Monthly Archives: May 2016

Why the bad days are vital 

I had a dreadful day yesterday.
I decided to get up at 4am after a couple of hours sleep to write my column. I do this a lot. Mainly because I got into a terrible habit of getting up through the night to write a book last year.

There was no hope of me getting back to sleep afterwards. By 10am I felt awful. 
I did what I told myself I had to do during the day. Despite the fact that I didn’t. The world would not have stopped turning if I’d put them off for a day.

I didn’t eat or drink. I wore the wrong clothes for the boiling hot weather. I walked for miles when I really didn’t need to.

I ended up back home in tears by the afternoon. So useless I didn’t get a thing done for the rest of the day.

By 8pm I was sent to bed by one who knows me far better than I know myself.
 

I’d spent the evening alternating between tears and laying on the coach. I kept saying to my partner “I just don’t like myself today. I cannot love myself today”.

Everything felt so sad and so bleak. 
Everything I did or said or felt just made it all a bit worse.

This morning, after an epic sleep, the world seemed in technicolor once more.

It wasn’t back to how it had been before my bad day. It was a lot better.

Better because I now had a brand new, solid blueprint on how not to conduct a day.

Improved because I knew that to do the polar opposite of what I had done yesterday was guaranteed to bring me a day of success.

Happier because this day of pitfalls gave me so many extra weapons in my arsenal of wellbeing.

This is what I mean when I say that there are no mistakes in this journey of recovery. Because every pitfall brings with it a blue print on how not to conduct ourselves.

Because it’s the most common mistake we make, really. To punish and berate ourselves for the less than perfect days. To use our so-called f*ck-up’s as an excuse to continue on our downward spiral. 

When it’s simply not the case. We need the imperfections. We need the f*ck-up’s. I needed yesterday to happen.

So. I know better now. I know to sleep. To eat. 

To listen to the people that love me.

 
The bad days aren’t just important. They are vital. They are the most powerful teachers that exist. 

They are a form of bulletproofing ourselves from the inside out.

And we get to have as many of them as it takes to learn what we need.

And then we need never have them again.

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When Sober Doesn’t Equal Perfect 

6 years ago today my life took a massive Pivot in a completely different direction.

I was weeks away from getting married to a person who was completely the wrong fit for me. Weeks away from a big wedding. Thousands of miles away. With all of my family and friends making the epic trek there to celebrate this monumental day with me.

When I made the decision to not go through with this wedding, I had absolutely no idea what would be the next move.

What I didn’t know, was that life would be an incredible challenge. That I would go through so many changes. That I would emerge on the other side of this journey completely unrecognisable.

My life was no story of success. All of a sudden I was living in a crappy flatshare, with mice running all over the floor. I was broke from paying off wedding debts (seriously, always buy wedding insurance), I was scared all of the time. I felt like my life was going nowhere.

I felt like everyone knew my life was going nowhere.

If the pursuit of sobriety is the pursuit of perfection, then I would have stayed where I was. With a perfect looking life. With a fiancé I was indifferent to. In a relationship where there was minimal honest communication. In a life that felt like an imitation of the life I should be living. Rather than a life that was a perfect fit for me.

I realised I hadn’t been being honest with myself. That I hadn’t put the work into finding out what my personal preferences were.

That I hadn’t worked how to communicate properly. 

That there was still so much for me to discover in life.

So that’s what I did. I explored. I got out there and discovered what I truly liked and wanted, by first discovering what I truly disliked and didn’t want.

I got my hands dirty. I fucked up a lot. My life continued to look like an epic failure as I refined and redefined what it was that I needed to build an authentic feeling life.

Sometimes I felt lonely, many times I felt sad. 

But at all times I finally felt free. 

I never felt the urge to drink the scared feelings away. I never stop wanting to explore the new possibilities out there. 

I never felt the urge to stop this exploring, and expend my energy into putting up a front to pretend my life was going better than it was.

I can only assume that this is because when I stopped drinking, I also stopped caring what people thought of me. 

Which was very handy. Obviously.

6 years on my life is unrecognisable. What I’ve deliberately built and created instead is a life that feels so right for me. 

A life that is so joyful. So solid. So satisfying on every level.

6 years on and I have everything I have ever wanted. 

And I wouldn’t change a moment of this messy, imperfect, scary, and yes, sober journey. 

Because where I stand now is perfection to me.

Do you actually want to stop drinking?

I thought I wanted to stop drinking for years.

I had journals I would fill with words to that effect.

Weighty Tomes filled with the same old phrases.

 Litanies of frustration. 

Monologues of retribution. 

And I had no idea that all I was filling them with was evidence of how unready I was to stop drinking.
Fast forward through the years to where I am now. Not drinking. Obviously. No big surprise there.

But now my inbox is filled with other people’s chronicles of drinking. 

And it easy to spot within seconds whether a person is ready to proactively stop drinking. 

Or whether this is just another avenue to vent their inner loathing of themselves.

I’m of the strong belief that the more weapons we have in our non-drinking arsenal, the better our chance of winning the war.

With that in mind, it might be a good idea to go back through your own essays of despair, whether they be a diary, email correspondence or a blog, and see where you measure up right now on the scale of truly wanting to stop drinking.
Versus the self-flagellation that masquerades as wanting to stop.

If you use phrases like 

I can’t go on like this anymore

I’m tired of my life

I hate myself

I despise the way I look

I’m boring

I’m out of control 

I don’t like being single

My life is meaningless

I’m angry

I’ve always been a drinker

I hate my relationship 

Then none of these are a good indicator of a person who is ready to stop drinking. They just want to stop feeling. And alcohol is a crappy way of doing that. But if your expectations are low enough, it will just about do as a method.
Phrases that are more indicative of a person ready to stop are:

I know there is a better life than the one I’m living as a drinker

I do have depression, but I’m seeking help with it.

I look at other people’s lives and I think I deserve what they have too

I do believe there might be other hobbies out there that aren’t drinking.

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I am willing to find out.

I’m not great at relationships, but I want to learn.

I have anxiety, but I want to address it.

Wanting to stop drinking successfully comes from a place of having zero answers, but be open to solutions. 

Not from a place of needing to be perfect. Or refusing to listen. Or deciding we are beyond help.

We all have the same fears, but we all also have the same hopes and aspirations.

All that separates us is how willing we are to believe. To have faith that we can be helped. But we aren’t the expert. To leave that part to the ones who have already nailed non-drinking. And done so in a way that appeals to us.

Find someone living the sober life you want. Then do whatever it takes to persuade them to tell you how they did it.

Keep knocking on enough doors and one will open.

But in the meantime, be honest with yourself about whether you truly believe a non-drinking life is possible.

And begin that process by looking through you own words that you’ve already written.

Because you can’t hide from them.

And then the truth of them will set you free. 

Lucy: What a difference 22 days make…

I have been working with the most fantastic woman these past few weeks. Despite her being the busiest person I know, Lucy has taken the time to write a guest blog post about the changes she has made to her life in the past 22 days. 


She has done this for no other reason than to inspire other women who are standing where she stood only a short few weeks ago. I can’t tell you what that means to me. She’s just a fantastic human.


Ladies, I hope this makes your day as much as it has made mine. Xxx

The difference in Life BC (before Carrie) and AC (After Carrie)

 

Day 22 AC – Tuesday evening

My name is Lucy and I am not an alcoholic… well not as such anyway. I am a ‘problem drinker’ someone who was seriously unhappy with my drink intake and related problems a little over 3 weeks ago and someone that recently discovered the life changing brilliance of Carrie Armstrong and her formula for full pain free recovery. I consider myself extremely lucky, please allow me to elaborate a little on why I think this and how I found myself searching for, and finding Carrie in the first place.

On Monday April 11th 2016 BC, I started what felt like my hundredth ‘day one’ with a heavy heart. Yet another day that was to mark the beginning of my giving up alcohol for good, of getting control over the one thing in my life that was out of control. I was feeling so down and depressed, bloated and ill, full of self-hatred, stuck in a loop of continual self-aberration, the voice in my head so loud and constant that it was literally exhausting me. It was the end of the Easter Holidays and of around 10 days of drinking and eating in a very familiar pattern with the children off on holiday. Lots of family and friends, dinners and days out, all alcohol based, all centred around ‘respectable’ drinking sessions.

I should clarify at this point that I have never thought of myself as ‘an alcoholic’ or even as someone with a ‘drink problem’ but what I realise now, on my 22nd day fully alcohol free, is that I am someone who will always have a problem relationship with drink.

I have never drunk continuously, never before midday and never every day of the week, but my level of thinking about drinking, well that’s another thing entirely. Thinking about moderating my drink, thinking about ensuring that I had at least 2 days off a week (beat myself up appropriately if not) thinking about only having 2 or 3 drinks that particular day, thinking about drinking, thinking about not drinking and everything in-between literally was taking up my complete headspace. I disliked myself, was unkind to myself and my failure to control alcohol was something I beat myself with on a daily basis.

If you looked at me with external eyes, this is what you would see – a real career woman – aged 43 – not unattractive, happily married for 12 years, 2 beautiful healthy and intelligent children one of each, nice house in what’s considered a good area, a successful and fulfilling career, a good work ethic, no money worries, had a happy childhood – Nothing at all to complain about or not to like so far – right?

The reality – that you didn’t see was this: constant internal aberration and when I say constant I mean daily, many many times. This internal chatter could be about anything – wishing I was more patient or less short tempered, wishing I would control my eating better, wishing I could be more healthy and go to the gym more, wishing I could make healthier food choices, berating myself for not working harder, for not being a better more attentive parent, a better daughter, a better sister, a better wife… the list was endless.

I was living a small life in reality because I work full time, parent two children and cannot be bothered to do anything outside of work that doesn’t revolve around drinking. My main hobby was drinking, it has been since I was a teenager if Im honest. I liked everything about drinking – the ambience of pubs, the drinks, the ‘hilarious’ conversations, the ‘down time’ the ‘relaxation’ the companionship and the ‘shared interest’…. Every night out I would build around drinking, avoiding the cinema (interferes with drinking) avoiding going anywhere further than a mile away unless I planned a taxi (interferes with drinking) having weekends built around drinking in my nice ‘child friendly’ locals. Having children who know every name of every pub within a 3 mile radius and their associated children’s menus off by heart (the shame) Having only friends and colleagues who love drinking (everyone who doesn’t drink is boring – right?!) having 3 pints here, 4 large gin and tonics there, a Saturday night with a takeaway and a bottle of wine, followed by a boozy Sunday lunch arranged by me to give me a reason to make Sunday drinking respectable, starting at 12pm with prosecco and nibbles followed by a good few glasses of red – red faces, too high voices and ‘good times’ had by all ..

Passed out by 5pm in front of the telly, awake again at 7pm putting the children to bed with a hangover starting already, tired, irritable, grumpy – making this time with them as short as possible so that I can get away and just sit until it passes. Constantly tired and feeling so dissatisfied with my life despite all the great things that I have, low level depression, dissatisfaction, unhappiness.

Until 22 days ago, I was always on a diet, I have been ever since I can remember, from the age of 14 at least when I found drink. From that point on, I always needed my calories for drink – If I was really dieting then it would need to be vodka and slim as that would allow me to lose weight and still drink at least on Friday and Saturday nights – this was what my ‘best scenario’ looked like, however most often my reality would be Monday – feel so awful that I was glad to be off the drink, Tuesday feel loads better and start to think about drinking again, struggle not to have one until Wednesday when I would engineer to get my husband to agree to take the children to the pub at 6pm after collecting them so that they could ‘have a sundae there as they love it’ in reality this would allow me to have 2 large glasses of wine and a vodka or two on return to the house. Thursday would be slightly hungover and so back home and a glass of wine or more vodkas and the Friday and Saturday, well that was free reign again, friends to see (or even when not) A couple of pints, 2-3 large vodkas or some wine – never enough to be noticed but always there and a constant companion, trying always to moderate and failing miserably to control the one thing that I wanted to control more than anything…

And then I found Carrie… searching online for forums and a solution to my problem there she was… a few lines down on my Google search, unassuming, not advertised but something about it made me click on her – and Im so so glad that I did as my life AC (after Carrie) began almost immediately.

After my initial pretty desperate email to her (which she responded to right away) Carrie scheduled me in for a one to one on Skype and I was terrified! Partly because I was actually holding myself accountable for the first time and partly because I just don’t DO talking about me, opening up, admitting I have any problems. I am the quintessential English ‘fine’ I always have been, and here I was scheduling to talk to a stranger, face to face, for an hour! About me! Arrgh!

But I did it, and she was amazing and awesome and just made so so much sense to me. I mean she has been through LOADS of bad times, by rights she should be sceptical and bitter about these things but she is not, she is so full of life and amazing advice and she just has this recovery thing totally nailed, I mean like totally nailed.

From the very beginning she gave me some tools, she made it very clear that without hard work I would not be able to live a complete and full life without my lifelong crutch, that if I didn’t put the work in as she asked, and follow the steps that she outlined, that although I could live alcohol free, I would be doing it through self-denial and would therefore always hanker after alcohol and Carrie doesn’t do denial, not at all in fact…

And so yes, I have had to work hard over the past 22 days, I have had to build new habits and from the very tiniest of beginnings I have begun to create a new path. I have had to push myself outside of my comfort zone and do new things every single day, but you know what, this has not felt painful AT ALL! It has felt fascinating, and new, and interesting, and achievable and wonderful and amazing – really it has…. I have had only one ‘down’ day in the last 22 days and Carrie helped me through this with reasoning and wise words over email… the rest of the time has just flown by , learning new things and feeling more and more amazing after every session, readjusting how I see and feel the world, appreciating even the smallest things, and I am absolutely loving it!

Last week I had a week away with work – this was a really tough week full of learning and socialising and hard work – 5 nights in a row with 35 International colleagues none of whom I had met before. I had to live with them all, in a hotel with a bar on tap and dinner and drinks and activities planned every single night Monday through to Friday and guess what – I had no desire to drink alcohol whatsoever…and I did not touch a drop – for the first time in over 20 years I was away in a hotel and I did not touch a drop.

No one was more amazed than me at this achievement and you know what, I felt proud and strong and clear headed and interested in every single second of my amazing experience there in Paris. Totally in the experience, no internal hate chatter going on, no bloated tired mornings, no sleepless nights tossing and turning and sweating, just enjoyment and contentment and a real fascination with watching others drink, seeing that most people just do not drink like I did, and for the few that did, I watched as they became more and more down and tired as the week went on and struggled to keep up with everyone else. 22 days ago that we definitely me. I am so so happy to not be that person now.

At one point during the week I felt a little ‘lost’ and maybe a bit left out, I had a spike feeling of why me? Why can’t I go to the bar and join in and just have one? And then I remember that for me, it was never really just one and literally the first one awoke the desire for more and then in turn the internal critic who came back with a bang… I told Carrie about this moment and she made me see that it’s not true reality, it’s just a perception that alcohol helps to ease awkwardness and smooth transitions in social situations when what it really does is dull the senses and ensure that you just don’t feel in a real sense. That you don’t really connect. The reality is that it’s not always easy to meet new people and make real connections with them immediately, that it takes time… and that you might feel anxious and shy at first, but that’s OK, its normal to feel that way, and when you get through that …and out the other side into friendship without the prop of alcohol… well that feels pretty damn special to be honest.

After 22 days, I now know that I can totally socialise without alcohol, I have found awesome alcohol free sparkling drinks, mocktails and the best alcohol free beers for times that I want an adult tasting drink that isn’t a ‘soft drink’ I have learnt that I am funnier without alcohol to dull my sense of humour, and that I am much more interested in the food that I eat and in other people’s back stories… I am so much more patient with my children and I feel the extra time that I am enjoying spending just talking to them, coming back to me tenfold. They are delighted with new mummy – mummy who is not too busy wondering when she can get downstairs to have a G&T to worry about listening to their day at school or their latest friend based woe. My husband and I are talking more – it’s a bit odd at first yes, finding new things to talk about without the drink but its fab and I have learnt several new things about him in the past 3 weeks that I had never found the time to ask about before in the 15 years that we have been together. I am watching different TV, wearing different clothes, going new places, trying new things and whilst it takes effort, I find that I love it. Oh and sober sex is pretty fabulous too!

Am I still going to the pub? Yes! Of course I am… to meet friends and socialise and eat a meal and catch up, the difference is that I am leaving sooner, happy to get home with the children and do different things, more patient, happier and feeling like such a better version of myself.

The point here is this – I know it’s ‘only’ been 22 days but it feels totally different. My alcohol free life is so much wider and bigger than my drinking life was. Carrie has helped me to see that it’s all about the momentum in life, that appreciating the small things really does make you happier, that you can have a brilliant and fulfilling life without alcohol and more and more people are doing it – it is really only in our drink soaked society that it is not seen as the norm to be honest…this time I know it’s different, I won’t go back now and I am SO thankful each day that Carrie found time to help me and to teach me what she learnt in her darker times and if writing this blog can make even one other person see that they can do this, then I will be a happy woman indeed…

Ramble over; if I can do this, honestly you can too

Love

Lucy xx