Author Archives: Julia Cahill

About Julia Cahill

Freelance writer, blogger, reader, truth seeker, yogi and mumma.

The exhilaration of relief

The exhilaration of relief


Relief usually feels like a settling, a breathing out after worry and stress. I hadn’t thought of it having such energy, and for me, by extension such ludicrous happiness. Sometimes I wage war against a relentless craving of such strength it renders me incapable of rational thought. I have, in the past had to relinquish car keys and purse lest I find we suddenly need milk or the boys deserve ice cream. I am usually a snotty mess, anxiety clenching my gut, brain rejecting in turn every other means of relaxation. All the tools I  have at my disposal count for nought. There is only one possible solution to the problem – whatever the problem is. CBT for recovery talks about ‘riding the wave’. I feel like I am being dumped over and over and over again.

I know people who have just stopped drinking. Changed their mindsets. Decided it wasn’t doing anything for them and just wasn’t worth it.  I applaud them and celebrate for them. I also feel a furious envy that I can’t be like them. I envy them getting in there before the claws were well and truly sunk. Or perhaps they would never have become so, perhaps they are take it or leave it people. I am not. The claws are deep, extraction excruciatingly hard.

But I can recognise it. I am accepting of the work that must be done. I have realised that this alone represents change, progression of a kind.

And so I will rejoice in the exhilaration that I feel the morning after I win a small battle. A friend who is almost one year sober reminds me this is how we change our neural pathways, repeating the positive pattern until it comes to outweigh the bad.

I told Andrew the other morning that if I could bottle the feeling I was experiencing I could sell it as a true life changing drug. Such was the energy, the joy and actual excitement of the relief it was written on my face, in my whole energy.   

In his book Recovery, Russell Brand describes people who take on their demons as lucky, gifting themselves the opportunity of true happiness. And the hashtag #wearetheluckiest is oftentimes associated with sobriety thanks to Holly Whitaker’s Hip Sobriety (these schools are the bedrock of my toolkit). It’ll take a while until I feel lucky, but in the meantime I plan to revel in every win, every sunrise I watch, every morning I race my kids along the beach or say yes to playing a game with them. One day there will be no relief because I will not have had to fight demons. I long for that day but god, I hope I never forget the deep and emphatic joy of triumphing over that which I myself created.

victory louis l'amour




All of us have a default position when it comes to the fight or flight defence mechanism.  There must be some occasions which call for a particular response but generally we tend to have a similar reaction to times of stress. Mine is flight. In fact more than that, it could be described as run and hide.

Despite ideas to the contrary though, retreat is not the same as surrender. Surrendering has a finality about it. A giving in. Retreating can be simply a way of gathering strength, of marshalling reserves in order to get up again. There are many ways to retreat, both healthy and unhealthy, all demanding varying levels of effort. The unhealthy are often the easiest, most accessible option. Diving into the rabbit hole of your phone, suddenly cutting off social contact with no plan, hitting the bottle to drown out worries.

When I was young I had a natural way of retreating, going into what is called in Scotland, a ‘dwam’.   Described as ‘a state of semi-consciousness or reverie’, it was my unconscious way of taking myself out of a uncomfortable or unwanted situation. A quietening of the outside world, a refusal to let the pressure in. It wasn’t a learned or practiced response, more of an extended lapse in concentration. Work, children, life chores all mean, that as an adult this has diminished, Other things have taken its place.

As an adult the demands on us are many. In today’s world especially it is practically impossible to retreat, to switch off, excepting perhaps remote travel, and even then there are pockets of connectivity. The beck and call has us by the neck and our defences are not yet honed fully to deal with this endlessly intrusive world. The epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression is an insidious problem affecting roughly one in five of us. Healthy retreat shouldn’t be an optional extra, but a conscious decision we all make from time to time.

It does require effort to fight off mental health demons, or prevent them from forming. Few of us feel we have the time. Which is why we turn to methods outside of ourselves to find solace.

Using alcohol serves this purpose for many. With every glass of wine the tumult inside the head gets quieter. Worries that weighed heavy all day recede. The result of course, is that the stress, temporarily diminished, has merely been turned down, sotto voce. Come the morning, or the later, the volume increases again and the crescendo is often very much worse than the initial stress ever was.

Conscious disconnection, meaningful quiet, even from friends for a time, is the better, though seemingly more effortful way to retreat. Making a decision rather than falling into it, means we have directed the path rather than being led. Reading, meditation, yoga, morning walks, time in the bush, sitting on a beach, watching the sunrise, time with animals, going to the cinema on your own during the day, buying a magazine and sitting in your favourite cafe. These are all such brilliant, healthy and genuinely useful ways to retreat and recharge. They don’t require chatter, expectations or demands. They provide solace, a renewed appreciation of what we have and allow us to gather strength for when it is time to re-emerge.

Since hiding out in a cave sadly isn’t an option it’s important that we find a way to retreat and recharge without turning to booze or other damaging methods.

Since hiding out in a cave sadly isn’t an option it is important that we find healthy ways of retreating and recharging rather than turning to booze or other damaging methods.

Working Girl

Working Girl

melanie-griffith-working-girl-big-hair-ftr (1)

Sadly I’ve missed the 80’s boat – even the second time around – so don’t have the chance to take on the best back to work look ever. But in terms of that feeling of empowerment and desire to succeed, I’m giving it my best shot.

And seriously, oh my god, everything a lot of people say is true! Going back to work after taking time off to concentrate on motherhood is the best bloody feeling in the world! The fact that I am working in my first regular paid job in sixteen years may have some bearing on my ridiculous sense of excitement as might the fact that I have landed my absolute dream job but the changes it has brought me, and by definition, the whole family are massive and nearly all positive.

After over a month the novelty has yet to wear off. A regular income of my own, getting dressed in an outfit I’ve thought through instead of chucking on active wear (and sometimes actually doing something active) or scruffy jeans and a tee because all I have planned is time with a reading group at school followed chores. There are so many reasons for the whole change in my mindset. Following are a few.

Being seen as something other than the mother, the shopper, the coffee drinker, the wife, the referee, the chef, the nurse, the cleaner, the party pooper…

Being seen as a person who knows about something other than earaches, kids suppers, the place to find the best value organic bloody meat.

diane ackerman quote life

Being able to direct and advise people on what to buy for their seven year old grandchild (boys at least – I’m still getting to grips with girl reading past the Worst Witch – all suggestions gratefully received).

Being in on book news, reading reviews in the paper having seen the book already.

Being part of a team that doesn’t include anything else my life – that is mine.

Being appreciated by my boys, who when I first started threw their arms around me at the end of the day like I’d been away a week (this has somewhat worn off).

Being challenged to plan and organise more. Coordinating diaries with Andrew around school pick up and after school sports.

Being able to buy myself flowers (I actually often did this but felt like I was taking the food from my children’s mouths – or at least putting fish fingers instead of flathead in).

Being part of the workforce, a woman who feels empowered and knows her worth rather than telling her family they have no idea of it.

Being really bloody grateful of my decades old make up regime. Seriously, I still have the same eyebrow compact I bought at uni – think this simply shows how seldom I used to bother with my appearance.

Being able to buy myself a pair of earrings that I never would have done before – it took three times in and out of the shop before I committed. Also the savvy saleswoman going from telling me that the 30% off deal would be finishing soon to finishing in about five minutes in order just to get me the hell out.

Being able to share bus chat with my husband. Honestly. We swap stories about the most irritating of irritating passengers flirting excruciatingly with his paramour (describing what he was wearing was the least of it), to sharing our incredulity at other passengers rudeness, or the fact that they are bold enough to apply their full face of make up in public.

Being able, on my days off, to read and read, when previously if I sat down and opened a book the dark cloud of ‘should be doing x, y and z’ would look large bringing on a massive sense of guilt and probably a bout of really bad baking.

Being able to be around books all day, obvs! Seriously, I walk through the door at the beginning of my shift, inhale deeply and feel happy.

Being unable of containing my the small kernel of smugness when people tell me that working in a bookshop is their absolute dream and I do a little happy dance inside thinking ‘I know, but I”m doing it!’

I’ve said to friends I wished I’d known this sooner, that the satisfaction I am getting from being both mum and worker is a feeling I could have done with ages ago. I wrote, I know, and that did bring me happiness when it was going well. But I didn’t cope well with the insecurity, the rejections, the having to pick myself up after a disappointment. However, I do believe life is all about timing and opportunities and that while we make many of them ourselves, often our paths have to cross with another’s at an auspicious moment.

It is an amazing and lucky feeling – I just wish I could pull off Melanie’s hair.

mascara quote

Try a few years…

The unexpected benefits of (mildly) sick kids


off schoolI remember when my youngest started school, “you won’t know yourself” was the common refrain. Of course rather than the inferred endless time to myself, I instead managed to fill my time with chores, as much writing as I could find motivation for and, I’ll admit, quite a lot of faffing about.

It is a well-documented curse of our age that we all feel permanently run off our feet, pulled in different directions by myriad demands. This can then lead to a complete lack of appreciation for the things we are able to do once our children are out of the house for six hours a day. Like go to a yoga class, eat a sandwich while reading the paper, grab a coffee with a friend for an hour, make a phone call involving a call centre (have you ever tried this with children anywhere near you? It’s as though they have a radar alerting them to the most rewarding time to bug you).

Last week I had one or more children at home Every. Single.Day. I had to make the call to school daily, sounding no doubt more and more unhinged as I laughed manically, “Me, again, you’ll never guess what….”. A friend tried to bolster me midweek when I described the week as a write off – “it’s only Wednesday!” she reminded me – yeah, you don’t have the parental power of insight that somehow lets you know optimism will be wasted here, you just need to give up, focus on next Monday and breath deeply.

However, it had its surprises too. On Tuesday my son felt well enough to play so we made a train track, played Jenga, hide and seek, eye spy over lunch, had a teddy party and to top it off I taught him patience, a game I haven’t played for years and which reminds me of being little and poorly. We connected in a way that we never really do at the weekends when the rest of the family is around. We enjoyed each other’s company. Once I had come to terms with not getting a thing done, (and I mean not a thing of use – we all had fish fingers for supper) – it really was quite relaxing.

calvin and hobbes sickness

After three days of course the playing vibe was threadbare. Money was chucked at the problem – a new comic, a jigsaw puzzle, and the latest Weird Oh book were grimly chucked into the shopping basket in an attempt to claw back some quiet time at my desk. And when the novelty of those wore off I turned on the TV.

When I found him watching the ABC educational channel – about women’s working conditions in 1950’s Britain I almost frogmarched him to school. Clearly his mind was in dire need of sustenance. But then his brother was off the next day and the whole cycle began again.

At least on Friday they were both off and managed, thank you universe, to play harmoniously – with the new toy monkey and another jigsaw. At least the local shops will be happy with me.

So, unexpected though it was, the week wasn’t wasted as it both helped me have fun with my kids in a way I haven’t for ages and most definitely made me appreciate those precious few hours I have without them most days. In the week to come I imagine I won’t know myself.

let board game end


*While I wrote this very lightheartedly I do want to acknowledge that my kids simply had a virus. I can’t imagine what it must be like to care for and worry about a chronically or seriously ill child and honour and admire those parents who do.

Bruised not broken


brene brown bravery

We all start diets on a Monday right? The prospect of impending self-imposed restraint necessitates some lead in time, some memories created to serve as reminders that life was fun, once.

This is the way I used to think about trying to control drinking. A couple of great nights would mean I was fully ready on Monday morning to become an organised, disciplined – normal – person.

Taking on major personality shifts such as this tends to require rather more work than writing a ‘to do’ list and meal plan in order to kid yourself that your life is not in fact, an alcohol induced accident waiting to happen. Not having systems and goals in place is why it fails. Again, and again, and again. Addicts who have woken up one day and decided to quit and have managed it in one go are few and far between. I applaud them while being utterly bamboozled (I wrote that accidentally I promise!) at how they do it.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who has successfully addressed a harmful habit, be it alcohol, drugs, chocolate, shopping, has at least thought about it for a significant period of time and usually will have a fair few failed attempts under their belt before things really change for the better.

In my case, this time last year I joined the ‘Dry July’ challenge. It was a really easy way of explaining to people why all of a sudden I wasn’t drinking – though those close to me of course knew the battles I had been fighting for a while. There is great approval and celebration when you are seen to undertake something that most people would apparently find difficult. The most frequent question I was asked was how I was feeling, so much better? As though we all expect, being drinkers, that we must feel constantly sub-optimal. Otherwise why the expectation of wellness? And this was mainly from people who probably drank very little and had no idea of the extreme from which I had come.

Physically I had become slow, tired, functioning like a distracted sloth, eye always looking to the bottle on the horizon, the crippling chores of the day in between. Mentally I was much worse. Mood fluctuation in the extreme, despondent that I would ever, could ever, change. My mental capacity for much other than planning the next social engagement (read excuse) or obsessing on how I was going to change my life – without doing anything about it, was non existent. My work had pretty much gone out of the window, my writing had dried up. (How Hemingway did it I just can’t fathom – I can barely type my name if I’ve had a drink.)

The month was surprisingly easy – I think – it’s actually hard to remember now just how awful I felt (despite knowing it) and how desperate I was to manage to see the month through. That there was an end point wasn’t what made the difference, though for many that is the thing that gets them through. I had no intention of going back to where I had been and was seeing this month as a jumping off point for a much longer period of sobriety. I owned up to this in this post on August 6th 2016. How far everything has come.

I got to five and a half months before I drank again. During that time there were gatherings and nights out. I didn’t feel able to go to some, and allowed myself to bail out, to feel the guilt and live with it, making my apologies in the knowledge it was the only option. I went back home for three weeks and loved it more than any other trip we’ve done. The clarity and determination with which I was seeing life was addictive!

This time last year I thought I was making a lifelong change. I believed that for five and a half months, had a relapse, then got up and kept going via an online course called Hip sobriety. This has been one of the most important elements to managing my cravings, to understanding the driving factors and acknowledging that any change for the better is a success. The cohort from the course is consistently engaged and endlessly supportive. There is a reciprocity that makes it feel ok to have a (nother) whinge, a huge rant or a tearful confession.

It is a lifetime’s work. But it is worthwhile, whether on top of the mountain or deep in the mire. Connection is what keeps us all going; it is what gives life purpose and meaning. Connection to others is infinitely more possible – and more pleasurable for all concerned – if the connection to our true selves can first be established.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have read my (often very long) posts, got in touch with me and shown your support. Here’s to the next year, being brave and showing up.

bruised not broken

Scraps off the plate


Every time I read ‘My Day on a Plate’ in Sunday Life it makes me wonder what Joanna McMillan would make of my daily diet. Try as I might, I cannot, amid the chaotic existence of life with three smallish boys, maintain any sort of regular, reliable food intake. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to cooking or nutrition. And the boys have always been adventurous eaters on the whole (now they often go back for a second, third even fourth mouthful). We eat fish, I hide vegetables, limit (or at least try) sweeties and treats. I even bake.

So my problem is not the variety of food in our house. It is time. I spend so much time making sure that their little bodies are nourished – and a fair bit of time lecturing them about rickets, scurvy, starving children elsewhere around the world – that by the time they are skeltering from the table, I am exhausted and can only face a cup of restorative peppermint tea amid the crusty bits of porridge, mash, kale pesto and the like (not strictly true – kale has apparently been put on the boys’ ‘dangerous foods that are likely to kill you’ list).

So in essence, my day on a plate looks something like this:

7.30am – Green juice – an entire blender-full or a measly cup depending on how generous I’ve been with the proportions of fruit/veg that morning – see above re kale. Its inclusion ensures a healthy serving for me.


8.00am – Two chunks of pineapple as I prepared morning tea – otherwise the numbers of chunks per child would have been uneven – they check, believe me.

8.05am – The middle of a roll with a generous knifeful of butter – making more room for the filling. I made myself chuck the other two pieces in the bin.

8.15am – Two spoonfuls of cold porridge with chopped apple and vanilla yoghurt – I would have had more but my tastebuds couldn’t handle the amount of maple syrup with which it had been liberally doused.


8.20 – A couple of toast crusts with peanut butter.



10.00 – Two skimmed mochas from the Source (best coffee in Mosman in my opinion).

12.45 – A few teaspoons of pie filling – to test seasoning.


12.50 – One piece of chewing gum (in order to make sure my family didn’t end up with plain pastry for supper).

1.15 – Scrambled egg (made with leftover eggwash).

1.30 – Some crumbs* of chocolate while making biscuits.


2.30 – A bowl of Carmen’s maple, almond and apple toasted muesli with blueberries and full cream milk (I am diligent when it comes to bone health).

4.00 – Cup of peppermint tea and one or two choc chip biscuits (too late in the day to count).


5.25 – Secret binge of Haribo tangfastics while waiting for the boys in the car – but not the cola bottles, I hate cola bottles.

7.00pm – A few floppy grey beans, pastry crumbs and a handful of dried out raw carrots – all that is left of supper when I get back from yoga.


9.00 – A bowl of muesli – I could be a student really, only then it would be cornflakes.

9.30 – Cup of peppermint tea and a raid on the choccie tin as we call it. The rule here is that it comes out if we have a family supper – I believe I always have a case to make here.

So Joanna McMillan, over to you. At a guess I’d say my bones are safe but the rest of me might be buggered. But note, no alcohol! No wine required, must be all those hairibos…

*ok yes, a few chunks

Concrete goals



“You have to celebrate the successes. You’ve come such a long way.” So said a wonderful friend this morning when I admitted to her I’d had a slip. A bigger than normal slip, a four day slip. This one I might call a relapse as it ended with me drinking stealthily in the kitchen. Not hiding it exactly, but, yes, kind of.

Monday night, no reason or excuse other than the wine was in the fridge. Days of the week cease to matter once you’re in the grip of a drinking phase. That I can cope, still managing domestic tasks during and also the day after only makes it worse. Makes it seem less problematic, less invasive.

But the descent is steep, should the emergency plan fail there would be no stopping until the inevitable crash. But the rope seems to be holding. I have my toolkit handy and I am ready once again to start at the beginning. This is the beginning, the shameful sharing. Putting it out there I know is not to everyone’s taste but for me it diminishes the shame somehow. The loneliness of tackling mental health and addiction can be excruciating. By sharing I take back the power, I make the decisions.

Another great friend shared with me that it takes an addict an average of seven attempts – real, committed attempts – before they succeed in overcoming the demon. This is six for me I think. I am going to try and achieve a below average score!

My top three tools for the next week will be

  1. Get back to yoga – every damn day even if some days I have to crawl to my mat, click a button and allow myself to be baby-stepped through a meditation.
  2. Get more sleep – bed by 10pm latest, none of the internet surfing and browsing, allowing my monkey mind to flit from page to page of the labyrinth.
  3. Plan and prepare food well ahead of suppertime. My absolute worst time of day is, I suspect, the same time as everyone else’s. That end of day fatigue, the deep sigh once all of the running about is done. The loneliness of the kitchen sometimes as the domestic drudge has to be attended to again. Some cooking after lunchtime with a good podcast leaving the evening kitchen time minimal. Then I will take ten minutes to myself before rejoining my family feeling replenished. (Remember this is a goal – as I wrote that I laughed and laughed but without a plan I will certainly fail…)

So here’s to concrete goals, baby steps and sixth attempts.

calvin and hobbes sleep

Breaking open.


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I have never read The Secret. I think I tried once but it felt rather far fetched to me, a bit schoolgirl tarot card-like. But it turns out I might be living its message at the moment.

Have you ever felt as though you are on the cusp of something? Not in a prosaic way, like moving house or changing job. But in a felt way, believing it without material reason then watching with wonder as, jigsaw-like, the pieces fall into place? Sometimes a piece you’ve been staring at for ages and have perhaps tried to attach to various others suddenly slots in and it’s ridiculously obvious that that’s where it goes. You wonder how on earth you didn’t see it before.

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt it, a slow coming together of messages all speaking the same language, all telling me I can do this.  More than that, it feels as though the messages are encouraging me to break open in order to move forwards. Beginning with the Monday morning text message from a hugely supportive friend inviting me to coffee just at the right time, (what I felt like doing was hiding at home), to the postal arrival the same day, of Annie Grace’s book This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol. I had forgotten ordering it but had got it into my head that I couldn’t do this without reading it (it is as brilliant as everybody said).

Last Sunday morning in yoga we were invited to set an intention for the week ahead. Where often I find myself casting about for words of survival or strength, this time there was a palpable bubble of happiness, a feeling of knowing I was finally on the right path. The word that popped up was ‘enjoy’. Enjoy living more simply, more honestly, determinedly not sweating the small stuff. Revel in feelings, even uncomfortable ones, just let them be then let them go.

It is easy to learn the language of the zeitgeist. There are many people out there who spruik mindfulness and the importance in engaging in self-reflection and discovery. I have realised it takes commitment – long long term commitment I’m willing to bet – to find the right voices, the right method, programme, book.  Moving from one guru to another might be necessary at the start. Finding strategies and practices that resonate while also ticking logistical boxes takes time and can’t be faked. But after a while there is a good mix in place and then responsibility dictates that we stick with it, putting our faith into something that works enough for real hope to remain.

I don’t believe in predestination but rather the infiniteness of possibilities, the kind which are always there but not shouting to be seen. Waiting quietly until other elements are in place, until you open the door, then appearing as if in reply to a direct request. Shoring up a choice perhaps, providing acknowledgement only you can see or reassurance in its purest sense. Preventing a backwards step.

So my ‘set’ of signs, messages, call them what you will, included discovering one of my most trusted yoga teachers is connecting with another person on whom I am relying at the moment (step up Holly Glenn Whitaker). Then in the space of a couple of days I saw two friends of mine who had, independently, told me that my words had inspired or supported them. I began a course called The Next Step with Yoga Sivana, just at the time that the Hip Sobriety School course (see my last post for more on this) was drawing to a close and I was having a panic about another period of change. I realised though I didn’t have to see it as an end and beginning, more as adding another element into the mix, another push forwards. My yoga attendance has increased, I tuned in to the lunar eclipse, taking note of my inner landscape, my inner voice and yesterday on the day of the Autumnal Equinox I thought about life as a constant effort to maintain our fragile balance. Just as a tightrope walker will always have a net in place despite being certain she won’t fall, so we need established strategies supporting us.

Within us all there are tools, and maybe kind of magnetic forces that switch on when we wake up to the possibilities life has to offer and that we have to offer life. Almost thirty years ago, ’Carpe Diem’ was volleyed about endlessly (gratitude and love Robin Williams). It was the mantra of the age. Now we have mindfulness, being ‘in the moment’, still reminding ourselves to ‘seize the day!’ Accepting that our ability to understand and be understood is a timeless and endless process is the first step on the path to creating peace in our lives.

enjoy it

New Horizons



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.


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.


Round two



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!


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)


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. 

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)