Back to Blog
I don’t think it’s possible to punish ourselves into a sustainably and authentically improved life. I just don’t. For years, I punished myself for being too gay, too trans, not trans enough, too fat, too smokey, too boozey, not a good enough veg*n, too boring, too loud, not enough fun, not intellectual enough, not brave enough, not content enough to settle down, too lazy, too buzzy. That punishment didn’t make me less gay, the right amount of trans, it didn’t change my weight or size, it didn’t help me quit smoking or drinking or … you get the idea. It didn’t help in any way, except to make me feel just that bit shitter about myself. And occasionally I’d go all in, set eighteen different goals and commitments, “fail” at the first hurdle, and then give it all up.
Now I’m not saying the prospect of a stick up my bum doesn’t sometimes keep me on the straight and narrow (LOLZ I’m neither), but the crucial thing for me is being aware of what that stick represents. If I go out (or stay in) and get wasted, no-one’s going to shout at me, no-one’s going to take me into a corner and speak to me in a low voice about how disappointed they are in* me (more on this in an upcoming article), there’ll be no outsider berating (as long as I keep off Twitter and possibly Sobergram). I’m the only one in charge – but I’ve had enough of the self-flagellating, and beating myself up for perceived “mistakes” (generally just an entirely human inability to achieve perfection) – society does enough of that to us all (particularly women and the gender non-conforming), I’m not doing their work for them.
So what does help me to carry on moving towards my goals? Number one – having one. Knowing the direction I want to move in, whether that’s to do with body (hello second puberty, thanks for the soft skin, you can keep the spots), booze (521 days and counting) or business (mostly for the alliteration, but I’m finally allowing myself to be seen as an actual coach, a real person with shit to say and an effect to have on the world – and dream and act accordingly). Number two – rewarding myself. Constantly. Whether that’s with tasty food, gadgets and trinkets around my house or body that are useful and/or pretty, saving money, allowing myself the time to visit Schitts Creek, buying plants and taking longer and longer to kill them (one day I’ll grow one from scratch, just watch this space!), making donations to causes I care about … I’ve learned the power of a good, regular reward. And allowing myself to enjoy this process is what's helped me stick with it for so long!
How much time, effort or money does it take us to congratulate someone else on an achievement of whatever size? Hardly anything. And so we often do it – we say thank you, we say well done, we cheer them on. We get inspired (or intimidated) by them for a minute, and then we go on with our day, while they get to smile thinking of their achievements, counting those pats on the back. And yet one of the things we tend to struggle with the most is congratulating ourselves, allowing ourselves a little smile of pride. "Pride comes before a fall." "Don’t get cocky." "Don’t get too big for your knickers..." This is a hugely – and stereotypically – British attitude, but from the work I’ve done with people all over the world, it appears to be something people from many different cultures struggle with.
How many times did I say “I’ve had a hard day, I deserve this!” about my first glass (OK, bottle) of wine? Or “yay we must celebrate, CHEERS TO THAT!” about someone’s achievement, clinking and clanking those drinks and dranks? A BILLION TIMES. The alcohol industry has done a sterling job at marketing itself as the cure-all and end-all, creating a virtuous (for them) and vicious (for us) cycle while letting the addictive liquid take hold of as many possessions as possible. Where was the reward or celebration when I was on bottle number two, three, four, when we couldn’t remember what we were fêteing, when the bar bill far outweighed the extra money from the promotion, when the headache and hangover hatrocities coming out of me from pre-existing and newly-created holes ruined the holiday I was so excited to cheers to the night before? Where’s the "reward" then, brain?!
And so I turn to different forms of reward now. The kind of rewards I probably sneered at a couple of years ago – forms of relaxation, ways of making my life easier, gentler, more comfortable, healthier, “nicer”. And I can hear my old limiting belief voice whispering "you should be ashamed of yourself, trying to have a "nice life", when there's children starving in Africa (and Birkenhead ... and Villeurbanne ...", but honestly - if we only have one life, who doesn't want it to be nice?! Therapy is a reward – it’s hard, it’s confronting, it’s essential at the moment to my survival, thrival (look it up) and all the evolving that’s going on. It’s a reward that keeps on giving – the best kind. Finding ways of bringing in gentleness and peace for others is another kind of reward for me. I get to interact with multiple people every single day, from the comfort of my own home most of the time, and help their day, week, month, year, life be just a smidge better. Or watch in the wings as they completely turn it around. I get to reward myself for hard work, and I get to enjoy the rewards. They don’t bring me headaches or debt.
What do you want out of life? Where do you want to see yourself in six months? In a year? Next week? By the time you’re 100? If we’re lucky enough to make it to tomorrow, the only way we’re going to get there is through today. Spending today regretting yesterday’s choices is a waste. I am not suggesting everyone live a life free of consequence, but rather that we focus on the consequence we want to have. What mark do we want to leave on the world? What marks do we want the world to leave on us?
Fuck waiting for the “right” shaped or sized body for having fun at the beach. Fuck spending three weeks running off that delicious tarte au citron. Fuck waiting for the right house / bank card / partner / cat basket before I allow myself to be happy with my lot. Fuck spending my sober future regretting and rehashing my boozy past. I’ve had enough mornings (and afternoons, until that hair of the dog …) full of regret and remorse. That’s what drew me to coaching initially – the idea of taking the present, however it is, and working from it to get the future we want. The past is there for lessons and memories, nothing more. I’m not using it as a stick to beat myself with, I’m using it as a springboard to make it to the future I want. And finding joy today does not mean I can't or shouldn't also work for more joy, more health, more happiness tomorrow, it just means I allow and encourage myself to find enjoyment here, now. Carpe Diem, motherduckers.
I didn’t train specifically in sober coaching - my background is in language, linguistics, sociology. The way we talk about shit affects the way we think about shit. And that combination, with the additional NLP training, the Transactional Analysis, the NVC, the positive psychology with a hefty dose of pragmatism, real-talk and some sweary well-placed jokes, alongside everything I’ve learned along my own sober adventure and therapeutic journeys … that’s what makes me dedicated and well-placed to accept this crown of Mx Sober America. I promise I’ll make you proud.
We can do serious work without taking ourselves too seriously. We can do hard stuff, and still enjoy the process. In fact, I’d go one step further and use one of the Banned Words … we should find ways to enjoy as much of the process as possible, because otherwise what’s the point in going through it?! It’s all about the journey … My vocation isn’t, and has never been, to make anyone be sober if they don’t truly want to be. My absolute passion is in helping you find and define that “want”, and running all the way there with you, with sober shits and giggles along the way (THEY’RE SO MUCH BETTER SOBER OMG).
Visit www.zesobercoach.com if you want to know more about my 1:1 sober coaching, contact me (Jo Walduck or firstname.lastname@example.org) to talk about joining The Deep Duckpond (my dedicated safe sober support group for women and queer folk where we’re committed to doing the work on the shit that drove us to drink in the first place), and keep your eyes peeled for information coming very soon about a new limited 6-week adventure, launching May 1st. I’m both terrified and so excited I could burst.
Yours in enjoyment and reward –