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Taking the lessons I've learned from The Booster Duckpond (January - March 2021) as well as from The Deep Duckpond, I'm launching a new limited offer from mid-May to the end of June.
Especially for those people who have struggled to gain much momentum in their sober journeys, this limited offer combines daily prompts in a restricted, safe, supportive Facebook group, weekly group coaching (focussed on the sober lessons from the week gone, and preparing for the week to come) in addition to weekly 1:1 coaching sessions with me.
It will work best if you already have a specific goal in mind, in which going (and remaining) AF for the six weeks will be a help, rather than your main focus. As an ICF trained and certified life and business coach who also has experience coaching people through the early days of sobriety (as well as focussing on the challenges which can arise in mid-long term sobriety), I'll be able to accompany you on your project, ensuring the faesability of each step along the way.
My own personal and political aversion to diet culture means that I won't work with people on a project consisting solely of weight loss, but a project of self-confidence, of getting faster, fitter, more emotionally in tune, more at ease with communication, assertive, resilient ... those things, I can absolutely accompany you on. Professional or personal (the two are often heavily linked), we can make it work.
Think of what goal you would like to achieve between now and the end of June 2021. Can it fit in the SMART framework? Are you excited by it? Will it keep you busy - hands and mind? Will it be positively impacted by the extra time, energy and motivation you are likely to experience while on an alcohol-free adventure?
Combining 1:1 weekly coaching sessions to check in and make progress on your project, with the weekly coordinated group support zooms (two sessions will be offered per week to account for different time zones and needs), alongside daily prompts and group support ... this is an opportunity to really build momentum on your sober journey, and to meet your own personal goals in addition.
Places are limited to 12 for the session running May 15th - June 27th.
Pricing is at £495 for the six weeks of support and momentum building.
Sliding scale fee also available.
Get in touch today! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Facebook.
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Can we talk cravings and triggers for a second?
I really want to normalise the idea that it’s ok to experience a craving, or to be triggered, even in mid-long-term sobriety. I see so many people, in the big groups and also in the duckpond, talking about cravings / triggers as if it was a failure on their part. They don’t get to pass into Easy Sobriety, so they may as well just get drunk and then maybe start again in the future when they’re “ready”. And sure, ok, fine if that’s what you want to do. But also … we could just accept that in a world where a huge number of adults (and not-so adults) consume alcohol, ‘responsibly’ and excessively; in a world where the marketing magicians tell us, overtly and covertly, that we need booze to get over a hard day, to really make a special moment that much specialler, to unwind, to reward ourselves, to function in society as a human being; in a world where a Pride parade is more likely to be sponsored by Big Alcohol than it is to provide and promote access to therapy … it’s fucking NORMAL for us to experience a craving or be triggered. And it’s OK. It’s ok.
The way I understand it, a craving is the thought of “oh wouldn’t a nice glass of [insert alcohol here] be nice / improve / heighten this situation right now?” … experiencing a craving doesn’t mean you’ve failed at sobriety. It just means your neural pathways are still associating a certain moment / position / thought pattern / activity / environment with alcohol … and it will take time for you to build up new associations for them. Hell, we’re (the lucky ones) starting to come out of a pandemic which has taken its toll on absolutely everyone. A huge toll, and one we may well be dealing with for the rest of our lives. It also means that for over a year now, things have been different. So if you’re attending your first sober parties, restaurants, get-togethers, apéros, ritual slaughtering of The Man, and your mind goes to the idea that booze would be a pleasant addition? It’s OK. It’s alright. You don’t have to give into it. You don’t have to run home (although you can). You don’t have to call yourself a “Dry Drunk” and give yourself 500 lashings from the good book or any other book. You are allowed to just notice the craving, see it for what it is, and let it pass. I promise, the craving will pass. The more practice you get at just letting it pop in, rumble around in your head, and then pop off again … the faster the whole process will get. I promise.
For me, a trigger is different to a craving in the intensity (less of a “oh wouldn’t it be nice if …” more “I’m going to die if I don’t …”) – a trigger (in my understanding) is more the thinking that a situation / place / person / thought / action / event is so intolerable that if I don’t change something about my way of experiencing it (through drugs / booze / cigarettes / food / hiding under the table rocking back and forth and screaming for Jesus / sex / all of the above), I will die, or feel like it. REST ASSURED, beauties who are in the earlier days, THESE BECOME LESS LONG AND INTENSE AND FREQUENT OVER TIME. But they can still occur, months and years down the line, and it’s OK for them to occur. Because sometimes life throws us a curveball or twelve, and it’s NORMAL for us to think back to old coping mechanisms. Of course the immediate thought is of a bottle of wine/whiskey/vodka “to cope”. But this is where our sober navigational tools and techniques come in. Playing it forward. Connecting with community *who gets it*. Running, dancing, hiding, screaming, deep breathing, baking, crying, writing, wanking, swimming, yoging, making whale sounds, throwing things, singing, curling, covering ourselves in peanut butter and throwing ourselves to the dogs… We do what it takes. We recognise what is happening (“I am feeling triggered to drink alcohol because ***”), we get through it, and we land on the other side. Perhaps bruised, probably breathless, but we get there. And every time we do, every time we ride that wave, we fight that battle, we get stronger.
It’s OK for us to experience cravings and triggers. I’m just over 18 months no booze, and this last week or two I’ve been experiencing some wicked cravings and triggers. But in doing the work, I know why. I’m making advances in therapy, and my dad’s been really ill, and the nicer weather is coming, and the world is starting to open back up, and I’m in desperate need of some Vitamin Sea and haven’t been able to get to open water for over six months, and there’s all sorts of amazing and overwhelming opportunities and projects starting to take shape with my business, and I’m making huge steps in bringing Legal Me in line with Real Me … when I take a little step back from the cravings and triggers (which being 18+ months AF allows me to do more easily) … I can see everything that’s going on. Of course my lovely little brain is sending “comfort and reassurance please! Make this better / easier / more blurry!” requests. Of course it is! So I listen to it – the needs behind the requests.
Please, don’t beat yourself up for having a craving or being triggered. They are not a sign of failure, they are not a sign that this choice will forever be a hard one, that you will always be battling. They are a normal part of the process. I would like to say that one day you’ll just never experience them again, but I don’t know if that’s true for you, or for me. I do know that they rarely last for longer than 20 minutes at a time, and in doing the maths, even on a bad day when I might experience 3 full-on triggers/cravings (I haven’t had more than 3 in a day in … a really long time), that’s still only one hour out of 24. A year and a half ago, I was probably spending 2-5 hours pissed or on my way to it, an hour or so thinking about it, and who knows how many hours hungover (acutely and low-grade background hungover). On a very regular basis. I’m not great at maths, but I think the current version wins.
So many of us have a tendency to be harsh with ourselves, even when we’re lovely and loving with others. So my invitation is this: go gently. Take a deep breath. Step back. Recognise what’s going on, give yourself a loving touch (wherever is appropriate, I was thinking of your arm, but wherever you need it) and reassure yourself like you would a puppy or a small human, that it’s going to be OK. Because it is.
I love you.
(As always: The Deep Duckpond is open to women and queer folk looking for an inclusive radically loving safe sober support space, and can be found on Facebook Groups or through clicking here.
The Duckpond, my writing, and my free work with people is all made possible through your support via my Patreon - I am eternally grateful for your support, at whatever level you are able to help me support others).
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I am changing. I am stepping more and more into myself and the life – the one life I get – I want and need and deserve to lead.
My transness and sobriety are interlinked. There would not be one without the other – or it would be a hundred times harder for me to see and imagine one without the other.
Could I have carried on boozing to ignore, boozing to forget, boozing to numb myself into a false sense of comfort? Yep. But it would have been to delay the inevitable even further. The more I look back at various points in my life, the signs were there, the messages were there, the feelings were there, the “if only” was there, from such a young age. I didn’t have the words originally, and didn’t know that I had the right, for a very long time. Didn’t know if I was trans *enough*, didn’t know if it was bad *enough* for me to potentially blow everything up in my life, didn’t know if I could cope with disappointing or being disappointed. And for every moment of uncertainty, every second of “oh this doesn’t feel comfortable, nope I can’t go any further”, I would turn to the booze. Because it’s easy, it’s there, it’s socially acceptable, it takes the edge off, it blurs the lines, it helps make us small and squishy enough to fit in the boxes that our family or society or profession or culture need us to fit in *for their comfort*.
A couple of years ago, in a NLP exercise during my training to become a coach, I was asked what the one thing was that I wanted to be, that I never could be. The answer was instant, and scared me with its insistence: “a cis woman”. Nearly 18 months ago, I decided to step away from alcohol for a month, to boost my energy and motivation in the early days of my business. I didn’t know it would also give the microphone to that voice inside, the one whispering: “you’ve known. You’ve always known. Now it’s time to act.” That set off the chain of events that has led me here today – choosing to see myself every day, choosing to *be* myself every day. It comes at a price – socially, physically, emotionally, financially.
To honour my choice to stay sober every day, I need to continue to build a life that I don’t have to hide or run away from. I will.
Look at me
Look at me
I am changing
Trying every way I can
I am changing
I'll be better than I am.
To find a way
But I need
I need your help.
I am changing
Seeing everything so clear.
I am changing.
I'm gonna start right now right here.
I'm hoping to work it out.
And I know that I can
But I need you
I need a hand.
All of my life I've been a fool
Who said I could do it all alone.
How many friends have I already lost?
And how many dark nights have I known?
Walking down that long road. There was nothing u could buy.
All those years of darkness
Could make a person blind.
But now I can see that
I am changing
Trying every way I can
I am changing
I'll be better than I am
But I need a friend
To help me start
All over again.
That would be just fine
I know it's gonna work out this time
Cause this time I am,
This time I am
I get my life together now.
I am changing
Yes I know how
I'm gonna start again.
I'm gonna leave my past behind
I'll change my life.
I make it up
And nothing is gonna stop me now.
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You don’t need to start on a Monday.
You don’t need to start on the first of the month.
You don’t need to start tomorrow.
You don’t need to start in the morning.
If you want to have started? Start now.
I overthought, overprepared, and outgamed myself every time. “I’ll start next Monday,” or “I’ll start next month,” or “I’ll start on January 1st.” – it barely lasted more than a few hours, if it ever really started. And then there was clearly no point in restarting on a Tuesday, or a Thursday, or a Friday afternoon, or so close to the end of the month or year. Until one Sunday evening in October 2019. Having one of my rare “I’m not an alcoholic because I don’t *have* to drink every night” evenings off the sauce. And I finally gave into the really effective adverts from One Year No Beer, and signed up for their 28 day challenge. They asked me when my Day 1 would be and I said “today”. Completely unprepared. That afternoon I hadn’t been thinking about it. That morning, I’m sure I woke up hungover, but no more than usual. There was no “rock bottom” – just a feeling that something wasn’t quite right and was holding me back. If I’d put “Day 1” as the Monday, the next day, the logical first day of a new start … who knows what would have happened. I may have felt more pressure to drink booze that Sunday night, and felt more keenly the pressures of a Perfect First Day. As it was … I schemed my way into it, and was on Day 2 before I knew it! 533 days later … I’m glad for that last-minute decision to slip in under the radar.
When I decided to quit smoking, it was late on a Saturday night, November 30th 2019. I was smoking even more than usual since I gave the booze up. I wanted to quit but didn’t know how or when, and didn’t wantto be a cliché doing it on January 1st. So I chose the next 1st, which ended up being the next day. I had no nicotine replacements, I’d been smoking a LOT for a LONG TIME, and ignoring much of the advice from my wonderful friends in my sober community, I threw out all my tobacco and broke my vape that night. The next day, with tobacconists and pharmacies shut, I had no choice but to just “get through it”, and the following day, Monday was already Day2 … I felt I was through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, and able to get on with it. I haven’t looked back since. Both times I acted on the spur of the moment and committed to doing something I’d been wanting to do for a long time but never knew how, or never managed to follow through on big grand declarations. Both times it has worked.
If you want to have started something new … don’t wait for tomorrow or next week or when you think you’ll feel ready … today’s the day.
You were looking for a sign? This is it.
Go fly. Imperfectly.
Find out what you need, and get it along the way.
And know that I’m here – working 1:1 and with my wonderful sober support group for women and queer folk. You are welcome with me.
There are many other wonderful communities out there. You are not alone.
Reach out. Touch us (wear a mask and wash your hands).
Dare to start.
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I don’t think it’s possible to punish ourselves into a sustainably and authentically improved life. I just don’t. For years, I punished myself for being too gay, too trans, not trans enough, too fat, too smokey, too boozey, not a good enough veg*n, too boring, too loud, not enough fun, not intellectual enough, not brave enough, not content enough to settle down, too lazy, too buzzy. That punishment didn’t make me less gay, the right amount of trans, it didn’t change my weight or size, it didn’t help me quit smoking or drinking or … you get the idea. It didn’t help in any way, except to make me feel just that bit shitter about myself. And occasionally I’d go all in, set eighteen different goals and commitments, “fail” at the first hurdle, and then give it all up.
Now I’m not saying the prospect of a stick up my bum doesn’t sometimes keep me on the straight and narrow (LOLZ I’m neither), but the crucial thing for me is being aware of what that stick represents. If I go out (or stay in) and get wasted, no-one’s going to shout at me, no-one’s going to take me into a corner and speak to me in a low voice about how disappointed they are in* me (more on this in an upcoming article), there’ll be no outsider berating (as long as I keep off Twitter and possibly Sobergram). I’m the only one in charge – but I’ve had enough of the self-flagellating, and beating myself up for perceived “mistakes” (generally just an entirely human inability to achieve perfection) – society does enough of that to us all (particularly women and the gender non-conforming), I’m not doing their work for them.
So what does help me to carry on moving towards my goals? Number one – having one. Knowing the direction I want to move in, whether that’s to do with body (hello second puberty, thanks for the soft skin, you can keep the spots), booze (521 days and counting) or business (mostly for the alliteration, but I’m finally allowing myself to be seen as an actual coach, a real person with shit to say and an effect to have on the world – and dream and act accordingly). Number two – rewarding myself. Constantly. Whether that’s with tasty food, gadgets and trinkets around my house or body that are useful and/or pretty, saving money, allowing myself the time to visit Schitts Creek, buying plants and taking longer and longer to kill them (one day I’ll grow one from scratch, just watch this space!), making donations to causes I care about … I’ve learned the power of a good, regular reward. And allowing myself to enjoy this process is what's helped me stick with it for so long!
How much time, effort or money does it take us to congratulate someone else on an achievement of whatever size? Hardly anything. And so we often do it – we say thank you, we say well done, we cheer them on. We get inspired (or intimidated) by them for a minute, and then we go on with our day, while they get to smile thinking of their achievements, counting those pats on the back. And yet one of the things we tend to struggle with the most is congratulating ourselves, allowing ourselves a little smile of pride. "Pride comes before a fall." "Don’t get cocky." "Don’t get too big for your knickers..." This is a hugely – and stereotypically – British attitude, but from the work I’ve done with people all over the world, it appears to be something people from many different cultures struggle with.
How many times did I say “I’ve had a hard day, I deserve this!” about my first glass (OK, bottle) of wine? Or “yay we must celebrate, CHEERS TO THAT!” about someone’s achievement, clinking and clanking those drinks and dranks? A BILLION TIMES. The alcohol industry has done a sterling job at marketing itself as the cure-all and end-all, creating a virtuous (for them) and vicious (for us) cycle while letting the addictive liquid take hold of as many possessions as possible. Where was the reward or celebration when I was on bottle number two, three, four, when we couldn’t remember what we were fêteing, when the bar bill far outweighed the extra money from the promotion, when the headache and hangover hatrocities coming out of me from pre-existing and newly-created holes ruined the holiday I was so excited to cheers to the night before? Where’s the "reward" then, brain?!
And so I turn to different forms of reward now. The kind of rewards I probably sneered at a couple of years ago – forms of relaxation, ways of making my life easier, gentler, more comfortable, healthier, “nicer”. And I can hear my old limiting belief voice whispering "you should be ashamed of yourself, trying to have a "nice life", when there's children starving in Africa (and Birkenhead ... and Villeurbanne ...", but honestly - if we only have one life, who doesn't want it to be nice?! Therapy is a reward – it’s hard, it’s confronting, it’s essential at the moment to my survival, thrival (look it up) and all the evolving that’s going on. It’s a reward that keeps on giving – the best kind. Finding ways of bringing in gentleness and peace for others is another kind of reward for me. I get to interact with multiple people every single day, from the comfort of my own home most of the time, and help their day, week, month, year, life be just a smidge better. Or watch in the wings as they completely turn it around. I get to reward myself for hard work, and I get to enjoy the rewards. They don’t bring me headaches or debt.
What do you want out of life? Where do you want to see yourself in six months? In a year? Next week? By the time you’re 100? If we’re lucky enough to make it to tomorrow, the only way we’re going to get there is through today. Spending today regretting yesterday’s choices is a waste. I am not suggesting everyone live a life free of consequence, but rather that we focus on the consequence we want to have. What mark do we want to leave on the world? What marks do we want the world to leave on us?
Fuck waiting for the “right” shaped or sized body for having fun at the beach. Fuck spending three weeks running off that delicious tarte au citron. Fuck waiting for the right house / bank card / partner / cat basket before I allow myself to be happy with my lot. Fuck spending my sober future regretting and rehashing my boozy past. I’ve had enough mornings (and afternoons, until that hair of the dog …) full of regret and remorse. That’s what drew me to coaching initially – the idea of taking the present, however it is, and working from it to get the future we want. The past is there for lessons and memories, nothing more. I’m not using it as a stick to beat myself with, I’m using it as a springboard to make it to the future I want. And finding joy today does not mean I can't or shouldn't also work for more joy, more health, more happiness tomorrow, it just means I allow and encourage myself to find enjoyment here, now. Carpe Diem, motherduckers.
I didn’t train specifically in sober coaching - my background is in language, linguistics, sociology. The way we talk about shit affects the way we think about shit. And that combination, with the additional NLP training, the Transactional Analysis, the NVC, the positive psychology with a hefty dose of pragmatism, real-talk and some sweary well-placed jokes, alongside everything I’ve learned along my own sober adventure and therapeutic journeys … that’s what makes me dedicated and well-placed to accept this crown of Mx Sober America. I promise I’ll make you proud.
We can do serious work without taking ourselves too seriously. We can do hard stuff, and still enjoy the process. In fact, I’d go one step further and use one of the Banned Words … we should find ways to enjoy as much of the process as possible, because otherwise what’s the point in going through it?! It’s all about the journey … My vocation isn’t, and has never been, to make anyone be sober if they don’t truly want to be. My absolute passion is in helping you find and define that “want”, and running all the way there with you, with sober shits and giggles along the way (THEY’RE SO MUCH BETTER SOBER OMG).
Visit www.zesobercoach.com if you want to know more about my 1:1 sober coaching, contact me (Jo Walduck or email@example.com) to talk about joining The Deep Duckpond (my dedicated safe sober support group for women and queer folk where we’re committed to doing the work on the shit that drove us to drink in the first place), and keep your eyes peeled for information coming very soon about a new limited 6-week adventure, launching May 1st. I’m both terrified and so excited I could burst.
Yours in enjoyment and reward –
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Dear parents of trans* kids (of whatever age)
When you sit in shame and awkwardness as a parent, concerning your trans child’s name, pronouns, transition, life, news … it is often felt on the deepest level by that child. It is an extra layer of guilt, of shame, of awkwardness for them to carry – a perceived confirmation of their fear that they’re making things difficult for you, instead of being able to focus on themselves. Society already makes things difficult and dangerous enough for people sheltering under the trans* umbrella, so it is your job and duty as a parent to be as openly and visibly supportive as possible – not just when talking to your child, but when talking about them publicly. Following the idea of Circles of Grief and Ring Theory – comfort goes in, dumping goes out. Comfort, support, recognise and affirm your child – remember how much it will have taken them to trust you with this. And when the child is safely asleep, away, out of earshot … that’s when you dump out. Turn to your friends, ask for help, advice, support. Read the books, join the groups, cry your tears, do your therapy, live your grief for the one who won’t be, and your apprehension for the one who will. But don’t let your child see that. This is time once again for you to be the strong parent, the unflappable one, the unquestioningly supportive one. You made the choice to have a child - now is your chance to support them, wholeheartedly, as they navigate their life's path.
Below is a response to the question from many parents, who ask what they should say to their friends, their family, their community when their child comes out as trans:
Tell them the truth.
Tell them you’ve never heard me sound so happy and so sure, despite all I’m going through.
Tell them you’re scared to make a mistake and hurt my feelings, but you know that not talking hurts me more.
Tell them you’re confused by some of the words and terms, that you still slip up. That it’s OK. That you’re learning, you’re trying.
Tell them you’re proud of me for everything I’m doing, even if you don’t always understand.
Tell them of your fears, of your concerns. For me, for you, for us.
Tell them you miss me. You miss seeing me now, and you miss seeing me as you thought I was.
Tell them you miss my old face and name, the ones you had so many dreams for.
Tell them you’re realising those dreams you had for me were just that – your dreams for me.
Tell them my name and my pronouns.
Tell them I’m transitioning, I’ve transitioned, and put the full stop wherever you need to after that.
Tell them only what you need them to know, but tell them all of that.
Tell them if they really knew me, they’d know I’m exactly the same person. I’m becoming more me, not less.
Tell them you’re conflicted and confused, and it’s OK. Ask them for help, support, advice, an ear.
Tell them as hard as it is to bear the loss of who I never was and never will be, you’re glad to bear it for me as it means I finally get to be who I’ve always wanted to be, who I’ve always been underneath.
Tell them the things you don’t tell me because you know how heavy my load already is to carry.
Lighten your load.
To my own parents, I want to add:
Tell them I'm no longer suicidal. I'm no longer exploring slow death through booze and nicotine, nor am I thinking of faster means to get there.
Tell them my name is Jo, my pronouns are 'she' or 'they' (but never 'he').
Tell them how they can help you. How they can help me.
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C/W: sexual assault, violence
I'm writing this at 2am, unable to sleep, thinking about the murder of Sarah Everard - allegedly by a serving Metropolitan police officer - and the millions of other girls and women who have been hurt, violated, traumatised and killed.
I haven't known how to talk about it from within this body and life, without over-centering myself, my story, making it all about me, me, me. And then I saw a tweet reminding us that we don't have to share our experience for said experience(s) to be valid, and asking people not to exclude trans women and nonbinary folk from the conversation. I don't even know if I'll post this, but I needed to write it, so here we go.
I had the pain and privilege to pass as a guy - a 'girly' guy a lot of the time, but a guy nonetheless - for most of my adult life. The vast majority of my friends were and are women, and although the "text when home" reflex was there, it wasn't so many years ago that I was shocked to find out why a girlfriend wouldn't wear headphones on an evening run. For guys who don't know the answer to this - it's so she can always hear someone running up behind her.
I knew never to walk behind a woman alone at night, to always cross the street. Even if I was terrified too - my appearance could be enough to spark fear for her. I always tried to make my walk and face look as queer, safe and approachable as possible when I did have to walk near women alone, and did make some 'best friends for the 20 minute walk home' that way. There were a lot more women I didn't interact with, because my giving space was accepted for what it was.
I was, even when presenting as a gay man, and remain, scared of men. I never wanted to be lumped into the same category as them, and was probably guilty of a few 'not all men' statements, finding myself in a weird feminist-off with myself and the world when it came to those conversations. Not out - even to myself - as trans, as nonbinary, as trans-femme or woman (where I stick the tail on the proverbial donkey of that gender mess is still TBD and may remain undetermined forever), I found it hard to say "me too" (both with and without the #), without detracting from the fears and voices of "real women". And yep - this is from a person who said - and believes - trans women are real women, get over it. I still have a lot of unpacking and damage surviving to do in therapy!!
Looking back on my life through the filter of trans identity now, everything is clearer. The panic attacks which started when I cut my hair short for the first time in my adult life. The way some guys would look at me or talk to me. The knowing that they could see something in me that I was still desperately trying to drown out, to ride out until it was 'safe' to see it, to act on it. The comments on the streets. Catcalls and insults. The guy on a motorbike, Place de Clichy at 3am who called me over for "help", then grabbed my scarf and tried to force me to kiss him. The 'relous'. The dangerous. The ones who are attracted to us gender benders, queer kids, the ones who colour and blend in the lines, and who hate both us and themselves for that attraction, letting their violence out on *us* as an easy scapegoat, instead of dismantling the systems of norms and power which bring them only shame, blame and guilt. And anger and desire and start it all over again.
I wasn't taught how to keep myself safe as a kid. That's not a dig at my parents, it's just a fact. It wasn't something that necessarily came up. I was assigned "boy" at birth, and boys are assigned safety at birth. No need to learn something that's normally just automatically accorded to you. So I learned to put up walls and to put on armour and to go - and latterly stay - only where it's safe. The fatter I get, the less likely anyone will want to, or be able to, fuck me or hurt me. The faster I walk, the more stompy badass bitch walking down the runway I make my 'leisurely stroll', the less likely anyone will be able to stop me. The more disarming and offensive and defensive and charming I am in our communications, the less I can get hurt, physically or emotionally. And the more I stay home, the less exposure to potential danger. 'Safety' sure can have a limited, and limiting, view. And still we can get raped and beaten and kidnapped and abused and heckled and scared and murdered.
If I go outside dressed as 'boy', I get misgendered, called 'monsieur', and my heart breaks. If I go outside dressed as 'girl', I'm thinking constantly about how safe I am. If I go outside presenting neutrally, the looks and stares are ever more intense, trying to find which box I can 'safely' be put into. That dude on the scooter who passed me, turned around and is now coming back - does he want to punch me or fuck me? Or both? How do I navigate this in the light of day? And late at night?
The anxiety I have is something I'm working on - again - in therapy. But it really fucking sucks to have to pay hundreds and thousands of euros for *me* to feel safer and more 'right' in my own head, skin and clothes outside ... only to then walk out into the rules society has created for women and femmes. To keep them 'safe'. No clothing they can grab onto. Turn the music down or turn it off, but keep your earphones in. Don't make eye contact. Don't be alone. Share your location. Don't go anywhere remote. Don't engage. Don't antagonise. Don't let him see where you live. Don't be so far from home you can't run to safety. Don't be smaller. Don't be weaker. Don't ask for it.
How about: don't rape. Don't abuse, don't heckle, don't catcall, don't insist, don't push, don't pull, don't corner, don't grab, don't kill.
Men. Please do better. Please talk to your guy friends as well as your girl friends when talking about this. Please talk to your sons about it just as much as your daughters. Please be open to hearing things you don't want to hear. Please be open to learning. You don't need to go on a rampage for 'the few bad ones' - elevate ALL your conversations and actions, and make sure the men and boys in your life are doing the same.
This is not just about murder, although it is. Or kidnap. Or rape. Or sexual assault or abuse or intimidation or threatening or manipulation or touching or being handsy. It's also about the missed opportunities. The perfect apartment not chosen because it's on an unlit street. The perfect job not applied for because the firm has a history of not taking harrasment complaints seriously. The parties not attended because there's no night bus afterwards. The mountains and woods and beaches and cities and parks and whole damn lives left unexplored because it's unknown and therefore even more unsafe than when it's known. The hours, the years of life completely wasted on worrying about safety from men. Not bombs, not cancer, not mountain lions, not earthquakes ... men. On top of all the rest. Add to that fear extra bricks of fear, dismissal, discrimination to be carried by those of colour, who are trans, or living with disabilities ... that's a lot of fucking fear.
The amount of cortisol and adrenaline running through the bodies of women, femme-presenting and gender-non-conforming people, it could change the direction of the world if it was allowed to be channeled elsewhere. If we were just allowed that basic feeling of safety. If we didn't have to assume, and prepare for, the worst. Not all men, sure. But it could be any man. So it might as well be all men.
This is an issue for all humans. All. But one side has been talking about it for centuries, and the other half hasn't yet pulled their weight in the right direction. At all. Please do so.
Sarah Everard. Blessing Olusegun.
All the others. The named and the unnamed. The known and the unknown, the found and the unfound. You will not have died in vain. Rest in the power and safety that should have been yours while you were on this earth.
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"What else is true?"
This is a question, brought into my life by the beautiful soul Laverne Cox who incorporated it into her life through her trauma healing work. It's a really useful question to ask ourselves, and Laverne asks it to her interviewees/collaborators at the end of each episode of her wonderful podcast. For those of us living with pain, anxiety, trauma, depression - it's a way to allow ourselves to honour what is hard and wrong and sad and painful, and to also recognise that other things, neutral and even positive, can exist at the same time.
Despite my training as a coach having deep roots in positive psychology, I talk fairly often in The Deep Duckpond and with my 1:1 clients about how important it is to not Pollyanna over everything, ignoring the dark shit we're experiencing or have lived through. It can lead to bitterness and resentment, burnout and chandeliering, and doesn't recognise the beautiful mess and variety of existence as a fully-rounded human. It can stop us from acknowledging our own thoughts and feelings, and create a barrier to real, deep connection with other souls. All our feelings are valid (they are not necessarily facts, but they are valid). And we, as beautiful humans, contain multitudes. Simultaneously conflicting thoughts, beliefs, and desires. And that's okay.
So comes the question, "what else is true?" - after acknowledging the dark side of the moon of our existence ... what else is true?
It's a way to get ourselves out of a negative spiral, to find some hope, some light, a positive branch to cling onto and grow with. A tool to open up that door to life and breath and opportunity and otherness.
It ties in quite nicely with a metaphor I found while working with my old therapist (we did quite a lot of parts-therapy), where I imagined my "me" and my "voice" as being made up of many different voices in a choir. And I get to choose where I put the mic. Some voices are, through nature and nurture, societal 'norms' and personal practice, more powerful than others. They carry further, they know the timbre and pitch to get those wine glasses tingling. But I'm in charge of the mic. I get to find ways to amplify the quieter voice, the gentler voice, the voice of that little novice nun who lets her power burst out when Whoopi gives her the look of love in Sister Act.
What else is true? Where do I want to put the mic?
It's important to be able to hear all voices. Doesn't mean that we have to listen and give reason to them all, but being able to hear and learn from them all is a way to honour that stunning complexity of our human lives, loves and losses.
Next time you find yourself giving an 'absolute' truth about yourself, particularly if it's 'negative' (I'm not using 'negative' with any judgement here, I just mean a truth that concerns sadness, anger, guilt, regret, pain, shame, fear, ...), remember this little prompt. Especially in times of heightened anxiety or despair ... remember to ask yourself the question: what else is true? Go into your body, find another truth.
We're not trying to negate the 'hard' emotion or feelings ... we're just recognising that it's not the only one there right now. And this can sometimes be enough to pull us out of that anxious doom-spiralling.
I feel anxiety every time I leave my house. What else is true? I feel better almost every time, rejuvenated when I get home by connection, movement, mask-filtered fresh air.
I worry about how my transition is going to affect my family relationships. What else is true? I'm touched by the ways my family are finding to support me.
I'm still intimidated by the power of 'never' when it comes to booze, despite being over 500 days sober and a fucking sober coach!! What else is true? I don't have a single regret about my sober journey so far, and can't currently think of a single positive effect going back to the booze could have for me.
My body hurts and can't do everything I want it to. What else is true? I feel more at home in it over this last year of transition, pain and fatigue than I did in any of the 35 previous years.
I love you all.
Thank you for seeing and supporting me. If you are able to contribute a little financial support via my Patreon, I am always grateful for those who allow me to spend my time and energies focussed where I'm supposed to be. Here is some more information on why I've chosen this platform and this approach - it truly does take a village.
(image description: a photo taken not far from my house with a big mirrored building, in front of which are some trees - two still with their winter wardrobe in full effect, and one showing off the splendours of spring, with gorgeous white blossoms covering its branches. Both states - wintery and springy - are true, valid, and simultaneous)
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Some of you may have seen that Hasbro are bringing out a new Potato Head which is gender neutral, so kids can make it look however they want and have a toy that reflects them and/or (a) member(s) of their family. This, of course, has been contorted in the media and picked up by frothy-mouthed fuckwits, screaming in panic that The Gender Neutrals Are At It Again, bellowing "they've gone too far this time!!!"
Cue eye-roll. "Water off a duck's back" (thanks, Jinkx) - let them have their outrage, we know what's what, and we know that we're going to be on the right side of history. I try not to let any of this kind of shit get to me personally, because it's so prevalent, but also and ultimately so pointless. And yet.
So why am I writing a blog post about it? Because the story and tired old "jokes" were picked up by some people who I respect, and who I know would be horrified if they knew anyone thought them to be transphobic. That they would get on the Gendered Potato Bandwagon itself is one thing, but the thing I found particularly jarring is the box of nastiness it allows to open in the comments section. Talking about the freaks, the snowflake generation, how soon enough no-one will be allowed a first name, we'll all have to identify as animal/plant/mineral (um: plant, please).
This post is particularly for those people who find it harmless, just a joke, "good bantz", who don't necessarily want to do the thinking as to why it might be problematic. I'm not coming to be the thought police - I'm coming to explain why I'd like you to not engage or support conversations or "jokes" like this. To say to you directly : we need you to do better.
If you don't want to be seen as transphobic, don't post stuff that trans people themselves tell you is transphobic. EVEN IF you don't think it is. As a white person, would you tell a person of colour what is racist or not? As a man, would you tell a woman what is sexist or not? As an able-bodied person, would you tell someone living with a disability what is ableist or not?
If you don't want to be seen as transphobic, don't post shit that has already been co-opted by the Piers Morgans, That Rightwing Dusty Dick Who Died Recently In The States, and Katy Fucking Hopkinses of the world.
If you don't want to be seen as transphobic, don't allow transphobic comments on your page or posts. Make your stance clear. Use your power and privilege to show your allyship, if it's truly there.
If you don't want to be seen as transphobic ... don't do transphobic shit.
Would you make a similar "joke" about (the representation of) a gay character? Lesbian, disabled, older, Black? No (I hope). So don't make, or repeat, the "joke" about trans* or gender-non-conforming people.
You're seriously going to defend to the death the right of a potato to use the correct pronouns and forms of address? Great. Bring that same energy when it comes to defending the rights of your trans* children and siblings.
Trans and queer people are some of the funniest fuckers out there. Many people with trauma use the sticks we were and are beaten with to hone their wit - it's often our first line of defense, and attack. It's hard to carry on beating someone who's given you a good belly laugh. Elevate our voices. Listen to us when we tell you how these "jokes" make us feel.
When they go low, we go high.
And finally ... it's a fucking plastic potato. And the Mr AND Mrs versions still exist.
Time to do everything we can to make sure we carry on existing, and record that existance in ALL the his-, her- and theirstory books.
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Why I’m not going to talk about weight anymore.
I’m sick of it. I’m sick of thinking about it and talking about it, using it as a yardstick for how worthy I am, how deserving of love or attention, how hard I’ve worked, how much I’ve “let myself go”. I’m sick of it being a major source of stress and sadness for me, for those I love, for the world. I’m sick of it being the number one topic of conversation in so many relationships. My weight or theirs, or someone else’s. So I’m not going to do that anymore.
In the 20 days since I hid my scales, I have eaten much more food that does me good, both mentally and physically. I have moved my body (almost) every day in ways that make me feel good. I have been outside, I’ve felt more energy, I’ve given out more love, and directed it inwards, too. I’ve flirted with two gentlemen (well, one wasn’t a gentleman, but he got a flirt anyway). I’ve felt worthy and capable of being flirted with. My energy and emotions may have been all over the place (hello mid-long term sobriety + HRT + SPRINGTIMEWAHOOOOOOOO) but I haven’t once directed them into punishment and regret for a number on a scale or the way my pants fit me. I’m not going to get back on those scales. Don’t need ‘em, don’t want ‘em, not having ‘em take up room in my wardrobe or in my head again.
Is it going to be hard? Yes. I will fuck up and find myself talking about it, I am certain. But I’m going to gently remind myself when I catch myself, and hope that others will do the same to me – this is not something I want to talk about or discuss further. Not my weight, not yours. Diet culture is EVERYWHERE and is SO toxic. I have played both active and passive roles in diet culture in my own life, work, and family for as long as I can remember. I’m not doing that shit any more. I don’t have kids, but I do have people who look to me for guidance, and my guidance on this is: focus on the love. Focus on being kind to yourself, *where you are now*. Don’t wait for your weight or size or job or marriage or friend or face or fortune to change before you allow yourself to be happy.
Body positivity isn't about 'letting ourselves go'. It's about seeing ourselves where we are right now, and finding joy and worth and love and value in ourselves *where we are right now*. It doesn't mean we can't aspire to more, doesn't mean we stop working to be our best selves, it just means we don't hang the idea of self acceptance or love on an arbitrary number, whether that be one we find on a scale or on a label.
As a trans person navigating a transition ‘later in life’ (PS fuck the 14 year old who said that to me online, I’m thirty fucking six FFS), I have issues with how my body looks and feels. As someone who grew up with a different body type and home setting to many of my friends, I have issues with how my body looks and feels. As someone for whom food has equalled comfort, love, and safety, and exercise has equalled risk, danger, and pain, I have issues with how my body looks and feels. They are my issues. I can (and do) work on them in therapy and with myself. But I’m making damn sure I work on the mind aspect of the mind-body connection just as much as the body aspect.
As a sober person and coach working primarily with people’s sobriety and overall health and wellness, I have a responsibility to others to practise what I preach. Everybody say love? YEP. Even to that big belly. Even to those wobbly thighs. Especially to that second chin. How you would talk to your best friend or little kid, is how you need to talk to yourself. Would you make fun of them or tell them they're disgusting for a bit - or a lot - of extra fat? If so, please question that and work out your answers as to why. If not, here's your invitation to channel that voice when talking to and about yourself. I need to set the tone of how these conversations should happen whenever I get a say in it. I want to make sure people know what I’m about. I am *not* about the diet culture. I *am* about finding and developing the love, of self and of others. Now, not later.
So I’m making my commitment here and now: I will not talk about my weight in public or private again. I will try to steer weight-related conversations *away* from the topic (towards mental health, body acceptance and positivity, undoing the learnings we’ve all unconsciously assimilated) in the future, or I will remove myself from the conversation. I am not prepared to passively contribute to the culture which predominantly affects women and femme people but which seeps its toxicity all throughout society. I’m not going to contribute to the often ableist and racist nature of those conversations. My weight and size is not up for discussion with you, and I’m not going to engage in discussion about your weight and size, either. There are MUCH bigger things to think and talk about, and it is this obsession (fed and fanned by the media throughout the world) with becoming and staying smaller and smaller which is keeping us from being as big as we need to be to reach our own stars.
In terms of starting points for resources, I've been following these people for a while:
Aubrey Gordon - your fat friend
iWeigh - iWeigh Community
Ericka Hart - Ericka Hart
Anti Diet Riot Club - Anti Diet Riot Club
And of course, my group for radical warriors working on their self love and sobriety - The Deep Duckpond
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The Deep Duckpond –
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A very dear friend told me yesterday that she “just couldn’t” with all my “abundance” posts.
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I don’t usually like to get super-duper vulnerable on here, and I did a lot of my initial sobriety vulnerability in the OYNB group during the first 6-9 months of my adventure, from October 2019 to around summertime 2020, when I started working more as a sober coach and being more involved in smaller groups and on social media. Those ~20,000 of my closest friends are the ones to know and keep all my darkest secrets!
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There’s an island, over there. It’s got good, free healthcare, and good, free education, and interesting, useful, well-paid jobs, and lots of room for growing things, and lovely places to live, and libraries, and parks, and theatres, and music, and joyful, calm, peaceful habitants. They’re not perfect, because they’re human, but they try, and they’re kind, and they make an effort with themselves and with each other. There’s mediation and communication and growth and learning and peace and joy and laughter and quietness and you can find what you want in different parts of the island. The beaches look so inviting, the sea so clear and clean around them. Very few people who make the trip over ever genuinely want to come back here.
Here, it’s fine, most of the time. Some of the time. Sometimes. There are drugs and loud music and wine and loud tears and there’s laughter, but it’s hard to remember why. There’s fighting in the streets, dangerous things going on in the sheets; there’s a general feeling of stress and not being quite safe. It’s dirty, because “it’s not my job to clean up other people’s shit”, and no-one will admit to causing it, that shit. There’s also a beach, over here. You can see some people having cocktails in the afternoon, tanning in the sun. When you get closer, though, you see the cigarette butts (and more) all over the sand. You see the empty bottles half-buried in shame. See the red and yellow tinges on the burning skin, hear the bitterness and sadness in the words – the ones you can understand through the slurring, anyway. The closer you look at the sand, the more filthy you realise it all is, with shit everywhere. Filth, filth, filth. The waves surrounding this beach are slow and sluggish, carrying their own weight of plastic wrappers and silty mud and more and more shit.
When you look over there, to that island … seeing the people working, learning, growing, loving, laughing, living … it’s easy to hate them. They have it so easy. Everything handed to them on a taxpayer-subsidised platter. It must be so boring, without the drama, without the grit. And yet. There’s more than a touch of the green-eyed monster in the way you look over at them. How come *they* get to live the “good life”, and you don’t? So you do it.
You plan the trip. Sometimes you’ll have a big farewell party, and forget to leave it. Sometimes something will happen and you’ll be transported over there by someone else, and you’ll have to come to terms with waking up there, and deciding if it’s really what you want after all. Sometimes you plan it secretly, sometimes you do it with friends, sometimes you make big declarations but taking that first step proves more difficult than you’d imagined. Or the second. Or the third. Because here the beaches are full of shit, and empty bottles, and empty promises, and empty thoughts and lives and words. And those first steps you take into the sea, your feet squidge into something, and you don’t want to know what it was, but you do. It doesn’t feel clean and it doesn’t feel safe and dry land is Just Here and it’s the devil you know so maybe this is better? If the sea is so filthy, if it’s all so hard, why not just stay here?
My love. If you keep on standing on this beach, and taking two or three steps into the muddy, murky waves … of course it feels hard, and sad, and dangerous, and lonely. If you look over there, you’ll see the people from the island waving at you. They can’t come any closer to pick you up, but they’re waiting to grab your hand as soon as you get close enough. They’re sending postcards and phone-calls and pigeons and love and warmth and wishes, and they can’t do any more until you get there. They know that once you’re out of the mud and into the big wide sea, the water itself can feel scary, but it will also wash you clean. They know that by the time you reach the island, you might be exhausted, but you’ll also be strengthened by the butterfly-emerging-from-a-chrysalis effort you’ve just performed. They know. They all did it too. All of them. They all arrived on those beaches, sometimes battered, but never beaten. And they let themselves be taken care of. And then they learned to take care of themselves, in ways they’d never been taught before. And then they started to take care of others. The new arrivals. The old dogs.
The island will always grow to the size it needs to be to fit everyone who wants to be there.
The waves, once you get past the mud and the shit and the doubt and the reaching back to those familiar devils, will help to carry you to the island. It’s where your body and your soul want to be. The universe will help deliver you there, if you just stop hanging on to what isn’t good to or for you.
We can’t wait to see you. Jump in. Start paddling and don't stop until you don't feel the mud any more. Until you can’t see the dirt. Come. We're right here, waiting to catch you on the other side.
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404 Error - Alcohol Not Found
What *has* been found:
More (distant) connections
More access to emotions
Fewer panic attacks
Less ignoring myself
Less unintentional spending
Fewer cancelled classes
Fewer forgotten conversations
Fewer broken things
Less wondering if
Fewer "didn't mean to ..."s
No more hangover poos!
I'm not great at maths, but I think, on balance, I'm quite happy with the way things are turning out so far!!!
lost: ALL instances of saying "oh god never again"
gained: the ability to smile like Wallace (and Gromit)