Monthly Archives: January 2017

New Horizons

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Today’s mantra in Hip Sobriety School is ‘In stepping out of my comfort zone I step into my potential.’ As a stepping off point Holly shared the William Faulkner quote above which totally resonates with me as the ocean is important in our lives now. I often walk along the shore and somehow I can’t but feel the pulse of possibility. There comes a sense freedom, a knowledge that potential is real, is still available. For a long time I felt that I had squandered it.

Potential is what people see when they look at children. Uni students, suddenly passionate about saving the world have the potential to remain ablaze with fiery opinions and determination but also that which will lead them into bad company, bad choices, the fire fizzling out. The determination of the newly qualified, lawyer, doctor, teacher, saving freedoms, lives, souls.

A middle aged housewife and sometime writer not so much. Much much less potential there. Fires long since cold, youthful vigour dampened by mundanity, what eye sparkle there was now dull, brows creased with worry.

Comfort zone can become all encompassing, which is fine if your comfort zone is work, or sewing, or painting or gardening. But when things turn inward it is easy to become downcast and forget there was ever any fire at all.

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But then comes a nudge, a twinkle like the reflection of light in a mirror, momentarily blinding. A reminder from the horizon that there are possibilities, adventures to be had yet. There may need to be several nudges but even once the trick of light is long gone, the shadow remains, the wonder is always there.

Ten years ago today we arrived in Australia for a ‘trial’. It has taken all of this time, and I’m not finished yet, to persuade myself to lose sight of the shore. I have clung on as though to an invisible rope, which will always be at hand, but which I have learnt to accept not to depend on.

As we dull our senses and dreams with drinking, we create our own toxic little comfort zone, always there, always a friend when we need to avoid discomfort, loneliness, frustration, stress. But those things lie in wait, biding their time for when you realise that to outrun them is impossible.

Feeling everything takes some getting used to. Breathing through the stress, counting to ten, walking away. Skills we try and instil in our children and yet as adults, avoid out of fear.

My swim has begun, I know I am wiling to navigate the obstacles. It may not be fun at times, in I’m pretty sure it will get rough as hell, but once the shore behind is no longer in sight there is nowhere to go but forwards.

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Round two

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I feel as though I have not only fallen off the wagon, I’ve fallen off and watched it roll away into the distance over the horizon into the setting sun. Some days I wonder if I am even capable of catching it up, hauling myself back on and getting into the driving seat. But I remind myself I’ve done it before, and I know I can do it again. So I say bring it on!

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Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the festive season is the very hardest time to be sober. That’s why I started with 100% sobriety in July – I was certain that, by the time Christmas rolled around I would be so bloody fine without booze, so totally fixed, that I wouldn’t bat an eyelid as everyone around me imbibed at leisure (and managed to limit themselves – I missed that memo). Anyone reading who is familiar with DBT skills (dialectical behavioural therapy) will most likely have alarm bells going off, sounding something like CLEAN MIND! CLEAN MIND! CLEAN MIND! By December I was complacent, had forgotten to do my homework, pushed aside the radical acceptance that for me, limitation is not an option and so jumped straight back into addict mind, ready to party!

Fast forward a few weeks, I am bleary-eyed, stiff from lack of yoga, sick of the cycle and ready to re-start. As well as catching that goddam wagon and taking a firm hold of the reins, I feel as though I am gearing up for a fight, mobilising my troops, drawing the battle lines. I am refusing to catastrophize these few weeks as I have to believe there is still so much left to aim for. Things only become a cliche because they are true, and the truism I am reminding myself of just now is that this is all part of the journey. There are no dead-ends and as one of my children’s favourite book says “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it.” (We’re going on a Bear Hunt)

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One of my biggest strengths is my sociability. Some see the ease with which others share their truths and stories as negative traits, a sign somehow of weakness, that to display our weaknesses somehow compounds our frailty as a person. I disagree. To err is human, as we all well know, and to pretend otherwise is duping others and ourselves. This time, more than ever, I am going to own my journey, my stories, my truths. I stand by who I am, I like who I am and these beliefs will get me through the knowledge that I don’t always like what I do. What I do is not me, does not define me and the further along this path I get, the deeper I delve into the exploration the more certain I become of this.

My troops are many and varied, all are vital in some way and will serve me over the course of the battle in their own way. They include

  • Hip Sobriety school with Holly Whittaker
  • Home podcast – I am going to work my way through the episodes while working my way through my ironing pile, me time + a sense of accomplishment from ticking off a chore. Laura and Holly are the most inspiring presenters and seem to give their hearts and souls to their listeners. Knowing that women who I admire so much have come from a similar place as me and made it to the other side means so much, gives such hope.
  • Febfast – love the cause, love the sense of accountability it brings.
  • 40 days of mantras from Hipsobriety. I got about three quarters of the way through this last year before getting distracted, I am going to go through them again in my morning meditation time. So well put together.
  • Jenny, my lovely psychologist whose words at our last meeting keeping playing over and over in my head. She said, “I take you as I find you.” These perhaps are the very most important words to say to someone embarking on any journey of self-awareness, and particularly recovery. Knowing that the shame you may feel yourself is not universally felt towards you, knowing you are free to be yourself, whoever that is at any particular time, is everything.
  • Yoga Sivana – not only are the classes at this beautiful studio fantastically well taught, the teachers are real, grounded, fallible people who teach from the heart and encourage their students to listen to theirs.
  • Meditation – twice daily and booked in as Mum’s absolute ‘do not disturb’ time.
  • Planning – planning meals, activities, keeping busy. Planning also for downtime, reading time, me time.
  • Writing – keeping up with more on here, pitching more ideas, working on the novel – sitting down at the desk. Like getting onto the mat, once I am here, tapping away, I feel as though I am where I’m meant to be.
  • 21 day yoga challenge with Wanderlust
  • Sharing – such an important element and one I often struggle with. I am going to lean on my friends, accept help when it’s offered and be open to advice knowing it is given in love. I am going to keep in better touch with those who live far away and remind them and myself how important they are to me. DBT recommends ‘publicly announcing abstinence’ and for me it helps if I feel accountable somehow.
  • Exercise – early morning walking always makes me feel like I am ready to face the day.
  • Playing games with the boys. It is so important to replace the seedy drinking time with fun and silliness. I am constantly wishing they wouldn’t grow up so quickly. I need to enjoy the time with them more. 
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We played backyard cricket at sunset the other day – best fun. Slight problem with balls on roofs but it added to the interest!

Can anyone add to my battle plan? I think it’s pretty comprehensive but perhaps there is something that has worked for you that you think I could try? Feel free to get in touch with suggestions.

My heart is wide open, I’m ready to learn.

“It’s times like these we learn to live again.” (Dave Grohl)