Guest blog ‘The Tricks of the Mind’ by Ann-Marie

Guest blog ‘The Tricks of the Mind’ by Ann-Marie

My story is probably similar to a lot of people that struggle with addiction; I was tricked by my own mind.

I thought that I could moderate, but deep down, I knew that alcohol was destroying me physically, mentally and spiritually.

I’d always had a troubled relationship with alcohol, but there was something about it that I couldn’t leave behind. Booze was my trusted companion. I felt more alive when under the influence; more lovable, more desirable, more like the person I wanted to be. I was a binge drinker. I lived for ‘going hard’ at the weekends but as the drinking continued, so did the consequences. Blurred nights, lost phones and wallets, dodgy house parties in even dodgier neighbourhoods, mounting debt, crashing cars, lying, stealing, ruining relationships, hurting people.

Hurting myself.

I began to question my relationship with alcohol in 2016, after more than ten years of self destruction. With the help of my partner and my counsellor, I started making sustaining broken periods of sobriety here and there.

However, in the summer of 2017, after nearly 6 months sober, I tricked myself once more.

Alcohol had been out of the picture for long enough at that point for those around me to think that I didn’t have a problem. My drinking started out small. A bottle of beer here, a pint there. Then slowly my binge episodes racked up.

On 12 November 2017, I went on a horrific binge that very nearly cost me my relationship. It was the final straw. I had truly surrendered to the power of alcohol.

I asked for help, checked myself into an inpatient programme and spent my Christmas in hospital. It was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. I attended AA meetings, connected with sober people online, listened to podcasts, read books, meditated and expressed gratitude for what I had.

Today, I am nearly ten months sober. I have been on an alcohol free holiday with my loving partner, who stood by my side at my worst. I’ve made new friends in sobriety and have been able to listen and offer advice to friends who want to live a sober life. I have set up a meet up group for women in Dublin (see link below) who are looking for friends in recovery. I am developing better relationships with my partner, family and friends.

Things aren’t always rosy but I am much more content than I ever was before, especially during the depths of my addiction.

I hope my story resonates with others.

Here’s a phrase I embrace every day

‘The opposite of addiction is community and togetherness’

Believe me, it’s true ❤️

Written by Ann-Marie, edited by Sober Fish

DUBLIN MEET UP

https://www.meetup.com/Dublin-Women-s-Recovery-Group

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Guest blog ‘Learning Alcohol No Longer Serves Me’ by Karolina

Guest blog ‘Learning Alcohol No Longer Serves Me’ by Karolina

I can count back at least five years where I consciously knew I wasn’t entirely happy drinking alcohol. I didn’t know this when I was planning winery getaways or brewery hangouts. I didn’t know this come every weekend when I drank, because, well, it was the weekend and wasn’t that just what everyone did?

I only knew this during the very still and quiet times, in whispers and glimmers. I knew it when I woke up once again with a dull headache. I knew it when I let myself down and felt my self-esteem crumbling. I knew it as I journaled that surely I was meant for more than this merry-go-round.

One of the scientific effects of alcohol is that it makes you sad and anxious but everything in my life was so amazing. I was a happy person. I didn’t drink alcohol to drown my sorrows or use it to relieve my stress. I drank socially or as a weekend treat so why was alcohol becoming my Achilles heel? What was I doing wrong? I was slowly becoming someone that I couldn’t identify with and at times, actively hated.

It wasn’t like I could just quit; that would scream to the world that I’m an alcoholic, which is the last thing I would ever admit to. My drinking was fairly normal for my age and lifestyle. I only drank around the weekend and kept it under one hand’s fingers. Anyways, adults drink, that is a requirement of life isn’t it?

With all this internal turbulence, I was pretty excited to try Dry January. It was a movement people! Finally, I had a solid excuse to try an alcohol free life without having to tell people I had a ‘problem’.

I couldn’t wait. I was going to reset, get healthy, and learn new mindful drinking habits. I would then return to my Friday night treat with new determination, new rules, a new understanding of how much alcohol makes me feel happy and how much was too much. I was going to have this thing solved.  I was going to be new person.

Dry January was incredible. I slept amazingly well, lived healthier, devoured books, and felt so much appreciation and gratitude. I enjoyed myself doing the simplest things like playing board games with my husband and goofing around with my niece. I learned that I could hang out with my closest friends without drinking and still have fun. I felt like myself; there were no masks, no internal shame was smothering me; it was just me learning to be awake and alive.

February arrived and I realised I wasn’t really looking forward to drinking again. But, I knew I would return to it. It reminded me of being on vacation and experiencing the most profound realization that our time on earth is short and every moment should be seized. But then you come home, wake up on Monday morning and go the job you hate, because, well, that’s life. You need a job to live and you need to drink to survive right?

During February, I drank nine times and I hated each and every time.

I was proud of my first weekend drinking. I had two and a half beers on Friday night over a long boozy dinner and then only two beers on Saturday night. Wow. This was it! I could finally moderate! Dry January had really worked it’s magic! But I disliked the feeling when the social part of the night was over and I came home to my nightly routine. I hated feeling buzzed when I was trying to read and journal. I hated how I felt in the morning after a ridiculously restless sleep compared to the sleeping beauty slumber I had grown used to.

The following week I went to Las Vegas. For the first few days, I only had one drink per day, but by Saturday and Sunday I was ready to let loose. I had about 4-5 drinks on each of those days and it was the very last time I got drunk. I remember having a drink at the bar and feeling upbeat and having fun talking to my husband. Then we left to get a taxi to go to the hotel and suddenly my feelings of frustration and impatience were through the roof! WHERE was the taxi? WHERE was the bathroom? I’d only had one drink and was acting like the world owed me a favour! Later, I saw an award-winning acrobatic show and felt complete and utter apathy. Only a few weeks ago I was mesmerized by trees and clouds. What was going on?

By the time I was on the plane home, I felt such a dull ache in my heart. In fact, half-drunk and half-hating myself, I ordered Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind (https://amzn.to/2PXLvvV) to read when I got back.

On the last weekend in February, I drank alcohol for the last time. On the Friday, we were out for date night and I had two beers. I then started arguing with my husband because I was being sentimental and wanted his undivided attention while he was trying to normally cross the road. That wouldn’t have happened if I was sober.

The next night and very last time I ever drank, I had half a bottle of wine while watching a movie and playing a game. The movie sucked and I wasn’t really into the game. I didn’t like the taste of the alcohol and it wasn’t giving me a nice warm buzz. I had to force myself to drink my two and half glasses until my last sip when the buzz appeared and feelings of the alcohol “chase” kicked in. This sucked. Drinking alcohol sucked.

I decided to do another thirty days without it. I was relieved to start again. The heavenly sleep! Maybe I could live my whole life this way? Drink a little, take a thirty-day break? Except that when I got to the end, magical things happened. I was riding such a pink cloud, such a burst of happiness, I felt so giddy like I was falling in love.

Thirty days turned into sixty days. I had completely new experiences and traveled to New Orleans, Boston, and Hawaii all sober. I watched sunrises. I swam with fish and rode bikes along the coast.  I went to birthday parties—I felt so happy I wouldn’t wake up with a hangover compared to the people around me. Smug even. I started writing again. My lifelong dream was to write more, but I used to have the worst writer’s block.

I had started to become the person I had always wanted to be.

I had an upcoming vacation and thought surely I would drink then. I had planned a trip to Japan when I was still drinking and for me traveling always meant experiencing the local drinking culture, like going to sake breweries and having Japanese beer in izakayas. But when I got there, I just knew the waves of gratitude, appreciation and good feelings would go away the moment I had a drink. I would feel pretty low having to restart my clock. And for what? A beer that I’ve had like 5,000 times in my life before? Been there, done that. I didn’t drink. And guess what, for all that culture I thought I was missing out on? I did get to have beer in an izakaya—non-alcoholic beer is everywhere in Japan. I came home knowing I was not going to drink for a year, then a year in my mind turned into two, and then I finally decided to not drink ever again. This life was too good to ever give up.

Not drinking alcohol has led to the most amazing shifts in my life. I love myself again. I am proud of my decisions and lifestyle. I feel tremendous happiness and gratitude most of the time. Euphoric really. Sometimes I feel low too, but instead of numbing myself, I let myself feel low, and come out of that with more resilience. I am so confident in my decision to go alcohol-free. It’s the tipping point to everything I have always wanted in my life. I am finally on the trajectory I was meant to be on and getting to know the person I was meant to be. Life is so much bigger than drinking alcohol every weekend.

You don’t have to drink A LOT to feel that alcohol is holding you back from your fullest potential.

You don’t have to feel embarrassed about examining your relationship with alcohol—it is the most life-affirming thing you can do.

You don’t have to decide to quit drinking forever to try and experience the perks of an alcohol-free lifestyle.

You don’t have to label yourself and throw yourself a pity party that you can’t drink anymore.

Alcohol is sleep-interrupting cancer-giving brain-altering depression-producing fulfillment-robbing confidence-faking substance that makes you look old, greasy, fat, and sad.

I am thrilled I don’t have to drink it anymore.

Written by Karolina Rzadkowolska, edited by Sober Fish

Euphoric Alcohol-Free

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www.facebook.com/euphoricaf

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Guest blog ‘The Myth Of Moderation’ by Lauren

Guest blog ‘The Myth Of Moderation’ by Lauren

My name is Lauren, I’m 37 years old and I got sober in May 2017 after binge drinking for 20 years.

I started partying when I was still in high school, getting drunk on the weekends and that continued into my adult life. I always justified my binge drinking because I didn’t drink at home and wasn’t a daily drinker. I thought getting blackout drunk 2-3 days a week was normal because all my friends did it too. Ha! Turns out the joke was on me! The truth is that it’s not normal and has caused a great deal of pain throughout my life.

About 4 years ago, my son started using drugs, got arrested and quit school. He was 15 years old. It was a big wake up call for me and I tried to cut back on my social time to be at home more. That worked on and off but my circle of friends didn’t change and they normalized our behavior.

In January 2017, I hit my rock bottom. My son was in jail for the 4th time, my daughter had started to shut down emotionally, I was in another abusive relationship, was super overweight and absolutely miserable.

I had decided I was done.

To prepare for sobriety, I prayed, read my bible, journaled and started exercising but still kept drinking. As I was attempting to get my life together, my son entered rehab for the 3rd time. Seeing him begin the restoration process and hearing some hard truths about how my behavior has affected him was all I needed to sober up.

I finally quit drinking on 6 May 2017.

My children and I went through a lot of counseling which really improved our communication and relationships. For the first time, my life started to shift in a positive direction. God was moving mountains.

Sobriety allowed me to see life like I never had before. It was painful at times but mostly beautiful. My daughter and I moved to the beach for a fresh start and to have somewhere for my son to live once he was finished with his rehab.

Unfortunately, I became a little too comfortable with my sobriety and tricked myself into thinking moderation was actually a possibility. This was amusing because I do very little in moderation! I started having a drink here and there with friends but made sure I didn’t get drunk. I hadn’t told anyone the extent of the damage my drinking has caused in life.

I most definitely didn’t tell my children I was drinking occasionally again; hiding my behaviour should’ve been the huge red flag I needed but I ignored it. My son moved to be with us in May 2018 but relapsed almost immediately. It transpired he’d been using beforehand but i didn’t know.

I didn’t understand why or how?! I was sad, disappointed and started spending a little more time with friends. I quickly relapsed. Opening the door to moderation quickly turned into me drowning out the pain and chaos with alcohol. Old habits and behavior confirmed what I had been denying; I am an alcoholic. The pain I felt and disappointment I saw in my children was all I needed to get sober.

I’ve now been sober since Aug 6, 2018 and use my faith and Celebrate Recovery as my help and accountability. My son has moved out; I’m praying he gets clean. I am not my addiction. I am human & will strive to be a better one day after day. Addiction is so real but so is restoration, grace & mercy.

Written by Lauren, edited by Sober Fish

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Guest Blog ‘The Story of the Serial Quitter’ by lovely Jan

Guest Blog ‘The Story of the Serial Quitter’ by lovely Jan

I am sitting on the toilet seat in my bathroom, looking at my husband who is crouched down on the floor in front of me. He’s got a tea towel in his hand which he’s holding against the side of my head and he’s talking to somebody on the phone. I think he’s talking about me but I’m struggling to work out what’s going on. Why’s he in here? Who is he talking to? Why does the bath look like a scene from Psycho??!!

Three years ago, after a family Sunday lunch and far too much red wine, I fell over in the bathroom and smashed my head against the tiled wall. I didn’t feel it and couldn’t remember exactly what had happened until two weeks later when it all came back to me in some hideous Hollywood-style flashback.

I felt incredibly ashamed. I work in Emergency Services and am more than aware of the cost of time-wasters (which is exactly how I saw myself). My accident was totally unnecessary, caused by my inability to stop drinking once I’ve started.

I wasn’t always like this. As a teenager, I wasn’t really fussed about alcohol. I never tried to buy a drink underage, partly because I looked like a 12 year old boy until my mid twenties but mostly due to a complete lack of interest!

In my twenties, I would drink from time to time, but my social life revolved mostly around music and I would quite happily drive to gigs. I don’t remember ever needing to drink to be sociable. In my mind, the two things just weren’t really connected. Even though I wasn’t blessed with a great deal of self confidence or self esteem, I never used alcohol as confidence booster……..until I did.

Fast forward to my mid thirties when I met my now husband and we soon moved in together. We used to buy wine from our local shop – three bottles of red for a tenner. These three bottles would last us all week, no problem, and often, we would even have half bottles left over!

My husband has two sons who lived with their mother but spent weekends and holidays with us. My relationship with the boys was good and being a stepmum was generally very rewarding but could be challenging at times. The main issue was that their mother would take every opportunity to try and damage my relationship with them, mostly by rewarding them for behaving badly around me. I never retaliated but at times it was very difficult to cope with.

In the early days of our relationship, we took the boys to Spain for a holiday. We had a good time but the efforts of their mother had made things more difficult than they needed to be which affected the boys’ behaviour and made me feel quite stressed, insecure and at times, very on edge. So, I took the edge off with wine! I didn’t get drunk but would have a drink on and off throughout the day and evening and it just made the whole situation much easier to deal with.

After that holiday my drinking habits changed slowly but surely and soon it became the norm to drink most days. It became apparent that I’d broken my own off switch!

After several years of this habitual drinking, I started to notice that it wasn’t so much fun anymore. There were some incidents and arguments that were entirely down to my level of intoxication and were becoming more frequent. Then came the bathroom accident where it transpired I had split a vein on my head, wasted everyone’s time at A&E and was told by the doctor that if I’d have hit it a centimetre lower I would probably be dead.

So for the next two years I was much more mindful of my drinking. There were occasions I would still have too much and do or say something regrettable but not as frequently as before. I even managed to stay alive! Great! Well done me! BUT it was fucking exhausting! A constant battle to keep it in check.

Last year I became so tired of constantly thinking about drinking that I decided it had to be easier to ditch it altogether. What I was doing wasn’t ‘mindful’; it was a constant mental battle with myself and I’d had enough.

From July through to the end of September I was alcohol free. There were odd moments where I missed it but generally it was easy. I felt better. I looked better and all my relationships seemed easier and calmer. So you know what I did don’t you? I thought I must be cured and so on 1st October I had a drink. Then a week later I had two drinks. Then four days later……I don’t need to tell you, do I? It took about three weeks and I was back to square one. I still massively regret being such a twat and listening to what I now understand to be the voice of addiction, the devious little fucker!

After that I struggled to find the mindset to start again until the 16th June this year, when my wonderful husband said the magic words…. ‘do you fancy doing 100 days alcohol free with me?’ Do I? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?? YES! YES I DO!!

My husband is mad keen cyclist and is training for a major event, which at the time, was 100 days away. So, on 17th June, we both ditched the poison and we dived straight into life without it. Whatever has come our way, we’ve done it without alcohol. No excuses. And here we are feeling so much better and both of us agree that we will never go back to the way things were before.

My top tip for those of you who, like me, have had successful alcohol free stints but ended up back at square one? Don’t listen to that voice that tells you that you can moderate. It’s a big fat liar. Give it a name. Create a mental image of it and then tell it to fuck right off!!

Beautifully written by Jan and barely edited by Sober Fish

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#club365 – Ariane ‘My Soberversary Story’

#club365 – Ariane ‘My Soberversary Story’

I had my first drink at 13, and my last at 32. For close to two decades, alcohol was an integral part of my life. When I fell pregnant with my first child, I had plenty of time to dry out and think about how unhealthy my relationship with alcohol had become. This would become the biggest catalyst in my journey to living booze-free.

I grew up in the suburbs of a large city, in a safe residential home. Despite having a loving and supportive family, I was a highly sensitive child, and struggled with feelings of low self worth from early on. As a chubby pre-teen, I felt like I stood out, and for all the wrong reasons. I wanted people to see that I was kind, funny and nice; not that I was eating too many chips and chocolate bars. The end of my elementary school years saw me eating my lunch in the bathroom, isolated from the judgement of my peers. Some days, I would throw my lunch in the garbage, ashamed to even be seen with food.

The inner dialogue of not being good enough plagued me.

I often felt sad, lonely and ugly. Unlovable.

In high school, things changed. I found a group of friends that were open and accepting, and slowly, I became more confident in my skin. I enjoyed making people laugh, and soon, my body issues lessened, but didn’t entirely disappear. When I had my first drink at the end of grade 7, I realized that this magic liquid was an effective way of forgetting that I hated myself.

I drank with friends on the weekends; at parks, parties and punk rock shows. I had finally found a formula that worked to relieve my teenage angst and coming of age confusion.

Drinking made me feel more social, prettier, and far more interesting. This was the very beginning of my drinking career, so hangovers weren’t a major issue for my young and capable body. Recovery was quite easy, and the party had just begun.

By the time high school ended, I found myself in the midst of a huge life change. My parents were separating, and I was going to be moving, along with my mom and sister, to the city. Although this was an exciting logistical change, the hurt and sadness of the separation were not easy to deal with. I tried to focus my energies on music, friends and school, but my sensitive nature once again kicked in to overdrive. Not knowing how to deal with my emotional burden, I escaped into the bottle. I dropped out of college unfortunately, as I had been part of a really neat Law & Society program that I loved. During the first three semesters, I was getting straight A’s, and really focusing on advancing my academic career. By the fourth semester, I was drinking of beer in the park during the day, crying over my badly bruised heart. My family had split up and I literally didn’t know how to deal with it.

The drinking continued, as I found myself in one destructive relationship after the next. Fixating on romance became a bit of an obsession. Subconsciously, I was trying to heal the wounds that were left from the demise of my parents’ marriage. Choosing partners that were absent, abusive or struggling with substance abuse issues left me feeling very shaky and ungrounded. I was so desperate for a fairy tale ending, that I sacrificed my mental and physical health, staying in unhealthy relationships for much longer than I should’ve. I accepted poor treatment, all the while believing that I was the flawed one that was unlovable.

In my mid 20’s, I’d had enough of the bad feelings, so I embarked on a journey of self discovery. Reading self-help and personal development books by the dozen, I slowly started to understand why some of these negative patterns had emerged. Little by little, I was uncovering that I was more than just a little bit codependent. Trying to fix other people’s problems took the focus off of my own, and my obsessive tendencies kept me busy enough to get by.

Despite being heavily into the self-help department at the bookstore, I continued to drink. My self-awareness levels were rising, so I obviously knew that I had an unhealthy relationship with drinking, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do about it at that point.

I liked to drink. A lot.

It seemed like booze had almost been weaved into my core self, so much so that I didn’t know who or what I’d be without a drink in my hand.

When I met my husband, I knew that I was on the right path. For once, I had chosen a partner that was present, supportive and kind. We drank a ton together in the early years, but at least the relationship was abuse-free and loving.

It was a step in the right direction.

It was the day after our wedding party, and I was hungover in a hotel room. A pregnancy test confirmed that I was going to be a mom. Not only was I ecstatic at the prospect of having a child, I knew that it was time for some major life changes.

Although I wasn’t totally sure of what would happen after the baby was born, I was soulfully blissed out for 9 months, alcohol free (save a few sips of wine at dinner from time to time) and grateful.

Though I enjoyed my newfound clarity immensely, I hadn’t fully committed to a sober future, and my bad habits quickly returned a month or so after my son was born. I drank with added shame, desperately not wanting to be a boozy mom, but also struggling with giving it up. When I found out I was pregnant again, just three months after giving birth, I knew that the Universe was sending me some major signs. The first child was the eye-opener, and the second was the enforcer.

Mom, you can do this. You have to do this.

On August 11th, 2017, I made a solid commitment that I would not drink again.

Time and experience had proven that alcohol added nothing positive to my life, and so I bravely jumped on the wagon with gusto and pride.

Instead of feeling shame about my past relationship with drinking, I want to share my story to help break down the stigma that surrounds alcohol abuse.

Three years ago I would’ve never imagined that by now I’d have two beautiful babies, a wonderful husband and a book in the works.

Clarity, happiness and gratitude have replaced cheap wine, hangovers and regret.

I am so proud of how far I’ve come.

My evolution into a sober warrior has really just begun, and I am so excited about what the future holds.

Here are my 3 top tips for starting out on sobriety journey!

1 Read and write! When I first started flirting with sobriety, I devoured books in the “quit lit” category. Reading about other people’s journeys helped me to stay focused on my own goals, and also gave me some great information about alcohol abuse.

2 Network. I found a huge online family via Instagram and other public forums. This community helped me when I needed someone to talk to about my struggles. It’s really helpful to find that there are thousands of people who have had similar experiences.

3 Focus on self-care. This is a big one! Quitting drinking will immediately make you realize how much time was spent on drinking, partying and nursing hangovers. Focusing on self-care, and being patient with yourself throughout the process will help immensely. I started to workout more regularly at the gym, and prioritized things that were good for my body, soul and mind. Reading, long baths, baby cuddles and writing have become necessary additions to my week.

My Instagram is @soberstarlet

Blog: www.theshadowandtheshimmer.blogspot.com

Written by Ariane, barely edited by Sober Fish

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