Category Archives: Spirituality

Marianne Williamson on spirituality

Sometimes I have a post in mind and then I realize that someone has said everything so much better than I ever could. Marianne Williamson is one of the greatest teachers of applied spirituality that I know. She describes herself as a ‘spiritual activists’. Don’t you love that?
I’ve seen Marianne speak in person at one of her weekly seminars in New York City. She is the real deal. Which is why I’m super excited to see her again at She Recovers* in NYC in May.
I particularly like this interview as she discusses the ‘addictive global-mind.’ How we have been trained since birth to consume, to buy objects as the ultimate fulfillment to happiness and how so many of us find that lacking.

” -that we are addicted to certain things because we’ve been taught that something outside us is the source of our happiness. Consumerism in that sense is a form of idolatry. That cruise…that object…that whatever…will make you happy. And then, of course, if it doesn’t work out, then here’s a pharmaceutical to lift your spirits about it. When, in fact, the source of our happiness has very little to do with what we get and has everything to do with what we give. Simply knowing that, strikes at the core of our addiction to immoderate accumulation”.

She has many great insights into recovery including why relationships are so essential to recovery and spiritual growth. You can read the rest of the interview here.
SheRecovers in NYC Member Sober Blogger Team
*She Recovers has sold out, BUT there is a wait list if you still want to try and come.

Choosing to live your truth

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at

Image courtesy of sritangphoto at

The most profound thing that happened to me when I first got sober was the discovery that I hadn’t been ‘living my truth’. I realised that each of us has a ‘truth’ deep inside us. It is the essence of who we are. It determines the choices we make and how we express ourselves. To my horror I realised I had become a ‘fake’ person. I made choices based on other people’s approval, not my own. I expressed opinions I thought other people would want to hear, regardless of whether I believed them or not. I had lost my path. I saw how this was tied into my drinking, how alcohol numbed the understanding of what I was doing (because deep down I knew). So I saw for the first time that I had to begin to be true to myself if I wanted to overcome drinking.

Living your truth is hard.

Not living your truth is harder.
Make your choice.
Only one of these choices leads to completeness, peace and joy, to freedom, whilst the other leads to darkness and despair.
I realised I had a choice in how I lived. Up until then I had no idea that I had a choice or could control the direction of my life, but I saw that every time I chose to do or say something that was incongruent with who I was, then I was choosing not to live my truth.
I had lost myself.
Who I had become was not my truth.
That’s why I hurt so much.
That’s why I had to anaesthetise the hurt.
That’s why I drank.

The emperor who wore no clothes
I was the emperor with no clothes, pretending that I wasn’t naked, surrounded by people who colluded in my self-deception. Everything was superficial and false.
I didn’t know how to communicate with anyone; I had never learnt about my ‘inside world’ and how much this mattered, how much it impacted on my outside world.
Nobody had ever told me about how to deal with my feelings, how to be true to myself, how to act with integrity. It’s only after years of personal development and seeking answers that I have finally found what I have been looking for: that my external world is a reflection of my internal world; if I take care of that, then everything else will be OK.
This is the world’s best kept secret.
Just think how different our lives would be if we were all true to ourselves. If we didn’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or confused about how we felt. Imagine what it would be like if we were all so much more authentic.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is a parable that teaches children that pride comes before a fall. Pride is bound up with what we think other people think about us. It trips us up when we place an emphasis on being happy through influencing and manipulating other people’s opinion of us. If we get trapped in this illusion then we become victims of self-delusion, like the emperor.

Alcohol steals our authenticity
There’s something about alcohol abuse that steals our authenticity, that erodes our integrity and keeps us hypnotised by all the promises it fails to deliver. It promises us joy, companionship, connection, love, popularity, fun, excitement, but when we receive those much sought after gifts they are hollow, without worth, an empty promise, an illusion created by our own longing for it to be so.
Like the emperor’s new clothes, it’s a trick, a falsehood, a lie that we are all willingly buying into again and again, because it’s not the fine clothes or alcohol that we actually seek, it’s the feelings we think they will bring us.
It’s the feelings we are chasing. We want to change how we feel.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
2013 How to Stop thumbnail 130x160
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

20 Ways to Get a Natural High for Cheap

Thank you to Alyssa Craig for these great suggestions.

'Where's the bar?'  Image courtesy of moggara12 at

‘Where’s the bar?’
Image courtesy of moggara12 at

We can all use a little mood booster from time to time and going for a natural high is the best way to go. Fortunately, chasing after a natural high does not require a lot of cash. Here are 20 great ways you can get that natural high for next to nothing.

1) Aromatherapy: Some scents such as vanilla and lavender activate endorphins. These scents are easily accessible in sprays, candles, and even perfumes to keep around the house.

2) Exercise: Go for a great run, hike a mountain, or do some yoga. The more vigorous your exercise, the stronger the activation of those endorphins you will experience.

3) Eat Some Dark Chocolate: Yes, dark chocolate has been shown to produce a little natural high. Be careful not to overdo it, but a handful should do the trick.

4) Listen to Music You Enjoy: Whether country gets you going or you need a little alternative rock to feel better, listening to your favorite tunes can help your brain release mood boosting chemicals.

5) Eat Spicy Foods: The body responds to spicy foods in the same way it responds to pain – with endorphins! So add some more peppers to your meal or kick up the curry.

6) Acupuncture: This should be done by someone with experience and training, but acupuncture therapy can help provide a natural high and relaxation.

7) Humor: Find ways to laugh each day. Read a funny story, watch a television show you enjoy, or joke around with friends. As mentioned here, humor is a great way to experience that natural high.

8) Group Fitness: Exercise makes the list twice because while getting in a great workout will get you that natural high, studies have shown that exercising with a group of people will do an even better job of releasing endorphins.

9) Positive Thinking: Simply changing the way you think can do wonders for your situation. Allowing yourself to be weighed down by negativity will affect you as adversely as thinking positively will build you up naturally.

10) Eat Your Favorite Comfort Foods: Sometimes we just need grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe or your favorite steak and mashed potatoes to feel better. This really does help, so now and then be sure to indulge in your favorite foods.

11) Meditate: Taking time to meditate each day will help give you a natural high and sense of peace. How you do so depends on your preferences, but you may meditate through prayer, breathing exercises, or simply being still.

12) Get a Massage: This can either be a professional spa experience or you can ask you sweetie to rub your shoulders. Either way, that natural high will take place.

13) Perform: Instruments, dance, singing, and theater are all great ways to not only share your talents with others, but to also get an adrenaline rush.

14) Fall in Love: A whole slew of chemicals are activated in our brains when we fall in love, including adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins. So go ahead, take that risk. If nothing else, you will have that great high for a while.

15) Extreme Sports: Mountain climbing and cliff jumping are some great, free ways of getting that adrenaline rush. Others that may require more money or supervision include base jumping and skydiving.

16) Spend Time in Nature: Find time to go stargazing, go for a walk in nature, or even go through a drive in the countryside. Nature provides healing for the soul and you will definitely feel a little natural boost.

17) Dream: It’s possible, according to some researchers, that our brain release small amounts of a powerful psychedelic (DMT) when we sleep. This would explain some of the crazy experiences we have during our nighttime adventures.

18) Smile: Yup, it is really that simple. If you are needing a little boost, simply force yourself to smile for a nice release of endorphins and serotonin. You will soon see your mood improve dramatically.

19) Serve Others: There is a reason people who serve continue to do so. Not only do they enjoy seeing someone else’s life improve, it makes them feel good too.

20) Conquer a Fear: Whether you squish the spider on your own, apply for a job you want but have been intimidated to pursue, or tell that special someone how you feel, being brave and conquering a fear is sure to give you a great, natural rush.

So the next time your life is in need of a little lift, try some of these activities for a natural rush that will give you that desired high without a crash.

The gift of alcoholism

Yeah, it’s a pretty crappy gift right?

mage courtesy of Stuart Miles /

mage courtesy of Stuart Miles /

I was not real thrilled when I discovered that what had been wrong with me all these years was actually the ‘gift of alcoholism’.
I don’t know about you, but I had some relief from at least finally knowing what was wrong with me. Up until then I thought I had a rare mental health condition (very rare, like I was the only one who had it).
It is exhausting looking for a solution to your problem, when you don’t know exactly, what your problem actually is. So there is some relief in finally figuring it out, because at the same moment I was also introduced to a solution.
But I still wasn’t doing a happy dance to find out I was an alcoholic. Fourteen years ago I though that meant a life living on the sidelines, disabled in some way. I thought I would have to avoid anything fun and I would have to go through life with some kind of scarlet ‘A’ on my chest whilst people looked at me with pitying smiles.

In order to recover from alcoholism you have to work really hard on yourself. Your life literally depends upon it. There is so much more to getting sober than just putting down the drink. I cruised in my sobriety for as long as I could, doing a bit of this and that, until it got really painful and I was forced to do some real work.
Working on myself was an absolute last resort. On my knees and out of options I had to look inside of myself and face up to things that I had avoided my whole life. I had to look at the past, at my choices, my behavior, my thinking, my responses. I had to make amends, see people I didn’t want to see and say things I didn’t want to say. I had to do all of this because I wanted to stay sober more than anything.

Without the gift of alcoholism I may never have been forced to look at myself. Instead I may have spent my whole life trapped by my fear, resentment, anger, self-righteousness. In many ways these are all aspects of the human condition but it was my alcoholism that forced me to examine them on a much deeper level. My consequences are so catastrophic that I can’t avoid it. I learnt that actually a life lived unexamined is not a life worth living. That the journey of becoming who Im truly meant to be is the point to life. Without alcoholism I would have just slept walked through my life. Alcoholism woke me up. Brutally, abruptly and horrifying it forced me awake.

Then something amazing happened.

I felt whole and connected for the first time in my life. Something awoke in me and lit me up in a way alcohol couldn’t even come close to. I was alive in ways I could never have dreamed possible before. My life finally made sense. I finally understood that my drinking was merely a reflection of a spiritual illness. And there was a solution to this. That soul work not only freed me from alcoholism it brought me to a life full of adventure, learning, fun, connection, mess, richness, beauty and authenticity.
And that is the greatest gift of all.

How does alcoholism develop?

In order to overcome alcoholism, stopping the drinking of alcohol simply isn’t enough.

Alcoholism develops because it has an internal environment to grow in. Although external conditions enable drinking, it is the internal conditions that allow alcoholism to control someone’s life. There is a need for a greater understanding of this.

Image courtesy of Naypong at

Image courtesy of Naypong at

• Alcoholism is an internal (spiritual) illness. Drinking is only a symptom.
• Alcoholism’s key motivator is about changing how you feel.
• Alcoholism grows out of a faulty system of thinking and emotional responses.

Medically, alcoholism is often diagnosed when physical dependence is established, which means the drinker goes into physical withdrawal (which is extremely dangerous and can be life threatening) when they don’t have a drink.

However, it is my experience, personally and professionally, that alcoholism is a condition that exists long before dependency, or even before the first drink is even taken.

Let’s look at this.
Self-defeating behaviours, including alcoholism, addiction and eating disorders, have their roots in a deficient and faulty system of thinking and emotional responses, and these existed long before any substance abuse or self-defeating behaviours started.

This faulty system of thinking, feeling and responding establishes itself at an extremely young age. It is not the case for everyone, but commonly, you can trace an alcoholic’s journey from a young age, when they began to notice and act upon a feeling of internal (spiritual) discomfort and dissatisfaction. Nearly every alcoholic I have ever worked with has described feeling ‘different’ when they were children.

“But for some, the accumulated insults over a lifetime become a disease in their inner world, and some turn to chemicals to fill the perceived void within or to ease their pain.” Doweiko (2012)

A faulty system of thinking, and the feelings and responses that go with it, doesn’t go away of its own accord. Instead, the sufferer develops coping behaviours that enable them to cope with their internal experience. The crucial factor to understand here is that the sufferer’s internal experience of life is at times deeply unpleasant and uncomfortable.
These feelings will then manifest as behaviours, which are visible manifestations of the unpleasant feelings. Therefore it is easy to see when surveying an alcoholic’s behaviour just how dark their internal world is. Their emotions and feelings are being expressed in the destructive way they behave.

Now these feelings can be experienced by many people who don’t go on to develop alcohol problems, but it seems to be a common factor that potential alcoholics or addicts never had, or have been unable to develop, the necessary coping tools required to deal with life. Other people learn to cope, potential alcoholics don’t. Potential alcoholics are born without the ‘instruction manual’ for living. All else follows.

I’m aware that many people feel they lack an ‘instruction manual’ for life, and would love a set of instructions that would ensure we always made the right decisions and took the right actions.

However, with a potential alcoholic or addict, they not only lack an ability to make the best choices or decisions for themselves, they are additionally unable to learn from their mistakes, or to grow emotionally.

Image courtesy of Naypong at

Image courtesy of Naypong at

They remain emotionally immature, which causes them even further internal distress, and they become even more self-destructive. They feel ‘wrong’ inside and empty; there is a near constant feeling of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, discontent or even despair, which inevitably drives them to seek ways and means to numb the pain.
Enter drugs and alcohol.

These substances alter how a person feels, very quickly and very effectively.
So to understand the alcoholic or addict, it is vital to understand the emotional precondition.
Emotional pain is the pain we are least equipped to understand or treat.
If we can’t treat it then we have to kill or numb it.
This is the basis for alcoholism.

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.

What is spirituality?

It’s time to address the spirituality question.

Image courtesy of dan at

Image courtesy of dan at

Now don’t get scared.

People often do when the subject of spirituality comes up. It can remind them of uncomfortable experiences with churches or religious people they may have had. Or they think of nuns, Popes and crucifixes and all sorts of things that seem to have no connection with their life. Or worst of all they confuse it with religionism and feel guilty, ashamed and not good enough, so they reject the idea of spirituality altogether.
Spirituality is not necessarily related to religion. It can be something else altogether, although confusingly it is the basis of all religions, if you accept that the explicit purpose of most religions is to take care of our ‘souls’.

To understand spirituality we must first understand what our ‘spirit’ actually is.
Our spirit is the real us, the part not many other people see.
Our spirit is where our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our secrets, our shame, our joy exist.
It is the conversation you have with yourself from the day you are born.
It is our intuition, our gut instinct.
It is our sense of right and wrong.

Our spirit is intangible, but we all know it’s there.
It’s what makes you, you. And me, me.
Our spirit is unique to us. It is us.

How I feel about other people and the world around me comes from how my spirit responds.
When I love and appreciate my spirit is ignited. When I am hurt and broken my spirit is crushed.
When I die, for a while you can still touch my body, you can still see me. But I will be gone; my spirit – who I really was – will no longer be there.
You can’t touch or hold or control my spirit.

It is me.

That is what our spirits are. Does that make sense?

I’ll give you an even simpler explanation of spirituality.
Spirituality is just being good to your spirit (your inner-self that no one else sees). It is honouring who you really are.

All our pain comes from not looking after our spirit. Not honouring who we really are. When we dishonour it, when we ignore it, when we deliberately crush it, then we slowly begin dying on the inside. When we lie, cheat manipulate, deceive, or cause hurt, then we are behaving in ways that hurt our spirit or our true selves.

Question: does your behaviour honour your spirit – who you really are?

What is the first thing you need to change in order to honour your spirit?
I had to stop pouring drink down my throat because it turned me into someone I didn’t like. And then I had to stop sleeping with men I didn’t like because it made me feel bad about myself (it crushed my spirit). And then I had to stop lying and manipulating. I had to stop binge eating. Then I had to stop people-pleasing and be true to myself. Then I had to stop gossiping because it felt unclean. Then I had to stop chasing money for its own sake, and I had to stop reading glossy women’s magazines because I felt shallow.
The list goes on and on and still does.
It’s a personal list. Nobody can write it for you.
As my spirit awoke, something inside me changed and I found that I couldn’t continue with behaviour that harmed me (or others). This didn’t change overnight, but it did change at the pace I could handle.

When we are true to ourselves and strive to act with integrity, honour, and truth; then we nurture our spirits and we grow. We like ourselves and our experience of the world is a satisfying one.

There is a universal truth: we are either growing or dying, if we are not growing then we are dying.
Alcoholics and addicts suffocate their spirits with their inauthenticity, when this happens we start dying on the inside, our spirit is dying, who we are is dying.
This is a painful way to exist, hence the need to numb it.

All real happiness comes from within, through nurturing this spirit (this unique part of us); external factors (buying a new car, moving, getting drunk, etc.) only cause temporary, artificially induced happiness and our spirits remain unfulfilled. Lasting happiness can only come from being true to who we really are.

Our power lies deep within us. If we look inside ourselves, we have always had the resources we need. We just didn’t realise it – we covered them up (crushing our spirits) with alcohol, drugs, unhealthy relationships, buying things, spending money – we cover up that voice inside of us because it’s telling us to ‘live our truth.’

And living our truth can be hard.

We have two choices in life, one is to live our truth, and one is to not live our truth. Both are hard.
Pay attention, I want you to understand this. Both these paths are hard.

So which one are you going to choose?

Because only one leads to the happiness we are searching for.
Our purpose at this precise moment is to ‘be who we are’; our journey from this moment is to become who we are meant to be. Our challenge is to participate in all that encompasses.
If we are settling for less than that, then we compromise our truth and the pain starts.
Emotional pain is often an indication of a crushed and compromised spirit.
‘Being who you are’, often means going against the ‘herd’, it often means making difficult and uncomfortable choices.

Sustainable happiness can only manufactured from within. When it is produced externally it will always be temporary.
Our struggle is that we have never been taught how to create happiness within; we have only been trained in external fixes.

If there is a spark of recognition when you read this, it’s because you know it too.

So start now. Clean up the crap that is smothering your spirit. Connect with it, listen to it, and nurture it.
Sure you will make mistakes, of course you will get things wrong and you most definitely won’t be perfect at this.
All that is required is you try.

Image courtesy of dan at

Image courtesy of dan at

Your truth will be different from mine, your truth may require you to join a religious organization, or it may not. Your truth may call you to change careers, relationships, cities, friends and habits.
Your truth will most certainly require you to stop drinking and using drugs.

Your truth is calling you.
Can you hear it?

This has been adapted from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’ It has a chapter explaining what spirituality is and how it can be applied to the alcoholic.

Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.