Monthly Archives: December 2015

New Year New Nothing

  

I used to love New Years resolutions. They were an excuse to drink as much as I could fit the last week of the year, followed by obsessing on all of the things I was going to deny myself in January. Helped along with a handy dash of self-loathing, just for good measure.

Every resolution was about what I consumed. Because I truly thought what I didn’t drink or eat would transform who I was. Like my identity was little more than a makeover. 

It never worked. Obviously. Because obsession and subtracting just made me and my world smaller. It didn’t fix anything. I was still as broken as ever.
I decided a few years ago that it would be better to have New Year Resolutions that would make me bigger. Teach me things. Make my world as big as possible.

 
This year two of my main resolutions are to write a post every day. Because the more I write the more I learn. It won’t all be on here, I’ll spread them out over all the different places my bits and pieces end up.

The second one is to give away one free session per week. As my 90 minute sessions are £150 it’s probably quite a good deal. Especially if you live on the other side of the pond.

I’ve 52 slots. I’m going to give half away right now, so you can get organised and put your name down on the waiting list if you want one. And half as the year progresses. Just email me or message me below if you want put yourself in for one.
I feel like these are two things I can do that will push me to make 2016 a bigger, more exiting place of discovery.
 If I’m wrong? Then I’ll do something different next year. But I don’t mind being wrong.

Id rather be wrong and make progress. Than be perfect and live in a restricted, sterile place where nothing happens.

I’d always rather have New Nothing, but bigger versions of everything I already have. 

Peace Be With You?

  
I went to a christening recently. I hadn’t been inside a cathedral for years and I’d forgotten there’s a full service as well as the baby-wetting sideshow.

As the bishop was doing his thing it came to my favourite part of the service growing up. The bit I’d completely forgotten about. The one where we are asked to turn to one another and offer the people nearest to us a sign of peace. Then we actually say to one another “peace be with you”. I had no idea why I loved it so very much as a kid. Possibly the idea of being legitimately able to talk in church without incurring the wrath of the strict Irish priest-or much scarier still the particular brand of wrath exclusively handed out by a contingent commonly known as the hardcore Irish Catholic gran. Heaven deliver and preserve us all from publicly shaming an Irish grandmammy -and coming between her and her Sunday worship I’m telling you. Cos if you do then you’d better be a praying man-and a far braver man than I…

It’s not just the chatting though. It’s the actual fact of it I think. Turning to a person you may never have met and telling them you wish them peace. Because peace is such a lovely state of being, isn’t it? And though I know we can’t physically give it to each other, we can nevertheless offer the wish. I’m sure a lot was lost in translation between the church switching from services in Latin to conducting them in English but I think they were bang on with the terminology here “offering a sign” not forcing, not insisting, not demanding. Just offering. “I wish you peace, I’m pretty sure it’s here for you if you want it. No prob’s if you don’t. No fuss. No bother”

Imagine if we lived in a world where we could all stop each other in the street, in the supermarket, at a bus stop. Where we could just all lightly offer each other a sign of peace whilst we waited in queues. I can’t help but think the world would be a much less lonely place for some. Because some people need that feeling of peace very badly indeed.

I didn’t know anyone else at this Christening. It was in a town I’d never been to before either. This would have been impossible a few short years ago. Back when I was frail. Frightened. Back when I was the person I fought so hard to leave behind. So very hard. The one who was desperately trying so hard to navigate the world after being away from people for so long . Who constantly wanted to run away from wherever she was. To a place that felt more manageable and safe. A place hundreds of miles away from where my life is now.

To overcome these feelings of chronic fear and uncertainty, is to live a life full of miracles. Nowadays, when I find myself holding conversations, laughing and sharing a moment with a group of strangers, I kind of step outside of myself and I feel so proud that I can do it. That I can physically stand. That I can look a person in the eye and talk to them. That I am confident enough in myself and in the world to laugh and joke and just enjoy having this moment with them. Then my automatic reflex is to feel silly for feeling proud of myself.  A woman my age probably shouldn’t be bursting with pride that she can handle a situation on her own without her mum having to literally hold her hand throughout it. But I override this feeling of silliness and I remain proud. I offer myself a sign of the peace I have once again managed to find in this situation, despite feeling like it still eludes and defeats me so much of the time.

I liked this offering of peace malarkey very much. So much so I decided I was going to start offering people peace silently in my day-to-day tasks. Offering them the same congratulations I now offer myself when I do something that was impossible a few weeks, months, years back. That I would silently give them a little of what I am finally, finally able to begin offering myself. Support, stability…dare I say love? Yes, probably a bit of that too. Everything that peace represents or feels like; solidity. Certainty. Ease. Comfort. A weird thing happened when I tried to do it though. I found that I love people so much these days that I was already unwittingly doing it anyway. It’s probably why I hug everyone I meet-or hold their hand whilst talking to them, (a trait generally unacceptable in anyone over the age of 9, yet I do it anyway flagrantly, shamelessly) because I can’t help it.

This week I was talking to a young man about his career options at an event I attended. At the end of our chat he smiled the most beautiful smile and said to me very quietly “thank you Carrie, Jesus loves you”. And it was such a lovely thing to hear. Just that offering of love. Just there if you want it.  No prob’s if you don’t. No fuss. No bother. It made me realise we do all offer each other love and peace so much of the time, that it really is our default setting. That all love given does in fact return. That we are all loved. We are never alone. Regardless of what shape or form our beliefs may take.

At a baptism or a bus stop. May we all feel loved beyond a capacity to comprehend. May your god go with you. May we all find peace. Because if we can find that place of real peace, we don’t really need much else in life-yet the stuff we used to want to compensate for the lack of peace, the people, the places, the possessions. they seem to find us anyway.

How to NOT make a calendar this Christmas

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It was a simple enough idea; Create a calendar so full of ideas and alternative hobbies, that for an entire year, every time I got an email asking “but what will I do with my time if I don’t drink anymore” I could simply point to this calendar and shout “National Cheesecake Eating Day” or “Celebrate the Feast of Wild Men”

I’m a big fan of the second one, truth be told.

It seemed like a really simple idea. Except the fact that no soul is going to want to be greeted my face on a flipping calendar every day for a year. How boring would that be? Plus where is the contrast in that? 

No thank you.

So I asked a lady who has nailed this non-drinking malarkey. And helps thousands of other women do it every day. Someone who is so different to me in every way imaginable that we were always destined to get on like a house on fire.

And, most importantly, a lass who when I called and and said “let’s do a calendar now okay”, actually made me sit down and do it. As opposed to being distracted by a dog with a fluffy tail, or a piece of cake, as is my wont.

See? Easy! So easy. We agreed to have 6 photos taken each, then reconvene and assemble them, because surely it would be so easy to get the calendars made.

Sigh.

I got excited! I bought costumes. Halloween, Easter, Christmas. You name it, I got ’em. I hate having my photo taken, I seem to sprout extra limbs and am unable to contain them all as soon as a camera appears. There’s something about having to stand still that I’m horrendous at.

Anyway. Took them. Got them back. And they were vile. I looked like some playboy bunnies desperate stepmother. No woman is going to want their eyeballs sullied by these images. Not even my own Mam would put it on her wall.

I wanted to burn them. Except they were digital, and on the photographer’s laptop, so he wouldn’t let me 

I had horribly misjudged the situation. I needed something real. Something authentic. And something in contrast to the lovely, graceful photos Lucy had had done. 

So I went back over the past two years and picked photos of me just doing stuff I really liked to do. Activities that I wouldn’t have even acknowledged in my drinking days. Or just normal moments that would have passed me by in a haze.

The photos were done. Now I wanted to design a calendar. I knew exactly what I needed. But I couldn’t have it. Because apparently putting your own dates and little paragraphs on each monthsisn’t a thing.

It has to be a thing. I reasoned with every designer I spoke to. It should be a thing. Please make it a thing. Sometime before the year 2019…if at all possible…ta muchly…

I finally found a company that would make it a thing. They weren’t cheap, so I said I would design it myself. Which is probably a perfectly reasonable undertaking, for anyone who doesn’t need help with anything more technologically advanced than opening emails…

It took me 8 hours to do the first page. Then the second…then, well you get the idea. Which would’ve been fine, except nothing was saving properly.

I became a woman obsessed. I stopped seeing other humans. Stopped answering my phone. Every waking moment became an epic battle between myself and my creation. This must be exactly how that doctor lad, you know, that Frankenstein’s creator felt.

After a week it was done. I sent it off. Then cried. Then slept.

Then got a phone call from the calendar company asking why I had made 12 different versions. Turns out it had been saving properly. I’d just been creating new ones instead of working on the original template.

Oh dear.

But it was finished. Finished I tell’s ya. All I had to do was wait for a copy to proof read.

I got the copy. I was excited.

I shouldn’t have been. It was wrong. All just so wrong. Again Lucy’s bits were lovely, photos and writing. It was encouraging and nice. But mine? Photos acceptable. Writing: smug as f*ck.

I was horrified. When had I become a fully paid up member of the Smug Sober B*st*rd Brigade? If I read this cr*p I would just want to punch me. Right in the face. Followed by heading to the nearest bar to put some serious drinking distance between myself and such smuggery.

I asked the calendar folk if I could change it. They said no. They would. I wasn’t allowed near their software again. Most likely out of fear l’d make another 16 versions, just for a lark.

I called them so much to make changes I feared I’d become the first person to ever have a restraining order from calendars. That l’d be banned from going within 100 yards of date-related stationary. 

But eventually it was done. Now to sell them. 

Or not.

We couldn’t sell them on that big website you buy your books on because they didn’t belong in any categories. I KNOW ITS NOT A THING. IF IT WAS ALREADY A THING THEN WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO MAKE IT OURSELVES.

And because it’s not a thing? We can’t put it on that other site that you bid for things on auction. Because nobody is going to look for a non-drinking calendar. Because nobody looks for imaginary things that don’t exist. Unless we want to put it in the pet unicorn section, and such. 

So Lucy and I put them on our sites. We wanted to make them the price of a bottle of wine. But we couldn’t. Because we had to go with a more expensive design just to get the (now thankfully unsmug) paragraphs in. 

Plus we wanted to donate proceeds to a charity. One that affects women who abuse alcohol. So we went with a cervical cancer charity, because we know that woman who abuse alcohol a lot don’t get checked enough.

Lord knows I didn’t.

So. If you are going to make a calendar this Christmas? Learn from my mistakes.

•don’t dress like a wannabe themed-stripper in your photographs.

•understand your I.T. limits.

•make less than 10 phone calls a day to your calendar company. 

•try not to get obsessed and spend 15 hours a day on it

•try to only make 1 version of it instead of 12 (if in doubt, see bullet point 2)

•don’t make something that ISN’T A THING

•don’t hand-write a personal letter to everyone who orders one. It takes bloody HOURS man (totally worth it though).

Happy Calendaring,

Carrie x 

How To Party Your Sober Ass Off At The Work Christmas Do

mocktailYou work your ass off all year round. You go in when you are sick. When you can’t be bothered. When the person sat next to you insists on talking at you, even though you’d rather swallow your own face than hear another anecdote about their children. You put the hours in dammit. Don’t you deserve to let your hair down and get wasted on the company’s money?

 

 
Yeah, maybe. But don’t you deserve to have a job to go back to when the party is over?

 
Alcohol is no joke when it puts your job at risk. The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) surveyed over 1000 UK managers and employees and produced some pretty worrying statistics:

 

 

 

  • 28% of employees have overheard peers revealing secrets about their colleagues at the Christmas party
  • 48% return to work after the office Christmas party hungover and unable to perform
  • 87% have experienced fellow workers drinking too much at the party
  •  51% of managers are willing to reprimand an employee for their behaviour at the company party. 

    But none of this is new. People have been offering advice on how to avoid screwing up at the work Christmas party for years. Very well meaning advice – well meaning, but totally useless. Almost laughable guidance. These are some of my favorites:

    Try to limit your drinks to less than five. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that! Just count my drinks! Maybe my problem isn’t that I can’t control my drinking. It’s just that I have a problem with counting. No bother, I’ll just enroll in a basic math’s course. That’ll sort me right out…

    Use this as an opportunity to network instead of drinking heavily. Absolutely. My totally intimidating Line Manager for whom I cannot summon the courage to talk to at work, the place they are actually paid to talk to me? OK, I’ll go and mosey on up, shoot the breeze with them now instead. Sober. Because I never use alcohol to give me courage, so I definitely won’t be tempted to get wasted then chat to all these influential people. I’m sure this can only end really well…

  • Dress Appropriately. Because costumes always help people feel brave who are over the age of ten. Maybe I won’t dress like Batman, which would be extreme (although the mask would help protect my identity). I’ll dress like a sober, sedate person. That way, when I’m trying to perform an impromptu pole dance around the photocopier, I will look down at my sedate outfit, remember myself, and stop mid lunge. No. Even better. I’ll dress as a nun. Bet they are awesome at this non-drinking malarkey…

 

 

 

 

So yes. Essentially most tips I’ve seen out there are rubbish. If limiting drinks worked? We’d do it. If dressing sedately had an effect? We’d all turn up in a Morning Suit and behave ourselves. These things don’t make a difference. If they did, I would never have embarrassed myself at work parties. Never got in trouble. But sadly I did. Frequently. Because I could not control my own drinking or my behavior when I drank. No matter how hard I tried.

 

 
If you are indifferent to alcohol, can let a drink go warm because you put it down and forgot it was there? Then no. This will be of no interest to you.

 

 
But if you drink so much you lose physical control of your body and are embarrassed by this the next day; if you say horrible things you don’t mean to people; if you blackout and can’t remember where you were, what you did, or how you got home? Then, yes, read on…

 

 
Because it’s bad enough doing all of these things in front of friends and family, but to do them in front of the people who are responsible for your financial wellbeing? That’s something everyone wants to avoid if they can.

 

 
If you get a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach when office Christmas celebrations start to be discussed, when the Christmas trees go up in shops. If you are expending all of  your thinking time trying to protect yourself from your own behaviour, instead of being free to enjoy the present moment? Then it’s maybe time for a re-think…

 

 
The Christmas season was never supposed to be about spending days locked in an internal battle, wrestling with a constant loop of contradictory thoughts such as:

 

 

 

  • Can I get away with not drinking at all?
  • But if I don’t drink over Christmas, does that mean I’m an alcoholic?
  • Am I just making a big fuss over nothing?
  • Couldn’t I maybe just try my best to have one or two drinks at the most?
  • Is my drinking really that bad after all?

 

 

 

Of course, there will be fleeting moments that aren’t spent locked in that struggle, the points at which determination to do our best not to drink wins out. That we know it will cause more trouble than is worth. And at those times, a whole new set of ceaseless questions emerge:

 

 

 

  •  Ok so I won’t drink. HOW do I explain it?
  • How do I have that conversation with my colleagues?
  •  How can I AVOID having that conversation about alcohol?
  •  Can I really not drink and get away with it?
  • Should I just avoid the party altogether?
  • Is there honestly an easy way to get away with not drinking at the party?

 

 

 

I’ve been there. Had those relentless cycle of thoughts. Tried to control my drinking in front of colleagues-and failed every time. And now I don’t. Because I taught myself a set of tools to ensure I didn’t have to.

 

 

 

 

I receive so many panicked emails from folk saying how much they are dreading trying to control their drinking in front of colleagues. Asking for help. It makes me feel so sad. Brings back terrible memories for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Except this year I decided to get over myself and actually do something constructive instead of getting sad. I called my pal Lucy, co-founder of a site called Soberistas, and asked her to write an eBook with me. Something that did nothing more than give folk a set of practical tools to utilise in their quest to not drink at their work Christmas Party. Proactive non-drinking for one very specific occasion. No more than that. No less.

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy and I strongly believe that you shouldn’t have to feel as uncomfortable in your choice to not drink as we did, that you shouldn’t have to do it on your own. And now that you have this
guide, you don’t ever have to.

 

 
And no, we don’t want to analyse whether or not you have a drinking problem, or what label you should put on yourself. We just want to assist you in your quest to not make a total fool of yourself in front of your colleagues this holiday season. Of not having to start the New Year with a hunt for a new job because of actions you have no recollection of undertaking. It’s just not necessary to mess life up like that. Not when there is an easy alternative. It’s just a case of learning the components and practising them until you feel confident in their execution.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s How To Party Your Sober Ass Off This Christmas. It’s free. Use it if you wish. Leave it be if you’d rather not. But it’s our Christmas present to you. It’s one I dearly wish someone had given me all those years ago when I needed it.

 

 

 

 

 

Have a wonderful Christmas, because you really do deserve it,

 

 

 

 

 

Love Carrie x

 

 

 

(PS, before you kick off at me for not being inclusive of folk who absolutely should not and cannot drink on any occasion? We wrote a separate version for this scenario too…it’s included in the Soberistas blog post I re-blogged so it’s just below this blog post…)

A Free Christmas eBook, and…

Because it’s December and therefore a particularly challenging time of the year to avoid booze, I wanted to tell you about a couple of projects I’ve been working on over the last few weeks with Carrie Armstrong that may be of help to you in staying happily alcohol-free during the festive period. Carrie, for anyone […]

https://soberistas.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/a-free-christmas-ebook-and/

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