Monday, 20 February 2017

Children of Alcoholics

Last week was National Children of Alcoholics Week.

According to a parliamentary group there are 2.5 million children of alcoholics living in the UK and one in five children under eighteen are exposed to a family alcohol problem.

The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics (NACA) have a helpline which received 32,000 phone calls and e-mails last year, some from children as young as five.

One of the services they provide is reading bedtime stories for kids whose parents are too drunk to do it themselves. Some children call so regularly that the staff keep their favourite books by the phone.

To read more click here for a harrowing article sent to me (sobermummy@gmail.com) by Catherine. Thank you Catherine!

It's really easy to read articles like this one and to think that's not me. I never neglected my children. But I know that, even though I always read bedtime stories to my kids, there were many ways in which my drinking affected them and that, had I not quit, it would only have got worse.

What about all those times when you skipped a few pages so that you could get to 'me time'? All those little signals that let your kids know that you are not really enjoying this. You'd really rather be somewhere else.

I was constantly engineering family and social events in a way which would separate the kids from the adults, thinking that everyone would have more 'fun' that way.

Even when I was with my children, my head was often elsewhere.

Here's a post I wrote six months after I quit drinking about how quitting booze changed the sort of parent I am. Click here.

The ramifications of being a boozy parent are deep and long reaching. In 1983 Dr Janet Woititz published a bestseller titled Adult Children of Alcoholics in which she outlined thirteen characteristics that these children tend to share.

These include: fear of losing control, fear of emotions and feelings, conflict avoidance, harsh self-criticism and low self-esteem and difficulties with intimacy.

It's no wonder that the children of alcoholics are four times more likely than average to become addicts (and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder) themselves.

So quitting booze isn't just the best thing you could do for yourself, it's the best thing you could do for your kids too....

By the way, if you live near Birmingham and would like to meet up with some other fabulous sober people then lovely reader Tori has set up Club Sober.

The first meeting is on Thursday March 2nd at 6.30pm and is free (all funded by Tori).

To find out more, and to connect with Tori, go to her blog by clicking here. And please let me know how it goes so that I can post an update on my blog.

Love SM x

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Deprivation vs Possibility

I've heard people say, many times, that it is impossible to quit drinking until you reach 'rock bottom.'

Bollocks.

The reason for this belief is, I think, that alcohol is so endemic in our society, and those who've given up are so shy about shouting about it, that we truly believe that life without booze is going to be utterly miserable.

We are so used to associating good times with booze that we think there will be no good times ever again without it.

We imagine that we'll spend the rest of our lives huddling anonymously in church halls, talking about how miserable we are, with the few people that will understand.

When the prospect of being teetotal (even the adjectives describing it are ghastly) is so horrendous, it's no wonder that we have to be at the point of losing everything - our homes, our husbands and children, our jobs, before we can gather the courage to quit.

Well, bollocks again.

There's a fabulous blogger who I've been reading for a while - The Wino That I Know (TWTIK).

(To read her blog click here)

I followed TWTIK's on-off struggle with booze, feeling the frustration and depression behind every word, and then something changed.

After years of managing just days at a time, TWTIK has done more than five weeks sober and she sounds amazing - happy, confident and energised.

Then I found an e-mail in my inbox - from TWTIK!

She wrote I started believing that life can be better without booze and I am no longer looking at it from a place of deprivation. I believe that is why I always failed as I felt I was giving up something I loved so much and that was so awesome, until it wasn't.

And she's right - giving up booze is hard, so if you believe that you're going through all this hardship, just to end up in a place that is miserable, you will never succeed, or - even if you do - you won't be happy.

The only way to make it through the tough times is to truly believe that a life without booze is AWESOME! Then you can do it, easily. Because you know what you're fighting for.

Every day I receive e-mails from people telling me how amazing their lives are without alcohol and how they can't believe they waited so long to quit. Here's an example from Ang75 on day 54:

My life, my health, my attitude and everything else has changed so much for the better!

We've just been on a skiing holiday and we had sat laughing about something silly one night at tea, and my eldest daughter said "Mummy, you're being funny, it's like you have had a drink, but you haven't"

Honestly that meant so much. I realised I am just being me, and everyone loves me just being me!

Isn't that just awesome? And Ang sent me a photo of her with her kids - all of them looking so happy, healthy and rosy cheeked.

I know it's hard to turn around your thinking and to believe that sober is brilliant, so here's some things that might help:

1. Read Jason Vale's book: Kick the Drink, Easily. It's very clever neuro-linguistic programming that will completely change the way you view booze, as do Alan Carr and Annie Grace's (This Naked Mind) books.

2. Read my blog from the beginning and you'll see how my life (and the lives of many of my virtual friends) has changed since I quit. Click here.

3. Find a picture of you looking drunk, bloated and shambolic and stick it on the fridge next to one of you looking happy, healthy, sober, energetic (doesn't matter if it's decades old!). Remind yourself over and over again that that's the transformation you're looking for. Because it will happen!

4. Read this fabulous article sent to me by Julie (thank you, Julie!). It's written by Andy Boyle and it's about what he learned from two years of being sober. Click here.

5. Read what my sober virtual friends have to say about life alcohol free in the comments (I hope they're going to write!) below.

Quitting drinking isn't just about avoiding the negatives, about getting rid of the hangovers, the drunken texts, the excess weight and the health risks (although those are all bonuses, obviously)....

....It's about gaining the positives - being happy, even tempered, finding peace, becoming a better parent, a better friend, taking up new hobbies and discovering what you really want to do with the rest of your life.

So don't wait for rock bottom. Do it now. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Love SM

(And thank you to Ang and TWTIK for letting me share their stories)




Saturday, 11 February 2017

Healing

We are back in the Swiss Alps. We arrived late last night, when it was dark, and we just caught glimpses of snow and the outline of the mountains in the light of a full moon from the windows of the taxi as we wound our way up to our chalet.

Now it's dawn and I'm watching the light change over the tops of the snow covered peaks, the village spread out below me, roofs covered in thick white duvets and street lamps still blinking in the half dark.

Everyone else is asleep. I'm hoping they won't wake up for a while as the cupboards and fridge are completely empty. As soon as the shops open I'll brave the cold and go out for coffee, juice, milk and freshly baked croissants.

The Swiss Alps used to be a full on party venue for me. They're now a healing place.

The last time we came here was three days after I finished radiotherapy (for breast cancer). The time before was four weeks after I quit drinking (see my post Sober in Switzerland).

My perspective has changed entirely since then, as if I were looking at the same mountain from a different aspect in a new season.

The first piste we ski when we come out here, our warm up run, is called Lac de Vaux. I saw a picture of it recently in the summer. Where the piste flattens out by the ski lift there's a beautiful shimmering blue lake, surrounded by lush green pastures. Of course, the lake is there all the time (the clue is in the name), I'd just never seen it before.

Back in the drinking days, life was about the evenings and the indoors: booze, long rambling conversations, letting the hair down, bars, clubs, dim lighting.

Now it's about mornings and the outdoors: waking up with energy and enthusiasm, long rambling walks, wind in the hair.

Back then it was all transmit: say your piece, shout to be heard, fight your corner. Now it's about receive: listen to what's being said, learn, grow, nurture.

I used to look at the mountains and see wildness and recklessness; now I see stillness and peace.

I don't regret my former life. It was, let's face it, a great deal of fun while it lasted, but I'm glad I moved on. It was time.

Love SM x