The shadows of alcohol

There you lay, a shadow of your former self, Emaciated and frail. Your eyes once so full of life sit dark and heavy, a vacancy to them and showing the world your sadness. Your cheeks are sunken and your skin falls loose, bruises cover your weakened frame and the lack of hope radiates from you.

You sob as I reach for you, the slightest touch feels like a warmth you don’t deserve. Filled with shame and regret, gripped by fear and denial. The heavy smell of decay looms over you like a vulture waiting for its prey to give up the fight, you lay still and wait for the release to come but it never does.

You reach out for the one thing that brings you some comfort, the sensation of the cold glass of the bottle brings you relief, you know it won’t be long before the wave of warmth engulfs you from within. You put the bottle to your mouth and gulp down the liquid, harsh and biting on your throat, but the pain is welcomed, it makes you feel something. As the burning of the alcohol reaches your stomach, you feel like you can breathe again. Like you’ve had your head under water for too long and you’ve craved for this relief. You take another gulp, and another. Your ears ring, your head feels heavy but it’s pleasant. The shame starts to become a distant memory and you slip silently into the abyss.

If anyone knew just how hard it was for you not to drink, they’d never try to stop you. If they just understood how painful life is without the sweet release of oblivion, they wouldn’t try to get you sober. You need the poison now like you need air. Eating is a chore, you no longer care for nourishment, you no longer care about keeping clean. Your only thought is how you will get your next drink, unable to walk far you feel that dread and panic sweep over you. The bottle is almost empty and it won’t be long before your body punishes you for the lack of poison.

You drag yourself up, you can’t look in the mirror, it’s been so long since you have, that’s a reality you just can’t face. Grabbing your car keys, you know you need your medicine. Your car is 10 steps from your door yet it feels like a million miles away, your feet hurt and every step is like walking on glass, your legs can barely hold you despite your now tiny frame, but if you can just make it to the car you know you’ll be ok.

You turn on the engine, the car groans around you, the humming from the engine hurts your head, but you have to find the strength to get more alcohol. Closing one eye to focus, you begin the slow drive to the shop. All the way there you pray you don’t hit anything, or worse, break down. Your mind is now fully taken over by the craving for more alcohol and it’s driving you there on autopilot. It’s the only time you feel any motivation.

You wake up, it’s dark, the feint smell of alcohol and stale smoke wafts in the air. You tentatively open one eye and to your relief you are home. You can’t remember getting back home or even getting more alcohol. But the half full bottle of gin that lays like a temptress begging you to taste it lies next to you. You pick it up and gulp down some more. Calmness washes over you once again. You can breathe again.

Bedtime is a distant memory, you no longer have any sense of time and you have no structure to your life. The pictures of your once happy life hang lonely on the wall collecting dust. The pictures are fading away, reflecting back your own demise. The happy faces of the children you shared a home with peek out behind the picture glass, and it feels like they are taunting you. They represent everything you lost. You no longer crave to see your child, you know her seeing you is detrimental to her, so you willingly give up your parental rights. Plunging you deeper into the void of despair and loneliness. Occasionally you’ll hear her little voice, and feel her tiny hand on your chest. She loves you unconditionally but the pain in her eyes from seeing you so weak is too much for you to bare. She’s a reminder of what you have become, of how your life has changed. Her mere presence make you feel like a failure. You sink deeper into the void of depression and helplessness.

I shake you awake, hand under your nose to check you’re breathing, you remind me of my father in his last days, a waxy texture to your skin, cheeks have no volume to them, where they once sat is now a sharp bone abd a deep scar. I sit beside you racked with sadness and guilt, you reach out to hold my hands, your eyes can’t stop the tears from falling, then you tell me you’re in control. The words are like a knife to my heart. The world around you can see you have given up, I can see you’re defeated but your love affair with the bottle is so intense you can’t give it up. It’s the only thing you have left.

I feel like I’m saying my last goodbyes, as I get up to leave you ask me to stay, just a little longer, but I’ve endured all that I can take. I know that I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but care, what was once so full of life is barely even there. A shadow of your former self is too much for me to see, because the reality of it is-that could have been me.

Creativity breeds sanity

As a child I loved to draw, I loved anything that took me into myself, away from ‘reality’. My own reality inside my mind was a much brighter, softer place for me. One I could ‘make believe’ and not have to feel others pain and suffering.

I forgot all about my love for this act, I got older, I became engulfed by the world around me, the one outside of me. I discovered drink, drugs, smoking, sex and bitterness. My heart became heavy over the years, I blamed everyone around me and became a victim in my own mind. This continued for decades.

The beginning of 2020 I really hit rock bottom, bad decision after bad decision had left me with a life I couldn’t relate to. Left me feeling suicidal and hopeless.

Then after a string of bad situations that ultimately left me in deep depression, alienating pretty much everyone and hurting everyone, I had an epiphany. I chose to get sober, I chose life.

Gradually I began to remember all the things that I felt as a child, then as a stroke of luck the memory box my mum had given me sparked a memory of how I loved to draw. Over the last year it has saved my life on more than one occasion and it’s something I underestimated but something I’ll always do.

I highly recommend finding that thing that takes you out of reality. Create something, anything. The pride you feel from making something from scratch is unlike anything you can buy. It’s soul food.

The drunk tank

Art by Louise shepherd

Standing alone yet feeling the crushing words of others that have never reached your ears. Mind filled with shame and guilt, the imaginary conversations between loved ones ring in your ears like an alarm bell. The pain feels too much to bare. Suffocating in the patchy memories of your intoxicated misgivings, your mind kindly fills in the blanks for you with worst case scenarios.

You play it all out in your mind, trying to find a spark of realisation that it’s all lies, but the images and flashes of memories contradict any glimmer of hopefulness. You become removed from yourself, you look externally for reassurance that these things didn’t happen, yet you are crippled in silence to even ask the questions to those around you. You stare, wide eyed, scanning their faces, looking for some form of relief and to be told that you’re not inherently evil. The relief evades you, too consumed in your own self loathing, the imaginary disapproval hits you hard and fast.

Becoming increasingly isolated, gripped by the fear that you are hated, you sit frozen on your bed, you feel like a creature surrounded by a glass tank and the world is looking in. They are discussing your demise, pointing and laughing, the plaque under the tank reads….
DANGER! Approach with caution, can be unpredictable.
You are screaming to the world looking on that this isn’t you, you cry out for help, but no one can hear you, your cries are muffled by the thick glass drowning out your words and separating you from salvation. All they see is someone screaming and crying, face red, tears pouring down your soiled cheeks, but they can’t hear the pain. They just see the angry frustration etched on your face from years of self destruction. The years of abuse have left you weary, each line and scar has its own story, but to the deafened onlookers you look harsh and inhumane. You are a visual representation of the warning on your tank like prison, but inside your tank you know it’s not reality for you. If only you could make them see the real truth. You are broken, you just want to be loved, just by one person. You crave for some tenderness, some warm words, some compassion. But all the world can see is one fractured aspect of your reality. You retreat, defeated and hopeless. Adopting the fetal position, you are shaking and alone, depleted of any life or hope. Eventually the audience stops coming to look at the freak show, the creator of destruction. You’re yesterday’s news, they are bored of your repetitiveness, your rantings that are a cover up for the misery that resides in you. No one cares, no one comes, no one calls, yet their mocking words and laughter echo in your mind long after the silence engulfs your world.

All this pain and torture has happened to you, to you it feels real, yet you never moved from your bed. The only true prison we live in, is the one in our own head.

Getting out of your head

When embarking on the sober lifestyle, the main question I asked myself was
“Wtf do I do now?”
I spent time exploring things I used to enjoy doing, but none of them stuck, as most were superficial practices, such as the gym or running, walking and counting steps, focusing on improving material and physical wealth.

Then I found a drawing I’d done as a 6 year old that my mum had brought to me years earlier. It was of a bird, it was awesome!!!! I’d forgotten all about the fact I used to love drawing. I lost that feeling very young and my pictures eventually were put away in a memory box and I honestly could not have recalled the love I had for it without seeing that picture. As I looked through the memory box there were lots more, they were amazing. For my young age I was blown away. How can a skill and passion that once burnt so bright just get forgotten?

Life, that’s how. As children are pushed into an education system that isn’t focused around cultivating things that nourish us on a soul level, an artist is seen as a hobby more than a job, only the few make money from it- we are told, we quite literally grow up having every last bit of hope, love and creativity squeezed out of us, through other peoples learnt beliefs, education, work and all under the guise of being fully functioning adults. To become a so called good contribution to society.

Well, thats not a society I want a part of. I want to contribute, but in my own way, with what makes me be a healthy and functioning member of society. I want to share my passion and abilities with those who can gain from it or teach me things that help me to flourish-in my own way.

By losing touch with my creative ability and passion I gradually lost touch with me. The hard things in life became expected, situations that I couldn’t make sense of or change became etched into my poor, weary soul that was already being starved to death. I just kept laying on the heavy burdens of life and doing nothing to feed the part of me that truly matters. I held her hostage within me, drowning out her cries with alcohol, all the whole making myself a little bit more broken, just trying to fit in. Taking pieces away from my soul to fit into a box I didn’t want to be out in. For acceptance. I lost touch with the part of me we are all born with, that little spark, that trust that things will be ok, the natural ability to live in the here and now without worrying about the future or feeling guilty about the past.

Do you think a newborn baby feels guilt at keeping you awake? It’s not a lack of intelligence, it’s actually because children up until around the age of 5/6 living completely in the present. If they’re hungry- you know about it, sad- you know about it, happy…. well that shits infectious. A baby’s giggle must be one of the purest sounds on earth, I challenge anyone to watch a baby fully belly laugh and not raise a smile. It’s because it is pure. It’s not a well timed laugh to gain favour, or a wicked laugh because someone’s been unfortunate and it’s made us feel superior in some way. It’s because right in that moment the baby was over come with that emotion and without hesitation it let out the most beautiful noise.

We lose ourselves when we buy into stuff. We lose ourselves when we believe other people’s views and opinions matter more than our own. Then we become sad, we are quite literally shutting down that innocent, pure part of us then we wonder why we drink, smoke, over eat, gamble, do drugs etc…. it’s because in that moment we get to escape from the ‘world’ forgetting that everything we need is already here. Inside of us. Happiness is not a destination, it’s a state of being. A mental and emotional state that we really can choose at any point. No matter what.

When I draw I feel more alive than ever. I’m taken away from my minds ego state that tells me all the things that make me sad, hopeless and angry. I become mindless, free of thought, peaceful, calm and for that time the internal bullshit parade takes a break from making the incessant banging and clanging of unnecessary negative noise.

If you are wondering what it is you will do with that time you spent drinking, go back, revisit your childhood memories. Ask those who knew you as a child- what were you interested in. What did you love. Explore that. Work on not listening to the programming your egoic mind has received. It’s only thought. That’s it. I can think I’m Naomi Campbell as much as I like but it doesn’t make it true. So it’s pointless obsessing. So why do we think we are the negative internal talk too?

We spend precious time worrying;
‘What if this happens, that happens… if she says that to me then I’ll say this….he’s a bad person- look at his he’s behaving, I’m better than that….what if I lose my job….what if they die…what if they leave me….’ and on and on it goes. NONE OF IT IS REALITY. it’s in our heads. We create a world of problems all within our own mind then subconsciously put in place things that bring about those very situations. All because we’re believing the thoughts, so we’re acting on the thoughts, we become moody and distant from people we’ve had fake arguments with, as to us it’s real. We’ve played the scenario out in our head over and over again that in we unknowingly will the situation on under the guise that because ‘we’re now prepared’ we believe that we can handle the situation we’ve obsessed about, simply because we’ve obsessed about it. We believe by thinking of all negative eventualities that we can manipulate the situation in our favour. Wtf?!

But the reality is none of the things we worry about have even happened yet, and whether they do or they don’t, why are we wasting time making ourselves angry and unhappy just in case they do? It makes no sense. Yet we all do it. We quite literally torture ourselves using our own powerful imagination.

So, if we can imagine negative things, and become so engrossed in them, that we more often than not become ill with stress- Doesn’t it stand to reason we could do the opposite. Imagine everything being ok, with a ‘blind faith’ attitude. Not willing a situation to be either way, simply living right here right now, and IF a problem arises, THEN deal with it? I imagine if we could all live in a state of being present we would find our illusionary problems dramatically fall away. How liberating is that notion?

Get out of your head. Connect with your soul and find something that engrosses you in a comforting way-even if it’s only a minute at first- and just keep doing that. You’ll soon become addicted to not listening to your ego, you’ll become at peace, just knowing that all will be well.

‘What you resist persists’ Carl Jung.
Smart guy. Don’t resist any situation, deal with it, leave it and accept it, just as it is.

The only moment we have is now. How do you want to spend it?

It’s in your head.

You’ve done it again. The pull became too much, and you caved. You drank until you either ran out or blacked out- didn’t you?
You embarrassed yourself. Strangely though you have no idea how! You just know you have. That knot in your stomach and feeling of existential dread tells you so. Eurgh. You now feel the paralysing grip of anxiety, it’s creeping across your chest like a black widow spider, waiting to inject its venom and kill you off. You’re almost wishing for it. You just want this all to end. Your mind races, palms sweaty, your head feels like a brass band is banging their way into the deepest recesses, you feel pain in parts of your head you wasn’t aware of before. You’re very aware of your eyeball, it feels like it’s either going to explode or fall out of your head. You don’t want to be you today.

It’s in your head.

The pain is real, you did that…. but it started in your head. The decision to drink, started in your head. The anxiety is in your head. The addiction is in your head. That’s not to make light if it, the mind is a very powerful tool… or weapon. It all depends on how you choose to use it. The mind has created everything man-made, all of our collective successes. It has also created war and murder, it depends which side you buy into, which voice you pay attention to, what you choose to fill your life with…..it all shapes your external existence. You are only in control of your own mind. You can only be accountable to yourself, no one lives your life, has your brain or feels how you do. So why would you spend so much time gripped by the anxiety of what others think about your relapse? Your own experience is the only truth for you. You are the master in your own life.

If you’ve attacked another in your drunken state, apologise whole heartedly. Drop the defensive tendencies we all have to justify our bad behaviour. Accept you did it. Apologise, if you’ve caused damage to property, pay for it to be fixed. But, when you apologise, do it without expectation. Do not apologise and feel it is your right to be forgiven, that is up-to the person you have hurt. If they choose not to forgive, take it with grace, then learn from it. Learn the lesson. The best apology is to change your own damaging and abusive behaviour. If you don’t an apology is purely to alleviate your own guilt. To eradicate the pain YOU are feeling without truly accepting the pain you’ve inflicted. Once you’ve apologised, switch back to the job of you. Drop the guilt. Be proactive, change those destructive behaviours. Make the decision and take steps towards it. Keep your focus on the here and now, the past has gone… you’ve done your best. Now it’s time to do better – for you.

We spend so much time and energy looking to others for approval that we give ourselves away, piece by piece. We put our power over our whole lives in the hands of people who, quite simply, are not you. They cannot understand, just as you can’t understand them. Yet we give others the power to judge us, but we also ask for it. We tell others our discrepancies and we tell it filled with shame and guilt. We then hand over our power and ask
‘Please judge me, give me your opinion’
Why do we do this?
We do this because we are looking for relief, we are trapped in the cycle of thought that we are not in control at all, we are trapped believing that to be ‘good’ the world outside of us must believe we are good.

There is a whole world inside of you waiting for you to take control. You are the creator, the master and the only ruler of your own mind and your own life. You quite literally have an entire universe inside of you, possibilities are endless yet you give the control over to someone who hasn’t even visited your inner world, let alone experienced it and lived in it.

There’s something to be said for those who choose to not care what others think. We have a responsibility to the society we live in to not harm others, we have a responsibility to not take from others to further ourselves, we too have a responsibility to share our joy and anything we have learnt or obtained that may help others, but, we don’t have to give ourselves away. We don’t have to lay ourselves bare and let those struggling with their own sense of self pick us to pieces, just to make themselves feel better.

The responsibility of our happiness starts and ends with us. All of it.

Someone says something nasty? It hurts, but why does it hurt??
Because we’ve fomed an attachment to their words, we have a belief that the person saying it must be right, they must know us better than we know ourselves. We give them the ultimate power. One over our emotions. Emotion is how we shape our lives, when you feel something, it affects us physically, it creates a physical change in our bodies. We then act accordingly, most of the time using our fight or flight reflexes. When the real truth is, we don’t have to take these words and opinions of others as the truth, it is just one persons inner pain trying to inflict pain upon you. It’s to gain power over your emotions to make themselves feel boosted.

We exchange energy with every person we come near. Have you ever noticed that some people make you feel good? Energised, happy and comfortable? Then others take all your energy, make you feel heavy and muddy? It’s all energy exchange. Your responsibility is to create a field of positive energy around you with your thoughts, intent and action. To not sap others energies through harsh words, being in victim mode, or even thinking harmful thoughts towards them. This pulls in people who are more positive, you attract what you emit.

So, back to drinking. Do you still believe you are powerless? Do you still think that you are ‘bad’ because of others perceived disappointment with your ‘failure’? I hope not.

The only person you can ever let down is you. If you feel disappointed, own it. You feel disappointed with yourself- it’s ok. But, don’t live in that place. Deal with your physical symptoms, that’s on you. You chose that. So now apologise to your body by giving it vitamins, water and rest. Don’t punish it further by drinking more, working harder or physically punishing yourself through exercise. That’s not what you’d body needs right now. It’s trying to repair. Allow it the space to do that. It knows what it’s doing, trust yourself.

If you let others decide your failure, you will always fail. If you decide it’s not a failure unless you give up, you’ll always prevail.

It’s in your head. Start there. Switch your mindset. Shift your perspective. Listen to your instincts, pay attention to your powerful intuition. All the tools you need for happiness are right there waiting for you to pick them up.

You decide who you are. You and you alone. Make good choices.

A life that’s worth fighting for.

Early morning sunrise

The sound of my alarm woke me from a wonderfully deep sleep, the sunrise alarm clock had reached full brightness and despite being pitch black outside, I felt awake, conscious, alive. My boyfriend rolled over and wished me good morning and jumped up to make me a coffee. I sat upright, stretching my arms as high as I could, whilst wiggling my toes, feeling the cool bedsheets running over my feet. I smiled. A big, warm genuine smile. I felt good.

It’s 4.30am and it’s my first day being able to work in over a year, and what a year it’s been. As I contemplate the universe, and reflect on the last years events, personally and globally, I feel grateful to be able to wake at that time, without a feeling of dread, or worse still being drunk. I cherished every mouthful of the black heavy coffee, made my morning shake and got back into bed. Hungover me wouldn’t have even contemplated breakfast or organisation. Today I didn’t return to bed hoping that an extra 20 minutes snooze will somehow magically erase the alcohol in my system, nor did I need to pull the covers over my head in shame and embarrassment. I didn’t need to ask my boyfriend if he’s mad with me, I didn’t have to check my phone for weird messages I may have sent. I felt calm. I returned to bed as I’d allowed enough time to wake up and enjoy my morning before the long drive to work. I made the decision to apply self care, which means waking up with enough time to wake up fully.

I did my makeup, neatened up my hair, put on nice clothes and perfume, packed my car up and set off on time. ON TIME. The drive was exquisite, the sun had started to rise and was a glowing red ball, low in the sky, the sky was glowing orange and the air was fresh, it was silent apart from morning birdsong. The odd driver passed me and I wondered how many were hungover, how many were feeling rough… I admit I felt proud of myself. Perhaps even a touch smug.

Country lanes were littered with lively pheasants, all playing stunt chicken with my car, my senses were alert and it gave me the ability to stop or dodge all of them. A gorgeous white owl swooped low and did a last minute turn before it hit my car, I saw into its eyes, it’s feathers, all of its grace and beauty and the words ‘wow!’ Shot out of my mouth. I was genuinely taken aback. I’ve never seen that before. Or been present enough to care.

The 2 hour drive gave me a lot of time to think, a lot of time to observe and I felt like I was seeing the world in a new light. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to appreciate that time in the morning sober. In fact, I don’t think I ever have- I’ve either still been up from being off my face or dragging myself around like an old mattress, just hoping I make it through the day. It felt magical.

I didn’t have to stop the car to check I had all my kit, I didn’t have to think ‘did I remember everything’ there was no worrying if I were still over the limit or panicking as I’d pushed time too far. I was on top of my game. And do you know who I have to thank?

Yesterday’s me.

Yesterday’s me didn’t screw me over, she didn’t listen to the whisper of sweet nothings to convince me I deserve a drink. She stayed on the path. She drew her sword and cut away the bullshit, striding ahead knowing I’d be so god damn proud of her today. And I am.

So, yesterday’s me – thank you. Thank you for playing it forward, thank you for being the me I’m proud of today. Thank you for giving me the clarity to appreciate the beautiful world we live in, thank you for letting me wake up feeling wonderful. Thank you for being that badass I know I am.

Because when you take a minute, when you quieten your outside, then match it to your inside, when the air outside your body and inside of it feels the same, when you look around with no expectations or worries, without judgement or fear, it’s truly amazing what you can see and how it makes you feel. It’s better than any gift I’ve ever had and I gave it to myself…. the gift of sobriety, the gift of living. Because when it comes down to it, It truly is a life worth living, a life worth being present for. A life worth falling head over heels in love with.

Attitude of Gratitude

I’m laid here in bed, it’s Monday morning and the chink of bright sunlight shines through the gap in the curtains, it hits my bedding and a warm glow penetrates through the covers. I sip my coffee, noticing the birdsong happening outside, it feels like they’re singing just for me. Silence in my house and the feeling of crisp air in my lungs, fill me with a silent contentment. I contemplate my day, knowing there is nothing I can’t do, there’s no dreaded anxiety to pin me in my bed, there’s no tentative checking my phone for last nights blackout, attention seeking messages that I may have sent, no shame, no guilt, no headache, no sweating, no vomiting, just peace.

I’m beginning to see the benefits of sobriety, I haven’t lost weight, I’ve not ran a marathon, I haven’t done anything that society would class as particularly mind blowing, but for me this feels remarkable. I’m at peace with myself.

The weekends have become about rest and just learning to be, learning to be ok without the crazy ‘fun’ that alcohol emptily promised me every time the it called for me to take that first sip. Alcohol promised me I’d be sociable, happier, entertained…. but we all know too well – the reality is deep sadness, shame and an ability to destroy our lives within a few moments.

I’ve worked so hard on learning to ‘just be’ and I’ve realised it’s not an end goal, it isn’t a destination you can reach, it’s a state of being. Appreciating the sunlight, the silence, the birdsong, the hot coffee, my comfortable, CLEAN bedding, feeling an overall sense of well-being. It takes constant and daily gratitude that I’m alive…. that the time I took an overdose I survived, the countless times I drunk in a state of blackout that I didn’t kill someone or myself, an appreciation for not feeling like the biggest crap bag on the planet. I’m…. dare I say it….. a fully functioning human being. One that wants to contribute to society, not take away from it.

If you are sober this morning, take the time to appreciate what is around you, the little things, as it’s these every day little things that bring you small bursts of warmth that will fix your broken heart, one piece at a time. You won’t know the moment of peace is coming, and you won’t find it if you try to force it to be there, you’ll find it in the things you already have. The things that you already do. Gratitude. It works. It’s not instant or, as I say, a destination. It’s accumulative, it builds And builds without you really knowing. Like addiction to alcohol, it doesn’t happen in that first sip you ever had, or even the dozens of times you drank after. It slowly wired your brain to get to that state of blackout drunk faster each time, it gradually built up a taste for it, it taught your brain to make a path between sober And blackout and it chopped down every obstacle in the way, making sure you’d not be hindered on your journey to the abyss.

Gratitude works the same, but for the good of your soul, it works in the exact opposite way to addiction….it builds up your serenity gradually, tentatively clearing the path of destruction and along the way it shows you everything you truly have to be grateful for. All you have to do is breathe, trust and more importantly be aware of what you already possess, inside and out.

You have a light inside you that just wants to shine, you just need to believe. I guess it’s a kind of blind faith, that if you fill yourself with the light and love that’s quite literally all around you, the darkness that once engulfed you will gradually fade. The path to blackout will become over grown again as you won’t be walking it anymore, eventually you’ll forget it’s there. There may be moments you look fondly upon it, but like a past love that turned sour, it’s just not worth revisiting that pain in reality.

There’s no great epiphany here. There’s no magic one thing that will ‘click’ and you’ll find the path to sobriety suddenly easy. It’s a constant belief in yourself. It’s a love for yourself that no one can take from you, it’s a knowing that despite what anyone says, you are here for a reason, you are worth every second you have on this planet. Now the only decision you need to make is how you want to spend your precious time.

If you’re still drinking…Make the decision. That’s ALL you have to do today. Just decide, I’ve had enough. I choose me.
Relax And breathe into your surroundings, if you’re tired and unwell…. just accept it. That’s how you feel today. It’s really ok. Panic won’t change the process, panic is there to force you to find the quickest way to feel better And sadly for an addict it’s more of what ailed you in the first place. Don’t let panic win. Be calm. Breeeeeeeathe.

Look at the sky, look at nature. The natural world around you doesn’t panic about tomorrow, flowers don’t worry they won’t bloom, they simply dedicate their life to being. You are a human BEING, so be one……..just be.

The rest will follow. I promise.

If no one told you lately….
YOU ARE LOVED
YOU ARE WORTHY
YOU CAN DO THIS

Be the you today, that tomorrow’s you will be grateful for.

Picking your poison

My poison of choice, the one that got me to oblivion was always wine. Specifically, red wine. Yet this was the drink that took me from zero to psycho within a nano second. I could drink vodka, gin, beer etc and while I’d get drunk it never quite took me to the place my beloved red wine did. It was a new level of messed up-ness. Of course I would start with the usual intentions, the usual denials
“I’ll just have one bottle”
“I’ll not get like that THIS time, I promise”
And these were not empty promises, I truly meant it, I genuinely believed that I was in control, yet time And time again the reality had proved otherwise.

So, why? Why go for the one drink that I know takes me to the dark side quicker than my ex deleted his search history? I think it’s because it took me to the dark place, as twisted as that sounds.

You see, drinking to oblivion isn’t for the enjoyment of drinking, no matter how expensive the bottle, or fancy the glass, when you drink because you can’t function without it, you are drinking for oblivion. Before you even realise you have a drinking problem you’ve visited the void of oblivion so many times that your mind now starts to get comfortable there. It’s set up a comfy arm chair and your crazy slippers are ready And waiting for you to slip straight into. Unbeknownst to us alcohol abusers, we have been stealthily setting a scene, decorating the void, making it nice and cosy, all in preparation for the day we admit defeat to normality and set up home there. The addict brain WANTS us to not notice that we are slipping, it’s sneaky, it’s sly, it doesn’t care about your ‘normal’ life, your commitments, your job, your drivers license, your kids, your loved ones… it only cares about one thing, and one thing only, getting you to the void of oblivion as fast as it can. Once you are there, your addict brain can now play, you are merely a vessel for it to do its work through. You are a puppet and your own brain is now running the show without any limits or any remorse.

We go for the drink that gets us there as quickly as possible because the longer it takes to get there the more chance you have of intervening the addict brains plan.

This isn’t to say that you simply switch drink, it doesn’t work like that, because even if you try to trick your addict mind, it will wait until you are drunk enough then start doing the river dance on your fuck it button. It will always win once you take that first drink. Why? Because it has been setting the scene And getting you nice and cosy there without your knowledge for a long time, possibly years. You have unknowingly become more comfortable in the void of oblivion than you have in your sober life. You’ve been groomed… and the worst part is… you’ve done it to yourself.

Once your void of oblivion has become a place of twisted comfort there is no going back… there is no moderating. There is no ‘having a couple’, your addict brain may allow you to be controlled for a short while when you are particularly determined, but this isn’t you being in control- no, no, no…. this is the addict brain allowing you to believe you are, to suck you back into the void bit by bit without you realising. Until one day you are laid in bed, 7 empty bottles of Prosecco lying about your bedroom, wondering how you ended up here again as you ‘didn’t drink the red wine’ so you should have been ok?! Now you’re confused and dazed, but right back into active addiction. Fuck. Time to claw yourself out of the void…. again.

Addiction is sneaky, it has no compassion, shows no remorse, it cares only about one thing and one thing only…. having complete control. It will do ANYTHING to get you there. It will whisper sweet nothings, lie to you, covertly attract you to people who support your alcoholism and convince you the rest are lying arseholes out to get you. Your addict brain is nothing short of a narcissist, out to control and conquer all of you to get you submissive and compliant. A parasite living inside you feeding off your hopes, dreams and fears and the worst part is we gave it the key to get in then left a spare under the doormat ‘just in case’

Separate yourself from your addict brain. It is not YOU. You are worth so much more than the lies you are being told. You can simply choose not to listen. Your brain is not YOU. your brain is complex, we think so many useless thoughts each day, have pointless make believe arguments with people, mull over destructive past behaviours, and for what? Learn to detach from the thoughts, they are just thoughts…. they only become a problem when you believe them and act on them. Choose your own narrative. And stick to that script.

You got this.

Playing it forward for sobriety

As I get ready, music playing, the smell of perfume, hairspray and the approaching good weather fill my room, the light hits my face and I see my reflection glowing. It’s a nice moment, my skin looks plumper, my eyes are whiter, my smile returned. I begin my ritual of getting ready for date night. I’ve picked out my dress and some sexy little boots, red lips to really seal the deal and the smell of steak cooking is wafting upstairs. I’m excited. I get to sit with the man I love, who’s made so much effort to make me happy, and we get to enjoy each other’s company- child free- for the evening. It’s perfect. I’m beyond happy.

Then, like a bolt out of the pit of temptation it comes. The little pin prick in my brain…
‘Ooh a glass of Prosecco would really make this perfect’
That pin prick bursts my bubble, I’m filled with a sense of dread. I can feel it consuming me like a dark cloud that’s infiltrated my soul. Luring me to surrender and accept that this is what I NEED. I try to push it away but it comes back with a vengeance.
Gut punching me into submission, I sit and look at myself again….My mouth is down turned, I look scared. What am I scared of?
Me.
I’m scared of me.
I’m scared that if I surrender and allow this feeling to win I’ll lose control. I’ll lose the evening, possibly my relationship, eventually my sanity and BOOM… there it is.

I decided to switch from the fantasy of a drink to my tried and tested reality. I ask myself ‘if I have a drink, what is likely to happen based on past experience’

It went a little something like this…

I’ll have a sip, the dry, sharp taste and bubbles will feel like a party in my mouth, but one sip will see me practically downing that first glass, then I’m playing the game of panic drinking, a game I’ve never won, a game of frantically topping my glass up if it gets anywhere near half full, drinking it as fast as I can in case it gets taken from me. Each mouthful becomes less pleasant, it’s now necessity rather than pleasure. My head gets fuzzy and my judgement is waning. I know I don’t have enough in the house, so, I drive (over the limit) to the shop that I could have walked to but that would have take WAY too long. I buy 3 more bottles ‘just in case’ then I return home. I begin downing glass after glass, no longer interested in enjoying the meal my lovely man has cooked, not appreciating the effort he’s gone to… not noticing the lit candles and clean dining room he’s spent time doing, not listening, not present. I begin to talk utter rubbish about heavy emotional past stuff, I’m now entering victim mode, a place I know so well and I know how to get maximum punching power behind every statement. I don’t notice the sadness and disappointment in his eyes. I don’t notice that he’s feeling second place, and the cold, hard, bubbly truth is – he is. That dark cloud is now running the show and Louise has left the building.
Next thing I wake up and it’s morning, I don’t know where I am, it’s noisy, it smells weird, my arm hurts. I prise my eyes open and I’m in a and e…. again. On suicide watch. Ffs. Nurses begin to notice I’m awake And are nudging each other at the nurses station, staring at me and looking irritated. I want to die. I can’t remember a thing. My head hurts, my body hurts, I’m trying to piece together what happened, but there’s nothing… just a black void where my memories should be. I search for my phone and when I find it there are no messages from my lovely man, but there are 36 attempts at me trying to call him at 3am. Each one ignored. A simple ‘go to sleep’ was the only response I had. No kisses. I feel ashamed, embarrassed, clueless, sad and I know I’ve messed up – again. I take myself out of hospital against advice and head home…. the house is wrecked, broken glass, cigarette burns on the carpet, ashtrays tipped up… so many wine bottles, I ask Alexa the time and she is on full volume…. more dread as I vaguely remember trying to ‘educate’ my man into listening to good music, Abd dancing while he watched on embarrassed and sad. Jesus. I must have looked a right state.
Looking down I see I’m wearing last nights clothes but my slippers?! I head to the mirror, makeup is tracked down my cheeks from crying. I call out for my man but he’s not there. No note, no missed call, no message. FK is it over? Does he hate me. Am I too broken? I’m a liability. Who would want THAT?! Then, here it comes, chest pains… I can’t breathe, the room is spinning… I can’t deal today! I find half a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge… ‘Fk it’ I think, my life’s a mess I can’t deal sober.
Down the hatch it goes, I stagger to my car and notice a dent in it. Ffs. How did that happen?
I get in anyway and head to the shop for more wine and cigarettes. It’s 7.30am.
I spend the next 3 days drinking in bed. I’ve alienated everyone and now I’m trapped in the pit of despair. I have to climb out. I have to try repair the damage I’ve caused… but not today. I’ll deal with it tomorrow…..

Suddenly, as I snap out of this ‘playing it forward’ scenario, I realise THAT is not what I want… all those things have happened. Fact. It’s not a fantasy like the one I’m creating about having a sophisticated glass of bubbly. They are cold hard facts based on events that have happened while I was drinking. Suddenly that glass of bubbly doesn’t seem so appealing. It’s about as appealing as a glass of vomit.

I brush my hair, my smile returns, the black cloud of temptation disappears and I walk down stairs, sober, confident, happy. I’m met with a kiss and I sit with my man, enjoying every moment. Not worrying about the next. Each mouthful of steak tastes divine, we hold hands across the table, we smile, we talk, we engage with each other, I listen, we laugh. My heart bursts with happiness. I go to bed before midnight, sober. I even take my makeup off, brush my teeth and do my skin care routine. I feel NORMAL. a fully functioning human.

Now THAT is worth more than any glass of wine can ever promise.

Treat wine like popcorn.

This is a piece I’ve written about addiction and our attitudes towards it. It is a bit long but hopefully makes for a good read 🥰

🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻💜💜💜💜🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

If you’re struggling, I know the thoughts well, just remember the issue is ALWAYS the first drink. If you can’t get through the day without obsessing over having a drink, I’m sorry but you have an unhealthy attachment to it. Accept that And surrender to the fact you cannot ‘just have one’

People who can only have one don’t mentally argue with themselves and bargain with themselves for hours over whether it’s acceptable to have a drink.

People who can enjoy a drink and just enjoy ONE drink, being able to take it or leave it, see it like we would buying popcorn at the cinema, for instance.

You don’t walk around everyday craving popcorn, joking about it, sharing memes about it, looking for excuses and people to go to the cinema with just to get your fix of popcorn, without really being interested in the film. You don’t start sneaking a bag into your shopping with a back up bag in case you run out. You don’t feel angry if a visitor asks for some when you’re sat enjoying it, then feeling that grip of panic that you just don’t have enough now.

When you go to the cinema, you go to watch a film, you go for fun and entertainment. You walk past the popcorn stand and then smell it, you think ooh yeah I fancy a box of that I’ll get one. You get one, you don’t feel guilty, you don’t obsess, you just get it. You enjoy it, you eat it, you’re able to share it. Then when it’s gone it’s gone.

You don’t obsess about it being nearly empty. You don’t get that tight grip of anxiety around your throat when you’re half way down the box, now not enjoying it because you know you need a refill. You don’t compulsively need more, then begin ploughing it in you to get to the bottom to give you the excuse to refill. You don’t then miss half the film going back and forth for popcorn and shovelling it in you as quick as you can. You don’t get more and more obnoxious with each bite ruining the film for everyone else. Then go back and repeat the same thing time after time blaming everything and everyone else.

Can you say the same for that first beer, first vodka or glass of wine? Can you see it like popcorn? Not something you crave but you enjoy it when you have it and when it’s gone you don’t think about it?

People with healthy drinking attitudes don’t NEED a drink. EVER. they don’t agonise. They don’t need a refill. The don’t choose drink over fun. They can have just as much fun without it as with it. If you can’t- you have an unhealthy relationship with it that you have to accept. Sadly this is the majority of people due to social conditioning and it’s addictive nature.

You can accept that IT controls you. You don’t have to be a full blown alcoholic to have an issue. It’s a spectrum.

You don’t have to own up to it, go to a meeting, you can begin to break this unhealthy habit by accepting that at times drink chooses for you. That you can’t say no. That you also can’t stop when you start or if you do it’s emotionally painful.

It takes more restraint to stop after one than it goes to just not have any. Accept it. Surrender to it. Address it. Start to say no until that becomes a habit, until you break that bond.

No one has a right to say you can never ever drink again. You are you. It’s no one else’s business. But you MUST be honest with yourself. When you cut your own crap and lies to yourself only then you’ll begin to break free from being controlled by alcohol.

It is not anything to be ashamed of. You do not have to call yourself out and declare to the world that you now can NEVER drink. It depends where you are on that spectrum. It depends on you. But the truth and responsibility start and end with you. No one can do it for you therefore no one can tell you how or what to do.

Truthfully, you will only become healthier in your attitude to addictions if you sit with yourself and accept the thing you have being trying not to face. Don’t be ashamed. You are one of many millions with the same problem, yet it is simply not spoken about in terms that make discussing an issue with alcohol normal.

Trust that, if millions of people are struggling with the same affliction no matter where they are on the spectrum- THAT is more normal than none drinkers or healthy drinkers, and that is a true pandemic. One that seriously needs addressing and improving.

We can only reverse the attitudes towards addiction if we stop seeing it as something that happens to weak people, if we accept that we can all fall prey to addiction. All adults are addicted to something. ALL. If you’re over weight you are addicted to food, you can’t say no to eating more than you need. If you can’t go a day without checking your phone- you’re addicted to that. Addiction is the Human condition of using something as a way to fill a void inside of us. A deep lack of something that we simply don’t know what it is that we are lacking.

I believe what we are lacking is a deep connection to our own truths. A need to fit into society has over ridden acceptance of self. So we push away our true selves and behave in a societally acceptable way. A way of division and pretence.

We lie to ourselves over and over each day. We forget who we are, what we individually like and what we truly want for ourselves. We are hollow.

We waste our lives trying to fill that void with instant gratification- then as humans we decide that’s societally not acceptable to struggle with addiction, so we shame those brave enough to admit it. Pushing them into the shadows. As our societally programmed egos don’t want us to wake up, as this shatters everything we think we are. It also shines a spot light on our own addictions, regardless of what they may be, and for most it’s just too scary to have to admit that some aspect of our pleasure seeking is out of control. This is because we have experienced the shaming of those who have. We do not want to belong to a group of people deemed as ‘addicts’, so, we pretend we’re ok, we push away those whom admit they are not and we go around in circles.

If we break the taboo on addiction and get to the root cause we will see that every single one of us is missing something. We are missing self love.

I welcome this period of solitude and I embrace it. I personally recommend using it to dig deeper, uncover and remove unhealthy habits. Form ones that nourish us and ignore the ignorant opinions if those who are still choosing to create a divide of ‘them and us’. Still walking around blind to their own misery. When we are ready the right guidance will come. You cannot force someone out of denial, you can simply be there when they are ready, with open arms and a loving heart.

If you want to break your addiction. Start with breaking yourself. Shed what you think you know and make decisions for yourself based on what YOU feel. Not what you think. Your mind has been lying to you, your intuition never does.

Stay strong.