Thursday, August 27, 2015

A looming conference...

I'm working on my presentation for NZ's big addiction conference next week. Called Cutting Edge it's the annual gathering of the addictions treatment sector - loads of great talks & sessions for me to attend and listen to, as well as the opportunity to meet lots of lovely people who are working hard to help addicts in this country. I can't wait!

I'm presenting on the last day about our website Living Sober ... which is going great guns by the way. We are almost at 2500 registered members and just this week reached 1 million page views which, given we've only been live for one year, is AWESOME!!.

I am so proud of our little site. It is based on a very simple concept - put people who share a common trait (an inability to control the drug of alcohol) in a shared space which feels safe and protected and let them talk to each other and help each other along. Our ethos is kind, supportive and non-judgemental communication and that is what we do! There is never any snippiness or grumpiness displayed between members. Amazing! People are in there sharing about the REAL SHIT of life (tricky in laws, depression, anxiety, abuse, addiction, loneliness, low self-esteem etc etc) and yet the tone is always kept positive, forward looking and upbeat. Truly amazing.

I'm telling you - it is an incredibly powerful and transformative online space and if you are searching around the internet looking for support and inspiration to not drink you should TOTALLY go join the community there. It's free and you can be anonymous! There's a lot of great information on my blog page there and in the Sober Toolbox etc, but only by joining do you get inside the 'Members Feed' which is our rolling communication space where much of the gritty & lovely interactions go on.

Ok sales pitch over.

Attending the conference will be interesting as I know these events can pose a challenge to sober people (especially the newly sober) - all that socialising and booze. Not to mention the hotel rooms having fully stocked mini-bars. I don't know if alcohol will be available at the conference dinners etc. There are a lot of people in recovery working in the sector apparently.. but presumably there are many who are not. Anyway - for me I don't fear being tempted. I just look at that stuff as dumb bottles of poison wrapped up in fancy labels that will do nothing to enhance my life whatsoever. Far from it.

So happy to be sober. So grateful to be a part of this wonderful online recovery community. Grateful that the sun is shining. Grateful that I have a puppy who needs walking every day and for the first time I can see that daily walks will become a good positive feature of my life. Grateful that I have my health and my family. Grateful that I have stimulating work to do in a field I am passionate about.

Who knew this would turn into a gratitude post! Not me! Sometimes I just never know where these things will go....

Love, Mrs D xxx    

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The mum club

It's no wonder so many of us mums turn to booze. It's freely available, cheap, socially acceptable - encouraged even, and it works.

Let's be honest. Short term it works. It takes us away from our domestic drudgery, without actually taking us away. We can still be at the kitchen bench chopping carrots with kids yelling demands at us, but with that glass of chardonnay sitting next to us we feel like an 'adult' and slightly removed from the situation in a 'fun' way (I did anyway). The more booze that goes in, the more our pleasure receptors are enlivened and we feel good - warm and numb and 'fun' and 'soothed'.

It did me anyway. Boy did I love my nightly wines.

It's all artificial of course - the liquid drug creates a chemical reaction in our brains that mimics genuine feelings of well being. So it's not authentic, doesn't last, and we get dumped down and left feeling cold afterwards (often at 3am). For me this meant feeling strangely bored and perpetually exhausted about my never ending domestic duties and the incessant demands of my kids.

Don't get me wrong - my kids are the most perfect creatures that have ever been created, but being a mum is HARD BLOODY WORK! We are all BLOODY LEGENDS! (Sorry dads, I know you are too.. I just can't help but write this post from my female perspective). We give and we give and we give to those blood-sucking leeches we call our offspring. And they take, take, take because that's what kids are hard-wired to do. It's the way of the world. We breed them, we feed and love them, we nurture them, we give, give, give. They are born, they develop, they have human wants and needs and are unformed emotionally so have no real concept of life outside of their own basic desires and they take, take, take.

So, like I say it's no wonder so many of us mums turn to booze. Who wouldn't want to be instantly warmed and 'taken away' at 5pm every day?

I was down at the local Rec Centre last Friday with my sister at a busy, noisy pre-school playgroup. As we were packing to go her 1-year old started having a major meltdown. A mum sitting behind us fixed us with a sympathetic 'I've been there too' smile and said "Thank goodness for coffee and alcohol - that's all that is getting us through isn't it!". My sister and I both laughed - ha ha! - and there we were, three mums locked into a moment of weary solidarity, camaraderie and understanding.

But secretly I was thinking; "actually I don't touch either of those substances any more". Alcohol went nearly 4 years ago because I had no control over it and was imbibing WAY too much. Coffee went about a year ago because I just decided it was a dumb habit that I didn't really enjoy.

But I'm still in the mum club. I still answer a million questions a day, do constant housework, prepare endless meals and offer boundless love and support. I still get exhausted, worn out and over it. Sometimes I feel like crawling under the bed covers and staying there all day. Or at least standing in the middle of the kitchen shouting 'WHAT ABOUT ME!!!!!!!!!!!'.

The funny thing is, the longer I go without drinking booze or coffee, the more I realise they weren't actually doing anything to help my situation. In fact, they were hindering it. Sure - I don't get that chemical release at 5pm .. but I see that as artificial now and an unhelpful con.

And the truth is I'm actually less tired now because I sleep great. I'm happier now because I'm not feeling guilty about my drinking. I'm more proud now because I am more tolerant of my kids and present for their needs (especially as they get older and need more emotional support). And I'm delighted now that I'm no longer modelling steady, heavy wine consumption as an acceptable way to live.

I'll take being a sober exhausted mum over being a boozy exhausted mum any day. And I'll still laugh along with other mums when comments are made about the crutches that get us through. Because we are all in this together. Even us sober mums. We may be making different personal choices, but we still need the solidarity, camaraderie and understanding.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sobriety is full throttle....

My talk last Friday went well I think. It's kind of a strange thing to do ... leave my domestic duties behind for a day, catch a plane to somewhere new, attend a big fancy lunch during which I stand up on the stage and talk for an hour - bare my soul and make myself vulnerable while also feeling proud and happy to talk up the wonders of recovery - then return home to my ordinary housewifey life.

Crazy! But rewarding.

On the way up I bought from the airport bookstore a copy of the much-hyped new memoir 'Blackout' by Sarah Hepola and I am happy to report this book lives up to the hype - BIG TIME!

It's fantastic. First half a rollicking drinking memoir, second half a fantastic recovery memoir. This is one of the main reasons I love this book, there is LOADS about the recovery process... the 'getting sober' bit of the story. Usually so many memoirs are just the car crash drinking/drugging story and then a tiny blip at the end about giving up. This book spends many chapters on what the author went through in redefining her life and her self-image after drinking. She's a fantastic writer, and brutally honest (talks well too, I just watched this TV interview with her on You Tube).

I continued reading the book on the plane ride home. One paragraph stood out to me so much I felt like high-fiving the man sitting next to me in seat 3E (I didn't).

"A woman I know told me a story once, about how she'd always been the girl in the front row at live shows. Pushing her way to the place where the spotlight burned tracers in her eyes and the speakers rattled her insides. When she quit drinking, she missed that full-throttle part of herself, but then she realised: Sobriety is full throttle. No earplugs. No safe distance. Everything at its highest volume. All the complications of the world, vibrating your sternum."

HELL to the YEAH! I can so relate! Sobriety is full throttle - everything at high volume, the most daring ride at the theme park, the greatest challenge you could ever take on.

I felt so great reading this paragraph particularly because in the talk I'd just delivered I spoke about how excited I was when just 2-3 months after quitting drinking I'd had the monumental realisation that living sober was the ultimate challenge. That it wasn't just about breaking a habit, it was about developing robust coping mechanisms and learning how to deal with life in the raw.

And the ultimate challenge continues to this day. It will never end - because shit keeps happening, and I keep dealing with it without any brain bending ever.

Sobriety is full throttle. It is standing in the front row of a rock concert with all the complications of the world vibrating your sternum. It is fascinating and challenging and a truly great adventure.

Bring it on.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Managing myself in the busy times...

It's a busy week this week.. last week wasn't so busy.. next week will be busy. I am working hard to manage myself in the down times and the up times.

In the down times I was spending too much time watching Dr Phil so I have put myself on a self-imposed ban for a while. I love his wisdom and brutal honesty but the stories are all pretty depressing - dysfunctional family after dysfunctional family gets a bit much after a while. Have been trying to read more books/listen to more podcasts instead when I do have a few free hours alone in the house after all the work is done and before the kids get home from school. This podcast was great! Interview with my beloved Tara.

In the busy times I am trying to manage myself by eating good foods (I'd give myself 85% on that score right now, bit of sugar creeping back in again but I'm trying to keep tabs on it), and keeping my thoughts focussed down and in the moment and not far away in the future or past. That is a biggie for keeping me feeling happy. I try to notice when I'm lost in my brain and bring myself back down to what I am actually doing - hands on the steering wheel, weather outside, etc etc. When you really look at it most moments in the day are lovely and calm, it's just our thinking that makes us feel they're not.

Doing a yoga class on a Tuesday night now at the local rec centre - love it!!! Best yoga teacher I have ever had, really relaxed and informal but good clear instructions and poses that are challenging and satisfying. For the first time ever I can see myself getting enthusiastic about yoga!

We took the kids to a 'Rise and Shine' Daybreak Dance party down on the waterfront yesterday! Had such fun dancing as the sun came up with great tunes spun by awesome DJs, free coffee and massages (massage tables set up in the corner of the venue with proper masseuses at work), lots of lovely people in their gym gear/onesies having a great boogie. Super fun and we are going to do it again! Was like reliving my clubbing days except this time I didn't have a bent brain and blurry mindset - was just happy moving my body to the music!

Flying out of town to give a talk at a charity lunch tomorrow - my boozing and sobriety story - then flying home and the next day off on another plane with the whole family to go to my mother-in-law's 70th. So a busy social time ahead, lots of chatting and energy to put out. Am looking forward to doing it all with no alcohol getting in the way. Just me with my clear head and faculties fully alert. Will be tired next week but no rest for the wicked - my sister and her entire family are coming to stay for 4 nights. Fun!

Yes I will be tired. But I will work hard to manage myself through with nourishing food and productive thinking.

This is my busy, full, stimulating alcohol-free life and I wouldn't change a thing.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Inside Out

Took the boys to see the movie 'Inside Out' and it was FANTASTIC! We all loved it.

I've just read this article called "Four Lessons from 'Inside Out' to Discuss with Kids" which highlights the deep things the film has to say about how our emotions work. It's pretty heavy reading (the film is not heavy!) but is a really good piece for articulating the deeper lessons the film carries. And it's actually bloody good from a sobriety perspective.

Through cute cartoon characters and cool animation what the film tells us is that happiness is not just about experiencing joy. Joy is only one element of happiness. Only when we experience all sorts of emotions - both positive and negative - do we find true happiness.

Only by fully experiencing all emotions do we achieve a deep sense that life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.

If we try to be happy all the time we actually end up miserable (sometimes subtly, without realising it) because the more we expect and strive for constant happiness, the more disappointed (and less happy) we are likely to be when we can't achieve this goal.

This makes good sense to me. When I was boozing I wanted to be 'fun' and 'upbeat' Mrs D all the time. I didn't want to be sad - no way! Nor did I want to be angry. Now that I am much more at peace with the sad and angry versions of myself, overall I feel much happier with myself.

Yes we have to prioritise positivity (by doing things that make us feel good), but not at the expense of avoiding or denying negative feelings or the situations that cause them.

Sadness is important. It makes us empathetic. It helps us connect deeply with people, and that connection is a crucial component of happiness. Seems crazy to acknowledge that sadness is a part of happiness but that's what this movie is all about!! The blue cartoon character 'Sadness' actually emerges as much as the hero as the perky 'Joy' character does.

This quote is from the article; "With great sensitivity, Inside Out shows how tough emotions like sadness, fear, and anger, can be extremely uncomfortable for people to experience - which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them. But in the film, as in real life, all of these emotions serve an important purpose by providing insight into our inner and outer environments in ways that can help us connect with others, avoid danger, or recover from loss."

I went to great lengths (glug glug) to avoid tough emotions for most of my adult life, until I was nearly 40 and took alcohol away. Since then I have been learning how to accept and deal with them.

It's been a rough process (sometimes not fun at all) but overall - without a shadow of a doubt - I am happier now than I have ever been.

Think about that. I feel sadness and anger and stress and frustration and disappointment much more keenly now than I ever have. Yet overall I am a much happier and more content person now than I have ever been.

I might still very occasionally get a sad thought about not-drinking (see my last post) but that is just a tiny blip in my mind's horizon.

No way do I miss booze. I'm enjoying getting to know myself far too much to want that shit back in my life.

Love, Mrs D xxx