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Six Years Sober

17 Jan

Can you believe it?!

Six whole years and two years since my last post.

It is unthinkable to me how far I fell into the clutches of alcohol, how inescapable it was, how powerless I was to resist its siren call.

And yet, and yet, through hitting rock bottom and combining faith with action in AA, everything changed for good.

To say life has been an emotional rollercoaster every since is an understatement, but being sober has enabled me to embrace this crazy human experience and really feel it all. If I were to write down what has happened thanks to my 6 years of sobriety I don’t think I’d believe it. Love, success, contentment, stability, devotion, curiosity, being able to weather the storms. Of course there have been periods of fear, anger, depression, anxiety, ill health, doubt, insecurity and countless other maladies, but nothing is more wonderful than to wake up after an evening consumed by these powerful feelings with a clear head and a hopeful soul.

I will always be eternally grateful for this blog, this community I unexpectedly happened across in 2013, this space which carried me through my darkest days and gave me the material facts I needed to say the words: I am an alcoholic and I need help.

For those who are struggling, I beg of you; keep trying, there truly is light at the end of the tunnel. 6 years ago after so so many failed attempts to stay sober, something clicked and I haven’t drunk since. Keep showing up and knowing it is possible for you too.

X x x xx x x x

Four Years Sober

19 Jan

This week I turned four years sober. It passed gently, inconsequentially and I almost forgot to acknowledge it.

That’s how far things have come. Gone are the days of the minute by minute crawl towards bedtime, when I wanted to feel the sweet relief of the pillow, a sense of release and pride that I’d dragged myself through another day. Now sobriety is a gift I treasure, a part of life that feels as natural and precious as breathing, requiring a similarly unconscious effort.

I had some difficult times last year, but have emerged with a level of strength and dignity I’ve never before experienced. It feels exquisite and surprising. I have undertaken some work in the world that I could not have done without my experience of the lows of alcoholism, the structure of the 12 Step programme and the spiritual enquiry that it led me to.

Never when I was in the depths of the addiction could I have imagined how beautiful life could be without alcohol. All I craved every day was to feel better. An end to the cycle. Now I am experiencing levels of calm and bliss ‘beyond my wildest dreams’

Sobriety is worth every relapse, every struggle, every breakdown.

The power of this online community and the 12 step programmes have given me everything. Thank you to you all.

Where I’m At

29 Oct

I rarely log into WordPress these days, but there’s something about Autumn that makes me recall the struggles of 2013, my last few months drinking, where this blog was the source of so much support and insight and helpful reflection.

Now, 4 years on, life could not be better. I have no desire to drink. My sugar addiction magically melted away at some point I can’t recall. My life is abundant and full of love, joy and opportunities. I never believed it could be this way, but it is.

I knew life would be better without alcohol. But looking back, my sense of what it would look like was blinkered. I imagined life would feel easier. But I never knew it would feel magical. I never knew that pain could dissolve into joy and ease.

There have been so many difficult times in sobriety, but this is how I see them now: they’re part of my humaness. I experience the bad and good as equally valid experiences, and can manage to do so without a substance.

I suppose I wanted to pop in here with this message of hope. If you’re drinking and want to stop, just keep at it. Sobriety, as my journey demonstrates, doesn’t happen just like that. It’s a process of committing and coming back to trying again and again, even when you fall. It’s a process of seeking help, and staying close to those who offer their kindness.  It’s a process of saying out loud, over and over, to the universe: ‘please help me.’ It’s about trying to go to a meeting. Remaining open to what you might hear in those rooms. It’s about knowing that there’s a place inside you that is always ok, and remembering that you’re pouring alcohol on top of it, but that it will always be there for you when the booze is gone.

Sending love and light to you on this Autumn Sunday. Keep on keeping on x x x

Full Moon Vibes

11 May

Last night, I found myself lying in an industrial estate-turned wellness studio in a trendy part of town, swaddled in blankets and clutching a crystal. ‘Ask the crystal its name’ invited the impossibly beautiful ‘modern Shaman’ leading the ceremony. I had to stifle a tut/snort hybrid, but before long, I was tuning into the ‘vibrations’ of the crystal and entering a deep meditation under the light of the full moon.

One of the unexpected and glorious side effects of stopping drinking is that it’s opened me up to a whole new world of crazy ways to anchor my sobriety. If you’d said to me 12 months ago I’d be stuffing crystals in my bra and keeping them by my bedside, I’d think you were mad. But somewhere in the last 12 months, my sober interests have become a bit more openminded and frankly more ‘out there’ than I’d previously ever have imagined. I reserve a large dose of skepticism for many of these hippy tools, as I’m yet to see any scientific evidence of the benefits of crystals or sage smudging or any of the other new practices I’ve become open to, but in these new rituals, I find an incredible sense of connection and comfort. When drinking, the blurred lines of reality, the pain, the anguish and numbness all contributed to me being completely out of tune with my body and mind. I remember saying to friends over and over, ‘I can’t trust myself’ and ‘I don’t know what I think and feel.’ My intuition was literally and metaphorically buried. But in sobriety, my intuition has become a really finely honed instrument. I can trust my gut, I can tune into it, and I’m constantly seeking out ways to try and know it more intimately. It started with meetings and meditation, and has progressed to more… ‘experimental’ types of self exploration.

The first time I held a crystal, I felt a sense of deep connection to the earth. I weighed it in my hand and felt a vibration so subtle it was almost intangible, but I felt something there. In the early days, sobriety was about grounding into myself, learning to sit with my emotions, the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach and my swirling head. As I progress through sobriety, a fierce desire has developed in me to give myself the space to ground myself to the earth, to the community around me and to the natural rhythms of life. Sitting last night in the crystal/full moon ritual, I caught myself laughing at what a privileged, slightly ridiculous act it was to spend £30 on an evening like this, but I came out with a sense of connection and clarity I haven’t had in months.

As we lay, swaddled, we explored the unique qualities of the smoky quartz stone we held in our hands. Mine had a beautiful layer of white crystal, surrounded by the depths of dark shades. The stone felt like a beautiful metaphor for my current experiences of sobriety: the light and the dark can exist simultaneously, and I don’t need to try and stamp out the dark within, for it has a beautiful quality in itself. My darker side, which once manifested itself in alcoholism, will always exist, and is also the origin of some of my better qualities: my sensitivity, my deep well of emotion and my capacity for self-reflection. The dark and the light exist simultaneously, side by side, and that is ok.

Last night I remembered an important lesson: sobriety is about finding my soul’s medicine, over and over again, daily. And when I neglect to administer that medicine, I find myself in the deep anguish I’ve been experiencing of late. I used to resent the fact that sobriety is a constant work in progress, but I’m starting to open myself up to the notion that it’s an opportunity for never ending discovery.

Happy Thursday x

That’s Where the Light Gets In

9 May

Once again, I’ve taken my foot off the gas when it comes to writing. I’ve had several aborted attempts to write a post, generally in the depths of some sort of desperation, and have chosen not to put pen to paper, because I feel strongly I shouldn’t only document the lows of sobriety, lest I put off someone new to sobriety with my tales of woe. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t document anything AT ALL… Tsk.

I’ve been through a particularly challenging period of sobriety, and indeed life, which has brought me dangerously close to a breakdown. I have barely been able get myself up in the morning. My soul is crying out for a sweet balm to soothe it. I have had extreme physical symptoms, which have forced me to stop entirely. No work, no socialising, no running or dancing or yoga, just wrapping myself up in my sober cocoon once more.

When I was in very early sobriety, I likened my sobriety to a precious little flame, the kind that you have to carefully kindle, and then cover with the palms of the hands, so it doesn’t flicker and fade. I put my heart and my soul into keeping that little flame safe, and it grew and it grew until it became a roaring fire of safe sobriety and I could let it burn brightly. There have been glorious times. I have danced, I have fallen madly in love, I have trebled my income since my first post as FFF, I have travelled to the corners of the earth, bought a home and climbed mountains of both the literal and metaphorical variety.

Freshly emerged from the depths of addiction, I ran around with a lust for life that brought me some of the best moments of my life. But during that excited frenzy, my recovery rituals have faltered, and there’s been a slow erosion of the pillars of my sobriety. As an alcoholic and a Highly Sensitive Person (a whole other post in itself), I have needed to slow down for a long time, and Life has intervened to make that happen.

It’s triggered a period of inertia which I perceived at first as intensely frustrating, but day by day I have inched towards reframing that anger: this is a necessary regathering of my sobriety, my health and my soul. It’s been agonising, but I’m slowly starting to move out of the dark and into the light, feeling my balance being restored, and my energy slowly coming back. The sober flame is being rekindled.

I’ve been using this wonderful quote which is attributed, in different forms, to everyone from Rumi to Ernest Hemingway, but my favourite configuration of this idea is from the late, loved Leonard Cohen:

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In early sobriety, I remember sitting in a basement in London’s Covent Garden declaring: ‘I’m so grateful I’m an alcoholic! It’s brought me so much joy in the discovery of the sober community.’ That is sickeningly Pink-cloudtastic, but I like to recall that moment in tough times, because it felt absolutely true. And continues to feel that way. Through the cracks, shards of light with the most exquisite and curious qualities filter. The hardship has been necessary. I’ve been devouring inspirational memoirs ever since I put down the Merlot, and never has a wonderful story begun from a point of stability. Stories begin from a point of desperation, or lack and a journey towards fulfilment. I’m walking that path every day, and want to document it more. To feel it more, and not just let the agonising thoughts rumble around in my head. They feel better on paper, they feel better shared in Another-F**king-Church-Basement, better in a comment on an Instagram post of a fellow sober young thing.

 

Position Vacant: General Manager of the Universe

7 Feb

There are things you realise, in sobriety, that you’d perhaps rather ignore. They are often, in my experience, related to why you drank and only surface when you’ve recovered from the initial shock of having to deal with the world sober.

For me, drinking was about letting go of my tight, tight  grip on reality. My overthinking, over worrying, anxiety ridden body gripped onto life tightly, yet when I drank, that grip was released almost from the very first sip. I used to be able to feel my body soften, let out an inaudible, inward sigh, and say ‘thank you.’

Letting go a little through alcohol is perfectly normal, but when I shifted from ‘taking the edge off’ to seeking the absolute obliteration of control… that’s when I had to stop.

I pottered on through my first few years of sobriety dealing with various issues, but I’d never really thought about my inner control freak, until recently, when it’s slowly and painfully come to light that I want to be able to influence the outcome of EVERYTHING. If The Times newspaper advertised the role of ‘General Manager of the Universe’, I’d apply, without a doubt. I’d be great! I could make everything exactly as I wanted to, and my benevolence would reign supreme. I’d be kind, of course, and understanding of people’s needs and desires, but this control would mean I’d know exactly how things were going to turn out. And that they’d turn out the right way.

Worrying, eh?

This terrifying need for control has slowly dawned on me over the past year. It came first, when i started managing my team at work. All of a sudden, I was responsible for the actions of others, without being able to control their behaviour. I could influence it, sure. But they have these terrifying things called *personalities* and *free will* and *independence.* Terrible.

I would lie away at night, feeling the burden of outcomes I could not predict, and the injustice that I’d be judged on others’ work, rather than just my own. I realised that up until this point, I’d only ever been responsible for my own actions.

Once I’d had this little glimpse of my inner dictator, I started, with horror, to see the signs in my personal life too. I can’t, alas, go into too many details of how this has played out without compromising my anonymity, but it’s been pretty painful. I’ve really, truly, shocked myself with my behaviour. Who is to say my way is the right way?! Me. Thats who runs this show in my head.

As I write, I’m starting to to recall a section in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that describes my tendencies completely:

“like an actor who tries to run the whole show; is forever trying to rearrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in [my] own way. If [my] arrangements would only stay put, if only people did as [I] wished, the show would be great. Everyone, including [myself], would be pleased. Life would be wonderful.’

Gulp. My writing above echoes these words almost exactly.

When I was setting my intention for 2017, I carefully chose the word ‘Surrender.” When I selected it, my reasoning was that I needed to learn to give in to my own destiny, to things being unpredictable and unscripted and not always going how I imagined they would. But in the past few weeks, I’ve realised that the significance of these words runs much deeper than this. I must surrender to what is. To who other people are. To relinquish my terrible notion that my way is the right way. Because I have a lot of empathy, and am really good at understanding others’ feelings and perspectives, I’d kept this trait to manipulate and control hidden. But now I’ve seen it. I’ve got to train my vision to it keenly.

Good news: the General Manager of the Universe position will remain vacant, at least for now 😉

Happy Tuesday x

3 Years Sober

17 Jan

Three Whole Years.

Who could have ever dreamed that this day would come. I turned 3 years sober on Friday, Saturday or possibly Sunday. I can’t quite remember where my sobriety date falls, because sobriety has become normality. What a departure from those early days of obsessively checking my Day Count. Sometimes several times a day, in the hope that I’d be shocked by the result: “Eight days sober, you say?! Goodness, when I checked this morning it was only four!” That kind of madness, you know?

How brilliant for 3 years to slip by quietly, unceremoniously and to be so immersed in My New Normal that I barely bat an eyelid at this massive achievement. Because it is an achievement. And I had make sure I dusted off this blog to underline that to myself.

In early sobriety, I read my old posts many times, to constantly knock myself over the head with the message: YOU ARE AN ALCOHOLIC. Now, I get a bit confused with the idea of being an alcoholic. A touch of the ‘What? Who, me? No… I couldn’t possibly be… Oh wait. I am.’

This morning, before putting pen to paper for the first time in ages, I decided to look at some posts and take myself back down memory lane.

Here is an extract from one I wrote one morning at work, barely able to type:

“I have empty bottles stashed in my draws and wardrobe. I threw up so hard last night, when I woke up this morning my teeth hurt.

I think I’ve probably spent more evenings drunk in 2013 than I have sober (that is definitely the case). November and December 2012 were similar, as were August and September. I don’t really recall October, which speaks for itself.

If *anyone* I know were to read this, they’d be shocked, horrified and really quite sad. I would be if someone showed me it and said I’d written it.

I’m here typing this with such a sense of detachment it scares me. I really need to sort this out, but I don’t know if I have the will power. Every time I start, I have a couple of good days booze free, think I’ll be fine if I have a drink and then spiral into 3-4 days of drinking every night. I need to read this back and remember that having a glass of wine with dinner when out will turn into sharing a bottle, needing to buy more on the way home and turning a casual Monday evening into an unnecessary waste of my health.”

I want to cry for 2013 me when I read that. I cannot believe I managed to hold down a job during that period and didn’t do myself more damage. That post was written at the stage where I thought drink was a temporary problem. Then it got worse:

Here I am, again, 6 months after I first started this blog to articulate my worries about drinking. 

The lack of posts indicates that things haven’t been going well. I’ve just emerged from what could be categorized as a 5 day controlled bender. When I say controlled, I mean I just drank a bit every night. You know, 14 units or so. 25 on one night.

I’ve been having therapy to try and work through some of the other issues I’m experiencing and this morning my therapist told me in no uncertain terms that we can’t continue to work together unless I kick the drinking. She almost threw me out of the session for being hungover (tough love eh?). Little does she know I turned up drunk to one of the evening sessions. Brilliant use of all that money I’ve been spending on the sessions eh?

I was full of resolve. I battled through the first period of the 100 days, thanks to support from this community and the wonderful Belle, who was an angel. It felt like she was some sort of divine being who spread her sober benevolence. And it was amazing to read the stories of other women getting sober, knowing I wasn’t alone.

I made it a few weeks, felt great, strong and confident and then:

Well I made it to day 24, then fell so spectacularly, it has terrified me.

I was doing brilliantly. I was full of pink clouds, knowing I was doing the right thing, socialising without booze, happy, fulfilled and calm. 

I knew a big work conference was on the horizon, talked about it with my therapist and lovely Belle, and thought I had my strategies in place.

Night 1 I went running, was happy, thrilled with not drinking, had a great time. 

Night 2, wolfie wrapped his hands round my throat slowly, decisively and throttled me. I got so drunk a colleague had to put me to bed, I fell over at a huge industry part, I was the talk of the town the next day, everyone was worried because I didn’t surface until 3pm. The list goes on.

I WAS SO WIPED OUT I SLEPT THROUGH AN EVACUATION OF THE ENTIRE HOTEL. 

I am so fucking ashamed. My anxiety has been off the scale since. I spent my 27th birthday mostly in bed, ashamed, or apologising. 

Sometimes I think I’m ok with drinking, but that incident shows why I used to drink so much on my own- to get the hit without the shame. 

I really do need to stop. 

But of course I didn’t. These posts go on and on until in January 2014, I took myself to Alcoholics Anonymous. It was the most painful thing I have ever done. Yet in 90 minutes of sitting in that room, my life changed. The first few months were so difficult I never thought I’d get through them, but around 100 days it got easier, and at 6 months easier still, until it become second nature to be a sober laydee. If you are struggling, please take know it gets better. Read Belle’s sobriety is like a little car post and know it feels easier every day.

I have gained so much in sobriety, which I don’t reflect on that often. Here’s a few things that have opened up in my life since I cracked the booze: being in touch with my true emotions, trusting myself, falling madly in love, travelling the world, getting the job of my dreams, being delighted with my body after sobriety has shaped it into a little happy healthy thing, skin that glows so much that people comment on it, buying & renovating a home, learning to say no, some crazy wild experiences I’d never have dreamed of having sober, valuing my own self worth, running marathons, discovering yoga, learning to say no, learning to say yes and supporting myself through the scary bits, living a life bigger than I can sometimes cope with, going it alone, letting people in, discovering my authentic self, starting to tell people about my experiences with alcohol, starting my own business.

Not bad eh, in 3 little years?

Giving up alcohol is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever done. Long may the happy years continue.

 

 

Gratitude

15 Nov

Alone, I sat with my little candle as the world awoke. “Thank you”, I whispered, and the universe punctured the little ball of anxiety in my chest and winked “you’re welcome.”

Happy Tuesday x

Emotional Overflow

4 Nov

For all my flaws, one of my skills is a real ability to feel my emotions, step back and analyse them and strive to improve.

At my best, I’m very emotional intuitive and good at emotional connection with others. At my worst, I’m a husk, depleted from all the self flaggellation and analysis. 

Since I started writing and reflecting more, I’ve been wondering how I can limit my constant carousel of self analysis. It is CONSTANT. I’ve got to the point in my life where I seek such depth in conversation and relationships that I can lack levity and carefreeness (?!) and the ability to chitter chatter about nothing. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. But I do know I can’t keep putting myself through the mill of self analysis every hour of the day.

On the one hand, my recovery is off track because I’m not formalising it enough by going to meetings etc, but on the other, I almost can’t bear to turn up the dial of emotional work. 

Has anyone had this experience? Of being too emotionally intense, all the time?! How did you strike the balance of doing the work and being freer in your thoughts?

X X x

Pain For Pleasure

3 Nov

Somewhere, somehow I read an article this week that asked the question not “what would make you happy?” But “how much pain are you willing to tolerate?”
It was centred around the very reasonable observation that many of the external trappings of “happiness” (the dream job, the big house, the big salary) come with a degree of unavoidable pain. How much pain is involved varies, but often success comes with sacrifice. Rather than seeking happiness, the articles argues, we should identify how much pain we are willing to tolerate to get the things we want.

My pain dilemma is acute.

I have always been very comfortable with the pain of hard word and long hours, giving up social things and burying myself in my work. Ever since I was a child, I would seek out extra homework and in my university days whilst peers partied, I’d be tucked away in a romantic library, head in the books. Ironic, given I was the one to develop an alcohol problem, but anyhoo…

I enjoy hard graft, and it’s part of my DNA. I did an in depth personality test recently which marked me at The Achiever type. Correct. But I’m finding myself in a pickle. I am pushing myself so hard I want to kick out entirely and say “it’s over. I need a new life.” As I rush through my day and collapse exhausted as it draws to a close, I harbour fantasies of becoming a meditation teacher, a dog walker, a hermit in a remote land. Anything to give me more space and balance. I want the pain to stop entirely.
In the space between finishing that last sentence and starting this one, I have been to an AA meeting. The theme was “easy does it” and of course, I heard exactly what I needed to hear today.

The speaker, a young American man, talked about how he is always operating at speed; searching for drama; making things happen and then wanting to press the self destruct button. He said a marvellous line that made me chuckle, but resonated: “I can just let the story continue, I don’t always have to be seeking the season finale.” 

I’m looking for my season finale now, the dramatic plot twist in which I ditch it all for a simpler life, or crash and burn to later rise like a Phoenix for the flames.

What about if I just made some small changes to make the current situation better? What about that? Not dramatic enough. But infinitely more sensible. 

Then, the amount of “pain” I am required to tolerate will be managed. I can indulge my natural propensity to work hard but make sure I stop myself going mad. The worst thing about this pain dilemma is that I’m inflicting it upon myself and not allowing myself the sweet medicine of recovery to fix it.

The question changes each time I write but the answer remains the same: do more recovery. 

Am I an Alcoholic?

29 Oct

Tonight, I opened my blog for the first time in a very long time and decided to read an old post. I was drawn to ‘100 Days Sober‘, my first big milestone, and my jaw almost hit the floor.

Lately, sobriety has seemed so easy. A drink would never cross my mind. So easy, in fact, I’ve forgotten the monumental struggle that this time three years ago was consuming me from the inside out. I literally could not stop. It was the biggest battle I had ever faced and yet today, it seems so distant. A whisper inside me enquires ‘Are you just making a big fuss? Are you really an alcoholic?

But when I look at my life today, I see the signs of alcoholism everywhere. I should preface this section of this post by saying if you are trying to get sober, do not be disheartened by what I’m about to say. Being sober is fecking wonderful and it means you can weather every storm that comes your way. I’m just in some rather choppy waters at present…

I think the best way of describing what has happened is that I have a case of ‘ItGotTooGood-Itis.’ Since I stopped drinking nearly 3 years ago, my life has grown at an amazing pace. I spent a little time this afternoon looking through all my recent photos and  I have done and achieved ALOT. ALOT ALOT. People who don’t know I’m an alcoholic look at what I do and say ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ Those who know I’m an alcoholic say, with a wry smile and a caring spirit: ‘watch yourself.’ Don’t get too carried away. And at first, I resented this sentiment a little. Why shouldn’t I fly? But the higher I fly, the more I know I need to heed their words.

Here are the words that best describe my current experience of life, which from the outside looks ‘Have It All’:

Fear.

Insecurity.

Pain.

Anxiety.

Resentment.

Vulnerability.

Shame.

Childlike sensitivity.

I’m brimming with tears frequently, like my emotion cannot be contained any longer. My instinct is to reinvent my life once again so I find simpler pleasures, simpler pressures, simpler personalities. To move away from the pressure of achievement.

But just as when I couldn’t trust myself when I was drinking, I can’t trust my feelings when I’m not doing my sobriety work. And that’s very much the case here. When I first stopped drinking, AA was a cornerstone of my life, and now, it’s not. I go to 2 meetings a month if I’m lucky and that my friends, is frankly not enough.

One of the things that made AA click for me is when I realised that the programme is about treating all the things in the list above. So why am I surprised that when I stop taking the medicine, the illness comes back? If I ever needed proof my alcoholism is real, writing this post has given me it. When I do the work, it helps me feel better. Simple as that. And yet the brain and heart forgets so easily…

Writing does me good. It helps me clarify my thoughts. I hope it will help me stay on the right track, if I make efforts to return to this keyboard that has given me such precious sanctuary. I need to get myself back on an even keel, so I can enjoy the bounty of the gift that is sobriety.

Happy Saturday, FFFx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Infactorium

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…

View original post 223 more words

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

Finding your Happy

26 Mar

As I sit here and write this, I am totally and utterly content. This is one of those beautiful moments in sobriety where the axis of “What I Want” vs “What I Have” cross at the perfect point of acceptance.

I’ve had a few fleeting desires for wine recently, but when I think how clear headed I am these days, and what even 1 glass would do to me, I let the craving roll over me like the breaking of a wave. Weirdly, as my sobriety has matured, I quite like the feeling of craving as it is something I have, over time, learnt to conquer. I feel proud when that wave hits the shore and dissipates into gentle foam. When I look back to 3 years ago when I couldn’t handle more than a second of a craving, that feels like real progress.

The past month has been full of emotional extremes: I have gained something beyond my wildest dreams, and lost someone very dear to me. Everything is at once exactly as it should be, and painfully wrong. But sobriety has taught me: this is life. This is being a grown up. Perfection is fleeting and discomfort or pain is only a blink of the eye away. So now I cherish the perfect and challenge myself to sit with the pain.

The uncomfortable feelings of grief and loss, of emotional and physical hurt reminded me of how easily I would reach for the bottle to change how I felt. To avoid discomfort at any cost and ironically, bring on even more pain and discomfort as the booze brought me down. I remember once being the most ill I have ever been, and drinking the best part of a bottle of wine to take the pain away. Now, I have to hold tight and trust that one day soon, I will feel better.

For me, sobriety has become about finding my own happy, not looking for a chemical high. Today I’m unexplicably happy and enjoying the simple things: the daffodils peaking at me from outside my kitchen window, the bitter tang of my morning coffee, the beautiful smell of freshly washed sheets.

Early sobriety is one of the most difficult things anybody can put themselves through, in my opinion. But for me,  the struggle lasted around 90 days and then I moved into the next phase: Learning to Live. And although it’s a roller coaster, I have never been happier.

Happy Easter and a special hug to all those in their early days- it gets easier, promise x

Sober Goggles

28 Feb

Here’s the thing about sobriety: you see things so much more clearly.

This generally means my experience of being sober has made the big stuff easier: making decisions, making commitments, listening to my gut feeling and following it. Except I’ve noticed something recently; whilst sobriety affords a certain amount of clarity, I still have to deal with the confusing head and heart dialogue that makes life feel very difficult at times. 

I find that being an alcoholic gives me a base level of crazy that I have to manage. Throw on top of that romantic relationships, work stress and uncertainty and a nagging feeling that the decisions I make now will affect the rest of my life in a very big way, it makes for a really uncomfortable period. I can’t tell what’s a sensible gut instinct, and what’s The Crazy coming through. What is a genuine doubt about a relationship and what is me being ruled by fear and a desire for the thrill of dating rather than committing to one person? 

Before i got sober, I was addicted to drama. I wanted the chaos of something terrible or exciting going on all the time. Since I stopped drinking, that desire has largely subsided, but for whatever reason, it feels like it’s back with a vengeance.

One thing I’m seeing as a common theme in my problems is my lack of patience. How can you work out what is best for you if you constantly want the outcome/solution NOW. Patience isn’t a quality I realised I was lacking until recently, and I don’t quite know how to develop it. Because my nature is to think an issue to death until I take action to resolve it, or push for the outcome I (think I) want, I appear incapable of just letting things unfold, seeing how they develop. I speak on here sometimes about trusting the universe. I believe wholeheartedly in this and yet, I don’t FEEL it currently. I want to force the universe to tell me what the f**k will happen, thank you very much.

Patience is a virtue, and I need to develop it sharpish..!

Happy Sunday x

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