Sunday, 14 January 2018

Why alcohol-free living is filled with hope

At the start of October last year I was feeling exceptionally low.  I couldn't really pin point why but I felt myself sinking into a very negative space where I felt angry and unable to cope.  I was aware that I was binge-drinking as a crutch which was counter-productive as it simply made me feel worse about myself.  One morning, I found myself hiking up the Peak - my go to activity to make me feel happy - in floods of tears and I decided that enough was enough and it was time to seek professional help.

I found a counsellor who specialised in issues around 'self' and binge-drinking and spewed my worries out on an email to her.  She instantly responded saying that my issues were well within her scope of work and asked me to complete a client in-take form, which contained some fairly soul searching questions.  After I sent back the form, the counsellor suggested some times we could meet but unfortunately none of them worked with my teaching schedule.  As I felt that she had the right skill set to help me, I didn't really want to see anyone else so I temporarily parked the idea of going to counselling.

However, the process of completing the in-take form did clarify that my relationship with alcohol was far from healthy, so I made the decision to quit drinking for a while to see if that improved my mental state.  To avoid the difficult questions and the potential sober saboteurs, I told my friends I was on a health and fitness regime and was looking to lose 10kgs before Christmas.  This worked well and I didn't experience the usual barrage of abuse and constant haranguing of 'don't be so boring''can't you just have one', 'when are you going to start being fun again' etc.

I stopped drinking for seven and a half weeks and in that time I noticed many dramatic changes.  I lost 5kgs, I went down a dress size, my skin became much clearer, I looked younger, I slept really well and people kept telling me how great I looked.  The most notable change though was just how quickly my mental health changed for the better.  My anxiety, anger and negativity were replaced with feelings of extreme contentment and positivity.

Slipping back into my drinking ways over Christmas, it was very revealing to see how quickly all of these positives could be reversed.  As a result this has helped to strengthen my resolve to make alcohol free living a permanent fixture in my life from now on.

Out of the blue, the counsellor got back in touch with me this week to apologise for not having been able to work out a time to meet last year and to find out if we could set something up now.  I explained how after I had originally contacted her, I quit drinking, my mindset changed dramatically and I felt better about myself. I told her how I've realised that I am much more stable and content without booze in my life and how I am using online support groups, self-help books and my blog to keep me motivated to make this change for the better.  I also sent her a link to my goodbye to alcohol letter which has now received almost 10,000 views.  I said that I didn't feel the need to see her now but I would be in touch if things changed.

She sent me back an amazing response asking if I would be prepared to speak at an event in the future, as she has many clients who are hooked on alcohol and she is looking to run a programme for alcohol.  Me...speaking as an ex-drinker!  Who would've thought it!  She ended the email by saying:

I share all this with you as it sounds like you are a leader and you may come across people who find it harder than you to quit. I am inspired by your story!

It made me feel so proud of what I've achieved so far and so hopeful, rather than afraid, of my booze-free future.

Today, I dug out the client in-take form I completed back in October.  On the form I stated that the goals I wanted to achieve through counselling were as follows:

'I want to be content and accept myself no matter what.  I want to stop comparing myself to others.  I want to stop thinking others are saying/thinking negative things about me. I want to feel 100% secure.'

I know without a shadow of a doubt that without alcohol in my life, all of these goals are well within my grasp.  I am no longer afraid - I am brimming with hope.

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