Category Archives: Sober Solutions

The importance of self care

You know self-care is important, right? I mean, it’s on your to-do list and just as soon as you get everything done, you’ll take care of yourself. So why does self-care always seem to be at the bottom of the list?

Self care in Spain with my bestie's.

Self care in Spain with my bestie’s.

I’m a therapist, so I totally get it, I know I need to take care of myself in order to serve others. But as a woman, I can also put my needs way down the list and the next thing I know I am running on empty. The first sign that I need to take care of myself, is when I start snarling at my husband. My husband is lovely, he really is. Incredibly supportive of me, he still thinks I’m the most beautiful woman in the room and just an all round good guy. But when my tank is empty, I’m just mean to him and he doesn’t deserve it.

That’s a red flag. I’ve talked about red flags before. They are important, pay attention to them. The information contained in them could be vital. So after hitting a low point last year, the importance of self-care really came home to me and I’ve made it my top priority.

I’ve just come off the most tremendous week of self care and I feel amazing. Inspired, connected, loved.
After my weekend in NYC at She Recovers I flew to Barcelona, Spain to spend three days with three of my oldest and dearest friends. It was tough. Finding a window in our schedules, arranging childcare, booking flights. Agreeing on where to go. But one of us had just been through a very serious health issue and all of those barriers just melted away. None of them were insurmountable challenges when you focus on what matters.
Friendship. The power of connection, supporting people you love by just being there for them. All of it filled my cups.

I spend most of my days with very small children so just being around adult people feels so enriching to me. And I just really, really needed that last week. I needed the joy and emotion of She Recovers and I needed the love and connection from my bestie’s. I really, really needed some self-care.

This will enrich me for a while, then at some point, if I let it, I’ll find myself running on empty again. But this time I’m not going to let myself get to that point. Self-care transforms me. I am a much better wife and mother when I take care of myself. By getting enough sleep, eating right and scratching out just a little bit of time each week for me. And making that time a priority. Top of the list. Everything flows from that.

What ever stage you are at in your recovery, whether you are early days or 17 years like me. What are you doing to take care of yourself? How high on your to-do list is self-care?

Cadaques, Spain 2017 - the perfect place to relax and unplug.

Cadaques, Spain 2017 – the perfect place to relax and unplug.

Recovery red flags

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Once you got sober, do the steps, take part in some therapy, go to rehab you may have thought you were ‘done’ and could just go about your life now you were ‘fixed.’
I hate to be the one to tell you…but it’s not quiet like that. From time to time you are going to get what I like to call a ‘red flag.’ And whenever you see someone waving a red flag, it means ‘danger.’

When red flags present themselves in our recovery they are indicating that we need to pay attention to something or, do something or, usually talk to someone else about how we are feeling.

All through my recovery I’ve had red flags go up from time to time. Being the recovery guru that I am, my first reaction to a recovery red flag is to always ignore them. However, they are persistent buggers, so if you ignore the first one, don’t fret, they will continue waving at the corner of your eye with increasing persistence. I may then stop and acknowledge the red flag. ‘Right, something’s up in my recovery/wellbeing,’ I’ll think to myself. Once acknowledged their urgency will diminish somewhat. Relieved, I carry on as before, and wouldn’t you know it, they come back with increased urgency. As I may have acknowledged them, but what I didn’t do, was do anything, about the danger.
On we go like this and I have discovered they will continue to wave away until I do one of two things; I can either drink to take away the increasing discomfort or do something about their cause.

The discomfort usually presents itself in my behavior and attitude. As soon as you (yes, you) start pissing me off, and I start planning how I’m going to take you down, I realize there is something wrong with me (and not you). My discomfort within myself increases, my husband can do nothing right, nothing is going to work out for me, the world continues to create new and ingenious ways to ruin my day.
I’ve been here several times in my recovery. As someone in my life always says (without fail) ‘if I’m ok with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.’
And that is the truth of it. When I am in a fit spiritual state, then what the world and its inhabitants do or say, does not affect my internal well-being. Instead I have appropriate reactions to the events that occur in my day.

Here’s what you need to know about recovery red flags:

• Don’t ignore them, your pain and discomfort is entirely in your own hands. Pay attention to their message.
• Go back to doing what has been working for you up until the red flag. What ever your method of recovery is, there would have been some basic tenets that were working for you. Do those.
• Ask for help. Once we get in that cloud of negativity and discontent we usually need a hand getting out of it.
• Be honest. The reason we ignore red flags, is we don’t want to make the changes, they are alerting us to. Usually, because we are trying to shape an outcome to what we want (or think we want).
• The reality of change is much easier than the thought of it. The outcome you were trying to create is much better if we just let go of the control and let events unfold, as they should. All our effort, instead, can go into managing our internal emotional life, as this is the only thing we do have control over.
• Once you have addressed the danger the red flags will disappear and harmony will be restored. File the lesson away, as trust me, you’ll need it again somewhere down the road.

You are so much better than you think you are…..

There’s something you need to know. I just can’t keep it hidden from you any longer. You are so much better than you think you are.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /

I know you are trying to push this away and are probably thinking that I wrote this for someone else, for other people, and that this doesn’t apply to you.
But you’d be wrong.
I wrote it especially for you.
How do I know? Because I can see it. Behind the insecurity, self-doubt and beating yourself up. Behind all that crap, is someone who is really capable if only they would get out of their own way.

That’s the biggest problem isn’t it? We get full of self-doubt and start worrying that we are not good enough. Then end up not doing anything, because we are scared of failing or messing up, instead of just plunging in and giving it a go.

We forgot that it’s perfectly ok to a make a mistake and mistakes just make us better.
We forgot that mess is ok, that in the mess, there is life, and it’s better to make a mess and be alive, then stand on the sidelines worrying about a mess that never was.

So I want you to try hard to hear me this time; you are so much better than you think you are.

You will look back at your younger self and be able to see it. Try it. Picture your self at 18 and you will be able to see that all of things you worried about then were of no consequence. You will be able to see that you were so much better than you realized at the time.
There is no difference between the past and the present. It is human to have our worries and our fears but do not let them over take you. Do not give them fuel, they are delusions, just like the ones you had at 18.

So take this moment, take this thing you are most scared of and act anyway. There are a million worse things than looking foolish, the worst possible thing, is living a life of missed opportunities and potential. The chances are you will make a mistake and mess up, but I also know for certain that you wouldn’t have got this far without some tools to deal with those messes. Apply them now.

Because by doing this, you will realize everything I say is true.

Repeat after me: I am so much better than I think am…

Guest post -How The Twelve Steps Taught Me Acceptance And Self-Love

Copyright: draganab

Copyright: draganab

By Rose Lockinger
Like many addicts, I was not a fan of myself, in fact I hated myself when I first got sober.g. I don’t know if there was ever a time when I liked myself, at best I spent years tolerating the person I had become. After years of addiction though it was not that I just did not like myself anymore I loathed myself. In treatment for the first time in a long time I had to face and feel my feelings.

I had a long laundry list of traits I felt needed improvement or frankly that I despised; I didn’t like my body, I had an especially vitriolic hatred for my thighs, my lackluster accomplishments, or list of expectations I had failed to meet, my lengthy list of failures, my red hair, or pale skin. Insecure and socially awkward I carried with me this feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin on a regular basis. I enviously watched other as they seemed to float through life always knowing what to do, and how to handle situations, while I watched overwhelmed at times by the simplest decisions. It was exhausting, and it left me full of anxiety and fear of my life and any changes that occurred. It was soul draining.

When I got into recovery it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. Now I could get my life back. I could live normally and be happy. In many ways, this was true, right from the beginning. It surprised me how quickly I was able to start piecing things back together. Like a piece of broken pottery I was glueing my life back together. Unfortunately, my self-esteem and confidence seemed shattered beyond repair.

My Lack Of Self-Acceptance Was Driving Me And Everyone Else Crazy
While I felt good about my sobriety and life was getting better, my issues with myself seemed to be getting worse. Now that I was able to feel again, everything got under my skin. At times it felt like I would never reach a point of contentment much less peace. It was hard for me to accept that even though on the outside my life was great and it had vastly improved since I got sober. On the inside I was finally having to accept the fact that maybe I actually did deserve a good life and that maybe just maybe I myself was a good person. The problem was that if I was a good person then I had to accept that I was worth something. I could no longer escape into the role I knew well of failure.

Because I viewed myself in such a negative light, my attitude toward others began to suffer. I was short-tempered and as critical of others as I was of myself.

How The Twelve Step Program Changed The Way I Felt About Who I Was
What I needed at this moment was an intervention. My sponsor did this. She reminded me of how hard I had been working reminded me that right now I was going through “growing pains” and that as long as I kept focusing on my recovery, things would get better. And they have. Over time, I began to experience increasing self-acceptance, and I began to really love me. Those early months were just me trying to deal with myself clean and sober. I no longer had drugs or alcohol to mask my feelings, or to distract me. I had suddenly been hit with reality, and I was feeling the consequences of years of using and treating myself badly.

As I progressed in my recovery, things eased up. Here are some of the actions I took that helped me finally feel that love and acceptance and get some peace in my life.
Meetings And Support
I attended a lot of meetings, especially early on. Meetings where my escape. In a meeting I had peace of mind. The million thoughts that swirled around in my head were quiet for that hour. Most people that attended were sincere in their pursuit of recovery and sobriety, not to say there were not the naysayers or the court ordered there were those, too. It wasn’t just the fact that I could share frankly and honestly about the way I was feeling or what was going on in my life. It was that while listening to others I got a vacation from myself, and what was going on in my life. I also to hear what other people did with their feelings or how they handled facing life. Probably the best part was realizing that I was not alone! Meetings are a great way to get support, and give it, too. Meetings help you avoid isolation and loneliness, and offer encouragement and reality checks when you are getting off track.
Working With A Sponsor
My sponsor had a lot of suggestions for helping me increase my self-love and acceptance. She talked to me about “esteemable acts” and good self-care. I had always assumed that the way I felt about myself was largely dependent on how others felt about me. This wasn’t the case, however. I learned that how I treated myself had a way bigger impact than I realized. Who knew? I never really understood how powerful my own actions were when it came to the way I felt about myself.

She gave me some suggestions on self-care that really helped. Like affirmations yeah I was thinking are you kidding me you want me to tell myself cheesy one liners and that is supposed to make me feel better about myself-Seriously! But you know it really helped and soon I started to realize it was actually working. Make a list and say them everyday out loud while looking in the mirror. When I took time each day to treat myself with kindness, compassion and care, my self-esteem grew. I did these things daily, regardless of how I was feeling about myself.
Working The Steps
Stepwork is a big piece of the puzzle. Working each of the steps brought me closer to acceptance. Learning how to let go, doing an inventory, looking at my defects and making my amends were all instrumental.

What It’s Like Today
I haven’t exactly achieved perfect self-love or acceptance, but I’ve come a long way. One of the many benefits of my increased self-love can be seen in the way I treat others. I accept others for who they are, because I can accept and love myself. I don’t stand in judgement of myself. I have a patience and understanding that I never thought would be possible. Let’s be clear though that is not always the case. I have my days but now I have the ability to accept responsibility for my actions and start over when I make a mistake. Making an amends if it’s needed.

Today I take care of myself and this reflects in my actions and the words I speak to others and myself. With this I have developed a trust again in myself. I know that I have the ability to make the right choice or decision. This makes me more confident and decisive, which helps me in all areas of my life. .

What are esteemable acts? My sponsor taught me that when I do the next right thing, even when it’s uncomfortable, it helps me increase my self-esteem. The other thing is that when I follow through with what I say I will do. I am accountable for my life. Sometimes it just comes down to doing little things. Like making my bed in the morning or paying a bill on time. Putting money in my savings account, keeping my appointments and keeping my word. When I handle my personal affairs, it makes me feel better about myself. When I do the little things, it builds up my confidence to do the big things, like confronting a person who isn’t treating me well, or telling someone the truth even when I know it means hurt feelings or that the other person may get upset with me. As long as it’s done correctly and considerately on my end. This helps me not fall into the trap of self berating which leads to low self esteem.

A lot of times, people underestimate their own ability to improve the way they feel about themselves. It’s common for addicts to rely on outside sources for our self-esteem and confidence, whether it be via substances, people or outside things like money or attention. But, it truly is all about how you feel inside, and you have the power to change that with the help of the 12 steps and recovery.

Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

How to say ‘No.’

Following on from my post on how hard it is to say ‘No,’ a lot of people have contacted me asking; ‘how exactly do I do that?’
Being able to speak your truth is life changing. So let me share with you exactly how.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

‘No’ is such a little word with powerful implications. Before I get into how to say ‘No.’ I need you to understand why we are so afraid of actually using this small but powerful word.

The biggest reason: we are scared about what other people will think about us.

We are also scared of:
Not being liked
Disappointing someone
Of being wrong
Making a mistake
Of being rejected
Potential conflict
Feeling uncomfortable or others feeling uncomfortable
Hurting someone’s feelings
Causing upset

The biggest reason we are scared of saying ‘no,’ is we misguidedly believe that we are responsible for how other people feel.

So instead of saying ‘no’ when we need to, we become liars.

You probably consider yourself to be a ‘good’ person, an honest person even, so it may come as a shock to you, that when you say yes and don’t actually mean it, you are actually a liar.

Image courtesy of africa at

Image courtesy of africa at

Oh yes, you’re also a thief.

A liar and a thief.

That’s probably a shock to you right? You’ve probably never ‘stolen’ anything in your life and are siting here reading this blog feeling very outraged at the mere suggestion.
Well here’s the thing; if you lie and say yes, when you mean no, you could very well be stealing someone’s learning and growth opportunity from them.

Here’s why:

Let’s say I need to move house this weekend and I’m a pretty disorganized person. My life is always a bit crazy and I’m pretty good in coercing people into doing what I want them to do.
It’s always worked for me, so why change?
I come to you with a look of tragedy on my face, and my sob story of how I desperately need help moving this weekend.
You look at me and see my furrowed brow, hear my plaintiff cries that signal my distress and inside you’re panicking.
Because the last thing you ever want to do is hurt someone’s feelings.
But you have plans this weekend and you absolutely cannot help me.
A feeling of dread washes over you.

The conversation goes like this:
“*Insert your name here* I really, really need your help. Everyone’s let me down; I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to move but I have no one to help me. Please, please can you spare some time to just give me a hand?”

And you reply: “Sure, absolutely. Of course I can help, don’t worry.”
And your internal voice is going: “Noooooooo! Crap, why did you ever agree to that?”

All week, every time you think of the weekend, you get that sinking feeling in your stomach. You run all these scenarios in your head, maybe if I get there really early, maybe I can help for a bit then sneak off, maybe I can pretend car broke down…
The more you think about it the worse you feel. Then you start getting p***ed off. How come you always get landed with this stuff?
How come you are always the person helping others out?
Then Friday night comes around and the absolute last thing you want to do is help this person move at the weekend. You are resentful, mad and full of self-pity.

So you text them: ‘I’m so sorry. I’m sick, been in bed all day. No way I can help tomorrow. So sorry to let you down.”

And relief floods your body, because you have found a way of getting out of doing something you really never wanted to do in the first place.
However there is a sting, because you’ve lied.
You are a liar.
But you justify it, rationalize it, it’s only a white lie, it’s not a big one. Besides you had to lie, you were forced to. Then you feel a little better.

Sound familiar?

Ever done anything like that?

I used to do that stuff all the time. I was always agreeing to do stuff with people but inside I was freaking out.
My insides and my outsides did not match.

And here’s the thing. The person who needed to move, are they in a quandary? Sure they are.
They have been let down at the last minute. They have a mess to figure out.
But what if you and everyone else they had asked that week had been honest. What if you had said ‘No, I’m sorry, I have plans that I can’t change.’
Would that person have walked away upset?
Sure they would.
But then maybe, just maybe they would have started thinking; ‘this always happens to me, I always leave everything to the last minute. I’m always having to run around and sell my sob story to try and get people to do what I need them to. I’m sick of this, I need to get my act together. I need to organize and plan my life better.’

Bingo. Right there a learning and growth opportunity has arisen.

Maybe they needed this uncomfortable situation in order to learn from it. It is actually pain and un-comfortability that motivates us to change. If you try and save me from those feelings, then you also steal from me the things that motivate me to change.
Our greatest learning and growth opportunities often come from the messes we make in our lives.

Saying ‘no’ takes practice. It feels scary and hard to start with.

If you had said ‘no’ right of the bat to your friend, would they have walked away upset? Yes probably.
Now pay very close attention, because the next bit is important. Did you cause that upset?
No you didn’t.
If you politely and kindly said ‘no.’ How the other person feels about that is neither your business nor responsibility.
You are not responsible for how other people feel.
You are only responsible for how you feel.

Now, if you had said to your friend, ‘get lost you creep, I wouldn’t help you if you were the last person on earth.’
Would you have had a part in upsetting them?
Absolutely. You were mean and rude, that tends to upset people.

But do you see the difference?

People may be disappointed, hurt, angry or upset if you say no to what they ask. But as long as you say it politely, there isn’t anything you can do about that.
Manipulative people in particular, will communicate their disappointed feelings to you, because these are the tools they use to get people to do what they want.

Think about that.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

It’s because of our fear of how other people are going to feel, and our faulty belief that we are responsible for these feelings, that gets us into situations we don’t want to be in.
There are only so many things we can agree to do; there are only so many hours in the day.
We need to say no sometimes to bring balance into our lives.
But more importantly other people need to experience what it’s like to have a ‘no’ sometimes. Don’t steal that learning opportunity from them.

There is a wonderful phrase (I think its’ from Al-anon) that sums this all up beautifully:

‘Say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t say it mean.’

Trust me, applying that simple rule to your life will transform it.
Because when you say yes. You will mean it.

People know I’m going to show up and do stuff, they know my ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ means ‘no’.

It can feel uncomfortable practicing this at first. Naturally, we don’t want other people to be upset or disappointed, as compassionate human beings we would like to avoid that if we can. So we may feel a brief ‘after-burn’ when we see that someone else is disappointed.
But we must be clear; we aren’t responsible for other people’s feelings. It is not our job to rescue others from uncomfortable emotions just because we can’t bear to witness it. We can’t please everyone, it’s impossible.

We cause more upset when we say yes and don’t mean it, then later on have to wiggle our way out of what we agreed to do. This causes frustration and consternation. We are unreliable, people can’t trust us, they don’t know when we are going to let them down. Then our behavior causes upset.

I promise you this gets easier and easier.
There are lots of things I can say yes to. I don’t over-schedule myself anymore. I will totally help you move if I’m able to. And if I can’t, I’ll let you know right away so you can plan accordingly.
The most important thing now is how I now feel about myself. I have no control over others; I can’t move mountains just because I think it will make you feel better. I am no longer chained by the good or bad opinion of others, how I feel about myself is the most important thing.

So I’d love to know how this goes for you, what are your experiences of saying yes when you didn’t want to? What was it like saying no?

Sober solutions – boundaries

How to have boundaries in your life

Image courtesy of anankkml at

Image courtesy of anankkml at

I had no idea what boundaries were until I got sober. I had no idea that I could protect my personal space and keep myself safe. I was so used to doing what I thought everyone else wanted that I would continuously put myself in risky and abusive situations. So setting boundaries was one more life lesson I had to learn. Boundaries are our responsibility; we can’t expect other people to protect them for us. Other people may invade or run over our boundaries and it is our job to put the boundary back in place. Saying ‘no’ is a boundary; it puts a limit on what we can do and what we can’t.

I also thought that there were certain people I couldn’t have boundaries with, such as family members. Actually, you can. I had a particularly difficult relationship with one family member. I was never able to say ‘no’ and always felt frustrated and resentful towards them. When I learnt to set boundaries I realised that I could only do what I felt capable of doing. If people were hurt or offended by that, then I just had to let them be hurt and offended as I wasn’t responsible for their feelings. As I began to assert my boundaries with family in the shape of ‘No, I can’t spend all weekend with you but I can meet for you lunch next Wednesday’, I found that they adjusted. I accepted that they wanted to see me (compromise) but it was going to be on my terms. When they pushed (and they will) I just politely and firmly repeated my boundary. I didn’t get angry. I expected them to challenge my boundary and was prepared. Over time this got easier and easier. We allow others to violate our boundaries in many different ways.

Here are some examples:

• Not being able to say ‘no’
• Violating personal values or beliefs in order to please others
• When giving to others causes you to suffer
• Letting other people make decisions for you and not speaking up when we don’t like them
• Not standing up for yourself because you’re scared you will offend someone
• Expecting others to know what your needs are and fulfill them automatically
• Expecting someone will take care of you and not helping yourself when you can
• Agreeing with others because it’s easier
• Never letting your real feelings show.

These are just some of the ways we give permission for other people to abuse us. Developing healthy boundaries takes time and practice. But if we begin to implement them into all areas of our lives, we will notice that how we feel changes. Having boundaries is a way for us to feel in control of our feelings rather than at the mercy of others.

Let’s go over what healthy boundaries look like. These are the boundaries we need to adopt and implement in our lives.

Saying ‘yes’ when you mean it
• Saying ‘no’ when you mean it
• Not over explaining answers
• Not giving unnecessary explanations
• Understanding that you are responsible for your own feelings
• Identifying the causes of your feelings
• Responding with appropriate feelings to appropriate events
• Resisting the urge to ‘rescue’ others
• Being able to ask for help
• Making time for self-care and self-love
• Prioritising what is important to you
• Being with people you choose to be with
• Gracefully removing toxic relationships from your life
• Saving yourself.

Developing boundaries is a process; it will take time. You will make mistakes. That’s OK. Be gentle with yourself and move forward at your own pace. These tools will help you to build a robust defense against drinking again.

This is an exclusive extract from my new book ‘Get Sober, Get Free.’ Currently available to download on Amazon.

Sober Solutions – Practice acceptance of others

We have explored how we change our inner world, but what can we do about our outer world – the one where we have to deal with other people and how they affect us? This is a challenge in itself, and very important for alcoholics, who can easily get caught up with other people’s dramas and be affected by their behaviour. In my experience there is really only one way to deal with other people, and it is by accepting them as they are, not as we would have them be. It is something I continue to practise every day, especially with the people closest to me.

Image courtesy of photostock at

Image courtesy of photostock at

Acceptance of others is really the only way to have peace. We can’t change people. We can’t get them to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it. They just won’t. They just do what they want to do, how they want to do it.

But it can drive a person crazy, constantly running around trying to get the world to behave as they wish it would. I don’t mean that we should sit by and passively accept behaviour that is clearly unacceptable. If someone is abusive, for example, we can’t just accept that. We can remove ourselves from that experience and we should use whatever lawful means are necessary to ensure that the behaviour isn’t continued.

The point I am making here is that we don’t have to tolerate what is unacceptable, although we can accept that a person or circumstance may not change. What we can’t afford to do is get twisted up in knots about it. Once we have accepted that the person may not change, we are free of the person and the behaviour. This is the goal of accepting others as they are. We become free from them. When we are trying to change them we are enslaved by them.

If I’m OK with me, I don’t have to make you wrong.

This is what it boils down to. If I can’t accept you just the way you are, it’s usually because there is something wrong with me. I’d prefer you to change rather than to change myself because, frankly, that’s easier. Most problems are caused because so many people are interfering with other people’s behaviour. They don’t like ‘how they’re doing it’.

Apply this in particular to your immediate family. You love them, right, but don’t they drive you crazy with their behaviour? Can’t they see that if they just saw things your way, or did things your way, everything would be so much easier? But it never works, does it? What usually happens when we try to sort out the world is that the world starts behaving even more badly than it did before, resulting in our feeling frustrated and resentful. Just imagine if you stopped focusing on other people’s faults, and only focused on your own self-improvement. And everyone else did the same…
Practise accepting them – see what happens – see how you feel.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Managing high risk situations

Early recovery can be challenging. Sobriety can take a while to get used to. Everything is new and weird and we often don’t know how to cope.
The purpose of this exercise is to identify high-risk situations and behaviours that lead to relapse. It will explore how our thinking or beliefs about certain situations or people can lead to picking up a drink when we don’t intend to. If we have this information before we put ourselves into situations that might harm us, we can think through how we can cope with them and take a different course of action.

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach at

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach at

Here are some common dilemmas for people in early recovery:
• You are asked to attend a celebration of a close drinking friend
• Your friends ask you to come to the pub
• A friend reminds you of the ‘good times’
• You wonder how you’ll ever have a relationship or sex sober
• You are scared of social situations
• Your work is very social and you are often asked into drinking situations
• You feel like you are missing out on fun
• You think life will be boring
• You are scared of how you will feel without drink
• You won’t know how to ‘reward’ yourself
• Christmas and birthdays

High-risk situations for relapse are often because of the following:

Negative emotions
We often drank because we felt ‘bad’ and wanted something to take away the feelings. We often drank because we felt angry, sad, frustrated, anxious, frightened, nervous, depressed, lonely, guilty or bored. If we feel bad for long enough it is human instinct to change this as quickly as possible, alcohol has always been the quickest way of doing this. We need to recognise these feelings and ask ourselves why we are having them and what we can do to change to them, this way we gain control over them rather than just reacting on impulse to them, the first part of this process is acknowledgement of our feelings and awareness that although we feel bad it will pass. We may indeed be sad or depressed because something unpleasant has happened to us, instead of just reacting to the feeling and drinking, the action to take is talk to someone. Feelings and emotions are just action signals, they are your minds way of saying ‘pay attention here’ something needs seeing to, think of it like the red warning light on a car, it indicates something needs your attention. All feelings need is acknowledgment and processing in a way that is helpful to you rather than harmful. The key here is:
• Recognise
• Acknowledge,
• Accept
• Take action!

Positive emotions
Sometimes when we feel good, or are excited about something we think we will feel even better by taking a drink. (A word of caution here, positive emotions are a very good thing indeed, we are not trying to avoid them, what we need to recognise is by taking a drink we will change a natural organic positive emotion into an artificially induced one, believe it or not the natural highs you will discover through being sober will beat any artificial high you can create through alcohol). This is a common belief that people hold, that they will never be able to have fun again, never be able to enjoy the football, or a birthday or Christmas or a party etc., etc, and the truth is you may have had fun at the beginning of you drinking career, but ask your self a question, when was the last time you really had fun drinking? Or were these events simply an excuse you were looking fro in order to drink. This is about perspective, if you step back and look at all the situations you drank in, wasn’t it the drinking that was more important than what you were supposedly celebrating, did you use Christmas as a time to drink constantly as you felt you had a good enough excuse? I promise you, if you address what’s underneath your drinking you will have more fun than you could possibly imagine, because it will be genuine not artificially created.

Testing control
After a period of not drinking, we sometime kid ourselves that we can now handle it and that we could try having one or two. We start believing it’s all about will power and will try and test this. Stopping drinking has nothing whatsoever to do with will power. Remember if your drinking has developed into alcoholism your mind and body is different to normal people, this means when alcohol enters your system you respond differently than normal people. Your mind remembers how much you drink and will not settle for less. That’s why will power is useless; your body will be working against you. If you have lost control of your drinking you will never get it back. To confirm this, think about how long and how much effort you have put in trying to control your drinking, have you ever succeeded? Was it worth the effort? Has any of it made you truly happy?

Coping with conflict
We’re sometimes tempted to ‘hide’ from a situation we find difficult to cope with, especially when there is conflict involved with other people. We feel lots of negative emotions we don’t want to deal with. Conflict is difficult to cope with because we don’t like displeasing people, we feel responsible for how they feel. The conflict we have is either expressing how we really feel or running the risk of upsetting someone (and then worrying about what they think about us) or not saying how we feel and getting angry and irritated with ourselves because we haven’t ‘spoken our truth’. The truth is you are not responsible for how any one else feels and what other people think about you is none of your business. There is a phrase that is a great ‘rule of thumb’ when dealing with these situations: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t say it mean”.

Social pressure

When we drink we surround ourselves with people who drink the way we do, this is because the people around us mirror back to us who we are. We can ‘hide’ from ourselves when we surround ourselves with people who won’t challenge us or confront our behaviour. It will be uncomfortable for them if we stop drinking as they may be forced to look at their own drinking, they may not want to do that so it is easier for them to coerce you into drinking again. There is also a group mentality where it’s easier to advocate responsibility for yourself by saying ‘everyone else is doing it that means its ok for me to’; this is just another way you lie to yourself. Pay attention to who are your real friends and who are just ‘drinking buddies’ or ‘fair weather friends’. Are you spending time with people you genuinely like and trust?

The Sober Revolution is coming….

There has been an exciting and noticeable shift in the UK’s attitude towards drinking. Much like the USA the Brit’s have a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol, abnormal drinking is celebrated and encouraged. Up until recently there has been nothing to challenge this perception. Treatment was for hard-core alcoholics, abstinence was seen as something extreme. Drinking was the norm.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

But it seems that something has finally shifted and a new kind of sobriety is emerging. Soberistas an on-line community is a place for people to get advice, support and information about being ‘alcohol free’. The community there refers to it as being ‘AF’, much like being ‘gluten free’ this is a group of people who have ditched a substance that doesn’t agree with them. Being ‘AF’ can be a lifestyle choice for many different reasons. Lucy Rocca the founder of Soberistas stopped binge drinking and looked around for a community of like minded individuals to join. When she didn’t find any she started the website. Soberistas doesn’t advocate any form of recovery or treatment, it stays away from the term ‘alcoholic’ and exists to inform and connect people who just don’t want to drink anymore.

Club Soda is a website looking to start a nationwide network of people who want to gather, socialize and not drink. The founder Laura Willoughby MBE started it when she stopped drinking and realized there was on-line support for just about every problem except alcohol.

Both Club Soda and Soberistas offers an alternative community to Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART recovery. More importantly they are offering an alternative image to binge drinking. I have often argued that it’s not prohibition that we need but some kind of balanced alternative to binge drinking. ‘Not-drinking’, sobriety or being ‘alcohol free’ needs to be something visible and aspirational and I believe that Soberistas and Club Soda are providing this kind of balance.
I’d love to see something like this start in America. If you know of anything like this please let me know.

FACE IT TOGETHER – a new treatment paradigm



Last week I met with a mother whose daughter is a drug addict. This was not something she had just discovered it was something that she had been dealing with for many years. Her daughter had been in rehab a couple of times, had tried meetings and was still using. The mother had been to Al-anon and sought counseling herself. The situation was pretty desperate and she didn’t know what to do. She sobbed as she told me her story.
There is nothing more heart breaking than watching the loved one’s of an addict or alcohol suffer. It is a desperate and heartbreaking position to be in.
We all know there isn’t enough treatment and support for addicts and alcoholics and there is even less for the friends and family members who suffer right along side the addict.

FACE IT TOGETHER is an organization that plans on changing that. A non-profit with plans to scale to communities across the mid-west. They are refusing to be complacent about the current state of addiction treatment. They are using cutting edge science to develop a new treatment paradigm. Based on the scientific proof that addiction is a disease they use research, data and technology to improve outcomes. They also offer much needed support to family members. Started by a group of social entrepreneurs originating out of Sioux Falls in South Dakota they are a much-needed beacon of hope in the dark world of addiction.

They have just launched a new site that is dedicated to offering help and support to family members and individuals impacted by addiction. They also offer phone support to people out of the state.
The purpose of this site is to convey a message of reassurance and hope. Dealing with addiction can be a very lonely and shameful experience. FACE IT TOGETHER understands that together, we are stronger. They intentionally use non-stigmatizing language that’s consistent with public health and medicine. By taking the shame and isolation away we can begin to address this health issue and offer hope to everyone afflicted and affected by this disease.
Please check out their resources and let me know what you think.