The Sober Fish Top Tips for A Dry January

The Sober Fish Top Tips for A Dry January

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS and WELL DONE for deciding to give Dry January a whirl! It really is the best present you can give to yourself, especially after the chaos of Christmas.

In my opinion, any time of the sauce ain’t no bad thing but please, be realistic.

Bluntly, you are not going to lose 3 stone in 31 days. In fact, you may lose little or no weight unless you are on a calorie controlled diet and doing lots of exercise, but hey, one thing at a time eh? Concentrate on getting a good period of sobriety under your belt before you worry about everything else. Deprive yourself of food AND alcohol and I promise you won’t be a happy bunny.

You probably won’t have the skin of a baby after such a short time. It takes time for the nasty alcohol toxins to leave your body and whilst your eyes may look brighter or your skin be less puffy, significant changes often take longer than one month to notice.

You will not instantly sleep like you’re dead or have boundless energy by Day 2. Remember, you have been slowly poisoning your body for years and that damage takes time to reverse. Listen to your body. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you wake up early, use that time to do something you wouldn’t usually do like read or write or exercise.

It won’t be easy after the overindulgence of December and you WILL be in a mood and feel hard done by, but you have to remember why you are doing this. Dry January could possibly be one of the biggest foundation blocks to your sober future. Use it well.

The keys to success are –

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN – you MUST meticulously plan in the early days. Think about where you’re going, who’s going to be there, what you going to drink and what you will do if you feel triggered ..

Personally I avoided most situations where there was going to be copious amounts of alcohol for the first few months. I mean, if you were on a diet, you wouldn’t hang out in a bakery would you?

PODCASTS – I love podcasts! I particularly enjoyed the Recovery Elevator (I’m interviewed on episode 125) or The Alcohol & Addiction podcast. It really helped me to listen to other people’s stories especially at trigger times. More recently, I’ve been listening to Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’ and Desert Island Discs – there’s thousands of those to choose from.

TREATS – us humans just lurve rewarding ourselves! Giving up one thing will almost certainly mean replacing it with something else. That’s just the way it is. My vices swung between Elderflower cordial to Curly Wurlies to Magnums to Mince Pies. I used exercise to combat my over-treating and started to lose weight after 6 weeks of sobriety.

EXERCISE – it’s no secret that exercise is good for us, both physically and mentally. For me, walking has been my saviour. Start by doing short walks and gradually build up your pace and distance. I used

https://www.raceatyourpace.co.uk

for 3 months to build the habit of exercise into my routine and it worked a treat! Choose an activity you ENJOY and be very disciplined about how often you do it. You will have to fill your big alcohol-shaped hole with something!

ONLINE GROUPS – Join online groups such as Club Soda Together

www.joinclubsoda.co.uk

or search for ‘Alcohol Explained’ on Facebook. These groups have been my lifelines and provide essential support when you need it most. Imagine, lots of people just like YOU with a common goal in mind. Brilliant!

ALCOHOL FREE ALTERNATIVES – stock up with your favourite alcohol-free tipple. Drink it in a wine glass if it makes you feel better. If you choose to drink alcohol-free wine & beer, do that. If alcohol-free wine & beer triggers you, don’t do that! Do what is good for YOU! There are thousands of drinks to choose from these days; there really is no need for ethanol

QUIT LIT – with all that money you’re not spending on alcohol, get some books about sobriety or an Audible membership. There are hundreds of titles out there to help you (see bottom of blog for ideas). Literally flood your mind with sober thoughts.

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TRIGGER TIMES – Recognise your trigger times and arrange to do something different to what you would usually do. If your trigger time is Friday night, go to the cinema & eat popcorn. If it’s Sunday evening, go out for a walk. You have to fill trigger time with something else or the nagging thought will win.

You cannot do the same things & expect different results. If you sit in front of the TV night after night & expect not crave a drink, you will be sorely disappointed. Soberdom is not just about not drinking alcohol. It is about changing your lifestyle, breaking a habit and doing something different. Try writing down how you feel, or calling a friend to talk or join online discussions.

YOU have to change YOU if you want to succeed.

Wishing you all the luck in the world!

YOU CAN DO THIS

Lots of Love SF X

PODCAST –

RE 125: Focus on the Action and Not the Results

WEBINAR – http://bit.ly/2VfEU2G

ONLINE SUPPORT –

Home

HELP AND ADVICE –

https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/dry-january

QUIT LIT –

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Guest Blog – ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claire

Guest Blog – ‘Peace of Mind’ by Claire

Like a lot of people, I started drinking as a teenager and loved it, mainly because it made me more confident in social situations and I considered myself to be shy without it.

I continued with this attitude throughout my life (now I am 36), believing alcohol made me likeable and funny on work and girly nights out, but over the years, the reality became quite different.  Blackouts became more frequent. I would wake up in extreme states of shame and anxiety at what I could remember, having made decisions I would never have made when sober.  Alcohol was beginning to ruin my life. Gradually it was taking control of social situations and I hadn’t really noticed it creeping into my normal routine.

The Christmas before I got sober, I spent most nights alone, drinking up to two bottles of wine, watching chick flicks on my sofa in a boozy haze.  I would desperately text and email ex-boyfriends looking for attention and was constantly on social media feeling jealous of everyone. On the nights I did go out, I would often end up in black out, not even knowing how I had made it home.

I regularly put myself in dangerous situations with no regard for my safety or well-being. The horrible and dark times were vastly overtaking the lessening amount of ‘good times’ and I felt a strong and growing feeling of dread getting greater by the day. I was sick most mornings and became worried that drinking was damaging my health as my drinking had increased every day.

My doctor then diagnosed me as suffering from severe depression and anxiety and prescribed Citalopram.  In a way, this is what I wanted to hear as I could then blame my condition on mental illness and not alcohol, which would allow me to continue drinking.

The drugs, combined with alcohol, actually caused my anxiety to worsen and I ended up hiding in my house.  I couldn’t give up drinking, lost my job, built up terrible debt and believed my mental health to be beyond repair. I lost interest in everything, except drinking alcohol, and believed myself to be worthless. I tried to take my own life by taking an overdose and drinking to excess. Still I continued to convince myself that alcohol wasn’t the problem, believing that I needed alcohol to help me relax and to escape my problems and mental illness.

I believed alcohol was the only thing that worked except it had stopped working long ago.  I was discharged straight from the hospital to rehab, where I stayed for 6 weeks.

I got sober in rehab on 14 May 2017.  These past 17 months have been the best of my life. I actually consider each day to be a miracle and a gift.

In rehab, I was warned that my depression and anxiety would still affect me without the alcohol and that I was probably suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was told to continue taking antidepressants and to increase them up to the maximum dose for at least a year.  I was surprised at this, as was starting to feel happier and more stable after just a few weeks of sobriety.

I started to exercise, to eat well and to read up on alcohol abuse and read sober blogs and literature.  I went to AA and socialised sober, having told old friends I was no longer drinking.  I gradually found a supportive network.  I started work again and was able to be reliable.  Old relationships took on a new meaning, as I was able to share with people and not hide my drinking.  I sorted out my debt problems.

I had been so bitter when I was drinking, often looking down on people and looking for the worst in them.  Sober, I found I was able to accept and give love and that was a simple and wonderful thing. Friendships took on more value, laughter became more real, but the main change was that I started to like myself.  I discovered that I was not shy after all and that I quite like my own company.  What a revelation!

I decided not to increase my antidepressants to the maximum dose, even in the early days.  As I was feeling so much better, I did not see the point.  With every sober day my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened.  Was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?  What about my severe mental illness? As I got healthier, with a clear head, life seemed quite fun.  I was happy with how I looked, as my skin had cleared up and my eyes and hair were shiny.  People told me how well I looked.  I was taking up new hobbies, reading more and talking to people, having interesting debates where I was confident of my opinion.  When I was drinking, I was either drunk and shouting, or hungover and terrified.  I found that I was enjoying life.  In fact, I had never felt better. I asked myself again, astounded at the change – was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?

I recently met someone who had just given up drinking.  She also ended up in hospital and ended up at my local AA group.  She was physically shaking and crying, her confidence damaged and her health too.  She said she was depressed and anxious.  She had contemplated taking her own life. Her doctor had put her on antidepressants and told her she was mentally ill.  Just two weeks later, sober, she was beginning to experience the same positive life transformation that I did.

I see it all the time, in life, in blogs, in literature.  I can’t ignore it now.  I believe that alcohol caused my depression and anxiety, or, at the very least, exacerbated them to a dangerous and life-threatening extent.  Now, I don’t drown my sorrows in bottles of wine or end up in situations I regret (and, oh, there were many of those).  I enjoy my life with a clear, sober head and when problems do arise, because life will never be perfect, I have the logic and clarity to deal with them to the best of my ability.

I believe mental health is a huge and genuine problem in today’s society and worry that we underestimate the effect that alcohol has on these conditions. Everyone has their own journey and I believe that if I drank again, this would put every positive change that has happened over the past 17 months in jeopardy.

And really, it just isn’t worth it.

Written by Claire, edited by Sober Fish

Instagram: @claire_m_mccartan

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If wine were a donut …

If wine were a donut …

I don’t know about you but donuts are not something I buy myself. I don’t crave them. I don’t look at them in a shop and think ‘oooo, I’d love a donut’ or eat my dinner and then think ‘a donut would finish that off nicely’.

In fact, the only time I ever ate donuts or bought donuts, was for birthdays in the large organisations I worked at. Donuts were the ‘go to’ cake because they were cheap and plentiful but they also have an awful reputation; donuts are fattening and donuts are the devil.

Most slimming clubs I’ve attended (and there’s been quite a few) have continued the ‘donuts are bad’ theme. I’ve often heard the consultants say ‘think of it like a donut’ and the trembling dieter, ashamed and a pound heavier, would immediately resort to bingeing lettuce.

When you first start a diet, enthusiasm is high. There you are, measuring out muesli and counting cashews; the ‘dash’ of milk in your tea being considered like your life depended on it. ‘Would you like a biscuit with that Mavis?’ .. ‘oh I couldn’t possibly, Vera, I’ve got weigh in in 5 days time but thank you’.

Until Friday night comes and it’s time for a treat. It’s time to let loose. It’s time to reward yourself for all that counting and measuring. It’s time to splash the syns/points/donuts like you’ve never splashed before.

And so you pop to the shop and you buy yourself a nice bottle of wine, which is the equivalent of approximately 3 donuts.

Let’s pause here for a minute and transform wine into a donut.

So on week 1 of your diet, after measuring anything that goes near your mouth for several days, you pop to the shop and you buy yourself 3 donuts. Imagine.

And if we’re being really honest, you probably not just pick up 3 donuts, it’s probably more like 6. That’s right. You stop and pick up a 6 pack of donuts.

Then, armed with your ‘treat’, you return home and after eating a carefully calculated dinner, you crack open the wine (donuts) and binge with gay abandon, after all you deserve it right?

And let’s be really really honest. The wine (donut) habit is highly unlikely to occur just one time in a week; it’s probably a few times a week. Which means 2 or 3 BAGS of donuts a week. Every week.

And we wonder why we get fat, stay fat, get fatter and become disillusioned with trying to lose weight.

I never ‘counted’ wine. Never. My view was that it was liquid and couldn’t possibly ‘stick’, unlike a donut which would attach itself straight to my already lardy arse. Wine was a treat. Wine was deserved. If I lost weight, I drank a bottle. If I put on weight, I drank 2. ‘There you go stupid body, that’ll learn ya’.

I never saw the correlation that it was possibly the wine (and the hangover food) that was making me fat. I never saw wine as a donut.

Isn’t it strange that while slimming clubs happily destroy the reputation of a donut, they strangely promote drinking alcohol like it’s a necessity to staying alive? You rarely hear ‘save your points/syns for a donut’. Hell no. But save your points/syns for beverage? Of course!

My dream is that slimming clubs stop promoting alcohol as something acceptable on a calorie controlled diet but that’s as likely to happen as me winning the lottery.

And I don’t play the lottery.

Written by Sober Fish

#Day651

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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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