Men’s Week – ‘My Five Year Transformation Story’ by Alistair Johnstone

Men’s Week – ‘My Five Year Transformation Story’ by Alistair Johnstone

At fifteen years old, I was a very unique young adult. Although I had lots of potential, I was quite messed up from having a very bad childhood.

Unfortunately, I had suffered many years of neglect and abuse from the one person who was supposed to look after me. One day, she gave me the greatest of sucker punches by telling me that all that I thought I knew was just a lie she had cruelly created. 

On that day, my mental health started a steep decline and I began drinking heavily. I was already drinking for pleasure but at that point of my life, it became my way of silencing all my demons.
I thought I was enjoying it but the more I drank, the more alcohol I needed to silence my head. This resulted in me turning to other substances too, but alcohol was always the first step.
I was literally drinking the years away. I would wake up every morning looking for a drink or something stronger to make my day go by. I finally got to the point that I would be shaking if I couldn’t get anything to help me keep my demons at bay. 
At my worst, I missed out on a whole year of my life that I can’t recall in the slightest. I have read journals of my life and honestly don’t know how I didn’t kill myself as my suicidal thoughts were as high as the drink and drugs I was taking. 
I had always lived by the saying ‘here for a good time, not a long time’ and went into my main college exams high on drugs. I have no recollection at all but by some miracle, I passed with three straight A’s! It still baffles me to this day.
It took me six long years to realise the damage I was doing to myself and on New Year’s Eve 2013, I realised that my life was slipping out of my hands.
On New Year’s Day, following one of the worst nights I’d ever had drinking, I looked at my loved ones faces and swore I’d never touch it again.
The first three months were the hardest. I had the shakes every day, was vomiting and was unable to eat.
I took it slowly, one day at a time and put all my energy into the gym. I had some great people around me and so slowly it got easier, although I understood this was a battle I’d probably have to face for the rest of my life. 
Since becoming sober, I’ve been diagnosed with manic depression. This gave me a lot of answers as to why my behaviour had been as bad as it was.
I have now achieved five years of sobriety and I’m in a very good place both physically and mentally.
I use my experience of overcoming life’s challenges, drug abuse and mental illness to help others in similar situations via my social media and other avenues.
I am in a job that I have always wanted, helping people to get out of debt. My gym journey will be reaching an all time high soon. 
I’m proud of the person I am and how I’m using my personal experiences to help others with similar issues.
It really is the greatest achievement a man can have ❤️
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Written by Alistair, edited by Sober Fish
To follow Alistair, please go to Instagram – @alisa2johnstone 
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Guest Blog – ‘If I look back, I am lost’ by Kia, Mother of Cats

Guest Blog – ‘If I look back, I am lost’ by Kia, Mother of Cats

Six years ago, I reached a stage in my life where, due to a combination of weed, alcohol and mental health issues, I was unable to leave my house. I couldn’t walk to my local shop and supermarkets were completely out of my reach; I had to start doing online food shopping and eventually ended up in awful jobs where I could work from home, even though they made me horrifically unhappy.

It didn’t start there though; that was merely my lowest point. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a child, coupled with attachment disorder and crippling insecurity. And low self-esteem, zero confidence and a complete inability to see any worth in myself. Good eh?!

Overcoming my sudden onset agoraphobia was as easy as a relationship ending, being sacked from a shitty home working job and weed been removed from my daily life. I had to move out of my home, find a new job and learn who I was and what I wanted. So, to combat the pain, both emotional and physical, I drank. A lot. It was something I had started doing when I was 12 and I learned, very quickly, that I was reallllly good at drinking my pain away.

One of my favourite quotes is from Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones (yeah, I’m a nerd, and what?!). Her entire life has been one shitty situation after another and at one point she says, “If I look back, I am lost.”

And that is what I have been doing since I stopped drinking five months ago. It’s what I have been doing for my entire life. I have not looked back, for fear of being unable to find my way home. Writing this today makes me realise just how far I have come since I was unable to leave my house six years ago.

When I quit alcohol five months ago, it was a decision that surprised everybody, not least myself, since I had modelled my entire persona around being the ultimate happy, hilarious party girl. It hid the pain until a drink too far saw me regress alllll the way back in to it with snotty crying or raging anger (included for free as part of the party package). In May this year, my anxiety had peaked again and I was finding even the most minimal of interactions difficult. I finally had a job that I loved, people that I loved (and who, more importantly, loved me) and I knew I had to change my life.

So I quit the booze, to have a little break, and see what happened. And once the pain of the first couple of weeks was done with, I carried on. As Sober Mummy would say, why go back to the horror of the beginning of the addiction obstacle course (http://bit.ly/2EXq1h1)? Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim.

Almost immediately, my issues around depression began to subside. I could find joy in everything. Within a month or two of quitting alcohol, my anxiety was at a manageable level. Not just from quitting alcohol, I also immediately went back to therapy to support me through the process. I started blogging about what I was doing for accountability. I opened up about my mental health issues. Instead of drowning my fear, I would sit and listen to it. And don’t get me wrong, it’s the most difficult thing in the shitting world to do but (like masturbating) with a bit of practise, it does get better. Or at least more efficient.

Quitting alcohol gave me the time to start doing other things. I started my Masters Degree. I started a PGDE teaching qualification. I started writing again. I started going to spiritual groups that nourish my soul. I found a local Herbalist group and regularly attend sessions with friends. I went to therapy and then got sacked from therapy because I had pulled my shit together and didn’t need it anymore. I got a dog and started having long walks in the countryside. I spent more quality time with my friends, my family, new people who make my heart sing so loud.

And it didn’t just change my life, it changed my husband’s too. I won’t tell his story here because it’s not my story to tell but all I will say is that it enabled him to cut down on alcohol without really thinking about it and in turn, this has positively impacted on his mental health.

It’s not a fix all. I still have mental health issues and about once a month (FUNNY THAT) I’ll have a complete crisis of confidence and I will fall apart. What it does mean is that I know how to identify it, manage it, look after myself now. I still struggle socially but I don’t beat myself up about it. So what if I’m actually a 90 year old lady (trapped in a 33 year old’s body) who likes knitting, reading books and watching Countryfile?! (Or as my husband very kindly put it, a 33 year old trapped in a 90 year old’s body.)

I don’t give a shit and more importantly, I don’t give a shit what other people think of me anymore either because I’ve achieved something that I never thought I would be able to achieve. I am happy, without any kind of emotional crutch to support it. I’m just genuinely happy. And calm. And healthy. (She says, neck deep in a bag of Caramel M&M’s. Yep.)

I’m not perfect and I still have a long way to go but I am better. At long fucking last, I’m better.

Written by Kia, and Sober Fish added a ‘but’ and a comma

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MyCatHasAcne

Blog: https:/mycathasacne.blogspot.com

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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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The Great Alcohol Free Drink Debate

The Great Alcohol Free Drink Debate

Here I am, fresh from the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival held in London yesterday & thought I’d share my views on a few of the hundreds of awesome products that were available to try!

Alcohol free (AF) drinks are always controversial. Some swear by them, some get triggered by them, some couldn’t care less about them & some buy them by the truckload.

Here’s my advice.

If they stop you from drinking alcohol, drink them. If they trigger you, don’t drink them. It really is as simple as that.

You have to do what’s right for you. Everyone is different. Personally, my first love is sparkling water but in the early days, I drank AF wines, Elderflower cordial by the pint & gave AF ‘gin’ a go. I’ve tried AF beer & enjoyed it, but it’s not my ‘go to’ tipple.

Compared to last year, it really was quite incredible to see how many new drinks are on the market, especially the AF ‘gin’ alternatives. It was really interesting speaking to the founders of these new drinks & hearing how they manufacture & market their products.

Here’s some of my favourites .. why not give them a try?

TEETOTAL CUBA LIBRE ALCOHOL FREE RUM & COKE

OMG, THIS is a game changer!

It was so good to see the lovely Gill again yesterday! We first met at the House Of Commons where she gave me a couple of bottles of her TeeTotal G&T (also amazing) & I promised her I would write about her product. Well, I was naughty & I didn’t, so now she’s really given me something to write about!

If I didn’t know Gill & she’d given me this drink in the dark, I would’ve sworn it was the real thing. It is great chilled, the packaging is awesome and you can buy in multipacks either for yourself or as a gift! Highly recommend!

To buy, go to the link below quoting SOBERFISH for a 5% discount

https://wisebartender.co.uk/teetotal-cuba-libre-rum–coke-0-abv-683-p.asp

Here’s a snap of lovely Gill & I having the best time! Can’t wait to see you soon!

BORRAGO

This is a relatively new product to the market & is one of the ‘gin’ alternatives. It was great to meet the team behind it & they even gave me a complimentary drink which was so very kind of them!

It tastes lovely & when made up in a glass with ice & a garnish, feels very grown up and special.

Again, you can buy this by clicking the link below and quoting SOBERFISH for a 5% discount-

https://wisebartender.co.uk/borrago-47-paloma-blend-0-abv–a-free-gift-592-p.asp

PIMENTO

Whilst water may be my first love, this has always been a close second. I LOVE this drink! It’s ginger beer with a difference as has a chilli kick to it. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!

It was also lovely to see Mr Pimento yesterday. Always a pleasure 😜

To buy, click this link below

https://amzn.to/2LtTy4Z

OLD MOUT CIDER BERRIES & CHERRIES

Cider. Hmmmm. My memories of cider are not great. If I’m honest, just the word ‘cider’ reminds me of hanging over a toilet bowl so I didn’t hold out much hope.

BUT

This is actually quite delicious. I like the packaging & I like berries & cherries & I liked that it didn’t really taste of cider as I remember it! I think it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something fruity & grown up & it’s not a bad price too.

Click the link below to buy & don’t forget to quote SOBERFISH for a 5% discount

https://wisebartender.co.uk/old-mout-cider-berries–cherries–0-abv-1147-p.asp

NIXANDKIX

Nixandkix were definitely one of my favourites last year so was great to see them again! These drinks are so refreshing with lots of gorgeous flavours including a new blood orange version!

Why not visit their site to see the full range?

https://nixandkix.com

Here’s me & Emma having the best time whilst drinking Nixandkix in 2017 😂 missed you SSS X

Written by Happy Sober Fish 2018

#day610

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Mum’s Week – ‘Brains Are Awesome’

Mum’s Week – ‘Brains Are Awesome’

Towards the end of 2017, I decided to challenge myself to raise money and awareness for The Brain Tumour Charity, in memory of my lovely mum.

When I was thinking about what to do, I soon realised that I needed to do something pretty spectacular to get maximum attention and support from my peer group and made the decision to give up alcohol for a year. As I write, I’m halfway through my #Dry365 challenge.

2017 was the shittiest year of my life so far. At the start of the year, I realised that my marriage was not going to survive and at the beginning of March, I asked my now ex-husband for a divorce. Two weeks later my mum died from a brain tumour which she’d endured for just shy of 20 years.

Sobriety is actually incredibly relevant and appropriate in terms of a personal challenge as my mother became sober when I was 18 months old. In the process of divorcing my father (they were great friends afterwards), the Judge in court told her that she was risking losing me if she continued to drink and so she stopped immediately.

Since giving up alcohol, albeit in the name of charity, I’ve noticed that nothing bad has happened to me. In fact, the whole experience has been massively positive. Aesthetically speaking, I look better and I am told I am ‘fresher’. I have far more energy and I feel much more engaged with life.

Recently, I have noticed that alcoholism (or whatever label is preferred) is progressive in nature. It has, over time, become increasingly socially acceptable to self medicate with alcohol and people often slide into it without realising.

The contrast between my life last year, surviving on a diet of red wine, peanut butter and Berrocca, is stark in comparison to this year. Last year, I fell into the comforting arms of red wine when beaten by life’s hard and fast curve balls. This year is so very different as I’m getting much better at catching those curve balls! The sense of perspective from the charity focus, combined with the rationality of sobriety, has made this a much easier ball game to play.

The good news continues. After my divorce, I learned how to date as a sober person and went through all the ‘firsts’, which was utterly terrifying. I was so lucky to meet a chap who is bloody amazing and thankfully more Darcy and less Cleaver! I sometimes wonder whether it’s the absence of alcohol and hangover paranoia or lack of drunken social media analysis that has helped nurture this relationship because alcohol always made me question everything. Sobriety has helped to silence any doubts I may have had.

I believe that sobriety was my Mum’s legacy to me. One of the benefits is that I am much more engaged in life and specifically less ‘slummy mummy’. I should make it very clear that I have never shirked my rugby mum duties. I would just pitch up blurry eyed, scoffing bacon and slurping full fat coke whilst the boys played. My sprogs have been very honest with their disdain of drunkenness. They are not keen on inert, hungover parents lying comatose on a sofa watching TV. There was a time that I was presented with an Early Learning Centre plastic wine glass and a lettuce leaf for supper by one of my sprogs. I certainly don’t want them to learn any future poor lifestyle choices from me.

I don’t know whether I will continue to be alcohol free when my challenge is completes at the end of 2018. I do miss wine especially when the sun is shining but can happily give or take shots, beer, etc. Who knows what will happen?! I look forward to finding out!

If you would like to follow my challenge, please follow me on

Instagram @brains_are_awesome

or visit my page

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/brainsareawesome

Written by Kat, edited by Sober Fish 2018

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