I may have won the battle, but I haven’t won the war…

2.5 years sober.  Wow, heading into three years without a drop of alcohol.  What an incredible achievement, if I do say so myself.

It’s fascinating to consider myself in retrospect and to observe the immense and positive changes that have taken place in my life since giving up drinking, on many levels.  On a physical level I’ve lost 13 kilos and now walk 5kms a day. I get up at 5.50am without fail. I start work early. I haven’t had a sick day off work in all that time.  (In my drinking years I had rarely been off work for legitimately being ill but I certainly took days off because I was too hungover to drag myself out of bed).  Emotionally I hardly ever lose my cool. My emotions are level and rational. My relationships are the best they’ve ever been (after all, people know exactly where they stand, I’m happy and I can feel love).  Mentally I’m clear. My memory has improved. I am more mentally agile and astute and spiritually I’m aligned.  My integrity is intact.  My intuition is heightened. My dreams are predictive. My psychic abilities have returned to what they were as a child before I spent years drinking.  Literally there is not a reason in the world why I would want to take up drinking again.

So why do I feel like I’ve won the battle, but not won the war?

Because I realised the war I’m waging is against people’s perceptions of being a non drinker!  Two and a half years after giving up, I rarely, ever think about alcohol.  I thoroughly enjoy socialising without it.  In fact, I enjoy it much more because I don’t have to worry about planning not to take my car, affording taxis, worrying about getting drunk and undermining my feelings of self worth, having regrets, feeling sick the next day but pretending I’m fine.  Knowing I’ve been an arse but not remembering why…

Interestingly, the discrimination I’ve experienced as a non drinker has mostly come from employers.  Fancy that!  I really didn’t see that one coming!  Especially considering how productive my work days are.

The first time I really felt it, was after a work team I was with, had an achievement and we were all sitting around afterwards congratulating ourselves.  My boss started talking about going out to the pub to celebrate and then turned to me and said, “You’ll have to start drinking again, so that you can come with us to the pub.”

Fortunately I responded calmly (as I do, now that I don’t drink anymore) and said (with a smile) “I’ll come to the pub anyway and just drink my regular drink”.  No-one else seemed to notice but I felt quite affronted.  Her comments had instantly made me feel excluded, even though I suspect she felt she was trying to do the opposite.

I went home that night and thought seriously about pulling her up on it the next day.  But by the time the next day arrived, I quite simply couldn’t be bothered.  Her opinion actually mattered so very little to me (and I knew I was leaving the role soon), that it wasn’t worth the effort of making an issue over.

The next time it happened in the workplace was more confronting.  I had been through a rigorous interview process for, and had finally scored, my “dream job”.  The man I was to work for, as his personal assistant, was an extremely smart entrepreneur and I’d been highly impressed by his perceptiveness and emotional intelligence during my interviews.  And yet, after commencing in the role and when I realised it was time to tell him I no longer drank alcohol, he said abruptly, “Well you’re not going to fit in here.”  I laughed in astonishment (thinking he was joking) but I quickly realised he wasn’t joking.  A few days later someone at “after work drinks” went to pour me a champagne and after I declined my boss said loudly, “She doesn’t drink… but don’t worry… we’ll soon change that.”

I realised I had entered into very unfamiliar territory for me – feeling socially excluded in the workplace because I didn’t drink.  This was despite still enjoying to hang out with the others and play 8-ball, talk and joke around.

I had an opportunity to raise the subject a few days later when he showed the whole staff an Anthony Robbins video to motivate them.  Anthony Robbins talked about the choices we make in every day life which transform our lives in positive ways.  After the presentation he asked me what I’d thought of it and I said, “Well it makes perfect sense.  In fact, my decision to give up drinking was that choice I made in my every day life, to transform my life in a positive way.”  He looked at me directly and in that moment, I knew that I’d made my point; that a very positive decision I’d made was being undermined by his comments.

My work colleagues seem to enjoy my company when I’m out with them but my boss, who is quite a big drinker himself, has put up several walls towards me in a social context.  When I first started as his personal assistant he often talked about me travelling with him and going out networking with him but he quickly changed that when he discovered that I’m a non-drinker.  Even though I love to network, to talk and to socialise.

I am hoping that over time and as he gets to know me as a sociable person, that he’ll allow his guard to drop again but it has certainly struck me, just how difficult it can be, to be alienated in the workplace for being the non drinker in the room.

It’s hurtful.

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Two Years Sober

Let me start by saying it’s been TWO YEARS SINCE I LAST HAD A DRINK. GO ME!!!

A few days ago I was sitting in a meeting with some new work colleagues and we were discussing our recent project achievements. The subject of going to the pub to celebrate arose, when my boss obviously remembered I don’t drink and said enthusiastically, “Carol, you’re going to have to start drinking again so that you can come pub-hopping with us.”

Fortunately, I’m a quick thinker and said smiling, “I’ll come pub-hopping with you. I’ll just stick to my usual lime and soda in a wine glass.”

That night at home, I brooded on her thoughtless comment, considering whether to raise it with her the following day. This particular woman is aware I gave up drinking for the reason that I had a tendency to drink too much – I’d told her quite openly over lunch one day, when she’d had a glass of wine with lunch and I hadn’t. She is mature, nearly 50 and the Director within the public health industry, so she has intelligence. And yet it didn’t stop her making this thoughtless comment which I’m sure was intended to include me, yet only managed to do completely the opposite.

I decided that raising the subject really wasn’t worth the effort. It would only serve to embarrass her and make me appear overly-sensitive. Because the truth is, I can happily say that after two whole years off the booze, I finally AM starting to care less about the thoughtless things people say and the myriad of subtle ways that we are told were are less fun because we don’t drink.

And I’m caring less because I am LOVING LIFE SOBER and have no intention of taking up drinking again, just to fit in with someone else’s idea of how to celebrate.

Speaking of celebrations, in two weeks’ time it’s my 50th birthday and I’ve just bought a stunning, new dress for my party. It’s a long, slinky, flashy, red, sequinned number in a size USA 6 / AUS 8. Over the past two years since I stopped drinking I’ve dropped 13 kilos because I no longer have the sugar intake from booze. Plus I now have the energy and desire to walk 4 kilometres every day and I do yoga twice a week. More recently I bought a whole new, sexy wardrobe. I look years younger than many my age and I frequently turn the heads of men (of all ages) as I walk down the street. But my confidence isn’t just because I’m looking as good as I possibly can but because I really, genuinely like myself sober. I respect myself. I live with my integrity. I am happy! I could never actually say that when I was drinking myself into a stupor and waking up with regrets.

So my birthday party is in two weeks and it’s going be an enormous celebration. Yes, I’m supplying wine, champagne, beer and cocktails for my drinking friends but I have no desire to imbibe and I’m also serving a huge variety of delicious mocktails for myself and any other friends who choose not to drink alcohol. I will dance the night away to my favourite dance music, I’ll serve loads of delicious canapés, I’ll celebrate my relationships with my true friends and loving family and the next day, I’ll get up feeling fabulous and go for my 4km walk because I won’t have alcoholic poisoning keeping me pinned to my bed.

And I’ll happily post some photos of myself having a wonderful celebration without alcohol.

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Love Letter to a Younger Man

Dear Tristan,

I’m writing this letter because I feel that I really owe you some sort of an explanation as to what happened between us. Why I freaked out and ran away. Because I DID freak out.

But it’s a bit of a long story, so please bear with me.

I may have casually mentioned, early in the piece when we were first writing to each other, that quite a number of years ago, I went out with someone who was also a chef, who also, coincidentally, worked at the hotel you’re working at. Jonathan was his name and we had a tempestuous, on-again-off-again relationship over approximately five years, from early 2000 to about 2005.

Like you, Jonathan was also significantly younger than me and also like you, he was a very talented artist and musician. When we met he was 24 and I was 36 but despite that, there is no doubt, we had a deep love for each other and a very strong physical attraction. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough and there were some other, underlying issues, that I didn’t really become aware of for quite some time – one of which Jonathan was a chronic alcoholic and drug user and the other of which he was a liar. He was always screwing around and he had plenty of opportunity within the hospitality industry he worked.

He wasn’t a cruel person in any way, in fact he was extremely gentle and kind, he just found reality really hard to face and he hated hurting people’s feelings – so he lied to avoid doing that. Plus he LOVED women (and they loved him). But the constant lying about it destroyed me, Tristan. I’ve always said that I would rather be hurt by the truth than shattered by lies and I stand by that.

My association with the hotel where you work is a particularly bad one because my relationship with Jonathan came to its final ugly conclusion while he was working there – mostly because he was forever screwing one waitress or another and making up these ridiculous stories to me; completely insulting my intelligence and perceptiveness. It was a terrible time in my life and to be perfectly honest – one that I have tried very hard to forget.

I thought I was doing a great job of that too!

I won’t go into the details of those final days except to say that they were fraught, distressing and really did enormous amounts of damage to my trust in men – which if truth be told, was already pretty screwed up from having a womanising father and a husband who fell in love with someone else. Believe me when I say this Tristan; my heart has been chewed up and spat out a few times!

Jonathan actually died last year at the age of 36. His body had shut down and his lungs collapsed – it was a terrible thing for someone so young and so artistically gifted. I hadn’t spoken to him for four or five years before that but I had a clear premonition a week before, which was strong enough to prompt me to ring him to see if he was okay. He said he was fine and we chatted lightly for a few minutes and strangely enough, verbally apologised and forgave each other for the crap that had gone down between us.

Yeah, a week later he was dead.

I went to his funeral but I felt strangely numb. I had let go of any feelings I’d had for Jonathan many years ago.

After that relationship ended I had a lot to focus on, with my sister getting sicker from her cancer and eventually dying, taking care of my grieving niece, not to mention my own children and other things I haven’t told you about with work and finances.

Leading up to – and at times after my sister’s death – I was also drinking heavily to numb my pain and I knew it was a problem that I was going to have to address at some stage. Plus I’d been having drunk sex with random men that meant absolutely nothing to me, which only served to leave me feeling like my integrity was in tatters. I knew it was a form of self-abuse but I was in a cycle of pain, at that time, which I couldn’t seem to stop.

When my ex-husband came back into my life in about 2010 it felt like a very safe option for me because we weren’t in love. We loved and respected each other but there was absolutely no passion. I have told you that his dope smoking and my drinking were a major issue in our relationship – but the fact is, we just were not in love anymore. But it had its positives because for the first time in many years, I felt safe and financially secure, and that safety put me into a good frame of mind to start the process of giving up the booze and healing some of my other deeper issues.

Just after Christmas in 2012 my ex-current husband told me we had made a mistake getting back together. Neither of us could envision spending the rest of our lives without the physical passion, which is human nature to want, along with a heart and mind connection, of course. As I mentioned to you, we parted very maturely and although I grieved, I was really grieving for me – for the lack of love in my life, for my lack of self-love and probably for every little bit of pain I’d ever felt. I’m pretty intense like that. I wish I wasn’t!

Strangely enough, my sister’s death and that relationship break-up were incredibly cathartic for me. I started healing on a very profound level. I found the strength to give up drinking, focussed on my wellbeing, chose celibacy and started to love myself again. Not only has my integrity slowly been restored but also my creativity.

I had decided some time ago that the next time I made love, it would be with someone I truly loved and who truly loved me; someone I had a heart, body, mind and soul connection with. So when you appeared in my life it was very unexpected. At first I thought “Oh great here’s another young guy out on the hunt” and my walls went straight up. Excuse me for thinking that but my looks can be a magnet for men and it hasn’t always been a positive!

But Tristan, I quickly realised that you are different. You’re funny, warm, perceptive, and have such a beautiful, romantic heart. Besides, the way you looked at me and spoke to me, it really helped me to see the person that I am today, through your eyes – and I will always be grateful for that.

The kiss at my car blew me away. My body felt electrified and was jolted into wakefulness! My heart was pounding, my knees trembling, my womb melting. I left thinking, “Oh man, I’m in serious trouble.” And I could not stop thinking about it! I badly wanted more. Then watching the shooting stars on the beach that night, just made things worse. Seriously, I have told you and its true and I mean it; my body is on fire and I have not felt this way in many years!

When you first told me that you are a chef working at that same restaurant as Jonathan, to be honest, I didn’t give it much thought other than thinking, “I certainly won’t be paying him a visit there.” It was only when you mentioned the young waitresses wanting to party with you after work and that you are a self-confessed flirt, that I was suddenly filled with an enormous dread that I was going to go down a path that I had walked down before – and it had not been a pleasant one. It filled me with utter fear. I couldn’t help thinking that this was some sort of cruel karmic joke. I felt like I was being tested – am I really committed to changing my life and living with integrity or am I going to go down exactly the same path I’ve been down several times before?

But can I make something really clear to you?

YOU didn’t make me feel terrible. You opened my eyes, Tristan. You made me feel wonderful. I haven’t been made to feel so beautiful and desirable for years! I could just feel myself really falling for you but I couldn’t see how it could possibly end well because we have such different needs. You are 17 years younger than me and even if your intentions are pure now, at some time in the future you will want to find someone younger to have babies with.  And that part of my life is behind me now.

And the truth is, I still have some more work to do on my trust issues if I’m going to have a healthy relationship with anyone. I didn’t want you to be on the receiving end of that.

I have to trust my intuition on this, Tristan. I know in my heart this is the right thing to do.

But I am going to miss you more than you will ever know.

(All names have been changed to protect the identify of the people involved).

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Death and a Celebration

On the 28th of October this year it was my one-year milestone for giving up drinking.  YAY ME!!!

I’d been planning all year on this milestone being a much-celebrated event but unfortunately it was overshadowed by another anniversary the day before – the anniversary of the death of my younger sister to breast cancer, five years ago.

The closeness of dates of these two, major, life-changing events are not an accident. The last time I ever got drunk was on the fourth year memorial of my sister’s death it was the next day that I woke up and said, “Today is the day I stop drinking forever.”

Well in truth, I tentatively thought it but I didn’t say the words out loud. Not yet. But I knew it in my heart, the permanence of my decision to no longer drink.

My sister and I were always big drinkers. We both loved wine and beer and tequila shots and getting drunk and being outrageous and having fun. Oh the stories I could tell you! Like the time we partied with Al Jorgensen from Ministry after the Big Day Out and then she raced off interstate with him to the next event! (I crept back home to my husband with my tail between my legs from not having made it home that night.) But he forgave me. That time….

So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, six years before she died, she did try to cut back on her partying ways and for the most part she did; just the odd binge sessions when circumstances got a bit hard to face; which was pretty often, come to think of it.

The years leading up to her death and then her actual death were the most excruciatingly, emotionally-painful days that I have ever had to face – and believe me, I’ve had some emotional pain in my time.

But she was my little sister, the person in life I always looked out for, the person who looked to me to rescue her. The person who trusted me to solve life’s problems. (Turns out there are some problems you just can’t solve for someone else).

She was the person I shared a whole lifetime of experiences with: the adventurous life, running free in the country, riding horses; the many houses and school moves; always being the new kids on the block; the breakup of our parents; the absent, hard-drinking, womanizing, charismatic, dynamic, handsome father; the loving, hardworking but desperately struggling mother; jealousies over boyfriends and careers; travel experiences; financial struggles; laughter; parties; emotional insecurities; loves and joy; pregnancies; the birth of her daughter and the many hours of deep, deep, discussions about love, life and… the finality of death.

After my sister died I was absolutely heartbroken. I spent a lot of time contemplating the transience of life, struggling to pull myself out of bed every day.

I had to keep moving forward because I’d assumed the guardianship of my 12-year old niece who was also struggling with grief; even more so than me.

I wish I could say that she turned to me in her grief but my similarity of looks, voice and manner to my younger sister was like constant sandpaper rubbing against niece’s brain and heart; a constant reminder that her mother was dead and I was alive. The cruelty of fate! The unfairness of life! She constantly threw anger and hatred towards me, “You can’t tell me what to do! YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER! I HATE YOU! I WISH IT WAS YOU THAT DIED!!”

I tried to tell her that I wasn’t trying to replace her mother but I’d promised I would take care of her. I introduced her to CANTEEN, an organization for teenagers who’ve suffered loss through cancer. I took her to the singing and acting lessons she’d had since she was young. I stopped working so I could be on hand after school to make sure she wasn’t going astray. I gave her pocket money and cooked her meals and hugged her when she cried and talked to her often about her mum.

But she just wasn’t going to have it. I just wasn’t her mother and she wasn’t going to let me replace her.  She held me at arms length with bitter determination.

She lived with me for six months and then she vehemently told me one night that she was going to live with her ex-step father. I tried to dissuade her but ultimately there was nothing I could do to stop her. So that’s where she went.

It was the catalyst for me to fall into a deep depression and I started drinking heavily again. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been a big drinker and other times when I’ve been a light drinker. This time was somewhere in the middle but I was frequently binging and for some reason – I just wasn’t handling the alcohol as well as I might normally have. I was deeply unhappy because I felt that I had failed my niece and ultimately I had failed my sister.

I knew that I had to give up drinking if I was going to get my life back on track, so I took baby steps. I started walking along the beach where I lived every day, listening to music that allowed me to think about my sister’s life and my life, while slowly walking off the agony.

Over time I started to awaken out of the darkness. I started to consider how precious life really is and how little time we really have. I thought a lot about the mistakes we’d both made from drinking heavily, particularly with the knowledge that booze is such a huge contributing factor in some forms of breast cancer. I considered what I held dear and I suppose I started to appreciate – really, really appreciate – my own children, my health and my own life.

And so, the day after the 4th year anniversary of my sister’s death – nursing a hangover from the one too many wines in her memory – I awoke and said, “Okay, today is the day that I give up drinking and really start to value myself and life.”

And so I did.

So, I’m a few weeks late with my observations about being abstinent but as we all know, better late than never! In the twelve months that I’ve been abstinent, this is what I’ve learnt about being a drinker:

I justified to myself, and others, that the amount of alcohol I consumed was normal and that I was in control.

I lied to myself, and others, about things I did and things I didn’t do.

I made up excuses for taking days off work when I was too hungover to go.

I can now sometimes smell alcohol on people around me – at work, socially, at parties – and it’s vile! I wonder how often I smelt like that.

I don’t have the same emotional ups and downs – I still get happy and sad but I don’t feel overwhelmed with anxiety or anger.

I look forward to going out without worrying about having to try and stop myself from getting drunk.

I go further afield from home because I don’t’ have to worry how I’ll get home if I happen to get drunk. Which was nearly always.

I can’t be bothered with bullshit conversations but I really like to listen to people, hear their stories and have heart-to-hearts. I want to find out what is on the inside of people and the things that challenge them.

I am connecting more, with more people.

I’m not as selfish or self-absorbed.

People are really kind and supportive when you are honest about your frailties – even people you hardly know.

I’m much better off financially. When I was drinking I would NEVER have money left over at the end of my pay cycle. Now I always do – and I’m saving!

Drunks are really boring! Being drunk sucks away time and creative energy. I seriously regret the lost moments from being hungover and the lost moments from being drunk and the lost moments from not being able to remember.

I look at people very differently. I’m drawn towards people who have healthy lives, who are active and make goals.

I love dining out just as much without wine! I enjoy good food just as much!! This was a major realization to me because I had a huge food and wine appreciation.

I wake up early every day and rarely sleep in or waste the day in bed.

I’ve lost 7 kilos and I’m looking pretty damn good… even if I do say so myself.

My children enjoying spending time with me more than they used to. I don’t say or do embarrassing things. They tell me how proud of me they are.

My family and friends are proud of me.

I am really proud of myself and I know that the example I am setting my niece will eventually be what she appreciates about me – even if she’s old when it happens.

My 20-year old daughter admitted she hated finding me passed out on the couch.

People only tended to admit things about my drinking to me once I’d stopped; or perhaps I just never listened before.

I can see myself living another 50 years instead of dying a slow death, every day.

Thanks for reading, friends. And best luck on your own journeys. Please leave your comments. It means a lot to me to hear from others.

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Aunty Lush has reached 140 days sober

Today I’ve reached the 140 day mark!  That’s 20 weeks!  5 months!  I’m sure you will appreciate the need for me to emphasise the time that’s gone by since I took my last drink.

Yesterday, a friend who I haven’t seen for some time called in and mentioned how well I’m looking.  “Have you lost weight or something?  You’re looking really well!”  (Mind you this was after a weekend of no sleep, taking care of my two young grandchildren, so I’m taking it as a genuine compliment).  In fact, I have lost weight.  I’ve lost about six kilos from my little 5-foot frame since giving up the booze – and that’s without changing my diet in any other way.  My food intake has always been very healthy, albeit my self-indulgent love of butter and cream (which I’m not giving up)!  But anyway… when I explained to him that yes, I have lost weight and told him why, his words were “But you didn’t drink that much… did you, Love?”

This is a very hard question to answer because its all about relativity.  How much, exactly, is “that much“?

I immediately found my mind being propelled back over my “good versus evil” life scenarios for the past however-many years and some of the memories surfacing weren’t that pleasant.  Yes, I had been gradually cutting back on the day-to-day drinking but this could be said to have exacerbated the binge drinking.  Besides, now that I’m sober and life is ticking along quite nicely – I’ll get to that shortly – I’ve come to realise that for me – even getting drunk once a month was too much because of the way alcohol completely eroded my sense of self-worth and integrity. (Not that is was only once a month but just sayin’).

Before I gave up, I had regular insights into wanting to give up, knowing that if I did, my life would somehow be better.  I knew that it would mean an end to the cringe-worthy behaviour which ranged from things like having my 21 yo daughter admonish me in the morning for finding me unconscious on my bed, fully dressed – sideways – still wearing shoes, having left the house front door unlocked and wide open (cringe), to doing a huge sideways leap in 5-inch stilettos at a family wedding to try and grab the bride’s bouquet and subsequently face-planting on the dance floor in front of my ex-husband’s whole family (aha! we suspected she was a drunk!) (cringe cringe), to going to my local pub for a Friday night drink and waking up at 5am in a strange 22yo man’s bed with all my clothes on except for my pants and having no recall of how I got there (cringe cringe cringe – let’s put that one in the vault and lock the key).  Oh yes, I was often the ‘life of the party’.

What I didn’t know is just how WELL I would feel sober.  How alive.  How acutely aware.  How my senses would begin to return… the senses I’d forgotten about because they were being regularly dowsed… my creativity, my psychic perceptions, my ability to hear and smell and see what my environment is telling me because I’m getting back in touch with nature again and consequently I’m getting back in touch with me again.  These are all things that you cannot really explain to someone unless they have experienced it themselves and it’s certainly not something I understood the significance of while I was under the influence.  In fact I think I am still coming to understand the full significance of this myself.

So how am I feeling at 140 days sober?  Well, I still have fleeting feelings of fear and sadness as I re-find myself in this moment. I still have moments of regret that comes with the clarity of years wasted not being at my ‘complete capacity’ for living.  But when these feelings arise I allow myself to experience them fully and to explore them, instead of running and hiding in the nearest bottle.  Allowing this is invigorating and certainly healing.  Mostly though I am exhilarated and wondrous at just how good it feels to be alive, conscious and to intuitively know that life still has much in store for me, as I recreate my order of things.

So yes, I knew that life would be better if I gave up drinking, I just didn’t realise how good it would be to FEEL.  And yes, I was drinking “that much”.

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Full Moon Reflections

There’s a huge and luminous Full Moon in the sky tonight. It’s 10.37pm and the temperature outside is still an energy-sapping 33 degrees celsius. I’ve been in a big grump all day, starting with a client not turning up for a 90-minute appointment, without so much as a text message to say “sorry, I can’t make it”. The searing 44 maximum midday heat kept me indoors and the day ended no better when my dinner companion was in a vile and unsociable mood (which I’m attributing to dope deprivation withdrawals) and afterwards, a new male acquaintance decided tonight would be a good time to tell me what effect I was having on his penis. In detail. When I really didn’t want or care to know. Potential new friendship over.

Oh! Here’s a tip ladies. If a guy ever says to you via text message, “Can I tell you something?” I advise you to say no.  In my experience in never ends particularly well. Anyway that’s a story for another day…

The GOOD news is, today I am 80 days sober.  So what more perfect time to do some Full Moon Reflections?

The other good news is that sometime during those 80 days, after the initial craving for chocolate and grieving, followed by the panic dreams… you know the ones where you dream you’re drinking champagne and suddenly realise “Oh no! I’ve screwed up! I wasn’t meant to drink any alcohol!!!” and you wake up with your heart pounding, extremely glad that you haven’t fallen off the wagon but terrified that it’s your subconscious telling you that you’re about to fall off the wagon?!

I had those dreams for a few weeks. They started intensely every night, about two months into my sobriety.  One night I mentioned it to a girlfriend and she said casually, “Maybe it’s your subconscious telling you how serious you are about giving up.”

Her innocent but insightful remark immediately made me feel like a weight had lifted and sure enough, I haven’t had one of those dreams since.  Although I have dreamt that I was at a conference and declined a drink, opting for a soda water instead.  Way to go subconscious!!

Anyway back to the story.  Sometime during those 80 days it occurred to me that I really ENJOY not drinking and that I’ve been truly liberated in some way.  I realised I wasn’t spending all of my time wanting to avoid situations where other people would be having a merry old time drinking because I couldn’t bare not to be one of them!  I realised, in fact, that not only did I not want to be one of them but that I was grateful that I WASN’T one of them!  Hallelujah!

Of course the down side to this was the OTHER realisation I had, that some of the people I thought I’d still enjoy spending time with when sober; turns out that I don’t really enjoy spending time with them at all.  Truth is, they’re pretty borish when they’re drunk.  In fact, there’s quite a FEW people that I just no longer wish to spend time with anymore. Which is why I’ve been on a course to find new friendships.

This brings me to the fascinating, albeit excruciating, disappointing and perplexing subject of finding new sober friends in a world full of people who love to get drunk.  How do you do it??  I’m really struggling with this and particularly being a red-blooded female that would love to have some intelligent and attractive male company with someone who doesn’t think I’m a leper for not drinking!  Even better, doesn’t really like to drink himself.  Is it even possible to find love when you’re in the “recovery” process?

But I guess “finding” love isn’t the real issue.  There is a story I’ve been wanting to share with you about my past drinking but it will require some time to compose and I haven’t got the energy right now, so I will have to save it for another day.  I apologise in advance for keeping you hanging…

I’m signing off now as I’ve done enough reflecting tonight.

Thank you, I’m in a much better mood now.

Sweet sober dreams, friends…

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It Takes 21 Days (and strategies) to Change a Habit

I am now two months sober and feeling fantastic.  I’m well past the “21 days to change a habit” stage and going strong, although still taking each day and each moment at a time.  I’ve ‘come out of the closet’ a little by making reference to my sobriety on my Facebook page and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at just who have ‘come out of the woodwork’ to offer me congratulations, support and their own stories of going sober.  Then again I’ve also been slightly disappointed by the reactions of some of my close friends who seemed almost sorry that they wouldn’t get to hear another crazy story of my shenanigans when drunk again.

Some of my drinking buddies (who I thought were besties) have dropped me cold. (Oh well. Que sera sera. See ya, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!!)

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Wellbeing Counsellor and Astrologer and i recently had a client who was obviously having her own battle with the bottle. I told her of my personal struggle to limit my drinking and my occasional (pretty regular if I’m honest) binging ‘doozy’ and that I’d stopped drinking permanently as of two months ago.

She sent me an SMS tonight and asked if she could borrow a hypnosis CD I’d mentioned and I told her not only would I give her a copy but I would also write down a few strategies that had helped me.  To my surprise, a few strategies turned out to be 21 items and so I thought I’d share them with you too.

Some of these may have been suggested by my inspiration ‘Unpickled’ but I’m sure she won’t mind the fact they also really helped me. And I hope they, in turn, help you on your own journey to sobriety.

1) Get a hypnosis CD. I bought one called ‘A Sober Life – Hypnosis CD’ and I listen to it every night as I drift off to sleep.  I now have it on my iPod and listen to it with earphones but out loud is fine too (especially if you sleep alone). It works on changing the subconscious thought patterns and I don’t like to miss a day without it.

2) Make a list of all of your pros and cons of drinking. Be brutally honest about the cons. This is your private list, no-one else need ever see it. Don’t forget to include all of the nasty health consequences. If you’re not aware of any, look them up online. There are plenty, I can promise you.

3) Understand your ‘triggers’ for drinking and identify your favourite drinking ‘times’. Then try to avoid completely at least in the first 21 days.  I’ve had to give up using wine in my cooking, as I loved nothing more than using half a glass in my dish and finishing the rest of the bottle myself. Oh, verjuice is a good substitute if you love to cook with wine.

4) Set yourself a 21 day target in the first instance, knowing that it only takes 21 days to change a habit and reprogram your thoughts. At 21 days, you’ll be ready to set a new, longer target.

5) Let your close, trusted friends and family know you are going to stop drinking for a while and that you would like their support and agreement not to encourage or tempt you to drink.

6) Come up with a list of cold drinks you enjoy that you can have when you’re out and always take your own drinks to social gatherings.  Mine are iced green tea in a wine glass, soda water with a dash of lime cordial and a twist of lime juice (also in a wine glass) and orange juice mixed with mineral water in a champagne glass.

7) Have chocolate ready on hand in the first few weeks and don’t try to diet at the same time as giving up drinking. Remember, just cutting out alcohol is cutting out the many empty calories you’ve been regularly consuming. In not-too-long without alcohol your energy levels will start to increase and you’ll start to crave healthier foods and a healthier body.

8) Read Unpickled’s blog.  She’s an inspiration.

9) Don’t keep any wine (or your other alcoholic drinks of choice) in the house.

10) Do a gentle walk for 20 mins at least three times a week.  Increase this when you feel like it and then take up other forms of gentle exercise like yoga.

11) Rent and watch ‘Flight’ on DVD with Denzel Washington.  A good reminder why alcohol is so ugly.

12) Be kind to yourself and be prepared to want to sleep. A lot. After a week off the booze, your body will start repairing, you will stop having the “jumping awake in panic” attacks and your body will want to sleep. And sleep. And sleep.  Allow it to whenever possible.

13) Connect with others who also don’t drink and ask them what their strategies are for handling the inevitable questions you will get about “why?”

14) Practice what you plan to say but I’ve found it best to keep it simple and not over-explain.  Just “I’m giving my body a break” should be good enough for most people.

Note:  It’s worth mentioning here that you may find, like I have, that some people will want to probe deeper into your reasons why and this may be because they’re considering their own relationship to alcohol.  They may genuinely want to hear some good reasons from you why to give it up themselves!  There will also be people who just don’t get it and never will get it, especially people who aren’t prone to addiction themselves.

15) Download an app to keep track of how many days you’ve been sober and to set sobriety goals.  I’ve downloaded one called Days – Sobriety Clocks and I like looking at it every few days to see the number keep growing!

16) Download an app for daily affirmations.  I’ve downloaded one called ‘Afternoon Affirmations’ that I try to take a moment to contemplate when they come through each day.  There may be others and if you know a good one, I’d love to hear of it!

17) Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts, your progress, your hurdles, your achievements. Write down anything that comes to you.

18) Meditate regularly. Light a candle in the morning and say a prayer of gratitude for your life.

19) Keep track of the amount of money you’re not spending on alcohol.

20) Google “Giving up alcohol” and read about other people’s experiences and reasons for giving up.

21) Know that the first few weeks might be a bit of an emotional roller coaster as you learn to face your emotions and thoughts without dulling and numbing them through self-medicating.

22) Most of all, just take it one day at a time, one moment at a time and be kind to yourself.  One day soon you will be so glad that you are off the roller coaster that you will want to sing with joy.

Oh dear, that’s 22 Good Reasons.  What a great name for a song!  Thanks for reading and keep in touch. xox

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