Friday, 24 July 2015

Sober Support is Snowballing

The sober community seems to be growing rapidly at present with lots of new ventures to help and support those of us removing alcohol from our life.

We seem to be on the precipice of a truly global phenomenon with latest research showing that for the first time the number of youngsters choosing not to drink has increased...wait for it... so they don't get caught looking stupid if captured on camera and shared on social media and so they look their best in sober selfies! Whatever your motivation, sharing support with others in the same boat can be a lifeline.

This week I've become aware of two new web based tools for you to check out.

The first is Sober School which has been set up Kate, who previously blogged as The Sober Journalist. She has developed the ideal on line support service she wishes had been available when she gave up drinking over 2 years ago. Her mission statement is:

The Sober School is an online hub with the mission of inspiring and supporting women who are experiencing problems with alcohol.
Whether you’re newly sober, taking a short break from drinking or giving up for good – The Sober School is here make sobriety easier, less lonely and a lot more fun.
And it is completely free.
The second venture is Alcoholic Life developed by Aussie Bren Murphy. He describes it as:
 'a space for sober bloggers to share an original post - but also for anonymous contributions by readers who are struggling with their drinking. 
Why don't you check out his blog here. There is loads of positivity and chat and a general feeling of us all being in this together. 
I wish them both well with these projects and will continue watching as the sober revolution sweeps the world.

Friday, 17 July 2015


Now that I've opened the lid it's all coming pouring out! Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post or emailed me directly with their messages of 'me too'. I am very grateful for them.

I didn't want to have depression so I didn't want to take anti-depressants as this would confirm the diagnosis, and I declined these for a long time.

The evidence for treatment of mild depression is that non-pharmacological treatment is equally as effective.
I did regular exercise- despite my exhaustion, assuming that because it did not give me the extra energy and well being as promised, that I wasn't doing enough. So I did more, but got no better and became more fatigued.
I reduced my working hours and then increased them again when I became bored, having no inclination to fill my time with anything.

When I stopped drinking I expected my depression to be cured too; I had a guilty conscience, knowing I drank too much and thinking that maybe, this was the cause of my problems. It wasn't.

 I accepted referral for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I had high hopes for this and embraced it wholeheartedly for over a year. I can now recognise that during this time, the signs of my illness were clear: I worried about wasting the therapist's time, I felt stupid that I couldn't manage my life and I ended up in tears when I couldn't do the 'homework'. I tried hard but could not translate my week into the categories of thoughts, feelings and actions. I just didn't understand them. This made me feel a total failure- not only did I struggle with the minutiae of life, I could not 'do' the treatment.

As the frequency of tears increased I was sent back to the medics who thought it was time for medication. I accepted. I had remained sober and felt I had exhausted all other therapeutic options.

I threw up 40 minutes after my first dose of antidepressants. I panicked. What now if  I couldn't even take the drugs? What a total failure, beyond help!

I persevered and became used to the side effects and could tolerate the increases in dose that kept happening slowly but surely.

The first time I felt that it was working was one evening whilst driving home from work. It was dark, pouring of rain and I was stuck in a traffic jam at roadworks. It had been a busy day and I was tired. As I sat in my car I was aware that despite the situation, I felt calm and peaceful. Content. I was not my usual grumpy, fed up, pessimistic moany self.

I had never before been content and I suddenly thought, this is what normal people must feel like all the time! How lucky are they? No wonder they think life is good. It feels great!

I know those heights now, as well as the depths that my mood can sink to, so I know that day to day I'm somewhere in between. Sometimes up and sometimes down. I stay this way on a dose and combination of anti-depressants that would knock a horse out. Far above the licenced levels, and recommended for use only in 'moderate to severely depressed in-patients'.

That is why the exercise and CBT did not work. I did not have mild depression. I had significant depression and still do, whether I like it or not.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Depression and Alcohol

Few would disagree that depression and alcohol are inexorably linked.
Depression leads us to use alcohol as an escape. Alcohol is a depressant drug and compounds our depression. We feel more depressed and self medicate with more alcohol and justify this by repeating  that life is just shit. And so on; the vicious cycle of negativity is reinforced and self-perpetuating. 

This may not have been your theme but it certainly was mine. For many years. During that time I did not want to face up to the reality of my problems: I didn't want to have depression and I most certainly did not want to be an alcoholic. I knew I was using wine as a form of self medication, to blot out the here and now for a few hours. As this means of coping continued, both problems escalated, and the drinking required to offset the misery in my life became so great as to become unmanageable and I had to stop; you know the rest of that story. 

As well as stopping drinking it's important to address the reasons for drinking in the first place because these will be unchanged and will require some form of management in the absence of your usual crutch.

Why did I drink? Why did I need to escape from a life which on paper looked pretty good? I often wondered and could not for the life of me fathom what could be wrong.
Having a good life does not prevent depression and that is one of the reasons it is hard for others to understand. There doesn't need to be a reason you get depression in the same way that others develop high blood pressure or underachieve thyroids. My depression manifests itself as very low mood, being unable to be bothered to do anything and, most notably, physical exhaustion and excessive sleeping. To the uninitiated, I can pass as being merely lazy. The thing is, until I admitted my diagnosis and sought effective treatment, I thought I was just lazy too. It wasn't until a couple of years later when I was better that I looked back and realised just how depressed I had been.

Why mention this now? Two reasons. First it seems a bit misleading not to acknowledge that the turnaround in my life has been helped by having treatment for depression, (although giving up booze was integral to that). Second, my OH suggested during my recent depressive relapse that I shouldn't keep it secret anymore.

I didn't actively decide to keep it a secret. I just chose not to tell anyone. I didn't want the stigma nor the labels. OH wondered if it might help me to share these struggles with friends, some family, and a few colleagues to which I added the blogosphere. So that's what I'm doing. Talking about the thread of depression that runs through my life, that which cannot be cured but must be continually managed. Expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks. And if this affects you too, I'd love your support. x

Friday, 3 July 2015

Rehab: Heaven, Hell or Holiday?

This image suggests holiday to me. Idyllic blue skies, white sand and calm sea.
What if I told you it was a rehab destination? Would that change your opinion?

I've never been to rehab so perhaps could be forgiven for retaining the naiveté of the fictional Rachel in the book 'Rachel's Holiday' where she expects rehab to be akin to a health spa. I like the idea of rehab and think it may have made my early days much easier; removing the need for will power, social and professional support, and making relapse impossible due to the absence of access to any vice.  Not so easy in the real world. But I'm a realist and know at best it would be nurturing rather than pampering, the work still has to be done regardless of the surroundings and Amy Winehouse certainly did not want to go.

I surfed around looking at the most luxurious places one could attend for rehab (money being no object of course as it costs around $1000 per day to attend the luxurious SolutionsRehab in Florida without insurance) but once you get there, it's unlikely you will want to leave. Notably it has a very low self discharge rate (against medical advice) of 2% compared to many other facilities. Certainly with zen-like surroundings and resident support I don't think I would ever want to leave.

Treatment is tailored to either men or women and reassuringly, there are separate facilities for male and female clients recognising the vulnerability each of us have when we first give up our crutch.

Rehab and recovery is big business and you may wonder where to start deciding which one may be best for you. If you are not 'sent' to the nearest place or to one 'chosen' by your relatives, you should check out some independent reviews before making your decision. If you like the look of this place, take the plunge and give them a call.

If you're still undecided then drop a comment below and let's start some discussion around Rehab pros and cons, opinions and experiences. Don't hold back!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

It Doesn't Get Easier...

...You just get better at it.

I saw this phrase today in a context completely unrelated to alcohol or sobriety. I felt compelled to rush to my computer and share it with you, because it struck me immediately as being the correct answer to the question I tried to answer in a recent post, that of 'Does it get easier?'

Not drinking alcohol does not change per se, but the way in which we go about it, and our feelings surrounding it, are akin to riding a rollercoaster. As time goes on we get used to the ups and downs, we know that the former will always follow the latter and our feeling of utter panic subsides.

I love a good analogy but I'm going to stop right here as I can be guilty of taking them a step too far (and not knowing when to get off!).
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