Shame Can’t Survive the Light

15 Aug

After months away from the blogs, no writing, no checking of others, today I am drawn to write.

And the subject that has bubbled up in my consciousness is shame. The title of this blog post came to me as I was sitting quietly, an echo of another blog or podcast I have read or listenined to, a call to explore this idea. 

Before I explore shame, a little context about what I’ve been up to. Spirituality is becoming increasingly important in my life and of course, in my recovery. I’ve always had a spiritual approach to recovery, but of late, I’ve been interrogating that more deeply, reaching my fingers out to the sun-drenched corners of my happy sober existence and drawing in that light. 

This deep desire to pursue the spiritual comes when I carve out time for myself. Every day, I’m chipping away at the frenetic rhythms of my existence and finding a little pool of serenity. The form this takes changes. Sometimes, it’s a formal meditation. Sometimes, a little yoga. Sometimes a silent prayer in the shower and sometimes, a spiritual podcast consumed while packed into the commuter carriage of a train.

The form changes, but the feeling remains the same: deep groundedness and on a good day, a lightness that comes with the feeling of relief. Relief that everything will be ok if I just stop gripping so tightly onto the details of my life.

I’m trying to make the central pillar of my existence this: that there is a divine order, somewhere, in some form, and that it will take care of me. It may place challenges in my path that I won’t like, but they will be part of a plan I can’t yet fathom. 

I’m becoming more hippy dippy by the day, and I love it. This was not the direction I imagined my life going in, but it’s giving me growth and strength and joy.

I feel at the moment that I truly am reaching out my fingers and the tips of my tippy toes to something greater. A future self that takes me in a surprising direction I’m not yet ready for, a laying of foundations for a path ahead that will be more challenging and enriching than I could ever dream up.

In all of this, I’ve been doing lots of soul searching and in the space I’ve created for reflection, I’ve spotted huge areas of growth and of course, where I have stagnated.

An issue that comes up over and over again is food. Readers of this blog will know I have struggled (in my mind more than in my body, at times) with weight and food. Of late, I’ve eaten normally, happily, healthily and have been happy with my body. But in the past week, I’ve had a huge revelation. 

My issue with food is this: I have learnt the fact of being hungry and the act of eating to be an inherently shameful practice. A sign of weakness and moral flabbiness. I have been surrounded with people who have taught me these lessons, rebuked me for an appetite either verbally or silently, with their eyes, and have internalised it. 

I have found myself still, now, undertaking certain unhealthy practices around food. This mainly involves secrecy. Before writing this post, I stole away with a mid morning snack, ashamed to be seen consuming it. And yet the hunger I have at this moment is real. Why the surreptitious act? 

This is the only area of my life I feel shame in, and it’s the eyes of others that I imagine are casting negative thoughts towards me when I consume. I see, or imagine, depending on who the observer is, a slight flick of the eyes between my food and any tiny imperfection on my body. Correlating the two. Uttering a silent cluck of the tongue at my wanton abandon and disregard for self denial.

Some of this is in my head, yes, but for some of those around me, it is a practice they engage in every time I see them, caught in the prison of their own issues. The daily burden of shame I released when I stopped drinking is piled upon me once more, shattering the calm acceptance and spirituality I feel the vast majority of the time.

This realisation I see the act of eating as inherently shameful is a helpful one, yet I don’t quite know what to do with this piece of information. Whatever work I do within, will it be eroded by those around me?

My life is bathed in light, and I hope to outshine the shame. I’ll reach out those fingers and toes once more and try and apply my gratitude and acceptance and love to this area. I have no idea whether it will work. 

Time will tell, but for now, it’s good to be writing and feeling so content in recovery.
Happy Monday x

Feel the Fear and…

12 Jun

Thank you for the comments on my last post- they have given me strength and hope. This week I’ve been muddling along, trying to get back to a place of equilibrium. I came across this post today on MindBodyGreen and wanted to share it with you all. It’s about going after your dreams on the surface, but largely about fear. Fear is my pain driving impulse at the moment and it’s the thing that’s in danger of making me topple. So today I am reflecting on fear: how to face it, how to diminish it, how to walk side by side with it until I love and trust myself once more.

Here’s the post, originally published here:

Have you felt it too? The pain of having dreams you didn’t pursue?

I’ve been a writer most of my life—a writer who doesn’t write. For decades, I dreamed of being a published author, but I did nothing to make my dream come true.

You yearn for this thing that calls to you repeatedly, but you keep pushing it away. It can make you feel terrible about yourself, embarrassed about publicly stating what you want but never acting on it, and angry that you’ve wasted so much time.

So, why do we let this happen? The answer is fear.

And it shows up in all kinds of sneaky ways: self-doubt, saying no to possibilities, procrastination, perfectionism, being overwhelmed by negative self-talk. These and other self-sabotaging behaviors are all symptoms of fear.


I was so paralyzed by it that for years I couldn’t even try my hand at writing. It’s a lonely feeling.

One day, I stirred up enough courage to actually start writing. I was finally going to make something happen. But then I was too afraid to show my work to anyone and gave up on myself—yet again.

The truth is, I allowed fear to take the wind out of my sails and steal my dream over and over. But the good news is I finally found a way to turn the tide on this heartbreaking torment. Today, I use the following four steps to help me honor my calling and pursue my dreams with courage and enthusiasm:

1. Acknowledge your inner wounds.

In the course of being raised by imperfect humans, we all experience some form of suffering and carry with us what I call “The Wounded One.” It’s the fearful part of you that wants to be protected from discomfort and pain.

To pursue a dream is to leave complacency behind and leap into the unknown. It is to embark on an adventure, set challenges for yourself, and persevere no matter what.

Kind of exciting. But also scary.

So, your inner Wounded One will come up with all kinds of reasons you can’t go after your dream. These thoughts lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. The Wounded One will do whatever it can to stop you in your tracks and keep you “safe.” But you don’t have to let this part of you run your life.

Be open to the idea that negative thoughts and feelings arise from the Wounded One, and that it’s just trying to show you something about yourself.

In a caring way, let your Wounded One know that you intend to pursue your dream no matter what. Ask what it is afraid of and what would help it be less anxious. In this way, you can move forward rather than be incapacitated by negativity and fear.

2. Call on your inner wisdom.

Within all of us is a steadfast source of unconditional love, wisdom, and healing. It is a powerful, life-giving energy in the universe that you can rely on for grace and support.

Some call it Higher Power, True Nature, Life Force, or God. You could also think of it as your intuition or consciousness.

I call it God and experience it as The Wise One within me. Its voice is always calm, clear, and positive. It helps me soothe the Inner Wounded One.

You can connect with this guiding presence at any time, and it will always steer you in the right direction. If appropriate to your belief system, use devotion and prayer to build your personal connection to God or a higher power. If this is not appropriate, you might try meditation, journaling, quiet time in nature, or something else that works for you.

Whenever you’re having negative thoughts and facing fear, focus on your heart and ask your Inner Wise One for help and healing.

3. Recognize your innate gifts.

In the fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling,” a baby swan is raised to think he is a duck, doesn’t fit in, and suffers great emotional pain until he finds out that he’s not a duck at all but rather a swan.

Many of us have struggled to conform to our environment and lost sight of who we truly are. Learn about and appreciate your inborn temperament. Discover your natural talents, the elements of your personality that have always been there. Develop these into strengths with knowledge, skill, and practice.

One way to start identifying your natural talents is to devote some quality reflection time to questions like the following:

  • What’s something you did or were attracted to when you were eight years old that still attracts you today?
  • What’s one thing you dream about doing that you’ve never told anyone?
  • What do you secretly take the most pride in, and why?
  • What is it about the state of the world that causes you real pain or heartache?
  • What makes you feel fully alive when you are doing it, and why?

The more you operate within your unique strengths, the more empowered you will be in all areas of your life and the more adept you will become at keeping fears at bay.

4. Strengthen your self-trust.

When fear sows its seeds, we either procrastinate or give up on a task before its completion. Building self-trust weakens the influence of fearful thinking and strengthens the power of love within you.

Trusting yourself is a result of being generally happy about who you have become, being able to love others in a committed way, being engaged in meaningful work, being free from addictions, and being capable of handling daily stresses.

You trust yourself when you can face disappointment and frustration without becoming destabilized. You trust yourself when in times of stress, you have the ability to self-soothe and look for strength within rather than escape into self-destructive behavior.

You trust yourself when you act with integrity and live in accordance with life-affirming values, such as generosity, truthfulness, and respect toward everyone.

And as for that dream of yours, choose to trust that it wouldn’t have been given to you unless you had also been given the ability to make it happen.

Moving from fear into fulfillment:

Repeatedly getting slammed by negativity, self-doubt, and fear is painful. Life is hard when you don’t feel good about yourself or the way things are going. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now to realize that I didn’t even try to make my dream come true.

Our wishes, hopes, and dreams are important and deserve to be nurtured. They come from a noble place—the sacred part of us all that wants to be happy, fulfilled, and fully alive.

So, what do you say? Let’s get to know ourselves and develop our gifts so well that negativity can’t mislead us. Let’s trust ourselves enough to do the work every step of the way toward our dreams. And let’s encourage one another along the way. Because what the world needs is more people who are fully alive.

A Scream Looking for a Mouth

10 Jun

I heard this phrase, ‘a scream looking for a mouth’, in relation to recovery earlier this week and it floored me. I cannot think of a more perfect description of that agony within me that caused me to self harm through food deprivation and alcohol abuse. My using came from a deep deep place of unhappiness and spiritual malaise, a place I haven’t been for a very long time.

Hearing this horrible wonderful phrase has come at a time when I am experiencing acute pain in my recovery. I have been under large amounts of stress and despite trying to manage it, deep down a chasm has opened up. This chasm doesn’t stem from a specific place; it’s a cocktail of fear, a sense of impending doom, anxiety and ego. It is brewing away inside me, looking for an outlet- either I self descruct, try to treat it or let it poison me from the inside out.

I have drifted away from the blogs a little, after trying to cut down my online time, and doing so has been unhealthy. Just as cutting back on my AA meetings to give myself more rest has backfired. Just as abandoning my gratitude and step work. Just as…

Recovery is a treadmill. A never ending cycle of maintenance just to stay upright. On a good day, this feels like a wonderful natural momentum that pushes me towards self care: health, rest, running, yoga, spirituality. Right now, it makes me want to jump back into a vat of wine for the sake of an easier life. (I know the reality would be very different).

This quotation from Gabor Mate summarises it perfectly:

“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there.  ― Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

At the moment, I need to look at my recovery afresh, to salve that pain in the healthiest way possible. Yesterday I had a meltdown that made me realise how serious  this is. Recovery must come first.




Letter to my drinking self

3 Apr

I’m doing a little reflecting on sobriety this week, more than usual. I don’t know if it’s the slow dawn of Spring or the fact I’m a little more emotionally exposed than usual, but looking back and seeing progress is helping me huge amounts.

I also feel a huge connection to the people I know and communicate with who are struggling on a daily basis to get sober time under their belt. Seeing their struggles I remember my own quite viscerally.

I don’t know whether the below will be of help to those still struggling, but I wondered whether writing a letter to your future sober selves might be a nice exercise: what do you want from sobriety. What will it taste and feel like? What will you have then that you do not now, physically and emotionally?

Here’s my letter to myself when I was around 90 days sober, looking back to a time when I just couldn’t get it.

Happy Sunday x
Original post: Letter to My Drinking Self

I’ve been having a bit of a down week. Nothing in particular has triggered it, and I’ve really been enjoying my work, so I’m not sure what’s up. I’m feeling fat, unattractive and a little bit lonely. I’ve thrown myself into AA and that’s great, but it means I’ve withdrawn from my normal social circles a bit. I’m also feeling the pain of being single- sometimes all you need at the end of a long day is someone to cuddle with.
I’ve just generally been a bit down on my sobriety- I love being sober, but I keep thinking to myself that I’ve been dramatic about the whole thing. You know, the wolfie voice…’ I wasn’t that bad, why am I making such a big deal out of it, sobriety is selfish…’ Blah blah.
So as a bit of an arse kicking exercise ahead of Sunday’s marathon, I thought I’d do myself a little kind thing for myself. You know those ‘Letters to my teenage self’ that you see occasionally online? Well I’m writing one to myself today, from myself 6 months ago. Does that make sense? Writing it I had to jump between me now and former me, so I hope it’d not too confusing to read!
Dear FFF (2014 edition),
Look at you, guuuuurrrl! You’re 80 days sober today. That’s 11 weeks. That is AWESOME. You’ve never strung together more than 42 days, and getting there was hell. You’re doing this sober thing right now- you’re right in the middle of it. You haven’t been this sober since you were 13! Think on that a moment.
Sitting where I am, I want what you have. I’m a failure. I can’t stay sober, it’s too hard. I can’t stop drinking. I want to numb more than I do to be sober. What the fuck is wrong with me? You can do it, I’m watching you. Why can’t I do it NOW?
You’ve learnt from all my mistakes. Every mistake I’m making I can see is helping you equip your sober toolbox, one tool at a time. This makes me feel better about all the stupid stumbles I’m making. Maybe one day all my pain really will be worth it.
You feel fat. I feel fat too. But look at you! Your skin is glowing, your nails are so shiny, your eye bags are gone and your drinkers puffy face has disappeared. Trust me when I say you look the best you have in years. Stop thinking back fondly to The Skinny Days. You were ill, remember? You never ate any food that wasn’t salad. You hated yourself then, and guess what? You felt fat then too.
You’re doing so well. Don’t let a silly idea of what your weight should be drag you down- you’re worth more than that.
And your job! You were so frustrated, knew something had to change. Right now, I’m stuck in a cycle of exhaustion, drinking to get over it and moving nowhere fast. I’ve had so many sick days when hungover. I feel like the biggest fraud in the world- work think I’m fabulous but I know I’m just treading water. I wonder what I could achieve if I just removed alcohol from my life? You’ve shown me what can be done. You got sober and found the job of your dreams. You know there’s a challenging road ahead, and that the job will be physically and emotionally draining. BUT you have always been driven by scary challenges, ever since you were little. Drinking just dulled that inherent drive in you for a few years. And I can feel that first hand…All I’m driven by at the moment is the will to get through the day.
I can’t believe you had the courage to go to AA. It was so brave to walk into that room of scary looking men and sit and weep. To go back into that room again after drinking just a few days after your first meeting, feeling a fraud and a failure. To walk through scary, unknown doors all around the city day after day, humbling yourself and saying the words ‘I’m FFF and I’m an alcoholic.’
Nobody wants to grow up to be an alcoholic, and if they do they certainly don’t want to accept it. You have. You’ve put the work in and it’s paying off. From where I’m standing, where you are looks pretty damn amazing.
You’ve come so far. Don’t let a little low mood and some negative self talk get you down. Run round that marathon on Sunday head held high, feeling proud. You’ve earnt everything you have. And if sobriety gets easier with time, your exciting journey is only just beginning.
Yours with love,
FFF (September 2013 Edition)

The First Meeting.

2 Apr

Love love love this.


Your first AA meeting is almost always scary. I felt, and most of us feel, humiliated. We’re in one of the darkest places of our lives, usually the darkest of them all. We’ve fucked everything up, and we don’t know how to fix it. We’re lost, terrified, ashamed, and befuddled. In my case, I was taken to my first meeting by a rehab. Some are ordered there by a judge. Most find their own way in.

We had a man in my men’s meeting Wednesday evening who was at his first ever meeting. He’d had a personal loss, and gone off the rails. For nearly a year, he’d been drinking and gambling as hard as he could. He came to his first meeting and was obviously humiliated and afraid. I hope we did right by him. We all gave him our numbers, and I talked to him after the meeting…

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A Case of the Fuck Its

1 Apr

My no added sugar plan is going well. I’ve eaten enough at meals and made sure I don’t cut out fruit. I feel fine, and not deprived or tempted (yet). 

There have been a couple of moments that took me right back to the early days of quitting drinking. On Tuesday, I was happily going about my business at work when the colleague sits next to me opened a box of high-quality dark chocolate truffles and offered me one. I started to reach for one and remembered I can’t. My brain starts a shouty dialogue:

“Just one is fine!”

But it’s breaking the no chocolate rule”

“But these are good quality and dark! They’re basically a health food!”

“They are chocolate. You committed to no sweet things.”

“But I’m only 3 days in! I can start again, right?!”

And so I was back in my early days of sobriety, when I felt I had so little to lose that The Fuck Its would take over. 3 days sober was a time when I drank again and again, because I could start over. I used to peek at my sobriety app and think about how easy it would be to reset that counter.

Nobody got anywhere without weathering the difficult times and pushing through discomfort. With sobriety I had to push through that craving again and again until I had so many days on my sobriety app and so much momentum I knew it was too precious to lose in a moment of bad judgement. For me, that day was day 50 and I’ve never looked back.

This week has been really good in exercising my self control muscle, reminding me that I’m good at doing that when i put my mind to it. It’s interesting because it’s made me reflect on a bit of a trend in society and the “self acceptance” movement of late. I’ve been continuing with a behaviour I know is negative for me and hearing the messages of “nobody should be depriving themselves- live your life! Eat the damn cake!” and that people with a history of eating disorders shouldn’t restrict food. The thing is, I have an “everything in moderation except moderation” streak that needs to be managed. Yes it may be deprivation, yes it may make my inner Twirl loving child throw a tantrum, but the truth I’ve discovered this week is this: the second I took the decision making away from myself, the burden of agonising over what to do lifted. Just like drinking.

I don’t think it will be plain sailing from here, but very quickly I’ve learnt a lot. It’s like many many experiences I’ve had since quitting booze: those “sober muscles” you develop apply to many areas of life and give you insight and strength that makes everything a little easier.

Here’s to continuing to learn and grow and work those sexy sobriety muscles! 

Happy Friday 

The Sugar Rollercoaster

28 Mar

Hello, old friend.

Time and time again I’ve blogged about my relationship with sugar, which is a constant up and down journey. It doesn’t necessarily directly correlate with stress; it is just bloody wonderful and I get real pleasure from the feel and taste of sugary goods.

Two years on from quitting booze my weight is good: no bloat, nice slim face and limbs, nice body. I look in the mirror and wonder whether I’d be fitter and stronger without the skim layer of chocolate fat. Or whether that’s bad body talk.

Either way, I’m starting to wonder how I would feel without the sugar hit coursing through my body daily. Would my energy be more stable? Would I feel more in control of my life? Would I feel sad and deprived? 

I’ve tried to quit sugar a few times in my sobriety, but perhaps when I wasn’t mature enough in handing life without the booze-haze. I’m feeling fairly strong in my sobriety at the moment, so maybe this is a good time to try.

I’ll set a defined period (21 days, 1 month? What sounds most sensible?) and try and go for it. I’m finding habit forming much easier thanks to Prim’s recommendations for apps (my personal fave is called “Streaks”- I can’t link to it here, but it’s on the App Store.) I’m hoping the “one day at a time approach” will work.

What are people’s experiences of ditching sugar? How hard is it? What tools did you use?  What benefits did you feel?

Happy Monday, FFF x


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