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So I've said similar things in other ways, but I really think this needs to be said, especially for anyone who has (only) joined a large Sober Community Tribe and who's not necessarily found anyone who sounds like them or looks like them. We are out there. We are here. We love you, and we're waiting for you. Come find us.
Hi, loves – from Day 390
Hope you’re all doing well on this Friday night. I just wanted to come and talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot recently, and that came up both in a podcast I recorded this morning (HAHAHA I AM TERRIFIED) and also in an episode of the new season of This Is Us (if you’re not watching it, drop EVERYTHING and go find it immediately). Community, change, comfort.
Randall (a Black character in This Is Us) says to his (white) therapist: “there are things that I don’t feel comfortable talking to you about. There’s stuff I put away when I enter your office, and … that doesn’t help me get better. And there’s nothing you can do to help me feel more comfortable, I just … I need something different”. I have to admit – I bawled when I heard those lines. They felt so familiar, and like words were put to a feeling I haven’t always been able to verbalise properly.
We often expect so much out of our safe spaces, our tribes, our harbours, our retreats. And so we should! We build them and invest in them and maintain them. We *are* them. And often … it can feel like they’re everything. I know I lived in my first sober support group for my first weeks and months, I lived, breathed and ate the tribe and the group, giving and getting SO MUCH. And we’ve had conversations (a lot of them outside the tribe, as those conversations within the space were closed off in order to not detract from the #1 purpose, accompanying people who want to change their relationship with alcohol) about how to make spaces more open, more diverse, more inclusive, more welcoming, but I think Randall’s point says it all. “There’s nothing you can do to help me feel more comfortable, I just … I need something different.”
There are lived experiences as a minority that just cannot be understood by the majority. There are multiple experiences that I can’t understand, and some personal experiences of mine that many/most others wouldn’t understand, unless they went through the same thing. It is not my job here to get others to understand my lived experience. There are things which I “park” before coming into the tribe. Elements of me and my life that I put aside – not because I don’t necessarily trust you all with them, but because bringing them up and out, as a minority lived experience, no matter how related to my problematic relationship with alcohol, that doubles my workload. It’s explaining (and often re-explaining, and sometimes defending) to people who will struggle to “get it” because it’s not their experience and it’s hard. This is not a “woe is me” post – I am lucky to have done a LOT of work in therapy and in my background as a coach. I know how to separate things. It’s annoying to have to, but it’s just one more annoyance, one more brick in the handbag to carry round.
The purpose of this post is to say to anyone who finds themselves in the quote – that they’re not getting everything they need from one particular source – di. ver. si. fy. Diversify your sources and your tribes and your safe spaces. If you feel safe and happy to do so, stay where you are for the good things that you’re getting there, but don’t hesitate to bring in help from other sources, to reach out to other spaces. I have needed, at times, to reach out to sober groups specifically for the queer/trans community – they’re not as big, they don’t have the same resources, I don’t have the same feeling of a huge loving family around me … but they also get the shorthand. I don’t need to add educational work to my interactions there.
Finding people to talk to who look like you, sound like you, have lived through the things that you’ve lived through … it’s not a bad thing. It’s good for everyone to be mushed up together, unless it ends up delivering one specific narrative (in order to be Successfully Sober you need to be money-driven, white, cishet, middle class, middle aged, fairly sporty or sporty-able, and anglophone. Yoga or marathons, that’s your diversity <== this is how A LOT of Sober Spaces tend to look from the outside).
Your narrative is your narrative. It is valid and valuable. It has its place in big tribes, and it has its place in littler ones, too. Do not be afraid to diversify your sources, to find an additional happy space where you *don’t* have to park a lot of yourself or your experience at the front door. Literally nobody is saying you can’t have both :D
And as a final point – the question of “getting help” comes up regularly. As if there is something to be ashamed about for needing a tribe, a program, a coach, a facility in order to change a relationship with alcohol. When a child is born, we don’t expect it to be able to do everything perfectly right away. When we’re teaching a new language or a new skill, we don’t expect the person we’re teaching to be able to do everything perfectly right away. When we’re recovering from an illness or disease, we don’t expect to be able to do everything perfectly straight away. We need help. We need time and books and training and advice and encouragement and space and love and support. It’s the same for getting sober, except with the added difficulties of multi-billion-dollar industries using every marketing trick in the book against us, societal norms, traditions and cultures working against us, and often many years or decades of our own ingrained habits and thought-processes working against us.
OF COURSE we need bloody help and support – it’s a miracle we’ve even made it to the point of recognising that! So please NEVER feel ashamed about bringing in outside help – it truly is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Have yourselves an evening and weekend that does you the most good.
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How’re you doing?
Feeling more tired than usual? Those tears coming more frequently, more easily? You’re not alone.
As a child, I used to choose important dates and holidays to really dig deep into various illnesses – colds, coughs, tonsilitis, mumps, lumps, bumps. And as a full-time teacher, it was every single half-term or holiday time, BOOM I would get sick. Like the body knows how to hold on *just* long enough to get us through what it needs to get us through, but then as soon as it can let go a little bit? The whole thing collapses.
For the last week or so, I’ve been experiencing a fairly nasty flare-up of long-Covid, struggling with fatigue, joint pains and aches.
This is actually super common. It’s known as “the let-down effect”, and is pretty well-documented in the following few articles (to only give you three, there’s loads more out there)
So what’s going on? Well, according to this article, during acute stress, the body releases key hormones – including glucocorticoids (like cortisol), catecholamines (like norepinephrine) and adrenaline – to prepare itself to fight or flee from danger and to trigger the immune system to step up certain types of surveillance. In the process, "glucocorticoids can reactivate latent viral infections such as herpes simplex 1 [which causes cold sores] and Epstein-Barr virus [which can trigger fatigue, fever, sore throat and swollen glands], for which symptoms are only obvious after a few days," explains behavioral neuroscientist Leah Pyter, an assistant professor of psychiatry at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus. That's why the symptoms may appear after the stress lifts – say, over a weekend, on vacation or after an exam period.
Meanwhile, while you're under pressure, the rise in cortisol and other stress hormones can protect you against the perception of pain, which is helpful in the moment because it can help you reach safety in a dangerous situation without being hindered by pain, explains psychologist Dawn Buse, director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center and an associate professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "After a stressful period has passed, the body returns to a state of normality and many of the systems that were activated calm down," she says. "This includes a drop in cortisol as well as other stress hormones [which could] set the stage to initiate a migraine." Similarly, that post-stress drop in cortisol could trigger a flare-up of other forms of chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.”
So while the stress is building (say during a tense wait to see how the next 4 years might look, politically speaking, for the USA and thus the rest of the world because #globaldominance), our bodies are handling it as best they can, in the ways they’re used to. Once that stress-point is reached?
It’s like we’ve all been holding our breath for the last 4+ years and now we’re letting it out, but in a context still of uncertainty, of danger, of newness, of othering, of division, of lots of people shouting at each other and themselves. Out of the frying pan, but realising that the whole damn kitchen’s on fire and the people in charge of the sprinklers are self-serving lunatics, unwilling to spend the peanuts it would take to ensure safety for all, in case it takes them away from counting their billions.
So what can we do? We can ease ourselves into the (relatively) lower-stress swimming pool gently, so there’s less of a shock to the system. In a similar way to how we (are supposed to) cool down after exercise, with stretches and bringing our heartrate down slowly, we can keep up some high-energy activities and reduce them slowly, gently – not running full pelt until we hit a wall, then stopping dead. We can be gentle with ourselves as well as encouraging ourselves outside and into the fresh air, moving in whatever way gets our heart beating as fast as it does when we watch the news. We can eat good food – covering all the bases of vitamins, protein, carbs, fat, sugar (is that a base?) and happiness. Wherever you find those things.
We can ensure we get enough sleep. We can work on our breathing. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Hold. Again. Slower. Again. Again. Again. We can do yoga. We can lie on a yoga mat and cry. We can watch our favourite people on TV and laugh and cry with them. We can talk to our favourite people in real life and laugh and cry with them.
We can recognise that very few people have ever been in such a situation. Putting it all on a curse from 2020 (I personally believe it all started on January 10th, 2016 when David Bowie passed away and let the demons come through) is temporarily helpful but ultimately not very realistic – people have predicted the kinds of calamities we have experienced this year for decades. Racial inequality and discrimination, gender bias, climate crises and emergencies, the rise of white supremacy, pandemics, corporate dominance, malfeasance, and irresponsibility... If we’ve not had to listen to those voices, we have been operating out of a place of privilege and ignorance. We have ALL had learning to do. We have ALL been stressed. And we ALL have work to do.
But that work starts with ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty cup, and we cannot expect to dismantle centuries-old systems of oppression by ourselves or when we’ve barely started the recovery process from a long, nasty, brutal battle. We need to look after ourselves in order to look after each other.
My commitments to looking after myself over the coming days: moving outside for at least 30 minutes a day (YES it’s annoying with a mask, YES it’s cold, YES I don’t have anywhere fun within the allowed 1km radius, YES it means wearing clothes I feel safe being outside in, YES I’m going to do it anyway), making sure I drink at least 2l of water (not sure the pot of coffee and numerous cups of tea do actually count towards it), doubling my breathing exercises to help my lungs recover and grow, muting the people and sources who bring me more anxiety than I need, turning towards those who motivate, comfort, support me.
What are you going to commit to?
Love, as always.
And, as always – if you are willing and able to support me via Patreon (a platform allowing individual artists, writers, activists to be financially supported through regular monthly donations starting at 1$) then you have my endless gratitude. You can find me at www.patreon.com/jowalduck.
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Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone during a gig? Even if it’s just to tell them that you’re going to the bathroom (or going home, or going to the bar, or scared, or you’ve met the person of your dreams, or the someone in question is the person of your dreams)? It’s so hard. The music’s so loud, your hearts are thumping in your ears, the lights are blinding and contrasted with pitch blackness when not shining on you. It’s really frigging hard to hear yourself, never mind hear someone else. If you add a disability or impairment to the mix, removing or dampening one of the senses? Good luck with that.
I can remember, back in those old halcyon days of concerts and sweating and screaming into each other’s ears, spilling booze everywhere, feet sticking to the carpet which should have been removed at the end of the war, trying desperately to understand what people were saying to me. Add in different accents or languages, and I’d find it hilarious (or hilariously embarrassing) that I was just incapable of understanding. And, after another drink or two … incapable of caring. I just muddled through and we all made it and nobody died. It was all fine really, when you think about it. There were a few cases of mistaken identity, of mishandled conflict (I DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE REALLY MAD I’M SORRY), of being lost and drunk and alone at the end. Of being scared and confused. Of scaring, confusing, annoying other people. Just writing these words is making my heart beat faster than it has done for a while.
It all worked out in the end though, right? Apart from those people who inexplicably stopped wanting to go to concerts with me. Until the pre-, post- and pendant- drinks became more important than whoever it was we were going to listen to. Hmmm.
Anyway. This is not a post about gigs (may they rest in peace and come back soon and safely). It’s a post about noise. In the last year and a bit, I’ve managed to remove so much of that noise that I didn’t realise I was having to shout over. Or rather, that my emotions were having to shout over. Anxiety and panic attacks don’t just develop by themselves, they’re there to tell us something. I couldn’t hear or feel the low-level malaise or stress, because I was drowning everything (out) with booze. Constantly in a state of either a little (or a lot) buzzed, or a little (or a lot) hungover, or in the awkward in-between land, trying to escape the memories of one, only to fall into the arms of the other.
Removing the booze can feel like it brings anxiety – it doesn’t. It lets us feel the anxiety that was already there, the anxiety that was already trying to talk, to tell us something. Fearing the anxiety itself is giving it more importance than it needs or deserves (this is coming from an anxious wee beast of many years, who still experiences and navigates it now … just on a less cataclysmic scale ... I FEEL THE FEAR OF ANXIETY AND I EMPATHISE AND I LOVE YOU) – it’s literally there to send us a message. What’s it trying to say to you?
Mine was saying “you’re not who they say you are. You’re not who you say you are.” It was telling me to explore my gender identity (and literally within two days of doing that without alcohol dulling everything or to run to for comfort, I knew I was non-binary trans, and started there and then the long, thorny route of transitioning socially, publicly, professionally, physically, emotionally). It was telling me that the question “what if there’s more to life than this?” had an answer, and it was a positive one – there IS more to life than how things were. There are different connections to be made, there are different projects to develop, different people to meet, different ways to learn, to laugh, to love, to live (and not all of them fit on a Karen’s cushion).
Over the last 10 days, I’ve been feeling more and more tired, and responded to that with naps. I even did a post about it – the pleasures of guilt-free sleep and naps when living an AF life. And then I developed a sore shoulder and neck, which I put down to getting old (:D) and not being regular enough in my yoga and stretching practice. And then over the weekend, boom. Pretty bad joint pain pretty much everywhere. Oh yeah … the delights of long-COVID, back again. Fuck, I’d forgotten about that.
Since being diagnosed with Covid back in April, it took me a few weeks to recover back to about 80-90% of how I was before the virus, in terms of stamina, energy, strength. And every few weeks I’d have a relapse. Crushing fatigue, cramps, joint pains, aches, body just not my own. It would last a few days, I would be forced to rest and recover, and it would gradually go away again. My last relapse was in September, and I don’t think I’d gone two full months without one, so I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. I’m lucky – I never needed to be hospitalised, my lungs are recovering (still doing daily lung exercises), my heart rate is improving again, and these relapses are temporary inconveniences. It has been and continues to be so much worse for so many others who are afflicted with Long Covid.
I am lucky that my work – as a coach, teacher, writer – can be done online or remotely, that I can shift sessions around, that I can postpone writing, that I can generally go to bed when I need. (I’m also lucky in that I have wonderful people supporting me through my Patreon – I would be delighted if you were able to chuck a couple of quid in the proverbial pot too, please visit www.patreon.com/jowalduck for more details and/or to sign up - no pressure, ever!)
I’m lucky that I had quit smoking before lockdown, before I got infected. I’d given my lungs nearly 5 months to start repairing themselves after a nearly 20-year smoking habit, before gifting them with Covid. I’m lucky that I haven’t had booze in over a year, and am now able to better understand what’s going on in my mind, feelings and body. It may still take me a while to notice and adapt to what’s happening – we were not taught Emotional Intelligence and How To Recognise The Signs Your Body’s Trying To Send You as children, and I boozed my way through the next nearly two decades, ignoring as many signs as possible – but I know I get a much clearer message now, with less screaming, shouting and URGENT URGENT URGENT-ing necessary from my body in order to actually make me able to hear, listen, and pay attention. I’m better able to hear what’s going on with me physically, mentally, and emotionally - and better equipped to respond appropriately. I’ve responded pretty appropriately to this relapse – although I tried to do too much on my first day of improvement, I took the hint from my body (crushing tiredness and instant return of the aches and pains and cramps) and rested, and have taken it easy again today. The coming days will bring further improvements.
What are you excited about hearing from your body? What are you nervous about? What can you do to prepare for the signs and stories that are coming your way?
I’m so grateful for this community. Thank you for being here.
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You know what one of the best things about life without alcohol is? Feeling tired, and doing something about it with no guilt whatsoever.
Guilt is such a fucker of an emotion anyway, and serves little purpose, if any. When I was drinking more booze than was good for me, I used to feel like I wasn't allowed to 'indulge' my tiredness, like it was all self-inflicted. And a lot of it was - remove the sludge and drudge of alcohol and hangovers, I generally recharge my batteries much fuller now, with less time. Feel bad for having had fun and booze the night before? The easiest way to forget about that is to have more wine and 'meh' times on the sofa.
Now, when I'm tired (and let's face it, we're navigating a pandemic, widespread financial uncertainty - thank you to my Patreon supporters please join my Patreon I love you -, changing political landscapes, climate crises and urgencies that are just being wilfully ignored because they're too scary to accept, isolation, lockdown, some of us have had covid and are still fighting through its aftershocks, some of us are terrified of catching it, losing our own health or family members - who ISN'T tired?!), I know it.
I know it's tiredness, not a hangover. I can usually tell if it's stress, overwhelm, anxiety or purely physical. And do you know what I can do? I can take myself off social media and all my screens (not a punishment! a treat!), and I can take myself to bed. I could do that when I was boozing too, of course, but it wouldn't be restorative, it'd be for survival. And accompanied by guilt, heightened anxiety, and a load of boozy sweats. Delightful, no? (And I haven't even started to talk about the booze shits, they were just mentioned for the delightful punny reference to Angela Lansbury's cult classic. You're welcome.)
Bin the booze for a bit, see how much better bed feels. You don't even have to sleep, there's plenty of other things you can do there that make you feel good (and which should also not bring about any feelings of guilt).
#sober #soberlife #sobriety #recovery #soberliving #soberaf #addiction #alcoholfree #soberissexy #wedorecover #mentalhealth #sobermovement #addictionrecovery #soberlifestyle #recoveryispossible #steps #sobercurious #onedayatatime #sobrietyrocks #transandsober #transisbeautiful #afaf #zesobercoach #sobercoach #queerandsober #queeraf #transaf #noboozenovember2020 #noboozenovember
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I've compiled this resource from things that have helped me, and others, in preparing for and navigating sticky, emotionally-charged moments and situations WITHOUT turning to the booze, which of course was my go-to for many, many years.
If you think anyone you know might benefit from it, please give it a share.
Text version below.
See you on the other side, beauties. Look after yourselves and each other!
Tips to prepare for an emotionally-charged situation without alcohol.
Check in with yourself *very* regularly. Remember those alarms every 30 minutes to remind yourself to drink water as well as alcohol on a boozy night? Set a regular reminder to check in.
How are you feeling? What are you feeling? What is that telling you? What do you need? (Hint: the answer isn't alcohol!)
Prepare gentleness. Is that food? Phone off and a movie? Changing your bed and taking to it like a Victorian widow? Yoga? Cuddles? Reading a book? Building a castle on Minecraft? Tai Chi outside? Stroking something furry? Looking after your plants?
Bring in backup. Alcohol-free alternatives. They don't have to taste the same, this is not a fancy tasting party. And they're not exactly the same anyway. They only have to hit the spot just hard enough to get you through to the other side.
Come back to now. Listen to your thoughts, remember that *now* is the only time where we have any agency and power. You can't change what you said that summer night 14 years ago. You can't pre-fight tomorrow's battles. You can only be here, now. Be here, now.
Call (out to) community. There are some brilliant, powerful groups out there. Sober communities to be found at the click of a hashtag or a 'join' button. Even if you've never really reached out before. Won't it be nice to remember today as the day you reached out and changed your life, rather than the day you fell down the rabbit hole, soaked in booze, and broke your pride and your promise and your posterior?
Be kind. Kind is not the same as nice - it's not just empty words. It's powerful ones, loving ones, ones that see and address the human and the humanity. You're human. Be kind.
Remember that alcohol is an accelerant and a depressant. Do you need any help in stoking the embers of anxiety, fanning the flames of stress, misery, outrage, othering? Do you need any help in feeling out of control, overwhelmed, sad and scared? No? Then don't add to it.
Remove temptations and traps. If you've got booze lying around, get rid. If you won't 'waste' it, then give it to a friend either as a present or for safekeeping for when you really have changed your relationship to alcohol and can drink in moderation successfully like everyone else [endsnark]. If you don't trust your friend, lock it away, mail the key to yourself, and find some new friends. Same for your wallet or credit cards. Make it harder to cave. If you know a bar / group / person will tempt you? Make your excuses and remove yourself from the situation. Remember this is for times of exception - you don't have to do these things in normal times. You're getting battle ready.
Know that you are loved. You are strong and brave and worthy and seen and needed. This too shall pass, and YOU shall remain. What version of yourself do you want to find on the other side? Go save that one.
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(et une annonce en français après, bien sûr !)
Hear ye, hear ye! I’ve done a lot of thinking (who, me?!), and have made a decision which feels right for me, at least for the moment. I have set up a Patreon account – it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and a few people have suggested it as a way of ensuring some financial stability for me, and allowing me to focus on writing, sharing, and supporting others. I will continue to support and love and write to everyone to the best of my resources, time, and energy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Patreon supporter or not, if you’ve pledged 5€ a month or 1€ or 10€ or 100€, I will always support you with what I’ve got, in the ways that I can.
This will help me in so many ways. One of the biggest problems I’ve had with the concept of coaching (since before I trained to become a coach, even) is that it still remains a service and support primarily available to those who can afford it, or who have employers who are willing to pay for it. Yes, it’s an investment, and a MASSIVELY worthwhile one, but it’s not always available to everyone, and that’s a problem for me. I know that I am deserving of being paid, I know that my time spent coaching one-to-one or in little groups is deserving of financial compensation, I know that investing money in a project / adventure / service means we’re more likely to invest emotionally and intellectually as well – I know all this. And yet, I also know that I want to reach as many people as possible and help spread gentle strength and kindness and self-awareness throughout all the lands. Doing outreach work and educational work takes time and experience and learning. Being able to spend time talking and writing and sharing and learning and doing and growing and thinking and being, and less time trying to make sure I can pay my rent – this will make an absolutely gigantic difference to my life.
I’ll continue to coach people one-to-one and in small groups, and will bill for those sessions, when appropriate. The Patreon is a way for me to be supported by others for the other things I do – I don’t want to put any of my work behind a paywall (apart from when my book gets published, I’d like you to buy that please ), and I don’t want to resent the time I spend with people which is not compensated financially (because it is compensated in so many other ways!). I want to be able to spend time learning how to reach more people, I want to be able to spend more time in the support groups for people changing their relationship with alcohol, I want to work more on deconstructing and fighting against the fatphobia and inherent normative standards (in terms of body, age, race, gender, physical abilities, sexual orientations) particularly prevalent in the world of sobriety and self-development. I want to be able to work more in French and spend the time it takes to write in both languages. I want to be able to support my trans siblings in their ventures. I want to be able to take the necessary time and training to make my work accessible to all, to work with other minorities in their field. I want to be able to focus on the connection, rather than the compensation – the making, rather than the marketing.
Having more stable finances, through schemes like Patreon, will help me to do this. I’m not doing tiers at the moment, because I don’t feel super comfortable with that ranking – anything you can afford to give to support me and my work, I’m grateful for it. No pledge is too small, and of course you can modify, pause, or stop it at any time, if it’s no longer appropriate for you, or you no longer wish to provide that level of support. No questions asked, no hard feelings, ever. I’m too much of a (Nosecco-type) socialist to get rich from this, and I’m not looking to lie back on my chaise longue quaffing wine and eating lemon drizzle cake (although … if the wine was alcohol free, it might be quite nice for a few days …), this is a way of ensuring I can spend more of my time and energy focussing on the right things. The world needs more warriors for the gentle good, as well as the outraged and outrageous.
My sleeves are rolled up and I’m ready to continue working – if you’re prepared to support that in whatever way, whether you benefit from it personally or know that someone else does, or just want to spread some good around the world – I thank you from the bottom of my heart. o<3 (my heart + its bottom)
Une annonce !
Oh là là là là ! J’ai beaucoup réfléchi ces derniers temps (qui, moi ?!) et j’ai pris une décision qui me va bien, au moins pour l’instant. J’ai créé un compte Patreon – c’est quelque chose auquel je pense depuis un moment, et plusieurs personnes me l’ont suggéré comme une façon de m’assurer un peu plus de stabilité financière, et de me permettre de plus me focaliser sur mes écrits, le partage, et le soutien des autres. Je continuerai à soutenir et aimer et parler avec toustes, avec ce qui m’est possible en termes de ressources, temps, et énergie. Peu importe que tu sois Patron·ne ou non sur Patreon, si tu contribues à hauteur de 5€ par mois, ou 1€ ou 10€ ou 100€, je te soutiendrai toujours avec ce que j’ai, et ce dont je suis capable.
Ça va tellement m’aider. L’un des plus gros problèmes que j’ai eu avec le coaching (depuis même avant ma propre formation de coach), c’est que pour la plupart ça reste un service et soutien réservé à celles et ceux qui ont les moyens de le payer, ou qui ont des employeurs qui sont prêts à payer. Oui, c’est un investissement, et un qui peut BEAUCOUP apporter, mais ce n’est pas toujours à portée de toustes, et cela me pose un problème. Je sais que je mérite d’être payée, que mon temps passé à coacher en tête-à-tête ou petits groupes, ça mérite une rémunération. Je sais que, souvent, plus on investit de l’argent dans un projet / aventure / service, plus il y a de chances qu’on investisse davantage au niveau émotionnel et intellectuel – je suis bien au courant de tout cela. Et, je sais que j’ai envie d’atteindre un maximum de personnes, à promouvoir la force douce et la bienveillance et la (re)connaissance de soi partout dans le monde. Faire de la sensibilisation et des campagnes d’information, ça nécessite du temps et de l’expérience et de l’apprentissage. Pouvoir passer du temps à parler et écrire et partager et apprendre et faire et évoluer et penser et être, et passer moins de temps à essayer de m’assurer de pouvoir payer mon loyer – cela fera pour moi une différence gigantesque dans ma vie.
Je continuerai à coacher et former les gens en tête-à-tête, et en petits groupes, et je facturerai ces séances de travail en tant que telles. Pour moi, cette aventure Patreon est un moyen d’être soutenue par les gens qui apprécient ce que je fais – je ne veux rien mettre derrière un paywall (sauf mon livre, je veux bien que vous l’achetiez quand il sortira svp), et je ne veux pas en vouloir aux gens que je soutiens pour le temps passé qui n’est pas rémunéré financièrement (parce que ça l’est tellement, par d’autres biais !). Je veux pouvoir passer du temps à apprendre comment toucher plus de monde, pouvoir passer plus de temps dans des groupes de soutien pour les gens qui veulent changer leur relation avec l’alcool (et en développer et créer, carrément, pour les francophones), je veux travailler davantage sur la déstructuration et la lutte contre la grossophobie et les ‘normes’ standardisées (en ce qui concerne le corps, l’âge, l’origine ethnique, le genre, les capacités physiques, les orientations sexuelles …) qui sont tellement prévalentes dans les mondes de la sobriété et du développement de soi. Je veux pouvoir travailler davantage en français, et passer le temps nécessaire à écrire dans les deux langues, de façon inclusive et accessible. Je veux pouvoir soutenir mes adèlphes trans dans leur travail. Je veux pouvoir prendre le temps qu’il faut et les formations nécessaires pour rendre accessible mes travaux, pour travailler avec d’autres personnes de milieux minoritaires dans leurs champs de compétence et d’expérience. Je veux pouvoir me concentrer sur la connexion plutôt que la compensation – le ‘making’ plutôt que le ‘marketing’.
Avoir plus de stabilité financière, à travers des plateformes comme Patreon, m’aidera dans ce travail. Je n’ai pas créé de ‘niveau de soutien’ pour le Patreon, parce que je ne suis pas très à l’aise avec ce concept de classement – tout ce que tu pourras contribuer afin de me soutenir et soutenir mon travail, je te serai toujours reconnaissante. Il n’y a aucune contribution trop petite, et bien évidemment, tu peux modifier, mettre pause ou annuler le montant de la contribution à tout moment, si cela ne te convient ou intéresse plus. Aucune question, aucune rancune. Je suis bien trop ‘gauche caviar’ (d’aubergine) pour devenir richissime grâce à ce projet, et je ne cherche pas à m’allonger sur mon transat à siroter du vin et manger des tartes au citron (quoi que, si le vin est sans alcool, ça serait chouette, quelques jours …), c’est un moyen pour moi d’être sûre de pouvoir passer une majorité de mon temps et énergie sur les bonnes choses. Mes manches sont bien retroussées, je suis prête à continuer mon travail – si l’idée t’intéresse de le soutenir de quelque façon que ce soit, que tu en bénéficies directement ou connaisse quelqu’un qui le pourrait, ou si c’est juste l’idée de m’aider à étaler un peu plus de bon, de bonne, de bonté et de bonheur dans ce monde (et de le faire, quand même, en maitrisant plutôt pas mal la langue maternelle de Céline Dion …) – je t’en remercie du fond de mon cœur. o<3 (mon coeur et son fond)
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Hi, loves <3
I didn’t want to post this picture. I wanted to look like my skin is better, like my hair is better, like I have fewer chins. Like I’m the picture of Sober Health. I want to look the way people think people should look when they've not drunk alcohol for over a year. Lovely people comment that my skin is looking SO wonderful thanks to being AF, but it’s also thanks to tinted moisturiser and charcoal soap. It’s ALSO not always wonderful – I haven’t had a pizza or ice cream in a whole frickin week (MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST) but I’ve still got a billion zits growing out of my face. Annoying? Yes. Completely inexplicable? No. I increased my hormones dosage last week, I’ve eaten more cheese than France can replace this week, and I’ve not slept for more than 6 hours a night for a while (the wonderful thing is that I need SO much less sleep!), for various reasons. So here I am, in all my monstrous glory.
I am ALL about trying to deconstruct the narrative that a sober life is only for either AA-attending “proper” alcoholics or for middle class standard-sized white people who have a penchant for running and yoga. Click on any #sobrietyhashtag on the Instagrams, and you’ll be blinded by abs and perfect hair and perfect skin and perfect thigh holes and #hashtagblessed and yes, we should ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY CELEBRATE OUR ACHIEVEMENTS AND HARD WORK BUT. But. Butt. Quitting alcohol hasn’t made me lose much weight (it has made me less puffy, and it has kept me relatively stable despite the onslaught of pizza and ice cream and flapjacks I have thrown at my body over the last 377 days, particularly since I ended a 20 year heavy smoking habit). And yet, if I get frustrated about the vast majority of sober journeys referencing weight loss, surely I can talk about how I’m learning to love my body where it is, as well as working to get it to where I want to be. I’ve worked really fucking hard to get to where I am. My “after” may be someone else’s “before”, but I know where I’ve come from. Quitting alcohol has improved my skin, for the most part, but it’s not perfect. I’ve still got rosacea, I’ve still got spots (thanks, ancestors), I’ve still got hair that goes from fluffy to greasy in 15 minutes flat. There are so many things about my body that can – and do – make me unhappy, feeling frustrated that things aren’t going the way I want them to go fast enough … but do you know what HAS changed since I gave up the booze? Let. Me. Tell. You.
I know myself better. I can tell when I’m getting cranky due to fatigue, when I’m getting hangry, when I’m getting overly whelmed. I can make the difference between what makes me unhappy about my body because it stops me comfortably doing or wearing something, and what makes me unhappy because of the fucking patriarchy and media and advertisements and shite and the people who buy into it and repeat it (myself included). I can catch myself in the negative habit loops and change shit up, stopping myself before I fall too far down a rabbit hole. I practise gratitude regularly, as much as the idea of it made me want to gag when I first started it. I “check in with myself” frequently – it does not come naturally to me, but it is a VERY effective defence mechanism against cumulative overwhelm or stress or burnout or rundown. I set alarms, I have people who call me out and call me in. I have more patience. I am more zen (I am not always zen. I still sometimes want to take a screwdriver to those who annoy me, but I don’t). I preach love and gentle strength for and towards all, and yet I still sometimes find myself holding onto resentment for those who live on such a different political plain to me that I can’t fully see them as humanE (that e is important). But I can see myself and my inconsistencies and insecurities, and I have enough clarity, humility and patience with myself to do the work. I have to constantly remind myself to come back to self, to come back to light and to breathe through it, but I do. I have to remember what is mine to hold, and what is not, and I don’t always remember in time, but I’m getting better at it. And I’m allowing myself to get better at it because I have proven to myself the things that I can do. I can do hard things. I can breathe through it and/or hold my breath til I get to the other side. I can ask for help when and where I need it. I can change my life in a thousand amazing ways in just over a year – I can do this, too.
So as much as I am not comfortable being the poster person for spotty chubby sobriety, for not always getting it right despite doing more and more work in the field, it’s time to put my mouth where my money is (wait what?). Here I am. Now sitting with a buggered back, digesting FAR too much mushroomy pasta and wondering whether I have the energy to make breakfast (tonight really, you know what’s what) biscuits or if I should go to a bakery in the morning instead and just live with a little pang for sugar tonight. We’ll see! You are loved. Hold onto your little monsters - both internal and external – they are deserving of all the love, gentleness and hand holding we can provide.
If you were looking for a sign to recommit to not drinking alcohol, at least for November – let this be it. Do not drink booze in November. Do not booze through the new locking down. Do not drink booze to get you through the election or the confinement or the aftermath or the worry, it will not help. Do not drink booze to ‘celebrate’ Thanksgiving or get over a loss or a fear or a celebration. Do not make yourself weak so other people can feel strong. Find your strength, whether it is in your arms or your legs or your words or your heart or your convictions or your voice or your attitude – find it, hold onto it, and use it to make and be the change you want, and we need, to see in the world. Don’t have the first one, it’s never enough, so it’s always too many.
I love you all. <3
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Have you ever really looked at a bridge? They’re fucking stunning pieces of work. The amount of research and planning and preparing and fucking up and collapsing and rebuilding and doing that it takes, it’s pretty phenomenal.
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Sober Coaching – what is it, who are you, and why should I be interested?!
We are constantly surrounded by adverts for booze, both explicit and implicit. Had a hard day? Have a glass (or a bottle) of wine! Celebrating a win? Have a glass (or a bottle) of champagne! Had a big shock! Have a glass (or bottle) of whisky, brandy, cognac! Going clubbing? Don’t forget your vodka, or your cocaine! Off to the pub? Buy 13 pints, the next two are free!
If you’re well-prepared, you’ll put the bucket, water and aspirin next to the bed before you even go out, and pre-order your delivery of greasy food for early the next afternoon. Hangovers are a rite of passage! Nah, you’ve not got a problem – everyone feels like this. It’s normal. This is how you PROVE you’re a teenager / adult / hard worker / successful parent / real person. Everyone blacks out now and then. Of course it’s fine to go out for one drink and come home 6 hours and $200+ later, not remembering where you went or who you talked to. It’s normal, mate … what you need is a hair of the dog.
I lived that, for so many years. It was a way to be one of the Kool Kids (I smoked Kool menthols too – Double Kool, *eyeroll*). A way to make new friends, to bond, to have fun and take the pressure off (I didn’t always know how to have fun in a Kool Way, but getting drunk made me care less about that). All through college and university, then from the moment I moved to France … alcohol was by my side all the time. It just made things so much more fun, you know? It didn’t matter if I didn’t really like the first boy I dated, because he was a big drinker too, so at least I didn’t have to pretend to be fine splitting a (single!) bottle of wine over Tuesday night dinner, we could both “hold our drink”, and so we did! Numerous drinks. Why bother getting on top of my marking when I could go out with some students and make them think of me as a fun friend instead of respect me as a teacher?! What do I like about the culture in Paris, or in Lyon? Well, I like the cheese, I like the bread, and I really like the wine and cigarettes and the fact that nobody judges you (openly) for indulging in them.
I gave up alcohol for Lent, once. When I realised that mocktails weren’t included in the 2 for 1 happy hour that alcoholic cocktails benefited from, my inner cheapskate took over (encouraged by the Booze Bitch), I switched the Virgin Mojitos for slutty ones, and never looked back. Any other attempts to quit boozing or smoking fizzled out after a few days (tops) – life’s too short, non? Life is for LIVING! Living like I did with my weekends, when I didn’t leave my house, alternating between the bed and the sofa and the bathroom. Living like I did when I had to cancel class after class due to “anxiety and IBS” (turns out? over 90% hangovers). Living like I did when people asked me what I liked to do besides going out and drinking – there was certainly no dying inside at those moments, oh no.
And then in October 2019, I decided to cut out alcohol for a month, to give my fledgling coaching practice some of the famous alcohol-free firepower it needed. I ended up turning the sober-powers I acquired in on my own personal life, with benefit after benefit showing through. More energy, better sleep, more at peace, much lower anxiety, truer laughs, increased focus and concentration. Meeting likeminded people, fighting through the dull days together and celebrating each other’s wins, encouraging each other through losses and stumbles. I kept on extending my “challenge” because the challenge, and the group of people I was fighting alongside every day, kept on opening new doors to possibility and potential for me. Bright eyed and bushy tailed in more ways than one, able to deal with heartache and hardships because I’m sober, not despite it. Surviving a form of long-COVID, thanks to ditching a nearly 20-year addiction to nicotine which in itself was possible thanks to having thrown out the booze. All that to say? It is WORTH IT. It’s worth every single minute, every single doubt, every single moment spent fighting the Booze Bitch, every single fucking comment along the lines of “let me know when you’re drinking again, we’ll go out and celebrate then!” – because I’m drinking NOW, I’m just not drinking booze! And yet.
And yet. And yet. I know how hard it can be. I’m lucky that I found my group at the right time for me, and that I was able to find my voice and my tribe within that tribe. I’m lucky I’d already trained as a coach, that I can understand the interactions between people, the links between addiction and “coping mechanisms”, the beliefs that can stop us from really, truly letting ourselves go full throttle. I’ve been through therapy, and I’m having some more now – not in an admission of defeat, but in a celebration of reaching a point where I need some outside help in order to grow more and go further. And this brings me to sober coaching (finally, I know). It is not an admission of defeat. If you work with a sober coach, it is not because you are a raging alcoholic or about to become one (and if you are and you want to work with me or any other ethical sober coach, there will almost always be limitations as to what help a sober coach can offer, and we would always recommend you be followed by a medical practitioner before making any big changes to your alcohol consumption) – it is because you recognise that you need some outside help in order to grow more and go further.
What can a sober coach help you achieve?
My coaching experience is based in Transactional Analysis and Neurolinguistic Programming, with an emphasis on gentle strength (being gentle in how you look at and talk to/about yourself is in itself a sign of strength), of knowing intimately where you want to be, and working out the regular achievable steps to get you there. Other coaches may help you get the abs and the perky boobs you’re looking for – my style is more to help get the head and the heart in alignment, as well as getting the feet into those walking shoes. I aim to be militantly inclusive of all bodies and the humans who inhabit them, be that according to size, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, differing abilities or other.
I offer sober coaching online and on the phone, to individuals and small groups (next group adventure starts in November 2020), and continue to offer some subsidised places in my practice for those who want to do the work but can’t afford the full prices at the moment. If you’re looking to change your relationship with alcohol or other substances which are holding you back from living the life you want to lead, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Whether you’re on Day -1, Day 0 or Day 100+, if you’re ready to do the work and want someone by your side cheering you on, celebrating every success and working through each stumble, you can do this. Let’s start this adventure!
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Le sober coaching – c’est quoi, t’es qui, et pourquoi ça devrait m’intéresser ?!
On est entouré·es en permanence par les pubs pour l’alcool, celles qu’on regarde ainsi que celles qui sont un peu plus insidieuses. T’as passé une sale journée ? Bois un verre (une bouteille) de vin ! T’as grave assuré au boulot ? Bois un verre (une bouteille !) de champagne ! Tu subis un gros choc ? Bois un verre (une bouteille) de whisky, de brandy, de cognac ! Tu sors en boîte ? N’oublie pas ta vodka, ni ta cocaïne ! Tu vas au bar d’à côté ? Prends 13 pintes, les deux suivantes te seront offertes !
Si on se prépare bien, on met le seau, l’eau et le doliprane à côté du lit avant même de sortir en soirée, et on pré-commande la livraison de McDo pour le lendemain. Les gueules de bois sont des rites de passage ! Mais non, t’as pas un problème – tout le monde ressent la même chose, c’est normal. C’est comme ça que tu PROUVES que t’es un·e ado, un·e adulte, que tu bosses fort, que t’es un·e parent qui assure, que t’es un vrai être humain. Tout le monde fait des black-out de temps en temps. Bien sur que c’est normal de sortir boire un verre à l’apéro et de rentrer 6h plus tard, avec 200€ en moins, sans se souvenir de quoi on a parlé avec qui. C’est normal, poto – ce qu’il te faut, c’est un poil du chien qui t’a mordu.
J’ai vécu ça, pendant de nombreuses années. C’était un moyen pour moi d’être « Kool » (j’en fumais aussi, des menthols Kool). C’était un moyen de me faire des ami·es, de faire en sorte qu’iels m’aiment, de m’amuser et de ressentir un peu moins de pression (je ne savais pas toujours comment m’amuser comme les autres qui étaient né·es « kool », mais me bourrer la gueule faisait en sorte que je m’en fichais un peu). Au lycée, à la fac, puis à mon arrivée en France (kikou, je suis Britannique en fait, donc excusez les fautes please) … l’alcool était toujours à mes côtés, tout le temps. Ça rendait juste les choses plus fun, tu vois ? C’était pas grave si je n’appréciais pas vraiment le premier garçon avec qui je sortais, parce que c’était un grand buveur aussi, et je n’avais pas besoin de faire semblant d’être OK avec l’idée de se partager une (seule !) bouteille de vin un mardi soir ; on savait bien tenir l’alcool, alors c’est ce qu’on a fait. On a tenu beaucoup d’alcool. Pourquoi me faire chier à corriger mes copies si je pouvais sortir avec quelques étudiant·es et faire en sorte qu’iels me voient comme drôle et fun, et non pas une professeur à respecter ?! Qu’est-ce que j’aime dans la vie en France ? Ben, j’aime le fromage, j’aime le pain, et j’adore le vin et les clopes et le fait que personne ne te juge (ouvertement en tout cas) d’en consommer à l’excès.
J’ai arrêté l’alcool pour le Carême une fois. Quand j’ai réalisé que les « mocktails » (cocktails sans alcool, faux-tails) ne faisaient pas parti de la Happy Hour, j’ai laissé derrière moi mon Virgin Mojito, et j’en ai pris un bien dévergondé, sans me poser une question de plus. D’autres essais d’arrêter ou de réduire l’alcool ou la clope n’ont jamais duré plus de 2-3 jours, la vie est bien trop courte, non ? La vie, c’est pour être vécu ! Comme je la vivais pendant mes week-ends, à me trainer entre mon canapé, mon lit, et mes chiottes. Comme je la vivais quand il fallait annuler des cours, à cause des « angoisses et syndrome du côlon irritable » (plus de 90% à cause de l’alcool, je m’en rends compte maintenant). Comme je la vivais quand les gens me demandaient ce que j’aimais faire à part sortir et boire – je ne mourrais certainement pas au fond de moi à ces moments-là, oh que non !
Et puis en octobre 2019, j’ai décidé d’arrêter l’alcool pendant un mois, afin de pouvoir me concentrer sur ma nouvelle activité de coach. J’ai plutôt utilisé les sober-pouvoirs que j’ai pu développer dans ma vie personnelle, car les avantages ne cessaient d’apparaître. Plus d’énergie, un meilleur sommeil, plus apaisée, beaucoup moins d’angoisse, des vrais rires, une meilleure concentration. Rencontrer des gens qui étaient dans le même bateau, malgré nos différences. Réussir à survivre aux journées difficiles ou soirées ennuyeuses ensemble, se féliciter à chaque bataille de gagnée, se donner du courage à chaque fois que quelqu’un tombait ou se doutait. J’ai rallongé mon ‘challenge’ encore et encore, parce que le défi, en plus des gens que je rencontrais, ne cessaient de m’ouvrir de nouvelles portes vers des possibilités et des potentiels pour moi. J’ai pu survivre aux évènements et nouvelles difficiles non pas malgré l’absence de l’alcool dans ma vie, mais bien grâce à cela. J’ai tenu bon pendant le confinement, et j’ai survécu à une forme de long-COVID, aidée surement par le fait d’avoir arrêté de fumer – cela ayant été possible parce que j’avais déjà arrêté l’alcool. Tout cela pour dire ? ÇA VAUT LA PEINE. ÇA VAUT L’EFFORT. Ça vaut chaque minute, chaque doute, chaque moment de lutte contre la Garce de L’Alcool (bon, on lui trouvera un meilleur surnom, the Booze Bitch). Ça vaut chaque putain de commentaire de « ah ben dis nous quand tu rebois, on fêtera ça ensemble ! » parce que je bois MAINTENANT, juste pas d’alcool ! Et pourtant.
Et pourtant. Et pourtant. Je sais à quel point ça peut être difficile. J’ai de la chance d’avoir trouvé ma tribu au bon moment pour moi, que j’ai pu trouver ma voix et ma voie grâce à elle. J’ai de la chance d’avoir déjà été certifiée coach professionnelle, que j’arrive à comprendre les interactions entre les gens, les liens entre les addictions et ‘mécanismes de défense’, les croyances limitantes qui peuvent nous empêcher de vraiment, réellement nous laisser y aller à 100%. J’ai fait des thérapies et j’en refais une actuellement – ceci n’est pas une déclaration de forfait, mais un moyen de célébrer que j’ai atteint un stade où j’ai besoin d’une aide extérieure afin de pouvoir évoluer davantage et d’aller plus loin. Et donc, on arrive enfin (je sais) au sober coaching. Ce n’est pas déclarer forfait, s’avouer vaincu·e – ce n’est pas parce que t’es alcoolique ou en train de le devenir (mais si tu penses que tu l’es, moi-même et n’importe quel·le autre sober coach éthique te dirait qu’il y a des limites médicales dans ce que les coaches peuvent faire, et d’avoir un suivi par un médecin en parallèle) – c’est parce que tu te rends compte que t’as besoin d’une aide extérieure afin d’évoluer encore plus, et d’aller plus loin.
En quoi un·e sober coach peut t’être utile ?
Mon coaching est basé dans l’Analyse Transactionnelle, la Programmation Neurolinguistique, avec un accent sur la force douce (c’est déjà une force d’être doux·ce avec soi-même, la façon dont on se regarde et la comment on se parle et parle de soi), de savoir intimement où l’on veut aller, et trouver les étapes à suivre pour y arriver. D’autres coaches pourraient t’aider à trouver des abdos et des nichons de ouf que tu recherches – moi et mon style, c’est d’aligner la tête et le cœur en plus de se charger de l’habillement du corps. Je tiens énormément à être inclusive de tous les corps et les êtres qui y vivent, que ce soit par rapport à l’âge, la taille, le genre, l’origine ethnique, l’orientation sexuelle, ou les capacités physiques.
Je propose du sober coaching à distance (sur internet et par téléphone) pour des particuliers et des petits groupes (la prochaine aventure en groupe débutera en novembre 2020), et je propose encore quelques places subventionnées pour celles et ceux qui veulent faire le travail mais n’ont pas les moyens en ce moment. Si tu cherches à changer ta relation avec l’alcool ou d’autres substances qui t’empêchent de vivre la vie que t’as envie de vivre, n’hésite pas à prendre contact. Que tu sois en Jour -1, Jour 0, ou Jour +100, si tu as envie de faire le travail et veux quelqu’un à tes côtés pour t’encourager, à fêter chaque réussite et explorer comment surmonter chaque difficulté, tu peux le faire. Que l’aventure commence !
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Wow … what a whirlwind few days of comments and messages and therapy and celebrations and presents and thinking and deciding it’s been, since celebrating 365 days alcohol free on Monday, my full (leap) year on Tuesday, and the start of something new on Wednesday. And of course, pizza and ice cream and AF beer and also a rainbow of vitamins through fruit and vegetables.
So what next? Well, first of all, let’s look back. The most useful time to look back is to see how far we've come.
I became a certified business and life coach around October 10th, 2019. Within a week, I’d set up a new company as a professional coach (ticking the wrong box, inadvertently accepting to be considered like someone who’d earn in the 200-300 THOUSAND euros a year, oops). I’d had three weeks off the booze in the September as I was writing my accreditation dissertation, although I had two or three “cheat days” in that period. I decided I needed some of that AF firepower back to help me kickstart the business. I initially signed up for a 28 day challenge, October 20th 2019. Within the first three weeks there were enough positive changes to make me want to extend it – it wasn’t easy, and I was still smoking and vaping my head off, but it was kind of exciting, making (and eating) ALL the flapjacks, cleaning things, I think I even may have gone for a run (that didn’t last long!!), starting to feel my emotions a bit more clearly, feeling a few pink clouds pass my way and grabbing onto them for dear life. I did a little work on the business, but did most of my work in the group, the “tribe” – more reading and commenting than actual posting myself, leaving little nuggets of wisdom (!), encouragement or compassion for people, according to what they appeared to be asking for or needing. And some posts. I was finding my voice, and my people.
So, I extended my challenge, from a 28 day challenge to a 90 day challenge (I’ve just checked my records, apparently I waited until Day 28 to do it – almost certainly waiting for a last-minute discount, which I duly got! My mama taught me well!!). I realised that 90 days after October 20th, that took me past Christmas. Past New Year’s Eve. And I extended anyway. Not because I wasn’t scared (I was! Not necessarily that I’d “fail” and drink alcohol, but that it would be hard …), but because I wanted to know, to prove to myself that I could do it. I could celebrate Christmas and New Year without alcohol. I was starting to feel the exhilaration of the adventure – YES the challenging aspects were hard. There were times when I didn’t know what to do with myself, where I had too much energy, or too much sadness, or too much anger, and it wasn’t easy just *having* it all. Sitting with it, not being able to drink it away (there is a post coming on this soon), it was definitely a learning curve!! But I was starting to see what people were talking about – the magic that comes in waves.
By my Day 40, there was a monster Black Friday sale. I said fuck it – in for a penny, in for a pound. I signed up there and then to extend my 90-day challenge to a 365 one. If I can do Parisian punk bar birthdays with no alcohol, if I can do Christmas and NYE and the General Election and Brexit with no alcohol … I can bloody well do it for a full-on year, and see what comes of it. What’s the worst that can happen, eh? (2020 … you weren’t supposed to take that as a personal challenge!!!)
So I got through all that. I quit smoking, I figured out my gender identity, I did the coming out, I did the hard conversations. I survived covid-19, I survived imploding and exploding friendships and relationships. I survived quitting smoking and I survived the financial worries. I survived my aunt’s death and my dad’s diagnosis and my feeling a little lost and a lot locked down. I did a lot of thriving as well as surviving, and had the helpful reframing that I was getting through all that (and more) BECAUSE I wasn’t boozing or smoking, not DESPITE not boozing or smoking.
Then around Day 300, I started getting the itchy feeling, wondering what I’d do after 365. There were no more paid-for challenges that went beyond that. OH GOD. What do I DO? Do I even attempt to think about moderating? Do I say “that’s it, I’m done forever”? Do I go back to being pissed and passive and procrastinatory (lol I still do a LOT of procrastinating, but it’s all about progress not perfection, right?!)? OH GOD. I didn’t want to waste the next 2+ months of my journey by thinking ahead to what I’d be doing afterwards, so I made a commitment to myself that I would not go back to alcohol for at least 500 days. That felt more accessible than a full second year, and “never” feels like a word we should never say (never, whatever we do). It worked, and I really only started spinning out about the whole 365 OMG 365 OMG 365 thing around day 350, so honestly, I’m OK with that.
And now that I’m on the other side of that big landmark of 365? Now that I have a full year-ring on my insides, so even if someone cuts me open in 50 years when I’ve repickled myself into the bottom of a bottle of champagne (after getting rich off of telling my story and having Joanna Lumley play adult me in the TV movie of my life), even if THAT happens … I’ll always have this AF ring inside me. And I’ll have the things I’ve learned and the things I’ve done and the things I’ve not done. But I’ll also have a thicker ring than that, because I’ve committed (to myself, and now to you) to a full renewal of the series. Bring on Season Two, bitches – there have been SO many plot twists in this first season, and SO much character development, and SO many new faces being introduced … how could I not be excited for a full second season?!
As many of you know, diversity and inclusion matter to me very dearly. I think the sober world needs to amplify more voices – not to shut out those of the runners and the yogis and the juicers, but to bring others up to the same level. Think of how far the message can be spread if we’re singing with a full fucking choir, rather than just the prettiest twinkliest sopranos and the deepest strongest basses? Let’s buy more mics, and build a bigger stage.
So that’s what I’ll be doing next, and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m still working on my coaching business, developing plans and projects. Working on finding ways to include more and more faces and voices, to bring in more mics, and to get that stage extension done in a safe, sustainable and sound way. I’m writing my book. I’m teaching. I’m riding my bike and doing my therapy work and washing my hands and wearing my mask. And I’m excited to see what this next new year will bring - for me, and for you.
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HELLO !!!! I HAVE NOT DRUNK ALCOHOL IN 365 DAYS!!!
Alright. You know I've been in a group for people looking to change their relationship with alcohol for the last year. I've done quite a lot of writing in there - some of it will migrate back over to this blog and future book, but not all of it. People have been very kind to me about it, and that's one of the main reasons I finally plucked up the courage to actually start writing and associating my name and face to my words. Anyway ... At the end of this first turn around the sun without alcohol (and WHAT a year to choose to go AF!) - here are some of the things I’ve learned :
You need a sober tribe, a support group (of whatever size) of people who get it. People further down the road than you, people following behind, people on the same stretch. They’re all capable of changing your day, mindset, and life.
The more you can support others – even just with a “congratulations!” or a “get back up and be gentle with yourself” type comment – the more you will get from the adventure. I have learned equal amounts from those who are ahead of me on their AF journeys, and those who are still fighting their demons and who do not stop quitting. I am forever grateful to those who share their struggles as well as their successes.
SO much of my anxiety (which had gone back to being really quite bad a year ago, a baseline around 7/10) has just “disappeared”. There are new ones, of course. COVID, lockdown, family, health, finances, living as an out trans person … but that general baseline anxiety? Reduced from 7-8 to a 1-2, despite the pandemic. I've gone from taking a LOT of anti-nausea tablets (nausea and wild temperature changes was how anxiety tended to present itself for me) to never really taking them. From regular anxiety and panic attacks to incredibly rare ones (having a dentist in a hazmat suit mumbling questions behind a mask while also fitting her fist in my mouth was one notable exception to the "no more anxiety attacks" trend).
It is possible to host a soirée and not drink booze and not end up hating my guests! It’s also possible that an evening I’d have jumped at a year ago (too much wine followed by horrific karaoke) just doesn’t float my boat in the same way any more. I have to listen more carefully to my body and mind’s needs before thinking about the kind of interactions I can commit to.
Relationships will change. I have drifted, and sometimes actively paddled, away from some of the people I was closest to. Having the clarity of thought and convictions that comes from a good long stretch of not drinking alcohol brings sometimes surprising answers to questions you never thought you’d ask. I have also developed some incredibly close relationships with people – some of whom I’m waiting to meet in person, some of whom I’ll likely never meet, and some of whom I’ve already met. There are people out there ready to join you.
Alcohol-Free alternatives are SUCH an important tool. I drank a fuck-tonne of them at the very beginning, and tried very hard not to question my drinking of them too much. Having AF drinks allowed me to get past the rocky few first days and weeks and months, tricking my brain into thinking that we were NOT undergoing a complete overhaul of life as we knew it. My reliance on them diminished by itself, I did not make a conscious decision to reduce or stop. I still have AF beer in my fridge, and still drink it sometimes while making dinner, or having a chat on the phone, or having drinks with friends. Just because we don’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean we have to drink milk or juice. There are some amazing AF drinks out there – try as many as you can until you find one (or several) that work for you. HOWEVER. I have also become a fan of a cool fizzy water, and an even bigger fan of a good mug of tea. I “need” the AF drinks less and less.
Asking “what kind of AF beer do you serve?” in a bar or restaurant is a good way of putting the onus on *them*, rather than us having to carry the responsibility of it (with a hopeful "do you have any AF beer?"). If the answer is “none” – a shocked face / raised eyebrow can be quite efficient at making them consider stocking some for the future. Also, if they don’t serve anything like that – fuck ‘em. Around a month into my AF journey, I was invited to a 40th birthday party in a punk bar in Paris (oh, the good old days of November 2019). The punk bar didn’t have any AF beer, so I smuggled a six-pack of my own in. What’s more punk than that?!
I was able to quit smoking because I wasn’t drinking alcohol any more. I have not yet signed the contract with the universe that I’ll never drink alcohol again (although I’d need a bloody good reason TO drink it, to counter all the wonderful reasons to NOT drink it), but I know I’ll never smoke again. I’m free – and for someone whose identity and activities centred so largely around drinking wine and smoking … I’m over the moon to have found this freedom.
I didn’t use patches or gum or any nicotine replacement to quit smoking and vaping, but went the Allen Carr route, remembering that each hour and day I got further away from Day 0, the stronger I got and the weaker the cravings and triggers got. The same is true for alcohol, for me. The further away I get from Day 1, the stronger I feel, the better equipped I am to deal with the occasional whisper (or scream) from the Wine Witch.
I’m trans (raise your hand if you didn’t know ^^). The answer to a question I’d been drunkenly theorising on since my university days, saying “I’ll deal with that when the ancients have passed on” … suddenly with the relentless (it definitely can feel that way) clarity of AF living, I couldn’t avoid it any more. It was do or die – answer the question honestly, and live accordingly, or drink and smoke myself to an early death. So I’ve added “realise gender identity, come out to everyone, live openly and authentically” to my list of achievements since going AF.
Ice cream makes me spotty, but not as spotty as booze and nicotine did.
I still have an issue with internalised fatphobia (as well as the explicit shite marketed to us on a daily if not hourly basis); I still struggle to find the right balance between wanting to be waif-like Cate Blanchette and also wanting to eat things that do both brain and body good. Sometimes that’s spinach, sometimes it’s Ben and Jerry’s, oftentimes it’s both. My heart still breaks when I read people’s posts saying “I’m on Day 3 and I haven’t lost any weight, when does the magic happen?!” – but I have to remember what is *mine* to carry and what is not. I could say that I’ve lost 20kg over the last year, because I have. I’ve also gained 18-19. I’ve been dancing around a 5kg or so gain and loss pretty much all year, and I have to accept that the excess weight I carry didn’t just magically fall off because I quit drinking alcohol. I also have to remember that I’ve quit smoking, suffered through long-COVID and not been able to (find my motivation to) exercise as much as would have been good for me. Practising gentleness with myself is a constant work, but no matter what size I am, it’s a life-long requirement. No matter what size we are, society, the media, adverts will tell us we’re too big, too wobbly, too muscly, too thin, too tall, too small. Amplifying that little voice inside that says “actually, I’m just right like this right now” is key. The balance is to be found in aiming for health and fitness and happiness and fulfilment in a way that is right for us right now.
The sugar cravings are REAL, yo. In the early days, it’s replacing the booze calories. After that, it can be a different source of comfort, another way to “treat” ourselves. What has helped me in finding balance is to make sure I’m eating at least 5 fruit/vegetables a day, enough protein, drinking all the water, and then listening to my body. I’m trying very hard to not associate guilt or shame or judgement of any kind in terms of the “extras” I have – ice cream, pizza, pastries … if it feels like I need (or at least really, really want) it? Fuck it, I’m sober – I’ll have it.
SLEEP! Holy fuck. OK, so I have 4 elephants living upstairs, who sleep and stomp in shifts; it seems there is always someone around and awake, ready to drop something or throw themselves on the floor or find some squeaky pleasure … so I don’t always have the luxury of sleeping all night long, but a) I can manage SO much better on less sleep than before (because my body doesn’t have to spend hours and hours reducing and removing the damages done during the evening) and b) when I do sleep, it’s beautiful. It didn’t arrive straight away, and I took melatonin in the first couple of months because I was struggling to get to sleep without the help of wine, but over time, it definitely became easier. Still a work in progress, but literally all parts of my life are works in progress!
Hard things are still hard. One of my favourite people in the whole wide world passed on this year. I had to have my cat euthanised. Two of my closest friendships have fallen apart. My dad was diagnosed with really scary cancer. I am unable to visit family back in the UK due to fears of infection (as well as shut / sticky borders etc …). My coming out as trans hasn’t always been received with the grace and understanding I would have liked, I’ve been disappointed by some reactions to my truth and my choices. And I haven’t turned to booze during these tricky feelings. I have fought the urge(s) to grab a bottle of wine or whiskey and set fire to the feelings, or drown them in poison. I’ve resisted the pull towards destruction – of myself or others. I’m not always AF Zen Warrior Goddess, but I’m trying. I am further developing empathy both for others and for myself. I’m realising what is mine to carry, and what is not. I realised I need an extra source of safety and support, and am getting that from therapy. Through being AF, I can better see and feel what I need, and act to get that.
Listening to myself and my body is key. Especially after the initial COVID-19 infection and subsequent tail-end consequences (I’m so glad and grateful I’d already left the booze and nicotine behind, I’m 100% convinced it would have been a LOT worse) of fatigue and joint pain – if my body tells me I’m tired, it’s because I’m tired. So I rest. Particularly in the early days, treating ourselves like kids is really helpful – plenty of sleep, plenty of good food, plenty of treats, plenty of kind, gentle words. Rest, reward, rinse, repeat.
Talking of rewards – I calculated how much I was spending on booze and nicotine, and decided that on any given day, I could spend that amount of money, no questions asked, no guilt to be had ever. I have bought myself ridiculously overpriced AF wine (in the early days), new proper knives, a fucking grown-up’s salad spinner, a bike, a load of harem pants (hello working from home glam realness), a new yoga mat that has never been pissed on by a cat, books, and donations to causes that I care about. I don’t spend as much money as I used to, but I do enjoy being able to treat myself and others in ways that make me happy and feel good, rather than providing me with the false highs and real, crushing lows that come from alcohol.
I’m super lucky. I’d had 3 years of therapy and became a certified business and life coach last year after following a 9-month intensive course. Working from home and with a flexible schedule meant that I was able to concentrate on myself and the journey in the first few weeks and months. I found my tribe and got an amazing amount of support from them. I had a sober lighthouse who showed me some of the benefits for her, and I have met so many others so far along the journey. I want to carry on talking about and working in the world of sobriety, fighting to destigmatise it, doing what I can to amplify the necessary diversity of voices and faces and stories in the AF world.
I have a voice. I can effect change. I can inspire. I can tell my truth and be heard. I can be me. I can write. I can own my words. I want to use my soberskills and soberpowers to help make the world a better place for people, on an individual level but also for the wider world in general. Whether it’s through my coaching, writing, mentoring or friendship – I want to continue learning and also spreading the benefits of what I’ve learned.
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Someone accused a dear friend of mine of “banging on” about her sobriety not too long ago. I’m sure many people have thought the same about me, although they’ve had the grace (let’s call it grace) to not say it to my face.
What are we allowed to “bang on” about? New jobs, new partners, new children, new lives. New TV shows, new cars, new houses, new noses, new crushes. Old ones too, to be fair. We’re allowed to bang other things too, but I’m not going there right now.
What are we not allowed to “bang on” about? Going sober, going ve*an, quitting smoking, dipping a toe into mindfulness, yoga, running. Racism, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, misogyny, class discrimination, ablism.
I used to roll my eyes when close drinking friends would have a month or two or three off alcohol. Yeah yeah, better skin, better hair, better shits, better sleep, better whatever. UNE AUTRE S’IL VOUS PLAÎT. I’m not judging those who are still rolling their eyes, because it’s really hard to believe that everyone *isn’t* actually lying, until you start to feel it for yourself.
But I also know that if it wasn’t for people who have the courage to “bang on” about the benefits that can come through not drinking alcohol DESPITE the eye rolls, I wouldn’t be about to celebrate a year without drinking alcohol and all the amazing things that have happened since I made that decision. If it wasn’t for those who have the courage to “bang on” about trans rights, the existence of non-binary people, the spectrum and universe that exists outside of the cis-centred binary, I wouldn’t have found it so “easy” to come out as non-binary trans.
To paraphrase (not plagiarise) Lady Gaga – there can be 100 people in a room and 99 of them don’t bang on about something but all it takes is one and it just changes your life.
And to directly quote the democratically-elected president of everyone’s heart, Ms Barbra Streisand – I’ll march my band out, I’ll bang my drum.
If you have something you want to bang on about, you do just that, OK? You never know who’s listening and needing to hear you.
(picture of Barbra looking wise and dignified, borrowed from Variety)
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Some mantras and thoughts from Day 355 AF
I do not owe anyone a tidy ‘after’ picture.
I am still a work in progress.
I have always been a work in progress.
Every day is an “after” of the day before, and a “before” of the day to come.
I am doing the very best I can with the tools, energy, and availabilities I have at any moment.
I spent all my adult life building my social circles around who would encourage / tolerate / join in with me drinking and smoking far too much. I can hold my relationships, past and present, with grace through the inevitable changes that come through my changes and theirs. A changing relationship can be sad, it can be hard, it can have a dramatic moment or ending or turn out to be a fizzlepopleurgh, but it isn’t, in itself, bad.
Taking the gin goggles off meant I could see myself and my world, and the me and world I wanted to see, so much more clearly. Knowing who and where I want to be is one thing – getting there takes small, intentional, committed, regular steps. Sometimes ahead of others, sometimes alongside them, sometimes behind them, sometimes in a different direction to them.
I am allowed to say no. I am allowed to say please. I am allowed to say stop and say more and say yes. I am allowed to want. I am allowed to dream. I am allowed to be who I want to be, no matter what you thought I should be. I am allowed.
“No” was my go-to answer when I was living 2/3 of my life with a hangover. I’m learning to say “yes” to the right questions, and to bring in the people who ask them.
Sobriety, or an AF life, doesn’t have one single face, it looks different for each person. For some it might be a break, an opportunity for rest (the liver appreciates it – the skin and the eyes, too). For others it can be a boost of firepower (the brain loves it - levels of focus and creativity can rocket). Some are drawn to sport, to “eating clean” and running marathons. Some are drawn to eating sweets and finding other ways to increase their comfort levels. Your body is changing, and your brain is, too. Allow that to happen. For those who have had babies, who have healed from traumatic diseases, accidents, treatments – you know what it can take to pursue healing. Some will go kill it at the gym, and if that’s right for you then that’s just great. Some others will need to work on getting their head around a softer body, if things slow down. My only advice for you, whichever camp you fall in (or if you straddle both), is: go gently. Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your past self. Be gentle with your loved ones and the world.
I do not owe anyone a tidy ‘after’ picture. I am repeating this to remind myself, sometimes many times a day, as I approach my first Day 365. I know it’s significant. I know it’s a huge achievement. I know it needs to be marked in some way. I also know that the more pressure I put on myself around that day, the less I will enjoy the run-up, and the day itself. Which is why, a couple of months ago, I committed to doing at least 500 days AF. I am not done learning from this. My ‘after’ will never be permanent, it will always be in progress. I am perfectly imperfect, as are you.
I feel like my angry self, the one who was constantly exasperated (a wonderful combination of exhausted and constipated, there), that self is slipping away. It takes time and it takes effort. I’m still holding onto some righteous anger – for the injustices in the world, for inequality and meanness, and for my upstairs neighbours who will not shut up – but I’m also letting go of a lot. I don’t need it any more. I can feel sad and tired and scared and overwhelmed and intimidated, and they don’t have to be filtered through anger to be expressed. I can feel happy and giddy and joyful and content and proud, and they don’t have to be poured through a coffee filter (how many times have YOU drunk filtered wine after ruining the cork in the bottle?!). There is a weird peace that comes only after walking (running, cleaning, zooming) through the hyper moments of AF LIFE GIVING YOU ENERGY AND LIFE AAAAAARGHYAYYAY? And those moments still come, those giggles, those roars. They’re felt differently, and they’re remembered better, but they’re still there.
Beware of the binaries and the absolutes! Don’t give into the pressure to constantly be at the pub proving how good you are at AF socialising / feel like you have to stay at home and never see anyone again (COVID restrictions permitting, of course). Don’t force yourself into pilates or Zumba or C210K / think you can only eat M&Ms and haribo from now on. Don’t assume you need to learn 12 languages and set up a coaching business / imagine you must move to the countryside and raise chickens. All of those things are amazing, if they’re right for you. And there are so many other things that will be right for you and wrong for me, and vice versa. Whatever you want – FOR YOU – is amazing, too. You get to choose. For so many of us who started drinking in our teens and never really stopped – we haven’t had the opportunity, as adults, to take a step back (sober!) and think about how we really want our lives to look. So give yourself that opportunity. If you don’t feel that famous clarity after a month? Give it two months! If you’re still learning things about yourself / the world / alcohol / society / tapeworms on the approach to a year? Carry on going! If something's not working out - try something different. Breathe through it. Reach out, see if you're alone in your experience (you're not!). Literally nobody else but you can decide where you draw the line. I’m happy to be on this wobbly line with you, wherever you're at on your journey/s. <3
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OK so here’s a thing I’ve wanted to say for a long time, and which isn’t easy to say. Alcohol-free life is not just for the middle-class, middle-aged, yoga-doing, able-bodied cishet white professionals who dove a bit too deep into the G&T after work and wine with/for/after dinner topped off by a whiskey. In so much of the stuff I would see online in the days when I was “sober-curious” before knowing what that really meant, they were the only people I’d see in the marketing and the discussions. And maybe that’s because I’m on my way to becoming a middle-class, middle-aged, yoga-doing, mostly able-bodied white professional and the algorithms just thought that like would attract like, but it’s just not good enough.
Disclaimer: I KNOW how hard it can be for people from the above lives to explore sobriety. I KNOW how the marketing works, how the societal pressures work, how the "but it's tradition!" and "it's normal, have another!" and "beers + bants" work. And it is amazing the progress that so many people have made, the fights that they're continuing to fight. HOWEVER.
There is a severe lack of representation of sober stories from the BIPOC/BAME communities, from the disability communities, from the LGBTQIA+ communities. And I’m not saying this to fluff up my SJW feathers and pat myself on the back for being So Inclusive – I’m saying it because it’s true. Diversity matters, both in terms of marketing and in terms of the spaces provided for people exploring their sobriety / disordered consumption issues. I haven’t created my own Sobriety Space (yet!) so of course it’s easy for me to imagine that everything I do would be perfect, with everyone coming together in joyous harmony, sharing, respecting the mixing and separations when each was appropriate, learning from one another and helping to make our inner and external worlds the heavenly places we know we deserve to inhabit – I know that reality would likely be different, and of course it’s tricky and messy and not all black and white (pun not fucking intended thank you kindly).
I am trying to navigate my way around the line separating inclusion/support, and blackwashing/gawking. The accounts I am starting to follow on Instagram (Twitter is HARD, I don’t LIKE it, you can’t MAKE me), I’m trying to follow a variety of sources and people. Because it is so easy to just go along with what is suggested, which just happens to (tend to) be white middle-class, able-bodied, cishet people who are more familiar with their own abs than I could ever be - with theirs or my own. And those people are great! Some of my best friends are people like that! Seriously. I am incredibly grateful for those people who I have met who’ve held me and supported me and inspired me and encouraged me, who just so happen to also belong to that ‘standard of sobriety’. But I want more, as well.
I’ve wanted more for much of this nearly year-long journey. I started this journey by joining a community set up by a company who clearly knew who to target – those of us who forgot to sign out of Facebook before googling “how to get over a hangover quickly”, or “is it normal for my liver to hurt most mornings?”, or “alcohol consumption guidelines” or “does alcohol really affect your anxiety?” (yes, it does) or "surely everyone feels like this no? yes? please?". And I am so immensely grateful to the company for providing me with the space in which I could find my voice and my passions and my strength and my soul and my self and my potential and my friends and family and my fellow tribe members. And I always have been grateful, and always will be. And I also need to be more proactive in a way that can help to expand the joy of sobriety, or alcohol-free living, or being AFAF, or whatever you want to call it, in a way that fits in with MY values, which are very much about equity, justice, inclusivity and inclusion.
I’m here to listen to stories, and to tell mine. I can’t tell a story which I haven’t lived, or experienced at some point in my life. There will be people whose stories I can’t understand so easily, as there are people who struggle to understand mine. I can speak to my stories concerning my queerness, my transness, my Britishness in France, my Fake Frenchness, my fatness, my expatness, my anxiousness, and my othernesses. I can and will speak to all of those stories, and I want to hear others. I want to know and support other tellers of stories. Those who struggled, those who are flying through it. The way family and the various cultures we inhabit can affect our modes of consumption. The ways in which our lived experiences and the way the world has told us to shape ourselves and hold ourselves and *be* ourselves, how they can massively affect the way we then deal with what we put into or do with our bodies. The way the stories we have told for so long affect the stories we allow ourselves to tell now.
I want to tell my story. I’m starting to tell it. My story is one that began just under a year ago, and has been written for the last 36 years at least. It is different from anyone else’s, and also exactly the same. There are certain plot twists not everyone will get, and some details that would be swapped around, but it’s a story of finding myself through the freedom of no longer having to drink alcohol, and no longer wanting to hide in it.
It was all I knew. Sad? Drink! Scared? Drink! Excited? Drink! In love? Drink! Hungry? Drink! Nervous? Drink! Hungover? Drink! Drunk? Drink! Overworked? Drink! Underpaid? Drink! Triggered? Drink! Angry? Drink! Tired? Drink! Stressed? Drink! At a party? Drink! Alone? Drink! Alive? Drink! I didn’t know that I was allowed to be any other way. I didn’t know that I was able and allowed to find the answers to the questions I drank to avoid. I didn’t know that I was not only capable of surviving and living in uncomfortable moments, but that they would be the ones that would stretch and teach me the most.
For me, my journey with sobriety has never been about getting ready to run a marathon, or finding long-lost abs. In the last year of not drinking, I’ve quit a nearly 20-year fairly heavy smoking habit, and survived a battle with long COVID-19 as well as confinement, and my weight and fitness levels have fluctuated in consequence of that. I occasionally have to remind myself of my rule that my body is my temple no matter what it’s built with – if that’s pizza boxes and ice cream pots, or carrot peelings and chick peas (it’s a combination of both, tbh) – then it’s still my body which still deserves my love, because it’s still got me inside. I still catch myself having fatphobic thoughts to myself and others. I still need to remind myself on a VERY regular basis that I do not need to shrink myself down for ANYONE. I don’t owe anyone a single ab in my ‘after’ pictures, because despite the outer changes, the inner ones have been phenomenal (and are still coming!). One of the benefits of not drinking alcohol is that I am now more aware of what my body needs. If I’m craving a fry-up, it could be because my iron levels are down, or my body needs some extra fat (cos it doesn’t yet know how to get it from my thighs), or just that I want some fried comfort – and THAT’S OK. Being able to hear my body’s needs and wants better, because they’re not being gasped out through a brutal hangover, means I can (work to) throw off old, remembered guilty feelings around pleasure. I deserve this. You do, too. I deserve treats – not only because I’m sober, but because I’m trying.
So here are new uncomfortable moments for me. Reaching out, saying: I want more, please. I want different. I want to play a part in opening this up. Sobriety or recovery or AF living shouldn’t only be for heroin addicts who hit rock bottom or yuppy professionals who “went a bit too far”. I want to listen to and be part of the conversations surrounding alcohol and drug abuse / overuse / self-medicating within the LGBTQIA+ communities, and its links with mental (and physical) health. I want to find fat sober people to explore and share in the joy of food and drink without alcohol in it. I want to know how to use my privilege as a white person to better support, amplify and celebrate the stories from the BIPOC/BAME communities and their work and thoughts on sober living. I’m looking for book recommendations, podcast recommendations, accounts to follow, people to get in touch with. I’m looking to chat, in DMs or in comments or by email or by PHONE. I am looking to build on my connections, to contribute what I can, and to work on that intersectionality that is so fucking important in ALL areas of life. If I’d seen a nonbinary fairly political chubby trans femme in their 30s living their best sober life on Insta a few years ago? Well … it might not have changed all that much, especially not if I wasn’t ready... But I’m ready now, to see and be seen.
I do recognise that I’m coming at this from a position of privilege. I have had the opportunity to learn a FUCK TONNE over the last year, listening to and learning from hundreds and thousands of different people’s stories. And before that, I was in the privileged position of being able to take a year off work and train as a professional and life coach. I have coached, and continue to work with people on their sobriety or problematic relationships to alcohol or other substances. It is part of my job, and I’m OK with it – I have bills to pay, too, and if I can do good in the world and make money from elements of that at the same time? Yes please, hello ikigai. I’m not into exploiting vulnerable people, nor am I into being exploited – the happy medium, as always, lies somewhere along that fuzzy, not always comfortable line.
This long-winded (who, me?!) post is mostly to say: I see you. You who don’t necessarily see yourself in the adverts or in the groups or in the tribes or in the books or in the future … I see you. Come sit with me, let’s see what we can see together.