Tag Archives: #hope

The exhilaration of relief

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The exhilaration of relief

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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

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Standing vigil

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Standing vigil
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Where you are may be uncomfortable but sometimes there is simply no choice.

I am trying really really hard to make this time, this sobering, challenging time, as easy as I can for my family. In the early days of my decision, when I was inwardly crumbling, I was offered a spot in rehab. I declined not because I didn’t think I needed it, but because I didn’t want to feel any more of a failure than I already did.

In future years they may come to realise the magnitude, but at the moment my sons are deliciously naive of what I am going through thank god. It means the drama is all mine though.

Early on, sobriety for me meant that it felt somehow crucial to maintain mundanity. How could I have gone anywhere when so much needed done? Keeping up with the washing (which sat about in buckets, unsorted but clean at least), making sure bellies were full (so what if a few more meals were from the freezer section?) and children were present at school (skidding in as the bell rang) was achievement then.

In between the chores I tried to exude positivity, posting on Instagram with #gratitude, #sobriety, #livingwell. The only cringeworthy hashtag I have yet to employ is #carpediem. At the time of posting I do mean it, I am seizing the moment, shouting hooray for me, look at what I can do!

But there is the fall, the reversal. Recently I have just felt so bloody bored of being positive, of celebrating this thing I know and accept is necessary but sometimes is also just really fucking hard.

And then there is the weekend sigh. The collective exhale as time slows and Monday feels a long way off. From the promise of that Friday night deserved wine, to the friends coming over for Sunday lunch, the weekend is there for the drinking. Not be a part of that is sometimes more than I think I can bear.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy has a much-used phrase called ‘distress tolerance’. Even the fact there is a name to describe how I’m feeling can sometimes be a comfort; so many people have been here, where I am, for them to have thought up a name for it, how brilliant!

I have been working through distress tolerance for months, long before I gave up drinking for good this time. (It is never wise, I realise now, to utter the words ‘for good’.) I need to understand that the risk will always be there, dimmed, more subtle, easier to navigate but present nonetheless.

There are three mindsets that come into discussions in distress tolerance. Addict mind, clean mind, and clear mind. This latter ‘mind’ is the aim. Fully committed to the cause but not so obsessed by  positivity as to be blind to danger lurking in the tiredness, the sadness, the celebration, the reward.

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I must then stand vigil for my values, my decision; I am the soldier on the gate. There must, by necessity, be a shift-change, new energy brought in, new tactics. The common goal holds firm though, batting away the temptations, the desires, the cunning, wheedling voices carried on the wind.

Self-awareness is tough, confronting (and bloody boring often if it’s not your own, let’s be honest!), but somehow the mere act of removing the wine, the means of escape, that deceitful old ally, leaves no choice. I am by necessity present all the time.

Every conversation, interaction, raised voice, loving word, is authentic because there is no filter, no mediating substance to allow for future doubt. I will stand vigil, being watchful through the challenge, trusting others have done the same.

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Faith and hope

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Faith and hope

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Having hope makes us human. Gives us reason to get up in the morning, hoping that the sun is shining and that today will be a good day.

We are encouraged to hope throughout life, hoping we get this teacher or that, that we get a spot on the team, a part in a play. We go on hoping for many things: a good job, nice friends, invitations to parties, pregnancy, promotion, recognition, fame, fortune, a luxury home, a safe home, the ability to make good choices, feel comfortable in our own skin, be appreciated, be loved.

It is perhaps central to life that we have hope.  But in order to have hope we need to have the belief that our hopes might come to pass. So we need to have faith. Faith gives substance to aspirations, allows us to believe in our dreams.

Faith isn’t always placed naturally or obviously. It is hard sometimes to know where to rest your soul. When it feels as though the world is demanding more than you can give it is especially so.

Some people, perhaps enviably, have an unshakable religious faith. This certain belief in someone being there through good and bad must bring strength. And comfort when that strength falters.

Some have faith in the universe; in forces beyond the realm of understanding but perhaps present nonetheless.

Faith in our family and friends, our practices, our ideas are paramount. The knowledge that people have our back, are in our corner, are rooting gives us confidence, gives us hope.

More than anything though we need to maintain faith in ourselves. We need to believe in our value, our worth. No-one else can give us the ability to say ‘I am great, just as I am.’ (Unless you are Bridget Jones in which case Mark Darcy seems to get close.) In this digital age, no number of likes or clicks or shares can equal the moment when we hold our head high with love.

This is so often what depression robs us of – remembering that. Faith and hope can get bound-up, buried so deeply beneath a blanket of fear, memories of past failures, guilt, remorse, indecision, self-consciousness, that it becomes an endless cycle of negativity from which emergence feels impossible.

But there are moments when the impossible recedes, the fog clears and our eyes are bright. These are the moments to hang on to, to file away and revisit. They form a kind of internal library and if we cherish them they can become building blocks, a staircase by which to haul ourselves out.

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Thank you to my wonderful friend Heidi for sending this picture featuring the amazing work of Nathan Sawaya. She knows me well. (I wish I’d been there to view it with you.) The caption reads:   ‘Sometimes when you’re looking for a step-up you don’t have to look any further than yourself. We’re all capable of more than we think.’