something wonderful in recognising what I now know

 

swanpic

Gratitude to this swan for sharing her update.

 

So I’ve had an upsetting conversation with my 14 year old son this morning who chose the moment to say “well you were an alcoholic weren’t you?”
I know AA and for a lot of people they find this terminology fine and I’m not sure where or if there is a line drawn. However I don’t like labels this was my response in s message for my husband, two sons and my daughter …

As its been brought to my attention that not everyone is on the same page as me regarding my quitting the booze I want to discuss it with you. It’s fairly long but important to me so bare with me please.

Over the past 20 years on and off I have drunk alcohol. The quantity has increased as is the way of an addictive substance. What can start out as an odd glass can lead to more if it is what you are using as your crutch. People all over the world have different crutches to get through life especially at difficult times, some healthy, some can be unhealthy and often addictive, some legal and some not.

If you’re having a stressful day and go home to a tub of ice cream however it is not frowned upon despite sugar being more addictive than cocaine and a major killer. You are addicted to sugar, be it in your cola, chocolates, donuts or sweets you are not a sugarhollic. To give it up you would find the first week very tricky you would have headaches and feel crap.

If you light a cigarette as long as it’s outside you can smoke as many as you like you are not classed a nicotinehollic you are addicted to nicotine and people accept it. Again to give this addictive substance up is tricky and again there are side effects.

These are all legal addictive substances. Alcohol is another one. Over time if you take it regularly enough during stressful periods your body craves more of it.. Just like sugar and nicotine .. One is not enough… You need more of the substance to ease the craving.. One chocolate bar, one fag would not be enough if you were addicted to the substance.

Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it any less harmful. The government don’t want to ban or stop people from using it as they get too much money from these industries but they are no less addictive than heroine or cocaine some just suck you in faster. Why can some people have one glass of wine not more ? It’s the same as a person who can have one piece of chocolate or one cigarette .. The addictive substance hasn’t taken a full hold as they don’t have it regularly enough or use more than one crutch but it would if they did. Like coke and energy drinks once you’re sucked in it gets harder to have a day or two without it and you will get a headache and need to get it out of your system. The more you have the harder it gets.

Back to me. If I was to have a glass of wine now .. One glass would be enough but if I continued to have a glass of wine each day I would need more. I stopped because I was having a bottle of wine most days .. More if we had a party or with friends at weekends. I knew the stuff was going to grab me further and further and if I didn’t break the habit I would get worse and worse and not be able to work or function. I have friends who have gone that far and it’s sad to see what this addictive substance can do but I was lucky I recognised it and after a few attempts I moved it out of my system. It took about 7 days to get rid of it now it’s just the habit not the substance of going on holiday and to parties and not drinking that I’m learning to crack but I can honestly say I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. It makes me sad to see people using this substance but everybody has to learn themselves and those who have healthy crutches like exercise, sport may never need to find an alternative addictive crutch.

I hope this all makes sense and I wanted to say it how I feel as I don’t like labels and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve done anything short of something wonderful in recognising what I now know 😘😘

You are not stuck

 Grateful thanks for this post  from


LOVE YOURSELF ENOUGH

My dad drank Budweiser for breakfast and Chivas for lunch. Then he usually crashed by early evening, leaving me guessing what he would’ve had for dinner. I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t have been food.

I was daddy’s little girl and often wondered as a kid why he didn’t love us enough to stop drinking, especially when it seemed clear that was the root of so many of our family’s troubles.

When I asked that question (silently, of course), I didn’t necessarily think there was something wrong with me. I was a good kid, until the rebellious teenage years, anyway: doting, obedient, perfectionist. I wondered what was wrong with him. What inside his head made his addiction more important than family, than home, than life itself?

The older I got, and the more entrenched I became in my own drinking, the more I understood: Life is hard and drinking is easy. It smoothes the rough corners and edges. It insulates. It facilitates escape to softer place.

Until it doesn’t. And you don’t need to hit rock bottom to trust that fact. It’s an inevitable progression if not interrupted. (Don’t believe me? Just watch: http://bit.ly/1p3IA58)

My dad knew. I remember a time about 10 years ago, several years before he died, taking him to lunch and telling him about some recent anxiety, depression and panic attacks I’d had.

“Get it fixed,” he said, and went on to share his own battles with depression, which I’d never understood before. “Get it fixed now.”

All these years, I thought he meant fix the depression for the sake of fixing depression. I didn’t understand until just yesterday – with the insight of a remarkable therapist – that he was really telling to take the depression seriously enough so that it wouldn’t fuel the fire of addiction.

He wanted me to interrupt the progression so that I didn’t become like him.

It was a warning. He was trying to save me.

Those of us who struggle with addiction have to be willing to listen to the warnings – not just the voices that speak to us from the outside, but the faint voice INSIDE that finds the courage to speak up every now and then. We have to heed the signs.

Of course, those signs take many forms. They’re not all towering billboards… or can’t-miss neon… or come with flashing cherries.

Sometimes they’re subtle. They whisper. They’re relatively benign.
Like the time I sat in a new doctor’s office, filling out page after page of intake forms. I remember feeling too embarrassed to answer truthfully the questions: “Do you drink alcohol? If so, how many drinks per week?” (FYI, the gov’t considers more than three drinks on any single day or more than seven drinks in a week to be “heavy” drinking for women. For guys, it’s more than four drinks a day, or 14/week.)

That embarrassment was a sign.

Or the time, at the end of a particularly stressful day, that my 4-year-old asked me if I wanted a glass of wine “to feel better.” Or when my 6-year-old drew a picture of the family eating dinner and outlined everyone’s drink: “Daddy: water. Sister: milk. Mommy: wine.”

That was a sign.

Or the time that I nearly hit another car head on because I was driving under the influence. I shudder to think of how my selfishness nearly cost someone else something precious.

Another warning.

I tried for years to drink less. I made New Year’s resolutions. Wine on weekends only, I’d swear. Drinking allowed only with dinner. Last January, I challenged myself to no wine for 30 days; I made it three.

That inability to curb my desire in the moment – along with the knowing that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely to develop alcohol problems – was another sign. And it made me realize I needed a more drastic, permanent step.

I needed to stop modeling a pattern of behavior I didn’t want my kids to repeat, because I know what some youngsters do when they see their parents drink all the time. It’s monkey see, monkey do: They think a cocktail in hand ‘round the clock is completely normal because they have no reason to believe it’s not. (Only as a parent can I appreciate my poor mother’s horror the day I showed up at her house one weekday afternoon, 16 years old and wearing my Catholic schoolgirl uniform, with a cold longneck in hand.)

But that behavior – whether it’s a drink or a drug or a lay or any other distraction we use to escape reality – does more than just take the edge off. As Brené Brown writes in “Daring Greatly,” “We can’t selectively numb emotions. Numb the dark and you numb the light.”

And life’s too amazing to journey through it numb.

So I stopped.

In one breath, I decided.

I released the clutch on my crutch.

Because I love them enough. Most importantly, I love myself.
Now, in the past year of sobriety, I’ve been working on repatterning more than the consumption habits. I’m resetting what “normal” looks like – for me, but mostly for my beautiful daughters.

I want their normal to include the courage to work through the complicated situations head on, not to sidestep them with distractions.

I want them to learn to feel and process the full, exhilarating range of human emotions – joy and grief, excitement and boredom, having your wishes fulfilled and longing for more. It’s through the experience of that contrast that we appreciate the highs.

I want them to know that we can stumble and trip, fall and bleed, and still get up to walk, run and even fly again.

I want them to know that those moments of struggle can actually bring us to a state of grace, if we are clear-headed and filled with intent.

I have the intent… and I’m working toward the grace.

As the Zen saying goes: “No mud, no lotus.”

And as the late, great Leo Vollmer told me: “Get it fixed.”

And as I say: “Love yourself enough.”

xo, Becky

jump off your cliff and you will fly

Hello all, posting from my usual place on the sofa. We went to Guisborough Forest yesterday, walking along the Cleveland Way and it was glorious, despite the wind. We are starting to explore the North Yorkshire area even though we have lived around here nearly 18 months now and tended to stay nearer the house.

It’s really a caged bird syndrome that we both suffer from,or have done, where we have both been so stressed by various things that when leisure time comes along, we have still tended to hover near a safe place.

 

Yet I love walking and exploring further afield. As a drinker I used to walk/run/ride for hours the day after a drink binge, with the desire to fight off the hangover and prove I was functioning. Drink like a fish and still get up and behave perfectly normally the next day…what was the phrase, work hard,play hard…blah blah.

 

Then once the drinking was out of my life all the dire problems with money and self-esteem and other boring stuff raised their head and needed/need to be faced and that is why I think I have been very much a hermit at weekends and evenings, because the effort of ‘having fun’ was really a lot to manage when the stress of normal life seemed to overtake any chance of actually relaxing, without a drink. So one stays paralysed with fear.

 

It’s like being placed on the edge of a cliff and told, you will fly if you jump, but not quite believing it. Anyway, the upshot of this ramble is that if you are not doing so already, make yourself come out of your own particular stressed out cage and force yourself out there, and make yourself have some fun. Rediscover what it is that you love, or discover what you love now that may be different from before.

 

For me, relaxation and permission to have fun is the next stage of recovery, to come out of old routines which I created to protect me from stress, but which have become the extenders of stressors in many ways. Staying in is not the new going out! Not even sure if any of that makes sense, but I feel better for writing it, and thanks for listening.

Letter from my future self

Quill pen

Letter from my future self

Dear Binki

I want you to think about how you manage your behaviour, social life, and personal decisions so that you achieve the positive outcomes (contentment) you desire.

Everyone has positive and negative feelings about themselves and others, and I would like you to spend time on more accurately identifying your emotions as they arise, and being able to separate out the ones that are useful to you, that get things done and resolved, and those that simply perpetuate situations which are not helpful to you. I want you to be more in tune with how you think and feel and know when you are being self-destructive, and be able to do something to offset that. Acting in an irrational manner and being counter-productive to what you really want can be nipped in the bud if you spend more time managing your feelings at particularly stressful times.

I would like you to develop a wider vocabulary to describe how you are feeling, rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and be more specific in your word choices, so you get a deeper insight into exactly what is going on when the anxiety strikes, what is causing it and then what you need to do about it. Rather than think, ‘I am feeling terrible’, be able to say specifically what that ‘terrible’ means, and work through how it can be alleviated.

I like the fact that you are curious about what is going on around you and I want you to develop that curiosity and continue to write about it and explore how it feels to be in others’ shoes. I like the fact that you are open to change and able to think on your feet, and that you understand that to avoid change is to avoid potentially life changing opportunities.  Having a plan to deal with change is also a good idea, but don’t let it become anxiety about change, because change can be healthy and welcome. So when you feel anxiety about change developing, again do some work to specifically identify your true feelings and what is going on behind what is essentially fear.

I am so happy you are starting to understand more about your strengths and weaknesses, now you are free of the numbing potion.  You are starting to learn what people and situations push your buttons, either to help you succeed and motivate you, or which drag you down, or which send you into hyperspace.  As you learn more about yourself I want you to use your knowledge to help you succeed and stop behaviours happening that used to hold you back because they were ultimately self-destructive.

You have not always been a good judge of character and in the past this has led you into poor decisions, based on what you wanted people to be rather than what they were, or were doing.  You are learning to ‘read’ people more accurately and to be decisive about who you spend your time with, and there is less mystery around people for you.  I want you to keep developing this reading of people, this nose, and make it work for you not against you. Be open minded, but have your boundaries in place.  You are getting better at setting boundaries; you just need to work on being more in control of your emotions when you state these boundaries.

Many times you have got yourself offended by things people have done and said and then a spiral of behaviours develop in yourself and others, which are not helpful to you.  I want you to spend less time being offended by others, because it is a waste of your energy, and to further develop your self-confidence and open mindedness, so you can move on quickly from situations without them escalating emotionally.  You are getting much better at keeping negative emotions out of discussions than you used to be, and I want you to continue your work on this.  I also want you to consciously use humour to draw a line, and to know when to use humour to diffuse. You are becoming more difficult to offend and I want this process to continue.

Becoming better at emotion control is a central aim for you.  Learning more about delaying self-gratification and not acting impulsively to gratify are key aims for you to work on.  Developing strategies for making yourself wait, think and identify your true emotions is going to pay dividends in terms of your health and wellbeing. Being able to delay gratification will improve your levels of anxiety, guilt, shame, and even the depression which creeps up on you from time to time. This can also involve learning to say no more often, whether to yourself, or to others.  Using ‘I don’t think’, ‘I’m not certain’, ‘I will have to think about it’, are all get out clauses which you should work on eliminating when a straightforward no is in order.

You make mistakes, just like everyone else.  Show me a person who hasn’t made mistakes…I want you to focus on forgiving yourself for your mistakes, even though you must learn from them.  Mistakes are very handy as learning tools, but stop dwelling on them and ruminating about what ifs.  They are done, so move on, and change how you do things next time.  Mistakes are chances to self-improve and be a better person. You fall down, you get up and keep on walking forward.

I enjoy the fact that you like to work on behalf of others, I like that about you and want it to continue.  It gives me deep satisfaction you are able to help, without thinking of anything in return.  I like the fact that you remember stuff about people and it gives them and you pleasure to know you have listened and understood.  I like the fact that building relationships and being responsive is important to you and you are good at it.  Keep up the good work.  However I also think that you need to give yourself time to be alone even when you feel obligated to be with others.

Sometimes you have a tendency to hold grudges.  You sometimes think of your decision to hold grudges as strength but actually it is a stress response and will do you no good.  Thinking about grudges generates stress responses of fight or flight, and the survival mode that was so much a feature of your past life – those rolling stone days are over.  Holding on makes you poorly and has to stop.  Let go of the grudge and forgive and move on. Work on this consciously when you feel the stress rising. Identify the specific emotions, understand why they are happening, and deal with them.

It is hard to be kind and generous when dealing with frustrating and difficult people, no denying that!  It is even more important in these circumstances to be in control of your feelings.  Rational thought and behaviour is the most effective way to neutralise a toxic person.  I want you to practise not letting your own emotions fuel chaos.  Think carefully about others’ points of view, even if you don’t agree, and try to find common ground rather than going off the deep end or joining in an emotion fuelled discussion.  Remember rational. Take people with a grain of salt, as they say, and just because they continue their behaviour, it doesn’t mean you have to follow or participate.

One of the things you are struggling with is the need to feel perfect.  To know that everything is as it should be.  Life is never going to be like that.  Not having the state of perfection will always make you feel like you are fighting off failure, and in the end that can make you want to give up.  You do what you do in the best way you can and as long as you are trying, you have nothing to reproach yourself for.  I want you to stop lamenting what you have not achieved and focus more actively on what you have.  Repeat this process often.  Think of what you are going to achieve and how exciting that will be.  Move forward with your new knowledge.

You have already found that gratitude is a hugely inspiring and liberating emotion. Practising gratitude actively is a new skill you have learned since getting sober. It makes you feel better to remember all the good stuff and be happy for that.  Keep doing this!

I want you to consider switching off.  This doesn’t mean running away, but it does mean spending less time tuned in.  When you are available all the time and constantly checking to see if you are needed, your stress levels never get a chance to dip.  I want you to make a conscious effort to spend less time online and allow the flow to happen without you.  It will anyway.  You are dispensable, trust me on that.  Write your stories, explore your ideas, draw your pictures, work in your garden, and give the internet, email, and your phone, less of your time. You have known you have an addiction to social media for some time, and I want you to address this, for your own wellbeing. The caffeine habit runs alongside the internet habit, and that needs to be addressed too.  Life will feel easier as a result.

Sleep has been an issue for you for some time and without doubt this is linked to all of the above.  When you operate with constant sleep deprivation, you have less chance of being clear headed and being able to control your emotions.  So I want you to really focus on what makes quality sleep and work out some goals for achieving better sleep.  I also want you to make time for resting, where your diary is clear and you simply rest. You are getting quite good at meditating and I want you to develop this skill because you feel so much better for it afterwards.

One of your greatest enemies is the negative self-talk which has the power to stop you in your tracks and bring you down. It is so important to remember this type of behaviour is based on emotion, not fact.  The scenarios you panic about almost never happen! I want you to focus on your panic thoughts when they happen and talk yourself free, even if you have to stop certain commitments and activities at the time to do this.  Don’t just dismiss the thoughts in the hope that they go away…bring them up for examination and sort them out, rather than allowing rumination to develop.

Being reliant on what other people say to you and about you is never going to bring you the contentment you are seeking.  Where this is the case you will always be at the mercy of others’ feelings and opinions.  That is a very stressful and hurtful place to be, much of the time.  It brings an adrenalin high to be told something wonderful by someone else, of course, but that feeling can be as addictive as alcohol, and to depend on the comments of others is going to leave you stuck.  It is time to stop striving for the top spot in the approval stakes.  It is time to find your inner strength and rely on what you think of yourself, not depend on the words of others. Kind words are a bonus, but not your reason for getting up in the morning.

I will write to you again in another six months Binki, but in the meantime, look after yourself, and I mean that in all the ways mentioned above.

I own nothing except myself

 

rainbow

Hello, and hello Saturday! Another beautiful morning, and I am in the habit at the moment of getting up and just looking at the view,doing some writing, watching a bit of daftness on the telly, and just enjoying being alive, healthy and free.

 

I am only a month away each month from absolute zero in the bank and all that infers, I own nothing of any consequence,I live in someone else’s house, I have no children, a tiny to often non existent social life, I have limited family relationships and am pretty much knackered out by my job, but you know what, I am sober and free and that means everything to me, to have this control over my heath and wellbeing.

 

None of us have a perfect life and many of us are suffering with outside influences, but how we choose to define ourselves and the positive slant we give to our survival from alcohol is so important. So when I look at the view at five in the morning and feel the warmth of my little dog cuddled in beside me, I feel amazing. Hope you experience contentment today and tomorrow.

The art of being non-judgmental

andrea-main-summary.jpg

Andrea, 30, is currently training as a nurse and lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

I first discovered mindfulness in 2010, in the aftermath of an episode of severe depression. I have had mental health problems since I was a teenager, although I experienced a long period of being well in the latter years of my time at university. However, after I finished my degree, I was faced with huge life stresses like job and money worries, as well as family issues. I couldn’t cope and as a result, I developed severe anxiety which eventually led to my depression. Further down the line, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which explained my experience of incredibly intense and distressing emotions. It was during this time that I began to read widely about depression and mental health. I was particularly attracted to a book on mindfulness, as it was genuinely different from anything I had ever read before.

As I read more about mindfulness, several aspects of the practice stood out. The first was the focus on being non-judgmental – I am pretty hard on myself, so it felt like mindfulness gave me ‘permission’ to treat myself a bit more kindly. I was also comforted by the fact that you can’t do mindfulness ‘wrong’ so there was no danger of me ‘failing’ at it. I was also struck by the focus on the present moment – I’ve had very difficult childhood experiences and often anxiously worry about the future, so the idea that the ‘present’ was the only thing that was real, was liberating.

Mindfulness is one of those things you actually have to experience to understand. There are a lot of misconceptions about mindfulness – for example, that it’s a tool with the aim of decreasing anxiety or inducing relaxation. That’s not it at all – mindfulness is about accepting your present experience, just as it is, whether that’s good, bad or neutral. Reduced anxiety or relaxation may happen, or it may not; learning to accept life’s experiences and emotions is the true value of mindfulness. You could be experiencing some pretty awful emotions during the practice but mindfulness will allow you to manage them more effectively.

The philosophy that underpins mindfulness has led to a major change in my entire worldview. The simple truth that everything changes in life has made it easier for me to cope with the huge anxiety that comes from uncertainty. The ability to be non-judgmental when my mind wandered was an initial foray into the world of self-compassion; this slowly led to an erosion of the feelings of self-loathing which I’ve had since I was a child. The core practice – an awareness of the present moment – allows me to cope with my fluctuating emotional state. It has also meant that I have been able to stop using self-harm as a coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions as they arise.

The benefits of mindfulness have also led to a change in career – I worked previously as a data analyst and an administrator, but now I am a second year student nurse. I couldn’t have imagined ever becoming a nurse, but having the space to experience my own intense emotions has unexpectedly led to being able to handle the emotions of other people without getting distressed myself. A busy ward is actually the perfect place to practice mindfulness – I use it more in action than in formal sitting meditation these days. It also helps me manage the anxiety that comes with being a student. When things get stressful, it’s often helpful to just pause for a moment and simply ‘be’ where I am.

Mindfulness is not a cure-all; I don’t think that is the point. The huge challenges that living with borderline Personality disorder and anxiety present can sometimes mean that I’m simply too distressed to practice mindfulness, and may need to rely on other ways to cope. But I find mindfulness extremely useful as a way of living, and as a way of being. I’m just so glad that I
gave it a chance.

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For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we are focusing on mindfulness. Find out more about mindfulness, how you can get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week and locate events taking place in your area and using our activity map. Have a great #MHAW15!

my simple AF (alcohol free) pleasures

From a member of the swan network – thank you, Binki xxx

My simple AF pleasures.

– Singing really loudly in the car.
– Afternoon naps.
– Climbing into a freshly changed bed.
– Choosing pampering bath products.
– My sons quirky sense of humour.
– Chocolate and midget gems.
– Being chatted up by a customer at work (compete swamp-donkey but it still counts!).
– Watching the sparrows in my bird bath.
– My work colleague (77 year old cleaner), in all innocence, announcing that she’s sorted out her back passage and just has her front entrance to do!
– Being part of this amazing group.
xxxxx

If you don’t mind Facebook and would like the support of like minded people who choose to live life without alcohol, please friend Binki Laidler and she will add you to the secret group.