Tag Archives: Alcoholism

How loneliness kills alcoholics

Child in forest by Chrisroll courtesy of www.freedigitalphots.net

Child in forest by Chrisroll courtesy of www.freedigitalphots.net

Alcoholism kills; there is no doubt about that.
There are many ways an alcoholic can die; cirrhosis of the liver, a drunk related accident or some other horrible alcohol related illness.
This is just science.
If you drink enough, for long enough, one of these things will get you.

But that isn’t what really kills alcoholics.
What really kills them is; pride, fear and loneliness.
These things destroy more alcoholics than anything else.
I know, my loneliness and fear almost destroyed me.

Before I got sober, I truly believed I was the only person who had ever been frightened or lonely. It was a shock to discover that many other people, not just alcoholics, felt this way too.

It was also kind of a relief, because then I knew I wasn’t alone.
And that was a big thing for me, because at 27 years of age I was dying of loneliness.
I so desperately wanted to be part of something, to be included, to belong, but everything I did took me further and further away from people.

As an an only child I was good at being on my own. But because of this I yearned to be part of a group. I would look around at large families and groups and envy how they all seemed to fit together, how they communicated without words, their shared history.
I was always outgoing and because I moved around a lot, I learnt to make friends quickly, so on the outside it didn’t look like I was a loner.
But as a child and teenager I always felt like there was a glass screen between me and everyone else. I now know this feeling of separation is a common experience for many alcoholics.
The more apart I felt, the more it hurt and I discovered alcohol was the perfect solution to this.

When drinking I was always part of the crowd, always the life and soul of the party. I loved it, I lived for it. Then came the crushing horror of the next day when I couldn’t remember what I did or said, and with it the feelings of shame and embarrassment. When you feel like that, you don’t want to be around people. So I would isolate make excuses, push people away.
And so begins the aching loneliness of an alcoholic.

I remember one time, I was about 25 and had just broken up with a guy I was dating. Or rather he escaped from the hostage situation I’d put him in.
The prospect of a 3-day weekend opened up in front of me, with nothing to fill it. No one to see, nowhere to go, no plans, nothing.
Just me.
I woke up on the Saturday morning and went out to get some wine. I never drank that early. I knew I was crossing a line but I didn’t care, the dark specter of loneliness was threatening to crush me and I needed something to keep it at bay. I got drunk that day, lying on the sofa watching ‘Friends’ re-runs and by the time the evening came around I had made the decision I was going to kill myself.

I came to the conclusion that this was the only option I had to stop hurting. So I took an overdose of my prescribed anti-depressants and laid down.

About an hour later I changed my mind and called an ambulance.

Thus I spent a holiday weekend in the Emergency room drinking some black tar stuff and flirting with the drunken young men who came in and out with various bar related injuries. It was almost quiet jolly, lots of people to talk to.
The hospital tried to keep me in over night but I got bored and left. By then it was Sunday and most of the weekend had passed and I felt better. I had just wanted some company.

My loneliness was no ones fault but my own. I had made myself so unattractive to people and pushed everyone away, that my only consistent friend was the booze.
I didn’t take an overdose that day because I was drunk and didn’t know what I was doing.
I took an overdose because I couldn’t bare the loneliness and drink gave me the courage to try.
But like most alcoholics I really didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live.
Life was my problem, not drinking.
My drinking didn’t cause me to be a lonely, frightened, insecure mess. I drank because I was a lonely, frightened, insecure mess.

The first thing I did was to quit drinking, then I started a process to get to know myself better and understand why I felt the way I did. After that I started the journey of filling the gaping hole inside of me with something else other than alcohol.

Things began to change and I wasn’t lonely anymore, I haven’t been lonely for a very long time.
So, if you are lonely too, I want you to know it is possible to change, it is possible to belong to the world again.
Because I did, I know you can too.

You can read more on how fear affects alcoholics here.

My sisterhood. Not lonely anymore

My sisterhood. Not lonely anymore

How to stay sober on July 4th

Nothing looms larger for a newly sober alcoholic than a holiday, or a weekend, or worse a holiday weekend.
In early sobriety, holidays are something to be negotiated carefully, especially holidays that involve a lot of drinking.

Happy July 4th!

Happy July 4th!

The first year of sobriety is really about a lot of ‘firsts.’
• First sober birthday
• First sober Christmas
• First sober New Years Eve
• First sober Thanksgiving
• First sober Superbowl
• First time having sex sober

You get the picture. These are all events that previously would have been perfect excuses to drink. Alcoholics particularly like events that ‘normal’ people drink (and get drunk on) because for that day they can pretend they’re normal too. Alcoholics can hide in a sea of drunk people.

In truth, alcoholics never need an excuse to drink, although if we have one we will never waste it.
So if this is your first sober July 4th here are some tried and tested methods for getting through it sober.

1. Have an escape plan. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, think of an exit strategy before you go. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are stranded and relying on someone else to give you a ride. Make sure you drive yourself to wherever you are going or have enough money for a cab or bus. That way, if you feel wobbly and need to get away, you can make your excuses and go.

2. It’s ok to lie. If you are not ready to tell people that you have stopped drinking and are in recovery it’s perfectly ok to fib. Tell them you are on medication that means you can’t drink, tell them you are driving later, tell them whatever you want.
Rehearse it in your mind before you go out, so if someone asks why you’re not drinking, or tries to force a drink on you, you have an excuse already to go. Don’t feel guilty about telling a white lie; your sobriety is your business and no one else’s.

3. Watch what you drink. It’s really easy in social situations to put your glass of soda down and go to pick it up and realize it’s someone else’s rum and coke. For someone in early sobriety that may be the only trigger they need. Keep hold of your drink at all times, or do something to the container that identifies it as yours, like writing your initials on it if its plastic.

4. Hang out with sober people. Sometimes in recovery, we feel that as soon as we get sober we have to start making it up to the people we hurt when we were drinking. It is a mistake to do this too early.
If you have been invited to a party with family or friends and there is usually lots of drinking and partying. Give your self-permission to politely decline. You may be feeling you should attend to make up for all the years you didn’t show up, or showed up drunk and ruined it for everyone. You don’t have to do any of those things. Remember July 4th comes round every year and next year you will be in much better shape to take part. This year, it may just be safer and wiser to hang out with people who don’t drink.

5. Think through the drink. If you find you are in a situation and you are tempted to drink, think through the ‘drunk’. Play the tape in your mind as you think through having the first drink, then the second, then the third, then what happens next. Think about how you would feel the next day, remember how awful it was.

Lastly, don’t’ be alone, don’t struggle on your own. Pick up the phone and call a friend or another sober person, be honest about how you feel and you will be amazed and the difference it makes when we begin to tell someone how we really feel. You don’t have to hide anymore.
Happy July 4th!

Can we forgive John Galliano?

IMG_1957John Galliano famously self destructed two years ago when he drunkenly went on a vile anti-Semitic rant that then went viral.
He was fired from his job as chief designer at Dior and abandoned by many of his friends.
With nothing left to loose he had a moment of clarity and went into rehab. Newly sober, he has just done his first interview with Vanity Fair, which you can read here.

Clearly, John Galliano is an alcoholic whose drinking had become more and more self-destructive, resulting in his public melt down.
In the interview he discusses the vile rant and apologizes profusely, claiming he doesn’t even remember it, as he was in black out when it happened.
The next day he woke up and the true horror of his actions came home to him.

As an alcoholic I can relate to this horror.
The pounding of my heart as I desperately tried to rack my memory for some hint as to what I’d done the night before. Then the sinking feeling in my chest because I knew it wasn’t good.

I remember once going to on a hen night (bachelorette party) and creating a scene outside a nightclub we were meant to be going in to. The doormen barred me and therefore all my friends, ensuring the future brides night was ruined.

At the wedding the following week I tried to smile at several friends attending the wedding, they just looked at me in disgust.

A minor incident maybe, but no less shame inducing. I can’t imagine what it must be like, for the absolute worst part of yourself to be filmed, then sent around the world for everyone to see.

There is no end to my gratitude that my drinking and drugging years happened well before the advent of smart phones or Internet use. There are a few (well more than a few) pictures of me in various states, usually in bars with my arms thrown round whoever was near.
Thankfully, these pictures won’t ever be paraded across Facebook or Twitter as even after all those years of sobriety I’m still embarrassed at how I used to behave.
Being an alcoholic is hard enough without having to deal with your worst moments becoming publicized.

But this is what John Galliano is dealing with.
His absolute worst behavior will exist on-line forever, for everyone to see when ever they want. According to the Vanity Fair article he is beginning to make amends to everyone he hurt (of which there are many) and in particular the Jewish community.
He has clearly alienated a lot of people and a lot of people are finding what he said very hard to forget let alone forgive.

The reason for this, is the myth that when we are drunk we speak the truth. Which means when we say hateful things (or that we love someone) it’s how we have always really felt, we’ve just never expressed it before.
This is the reason people are finding it hard to forgive John Galliano, they believe he really meant what he said and no amount of apologising will change that.

I can’t speak for Galliano as I’ve never met him, I’ve not even had the fortune to wear any Dior (sigh).
However, I do know about alcoholism and I do know that when alcoholics are in the worst of their disease, their self-hatred is inescapable.
That’s part of why we drink the way we do, we hate ourselves, we hate being in our bodies we hate the voices in our heads and we are trying to do everything we can to block it all out.
It that state, constant use of alcohol and drugs makes sense.

My guess is that on that fateful night, when he unleashed his venomous hate, it was not because he is anti-Semitic and hates Jews or Asians. It was because he hated himself so much, that the final act of this self-hate, is to act so repulsively that the world will hate you back.
Thus, proving to yourself how hateful you are.
This is how alcoholism works, it wants you alone, isolated and hate filled because then there is only one thing for you to turn to; more alcohol.

As extraordinary as it sounds, what Galliano said wasn’t actually personal. Booze didn’t reveal how really felt about jewish people, it revealed how he really felt about himself.

It was a truthful revelation of his inner life.

As the most spiteful, meanest, repulsive thing his sub-conscious could dream up in order to achieve the end result of ultimate self-hatred.
It was an attack on himself, no-one else.
Our ‘outsides’ are just a reflection of our ‘insides’.
When you hate yourself that much, then the inevitable consequence of that, is to manifest in your life, something that equals your internal hatred.
This is what John Galliano did that night in the Paris bar.

It is only right he makes amends for what he said and then he needs to be forgiven.

Drunk girl-child

The nineteen year-old lying in her own vomit outside a bar with her group of friends shrieks in mirth as she staggers to get up, inadvertently exposing her G-string to the passing crowd of boys, who all make crude and disdainful remarks about her.

Me at 15

Me at 15

But the boys, seeing her later in the club, buy her more drinks so she won’t resist one of them feeling her up in the alleyway behind the disco. She can’t recall the boy’s name and he didn’t ask for her number. She pulls down her skirt, aware that passersby can see, and she feels fleeting shame that is quickly extinguished by the amount of vodka she has drunk.

The boy disappears, she isn’t sure how she got home or where her friends ended up. Her head is spinning as she passes out fully clothed on her bed.

The next morning she wakes with a hangover. Nothing a fry up and Bloody Mary shouldn’t fix.
Recollections of the night before float through her mind. Who was that boy? He wasn’t even good looking. Why did she let him do those things? This time shame floods through her body and this time it doesn’t leave her.
She calls her friends and ‘spins’ what actually happened and how she truly felt. They tell her she was ‘out of it’, she tells them what an amazing night she had. Her friends lie too and agree they had a ‘blinding’ night. “It was a scream,” they said.

The nineteen year-old swallows her shame, her loss of dignity, the unworthiness she feels and she ‘re-frames’ the night’s events under the category ‘good night out’; she cross references it with ‘fun and excitement’ and it is filed in her memory. She has created the belief, through her own spin, that her behaviour the night before adds up to a good night out.

The pattern is set. She repeats the pattern.

The nineteen year-old begins to feel anxious when she goes into college on Monday. Everyone is laughing about how she behaved on Saturday night.
She laughs too, but can’t shake the feeling that they are laughing at her rather than with her. She feels confused.

She thought she was just like everyone else, except that she doesn’t feel right inside despite her ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. A knot of anxiety develops in her stomach and doesn’t leave.
She doesn’t understand herself any more.
She feels like she is a good person, a considerate person and yet she has behaved terribly to one of her friends. A couple of them are barely speaking to her because of stuff she said when she was drunk. She doesn’t remember, but she feels frightened every time she sees them. She doesn’t know if they like her any more and that frightens her.

Veronica Valli age 19

Veronica Valli age 19

These fears creep in and take up residence in her mind. They are never quiet, always nagging at her. Someone asks her if she is ‘all right?’ She says, ‘of course,’ because she doesn’t know how to put words to the darkness spreading through her mind.
It’s better to close it off, push it away, pretend it doesn’t exist.
For brief periods she can forget she’s afraid of anything. She looks forward to those periods more and more.
She’s going out again this Friday, and Saturday, and probably Sunday as well.
It’s something to look forward to. It takes her mind off things.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and how to stop: a journey to freedom,“.
I wanted to publish this extract because of the previous post I did on Serena Williams.
I believe her remarks were indicative of a culture that perceives rape is a women’s fault and abusive/alcoholic drinking is a choice rather than a need. My book illustrates how an alcoholic feels and thinks, why their drinking is just a symptom of an emotional and spiritual illness, and how to recover.

Must read alcoholism blogs

This week I wanted to give you a round up of some of the cool stuff on the web that relates to alcoholism and addiction. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Russell Brand talks about how yoga has helped change his life and fill the void that he used drugs and sex addiction to before. As usual, he talks eloquently and humorously about his addiction and how his spiritual journey has changed him. It’s only a brief video and you can watch him here.
Russell is also the patron of Focus12 treatment centre in Suffolk, England. I will be donating a percentage of the profits from my UK sales of ‘Why you drink and how to stop: journey to freedom’ to Focus12. I trained there as a therapist and can personally attest to the amazing work they do with addicts.

Recovery tools
Beth Burgess’s blog on how to deal with difficult people has some great strategies to use. She rightly identifies that alcoholics (drunk or sober) sometimes have trouble dealing with other people. Unless you want to go and live in a cave somewhere it’s a skill we have to learn. The most important takeaway being; ‘don’t take it personally.’ You can read more about what she has to say here.

Eating disorders and hating our bodies
I posted this on my Facebook page (if you click ‘Like’ you’ll see what I post in your newsfeed). I just thought it hit the nail on the head regarding women, food and body image. Nearly every female client I have ever worked with (and a lot of men) have had food issues to deal with as well as alcoholism/addiction. It’s so sad that so many women just hate their bodies. As the mother of a little boy I want him to grow up with a love of his own body and physicality as well as an understanding and appreciation of what a healthy female body is, i.e not half starved.

Alcoholism myths
I’m a big fan of Carrie Armstrong‘s blog on the HuffPost UK. I did a post about her a last week, if you missed it you can read it here.

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Carrie is carving out a niche for herself as a Sober Girl who challenges the myths and stereotypes around alcoholism and alcoholics. In her blog this week she challenges the story of ‘rock bottom’s,’ she argues that a rock bottom actually just means death. Because lots of people believe that to be an alcoholic things have to be really, really bad before they stop drinking and get help, this myth is then preventing people getting help. I also think the ‘inspiration to get sober’ or moment of clarity’ is a much more positive and empowering statement. I think she’s on to something. What do you think?

Recovery Rocks – Beth Burgess

I’m so pleased to present this weeks ‘Recovery Rocks’ interview with Beth Burgess. Beth is a Sobriety Coach and NLP practitioner. She runs her own business in London helping other addicts and alcoholics get and stay sober. She is the author of two books The Recovery Formula and The Happy Addict due out in July 2013.

Head Thumbnail - Beth Burgess
Beth is dedicated to challenging the stigma of addiction whenever she can. Her story is particularly inspiring as a short time ago she couldn’t leave her house. Now she is a public speaker.
Her website is here.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

The whole of my addiction was pretty much one long rock bottom. I sold my body to feed my addiction, ended up in two mental institutions and tried to kill myself seven times. I was also multiple diagnosis, so I had the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, Social Phobia and eating disorders to deal with, too. Towards the end of my drinking, my body was completely done, and I was in and out of hospital about every three weeks with horrendous alcohol withdrawals.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

I always wanted to sort myself out, so there was no moment where I suddenly thought “I’m sick of living like this.” I had always been sick of living like that, but I had an anxiety disorder, and I was too afraid to even leave the house without a drink. It was more a matter of finding the answers to solve my problems, so that I could actually recover.

Luckily when I was in my mid-20s, I had my anxiety disorder completely cured with NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming). At that point, I was able to go about my day like everyone else, without the crippling fear that had tormented me for so long.

It still took me a little while to get sober properly, as, despite going to alcohol services, I didn’t understand anything about addiction. I didn’t understand that controlled drinking doesn’t work if you’re an addict. I didn’t know that recovery was more than just putting down the bottle.

It took me a lot of trial and error to finally figure out what does work and how to have a strong recovery. That’s one of the reasons I wrote my books – I wanted to educate people who want to recover, so they don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Let’s not sugar-coat this – it was very difficult for the first month or so. I felt like I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I had just ended up with this life that I didn’t want. I cried a lot; I was angry, depressed and confused. I craved alcohol so badly I had to lock myself in the bathroom at times.

But the more work you do on your recovery, the quicker all those things pass. I want people to know that it does get better as long as you work on changing your thinking and your responses to life. The first few months are almost always going to be hard, but the rewards of recovery are immense and last a lifetime.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

The main thing has to be that I am finally proud of myself, and so are my loved ones. Recovery has also brought some amazing people into my life.

But in terms of what I’ve done, the ability to help other people is the best thing I could have dreamed of. I’ve published books and articles about recovery, I make videos about it, I’ve been asked to do speeches; and every day I hear lovely things from people I have helped directly, or have inspired with hope. I trained in NLP myself, so I could help to free others who had been stuck like I was. The words of gratitude I hear from my clients make every day wonderful.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

There isn’t really anything I could have told myself. It might have been nice to have been told it would all be OK one day, but it was a matter of me learning things, rather than telling myself anything. I never needed a wake-up call – I needed the right education about addiction, the right treatments for all my issues and the right support. It would have been nice to get all those things sooner, but I’m just grateful they came at all.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I am the one who determines what my day will be like. I have the power to choose my responses to life. I can choose to focus on the positive or to focus on the negative. I can choose to sulk, or I can look for solutions. It is empowering to be able to take responsibility for my life. As long as I am sober and living with integrity, there is no problem that can floor me. There are always solutions, silver linings and lessons as long as I stay sober and have a good attitude. When I do what is right and what is effective, I win, I am free, and I go to bed with a smile on my face.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Haha, I like “Recovery Rocks” actually, because it truly does. “This too shall pass” works well to tolerate great pain. If anything, I live my life by the mantra “Do the next right thing” and the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (I leave out the ‘God’ word, as I’m not religious; it’s more an appeal to my brain to think the right thoughts and serve me well). I just got an amazing tattoo which says: “Face your truth. Take your freedom” which reminds me that as long as I face up to reality, and have the courage to do the right thing, rather than hiding behind faulty coping mechanisms, I can be free.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Because I am finally free. Before, I was completely enslaved by my need to drink, and I had no real control over what was happening in my life. I missed out on so much through either being drunk or in withdrawal. In recovery, I get to do what I want, not what the bottle wants. But most of all, these days I live with integrity, and am proud of who I am. That’s priceless.


Why Sober Girls matter.

I want to introduce you to Carrie Armstrong.

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

We met, like most people these days on Twitter.
There are many interesting things to know about Carrie, but the most important, and only thing you really need to know is, she’s awesome.
Why’s that, I hear you ask?

Well, because she is a Sober Girl who is telling the world.

She is giving a face and a voice to sobriety.
Carrie is a TV presenter in the UK who also blogs for the UK Huffington Post.
She is also smart, funny, talented and gorgeous.

I got sober at 27 and there were no role models for me back then.
The people I saw who were sober, they were much older and I found it really hard to identify with them.
It never occurred to me that I was an alcoholic because I thought I was doing what everyone else my age was doing. Everyone I knew binge drank, partied or got wasted. It was normal, or so I thought.

We have created a culture that normalizes abnormal drinking.

I drank through the years of the ‘laddette’ culture – remember that? Girls who could drink the same as boys, who got up to the same antics and lived to tell the tale the next day on the radio/TV or in a magazine story.
These were my role models, they turned their ‘antics’ into funny stories, they made drinking seem so harmless and fun.
But here’s the rub; I was doing the same thing, I was drinking like the men, I was telling stories about my ‘antics,’ I was a wild party girl and it was awful.
I was miserable, I was scared, I most certainly wasn’t having fun. I knew something was wrong with me I just didn’t know what it was.

What I needed was someone like Carrie. Someone on the TV who was successful and fun, who was saying she used to be a party girl and it sucked. Someone who was proudly saying she was a Sober Girl. Someone who made sobriety look fun and attractive. What a mind blowing concept that would be.
More and more public figures are letting the world know they are clean and sober now. By doing so they are raising awareness of the issues relating to addiction and they are also being role models. We need this.

What Carrie is doing is re-branding sobriety. Away from the preconceived notion that ‘not-drinking’ is glum and boring. She is making it something to aspire to and for that I’m really grateful.

What Carrie needs is our support.
We can change this culture. We can show young women trapped in alcoholism and binge drinking that there is another way to choose. That being a Sober Girl is awesome.
I’m with Carrie.
Are you?

Carrie Armstrong is a TV presenter with Gaff TV and a contributor to The Huffington Post UK

Why I always report drunk drivers.

When I was in active alcoholism I never drank and drove.
I’d like to tell you it was because despite being an alcoholic, I was able to still retain some sense of morality.

But that would be a lie.

I never drove drunk because I never owned a car until I was sober.

I just couldn’t get my act together to even pass a driving test until I was in my twenties. Buying a car was always out of my reach; extra money always meant extra booze.
The only wheels I had came in the form of a bicycle. Which I did ride drunk on many occasions and consequently fell off. Causing only damage to myself.

Lucky for me (and everyone else on the road) I wasn’t blessed with my own transport until I was responsible enough to use it.
Driving is a privilege and I’m grateful to have it. I’m even more grateful I never had the opportunity when I was drunk because I didn’t make good decisions when drinking.
The truth is, I probably would have driven drunk and I shudder to think of the damage I could have caused to other people.
Let’s face it; I caused enough as it was.

Since being sober and working in the field of addiction I have personally seen the consequences of drink driving and they are devastating.
I take drink driving very seriously. Which is why, if I see or know of someone who is drunk behind a wheel, I call the police, no hesitation, no question.

I’ve had a client arrive at a treatment center reunion who was clearly under the influence. I asked him for his keys and told him if he drove I would have to call the police. He refused and drove off. I called the police and he was arrested.

I’ve also done it a couple of times when I’ve been at a party or a bar and I’ve seen someone leave drunk. I didn’t get a chance to offer to give them a ride or get their keys, so it was a last resort. I’ve even done it on the highway when my husband and I passed someone drinking from a beer can.

Maybe you think I am harsh or unfair. Maybe the person was under the legal limit, maybe I’m sticking my nose in other people’s business.
The truth is I don’t care.

You see, there are people I love out on the roads everyday. So my obligation is to them.
If someone has a drink problem, I don’t help them by protecting them from their consequences. If that consequence is they get caught drunk driving and loose their license. So be it.
Maybe that’s what it takes for them to get sober.

If you are unconvinced I’d like you to read this. It’s an incredible account of how Jimmy Anderson lost entire family to a drunk driver.
After reading it, I would encourage you to report a drunk driver every time you see one. Or it could be your family next.

Recovery Rocks – Clare Clarke

This week’s recovery rocks interview is with Clare Clarke. Clare has been sober since 1991 and has helped many women over the years get sober. She is dedicated to personal growth and being of service to others where ever she can. As a dedicated Elvis Presley fan, one of the gifts of recovery for her was marrying the love of her life at Graceland!

Clare H&S reduced

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My first husband had threatened many times that he would not put up with my drinking and associated behavior any more. I loved him and he was a good man. I put him through hell, disgracing myself and him over and over – I lost count of the number of alcohol-related hospital visits (stomach pumps, falls, accidents, alcoholic fits) and times where he would have to literally pick me up and/or apologise for me.

He tried so hard, bless him, but I let him down one too many times. I never believed he would actually leave me. No matter how many times I made earnest promises and assurances from the bottom of my heart that I would not drink, or could stop drinking, I just couldn’t seem to see it through. I was completely addicted to alcohol – I drank every day and needed alcohol to function in every aspect of my job/life. I suffered severe withdrawals when I didn’t have alcohol including fits. Once I had taken the first drink, I was simply unable to control the amount I took and could not stop – yet I couldn’t ever envisage life without it. Alcohol had been my solution since the age of 14 and, as I saw it, had helped me to cope with my fears and feel ‘normal’ – from a young child, I had always been very uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with myself and with life and felt that life did not live up to my expectations.

Eventually, my husband told me that although he still loved me, he no longer felt he could stay with me, as he was sure I would drink myself to death. So he asked me to leave. You’d think I’d have been devastated, but I didn’t really have many feelings left by this time and, actually, deep down I was relieved – my first thought was that finally I would be able to drink as much as I wanted without anyone trying to stop or control me! I had no idea just how sick I was.

I enjoyed the freedom of being on my own for about 2 weeks! For the next 5 months, I drank solidly, around the clock, on my own in my cramped studio flat, weeping and commiserating my awful life and feeling very sorry for myself. I passed in and out of alcoholic stupor, most times unaware of whether it was day or night. I had a vague realization that I had lost someone who had cared a great deal about me. I rarely left the flat – taxis or neighbours would fetch my alcohol – I got an answerphone and ignored the phone ringing until it stopped. I ignored my family and friends (they made comments about my drinking!) I chain-smoked and pretty much stopped eating and washing myself (or my clothes) and didn’t open the curtains or the door. I smelt, was physically very fragile, painfully thin and my skin was yellow and had sores from lying down all the time.

I had started a really good little business a few years back when I was still a functioning drunk – this had fallen by the wayside as drink became more important and, repeatedly turning up drunk, I was asked not to come back by most clients. So I now couldn’t work, stopped paying my mortgage payments and got into huge debt, with the threat of my flat being repossessed.

My husband divorced me and cited alcoholism as the cause of our breakup – then he found a new partner. How dare he!!? I was incensed and was now convinced more than ever that it was impossible to ever stop drinking – I told myself that I would not see the age of 30 (I was 27!) and prayed that I would not wake up. I didn’t care about anything any more – my life was over.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

It is slightly vague as I was very drunk at the time, but I do remember writing a garbled letter to my husband (now ex!) telling him that I was thinking about going to get some help for my drinking, when a clear voice popped into my head saying “instead of saying you’re going to get help, why don’t you get help?!!” At that very moment, I got the Yellow Pages out and started to look for helpline numbers and made a call for help. Thank God for that moment of clarity and that someone who had been where I was was available to help me!

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Amazing – it was tough, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by (or was that hounded by!?) strong people in recovery who were willing to help me. I identified with the very first person who shared with me about their alcoholism and also with the reading material that I was given. Although if I’m honest, I thought about alcohol every day in those first 30 days, I felt a strong sense of hope instead of desperation for the first time. I took each day separately and broke it down into hours or even minutes when I was struggling. I was so grateful to have regular contact with people who understood and could listen. My physical health improved very quickly and I began eating and sleeping again.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
My obsession for alcohol has been removed
I have found myself through recovery and a God of my understanding
I am comfortable being me and love myself as I am
I have made amends to all those I hurt in the past and have no skeletons in my closet!
I rarely get angry or frightened and when I do I am able to process my feelings appropriately
I have been blessed with the willingness and ability to help others
I have had and continue to have a spiritual awakening
I feel a part of humanity and the universe
I have a deep and meaningful relationship with my husband who I trust and who trusts me
I have a wealth of friends who I genuinely love
I can be in a room full of people and feel comfortable
I can feel the love of my friends for me and feel worthy of that love
I am not ruled by selfishness and fear, rather I tend to think of others
I am trustworthy and honest at work
I sleep well
I laugh a lot
I am truly happy!

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
I’m not sure – I don’t know if I could have done anything different if anyone had given me advice earlier. I was given opportunities for help and didn’t take them. I think I had to reach the point of desperation before I would seek help. Even if someone had told me that there was a life beyond alcohol, at that time, I wouldn’t have believed it! Maybe I would say “There is a solution”!

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That on my own power I cannot stay stopped, I need a Higher Power (the Universe/God)
That I am a good person
That I have a huge capacity for love
That I am not my thoughts
That thinking about my last drink will never work for me
That acceptance is key
That I am never ‘cured’ but have recovered from the physical and mental aspects of alcoholism
That I need to continue to work with others if I want to stay sober.

7) What are your favourite recovery slogans?
There is a solution
Faith without works is dead
It works, it really does!
Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm
God could and would if He were sought
It’s the first drink that gets you drunk
Trust God, clean house, help others
If you get well, everything around you will get well
Willingness, honesty and open-mindedness – WHO – the WHO is YOU!
This too shall pass.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery ROCKS because now I know a happiness, peace and usefulness that I could never have imagined and have a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes. I am free from the fear that used to cripple me and am able to take part in life rather than feeling left out or worrying about what people will think. I know who I am (and who I am not!) and am calm and comfortable being me and as long as I stay that way, I’m able to be helpful to my fellow human beings and God.

I never believed those people who said it would work for me – but it does work, contrary to every fibre of my own self-will, as long as I keep showing up for life and remain willing, honest, open-minded and teachable!

Recovery Rocks – Mark Hardwicke

This weeks interview is with Mark Hardwicke who has been sober for 8 years. His story is truly extraordinary, a homeless, desperate drunk who got sober and now runs his own business.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

Although there had been a number of mini-rock bottoms during my life, the rock bottom that finally brought me to my knees came the day before my sobriety birthday. Although I was about 9 stone (126 pounds) and was in the worse physical shape of my life, having existed on the street for the preceding 2 years, it was what was happening in my mind that finally got me.

I am an intelligent person and so I know that people who drank like I drank do not die quietly in their sleep at 80 years old surrounded by the grandkids. People who drank like I drank go out sad, lonely, painfully and early.

I was so scared to death of dying that I knew I had to stop drinking. The problem was that in the same moment and the same though I was also so scared to death of living without alcohol that I knew I could not stop drinking.

This was a tortuous mental crossroads the likes of which I had never experienced.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’

It was the realization that the tortuous mental crossroads in my head left me with no more options. I could not go on and I could not go back. I was done. I no longer had the power to fight. The ability to lie to myself and those around me. I no longer believed I was ‘fine’. I just gave up. I was beaten in to a state of reasonableness. I just cried.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

The first 30 days of my sobriety were a blur. I met some amazing people who offered me so much unconditional love and support that it was somewhat overwhelming.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

Being restored to sanity and being introduced to a power greater than me that enable me to handle absolutely anything that life throws at me irrespective of what it is. There is nothing that can happen in my life today that God and I can’t deal with together.

The stand out thing that has happened since being clean and sober is to have been present to see my wonderful son William James born on the 4th of August 2011. Nothing could have prepared me for how magical that moment was going to be and for just how much love it is possible to feel for someone else.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were dinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I would not tell myself to stop drinking or point our the error of my ways. Because I would not listen to the future me any more then I listened to those around me who gave their opinions and advice. I was only ever going to stop when I had reach my rock bottom and so the most helpful thing that I could have said to myself was “Drink more, drink faster, use more and get to your rock bottom quicker”.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I am now and always have been a worthwhile human being. I have never been a bad person just a sick person. I am decent, genuine, kind, generous and loving. I sometimes allow myself to be taken advantage of and so there are parts of me that still need work. I am perfectly imperfect and am completely fine with that.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

To be honest I am not really a big fan of slogans. It is just a personal thing. The one phrase that I keep in my is “to the precise extent that we permit it….” I find that I can fit to so many areas of my life and it makes me responsible for anything that happens in my life and not other people.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Recovery is the foundation upon which every other aspect of my life has been built. I have a wonderful life today. It is vastly different from the life that I thought that I was going to have, but I would not swap it for anything.

In addition to this I am blessed to observe and take part in seeing other people come in to recovery as broken as I was and then over time watch as the light returns to their eyes, the color to their skin and the smiles to their faces.