Category Archives: Sober Solutions

Mistakes are the juice of life.

When I first got sober I was under the delusion that in order to stay sober, I had to become perfect in all areas.
It got worse when I trained to be a therapist. Because I was a therapist I thought I needed to always be serene, wise and know the right thing to say.
I needed to exude a calm, reassuring confident manner with everyone, not just my clients.
But no matter how hard I tried, I would f**k up.

Image courtesy of Just2shutter at

Image courtesy of Just2shutter at

I would say something that inadvertedly hurt someone’s feelings, or I would forget to do something I said I would or…..well I was plainly very far from perfect. No matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to mess up.
Let me tell you, trying to be perfect is an uncomfortable and suffocating place to be.
As long as we take the opportunity to grow and learn from our mistakes, there is actually great freedom and liberation in making them.
Mistakes have a massive potential to stimulate spiritual and emotional growth.
The gifts that mistakes can bring into your life should not be underestimated.
I would even go as far as saying that mistakes is the point of life.
Does that sound crazy?
Well look at a young child, every single part of their learning and growth comes from making mistakes! Learning to walk for instance, they fall over, bump into things, even hurt themselves. They get it wrong a lot, before they get it right.
We never ever look at them and say ‘well maybe he’s just not a walker’.
We know that every time they fall over they learn something vital.

Making mistakes is just part of the learning process.
But something happens when we become adults, that permission we had as kids to mess up disappears and we develop a faulty belief system that we are not allowed to mess up.
That it’s wrong to mess up.
Mistakes are bad.
Of course, we do mess up all the time because it’s a vital part of the human experience.
Because we misunderstand the purpose of mistakes, we are then filled with guilt and shame and these feelings block the learnings and growth the mistake contains.
Mistakes are really just gifts in terrible packaging.
If we don’t see the ‘gift’ then we are doomed to repeat the same mistake over and over because we haven’t learnt what we needed to learn.
Sound familiar?
Once a child has mastered learning to walk there are then numerous other tasks they have to learn. And that never ever stops.
All that learning is enhanced by the information their mistakes give them. Kids just know this. Adults have forgotten.

How long we want to take, to learn the next thing that is needed for our growth as human beings, is really up to us.
Of course when we finally learn what we need to learn, we just move on to the next mistake learning and growth opportunity.
Which why I have come to the conclusion that mistakes are the juice of life.

I don’t know where we got the idea that making a mistake was wrong or bad. Or, why we get so ashamed or embarrassed when we make them, but part of the reason we keep making the same mistakes over and over, is because we think they are something to run from, rather than embrace.

Mistakes are often uncomfortable and can sometimes be frightening. Their primary purpose is often to get us to see something we don’t want to see, often about ourselves. Because that information scares us we tend to rationalize the mistake we’ve made as being someone else’s or something else’s fault, and therefor miss the learning and growth opportunity. Blame always feels easier in the short-term.
But if we can summon the courage to look a little deeper into our mistake there is often vital information for us and I have generally found that information to be freedom giving.

Mistakes are really the keys to freedom.
Think about about that.
What mistake have you just made, that you could look at as a pathway to freedom, rather than a tool to punish?
I know I just made plenty.

Sober solutions: Dealing with shame and guilt

Shame and guilt are common blocks to successful recovery.
We pick these up very young and carry them around with us for our entire lives without realising this was completely unnecessary, and that the shame and guilt didn’t belong to us in the first place.
They weigh us down.

We feel guilty when we have done something to make us feel ashamed; it’s usually when we do something that is against our own morals or values, or something that makes another person feel bad.

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at

Shame is the feeling we get when we do something that disappoints someone else. We have a strong feeling of shame when we believe we aren’t good enough; we become ashamed of who we are.

The difference between guilt and shame is this, we feel guilt when we behave badly; we feel shame because we believe we are bad.

Most of us carry shame and guilt without even knowing it. We can also pick up a lot of shame and guilt that doesn’t even belong to us, particularly from family members.
In order to be free from shame we need to deal with its root causes.

We can pick up a feeling of shame in childhood that stems from unhealthy limiting beliefs that we are not good enough. We will also feel ashamed if we have been abused in some way. Abused people pick up the shame that actually belongs to the abuser and they carry it around, sometimes for a lifetime.

Recognise this. Recognise that any shame you feel because of what was done to you is not yours.
You can put it down.

We also feel ashamed when we are doing something that doesn’t fit with our image of ourselves. Perhaps we were promiscuous, or lied about money, or stole. In order not to feel ashamed any more, we have to address the behaviour and change that.
This is not about being perfect but trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be.

I often find that when clients feel guilty, this feeling is often ‘given’ to them by a parent or older sibling. Parents have an amazing ability to make us feel guilty about what we’re doing. This isn’t usually intentional, but it is often used as a form of manipulation.
In turn, we also make other people feel guilty in order to get what we want. How many times have you known you were making your friend or partner feel guilty in order to get your own way?

Guilt is a form of control. We use it to get what we want. If you are a chronic people pleaser then you are going to be very susceptible to manipulation by others because you will feel guilty if you don’t please them.

Here’s the news. You are responsible for how you feel.

So recognise the transaction of guilt between people. Recognise when you use it and when others use it on you.
Stop using it on others. It is not an honest way of communicating.
It may bring you short-term results, but at the cost of your integrity.
Recognise when others use it on you and refuse to buy into it.

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Don’t pick up what is not yours. If you suspect someone will feel bad because of what they have done, don’t try to rescue them; if you do you will you rob them of a learning experience from which they may grow.
Imagine guilt as a heavy box on the floor that someone implicitly asks you to carry. How will you feel if you pick it up? Will you be able to manoeuver through the rest of your day carrying the box, or will it make life difficult and awkward? Would you be able to do all of things you would like to do? Of course not!
Leave the box where it is. It isn’t yours. Imagine how free you would be if you no longer had to carry it. Excuse yourself from the grown up game of pass the parcel.
Life will be a lot lighter if you do.

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

The Power of Intention with Dr.Wayne Dyer

You don’t need to watch TV tonight, instead you could educate your soul by watching The Power of Intention with Dr. Wayne Dyer.
There are many, many ‘guru’s’ out there, some of them are god some of them are just fraudulent. Well Wayne Dyer is the real deal. He overcome an abusive upbringing and alcoholism to turn his life into something wonderful. He is a teacher, the author of many books, most of which I have read and The Power of Intention is one of my favourites.
I say it all the time that recovery is not about just not taking a drink, it’s really about reclaiming our soul’s. It is about embarking on the journey back to who we really are.
If you are ready for that journey and want to make that commitment, then switch everything off and spend an hour feeding your soul. I promise you won’t regret it.

Sober Solutions: Show me your peer group and I’ll show you your life.

Peer groups are very interesting. They are, simply, the people we surround ourselves with: the people you spend the most time with, including your family, friends, colleagues, and in particular, the people with whom you drink.

Peer groups reflect back to us who we are.

Image courtesy of Vlado at

Image courtesy of Vlado at

My peer group, when I was drinking, was mostly people who were just the same as me. To be honest, I didn’t even like most of them.
I just pretended I did.

Some of my ‘friendships’ were based on fear of being alone, and they were just with people to do ‘stuff’ with (i.e. drink with), so I could convince myself I wasn’t a ‘lonely loser’.
Others were with people I used for my own purposes, and other people were ‘fair weather friends’ at best. All my relationships felt uncomfortable or ‘icky’. They never felt completely truthful or genuine. There were always hidden agendas in my friendships.

Abusing alcohol and drugs was the basis of most of my relationships. I drank and used drugs with people who drank and used in the same way I did. We colluded with each other.
I justified my behaviour through theirs. My peer group was mostly full of insincere, selfish, insecure, shallow, manipulative people – because that’s who I was.

However, I was also lucky that I did have some genuine friends who saw something in me that I couldn’t see.

Their friendship kept me alive.

By some miracle these people stayed in my life and are my dearest friends today. They saw past my crazy behaviour to the real me and loved me despite that behaviour. I was an inconsistent and unreliable friend, but somehow they persevered with me.

I remember from time to time meeting people who were genuine, interesting and authentic. I found these people very attractive and tried to form friendships with them. However, because I was insecure and frightened, not to mention chaotic and unreliable, I usually destroyed these friendships or pushed the people away because I was so ashamed or embarrassed about who I’d become. I never wanted anyone to get close.
That’s why my friendships were always changing. My sole criterion for friendship was, ‘Did they drink? And did they drink the way I did?’.
If so, then I could spend time with them. When I got sober I had very few friends left.
The longer I stayed sober the more I knew that I couldn’t risk hanging out with people who drank the way I used to.

Getting sober may mean changing your peer group. This isn’t something you necessarily have to do consciously.
When I stopped drinking, my social life stopped dead in its tracks. Nearly all my friends were fair weather drinking friends. I realised we had nothing in common and it was really too uncomfortable for us to see each other.
As I began to become emotionally well, my peer group changed very naturally and I began to attract people into my life with whom I had always wanted to be friends, but had always been too scared of in the past.

I attracted people who saw the world as I did, who had a curious mind, who had a thirst for life, who wanted to live their lives to the full.
People who lived their truth. People who weren’t perfect, but who were always striving to be the best version of themselves they were capable of being.

Now, my relationships feel genuine. I don’t feel uncomfortable and I don’t have to hide anymore. I can be honest and reveal my true self, imperfections and all, with no fear, because I know I am loved and accepted. My peer group lifts me up. They celebrate my successes and support me in my challenges, and they inspire me and guide me.

I am truly honoured and blessed to attract such incredible people into my life.

When someone within a peer group changes, it upsets the balance of the group. People generally don’t like change. If you are part of a peer group which drinks like you do it will disturb them greatly if you stop. This is because you have stopped reflecting back to them who they are and are now reflecting back something they may not want to see yet.
It’s not uncommon for a peer group to try to influence someone by telling them they can’t be an alcoholic and that they don’t drink enough for that to be true – just remember that it’s nothing to do with how much you drink. You may be frightened that they will laugh or ridicule you for getting help.

Remember who is sleeping in your head.
You are not them.

Your peer group will be uncomfortable when someone changes; they may not be ready to change yet – certainly they don’t have to, they are free to live their lives as pleases them – so a peer group may try and get you to change back to how you were because it’s easier for them. This is because by getting sober you’ve upset the apple cart.

We need other people around us, but choose wisely who is going to accompany you on your journey through life.
Remember your peer group reflects back to you who you are.
2013 How to Stop Cover 960x1280
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.

Sober Solutions: Family of origin

Putting down the drink is not enough and it’s not just about staying sober. We are here to thrive and fulfil our potential. That means we have to process and deal with the stuff that was weighing us down, the underlying issues that fuelled our drinking. This is not about ‘dwelling on the past’ but taking the learning gifts from paste events so we can then move on.

Image courtesy of africa at

Image courtesy of africa at

The following is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom.’ It’s part of a series of posts I’m doing called ‘Sober Solutions’ which looks at the issues alcoholics need to be address to achieve quality long-term sobriety.

Healing past relationships: parents

Whether we had a good or bad experience growing up, our parents have a profound and long lasting impact on our lives, often without our realising.
We will always be their child, no matter how old we are, and our task is to become independent of them: free of their baggage, which we inadvertently picked up.

Even if your parents were absent, you will still have to deal with your experience of not being parented adequately. Co-dependency can often occur in adult and child relationships, and can continue into the child’s adult life.

Without realising it, parents can convey strong messages: that the child needs to please the parents in order to receive their love, or that the child exists to provide the parent with the love they never received.
This can be when the seeds of co-dependency are planted.

We can grow into adults who are never free of the unhealthy chains that bind us to our parents’ approval. Often, our parents don’t realise what they are doing, and may never recognise their behaviour, so we have to be responsible for ‘unchaining’ ourselves.

The words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are two of the most powerful words we have in our vocabulary, and are usually the first words we learn.
They are powerful because of the meanings we attach to them.

The word ‘mother’ in our culture generally means: love, comfort, support, tenderness, safety, gentleness, caring etc.
The word ‘father’ in our culture generally means: discipline, order, authority, power, fun, guidance, leader, etc.
When you take these words away from the person, all you have left is a person who is trying to do the best they can, however inadequate that may actually be.

The words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ are powerful because of these meanings; we project onto them an image of perfection.
No one can live up to what the word suggests.
Like you, mums and dads are works in progress.
So, one of the keys to freedom is to let go of your parents, and what they did and didn’t do to you. They are just people after all. Have a relationship with them, but stop getting angry or frustrated with them. Stop blaming them. You only keep yourself chained if you don’t.

Now here’s the deal: your parents are human beings too and they were doing the best they could with the tools they had available.
Now the next bit is really important, so pay attention:
All their behaviour was about them, and not you.
This is very important. The way your parents behaved didn’t have anything to do with their loving you or not loving you. Their behaviour was just a manifestation of how they felt, just as your behavour is.
Have a think about that.

This stuff can be very complicated, not to mention painful, so I’ll try and make it as simple as possible. At some point, we do have to ‘let go’ of our parents. You may have had an absent or abusive parent – sexually, mentally, emotionally or physically –or an inadequate parent. You may have had a parent who wasn’t fully ‘present’ because they were so wrapped up in themselves.
You may have had a parent who couldn’t express love.
It’s important that you know that these were their failings, not yours!

Abuse of any kind, especially by a parent, is a terrible thing.
However, it wasn’t your fault, and it certainly wasn’t because you weren’t good enough.
However, this is the interpretation we come to, because when we are children we take everything personally.
In fact, as adults we still take everything personally.
We interpret the world personally. We interpret everyone else’s behaviour to mean something personal, especially that of our parents. Knowing this is enormously freeing. Our parents were caught up in their own ‘stuff’, which sometimes had an impact on you.
So now it’s time to see your parents as the flawed human beings they are. There’s nothing bad about that; maybe they worked on themselves, maybe they didn’t.

Whatever their failings were, don’t take responsibility for them. They’re not yours. Put them down and experience what it’s like to be free from that baggage.
We pick up lots of unwanted stuff from our parents: guilt, shame, feelings of not being good enough and so on. Now is the time to recognise this: ‘uncover, discover, discard’.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at

Love your parents if you can, understand they did the best they good even if it was inadequate and then take the steps you need to be free.
This is your life to live, not theirs.

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.

Sober Solutions: Internal Navigation Systems

Imagine a pilot who needs to fly to Russia but decides that he doesn’t want to check his navigation equipment because he knows which direction to go. So he just sets off in the direction he believes Russia to be.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

Imagine how shocked and embarrassed he would feel if he landed in America.

A pilot flying a plane without using his navigation system, is like a person trying to live a successful and happy life without using their feelings to guide them.
That’s what our feelings and emotions are for, they are our Internal Navigation System.
They are a vital tool that we need, in order to get where we need to go.
When alcoholics get sober, they usually have no comprehension of how to get where they want to go. The place alcoholics end up in at the end of their drinking, is most certainly not where they originally planned.
If you are an alcoholic who is sober, than you are probably learning to use your Internal Navigation System for the first time.

Alcoholics drink because they don’t want to access their feelings. Which means whilst we were drinking we missed out on a lot of emotional development.

When we should have been developing emotional intelligence we were just numbing our feelings with alcohol.
Our Internal Navigation Systems are in bad shape because we have abused them so much.
For successful sobriety we have to learn how to use them for the purpose they were intended.

Because nothing is more important than how we feel.


Our whole lives are dictated by how we feel.
You only have to look at an active alcoholic to see someone who is desperately trying to manage the emotional turmoil inside of them. Chasing after stuff or people with the misguided belief that they, or it, will ‘fix’ what they feel inside.

For me, my whole life was dictated by fear, or to be honest; blind terror. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t frightened. It ruled my life and dictated every action I took and only alcohol numbed the intensity of it.
I constantly changed my outsides to try and fix my insides. I moved houses, countries, jobs and relationships all in this fruitless quest.
As alcoholics, we somehow got the faulty impression, that we use what’s outside of us to mange what is inside of us.

Did you do that?
How did it work out for you?

Let me guess, you never felt how you thought you would?
What you thought would complete you, didn’t come close?
What you thought would save you, failed?
Am I right?

We didn’t realise that human beings are designed to have mastery over their emotional lives, not the other way around.
Instead of being slaves to these feelings, they are actually designed to serve us.

We have to find a different way to live and to manage our lives (our internal life) than what we have been doing so far.
Successful sobriety means learning how to use our Internal Navigation System.
This means going within, observing ourselves with curiosity, not judgement.
Examining our feelings and asking ourselves why we behave the way we do.
And most importantly feeling our feelings as they happen, understanding the messages they send us. Using them to guide us.
Becoming fully connected to ourselves.

This was probably the most terrifying thing I had ever done. The absolute last thing I ever wanted to do was understood why I felt (and reacted) the way I did. My feelings scared me because I didn’t understand them.
They threatened to swallow me whole.
But slowly I began to see that all I ever did when I felt bad or uncomfortable, was a knee jerk reaction to try and fix it as quickly as possible. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin; I could barely stand being me for a moment longer.

Not only did I drink, I chased after ridiculous things because I thought it would make me feel better.
I could give you semi-rational reasons for moving countries, changing jobs, breaking up with someone, moving house etc.
But really I was doing all of those things, because I sincerely believed I would feel better if I did. Everything single action I ever took, was in the hope of trying to change how I felt.
Nothing worked.

Not until I discovered, that what I had been looking for, had been inside of me all the time.
Here is the amazing thing, discovering who you really are, understanding and facing up to your feelings is far less frightening and awful than we believe it to be.
It’s just the thought of it that is worse than the reality.

Because once we have done it, we then have access to this wonderful guiding instrument, that can aid us in making the right choices. Our Internal Navigation Systems can guide us to become the people we have always wanted to be.
Becoming a fully functioning human being, means I am fully connected to who I really am, I can now use my feelings to guide me.
I can go within and listen to what they are telling me.
Which means I make better choices for myself and my life is going in the right direction.
It’s true that recovery like life, is a journey not a destination.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono

And for alcoholics, sobriety is the vehicle that can now take us anywhere we want to go.

Sober Solutions is part of a series of posts, based on extracts from my new book: ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’ if you would like to know more about your Internal Navigation System and how to use it, you can purchase my book here.