I grew up with tee-total parents, and didn’t really discover alcohol until I left my sleepy home town in Norfolk to chase the bright lights of the Bournemouth seafront at 21.

In the relationship I was in at the time, we would think nothing of going on an all-day session most weekends. In fact, looking back, I probably started drinking on a Friday on the way home from work and kept going until late Sunday afternoon. One All Inclusive holiday we were asked to leave our hotel as we had drunk more than our allocation of booze!

It’s fine, I thought;

I can handle it, I thought.

For ten consecutive years, the Universe sent me big piles of shit to stop me in my tracks, and to make me pay attention to my life. Only it didn’t, it sent me to the Off Licence.

Bereavement, divorce, stalking, assault, redundancy, relocation…year after year life’s big traumatic events would knock me sideways and I would self-medicate with booze.

It’s fine, I thought;

I can handle it, I thought.

Until the night I ‘celebrated’ the first anniversary of losing a close friend by going to bed at 6pm and drinking countless bottles of wine…in my bed…by myself. I knew I was losing the fight against my Mental Health, and whilst I was an expert at The Fake Smile, I knew I couldn’t lie to myself any longer.

I lost a whole Summer once.

A. Whole. Summer.

It was wasted on hibernating under my duvet with a sore head from the night before; wasted because the safety of my metaphorical cave was so much more appealing than the real world outside. I would spend the day at work, putting on my brave face and my big girl pants, and would literally race home to hide. I was falling deeper and deeper in to a black hole of depression.

And then my God-daughter was born; a girl who changed my world forever. Suddenly the bright lights of Bournemouth lost their sparkle, and all I wanted was to be back home in Norfolk with my life-long friends and loving family. As I type this I chuckle, as my Dad had his last hangover in 1976, and I’ve not once in my life seen my best friend drunk. I knew I had to change my tribe, in order to change my mental health.

It’s fine, I thought;

I can handle it, I thought.

I was an International HR Superhero by day, and a happy loved friend by night, but there weren’t many International HR jobs in rural Norfolk (!!) so I suddenly found myself in Soho, London, commuting back home when I could. But then there were the late nights (who am I kidding – early mornings socialising) with the colleagues or the bored, and lonely nights with a hotel mini-bar. When I finally kicked myself out of the Groucho Club at 6am and still managed a day’s work, I knew I had to change my career, in order to change my mental health.

I signed myself off sick and asked my GP for anti-depressants. It was time to tackle the Black Dog, and not just tame it, but give it the lethal injection for good. Whilst chatting to the GP, he just casually pointed out that I hadn’t had a smear test for the last 6 years, and perhaps now that I was off sick, it would be a good time to catch up on ‘health admin’. A week later I was given the words everyone dreads.

You. Have. Cancer.

The black dog of depression was no longer curled up asleep by the fire; it became vicious, bitter, obsessive and dangerous. Not forgetting the physical ailments, I became so mentally ill that one night, despite my bedroom window over-looking a field of cows, I was convinced there was a man at my window, trying to attack me. It was a metaphor for my life, and finally gave me the kick up the backside to go for therapy.

I’d tried counselling, but that just replayed bad events, and I’ve since learnt that because the brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, it thinks it’s happening all over again, and releases adrenaline and cortisol to protect you. This just then adds fuel to the “let’s drink and cry loads” fire, which is no good for anyone.

I tried anger management classes, but got asked to leave for being too angry!

I tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which helped put rules in place, such as to only allow myself to ruminate for 2 minutes, which comforted my obsessive nature when I literally set a stopwatch and ranted!

It’s fine, I thought;

I can handle it, I thought.

Only then, for the first time in my 40 years, was I actually right. I had finally found a way to be fine, and to handle it, and actually mean it. What I’m about to tell you literally saved my life.

I met a Clinical Hypnotherapist, and was just blown away when he explained to me how my brain works, why it’s stuck in this drink-cry-fall down-hangover-drink again vicious circle, but most importantly what I could do about it. I was told all I had to do was three things in between our sessions:

1. Positive Action. I had to do something that got me out of hibernation and got oxygen in my lungs. For me that meant gentle exercise, which released dopamine in to my system, which is a reward hormone.

2. Positive Interaction. We operate better as a part of a tribe, rather than as individuals, so I had to spend time with people I love. This released oxytocin, which is the love hormone.

3. Positive Thinking: Even at the height of my cancer diagnosis when I didn’t get out of bed for 8 days (not because of physical health, but mental health) I had to notice something good in every day. I was asked to keep a diary of “What’s Been Good” which released serotonin, which is the happy hormone.

When your brain releases these hormones, it blocks the hormones that make you want to drink, and make you feel anxious or depressed. Serotonin is literally the world’s best drug!

I loved the therapy so much that I resigned from my successful career, that I’d done for the last 20 years, and decided to re-train. I am now a fully qualified Psychotherapist, and offer Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapy via Skype to clients all over the world.

I have been sober since 2 January 2018, been given the all clear from the cancer, have met the man of my dreams, and whilst life still throws me its curveballs, I’m now stronger than ever to be able to manage them.

Cheers to that!

Written by Rebecca, edited by Sober Fish

www.inspiredtochange.biz www.facebook.com/hypnotherapythetford

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