  feeling appeared at 20.50 but think it was because kids were up late due to half term and we hadn’t eaten so was hungry.  Ate a sugar free mint before bed too?!


Day 2: No honey on my toast so had to resist the automatic reach into the cupboard for the jar! Random snacking on Davina’s digestives again today – one at 14.00, 17.00 and 22.30.  Don’t know if it’s because I was having sugar lows as finished up home-made white raisin bread post run and had late lunch of poached egg and white muffin.  Having substance relapse fantasies in the evening while trying to meditate as have booked tickets for SW4 event in August and this will be the first big gig with no booze or drugs.  Was this because of no sugar or would I have had them anyway?  Another sugar free mint eaten before bed – hangover from nicotine lozenge days I reckon.

Day 3: Had to really resist the Chinese New Year ready meal selection in Saino’s today and if my son hadn’t been with me and been reinforcing the rules I think I would have caved!!  Really tied in with idea of treating myself and felt very deprived when I walked away from the chiller.  Bought fresh baby vegetables to include in home-made thai green curry instead.  Very late lunch and 1 of Davina’s digestives went in my mouth again afterwards.  Baked a batch of her flapjacks and couldn’t help but lick the spoon! Really struggled early evening.  Grouchy and shouty with the kids, tried to do a balance meditation to restore some equanimity but failed miserably as feel so emotionally out of balance!  Gah am not enjoying this one bit 🙁

Day 4: Slightly easier day to day.  Only had 1 Davina digestive and 1 flapjack as after lunch and mid afternoon snack.  The flapjacks are very sweet and very filling so you wouldn’t want to eat too many of them in one sitting!  Didn’t struggle anywhere near as much as yesterday and wasn’t even looking for ways to cheat 🙂


Day 5: Easier again today as my taste-buds become accustomed to less sugar.  Big test of the day was the local village tea which is usually a smorgasbord of cakes and this month was no exception!  Had very late lunch of pitta pizzas and then a Davina flapjack before I went so that I didn’t feel deprived.  Hmm sounds like strategies learned from other substances ….. 😉

Day 6: Craving MaccyD’s again today but polished my halo and had California rolls instead!  Plus as was volunteering today planned ahead and took a Davina flapjack with me.  Again shades of other hangover free learned strategies coming through.  Had some potentially good news so was fidgety in the evening with anticipatory anxiety and wanted to mark the occasion with a treat and felt stumped as couldn’t go for my tried and tested chocolate 🙁

Day 7:  Easier today.  No cravings as such but did eat 1 Davina flapjack after a late lunch and another one after dinner at about 9pm.   Plus I’ve discovered Ricola Sugar Free Swiss Herbal Sweets that are sweetened with Stevia.  Am I allowed these? 😉  Overall I’m really pleased with how I’ve done on this first week.  Thursday will be the big test – nerves pre-presentation at uni and then post presentation relief/euphoria and no salve for those emotions ……

PS If any of you would like to join me to see Faithless and Fat Boy Slim at the SW4 festival over August Bank Holiday and keep me sober company that would be ace.  Tickets are still available I believe 🙂