How to party sober at Halloween

Halloween themed food

Any festive time, such as Halloween, can seem daunting, particularly we’re first sober. Worries about drinking, triggers and social anxiety can all overwhelm the occasion, making what is supposed to be fun, no fun at all.

Do not despair! And do not give up! If you are newly sober, you have already done the hard bit. You have stopped drinking which is an achievement and act of self-love of epic proportions. The rest is just practice and resetting habits and neural pathways, hard at first but much easier as you go on (see Am I an alcoholic? and How to stop alcohol cravings for more on this)

If you haven’t yet, and you want to or you’re just reassessing your relationship with alcohol then have a look at some of my other blog posts such as

But I promise you the more you practice celebrations, the easier they becomes. And sober celebrations really will be fun again!

So, what will Halloween 2019 hold for you? Going out with friends? Staying in with family? Either way can be sober and awesome.

If you are heading out to town or a party, usually alcohol will abound at these types of events. You are forewarned, so now let’s make sure you are forearmed! Here are 7 tips for a fab sober Halloween.

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Halloween tip 1 – If you do not want to go, do not go!

Pumpkin carving

Do you want to go out? Now this may seem silly as you’ve probably already decided that you are going, but just check with yourself. Do a little breathing exercise. Breathe in for 5 and out for 5. Concentrate only on the feeling of your breath going in and out. Breathe as slowly as is comfortable.

When you are feeling relaxed, thing about your Halloween activity. In this quiet space, your real feelings about this activity will surface. Do you feel a knot of anxiety in your stomach or a clutch of fear in your chest? Do you feel an excited buzz? Is it a mixture of both? Once you have established your feeling towards your activity, you need to break it down a bit more. It is unlikely that there will be no worries, so try to dig a bit deeper and find out which part is worrying you most.

Here are examples of some worries

  1. Will I drink?
  2. What will I say when someone asks me why I’m not drinking?
  3. What will I say when someone offers me a drink?
  4. I feel silly dressing up
  5. I won’t know anyone
  6. I don’t like dancing

If you can find out which part is worrying you most, you can do some work prior to heading out to tackle those worries. More on this in the following Halloween tips

The upshot is, if you prospect of your Halloween activity is filling you with all out dread, or even filling you with anxiety for every aspect you have analysed, then don’t go. What on earth says that you have to go anywhere that makes you feel that way? If people think it’s strange, so what? Why does their opinion matter? If their opinion does matter to you, or you think they might be upset, then be honest with them. If it’s too early for honesty with this person or you think they won’t understand, this might be the time to have an honest look at this relationship and what is holding you back.  This is you looking after you, which, in your early sobriety, is THE most important thing to do.

You are vulnerable at this point and putting yourself in a position that causes you stress and anxiety will increase your vulnerability and increase the likelihood that you will drink. 

Halloween tip 2 – To drink or not to drink?

The Bot Halloween 2018

Like I have said, this is vulnerable time for you, and going out, surrounded by alcohol, can make you feel so much more vulnerable.

The question of will you drink boils down to a number of factors, which I am looking to address in this blog. A large part though, is that you have to not want to drink. Like the tip above, if you’re feeling that you shouldn’t drink, but actually you want to, maybe avoid the occasion all together. Don’t risk your sobriety when you have done so well. Maybe accept sitting this one out and try again next year when your sobriety is more secure.

So many people get totally freaked out by the idea that they may have to justify why they are not drinking. Unfortunately, this is often the case. I love the quote by Jolene Park, author or the website greyareadrinkers.com.

“Alcohol is the only drug in the world that you have to justify not taking”

Because, although it is madness, it’s true! The justification opens up a huge can of worms and all the hushed ‘are you an alcoholic?’ questions or the ‘you’re not that bad’ comments. Completely no one elses business, but unfortunately most drinkers don’t see it that way!

So, if someone offers you a drink, have a plan. Know beforehand what drink you are going to ask for, don’t even give yourself the option. If you are more comfortable drinking alcohol free alternatives, then drink those. I drank these a lot in the beginning and bars are getting a much wider selection – do your research before you go! If you’re at a party bring your own supplies. These are my favourites and they are 0%. I don’t like to even try the 0.05% or 0.5% but that’s just me (these links earn me a little commission – sorry to my friends across the pond but couldn’t seem to find US links that weren’t extortionate so you you’ll have to go to see what your local supermarket has).

Personally find the gin alternatives revolting but lots of people swear by it, the link is below.

Seedlip non alcoholic spirit

Alternatively, Sainsburys and Tesco have a good choice. Sorry if you are not UK based, I’m not sure about supermarkets abroad, although I know Carrefour in Italy sells 0% Birra Moretti!

Also, prepare a set answer for the ‘Why aren’t you drinking’ question. Could you drive to the event? Perfect get out of jail free card right there and a warm, easy ride home! If not, ‘I’m not antibiotics’ is an option. If you are more comfortable to be open, you can use the sober curious reason or I’m doing Sober October or I’m training for a marathon! Loads of reasons, just pick one for the night so you are not sidelined by the question.

I’m quite open if asked now. I say alcohol gave me anxiety, it doesn’t agree with my stomach and it is incompatible with raising 3 children and working. All completely true and although I get some odd looks, my choice is rarely questioned.

Halloween tip 3 – Go with support  

Vegetable Skeleton

It is so much easier to feel stronger and braver when you have someone at your side. Find someone who knows about your choice and is happy to come along and back you up in your decision. Parties can be scary, especially if there are lots of people you don’t know. One of the reasons most often given for drinking is social anxiety, (see Why do people drink?) so why put yourself in a position that made you want to drink in the first place!

Have a signal with your support for when you need an escape. It is very likely that at some point you’ll be in a conversation you don’t want to be in – whether because it’s controversial, awkward, dull or the other person is now so drunk they can’t speak – so have a back up plan. Signal your support, get another drink (alcohol free!) or go to the loo. Don’t feel you have to stick it out, they probably won’t remember anyway!

Halloween tip 4 – Don’t do what make you uncomfortable

The Bear Halloween 2018

Feeling uncomfortable makes you more vulnerable, so as well as the tips above, assess what makes you uncomfortable.

There is no earthly reason that you should dress up, dance or join in games. Remember – ‘could not should’! You can do anything but you do not have to do anything.

I often get the feeling that I’m going to go somewhere and be the only person dressed up. It always make me nervous. Not very likely at Halloween but if you’re worried, go in normal clothes and bring your dress up stuff with you – simple!

I personally adore dancing and games, but I know it is a no go area for many people without alcohol, so be true to yourself and do what is right for you. Phones are an amazing excuse to avoid many situations you don’t want to be in.

Halloween tip 5 – What do you want?

Me party 1 2019

So much focus can be taken up by avoiding what you don’t want to be involved in, but equally importantly, what do you want to be involved in.

Why are you going in the first place? What do you want to get out of the evening? As I said, I love dancing, so a dance space with good music is pretty much my only reason for going out ever! I also love dressing up and there are just not enough excuses to dress up once you are a mother.

But your reason could be to have fun with friends, or meet some new friends, or meet a new prospective partner. Whatever the reason, surely it is better to have this experience sober so that firstly, it is the real you that people are meeting or having fun with and secondly, that it is an experience you will remember. No hangovers, no guilt, no regrets, no embarrassment and if you’re lucky enough to meet someone – you’ll remember whatever transpires!!

If you’re not sure, use the breathing exercise above to find out what it is that you want to get out of the event. Consider what you used to enjoy at parties when you were a child, there will be some pre-drinking memory somewhere! Once you know, breathe deeply and picture how you want the evening to go. Stick to the positives here because visualisation is an incredibly powerful tool and you can change your experience of the event by using it.

Halloween tip 6 – Exit plan

The baby Halloween party 2019

Plan when and how you are going to arrive, but more importantly, have a plan for how you are going to escape!

You need to ensure that you can leave whenever you are ready to. If you feel stuck, your vulnerability will increase. For this reason, make sure you know how you are getting home (driving is perfect!), and try not to rely on anyone else for transportation, as you will then have to check they are happy to leave too.

Don’t ever feel you have to stay to the bitter end. One of the joys of sobriety is that your body is back in a healthy routine and it knows when it is tired and when it wants to wake up. If we start messing with this natural rhythm, and start getting tired, we make ourselves vulnerable. Most sober people will be looking for bed at 10 or 11pm – so go with what your body tells you not what you ‘should’ do.

So, that’s the end of the how to party sober at Halloween when you are out and about tips. Let’s have a brief look at how to party sober at Halloween at home.

The tips above can all be easily translated to apply to celebrating at home, for example:

  • Party? Trick or treating? – Don’t celebrate if you don’t want to
  • Don’t invite people you don’t want to be there
  • Have a reason that you’re not drinking
  • Know that you can escape to your room or the loo if you need a minute
  • Give the party a clear end time – maybe an afternoon children’s party?
  • Plan the party to do what you want to do and what you are comfortable with

I’m loving Halloween more and more in the last few years, especially since becoming sober. Before that I’d only really celebrated it as a child. This, interestingly, made a few things more obvious, as I hadn’t had that time to grow used to alcohol at Halloween. I had memories of childhood Halloweens and then memories of starting those traditions with my children a few years ago. But alcohol had never been a part of childhood Halloween so I couldn’t understand why our celebrations didn’t feel quite right – almost like I was quaffing back the prosecco with any excuse – which of course I was.

It is way more comfortable sober, because ultimately, I am doing it for the children. We decorate the house, do fancy dress, paint faces, carve pumpkins, make Halloween themed food and set up Halloween games like apple bobbing and pear hanging. I never went trick or treating as a child, so we don’t either, but we have everything set up for the trick or treaters that come our way – surprise doorbell, silly string and sweets. Where does prosecco fit into that?

If you are celebrating at home, try to enjoy yourself but most of all, try to enjoy other people’s enjoyment.

Halloween tip 7 – Be proud of your achievement 

Whatever you do this Halloween, be proud of your achievement. If you went out or had a party and stayed sober – that is phenomenal! So many huge pats on the back for you. Add it to your growing list of things to feel awesomely proud of.

If you decided not to celebrate, that is a brave and courageous act of self-love. In the end it is about you and your sobriety. It is not selfish, it is necessary. There is always the next year or the next celebration, when you can reassess what you can handle.

If you tried and slipped up, don’t beat yourself up. It is all a journey forward. No matter how disappointed you might be that you didn’t stay sober, you still tried and that is incredible. That shows you are on the right path, but just need to do a little more work to get there

See my other posts (links below) for more on this work.

Your journey to being happy celebrating sober, is like everything in your sober journey, one step forward at a time. Each step forward gets you a little closer to your goal.

I’m going to my first sober rave on Friday 1st November in the town centre. I have not been for a night out in town for years, and especially not a sober one. I am going with my husband you there won’t be many people I know – I did ask some friends, but no one seemed that keen when I mentioned the word sober! In my next post I’ll let you know all about it  xx  

How to survive and thrive as a sober mum

So, we have reached the final post in my four-part post on mums and alcohol. If you have missed any and my content resonates with you then please follow the links below.

The first post, Why do mums drink? Looks at the reasons that mums feel that they want or need to have a drink.

The second post looks at the problems associated with the societally accepted mummy wine culture that is so prevalent currently. Read that post here.

The penultimate post aims to show mums who are struggling with booze, all the benefits of not drinking and how much better off they can be without it. That post is Why mums DO NOT need to drink

In this final post, I want to show you that you can not only survive as a sober mum but you can thrive way beyond your expectations! 

Before you dismiss this as impossible, let me reassure you that I am living, breathing proof of this! I am a mother of 3 boys. I drank for 22 years and for 12 years I tried to quit. I believed there must just be something wrong with me that I couldn’t do it, when other people seemed to be able to. I also thought that if I did, I’d be unhappy and craving for the rest of my life.

Please let me reassure you, that now, at nearly 18 months sober, I have never looked back and I have never been happier. I am also craving free!

This post is not going to go into detail about how to quit. Instead I want to show you how you can manage being a mum while sober, and that when you are a sober mum, your life will be so much better and happier.

If you are still struggling with quitting drinking, I have some other posts that will help.

How to Quit drinking, is obviously the big post with practical tips about how to quit once you have decided that you want to. However, it is never quite that easy and there is groundwork that you need to commit to first.

Seeing alcohol for what it really is often helps people to realise that in reality it is not what they need – see How to beat the alcohol illusion for more on this.

The fear of cravings really put me off trying to quit for good, so have a read of How to stop alcohol cravings to find out how you can be craving free.

However, if you feel that you are physically addicted, by which I mean experiencing shakes, sweating, vomiting or uncontrollable irritability, please contact a health professional to discuss your needs.

How to survive as a sober mum

Tackle loneliness

Being a mum can be such a lonely time, and being a mum struggling with a problem with alcohol that you don’t feel like you can talk about, can be the loneliest feeling in the world.

If you feel there are people you can talk to then do talk to them. But if you are not keen, find some non-drinking friends to talk to. Social Media in great for this. I have met incredible people through Instagram, who are all on their own alcohol-free journey, and happy to share and talk. There are also loads on Facebook and places like Join Club Soda have a private group where you can air all your struggles and receive support and advise from fellow members.

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Also, you could join One Year No Beer and meet people who are similarly reassessing their relationship with alcohol. Or, if you are feeling brave, there are more and more sober cafés and sober events popping up. Find one and go along, find someone who will go with you to make it less daunting initially. My husband and I are off to our first sober rave for Halloween this year in our towns sober bar.

Community is often what will give you the strength to finally get to where you want to be. Be aware that you may lose people along the way but do not let this put you off! Sometimes we have to lose in some places to gain in others, and the friends that you make on your sober journey will be the ones who have your back.

Parenting jobs

So that’s outside life sorted, what about at home? Parenting is hard. More often than not as mums, we just keep going and going, and it can be completely overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. We need to break stuff up into bits, and then find out which the problem bits actually are. Try to really think about you day and what you actually do. Then as you are doing each thing assess how you feel when doing it. There unfortunately is no escape from some parenting jobs no matter how much we hate them! Washing has to be done, meals have to be cooked and the house needs to be cleaned.

This is an example that worked for me.

I loathe cleaning. I have said this before that hey ho! I did have a cleaner for while but working part time with 3 children I couldn’t really justify the expense. But if you can, (your drinking probably cost more than £20 a week!) the go for it!

I found every time I had to clean I ended up furious with everyone and everything! So I broke everything down. I realised that I actually I have no issue tidying I just hate actual cleaning. Then I broke it down further and realised that doing it all at once was just too much. So I broke each job down onto different days. On the days I don’t have a shift I’ll clean either the bathroom, or hoover downstairs, or clean the kitchen, but not all together. By doing this, each cleaning job takes less than 20 minutes, so not overwhelming, and it all gets done pretty painlessly. My worst job seems to be hoovering upstairs, so I make sure that I do it at a time where I am not feeling stressed or tired, but also that I get it out of the way as soon as possible!

It seems simple, but it is so easy to let everything become a massive overwhelming black whole when really, it’s all just little manageable bits put together. Just put them together differently in a way that works for you!

This will help so much later when it comes to nurturing yourself, which I talk more about it the next section.

Routine

It also helped me to find a routine that works with the children. Children usually respond really well to routine They want their freedom and independence, but routine helped them to feel safe, because they know what is coming and what is expected.

We have a routine where we use a 10 minute musical timer for The Baby to dress himself in the morning. It works, mostly, and the big boys love it too – they know it’s nearly time to leave and they know what they have to do.

In the evening, after supper, the boys (usually) clear the table, my husband and I will take turns for who does the washing up and who washes The Baby, and then I will read stories and he’ll go to sleep with his train nightlight and classic FM. My eldest goes to sleep every night with the fan and a low string of fairy lights.

I have found, if every member of the family understands of the rules of the game, it all becomes so much easier to manage!

You don’t always need to follow your plan or get frustrated if you don’t, you can just have it in the background as a fall back. But ultimately do what works for you, assessing how you feel and how your children are responding as you go.

Take time for yourself

Part of having a routine is ensuring that there is time for you. It is so important, as I have mentioned so many times, to have regular time for yourself! I will talk more about nurturing yourself in the next section but make sure every day, you routinely fit some ‘you time’ into the day.

When your ‘you time’ is routine, it will have become so normal that taking emergency time for yourself, when things are going wrong, will not seem too alien and you will know what you need to do with that time, whether that is have a bath, have a cup of tea, listen to music, paint, breath, yoga – whatever works for you.

Share the mental load

This isn’t really optional but can be extremely difficult.

Mental load is the idea that as mothers, we have everything for every family member going on in our heads. Not just the day to day household and parenting jobs, but we know who has homework for when, who has a doctors appointment, who needs what for a class trip, when they last saw the dentist, whose shoes are getting to small, who has what extracurricular class and what they need. Often this mental load includes partners as well as children. In my first marriage, there was an explosion because I had put the ironed shirt in the wrong drawer and he would have had to open a different draw to find it! Thinking more kindly, your partner just might not realise exactly what you have to juggle; so talk about it. It’s about your partner learning that they are equally responsible for the family mental load and are not there to ‘help you’ – they are there to share it all with you.

If you have no idea what I am talking about then have a read of this amazing comic that explains it all!

Manage your expectations

Realise that most of what you see on social media or in photographs or at church are just the good bits among all the same shit that you have to deal with on a daily basis. We really are all in the same boat! Be realistic about what family life is, one big messy, hopefully love filled, mess.

Manage your frustrations

I have mentioned that being a mum can often be frustrating because it isn’t the picture of the life you imagined, and it is hard once you are a mum to achieve the things that you hoped to achieve. If you are struggling with this, have a read of my posts How to build a life you do not want to escape from and Change your thoughts to change your life.

Bad days

Expect and accept that there will be bad days, emotional days, tough times, difficult stages. Everyone in a family is just a human with all the ups and downs that humans go through. Accept that a bad day or two or three doesn’t make you a bad mum. Again, you are human not superhuman. You children have shocking days and you still love them unconditionally, so your bad days won’t make them love you any less. Yes, you are an adult, and may have slightly more control over your emotions and reactions, but in reality, this often isn’t the case and being an adult doesn’t make you superhuman either.

There will be hard times but it’s ok – you will be ok.

How to thrive as a sober mum

Consciously nurture yourself

I cannot say this enough. Find something that fulfils you and brings you joy and do it every day. I love reading, I love yoga, I love meditating, I love watching a crime series episode at the end of the night, I love having a bath, I love writing this blog. Make sure, without fail, you put your small bit of time aside every day. It helps to nurture your soul and remind you who you are.  It gives you an non-alcohol related break in the circle of parenting life.

Find the activities you love

Don’t do things just because you feel like you should. I used to hate going to the play park, so don’t force yourself to go. Your children and you will both be aware that you’re not enjoying it.

Find the activities that you do enjoy and that you can enjoy together. We love cycling – this can be a big day out in clumber park with a picnic, or just a short cycle in the park. Equally, I realised that although I hate the play park in the day, I love it in the evening! Sunsets in summer, getting dark and the lights coming on in the winter. I love reading to my children. I used to see this as a school related chore, but we have put school stuff aside and I read what we’ve chosen together.

Try lots of different things but remember to assess your feelings as you go because then you know how you are genuinely feeling.

Exercise

I have talked about exercise a lot, and I also talk about it in my free 7 days to feel better about yourself course which you can sign up for below. It is too big a topic to broach here, and I will write a proper post about it soon.

But exercise, along with other health benefits, gives you some space, increases your confidence, improves your mood, increases your ability to cope, boosts your happy hormones and generally makes you feel amazing!

Don’t be put off. There will be an exercise that you love, you just have a try a few out to find it. Also, the first two weeks are usually a bit ugh, but your fitness and stamina will improve quickly and it will all become easier – I promise!!

Time

We can be so overwhelmed with parenting that we sometimes miss the whole point of it! Your children need your time and attention, but they don’t need it all the time. They want their own time to do their own thing too. So compromise. Give them your full attention at some point during each day, it doesn’t have to be for long, but they definitely know whether they have your attention for not. By doing this, your children are happy that they have had concentrated mummy time, and you don’t feel guilty about taking the time for yourself or for whatever else you need to do.

Practice gratitude

This is such a important topic that my next post will be all about gratitude. But gratitude is a practice. Sometimes it come naturally, but there are days when we can feel that we have nothing to be grateful for or if we say we are its not sincere. By looking every day to find even one thing to be grateful for, we build up a bank to things that we are grateful for, which we can drawn on on those crappy days. The more we feel grateful, the more there is to be grateful for. Gratitude is exponential.

Why it is so much better being a sober mum

To conclude, being a sober mum is a real and frightening experience. All those emotions and experiences to deal with! No hiding behind anything. But facing these experiences sober will give you so much strength and self-respect. These things are self-perpetuating and the more you face, the more you realise you can manage, the better and more secure you will feel.

For you and your children, you will share love, closeness and time. Your time together will be more enjoyable and more memorable.

Ultimately, as a sober mum, I am a happier mum.

Why mums DO NOT need to drink

Welcome to part 3 of my four-part mums and booze post.

Looking around supermarkets, online or in bookshops it is only too easy to see that the overarching theme is that mums need to drink. I am not criticising this as such, I have written in the first part of this post series, Why do mums drink?, about the stresses and strains that can come with being a mum, I completely get the need to feel like your doing OK. I was the first one to say that I needed a drink to cope with life and being a mum. The problem is that alcohol was a totally destructive force in my life, and destructive to my health, my mental health and my ability to cope with life and being a mum. It did the exact opposite of what I needed it to do.

I am absolutely not challenging or criticising mums here, I am just trying to reach out to those mums who feel like they are alone in their struggle with motherhood and alcohol and say, ‘Hey, you are strong enough to manage everything in your life and I want to show you how!’.  In next weeks post I will go through how you can not only survive but thrive as a sober mum!

But for this week, I want to look at why mums DO NOT need a drink.

No hangovers!

I am not sure that this need any further explanation. Who would not like to never have a hangover again?!

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Better physical health

Not to mention reducing the risk of a whole host of health problems as you get older, not drinking will make you feel so much better immediately. No hangovers, no dehydration and not full of toxins – let’s face it these make you feel pretty dreadful! You will sleep better and have more energy – who doesn’t need more of these things as a mum!

More energy means you are more likely to exercise.

So, let’s look at the health benefits of better sleep and more exercise. Both are shown individually to

  • Improve mood
  • Improve memory
  • Increase energy
  • Aid weight loss
  • Reduce the risk of ill health and chronic disease
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve the health of your brain, heart, bones, muscles and skin

Imagine what they do together! It’s a kind of self-perpetuating good cycle. It is basically the opposite of what alcohol does to us!

Better mental health

As you can see, a better physical state will lead to improved mental health. Definitely something that would help a lot of mums.

Depression rates are high among mums, for many reasons (see Why do mums drink?) and anxiety is rife. Modern life is almost designed to make mums feel like they cannot cope. These feelings affect our sense of self worth and our confidence in a negative spiral.

I know I suffered badly from depression, post and antenatal depression and anxiety. Then I added to it the shame, guilt and remorse I felt about my drinking.

So much time was spent in my head battling with these feelings. Most often, the overwhelming empty blackhole feeling would hit me around 4/5pm and I would drink to hide from it because it was so awful. I used to talk to My Love and say, maybe I just have to accept that my body and mind are designed to feel this way. But now, I absolutely know that it is no coincidence that since I quit drinking, I no longer have these feelings.

Obviously, I still get feelings and emotions. Obviously, I can still get a bit overwhelmed, but never in the same way and I never feel like I am being consumed and can’t handle it.

What I didn’t expect, and I’m sorry if I’ve said this a thousand times, is the complete disappearance of anxiety. I had anxiety to the point of not being able to leave the house. Before this happened to me, I didn’t even believe it could. It improved enough for me to start functioning normally again, but it was always present and was gradually increasing over the last few years before I quit drinking. My anxiety was one of the main reasons that I kept drinking, it allowed me to be free of it, however briefly. My anxiety did not disappear immediately after I stopped drinking, but at about the 6 months point, I realised that I wasn’t anxious anymore, I would almost say I was internally calm. No twisting stomach, no racing brain, no tight chest, no internal shaking and no anger. I was so stunned that I concentrated on noticing this lack of anxiety, in case it was some kind of accidental one off. But no, although I am not completely Zen (haha!) the anxiety is not there and I am the calmest I have ever been.

What would you give to be a mum who is not struggling daily with anxiety and low mood?

Feeling better

There is a feeling that I want you to imagine. Think about one of the occasions, even if it was a long time ago, when you felt genuinely good about yourself. Your body felt right, what you were wearing felt good, you seemed to glide easily through whatever occasion it was, people seemed drawn to you. Deep down things felt right.

Even if you it is not recent, I’m sure everyone has a memory like this, even if it was just one time! Wouldn’t it be lovely to feel like this more often, maybe even all the time?

When I stopped drinking for the final time, I gradually started to feel like this more often. I had more energy, better sleep (even if not more sleep!), I was exercising more, I lost 8kg in 9 months, I actually felt comfortable in my own body for the first time as an adult. I liked the way I looked; I no longer hid from photos. I started to actually know myself and what I was like. For the first time, I didn’t mind that person, and as my sobriety has continued, I actually quite liked her. This feeling, the feeling right in yourself, really started to manifest at about a year sober and the confidence that comes from knowing and respecting your own value is phenomenal.

Better social life

People worry so much about their social life once they stop drinking. It is naturally a very daunting prospect because everything in our society is geared up to join socialising with alcohol. Being the one who is different, the one standing out, is terrifying! Even more so if your confidence and sense of self-worth is shot.

Now, as I have mentioned before, I am something of a social introvert. I can pull it off when I have to, but there are times when I am just not comfortable.

My answer is simple: if you really don’t want to be a part of some social occasion, don’t be! I’m not saying reject it out of hand, I’m not saying don’t do it just because you’re afraid, what I am saying is assess why you feel the way you do, question yourself, and if you are still uncomfortable, go with your gut feeling and stay away!

There is a very real chance, and people get worried about this, that you may lose some friends along your path to being a sober mum. Some people won’t understand, some people will feel challenged, some people will have their own battles to deal with. Whatever the case, please know, that the friends you have left, will be the ones that have your best interests at heart – and those are the people you need to be around! I promise you, that the friends you make on your sober journey, will not be the ones who want to bring you down – because your increasing self-worth won’t let that happen anymore.

Better relationships

Not only your friendships, but most importantly your closer relationships will improve. Not being in your own head all the time gives you so much more head space to focus on those you love, and it makes a HUGE difference.

My relationships with My Love, my boys, my mother, my sister and my nieces and nephews feel so much more supportive and connected. My Love has been through the most awful 6 months due to the loss of close family members to cancer. It terrifies me to think of the lack of support he would probably have received had I still been drinking.

If you are not in a romantic relationships at the minute but would like to be, I can almost guarantee that your increasing sense of confidence and self-worth, not to mention the fact that you like and respect yourself more, will not allow you to slip back into any negative patterns of relationships. I cannot guarantee you the best relationships, relationships are funny things that work and don’t work for all sorts of reasons, but I can guarantee that your sober self will be less likely to head into a bad relationship or self-sabotage a good one.

Better mum

I mean this is the crucial bit isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be the best mum they can be? Although I’ve always been a good and committed mum and I’ve always loved my boys more than anything, I have never been a happy mum. It always felt like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.

I remember so many bad days where I knew during that day that I was actually creating that bad day. Children being their usual naughty boisterous selves but me not having the capacity to deal with it – usually due to a niggling hangover and bad sleep (I am still a monster with no sleep!).  Those days ended with me annoyed, frustrated and unhappy and the boys disgruntled. Then cue the mum guilt and beating myself up about it, because I knew that on a different day in a different set of circumstances those days would have been absolutely fine.

Alcohol, no sleep, no energy and hangovers all deplete our capacity to cope with anything, let alone the demands of our offspring!

Being sober has given me a much longer fuse. The lack of anxiety has given me the ability to see the funny side of a lot of situations. It has all ultimately made me a much happier mother who really wants to be with her children. In turn has made my children happier and more secure.

More real fun

I have always been driven, and true to form, I always made sure we did lots of ‘fun’ things. By this stage, my drinking was not really what I could pretend was ’fun’ anymore. Trying desperately to reach fun yes, but real fun, no. The made ‘fun’ with a grim, controlled determination and although the boys and My Love did actually have fun, if I did it was by the exception rather than the rule.  

In becoming sober I have become less anxious and more go with the flow. My family will probably howl with laughter reading this, but that only go to prove how bad I was!

Just to prove what I was like, even though I love the sea, I hardly ever went with my children and on one memorable occasion I had a complete melt down and left 10 minutes after traipsing everything to the beach. Why? Because I couldn’t cope with sandy children.

Another time, I was on holiday in a stunning location on the Pembrokeshire coast, I couldn’t cope with cleaning the caravan and the mess of 5 people in the gazebo, so I packed up a week into out two week holiday and drove our caravan the 8 hours back home. I then sold our hardly used caravan.

Even sober, the fear of the old me rearing her head again almost put me off going to the Greenman Festival because of having to deal with rain-soaked children. I am so eternally grateful that this didn’t put me off, and yes it rained! See more on this in my post Greenman Festival – Sober!

I’ll talk more about finding the sober activities that you love in the next post.

Don’t get me wrong, at times stuff can still accumulate and go wrong, See Furious Sober Yoga Mummy for an example of this, but thankfully these situation are now the exception.

Time

I have talked about time in my previous post, What’s wrong with the mummy wine culture? and I will talk about it lots more in my next post, but having the extra time, created by being sober, open up so much opportunity.

Happier

Maybe not immediately, but I promise you, over time, as you get used to your sobriety, you will be genuinely far happier than you have ever been, not only as a mum but in your own life.

What’s wrong with the mummy wine culture?

Last week, in the first part of this post, I looked at the reasons that mums feel they need to drink. This second part will look at what the mummy wine culture is and why people are beginning to question it. Next week I’ll look at why mums really do not need to drink and finally how we can thrive as mums without wine.

I need to make it clear from the very beginning that this is not a post judging or criticising anyone or anything. I was so firmly in the mums needs wine camp and I struggled long and hard to get out of it and to work out how to function as a mother without it. Please don’t feel got at, criticised or attacked my anything I say.

One Year No Beer, a group that really helped me when I was trying to quit (the successful time!) talks about the shamed lonely drinking mums. The ones who believe they have a problem but feel alone and too guilty or ashamed to reach out for help. 

If this is you, I want to show you with this post that there is another way. It is possible to cope with everything parenting throws at you without alcohol, AND most importantly, you can be happy doing it!

What is it?

It is pretty much impossible to escape the mummy wine culture that has been floating around for a good few decades now. Initially starting with red wines, moving onto the chardonnays, pinot grigios, proseccos and now the ever-present gin. Mummy wine culture is not limited to one country. A simple internet search will flag up articles from all over the world highlighting the prominence of the mummy wine culture across the globe. 

Nor is this a new phenomenon. Pictures, books and films throughout the last few centuries have shown women drinking gin, martini, wine and even laudanum with the accompanying euphemisms – mother’s milk, mother’s friend, mother’s ruin and most recently, mummy juice.

Nowadays, those in the mummy wine set are generally educated, capable mothers who are wine/gin appreciating connoisseurs, drinking as a means of relaxation and socialisation while sustaining a high octane, high achieving existence. 

As I said, I was fully in the mummy wine camp. Don’t get me wrong, I started drinking way before I had children, but the mummy wine culture was there, waiting to welcome me when motherhood arrived, and I was more than ready to fall into it.

Wine o’clock

Wine o’clock was 4/5 pm. Boys back from school, homework, starting to cook, children wanting attention, squabbling together. These few hours seemed endless and hard. Getting children to do homework or read, eat without complaining, have baths without flooding the house, get ready for bed and then actually go to sleep – aaahhh! Wine soothed it all and made it feel manageable.

Many people say they don’t start drinking until the children are asleep but most wine mummies I have seen, just about reach the 5pm mark. To be honest, I think I would have drunk at those times anyway (wine after a hard day at work?), but I was very willing to be convinced that I deserved/needed a drink at wine o’clock!

Why is it so talked about now?

Support

The wine mummy culture taps into the fact that parenting is lonely and hard and offers what all mothers need – SUPPORT!

The mummy wine culture became more talked about since mothers started to open up about how hard parenting is. This allowed others to come out of the woodwork and say, yes! I find it hard too! People opened up about having a drink to relax after a hard day with the children, and social media exploded with people saying – Hey I drink after a hard day with children too!

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Marketing

With social media buzzing and books being published about drinking to cope with children, the marketing people had a field day. It is hard to find anything mummy related now that doesn’t have a more than generous smattering of mummy wine references. Bottled sized wine glasses with ‘Wine o’clock’ emblazoned across the front. Wine glasses for new mothers saying ‘I’ve waited 9 months for this’. Tumblers with ‘Mommy Juice’ printed on them. ‘Emergency mum fuel’, ‘Goodnight kids, hello wine’. ‘Mummy’s medicine’, the list goes on and on. 

I have had more mummy wine birthday cards than I’d like, but they also made me feel safe. Everyone was saying drinking to cope was normal, so what I was doing was acceptable – all mothers need wine to cope. 

But, with the explosion of honesty about mummy wine, come the questions about what the mummy wine culture is actually telling us.

Mummy wine backlash

Honesty?

The honesty that came with the mummy wine culture allowed people to unburden and show the reality of coping as mother, so people could feel they were doing OK. Mummy wine culture allowed people to get the essential support they needed, so what is there to question?

The problem is that it can be hard to speak up when you start to worry about your drinking because you don’t want to break the camaraderie and the sisterhood. If you are not drinking, it’s considered odd. If you say you’re are worried about your drinking you’ll get the dreaded ‘are you an alcoholic’ questions, followed by the reasons that the other person isn’t. Suddenly your support mechanisms are collapsing. So much easier to keep going. Please don’t think I am being judgy because I promise I am not. I have been the giver and receiver of such comments, it is what alcohol does.

Change

Thankfully, things do seem to be slowly changing.  Many people have begun to question and reject the idea of the mummy wine culture. Articles, books, blogs and social media accounts now abound saying – whoa! I think this might not actually be the best coping strategy! Clare Pooley was one of the first to bravely open up about her drinking in her blog about her first year sober. Having realised that her drinking had got out of control, she quit drinking but in her first year sober she was diagnosed with breast cancer (thankfully now cancer free).  This is now a book called The Sober Diaries and can be found with this link.

Other good book in a similar vein are The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and The Sober Revolution.

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I am not going to go into facts and figures about increasing numbers of female drinkers for a few reasons. I think statistics like this are often utterly inaccurate. It is well known that doctors double the amount of alcohol patients say they consume. Like I said in my previous post, people either don’t want to be honest about how much they are drinking, or they don’t know how much they are drinking. However, even with dodgy statistics the medical profession is saying that middle aged to older women are now drinking far more than advised and they are worried about it.

Problems with drinking as a mum

Physical Health

The health effects for a woman drinking are unfortunately far worse than they are for a man drinking the same amount. Our bodies just can’t tolerate it the same way. It increases our risk of a whole host of rather nasty health problems from neurological issues, to heart disease and cancers.

The other problem is that by drinking and enduing hangovers, the time and energy that we could spend on exercise and looking after our bodies is gone. As exercise is amazing for physical and mental health it’s definitely a reason to start questioning the advisability of using wine to cope!

Mental Health

Another health problem related to the over consumption of alcohol is mental health. In Why do mums drink?, I mentioned that mums often develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Being a mum is hard enough (See Mental Load comic!), it is stressful and exhausting. You then add to that loneliness, the feeling that you can’t ask for help, the feeling that you are failing when presented with happy social media images, the frustration of your expectations, the high expectations that you place on yourself and the general all-consuming MUM GUILT.

The conundrum is, that most people don’t realise, until they stop drinking, that by drinking to cope with being a mum, you are 100% exacerbating and sometimes creating your mental health problems. It’s funny, I just did a search in my own blog website to find the posts where I had written about anxiety to give you more details, and every single post came up!! I think that proves the impact of quitting drinking on my anxiety.

Over the years I suffered from depression, post-natal depression and anxiety. Anxiety to the point I couldn’t leave my house. When I was bad, the only thing that would give me temporary (very) relief, was drinking. What I realised when I quit, was that alcohol was the cause of my anxiety. In the last 16 months sober, my anxiety has all but disappeared. That’s not to say it doesn’t rear its head sometimes (see Furious Sober Yoga Mummy), but it is never as bad, always temporary and always manageable.

Normalisation

One of the things that worried me most, and I’ve seen other mums worrying about it, is the effect the mummy wine culture has on our children. I’ve always been terrified that The Bear will think drinking is totally normal and it will have horrendous repercussions for his diabetes when he’s older. I was particularly struck by this a few years ago. My niece, then 15, and I had a shopping dates in town. Unfortunately, my childcare didn’t go to plan so my eldest two and my younger niece had to come along for the trip. We had a good trip but obviously shopping with children in tow is exhausting! Later than evening my niece put up a social media picture with her drinking something out of a wine glass (I think it was OJ!) saying: ‘Shopping with children, now I need a break’. I thought ‘Aaahhh!’ What are we doing? She doesn’t even have children yet or understand the full load of parenting/adulthood but the message there is already, alcohol will help you cope!

Time

This is so important. Just take a minute to think about the amount of time that you use when drinking. That first blissful fuzzy 10 minutes that blurs out the stresses, strains, emotions and whatever else we’re hiding from is followed by how many hours of nothingness (except maybe fighting, shouting, tears and anxiety).

What could you be doing with that time?

I am definitely not talking about doing more of the mummy stuff! We pretty much stay sober enough to do that anyway. I’m talking about that stuff that could actually nurture you enough to make you feel that you can cope without the booze! I talk a lot about this in my next post, but for now I’ll just mention a few things.

Use your time wisely

Exercise, in whatever form you enjoy it, is literally a miracle drug! Everything you get from alcohol you can get from exercise – and a whole array of other positive benefits. You need to make exercise your habit instead – See How to stop alcohol cravings for how to do this. Realistically you only need 30-45 minutes decent exercise a day and you will feel the positive effects for the next few days. After that 30-45 minutes there is no guilt, no shame, no anger and tears and no wasting hours!

Exercise also improves your mental health. When I took antidepressants, that doctors told me I needed to use them to get to a place where I felt strong enough to make permanent changes in my life, then I could come off them and those changes would help me from falling back into depression. It worked at the time but it is very easy to slip back into old negative thinking patterns when things get hard and no one wants to be on antidepressants for ever! I honestly found regular exercise as good as antidepressants. When things are hard and just for maintenance, use exercise to boost yourself so that you feel strong enough to tackle whatever issues are currently bringing out down. Sign up for my free 7 day email course below to find out how to start feeling better about yourself.

You will now have a little bit of extra time because after your 30-45 minutes exercise, you are sober and feeling great, so no time wasted being drunk and miserable!

You can use this time to start the positive life changes you need.

You need to use that time to focus solely on you? Relax, do something you enjoy, nurture yourself to give yourself that energy you need to handle this mummying stuff! 

There is a piece of advice I give regularly because it has worked for me so many times and it is amazing! It will help you tackle your frustrations when they rear their heads, and will help you to let go of your expectations that are causing so much stress.

We cannot change the past and we cannot change the future. The only thing we can change is the now. Things are as they are, fighting against that will only cause you pain and ultimately make no difference to your situation at all. All you can do is accept your situation, say thank you for the things that are good, and work out what you can do now that will help you to get the future that you want, even if you can’t have this future now. 

Once you accept your present and stop fighting, the universe steps in and you will be amazed how things start falling into place (See Change your thoughts to change your life for more on this).

Please believe me when I say I know exactly how hard that can be. But I have put myself into depression by fighting my life and I have brought myself out by accepting. In my times of acceptance, I have met My Love, the best, kindest, most supportive and loving person that I know; I have found my love of Yoga; I have retrained; I have accepted that I am a self-sufficient wanderer and need to work for myself; I have started this blog and I have become sober.

In these times I have been a better, happier, kinder person.  It is a constant work in progress, but I have no doubt that, with consistent practice, I will learn to truly live in the present.

To read more on how to learn to live in the now, my favourite book is the Power of Now by Echkart Tolle which you can buy by following the link.

To read more on how to learn to let go of your expectations and allow the world to work for you, my favourite book is the The Seven Secrets of Spiritual Success by Deepak Chopra.

It is a problem

Most mums don’t hit rock bottom. Most mums continue to function as mothers, wives, friends and part of the community every day. But many of them do it with the constant knowledge that their drinking had taken on a life of its own and they no longer feel in control of their lives. Balancing on the knife edge of just being OK with the knowledge that rock bottom, depression, collapse and burn out could be on either side of this blade. Often these fears keep us drinking.

Rock bottom is not a place you need to reach before you take back control.

Why do mums drink?

This is going to be a four-part post – one now and two on subsequent weeks. It is such a relevant topic that I want to do it justice.

This week we’ll have a look at the reasons that mums find they are wanting to drink. Next week we’ll look at the mummy wine culture and how mums are starting to question the culture. Then I’ll look at why mums DO NOT need to drink and lastly we’ll look at how mums can survive and thrive without it. 

So, why do mums drink?

Many of the reasons are the same reasons that other people drink. See Why do people drink? for more on this.

Socialising

I drank way before I had children, so I don’t think we start drinking just because children arrived. I was drinking after work, with friends out and with family at home. Drinking, and usually too much, was very much a part of any social life I had. For most, drinking is thoroughly ingrained as a way of socialising, celebrating, commiserating and relaxing – so once the baby is born, it’s business as usual!

However, after having a baby, nights out happen far less often, so socialising often happens at home, with family and friends or with other mothers. Drinking at home becomes normal.

I think I unconsciously, or maybe consciously, chose mummy friends who drank too. A bit of a party animal? Yes please, I’ll be friends with you. Non-drinking, vegan, yoga mummy – no thanks! Despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, I wished I could be a non-drinking, vegan, yoga mummy!

Yet the social drinking at home or with other mums, doesn’t seem to lessen the excessive drinking on the odd night out/celebration you have. I still went at it as if you’ve been deprived of a drink for that whole time!

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Normalisation

When something seems normal, you are far less likely to question it. After my first baby I had a night out with some other new mums. The babies were about 3 months old and it was near Christmas, so obviously the only choice was a boozy night out – that’s all there is right? I wasn’t breast feeding by this stage but most of the others were, and they chatted about pump and dump nights like it was completely normal. Pump and dump for anyone who doesn’t know, is drinking lots, expressing your breast milk and throwing it out, so theoretically any of the booze that’s gone into the breast milk has been thrown away and your baby won’t be drinking booze. I am very uncertain of the scientific nature of this plan! But please can we actually take a minute to consider the enormity of this idea. We’re told it normal and we deserve a night out, yes we do but why does that automatically mean getting smashed? Also, the enormity of the fact that at 3 months old, I left my first son with his father for 2 nights while I went to hospital with binge drinking induced gastritis – drinking loads of white wine having not drunk for a year. I literally cringed when the doctor told me what he was writing down. Nothing about it was normal. 

But everything tells us and we tell each other that it is normal, and we are just coping. I only really drank after 4pm, because if I drank before I would feel so awful for the rest of the day that I couldn’t function. As I slowly crept into the land of daytime weekend drinking, soon before I quit for good, I was staggered by the number of people, with children in tow, drinking in the day time. Dad’s groups, feeding babies with pints at 10.30am. Mum’s afternoon teas with prosecco. Cocktails, gin, wine, beer, you name it! Instead of worrying me, at first I found it very comforting that I was not alone in this. Almost like a carte blanche to do it more. Thankfully, I also think it started bringing things to a head until I finally scared myself enough to quit.

Lonely

It is totally understandable though. Being a mother is bloody lonely. We go from working, socialising people who speak to other adults on a daily basis, to finding ourselves at home, alone, with a nonverbal human that we are utterly responsible for with no support. Family, friends and partner are probably at work and there we are, stuck. I might sound like I am stereotyping here, but in all the families with children I have known, the father works and the mother is at home with the children doing EVERYTHING else.

Mental Load

I saw a comic strip called ‘You should’ve asked’ that became a book called Mental Load, a few years ago that resonated completely and I am sure resonated with many other mothers. Read it here, its amazing, but I’ve put one picture here as an example.

By Emma

It just seems to be the lot of a mother that our heads never stop as we try to juggle school, after school activities, working, tidying, cleaning, cooking, washing, doctors, dentists, school costumes and activities, finances, weekend child fun and shopping – usually with toddler in tow. Not to mention giving enough attention to your small people while teaching them how to live and hoping they’ll be nice, kind, well rounded, successful educated people, while questioning everything you do in case it somehow psychologically damages them in the future!

The lists go on and on and round and round.

Women can be very harsh and critical of other women – only take a glance at the breast-feeding v bottle feeding forums! Ouch! It’s no different with parenting. Working mothers often get a lot of stick for not being at home with their children. Two things on this. Firstly, why on earth do working fathers not get the same stick, secondly, working mothers don’t escape from the mental load, they just have to manage work on top of it! The only benefit of working is financial (and possibly your sanity!) 

Ooooh, my feminist side starts to rage!

Expectations

But it’s not just people being critical of other people. We are hugely critical of ourselves. I talk about being kind to yourself in many of my previous posts and go into detail son how to start in my free 7 day course below. But it is so important for sobriety and happiness so please sign up and have a look.

We expect ourselves to be amazing mothers, partners, employees etc. I had images of me as a lovely mother, playing with my children, laughing, baking with them, doing arts and crafts in a tidy house with delicious nutritious meals simmering away. We would snuggle and read together; we would have lovely days out.

I mean it is so laughably far from the truth! I am hysterical in the house! Baking – while fun on occasion, creates a messy kitchen, messy child, inedible cake – just more flipping hard work for me! Same with arts and crafts. By the time I got to The Baby, I was of the opinion that the more time out of the house creating less dirty, messy chaos, the better! And everyone playing nicely – what a joke! We get on really well as a family and the boys all love each other, but that means nothing when it comes to bickering, arguing, winding each other up, play fighting and hurting each other!

But instead of saying – ‘Aaaah! Help! This is all too much!’, we take a picture of the one nice moment, in the day of chaos, and post it on social media saying – ‘What an amazing day! So grateful for my lovely life!’.

Of course, we are grateful, and we do love our children. But denying the hard stuff is missing out a huge part of what parenting is. Mums who are struggling (most of us), see these images and captions and think – ‘Shit I’m failing. Why can’t I get this right?’ And the critical, negative loop continues exacerbating the mental load, negative mental health and the need to drink.                                                                                  

Parenting is hard!

And I’ll say it again parenting is hard!

Don’t get me wrong. I love my children so completely and there are magical moments with them, but a lot of the time it’s just lonely hard work. I was at home, alone, managing two toddlers. I dreaded most days.

But so many mother’s feel like they aren’t allowed to say ‘This is hard! Help me!’ The idea is that we have to be so grateful all the time that if we dare to say, actually I’m not enjoying this, then you feel ashamed that you are an ungrateful, bad parent. I won’t go into the ins and out of how hard parenting is; if you are a parent and you are reading this, you know! But if you are lonely, finding things hard every day and feeling guilty for doing so, is it any wonder that a little escape behind the wine seems like a good idea?

No time for you

In the chaotic circus that is out parenting lives, it is very rare that we make time for ourselves.

As a mummy, we are often so busy ensuring that our children eat and drink well, that we forget to do this basic thing for ourselves. The problem is that unstable blood sugar levels and thirst, increase our cravings for alcohol.

Self-care is so important. Any person I have talked to who has quit has done it by starting to focus on a little self-love and self-care.

Alcohol gives us a momentary relief from everything going on outside and in our own head. We need this as we are not giving ourselves that relief anywhere else. Our lives are constantly full on but we know that when it gets too much we can have that immediate relief from a glass of wine. 

We can do the same without alcohol though. I’ll talk more about how in the second part of this post but for now see How to beat the alcohol illusion.

Frustration

Frustration was such a massive part of the reason that I drank. Woman are told that, now we’ve broken the bonds of the patriarchal society and we get all those nice things like education and votes, that we can do and be anything! The world is our oyster! Anything is possible! You can have it all!

But hold on, can we? Can we have children and have everything?

When children come along you give up a huge part of yourself. It happens naturally, you can’t help it. You are responsible for this tiny human that you have created and that you love fiercely, so there is no choice but to put yourself aside and take care of them. Even more so the more children you have.

High flying careers, travelling adventures or anything you might have imagined in this oyster of a world, suddenly becomes far harder to achieve. So you have talented, educated, capable women – who are now at home cooking, cleaning, washing, and looking after small people.

The big world of opportunity has just become a lot smaller.

I struggled with this alot (probably the reason I did master’s degrees, moved abroad and retrained after my children!) My post, Change your thoughts to change your life, looks at how we always have a choice in anything. I did, and still do at times, wrestle with this idea. Yes I have the choice to have a travelling career but I would have to accept seeing my children less and them not liking it (they barely like it when I go to a shift!). So yes, it’s a choice I make to not have the travelling career to be with my children, but that doesn’t always lessen the frustration!

Years ago, just after The Bot was born, I was talking to my sister who was feeling the mummy frustration. My sister is a clever, capable, sociable, bubbly amazing person. She is a Cambridge graduate and she can charm anyone into doing anything she wants. She was at home with four children.  She said to me, women would be better off being like the poorer women of countries like India, who are OK with their lot at home with children because they don’t have any other expectations. I was horrified by this idea, I still am for many reasons that I won’t go into here, but I get her point now. We are given access to the world, and then the door is closed, and sometimes it feels locked and barred.

I’ll talk more about how to lessen this frustration in the second part of this post, but for more now, have a look at my post How to build a life you do not want to escape from.

Mental Health

I think this frustration was the most damaging to my mental health, especially when I was pregnant with The Baby.

But every parent, and especially mothers, get burnt out! Stress, depression and anxiety can all be related to burn out and exhaustion!  But when you have children, you can’t really burn out and just stop, you have to keep going. So often we keep going with the assistance of antidepressants, drugs or alcohol – and bizarrely there is far more stigma attached to taking antidepressants than there is to downing a few bottles of wine! So we self-medicate with alcohol.

Lack of awareness or denial

Now I have always been hyper aware of how much I drink, but following many conversations with many people, I think people are either unaware of what they are drinking or they don’t want to be aware.

Media advice corroborates these excuses that we make to keep drinking. ‘I need it for stress relief and stress is bad for me.’ ‘I only drink red wine because it’s good for my heart.’

The media also offers confusing advise about safe drinking levels. Many websites say this many ‘drinks’ is too many. But what is a drink? A large glass of wine is 3-4 units, depending on the strength of the wine. Is that one drink or three? A pint is 2-3 units, Is that one, two or three drinks?

I have spoken to people who have said a bottle of wine a night is OK because it’s only 3 drinks (actually 9-10 units, most of your alcohol allowance for the week). I have known people who say they hardly ever drink while quaffing an entire bottle with barely any visible effort or effect.

Denial is not a judgement. I hated being aware of what I was drinking, because I constantly felt the need to do something about it. Even at times I consciously tried to become unaware and just let go to see if that made things better – it didn’t. But when life is on top of you, you do not want to hear that the thing you feel is supporting you is actually the thing that you need to get rid of!

Lack of support  

My firm belief is that all these reasons come down to one thing. Lack of support as a mother. Our communities have all but vanished. We are left with nuclear families, often no extended family around, partners working long hours. We have no community support left to tell us we are doing OK. I think that this is why the mummy wine culture exploded. It offers the support and community that are lacking.  Social media support groups allow you to blow of steam, voice what you might be ashamed to say otherwise about parenting and normalises alcohol as a way of coping with the day to day trials. Drinking with mummy friends is exactly the same, you feel the support and the solidarity of other mums in the same boat.

In my next post I’ll be looking at the mummy wine culture and why there is now a backlash against it.

Furious Sober Yoga Mummy

So apparently, my sister tells me, I got the name of the requested post wrong, and it should be furiously sober yoga mummy not furious sober yoga mummy! There is a difference, but I’ll get to that.

This post emerged in a twofold way. There can be nothing worse, when you are in a bad place, than people telling you that everything is wonderful, and everything is positive. It used to make me feel angry, hopeless and frustrated to be told that being grateful and being positive would make everything better. How could anyone possibly be so patronising and simplistic?!

Now I realise the outrageous hypocrisy of saying this when my blog is stuffed full of be grateful, be positive and change your thinking information. But I do this for two reasons; firstly because I know that when I was actively trying to quit drinking, reading about how things could be better, gave me real hope that I could stop drinking and be happy, and secondly being grateful and positive actually does help, you just have to be in the right place to hear it.   

The times I didn’t want to hear were the times that I felt completely trapped. When I had sunk into funk and didn’t want to fight anymore. When I was in this mindset, it was not the time to hear about gratitude and positivity. Ultimately this mindset was extremely destructive for me and never helped me to reach my goal, but if you need more on that, have a read of my posts  How to build a life you do not want to escape from or Change your thoughts to change your life.  

I am writing this post because I want to show you that my blog is not some social media bollocks. I am not trying to convince you or myself that my life is completely sorted and I am not trying to say my life is now some problem free, Facebook picture perfect existence. Of course it isn’t! I am a working, overwrought, far too driven mother of 3, to say it’s perfect would be disingenuous, and also nonsense. What I am trying to give you hope that, despite all that life throws at us, we can have a better and happier future.

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So back to my sister’s word distinction.

I booked a night in Norfolk for the girls (mother, sister and me) and children (niece and my boys). I love the sea and have been told many times how beautiful the Norfolk beaches are, so I thought we’d go and have a look. Bit too far for a day trip, so I booked a last minute Air BnB. We packed up, beach ready, and drove what seemed like endless hours to get to Holkham beach.

Now, I think as children get older, people forget exactly how difficult toddlers are. So they plan and do things that ‘normal people’ can do and enjoy. ‘Normal people’ do not have toddlers. This whole trip was an example. My sister and mother thought it would be fun to stop, on the way to the beach, in a pretty town and have a browse of the shops. After finally finding a parking spot, I decided it would be a good idea to throw my car keys, to my locked car, in the bin. Not any bin, a proper metal bin with little slits on the side. I literally did not know what to do. I phoned My Love, just on the off chance he could rescue me from this nightmare situation from 100 miles away! Bizarrely, just as I was beginning to freak out, a boy came across the road from a shop with a grabber devise. He had also thrown something in, and instead of freaking out – a la me – he went to borrow a grabber from the shop. With a lot of digging around and a horrendous smell, I got his toy and my keys out.

Then ‘browsing’. The baby was like a naughty whirlwind, going through expensive, boutiquey, ‘we don’t do children’ shops. When he wasn’t instigating the destruction of the shops, he was running out and trying to play with the cars on the road. Great, good start to our fun trip away.

Eventually I dragged my mother out of the shops and on the way to the beach, my niece wanted to show us the old-fashioned sweet shop she had been to before. Queue expensive sugar filled nightmare for The Baby and diabetic nightmare for The Bear.

By the time we reached the beach – 3pm at this point – I had kind of lost my enthusiastic edge already but I was going to persist -we’d come to see the sea hadn’t we. The sea calms me and I love it. Hardi bloody har!!! What my sister had failed to mention was that the ‘beach’ was about half a mile through a forest and then another miles (probably more but we never made it) to the water. Great for their dogs, not so great for my toddler! The Baby, cannot walk at the same pace as everyone else so they charged ahead while the baby and I lagged behind. Halfway across the beach with the remnants of my enthusiasm clinging desperately onto the edges of my sanity, the sky released its full fury. I have never, ever, ever been in rain like it. The Baby and I had rain clothes on but they had soaked right through in 2 minutes. As we reached that two minutes, I watched my wet phobic mother and her little doggy charge past me back to the car without so much as a glance of offer of assistance. Following closely behind her were the rest of the children and my sister plus doggy.

The Baby just before the deluge!

The only person who stopped to help with wet – now crying and wanting to be carried across wet sand – giant lump of a baby, was The Bot. He even offered to give him a piggyback for a bit – but then his wellies started rubbing and giving him cuts on the backs of his legs, which mixed with wet sand was not a good combination. He eventually had to take the wellies off and walk in bare feet which was freezing! Wet cold miserable baby, wet cold miserable son, and wet cold miserable mummy.

The Bot, offering assistance

At some point someone must have realised that we were not appearing at the car because my sister came back to offer a hand. She picked up The Baby, told me how wonderful the rain was, asked why on earth I had a problem – ‘wasn’t it fun?’ ‘why did I have a problem with wet children?’, ‘hadn’t I ever camped before?’. Sorry my lovely sister, I was ready to kick you then back then!

I Iove the rain, but when it’s cold with no shower in sight, I am not so great at being in it! Same with sea, lakes, streams – anything wet! I am absolutely certain that my raging anxiety before the Greenman Festival was exacerbated by the unpleasantness of this experience. A week of showerless rain?!!

Having made it back to the car, wet clothes stripped off everyone, car stinking of wet dog, I attempted to find the house I had rented for the night. Thankfully although far, it was a pretty painless trip. By the time the bags were in and everyone had finished fighting about who was sleeping where, it was way past food time for The Baby and the Bear. We had no food and no clue where the shop was. My anxiety was running pretty high by now, I dumped the children with my mother and dragged my sister to a supermarket. She stocked up on G&T while I stocked up on rose lemonade – and food of course!

I find it so hard, despite years of children and 7 years of The Bear’s diabetes, when food times or food availability is messed with. Although I am so much better, my head goes into overdrive about what carbohydrate ratio he is on at what time, whether his blood sugar is going low because it’s so late without food and what effect the time he is eating will have on his blood sugars for the rest of the night – none off this is helped by The Baby vocally telling me he is hungry. 

While the food was cooking, I was freaking out and took myself off to the conservatory, with my rose lemonade, to have a moments peace listening to the rain. It was at this point that my sister came to join me and suggested that I write the post furious sober yoga mummy. Or so I thought.

You see furious sober yoga mummy implies that like all people, I can be furious as well as happy as well as frustrated as well sad and a whole other host of emotions. Whereas furiously sober yoga mummy implies that I am experiencing those emotions because I am trying to stay sober.

NOT AT ALL!!

Don’t get me wrong, before I stopped drinking. Furiously sober was what I was almost every evening that I couldn’t drink, or every time I tried to quit for a while. Each pregnancy was 9 months of being furiously sober! But that isn’t me anymore. I am so happy that I do not have the cravings that made me furious anymore. All the work I put into myself and changing my habits has led to a craving free sobriety. For more on this see How to stop alcohol cravings and How to beat the alcohol illusion.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking that I really am a moan pot! Maybe I should have taken it all with a sense of humour, maybe I should have been able to shake it off and not let it affect the whole evening. Maybe I will do that in the future, maybe not. I am just me, experiencing emotions and trying to muddle my way through life and family. Hoping that one day everything I am learning and putting into practice will make situations that cause anxiety easier to manage.

The great thing about sobriety is knowing that these crappy emotions don’t last. If drinking, I would have drunk too much, and all it would have accomplished was adding another layer of guilt and anger with myself on top of the other emotions. I may even have verbally kicked my lovely sister (sorry darling!) Helpful? I think not!

Sobriety is not going to cure you of emotions or difficult times.

This summer we have had bereavement, grief, job stress, marital rows about parenting and a toddler who our neighbours kindly call – ‘full of character’! Added to it the usual joys of all being together for far too long.

One thing I have realised is that things get far harder to manage when I go into my head and start over thinking. When I think too much, I feel a huge weight of responsibility for the happiness of everyone around me. My own struggles with mental health make me very fearful of anyone I love having to experience that same thing.

For example, I take 1-2 hours a week to write this blog. Doesn’t seem much but in reality, it’s huge! If The Baby wakes up early, like now, I take the chance to write it while he watches a bit of Netflix – not great parenting but I’m OK with this one while everyone else is asleep. But God forbid I have to do it at another time. If I write it in the evening I feel guilty about not giving My Love enough attention – maybe I’ll ruin our marriage?! If I do it while the boys are playing, I feel guilty that I’m not giving them enough attention – maybe this will affect their self-esteem?! If I write with The Baby without Netflix – no chance! I feel guilty if My Love cleans or cooks or tidies up when I am writing it because I should be helping – maybe he’ll start resenting me?! I feel guilty and annoyed when the boys and My Love start arguing – maybe they’ll fall out so badly that the boys will want to live with their father and be emotionally scarred for life?!

As you can tell, retreating into my head is a bad idea! So I am carrying on with my journey, trying to put everything I have learnt and written about into everyday practice, not just for sobriety now but for happiness. And it is working! Although I still have emotions and days like Norfolk that completely overwhelm me, I am predominantly happy.

What I can say is that nothing, absolutely nothing I have been through would have been made better with alcohol.

If you are looking to quit or start your journey to a happier life, have a read of my posts How to quit drinking or any of my posts highlighted above, also found here.

If you prefer to read books, a few that may help you are

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Imposter syndrome

What is imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a pattern of thinking where people doubt their own success and ability, despite evidence to the contrary. They feel that any success is down to luck. People with imposter syndrome will feel that they don’t deserve their success and will downplay it for fear of being found to actually be the fraud they believe themselves to be (1, 2)

History of Imposter syndrome and how it works

Rather than being a condition, imposter syndrome was a phrase used by Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978 paper (2).

Imposter syndrome can be broken down into 6 parts (3)

Imposter cycle

This is a four-part cycle that is repeated constantly. The imposter is given a task which will be measured, anxiety and doubt over the result leads to over-preparation (more work than needed to make sure they don’t fail) or procrastination (avoiding the task until the last minute). These actions distract from the anxiety. Once the task has been measured the result is discounted as the result of over-preparation or luck after procrastination (4)

The need to be special or the best

Those with imposter syndrome feel the need to be the best and when confronted with people of equal or more ability, conclude that they are, in fact, inadequate.

Superwoman/Superman aspects

Like the need to be the best, the person with imposter syndrome will set their expectations impossibly high and expect everything in all aspects of their lives and work to run flawlessly. When expectations are not met they become overwhelmed and blames themselves again for being a failure.

Fear of failure

But unfortunately, failing is one of the imposters biggest fears – leading to over-preparation or procrastination.

Denial of competence and discounting praise

The person with impostor syndrome will dismiss positive feedback and actively try to discredit any praise

Fear and guilt about success

Imposter syndrome leads the person to feel guilt about their success, feel different from those around them, and feel anxious about any subsequent tasks.

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The effects of imposter syndrome

As anyone who has suffered from anxiety can attest, anxiety can be completely debilitating. The imposter cycle and the need to constantly meet high expectations, while not enjoying the fruits of your results, leads to stress, anxiety, shame, low self-worth and depression (2)

Who it affects

Although initially thought to affect women the most, research has been undertaken which states that men and women are both affected equally (2). It affects people who have some measure of success in their lives (5). It affects people with low self-esteem, who have had a critical or unstable upbringing and those who feel out of place.

It has affected many famous people as their quotes show us.

Albert Einstein:

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

Agatha Christie:

“I don’t know whether every author feels it, but I think quite a lot do — that I am pretending to be something I am not, because, even nowadays, I do not quite feel as though I am an author.”

Maya Angelou:

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ” 

How this relates to alcohol

I’ll tell you why I am writing about this in a minute, but I read a very interesting article, which can be found here, that discussed why imposter syndrome is prevalent in adult children of alcoholics. The insecurity, low self-esteem, critical upbringing and self-doubt all take root within whatever that adult is trying to achieve (6). Often these adult children have their own alcohol problems.

And it is easy to see why. The characteristics of people suffering from imposter syndrome are very similar to the characteristics of people suffering from an alcohol problem. Especially if looking at functioning or high functioning alcohol problems. These people will be the achievers, putting pressure on themselves and then, when they can’t take the anxiety, pressure, feelings of failure, inability to meet their own expectations, they suppress those feeling with alcohol.

The same for parents; expecting to run the gauntlet of parenthood and work, unsupported while comparing themselves constantly to the social media perfect images of other people managing beautifully. See my post Why do people drink for more on this.

Recovery websites talk about how imposter syndrome can lead people to relapse because they feel that their sober selves are imposters.

Why am I writing about imposter syndrome?

I fought so hard for 12 years to get sober, and always feared that if I succeeded, I would be miserable, frustrated and craving every day.  When I quit smoking, at 30 years old, it just happened. I got my first really bad chest infection and something in my brain said ‘that’s enough of that’ and I stopped. But I always put that down to the fact that I only really smoked when I drank so I wasn’t ‘properly’ addicted. I worried that wanting to drink every day mean that I wouldn’t be able to live a craving free life. When I finally quit, on 29th April 2018, the same thing happened. Don’t get me wrong I had vile moments, but the further I went along my sober path, the less power these moments and craving had over me. Now I am basically completely craving free.

When I realised this was the case, and I had already started this blog – at 14 months sober – I began to panic. Maybe I hadn’t really had a problem at all! Maybe I didn’t have the right to talk to people who were suffering now, because I wasn’t suffering anymore! I felt like a fake and a fraud!!

I talked to My Love about it, downplaying my worries and saying I knew I was being ridiculous. I knew my past, the alcohol fuelled actions, the rollercoaster emotions, the tears, the anxiety, the shame, the fear, the loss of control.

Nevertheless, there was a niggling doubt constantly that I was going to be found to be an imposter and somehow all my past suffering hadn’t really happened. And then BAM! Not 3 months into my blog, a comment from a reader arrived saying I had never had a problem and I had to get over myself and spend time with my family rather than blogging about not having a problem.

I was expecting negative comments, no one is mad enough to go into the world of social media and blogging without expecting some nasty trolling, but this first comment hit me in the solar plexus of my deepest concern!

How imposter syndrome has affected my life

I have been affected by imposter syndrome my whole life. Not going for jobs I didn’t think I was good enough for despite high qualifications, having a degree and two masters and still not feeling clever enough, not pursing a PhD despite a 95% grade on my master’s dissertation, never writing in case no-one wanted to read it, never singing in case I wasn’t the best and struggling with friendships because I was sure they would see through me and realise I am nothing.

Yet I could not believe that I was going to be challenged for succeeding and overcoming the biggest obstacle I had ever faced!!! I had my own worries about my success and my own survivor’s guilt that I was now OK, but some many people aren’t. The reason many people speak out about their problems is to help other people to get to where they are, not to be pulled down and told they are a fraud!! 

I was terrified about starting this blog as it played into all my fears about people, being found out, exposing myself and not being good enough. I worried that if I got horrible comments they would feed my negative self-beliefs so much that they would send me back into the clutches of alcohol. But I did it anyway because I knew that if it helped just one person to learn to love themselves enough to stop drinking and to look for happiness, then it was enough.

I realise that many of my posts have a rosy glow but that is because I am so damn grateful for the life I now have. When I used to read articles about how life could be better, they fired my motivation to quit drinking. My next post, as requested by my beloved sister is called Furious Sober Yoga Mummy and acknowledges all the shitty stuff that comes with the good stuff!!

How I am dealing with imposter syndrome

I do not know how to deal with imposter syndrome yet, but like everything in my blog, it’s a healing journey that I am on. I have always managed my imposter syndrome by powering through it. I am trying now to overcome it with the help of everything I have learned on my journey to sobriety.

I have to say that once I got over the shock and worry of my negative comment it inspired me to keep going. I thought about everything I had been through, all the crap and all the achievements on my journey to sobriety and I am bloody proud of myself. It has been a hell of a journey, but I managed it and this is one thing I am not going to let my imposter self take away from me.

I think overcoming imposter syndrome has a lot to do with awareness of your inner voice. If you can take control of that voice and those thoughts, the imposter syndrome will eventually have less power over you. See my post Change your thoughts to change you life for more on this.

It’s also helps to reach out. When I got the negative comment I reached out to my Instagram followers and their love and support was amazing. Helped me to see that my story was valid and helpful.

This is a fantastic blog post that I read about overcoming imposter syndrome so have a read if you want more.

21 ways to overcome imposter syndrome

I have always loved the following two quotes which have scared and inspired me in equal measure in the mad, unstable world that we live in. I will share them with you before I go.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” Yeats

Let’s start loving ourselves enough to give the world more of the best and wise people it deserves.

Sign up for my free course below to learn how to love yourself.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/real-women/201809/the-reality-imposter-syndrome
  3. https://www.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/IJBS/article/view/521/pdf.
  4. https://road2resolutions.com/how-to-break-the-impostor-syndrome-cycle-of-social-anxiety-over-preparation-and-procrastination/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/19/fraud-impostor-syndrome-confidence-self-esteem
  6. https://www.promises.com/blog/does-the-imposter-syndrome-plague-adult-children-of-alcoholics/

Greenman Festival – Sober!

A week before the festival I was all up for selling my tickets online and saying sod it, I’m not going.

Since becoming sober, my anxiety has been so much better. I don’t feel the twisting of my insides and the accompanying black cloud that tells me – this is who you are, and you’ll never escape from anxiety and blackness. I was on such an emotional roller coaster when I drank that every little thing was a cause for anxiety and then an excuse to drink.

When I stopped drinking, I also stopped putting myself in situations I didn’t want to be in. I thoroughly used ‘could’ instead of ‘should’ and questioned everything I was doing. Socially, if it made me uncomfortable and I didn’t want to do it, then usually I didn’t. I was fiercely protective of my newfound sobriety and I was not going to let anything shake that.

So why did I feel my anxiety rearing its head before the festival? It was something I really, really wanted to do, but also something I had never done before, so I only had hearsay on what to expect. One of the things you hear most about are the portaloos – was I really going to spend a week taking the – newly potty trained – Baby to disgusting, stinky, blocked loos? Then the weather forecast, rain all week! I am not good with cold and wet unless I know I have a nice warm shower to get to. I am especially not good at being responsible for 3 cold and wet small people. Where would I dry the clothes? What were the showers like? Where would I dry the towels? How could I pack enough clothes for rain every day? What if their raincoats and wellies didn’t dry for the next day?

I had packed up and gone home a week into a two-week caravan holiday in Wales two years before, due to my anxiety, and felt completely crap about it. Did I want to do that to myself again?

My head went into overdrive and panic mode. I didn’t want my panic to tip me over the edge into drinking again, especially as I had heard festivals were basically giant piss ups with music.

My Love said we could sell the tickets if I wanted to, but on the flip side I did not want alcohol to define me. Could I really say to myself that I was never going to go to a festival just ‘in case’ I wanted to drink? Surely, at 15 months sober, without cravings I would be OK?

So, we packed up the car on the Monday morning and headed to beautiful, rainy Wales.

If you haven’t been to Wales, I recommend it, it is quite literally beautiful. At times you are clearly in the UK, at other times you could be in the Mediterranean. The emerald hills roll down to crystal clear rivers or turquoise sea waters. I have to be grateful for the rain, as without it, the verdant nature of Wales would not be as it is.

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We were camped in a huge site in the middle of the Brecon Beacons. On arrival, thinking we were early, we were surprised by the number of cars. We came on settler’s passes, meaning we camped Monday to Monday, rather than just for the festival. But it seemed like every parking space and every pitch site was already full! Little did we know then that 25,000 people would be attending this festival – I had thought about 5,000!!

We picked the first reasonable looking pitch I came to, albeit on a massive incline! As luck would have it, we had a clear view of both the mountains and the main stage. In the evenings, when it was dark, I loved looking up at the odd houses dotted across the mountainside, with their lights brightly glowing against the dark and the car lights making their way up the mountain. It felt insanely cosy. I am sure that those houses don’t have open fires, AGA cookers, the smell of baking bread and simmering stews but it was lovely to imagine.

View of the main stage from our tent

It rained on and off during the first day but was mostly warm. I kicked everyone out while I got organised inside – needing control somewhere! By the evening we realised that the boys tent had a leak and wasn’t habitable. I moved them into the big tent for the night – no sleep for My Love and I sharing an airbed with an overactive, head kicking toddler – but hey, at least the boys were dry! Next day we made it to Abergavenny where they had an Argos. We bought a cheapy new tent and a cheapy pushchair. I was amazed by the set up of regular festival goers with children. They have pull along trolleys decked out with bedding, lights and waterproof covers! I loved them! But The Baby would have to have a pushchair this time, and even that, pushed through inches of thick mud, was a God send for later nights!

I realised, after setting up, that I was doing OK. We were on the main path into the campsite, so we saw everyone coming in and out. Lots of people were walking around with cans of various alcoholic drinks, even first thing in the morning, but it wasn’t making me want to drink. Bizarrely, I did have a cigarette craving – I haven’t smoked in 7 years – but thankfully that passed pretty quickly!  The atmosphere on the settler’s camps was relaxed, friendly and family orientated. Down at the settler’s evening shenanigans, there was a tent with a bar and a stage, and a tent next to it with teas, coffees and cakes. Each was equally full at all hours of the day and night. I was impressed by programme, which had a whole page saying, we know more and more people are choosing not to drink alcohol so here is a page of alcohol-free drinks we are serving. This boded well for the actual festival!

When the festival started, on Thursday, it was a beautiful sunny day with no rain forecast, so we took that day to explore. I was feeling pretty proud of myself by this stage for not freaking out, not panicking and not wanting to drink. I had a little system going. Give children breakfast then find coffee stall. I find buying myself a coffee in the morning is a self-care treat that immediately relaxes me. We discovered early on that unless you want to queue for hours to have a cold shower that morning showers are a no go. We therefore set off early each day, came back in the late afternoon for quick and warm showers, ate supper, and headed out again for the evening. Obviously, I got the boys to wash their hands with soap in the morning as the portaloos really are revolting! Better than I imagined but OMG the smell!! Didn’t help that The Baby thought the flushing lever was the best toy at the whole festival – ugh! But even that, which would have had me freaking big time in my drinking days, was not so bad.

Funnily enough, with me not freaking out all the time, I realised that My Love is not the completely calm person I always thought he was. He was constantly worried about the logistics, the tent, the tarpaulins to keep stuff dry and spider free. I realised how much we both do but in totally different ways. I manage the activities, the clothes, the cleaning and the fun, he manages the car, the tents, the cooking and the maintenance.  Both essential! Although I would have liked to gel better while we were away, it was lovely that my freaking out had not taken over, and I had been able to give some of his concerns the attention they deserved.

Having had the few days extra build up, realising that I was actually having fun, when the rain – light and first, torrential later, and constant all day – came on Friday, I was ready and feeling strong. We were properly kitted up and warm.  We ate food in the rain, listened to music in the rain, did science experiments in the rain, danced in the rain and charged our phones in the rain! In front of the main stage were four small hills all leading on from one and other. The Bear and The Baby had the most fun rolling down those wet muddy hills – repeatedly! At one stage, The Bear accidentally pushed The Baby into a stream so water overflowed his wellies and socks. I scooped The Baby up, took him back to the tent and changed him into dry clothes before heading back out. I realised, my panic and anxiety is all my own doing. The children don’t care if they are wet and muddy, they are having a lovely time! As long as I catch it before they all get cold then everyone is happy. My worry is creating issues that aren’t really there. However at 6 hours, the rain was getting through all of our waterproof clothes and I called it a day. Everyone had a shower, changed into dry clothes, and we set the inside of the tent up with chairs, games and books – no need for music, that was coming loud and strong from the festival site!

The Baby wet, muddy and loving it!

I was seriously proud of myself. Had it rained like that for the whole time, I may have freaked out, but luckily, things never seem as long lasting or dramatic as you convince yourself they are.

Saturday was wonderful. Sunny, warm and teeming with people and activity. We set out ready to get a full day in. The little folk area was fantastic for small people. We did family yoga together first thing, then heard a lot of activity from across the way so went to investigate. It was a charity called the Flying Seagull Project who do amazing work bringing fun and laughter to children in pretty crappy situations.  Their energy and enthusiasm was unceasing. Parents had to join in with the children, firstly singing and dancing to the Greatest Showman and then joining in with playground games. 50 parents and children all playing Bull Dog, What’s the time Mr Wolf and the Big Dipper was amazing to see. I laughed so hard and so much, it felt wonderful. It made me aware of how little we properly laugh in day to day life. If playing playground games with my children made me laugh so much, why is it so much harder to do day to day? I don’t have the answer and I am still reflecting on this!

Laughing with the Flying Seagulls Project

Throughout the day, I laughed more and more. I laughed at the man in a kilt and bomber jacket making children and adults play musical chairs; I laughed at the guys in insane costumes playing a music quiz where you had to sing and dance the answers; I laughed with the couple singing songs for children about protecting animals; I laughed at the incredible science experiments they were putting on which made things I had found difficult to understand at school seem so easy! 

I was laughing and having so much fun without alcohol. It made me wonder if all those who were drinking during these activities, realised that the activities themselves were hilarious or if they believed, as I used to, that they needed to alcohol to enjoy it.

I was constantly drawn to the beauty of my surroundings but at one point, when the boys were playing in a bubble shop that had a constant stream of bubbles coming out of it, I was staggered by the magic that something as simple as bubbles could create. It was twilight, the air was full of bubbles that glowed pink and purple as they floated off, some popping to release little puffs of smoke and hundreds of children laughing and playing underneath. It filled me with wonder.

I can only imagine this is what is meant by mindfulness. I was so aware of everything that was happening: my feelings, my reactions and my surroundings.

The magic of bubbles at twilight

I did not manage to do or see everything I wanted to see or do. Often it was too expensive, there was simply too much to see or we were just too tired. On Saturday night, all completely exhausted at 11.30pm, we headed back to the tent to sleep. Once in bed DJ Four Tet started up on the main stage. The music was celestial and hypnotic, the beats pulsed through the floor of my tent, all I wanted to do was jump out of bed and run to the main stage to dance. The children were asleep so I couldn’t but I did have a little boogie in my tent, imagining that I’ll dance there with the boys one day! I had almost forgotten that music could overtake you in that way.    

Even though we didn’t do everything, we saw music, science, dancing, circus acts, fire shows and comedy. Pretty wonderful!

There were obviously downsides, I am not so unrealistic as to say it was all perfect. I found My Love and I bickering more than we ever usually do. The Baby was an absolute monkey – loving the freedom but screaming when he didn’t get complete freedom! The Bot was a totally ungracious nearly teenager and had a strop every time he couldn’t get what he wanted. The loos were grim and it was an absolute mud bath but the upsides far outweighed the downsides. I’ll give it to the Bear, he was fab!

I truly believe that I would not have enjoyed it as much as I did if I had been drinking. I might have laughed and danced but I would also have cried and panicked. I would have been in my head the whole time and I wouldn’t remember the wonder and magic of it all, or the feeling of experiencing it with the people I love. When I came home, I felt a weight descend on me again. Funny because I thought that I had made the home and the life I wanted. I will spend some time trying to work out what’s going on there. Maybe the festival is escapism, or maybe there are parts of the festival that I could bring home to lessen some of the weight. I’m not sure yet.

So if you are wondering if sober you can manage a festival or just a holiday, please don’t let drinking or not drinking ruin your enjoyment of what is really on offer. There were as many people not drinking at the festival as drinking so you will not be alone. Times are changing and it is easier too not drink now than it has ever been.

So just one last word before I sign off for today. If you have never been to a festival – GO! (and bring soap!)

FUN WITHOUT ALCOHOL

Although quitting drinking is never easy; I drank for 22 years and actively tried to quit for 12 of them, I think it is made much harder by the illusion, perpetuated by our society, that you cannot have fun without it.

Alcohol is so normalised within our society that all fun events seem to include it. What do we do for celebrations, nights out, dates, summer evenings, summer days, Christmases, birthdays and holidays? We drink! Even a child’s birthday party – bring on the gin and prosecco. 

This does not even begin to mention when we drink for things that are not fun – loss, pain and commiseration. Society tells us that alcohol is pretty much the answer to everything.

It certainly does have a lot to answer for.

SOCIAL ANXIETY

I convinced myself that it was the alcohol that made the situation fun and not the situation itself. There are definitely times when alcohol made the situation feel manageable, for example, parties that I didn’t want to be at with people that I didn’t want to talk to: but why on earth was I putting myself in these situations in the first place? 

I drank at university to deal with social anxiety and because it’s what everyone was doing for fun. But I was kidding myself that I was having fun. I didn’t have many friends, probably alienated them with my drinking, I was lonely, shy, anxious and by the end suffering from depression. I probably could have had more friends and a real social life and been happier, if I hadn’t drunk so much and then spent days hungover, ashamed, guilty and too anxious to go out again.

I knew that my drinking was a problem, so after uni, I ‘controlled’ my drinking for 12 years.

THE ILLUSION

Drinking for fun was an illusion. I’d lived in cultures that don’t drink and I have friends around the world that don’t drink. They absolutely have fun, celebrate and enjoy life without alcohol. So yes, I knew it was possible. But I worried that I’d made this impossible for myself. Whenever I managed to quit for a while, every evening was spent craving alcohol and feeling miserable. Three pregnancies equated to about 3 years of feeling miserable and deprived. Even though I desperately wanted to quit, I literally couldn’t cope with the idea that I would feel like that every day for the rest of my life. That would not be fun at all. That would mean I would never have fun again. Better keep drinking then!

Yet the longer it went on, the less fun I was having drinking. Examples of this were Birthdays and Christmases. Since childhood, I have loved family Birthdays and Christmases. The problem became that, as soon as the day got going so did the drinking. The nice fuzzy feeling lasted for approximately one glass, maybe two, of prosecco and then wore off. Then my anxiety kicked in and my worry about the day, the children, the noise and the mess. So I drank to try to recapture the nice fuzzy feeling, which is impossible, and then did not enjoy the rest of the day because it all became a hazy blur which I would end early because I felt tired, upset, anxious and ashamed. 

So there I was stuck – no fun drinking, no fun not drinking.

SELF-SABOTAGE

I first rediscovered fun without alcohol when I went dancing. I had recovered from a breakdown about 6 months before and had started to try to heal my life. Very bravely, raging social anxiety present, I went by myself to a dance class. I discovered the pure, unadulterated joy in dancing. I felt like a child again and I was on a cloud for the whole time. I didn’t drink while doing it because I felt so happy. Then I let my negative inner voice and my anxiety in and eventually started drinking again. The thing is that vigorous exercise, which dancing is, and alcohol do not really go together. So in typical style, I self-sabotaged and gave up the dancing rather than the drinking.

I am not going to go into habit-changing here, as this post would be far too long! But let me say that working consistently to change your habits is the key to getting rid of those cravings.

LIFE WITHOUT ALCOHOL

I quit drinking for good on 29th April 2018. I had completed a miserable Dry January in 2018 and started drinking again afterwards. Then I began habit changing. Since I quit I have been basically craving free and have never been happier, less anxious and had more fun.

These are the things that I now find so much fun without alcohol.

Exercise:

The word exercise can put so many people off but please, believe me, there is some kind of movement for everyone out there that they can enjoy. For me, it’s dancing, yoga, cycling, walking and short high-intensity circuits, all of which I can do at or from home. Exercise gives amazing and long-lasting feelings of wellness.

Nature:

They say nature heals and it is so true. Get out of your house and into nature as often as you can. I love the warm sun on my face, the sound of the ocean, the breeze in the trees, the glistening of frozen grass, the sound of rain and the crunch of snowfall. I walk across a big field to get my bus to work at 5.45 am. I never thought that would be a time I could enjoy but now I feel my heart lifting at its beauty and silence.

Taking me time:

Often people, especially mothers, do not feel they have a right to me time. Me time is so important for your health, mental and physical, and for your healing. Drinking coffee in a bookshop, surrounded by books, while reading a book is my idea of heaven! If I can’t get to a bookshop, a bath will do!

Evenings:

Booze free evenings have been a revelation. In winter they are warm and cosy, with tea, good food, family and probably a few too many sweet treats. In summer it’s eating alfresco, outdoor cinema and sunset walks. I missed so many evenings because of drinking.

Celebrations:

Whatever you loved as a child you will probably still love as an adult. So birthdays, Christmas, Easter – try them as booze-free events. I was so surprised and delighted to have these celebrations back the way I wanted them to be. Just make sure you are doing them with people you want to be with and with lots of good food! 

My message in all this is please do not keep drinking because you’re worried you’ll be constantly craving and miserable if you quit. Once you start changing your habits, the cravings will go and there is a world of fun and happiness waiting for you.

Change your thoughts to change your life

Deepak Chopra quotes

“Simply with a change of mind you can change your life.”

“Our future is created from choices we make every minute.”

Seriously, my thoughts have created my life?

Since my forays into the land of self-help began, at 24 years old, everything alluded to the fact that the power to change your life is within your thoughts. I cannot tell you how many times I have been completely inspired by this and how many times I have been so angry about it. My anger always came when I was in a low place and couldn’t seem to find a way out of my situation. I felt like this message was telling me that I had deliberately put myself in my bad situation and that everything that was going wrong was my fault.  

This is a very negative and destructive headspace to be in. What I need to make clear, so that you do not make the same mistakes I did, is that there is no blame or judgement. Our situation and our lives are a result of our thoughts, our actions and our behaviours but that does not mean that we are to blame.

Mostly our thoughts are unconscious. They are a product of what we were told as children and then they change according to how we are treated growing up and according to events in our lives. We are usually totally unaware of what our thoughts are telling us day in day out. How can we then be to blame for thoughts created as a child? How can we be to blame for something we are unaware of?

An example of this that always struck me is abusive relationships. A victim of domestic abuse is in no way to blame for being in an abusive relationship. However, their thoughts going into the relationship probably told them that they didn’t deserve any better and when they were in the relationship their thoughts may have said that they were unworthy and deserved the life they had. The more we head down the cycle of negative thoughts, the harder it is to see that it is our thoughts are perpetuating the situation and changing our thoughts may feel impossible. 

What I am trying to say with this is please do not just ignore any upcoming advice because the idea has evoked a powerful emotional reaction. I had these reactions so many times, but the fact is I came back to the idea again and again, because ultimately, it is true. Changing your thoughts is the only thing that will change your life.

Mindfulness

I am assuming that most people reading this will not have escaped from the mindfulness craze that has taken over in the last few years. Although I had a huge amount of self-help knowledge and experience, I didn’t really get mindfulness until I took a mindfulness course to help me manage my post-natal depression after The Baby.  

Mindfulness is actually really simple. It is just becoming aware of what is happening. Aware of what is around you, aware of how your body feels, aware of your emotions and aware of your thoughts.

Meditation

Becoming aware of what is going on can be incredibly difficult in this high-octane world that we live in. There is very little space for quiet time, pondering, thinking or just being.  How are we supposed to know what we think if we can’t even find the time to think about our thoughts?

Starting a meditation practice gives us the space to do these things. Meditation does not have to be anything special. You do not need gongs, bells and incense. All you need is some quiet and a little space.

Watch this very short video, by a Buddhist monk, which My Love recommended as it showed him how simple meditation is.

How to train your monkey mind

I think it is brilliantly simple! Initially, by concentrating on your breath, you are just teaching your brain to be calm, giving it some space. Once you have practiced and feel more confident in your meditation, you can choose to give some thoughts more attention. This is the point where you can start to become aware of your subconscious thoughts. Crucially though, becoming aware of your thoughts doesn’t mean engaging with them. If you feel that your thoughts starting to spiral, come back to concentrating on your breath until your mind settles again.

There are so many meditation videos of all types and lengths on You Tube so just have a play and see what suits you. If you want a starting point, I find the Honest Guys really good.

When you become more comfortable with meditation, it can also be done while moving. Yoga and Tai Chi are the most common examples of this, but there is no reason why the movement shouldn’t be simpler, like walking in nature or swimming. Anything that gives you quiet and space.

For yoga videos, I found the 30 day Yoga with Adriene practices an amazing starting point.

(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases) 

Thoughts

So, now that we are aware of our thoughts, what thoughts have arisen?

It is so common to find thoughts that say:

  • I am not good/clever/strong/brave enough
  • I am a failure or always failing
  • I can’t do this
  • I am not enough
  • I am alone, nobody cares about me
  • Nobody likes me
  • It’s impossible/hopeless  
  • It’s my fault

You will probably find that your negative thoughts far outweigh your positive ones. It is estimated that we have between 2-3,000 thoughts an hour. Now imagine someone telling you ‘you are no good’ 2-3,000 times an hour. Then imagine that they have been telling yourself this most of your life. You are going to believe that aren’t you? This amount of negative energy is inevitably going to have a profound effect on actions, behaviours and choices which will massively impact the path of your life.  

How to change your thoughts

Once we have become aware of these thoughts – what to do about them?

We literally have to change our thoughts. Contradict them, say ‘NO!’ to them, tell your thoughts they are wrong. Then actively tell yourself something good. Initially this may feel really weird, but as with everything, with practice it becomes more natural.

It might help to write down the thoughts that were most prominent when meditating, and then write a counter to these thoughts.

As I have talked about so often, we are changing a habit (see How to stop alcohol cravings). These thoughts are just a habit. Trying to change all your thoughts at once is quite unlikely, so just pick a few thoughts and concentrate on those ones until your counter argument feels more natural, then pick a new thought habit to change.

For example, if your thoughts say ‘I am not good enough’ you say no! And change your thought to ‘I am confident and capable, I am enough’ or ‘I am loving and caring, I am enough’ or simply, ‘I am amazing!’ You get the idea.

Some people find positive affirmations really good. A positive affirmation is just a positive statement about you and your life, such as ‘My life is full and happy’. Like a habit, saying these affirmations repeatedly, trains the brain to start thinking that affirmation. Thoughts, as we have seen, turn into actions and behaviours, these actions and behaviours change what you are doing to make these thoughts a reality. It’s a bit ‘fake it until you make it’, but it works!

Just a quick word of warning though. If your life is feeling pretty shit, and you are seriously down, saying ‘My life is full and happy’ is probably going to evoke feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, sadness and ultimately you will stop saying it  pretty quickly because it feels so far from the truth that it must be nonsense. So like all my advice, baby steps. Don’t say ‘My life is full and happy’ if it really really isn’t right now. Maybe pick one thing that you are grateful for. Once thing that made you smile, even slightly, or one person who loves you and say that ‘I am grateful for….’ Or ‘I have love in my life’ (I will write much more on gratitude soon). Slowly these small thoughts will improve your thoughts and mood and bring you to a place where you can move onto the bigger affirmations.

Learning to love and forgive yourself

Most important to your thought changing is kindness. You have to train yourself to be super doper kind to yourself.

No judgement, no blame.

One of the things I hear most often from people trying to change their lives, such as quitting drinking, (and believe me, I was no different), is ‘I have failed again’. Failure is a judgement, and you are also blaming yourself. Neither of these thoughts will help you. Things are as they are. If you have had a drink when you didn’t want to, then there is nothing that beating yourself up about it is going to do about that now; you can’t take it back or change it. The only thing beating yourself up might do is prevent you from starting again, and it is only by starting again and accumulating of baby steps that we finally reach our goal.

As I often say, it’s easier to say this than to practice it, especially if you have had a self-critical thought pattern for a long time. But as with everything, it takes awareness of your thoughts and consistent practice at changing them.

I have created a free course, sign up is below, which will send you a daily email with actions to take to change your thoughts and improve your sense of self-worth.

How changing your thoughts will change your relationship with alcohol  

By changing out thoughts, we become aware of what is going on in us. This awareness allows us to work out our triggers, the reasons that we drink and what we really want from life.

Changing your thoughts allows you to change our behaviours and introduce those new habits which can replace your alcohol habit (see How to stop alcohol cravings for more on this.)

It also allows us to start finding out who we really are. In not being critical we can start to actually like ourselves. Once you learn to love yourself, anything is possible. Most importantly, if you love yourself you will take time to nurture yourself and become the person you want to be.

Lessons I learnt from my thoughts

I learnt by doing this that my inner voice was hugely critical. I had no belief in myself, I was afraid of people and I needed to prove my life’s validity constantly. Every time I made a good or brave decision, my thoughts led me to sabotage it (see How I used alcohol to escape). I most definitely, looking back, created the life I have. Although I fought with this idea for so long – because I was full of anger, judgement and blame – it kept coming back until I realised I had to let go of dwelling on my past and trying to control my future, and simply be aware of my thoughts in the now. Being aware of the now will heal the past and change your future. Let go and trust. (See How to build a life you do not want to escape from for more on this).

Book recommendations for changing your thoughts

These books have been amazing for helping me to change my thoughts – so have a read if that sounds good.

For healing

For trusting

For changing

For happiness

(as an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

Awareness gives you the ability to consciously choose your thoughts and subsequently your actions and behaviours, and as a result your life.