My Hero

365 days.

The earth has travelled around the sun and I have stayed sober. Incredible.

Tears of joy have been flowing since I woke this morning.

I had the most beautiful day and spoke with sober friends around the world. I was honoured to receive loving messages, cards, flowers and tokens of congratulations. I have the best friends. I took myself out for breakfast (I had a bretzel – which is a cross between a baguette and a pretzel). I’ve been telling people about it all day. Then did some shopping and bought myself a delicious liquorice and lemongrass cordial to mix with soda for my celebratory drink tonight.

In this last week, I’ve been pondering the fact that at the beginning of this journey, I believed I would be my hero at day 30, then at day 100 and then ultimately at day 365.

I had been feeling a little despondent about the fact that I expected so much more would be different by now. Mostly that I thought I would have shifted the excess weight.

A couple of days ago when I was driving home this speech by Mathew McConaughey came rushing into my mind and completely shifted my perspective.

I asked myself ‘who is my hero?’

Tears filled my eyes when I realised my hero is me. It’s me in the future.

On day 0, my ultimate hero was me at 365 days. It seemed utterly impossible at that point. It was a dream within a dream.  

If you ask me today if I am now my hero, like Mathew Mcconaughey, I would say ‘not even close’. But to the girl on day 0, I am. If she travelled through dimensions in time and she found me here at 365 days sober, I know she would see this incredibly rare precious being. She would hold me so tight and I’d have to wait for her to let go first. We would look at each other and cry. She would be in awe of me. She would love to have just a minute with me. She would be filled with endless questions.

I would gaze into her and whisper ‘believe’…believe like you’ve never believed before. Then, I would have to lovingly step back and allow her to find her own way, as I know that is the only way.

So today, at 365 days sober ‘who is my hero?’

It’s me…when I’m 2 years sober.

Thanks for reading.

K

xo

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Sober toolkit ideas

I’ve been to a couple of online SMART recovery meetings lately. The big question ‘how did you do it?’ will get lots of different answers from lots of different people in recovery.

My own opinion is that there is more than one way to get sober. In fact, my own approach is that if you have a sober ‘toolkit’ then you can use multiple strategies, adding new ones and binning the ones that don’t work for you (or storing them for later incase you want to try them again). The beauty of this is that you design your recovery.

In the last 363 days of sobriety, here is what has worked for me:

  • Have a bath. Get a sober ‘smell’. Mine is a Palmolive white citrus and lemongrass scented body wash. I think it has special powers.
  • Have a replacement drink. My personal favs are: diet tonic with lemon and/or lime and elderflower and soda.
  • Go outside. Change the scenery from where the thinking about drinking is happening. Nature is soothing.
  • Apply addiction essential oil blend (booze repellent) as prevention and reapply if drinking even vaguely sounds like a good idea. Alter quantities to use in a diffuser.

Booze repellent

You will need:

  • 10ml roller bottle
  • 20 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 20 drops basil essential oil
  • 20 drops bergamot essential oil
  • 15 drops peppermint essential oil
  • Fill remainder of the bottle with carrier oil of choice: coconut, sweet almond and grapeseed oil all work good.

  • Call/email someone who is sober. Post in sober support group/s. Talk to people who ‘get it’. This could be Facebook, SMART, AA, Insta – try everything and see what works for you. Remember when people tell you how brilliant one method is, it means it worked for them – don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you. We’re all different. The important thing is to try.
  • Take photos/videos of yourself when drinking – refer back to them if you start to forget how bad things were.
  • Read/watch/listen to others recovery stories. I find reading about celebrity recovery very inspiring.
  • Remember something really bad that happened because of your drinking. Remember the feeling of never wanting to feel as bad as that bad thing made you feel ever again.
  • Remember that the decision to go back to day 1 means that it won’t be your only day 1 – chances are it will be harder to recover from.
  • Get a sobriety totem and remember what it means (this is a gift you have bought yourself for being {insert number of days} sober). Have you seen the movie Inception? Think Inception for sobriety. Look at this totem to remind you that the you that wants the best for you (!) doesn’t want you to drink. Yes, the you that’s reading this right now.
  • Name the voice in your head that tells you drinking is a good idea. Mine is called Boozy, he’s starved these days and he mostly lays dormant, but I’m aware of him and he does still pop up from time to time.
  • Read books about sobriety. Some I can recommend are:
  • The unexpected joy of being sober by Catherine Gray.
  • Tired of thinking about drinking by Belle Robertson
  • Recovery: freedom from our addictions by Russell Brand.
  • The easyway to quit drinking by Allen Carr.
  • Dry by Augusten Burroughs.
  • The 30 day sobriety solution by Jack Canfield and Dave Andrews.
  • Alcohol explained by William Porter.
  • This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.
  • A Happier Hour by Rebecca Weller.
  • Kick the drink easily by Jason Vale.

  • Watch Ted Talks about addiction and recovery.
  • Listen to sober podcasts – in the beginning I was listening to podcasts all day long. In the car, cooking in the kitchen, in the bath, going to bed. I highly recommend Belle Robertson’s podcasts and one minute messages (free). They are only a few dollars each or I buy a bundle. You can also become a podcast subscriber.
  • Buy yourself sober treats – in the beginning I had lots of treats (it could be a piece of fruit, a pair of earrings, a nice bubble bath). On day 70 I bought a digital download on Etsy that said ‘be brave’ then I put it in an inexpensive frame. It cost a few dollars and it’s a reminder every day of what I want in life. I think the specific thought ‘this is for me because I stayed sober’ is a game changer. Though, you actually don’t have to spend any money. The first week of being sober I got myself something small every couple of days then special gifts (jewellery) for day 30, 100 and 365. You can do it however you want.
  • Write a blog. I write one for free here at wordpress.com. It gives accountability and allows you to explore your recovery rather than be a witness to it. Alternatively, keep a journal or set up an email account you can email your future self from. Remind him/her why you want this so much.
  • I put together a cognitive behavioural therapy tool adapted from the book ‘Change your thinking’ by Sarah Edelman. It really helps to shift my perspective. I’ve attached this as a word document at the end of this blog post. Please feel free to use this, it works!
  • Finally, make a plan. There is not a hope in hell I would’ve signed anything that said I’d stay sober for a year. A year seemed literally impossible. I started with 30 days (and I did this many many times before I got it ‘right’). I wrote letters to myself to read on day 30 and then on day 100, when I knew I would be evaluating my goal. Those letters reminded me that my past self wanted me to keep going.

My wish for me and you is that we keep going on this journey. No matter where we are at. Sober looks good on us. Never give up.

K

xo

The Invitation

I used to write a poetry blog. About 10 years ago. I loved it. The only reason I stopped was because I moved from Scotland to Australia and I thought I was too busy travelling to continue with this hobby. What I didn’t know then is that busy is just a state of mind. We make time for the things that are important. Sometimes in my day to day ‘busy-ness’, words will come back to me from a poem. They haunt me until I give them the spark of attention requested of me – whether that be re-reading the poem in question or sharing in some form. My soul remembers there is a lesson weaved through the words.

On day 360 of sobriety, I invite you to read with me.

The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesnt interest me
what planets are 
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know 
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone 
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Alcohol is the medication of the masses

Yesterday was a very special day for me as I graduated with an MA in Social Work. It is official!

I knew that I wasn’t going to drink, but I also had an inkling that I might find it challenging to be around alcohol in this celebratory environment when it was a day of heightened emotions.

Before alcohol ever presented to be a problem in my life, it had become the necessary ingredient in the creation of anything fun just as it is for many. In the last 358 days, I haven’t been to a great number of social events and here I was thrust into the piece de resistance of events. Willingly, of course.

Two of my very good friends knew that I had struggled with alcohol addiction in the past. After the ceremony, I went with friend 1 to a bar. Friend 2 called friend 1 and asked to talk to me before they hung up. As I went to press the button to hang up, I saw friend 1 was in the middle of writing something about alcohol to friend 2 in a facebook message. I knew it was about me. I didn’t want to see it, but I had seen it. Later, I told her that I had accidently seen a message on her phone and I wanted to check that she wasn’t concerned about me. She knew I had seen it. At first she said that she thought it would be easier for me to not be around alcohol, then she said she was letting our other friend know that there wasn’t any alcohol where we were (there was). They drank alcohol, I didn’t. I’m not sure what was true and it doesn’t matter. We talked it through like adults do. I really do treasure the friends that can sit in discomfort with you and don’t try to run or hide. What I got from our conversation was a very interesting myth about addiction fuelled by stereotypes. From our conversation, I could see the underlying belief that because I had struggled so much with alcohol addiction, that I would now struggle when I was surrounded by it, and ‘couldn’t’ drink it.

I had to let her know this:

No, no, no dear friend, it’s a myth – I can have it. I’ve lived with it in my house for the last 358 days. I’m home alone right now with 50 litres of spirits in the cupboard (my husband drinks and makes his own spirits) – I could have it. But (as I’ve discussed in a previous blog) I don’t want the terms and conditions it comes with. The fine print details how ‘one drink’ will go. I’ve repeatedly experienced how it goes. I know how it goes. I don’t need to crash my car into a tree to check the airbag will go off. I don’t need to drink to check and see if my life will erupt into darkness again. There isn’t any point. Yes, I absolutely had the thought how it would be inviting to have a glass of numb to soothe the heightened emotions of the day. But then I wouldn’t feel them, and I wouldn’t be able to respond accordingly with what I needed. There’s no filter through which I look at the world anymore. I’m not jaded into believing that a person/place/event is anything other than what I see. If I don’t like someone, I don’t like them. If I don’t want to be somewhere then I find a way to leave.

Alcohol is the medication of the masses. We are taught to amplify happiness and suppress sadness. It’s a virus we swallow that takes over and tells us how we feel. No wonder so many people feel lost in recovery, some people need guideposts just on how to feel again.

Every day I am learning, but it’s never about wanting to have it and not being able to anymore. It’s about being able to have it and recognising that it is a true privilege not to have to drink anymore.

I felt such joy at celebrating with friends.

I felt nervous waiting to get up on stage in front of over 1000 people.

I felt excitement at the novelty of getting a day to myself when I am usually busy with motherhood, work and a husband who works away.

I felt immense pride in wearing my academic dress and being able to say ‘I did it!’.

I felt and I will continue to feel, alcohol is not required.

xo

The Tamagotchi Gremlin

When Tamagotchi’s first came out, I was desperate to have one. They flew off the shelves so quickly that when my Mum took my brother and I to the only shop with them left in the town, there was one left. My brother got it. No hard feelings. I literally have the best mother in the world. Well, the best mother I could ever have dreamed into life.

To console me, she told me how annoying it would be to look after it all the time. It looked cute and there was something exciting about having a virtual pet rather than a real one – but it was something else that I’d have to look after. It came with responsibility.

Alcohol is like this Tamagotchi gremlin. There’s something quite inviting about it – it feels like there’s companionship in that first glass. You want the warm hug that it has to offer. You’re so conditioned to think that there is something worthwhile in it. I think that most of us are more influenced by advertising and the cultural rhetoric around drinking much more than we realise. It can take a great deal of self-reflection to think about why we think the way that we do. This is something I had the privilege of learning about when I was studying my MA in Social Work. It makes total sense to see why people in AA have sponsors. How helpful it is to have someone who has done what you’re doing to light the way.

The decision to drink again would be like buying this Tamagotchi gremlin that boomeranged back towards you every time you tried to throw it away. You only want it for a brief time, to feel that momentary relief. When you try to put it down – it winces, it cries, it throws the biggest tantrum. It whispers to you that you deserve to give it another cuddle, then another and another. What started out as a momentary reprieve for you becomes all about feeding the gremlin that bullies you into submission. It assures you that one more cuddle and you can put it down again.

It lies.

It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you because you believe it. After all, we’re conditioned to believe there’s something worthwhile in these little gremlins. When you’re growing up, no one tells you that the gremlin can grow bigger, stronger and more demanding. The more you isolate, the more demanding it becomes. Ultimately, its goal is to live through you and destroy you.

Remember, all you ever wanted was a cuddle.

Day 351.

Thanks for being here

xo

Russian Roulette

 ‘I only have to be lucky once, you have to be lucky every time’ – Alcohol.

I heard this in a movie a few days ago and it’s stayed on my mind. If alcohol was a person (Boozy), it would say it. Alcohol wants to destroy us. It only has to find you at one weak or unsure moment and you belong to it once again. Remember the moment is weak, you are not. Us sober people have to be mindful of this every time we feel a wobble in the foundation of our sobriety. There are wobbles. I’m not going to be one of the people that only talks about the sunshine and rainbows of being sober. But I will address the reality (or at least my reality) of what it means to reach 346 days of not playing Russian roulette.

In the beginning, getting sober was like driving in a relentless storm. I had to learn how to use my mind and my tools to make it to day 5, day 26 and so on. I listened to sober advice on how to make it through the storm as I drove along. Every day I chatted on my radio with other sober people who had driven the road, some who were driving at the same time and some who (like like I was for a long time) were stuck at the start and fearful of what lay ahead. I don’t agree with the term ‘fearless’ in sobriety. I was shit scared. Hell, sometimes I still am. For me it’s about feeling the fear and going anyways. It’s about navigating right where you are and not looking too far ahead.

After a while, the storm lifts and you can see the sky again. You realise that nothing is permanent. The weather will always be changing. Slowly the sunshine comes out again and you find yourself floating on some pink clouds. Then you realise it’s been months since you drove through a storm. Light showers, yes. Thunder, lightening and torrential rain, no.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it hits you.

Because you’re not used to the storm, you start to think about pulling over in the ‘booze’ layby. After all, you’re tired. You haven’t pulled up there for so long. Surely you could just pull over for one night and wait for the storm to pass then you’ll keep going?

Alcohol is the inviting layby we might want to pull over in sometimes. We think it’s a pause or a break from the storm. We think we can just wait there for it to blow over, then we’ll keep going. The thing is that alcohol feeds the storm. Instead of waking up the next day and keeping going, we find that the storm has intensified making it even harder to get back on the road again. We’re alone, the storm cut our radio frequency and we can’t even see far enough in front of us to know what the way out is.

However, if we keep an eye on what’s coming up ahead, we can prepare. We can google map where the nearest sober bunker is and sat nav our way there. The bunker has sober friends, baths, music, Netlflix, stories, soft light and most importantly you are safe. Sometimes you’ll have to drive through these stormy patches (not near as many as the beginning) in order to make it to your self-made bunker. Batten down, then tomorrow it’ll be better. It always has been.

If we play Russian roulette with alcohol, it only has to be lucky once and we will be stuck back in the storm.

Keep going on your journey, learning of frights and delights along the way.

Never give up.

K

xo