Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Last 5 Years

I moved to London in my very early twenties to go to Drama School. I didn’t know much about Drama School so I chose an old famous one because I thought that a combination of old and famous would mean it was so strict that I would have to adhere to their rules. And that there would be loads of these aforementioned rules to stick to.

And then I would be sober. And then I would be safe.

But. Just in case I was wrong about the rules, I chose a course I knew l would struggle with. One I had no natural aptitude for. And one I knew nothing about. I thought it would be a fresh start for me. That I would leave the drinking in Newcastle and finally be free and happy and normal. Please god just let me find something that makes me feel normal.


And so Musical Theatre made its way into my life. I thought it would be light and bright and happy. That’s what my limited knowledge of Musical Theatre was. That if I surrounded myself with light them I couldn’t feel encased in darkness anymore.

I quickly learned that there are tons of dark and twisty musicals. Truly. Bloody loads of the buggers. And I was wrong about this new life saving me. It didn’t. If anything I sank to some of the lowest points of my life during this time. 

It did start a lifetime love of beautifully crafted musicals though. And that will never leave me. Genius abounds amongst Musical Theatre composers and lyricists, but a few stand out in a class of their own.

Jason Robert Brown wrote a stellar musical called the Last 5 Years whilst I was still a student. It’s a musical with just two people in it. The music is astounding and the vocal dexterity required to perform it is mindblowing.

But it’s the concept of it that always stuck with me. That 5 years of anyone’s life could be expressed in a Musical. Imagine that…

My life has changed at warp speed since I stopped drinking. If you’d taken 5 years of my life and turned it into a Musical whilst I was drinking though? It wouldn’t be terribly varied. 

The occasional downward spiral. Peppered of course with the frequently dangerous situations I would put myself in. Maybe a scene or two dedicated to the playing out of terrible relationship after terrible relationship, for good measure.
 
Nothing ever changed though. I never evolved, I just descended. Worse and worse versions of the same personality. Stuck on a hamster wheel. Hardly scintillating viewing. No real craft required to perform it.

I held a mistaken belief for a long time that sober was a static place of being. That it was starting with an instantly perfect package. Luckily I was wrong. Because if I had been right. If sobriety had turned up in the guise of instant perfection? Well that would make it the end, rather than the beginning. I couldn’t have gone anywhere from there.

I would have just sat alone. Isolated in my perfection. Terrified of letting life in to disturb or ruin it.

The Last 5 Years have been even more dramatic than the first 5 years of sobriety were. I’ve changed at lightning speed. I don’t look the same. Think the same. Feel the same. I work in a totally different industry. Have completely different friends. I live in a totally different place.

There would not be one scene dedicated to drinking, or the Art of Not Drinking, because I’ve thought about neither in a personal capacity in the Last 5 Years. There would be scenes of friendship, of romance. Of heartbreak. Of happiness. 

Of discovery, mainly. 

And that’s the biggest thing for me. The ability of being able to discover or cultivate a new side of myself every day, or week, or month. A solid knowing that it will all accumulate into a wonderful finale. Ready for the next 5 years.
Because I have absolutely no idea where the next 5 years will take me. Who I will be at the end of them. Who will turn up in my life. Who will leave. 

I know I’ll be here. Wherever here is by then. I know that once again I’ll not have one scene decidated to drinking, or Art of Not Drinking. That my sobriety got way bigger than that many, many matinees ago.

I know I get to choose which songs to sing. And how the action plays out, I know I get decide this, one scene at a time. And that I finally trust the inner orchestra’s conductor these days.

I know that I will go wherever the music takes me.

 
I know I don’t need to know anymore than that.

The Full Circle of Orthorexia Nervosa 

  

When I was in the throes of Orthorexia I would spend hours obsessing over cookbooks, before and after stories, dietary plans. I spent a lot of time reading and almost zero time actually cooking because what the hell was I supposed to eat? What if I was doing it wrong?

I didn’t trust recipes anyway. Most of them used ingredients I had come to think of as toxic or poisonous, or just bad. There was no safe place to hide in the kitchen. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t even trust what l was reading in the last days of my dance with orthorexia, because I was finally beginning to admit to myself that all of the years of obsessing and following strict eating regimes had been a totally waste. My health hadn’t improved. My life was a mess. I was afraid all of the time.

When I realised how out of control my phobia of food was, I didn’t know what to do. I knew I wasn’t alone. But I also knew that the more I read about people like me, the more I was told that I could never have a normal relationship with food again.

I started making progress when I stopped thinking about food at all. I distracted myself as much as possible with the outside world, and ignored my inner world totally. I spent no time in the kitchen at all. Minutes at most. I think I pretty much survived on ready meals for the first couple of years. The irony being even doing that made me feel stronger and more healthy than years of restrictive, obsessive eating…

Then, one day, a couple of years down the road I started feeling differently. The kitchen wasn’t a scary place any more. I trusted myself in there again. I looked up a few of the recipe books that I used to obsess over. I didn’t want to have them in my house in the way I used to, but I quite liked the idea of having the newer versions of them. Like both technology and I had evolved in our own ways since the last time I had read them.

I downloaded them onto my phone, bought myself some new cookware sets (I really did live on Ready Meals, I wasn’t kidding). And I had so much fun getting to know my kitchen again. I enjoyed using the actual ingredients, as opposed to my own “safe” approximation of them. I loved cooking for people. Spending quiet time in my flat baking. All of it.

I think what I most enjoyed was feeling like I had come full circle. Like I could accept the past and everything I had put myself through over those long years. Food was no longer the enemy. But neither was Orthorexia. It really was over. Food was just food. It was just fine to enjoy it or ignore it. Neither was going to hurt me.

I do spend a lot more time in the kitchen now. I just never think about food unless I’m cooking it, or glancing through a menu in a restaurant trying to decide what lovely thing to eat this time. I consume the food now. The thoughts of food no longer consume me.

And that’s how I know I’ve come Full Circle.

The Ties That Bind Us

  
I went to the future. But when I got there I couldn’t find you. 

I searched everywhere I could think of but there was no trace of you. It was the same story every place I went. When I asked about you people just looked at me blankly.

I wrote you a letter instead. I left it in the first place I thought you would look for me if you had gone to the future and found me missing. 

I didn’t really know what to do after I had written it. I knew I could either sit here for the next few years and wait for you to come find me. Or I could go find where I was supposed to be now. Now that there was only me here in this place.

I think we have this misconception that life runs completely smoothly once the drinking stops. It stands to reason: Remove the chaos and all that is left is stillness. 

But the thing is, life doesn’t always end up staying on the same course. Sometimes sobriety simply means an acceptance of finally being aware of all the variables we cannot control. Surrendering in the face of change. Acquiescencing gracefully to the hand that life has dealt us on this occasion.

Our instinct is to run away from pain, because it seems the sober emotional equivalent of drinking it away. But all that happens is we store that pain up inside of us, to the point where we build such an intolerance to the pain that it displays itself in other ways. 

Not drinking this pain away is a brilliant start. It’s certainly an evolvement from past behaviour. But let ourselves feel this pain instead. In its fullness. That’s something worth experiencing too. Letting it work its way through our mind, through our body and outwards into the ether where it belongs. 

That’s the best way I’ve found to move on from it, anyway.

It’s turns out doing it this way is a lot like having a vaccination against pain. You feel that one specifically focussed ache only once. And then it can’t really ever touch you again. Which is a lot different to feeling small twinges of it constantly and choosing to override them. 

Turns out if we do it once with every bit of pain? We are freed once and for all from the ties that bind us.

 

I went to the future. But when I got there I couldn’t find you. So I sat on the floor of our old haunts and I felt my disappointment until I could feel it no more. I felt the fear and the anger and the loss. 

I felt.

And then I was okay.

The Foundations of a Successfully Sober Body 

  The body has so many seasons of change in terms of Sobriety. Most of us are sleeping with the enemy in the beginning. And eating with her. Living every second of every day in a shell we despise.

The only connection we really have to our physical selves in the early days of non drinking is an horrendous awareness of this thing we are saddled with. That we know no respite from. Because at least when we were drinking we could numb ourselves to it. At least the body had its uses then too. A vehicle to get the alcohol, bring it to us. Provide us with a throat to pour it down.

The body did at least one other thing well too: providing us with the fleeting sensation of the world falling away. Giving us access to that warm fuzzy feeling of anaesthesia. For a few moments the body did its job. All was well.

Snapping back into focus the next morning or afternoon and the battle waged once more though, of course. The body is to blame for the pounding head. Dry mouth. Dizziness. Vomit. The body is the real culprit here. If we didn’t have to have this body. This faulty piece of equipment. All would be bearable.
 Especially when everyone else seems so much more capable of coping with alcohol than us. It’s not that we drink too much. Not at all. It’s that our stupid body can’t keep up. It fails us and we resent the f*ck out of that.

When this hatred for our own body goes on for years, we start to fool ourselves into thinking it is normal. 

It’s not. 

To maintain successful sobriety it’s really important to build a relationship with our body. To really invest in loving this incredible vehicle that does so much for us. Has put up with so much from us.
When I say things like this, a lot of women think I mean go on a healthy eating regime and exercise religiously. 

I don’t.

I mean something infinitely more tricky. I mean take the reigns of restriction off. I mean give your body absolutely anything it wants except alcohol. I mean take it places, experience new things. I mean talk nicely to it. Stop letting people touch it that don’t treat it with love and respect.

I mean spend money on dressing it nicely. Right now. Not when we’ve lost a stone or dropped a dress size. I mean acknowledging that perfection is a myth but the reality of a work in progress is beautiful.

Yes. As a non drinker our body transforms. It has to. The shift is too dramatic not to. But that’s not what keeps us sober. It’s just Mother Nature’s really lovely incentive. A really happy side effect.

There will be more talk of what to expect during a non drinking bodily transformation. But it has to start from the inside. It must start with repairing the shattered relationship between body and mind. There is no other way around this.

The only way out is through.

Sexy Sober Summer

  

Sexy wasn’t something I had ever considered to be of relevance to me when I was a drunk lass. I’d never felt attractive. I’d never been in a relationship with anyone I was attracted to (which is pretty good going for someone who was a serial monogamist for the 10 years I drank abusively). I didn’t understand any man who found me attractive, I felt pity for them for aiming so low as to be with me. 
Because let’s face it, the only reason I chose to be with me was because I couldn’t leave. At least they had the choice.

I knew I was in trouble back then. I accepted that every night I drank was going to turn into chaos. I also knew since I pretty much drank every day that chaos was going to be my life now. 

I accepted that I was in a relationship I wasn’t happy in. I knew for a fact that I hated who I was and who I saw when I looked in the mirror. I knew my career wasn’t going to go any further, because I earned enough to keep a roof over my head and keep me drinking yet still allowed me to be as hungover as I needed to be. A situation tailor-made to keep me in my rut.

Summers were free rein for me to drink as much as I could physically get in my body. I got paid not to work during summer. So I could dedicate myself to self destruction.
Summers I would feel awkward in what I wore because I couldn’t cover up the body I despised so much like I could in winter. I would try and hide as much as I could in bars until I was too drunk to feel the loathing anymore. Then it was ok. And it actually didn’t matter that much because I looked pretty nondescript so no one noticed me anyway most of the time. 

I don’t think I ever expected that part to go away. I thought I would hate myself-outside and in-forever. I didn’t even dare to aim for a feeling of indifference about myself. 

So it stunned me when it turned out that a side effect of stopping drinking meant that I surpassed both. Effortlessly.
I look different now. Very different. But I felt different first. And I thought differently. About myself and about the world around me. And it’s the feeling different that prompts the looking different. Every time.

I don’t mean I had a makeover. Although yes, the clothes I wear are different because my body shape is so very different. Shockingly so. My face is different. Really different. My demeanour is transformed. How I feel about myself is different because I am a totally different person. There’s not one part of my life that is the same. 

That’s what I want for every woman who isn’t sure that they deserve to love themselves. That’s what I shout about the loudest. That’s what breaks my heart. Women wasting not just summers, but years of their lives hating themselves purely because they think there is no other way. That it’s a fact that they are appalling and beyond saving.

No woman ever needs to live like that. There is a different way to start living. Right now. Irrespective of any external circumstance because they change. They always change. They have to change. That’s what happens when a transformation occurs from the inside out.

I hated myself so much that I wanted to tear my own skin off and escape. I lived in that state of repugnance permanently. It oozed from me and everyone picked up on it. And all I had to do to remedy that was 

•stop drinking

•keep doing it 

•cultivate an actual relationship with myself.

To stop drinking, keep doing it and have a real relationship with ourselves does not take anywhere near as much effort as living a life of self loathing and alcohol abuse. But it does need a little love and guidance and support from those who have been there.

So:

Lucy Rocca, (founder of Soberistas) and I are on a mission this August to get you started on all three actions. Because we did all of these things. They transformed our lives. And we want the same for you.

Do you fancy having yourself a Sexy Sober Summer? Or just flirting with the idea a little? Come over and join us. We’ll be showing you how we do it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat; all the usual suspects. Concentrating on the aspects we feel Sober Girls can benefit from (this week it’s the Mind aspect of non drinking, then it’s the Body, after THAT it’s the Soul). 

And we’d like you to get involved. We don’t care if you aren’t committing to non drinking permanently. Having a day of non drinking? Send us a picture. Can’t be arsed to do that? No bother, just take the picture anyway, hashtag it with #sexysobersummer and we will come to you. Let us see what you are up to. Help us build a resource for all women who want to flirt with sobriety. Something they can come back to and reference long after summer is over.

We are ready if you are x