Every day we are faced with a multitude of choice points. The points where you decide which road you are going to take and its consequences.
Most days for me start with “What time do I get out bed?” and the consequences of, “If I choose the later time will I be late for work/ whatever”, on to, “Shall I wash my hair or can I get away with another day”, (with my fine hair it’s usually a, “No! Do it!”), and then the plethora of other choices we make during the day before we hit our pillows again.
All the years I was drunk, I didn’t even realize I had a choice. I thought drink had chosen me, that my alcoholism was the result of an unfortunate game of Russian Roulette in which I had spectacularly lost and that I just had to accept it, painful and desperate though that thinking was.
I remember crying tears of despair knowing that I would have given my eyesight to be the mother my beautiful boy deserved, that a physically disabled mother would have been better than the alcoholic one he had.
And honestly, that thinking was almost the entire reason I stayed in a trap of my own creation for almost 28 years. I had abdicated responsibility for my choices to a bottle of bloody vodka. A liquid that couldn’t speak, buy itself, open its lid and finally leap down my throat. I mean WTF! I actually believed that alcoholism had chosen me and that I just had to accept it.
Now I know differently, and here’s the thing about choice. It is the greatest gift we have as humans, our greatest cognitive skill. It offers ALL opportunities for change if we just own it.
From the day I understood that I had a choice, I was free from my drinking. From the day I understood that I chose what I ate and drank, regardless of the fears of the how I would live/cope/be without alcohol, those fears evaporated in front of my very eyes.
I allowed my fears in and they were like mists parting around me, I walked through them and they didn’t touch me! How could they, they were simply thoughts and memories, painful and difficult though some were, which I had a choice to either act on or ignore. Yes I felt unsteady and unsure, of course I did, I had used alcohol as a crutch for over half my life. I had used booze to protect me from pain even though it had become an even greater source of pain, and still I had felt I had no choice.
But I didn’t let that unsteadiness or any uncertainty of how I would cope affect my sober choice. And every time I stuck to my choice, guess what? I grew stronger, more resilient, and prouder of myself and, at exactly the same time, my fears weakened into a state where they could be acknowledged, comforted and understood, making my sober choice even easier. It will be the same for you, I promise x
The most empowering choice we have is our ability to chose who we want to be and how we want to feel. Make that one choice and all other choices fall into line to support it. Do you want to be slim? Choose to be slim and your food choices will follow. Do you want to be sober? Choose sober and your drink choices will follow.
If making one overriding choice feel too big for you right now, too ‘for ever’, make smaller ones consistently. Choose each day who you want to be, how you want to feel, and your choices to support it will fall into line.
When an old feeling of, “How will I cope in a stressful situation, when I am bored, lonely, out of my depth”, when you remember the pain of a broken childhood, heart, whatever your trigger is, comes, STOP. Pause. Breath deeply, fill your lungs. Hug yourself and remind yourself of who you want to be. Who you really are.
Let the feelings come and let them drift right on by. They will, all feelings do. And if sometimes unhappy feelings take longer to pass than you would like, be kind and gentle with yourself and know, with 100% certainty that all feelings are just thoughts that eddy and flow through our minds, that they are not physical and that you don’t have to react to them unless you to choose too.
To help you out, I want you to remember a really happy time, one that makes your heart sing.
Mine is my son jumping in to my arms when he was four, in our local swimming pool screaming ‘Geronimo’ as I taught him to swim. Even typing this makes me smile and shifts my ‘It’s too bloody hot in my office and I need to get out’ feeling”.
Take your heart singing moment and hold it tight. Step into it, feel it, hear it, see it and feel your body and energy literally shift to a happier place. Then make your choice.
My final words on the subject of choice are very important.
Your choice is not determined by anyone else’s view of us, your choice is determined by YOU.
You will often find yourself in situations in life that you cannot control, probably daily. These are external situations. However, only you can choose how you react to them, these are internals responses. Own that.
Stop saying to yourself, “He did/She did. He makes me feel/She makes me feel/I need it to cope/I need it to relax” and all the rest. When you own your responses and so your choices, everything, literally everything is yours for the taking. I promise you x
To find out more about my journey from alcoholism to peaceful sobriety, check out my book This Isn’t Me page.
To find out more me and working with me, check out my About Sonia and How I Work For You, pages. In fact, take a wander throughout my website, my aim to is to bring you the transformation I love every day x
It’s 6 am and I am up and out in the garden with my Gorby Girl and a huge cup of green tea. I would like to tell you I am in my daily sober zen zone, that I have stretched and meditated, and am calm and focused on the day ahead. Except I am not. My puppy is running around barking at frogs, I have just spilt tea on my leg (it really hurts) and I am emotionally gearing myself up for a visit from one of my gorgeous brother’s who drinks like a fish. Happy Saturday!
Now as a formerly (drunk) mother, you may think that I shall be employing some form of majestic, iron clad willpower to resist the tidal wave of booze that is coming my way this afternoon. That I must be putting my emotionally protective soldiers in place, bayonets ready, to ward off any temptation. Maybe planning out my strategies and the conversations I might need to employ to stay in my sober zone. None of those are true.
I have willpower, an abundance of the stuff in fact, but I never utilize it to not drink. I don’t need to.
We only need willpower to resist doing what we desire, the things we do want to do, not the things we truly don’t. And because of our desire, it is the hardest, least successful method of long term change.
Last week was tough for me on a number of levels. I won’t bore you with details, but it ground me down and certain events caused me a great deal of emotional upset. For me, drink is off the table. It’s just not an option. There is no desire. Been there, done that, nearly killed myself, so no thanks. Cheesecake however holds center place. I think for the last 5 days out of 7, I have bought cheesecake to comfort myself. And on some levels it has.
We wouldn’t eat the crap, drink the booze if there was no sense of comfort gained, temporary though it only ever is.
However last night I went shopping and didn’t buy the cheesecake. I saw it, still wanted it and an inner tussle ensued. This time though I employed my PAUSE and in that pause, before my willpower was called into action, I re-thought the ‘why’ of my ‘need’ for cheesecake I understood and acknowledged the ’emptiness’ I was trying to fill, and let the thoughts of cheesecake drift away. Great stuff. I left the shop contented, in peace and went home happy.
However, had I actually allowed myself to enter into the internal dialogue, the fight of should I/shouldn’t I, the self-justifications versus the recriminations, I might have been able to walk away with my willpower coming out on top (doubt it though). But how would I have felt? Triumphant, yes (over ignoring a cheesecake……..!), but also exhausted, probably on some inner level upset that I was missing out and definitely fearing the next time I would have to employ my weary willpower.
But by recognizing my thinking of what I expected from this over sweet, processed sugar fest, by asking myself what I actually needed emotionally, by acknowledging how I was feeling and giving myself an emotional cuddle – I have even got into the habit of putting my arms round myself wherever I am and whenever I need it – I was able to let go of my desire, my ‘cheesecake want’ and move on without even asking my willpower to join my unhappy inner party.
At the risk of repeating myself, which I will because this point is so important, we only need to use willpower against something we desire.
Understand and acknowledge the emotional ‘why’ of your wants and desire is lessened, making choice much easier because you no longer feel you are missing out on anything. And when you truly feel you are not missing out, desire simply drifts away and willpower becomes redundant
Initially, in tougher time, at least to start with, desire may well come back, maybe in a different form, but the same strategy of understanding and acknowledging does work and you will build your truly comforting resilience muscle. So much more effective than any willpower.
So, this afternoon I will have my lovely, kind, funny and no doubt very drunk brother to stay. He will come back from the pub with my son – God help my precious boy – where he will, no doubt, have honoured our Irish heritage with a few ill thought out ditties before stumbling back here with vodka.
I will be sitting serene(ish) in my garden with my tonic water, struggling to understand his anecdotes. My willpower though unemployed in that moment, will be fiercely called upon tomorrow morning, as I am already weary with the knowledge that I will have to get out of bed and walk Gorby at 6am on a Sunday morning after only 4 hours sleep.
Love & respect
If you would like to know more about my journey to sobriety, check out my memoir, This Isn’t Me.
To understand how I help clients, take a look at my Working with Me page, and Practical Techniques for Recovery page.
Or join the Breakthrough Community Newsletter for regular updates and support
9am. Today is the day you won’t have that glass of wine at ‘Wine O’Clock’, usually a loosely acceptable 6pm. Maybe you drank too much last night. Maybe your waistband has more of a bite to it then the expected nibble. Only you know – although you may also have the creeping dread that others might also know too after last night……. Anyhoo. Today’s the day. No more booze.
11am. Nope, still not drinking tonight. Feeling better, a few strong coffees inside you, maybe a pastry to replace the lost carbs, a nice little sugar spike to lift you up. Better still, you were really on it this morning and ate something that has actually benefited you, think eggs or porridge. Whatever, your resolve is strong.
4pm. God you’re tired/bored/fed up, or even had a great day. For good or bad, a glass of wine is in order. You need and/or deserve it and, “What the heck, you don’t have a problem with alcohol and you’re only going to have the one (thankfully a bucket sized one with your new on-trend wine glasses….)
Sounding a depressingly familiar cycle? It was mine.
So, where has your resolve gone? The fact is that, even though you don’t articulate or acknowledge the thoughts, you feel you have no choice but to drink.
All the self-justifications you come up with are designed to hide the fact that wine has started to control you. Your ‘good reasons’ for drinking are trying to protect you from a knowledge that will cause you pain. It’s not you, it’s how our brains work.
Breaking News! Even if this cycle happens every day, you can change your drinking, and simply, when you understand how.
There is always a space, a pause, between your ‘I need a drink’ hijacked thoughts and the physical act of picking up the bottle, pouring a glass and then drinking it, and in that pause is immense power.
In that pause is who we want to be, the non-drinker in control of our actions, the more engaged parent and partner, with healthier self-esteem, self-respect and a looser waistband. In that pause is US.
Pausing before taking action changes everything, instantly.
I remember on the few occasions I was able to not drink, that I used the pause. I didn’t know it then, it came as one of my insights, but it resonates completely now and it works.
The truth is that I couldn’t have stopped my drink cycle once the bottle, not even the glass was in my hand, but I could stop before I picked up the bottle.
I could, and did, for some reason and out of nowhere, take a few deep breathes, remember through the storm clouds of my addictive thinking, who I wanted to be, acknowledge the damage my drinking was causing and understand completely that it would only make everything worse. I could even, and this is probably the most powerful part, grasp a glimpse of who I really was. And I could, in that moment, in that pause, not pick up the bottle.
Yes, I always felt shaky afterwards, but shaky with relief, not desire for alcohol. I clearly remember my watery, tearful smile of truimph in the mirror, but I didn’t understand what emotional acrobatics had taken place. And, as usual, the not knowing, meant not understanding and so I couldn’t move forward and repeat the cycle. I had no insight and no awareness. I do now.
Practice Your PAUSE
The next time the thoughts of “I need a drink” come. PAUSE. Ask yourself, “Why do I need a drink?”
Before you mindlessly reach for the bottle, the glass. PAUSE. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I do drink?” and “What will happen if I don’t?”
Recognise your thoughts for what they are. Yes, they are, for now, a habit, a repeated behaviour but you have the choice to act on them or not. They have no physical expression unless you give it to them. PAUSE
Recognise that the feelings/emotions you want to avoid, will pass. You know they do. They always do. PAUSE
Then breathe slowly and deeply, still your mind, let your thoughts drift to a beach, a sunny day, your children laughing, whatever makes you happy. This will change your emotional state. Hug yourself in comfort if necessary and remember who you really are, not how repeating your habit makes you feel. PAUSE, then act.
The pause allows you to think clearly, it allows you to see the urge for what it is and the reality of what it offers. In seeing your urges for what they are, simply thoughts, they become weaker, you become stronger and you will be free x
As with any new practice, PAUSING may feel strange, but it will also feel empowering. It does work and every successful pause makes the next one easier.
Love & respect
If you would like to know how I help clients, check out my Working With Me page.
If you want to know a little more about how I overcame 27 years of alcoholism, take a look at my book, This Isn’t Me
Click here for my Breakthrough Mentor Newsletter
When I stopped drinking, one of the first things that I realized was that I had no level of self-care – or self-love, or self-respect. Actually, thinking about it now, I had no sense of ‘self’ at all.
Thankfully I learn quick – for good and for bad it seems – and I understood that to give myself the best chance of being the person I wanted to be and to be strong in my recovery, I had to put in place the ‘self’ bits that were missing. Self-care, as it turned out was the easiest, and with just a little of an emotional cuddle in place, my recovery bounded ahead.
I became the most important person in my life, selfish as that may sound. My eating came first, my rest, my emotional comfort – for that I mean removing myself from stressful situations/people at first, and then later, as my sober muscle grew stronger, understanding how to re-frame the situations/people in a more compassionate light, and owning my own responsibility for my behavior and responses.
Grab that wine? My choice.
Getting angry/stressed and using it as a reason to drink? My choice. And all the rest of ‘my choices’.
Learning and acting on the loving art of self-care changed everything. Literally and painlessly.
It taught me I deserved more and so I gave me more and so I became more.
High five me, but how what did I do? Recently I delivered a talk called, You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup to a group of ladies who are struggling with their unhappy drinking habits. It went down a storm because it resonated so well with my audience, and so rather than to try and re-invent the wheel, this is it, along with my top tips for self-care.
“This is my big cup that I pour from every day. It is not full of water, tea or alcohol (thank goodness), it is full of my energy. From this cup each day I pour my energy into smaller cups, my work, my home, my life. 90% of the time, no matter how much I pour out each day, after a good night’s sleep, it is miraculously full of energy again. No-one can pour energy into my big cup, it is something that comes from within me. We all have these cups, at the moment you are pouring from your big cup into one of my smaller ones as you listen to me.
Every now and again though my cup doesn’t miraculously refill. Life constantly throws unexpected challenges and curve balls at us and depending on what are priorities are at any time, they can empty our big cup pretty quickly. Recently I have had to make some hard decisions about situations beyond my control and whilst I am completely comfortable and at peace with the decisions I made, my miracle cup still drained away.
Two weeks ago I went to a meeting where someone took photos, In most of them I was smiling and ‘being Sonia’, but in one that I was unaware of , I saw a drained, tired devastated woman completely depleted of everything. I cried for her and said “enough”, my cup was empty, I had nothing left to pour.
I cancelled or rescheduled all my meetings with total honesty and went away for four days. I took myself and my empty cup to Devon, I walked for miles, took in the scenery, ate properly, slept properly, made a commitment to myself to check in with business twice a day not before 9 and not after 6. Turned my devices off allowed myself to accept how I was feeling, went through the process and slowly refilled my cup. I came home still sad, the situations that had drained me were still present and my cup wasn’t full, but it was slowly refilling itself and I was ready to start pouring again.
I call this self-care –and is the complete opposite of what most woman do in times of stress both at work and home.
As woman we seem to be conditioned to think that in order to be “good enough” we must put everyone else’s needs first. When challenges come what do we do? Most of us batten down the hatches, isolate ourselves emotionally and just push on,. We do the exact opposite of what we actually need. And at what cost.
Tired and irritable, who suffers? Children, partners? Then we feel worse for being snappy.
Poor sleep and not making enough time to eat? What suffers? Our concentration, productivity? And again we feel bad. Horrible cycles!
Every bit of self-care we give to ourselves we get back in all our important relationships, whether they are family or work or whatever/whoever matters most to us.
So, these are my practices for my self-care. Mine won’t work for everyone, we are all wonderfully individual, but these definitely added in my recovery. And, if they are not for you, please because you deserve to care for yourself and to be your best you, find some that do.
Top 10 Self-Care Tips
- First of all I tell myself every day I am good enough. I am good enough for my son, my loved ones, my clients and most importantly myself. We are all good enough, acknowledge that truth of that and the next steps become easier because you know you are deserving of self care.
- Ask for help before you becomes the crisis. People can’t guess what you need. Ask yourself, what help could I ask for now that would make the most difference to me? Working to a deadline, maybe your child’s friends mum could pick up your child as well that day. Dry cleaning pick up, maybe a neighbour goes regularly into town? Help with preparing a document? ask someone who enjoys that aspect of work, they also get to show off their expertise. People like to help. Be clear and kind in your asking.
- Let go of control. If you ask someone to wash up, or change the sheets or run a presentation for you, don’t look at it critically if it is not done your way – people are not robots that can replicate you. Don’t be irritated and feel it has to be done again. That builds resentment in you and will make the one who tried to help feel useless and less inclined to offer in future.
- Routine, our bodies crave routine, it stabilises and reassures us. We run on the circadian rhythm, so for instance when we fly through different time zones, our sleep is disrupted and it can take a few days to recalibrate. Eat regularly, drink regularly. Make these non-negotiable. Our bodies our our greatest asset and will do everything in their power to support us both mentally and physically if we fuel them properly.
- Even in the midst of the most challenging situations, set aside 10 minutes in the morning to have a quiet cup of tea and breathe deeply. No work, no emails, just you, tea and deep breaths. Get up earlier if necessary. Set yourself up for your day.
- Don’t check work after 8pm. set automatic responses if necessary. What will it achieve to read that a client is complaining? A delivery not received? You can’t do anything about it until the morning and it will upset you and disrupt your sleep.
- Sleep well – go to bed a little earlier and get the restorative sleep you need.
- Switch off all unnecessary stimulus in the evening an hour before bed Try a jigsaw, adult colouring book – I am so rock and roll these days – try baking anything creative. Light candles, listen to music, and take a lovely bath. Do something just for you and again make this time absolutely non-negotiable.
- Learn to say no with confidence and love. Don’t agree to anything out of guilt or obligation, again you risk the chance of becoming resentful and further overstretched. People may not like it to start with, but they will learn to respect your needs and will stop asking.
- Acknowledge how you are feeling. Don’t try to damp the feelings down. Feeling overwhelmed, say so, feeling unloved, tell someone, feeling unfairly pressured? Speak it out loud. Once we have articulated how we feel, these feelings have less power over of us. I told myself when I was away, I am so sad, my house is not a home anymore (my home life is everything to me). Once I said those things out loud though, my natural resourcefulness kicked in and I started to view the situation differently. I even laughed at myself, completely alone, I must have looked crazy!
The more we care for ourselves the more we are able to care for others. The more I pour into my own cup, the more I can pour out to those who I need and who need me.
Everyone suffers when my cup is empty and I see them wilting through thirst. That hurts me personally and affects me professionally. So to me self-care is not a luxury or selfish, it is an absolutely vital part of my life.”
Please lovely, put yourself FIRST, put in place YOUR self-care, no-one else can do it for you, and always and forever, please, please….
And if you are still struggling in your LIFE that feels so much less than it should be, message me, and lets talk….you will only stay trapped, fearful and alone in who you are, and what you do until you reach out and learn a new way of living that breathes with you…
Be kind and gentle with yourself
If you would like to understand more about my journey from 28 years of alcoholism, to peaceful freedom, take a look at my internationally acclaimed book, This Isn’t Me, described by Ranvir Singh, of Good Morning Britain as “Beautiful and devastating” (click on the link HERE).
Last week’s blog on our road trip to Sobriety, was about the powerful and pervasive social conditioning around alcohol. About the ‘why’ so many of us rush towards the ‘joy’s’ of drinking at each and every opportunity.
Of what we are conditioned to feel that alcohol brings to our otherwise overstressed, time poor, slightly dull little lives. Of how it will lift us up (when in reality it has smashed us down), and how much more bright and shiny our world will be when it is running through our veins. I am going to make a wild guess here though and assume that as you are reading this blog, it has been a while since you have basked in any sort of golden alcohol glow.
Knowing you want to stop or cut down on your drinking, and seeing as you are taking the time to read my words, what is stopping you from putting down the bottle, and what are you looking for in this blog?
I know the answer to the first, and I hope in you accepting my response, I will start to answer the second. Remember, to get the best from what I offer to you, you must read these blogs with an open mind.
Ok, on top of the insanely dangerous social conditioning that sets our booze waggon rolling, it’s the emotions, the feelings (and the power that we give them), that we attribute to alcohol and it’s place in our lives, that takes the damn brakes off and sends us careening into the paralysis of our drinking (paralysed is the perfect word here, otherwise we would make the changes easily).
But let’s keep it real, alcohol wasn’t always a curse in our lives. At some point in our drinking history, booze was fun. It had to be otherwise we wouldn’t have stuck with it!
It did give us a confidence boost, it has made a dull evening brighter, a boring companion tolerable, a tough time easier- it has lived up to all its promises. Temporarily. And then it hasn’t. And we know it hasn’t, we can see its failure staring back at us in the mirror. So why do we seem to focus on the more distant past ‘good times’ as opposed to the more recent (excuse me) shit storms?
Why are we not put off drinking wine at the end of the day by the fact we know it worries and depresses us, disrupts our sleep, causes the hated ‘wine waist’, makes us irritable, upsets our precious children, husbands/pets…..even my dog didn’t like me drinking?
The answer lies in our Unconscious Mind. In our thinking. I am not going to get all spiritual on you (or me), it’s not my thing, but I do now understand the supreme power of our thoughts.
Our Unconscious Mind cannot see or hear and does not understand logic. It is responsible for keeping us alive and safe. It regulates our breathing and body temperature. It tells us when to sleep and eat, when to run from danger. And it is our profound memory keeper. It stores all our memories, those that we consciously remember and those that we don’t. All our happy times and all our unhappy ones.
It randomly stockpiles all our memories and then throws up to us, in times of perceived stress and unhappiness, what it ‘remembers’ has alleviated our pain in the past, and for those of us who struggle with drinking, it is alcohol that it remembers and it is alcohol that is thrown up to ‘save’ us.
In fact, that is exactly where the struggle comes from. If our Unconscious Mind didn’t hold on to the memory that alcohol has offered us some solace in the past, that we had felt better/safer/happier when we had a drink in our hand and down our throat, it wouldn’t even come into our thinking! Read that again, it is both powerful and true.
In the present, even though alcohol no longer offers us any support and is the cause of our pain, our Unconscious Mind doesn’t recognise that fact because not only does it not see or hear, it cannot process negatives! It cannot acknowledge our desperate conscious thoughts of “I don’t want to drink”, it deletes the “I don’t want to” bit, feels the desperation and is left with one word, DRINK!
So, when our Unconscious Mind senses our anticipation of pain, of our expected inability to cope, our despair, and, in its best attempt to comfort us in the moment, it sends us booze. Then, when we try to deny our Unconcious Mind’s attempt to comfort us, our anxiety and upset increases and brain starts to bloody scream “DRINK FOR GOD SAKE!” at us!
Our thinking becomes overwhelmed with the strongest urges for alcohol. The one thing we want to avoid. And, with feelings of powerlessness and lack of control, we grab the wine glass, get the hit of alcohol, feel a temporary relief (it is a powerful drug), and alcohol is further reinforced in our Unconscious Mind as the panacea to all our problems. WTF!
Do you recognize your thinking, your drinking behaviour here? And does this all sound too simplistic to you?
It is simple, but we are conditioned (again that word) to believe there is so much more to making personal change, to addiction and recovery, and that is why the understanding of your drinking (or any unhappy habit) is so important.
If you understand where the urges come from and why, you can at least breathe a small sigh of relief in knowing the emotional acrobatics you are experiencing.
I have said in previous blogs that you cannot change anything you don’t understand. However, once you understand how we all function as humans (we all react in the same way, it’s just drinking has become ‘our way’), we can start to un-weave our innocently faulty thinking and conditioning around alcohol, and in doing so begin re-directing our Unconcious Minds to the place of peace and balance it is always striving to maintain for us. That, coupled with the choices you will be able to make and own, will ultimately bring you to freedom.
Exercise. Before you reach for your next drink, knowing you want to quit, ask yourself,
- “What emotion am I feeling/fearing?
- How do I think this drink will make me feel?
- What am I saying to myself to justify my drinking?
In one column write the answers you feel to be true (Unconcious Mind) In the second, write down the answers you know to be true (Concious Mind). Look at the differences.
Next week in Understanding Your Drinking (part 3), I will tell you how to start re-wiring your Unconscious Mind, your innocently faulty thinking, and the importance of being kind to yourself in the process.
Check out my Working With Me & Practical Techniques for Recovery pages to see how I help others who are struggling x
Let me know if you need any help.
If you would like to keep up to date with my blogs, news & offers, click on the link for my Breakthrough Mentor Newsletter.
Love & respect
PS, Be brave, be strong and know that you are not alone and you are definitely NOT your habit. x