Soberversary time!

The 2nd of September 2020 marks my 3rd year alcohol free!

Three years alcohol free
The start of my sober journey

Celebrations

This year I will be celebrating with a trip to the dentist! Not what you might consider a traditional sober celebration but it actually marks some growth in my sobriety. I have needed for some time to face up to the fact I need some serious dental work doing, being afraid of dentists and not having much faith in my usual dentist, this is not an easy thing for me to do. So I have finally taken the bull by the horns so to speak, and seen a decent dentist and am starting the process.

And that my sober friends is growth!

Not all my soberversaries have been quite so mundane, for my 100 day soberversary I cried like a baby and treated myself to a necklace which I wear almost daily.

My 1 year soberversary was marked with a spa day, afternoon tea and more tears

My 2 year soberversary was celebrated on a boat floating round the Turkish coast, with 2 of my daughters. My kids did me a picture with a little note saying congratulations mum, we are proud of you,,,,,,,,more tears (I’m sensing a theme here)

I’m not planning on any tears tomorrow but with a visit to the dentist there is a high probability.

What I have learnt in sobriety

1/ Not everyday is a good day, but it sure as shit beats being locked in a destructive drinking cycle.

2/ You don’t realise how much hangovers impact you until you stop having them.

3/ There are thousands of people struggling with problem drinking, you are definitely not alone.

4/ People who get sober are amongst the nicest I’ve ever come across, because we understand the struggle.

5/ If you want something you have to make it happen! I spent years watching other people live their lives, pissed off that I had been dealt a poor hand, when in reality I was the only person holding me back.

6/Sobriety is opportunity, it is often spoken in sober circles that sobriety delivers everything alcohol promised and it’s true! I get to live my life now on my terms.

7/ Being sober isn’t always easy especially in the beginning but, it really is worth it, I regretted drinking every morning, yet every night I jumped back on that hamster wheel, I have never, not once, regretted sobriety.

8/ Sobriety offends some people, this hurt a lot when I first experienced it, but after talking it through with my sober buddies, I realised their reaction to me not drinking, said way more about them, than it ever did me.

9/ Sobriety really is up to us, imagine your drinking is a high speed train, constantly gathering momentum, you can see these speeds are dangerous and its going to end in disaster. You can choose when you disembark from that train, at any point you can press the emergency stop, and say enough is enough. But it is up to you where you draw the line, there doesn’t have to be a rock bottom.

10/ Underneath all the drinking there is a version of you who has been waiting to show you what life can be like.

It has been an amazing journey so far and long my it continue. It hasn’t always been easy and my biggest piece of advice is don’t do it alone, connect with fellow sober warriors, attend AA, get a counsellor, a sober facilitator, or rehab. Keep trying, find out which approach suits you and remember sobriety is always worth it 💜

Till next time

Vicki xx

Let’s have a little compassion

I don’t believe there is enough compassion in the world, I don’t know where it went but there is a definite shortage.

I feel blessed to be part of the sober community where there is compassion and empathy in bucket loads. Until I had counselling almost a decade ago I hadn’t known how powerful compassion and empathy could be.

What makes me really sad is the complete lack of compassion we have for ourselves. Self compassion is becoming a bit of a buzz word like self care, but often it is only surface.

True self compassion is being aware of how we speak to ourselves and being kind when we speak to ourselves.

As humans we make mistakes and things go wrong about as often as they go right. Often an individuals reaction is to chastise ourselves, we will call ourselves derogatory names and sneer at our suffering. There is a self righteous little critic inside our heads is always waiting to jump on the self reproach band wagon

Would you speak to a loved one like that? Would you intentionally increase someones pain and discomfort by calling them names ?

Self compassion

However if we do the opposite of what that self righteous little critic says, we are practising self compassion.

There is a compassion cloud inside all of us, I know this because we often show compassion to others. Our little compassion cloud can be used to be kind to ourselves.

Self compassion is when we recognise we are supposed to be imperfect and make mistakes, self compassion is accepting our mistakes with sympathy and kindness. Self compassion is acknowledging sometimes, suffering and inadequacy is part of being human and that it really is ok to get it wrong.

The more we practice self compassion the bigger it grows, and the smaller that reactive arse, the self critic gets.

Lets make compassion cool again and lets start with ourselves.

Till next time

Vicki xx

Negative Nancy

As I sit picking the hair off the roller in the hoover, I realised I have hit a new low in the procrastination stakes!

Negative Nancy (Nn) is the mean girl that lives in my head, and she has been circling for a while now. She puts me off doing all sorts of things, and one of those is write this blog, she would have me believe that I have nothing of interest to write or, let other people do it becuse they are waaaaaaaaayyyyyy! Better than me.

However when I pledged at New Year to write this blog for a year I was doing it for me, not anyone else and certainly not for Nn

The blog

To get off the negative thread, I thought I would share some sober wins. I am a big believer in sharing our successes in sobriety as it keeps us motivated and promotes positivity.

It has been a busy few weeks that has seen me dust of my hairdressing scissors and get back in the salon, I purchased my first pair of walking boots and I discovered earthing.

The hairdressing uniform has changed quite a bit

An old friend and one time boss asked me if I would help out for a few weeks, when hair salons were allowed to open up again. I’m always willing to help but I had some mixed feelings about it.

The last time I worked in hairdressing I was known as the party girl and all conversations revolved around going out and what time we could get to the pub when work finished on a Saturday. I am comfortable enough in my sobriety to know I was not at risk from drinking but what would old clients think of the new improved me?

Well I had an absolute blast! And you would never believe it had been years since I had done any hairdressing, the main thing I noticed was my confidence, I was always a busy stylist but never truly believed I was any good, looking back now, I know that’s the alcohol anxiety talking. It was actually good to get back to it temporarily to put those ghosts to bed.

Walking boots

I’m not sure if this happens to any other sober warriors, I’m fairly sure it will.

Every so often I find myself doing something that old me would roll her eyes at and say what on earth would you do that for???

I smirked to myself knowing this when I pressed buy now on my first pair of walking boots. It is well known in sober circles just how good nature is for you and I have really been proactive the last few weeks about getting out there and soaking up nature.

Bank top, North Yorkshire

Most recently I have spent a lot of time in North Yorkshire, Gods own county as it is otherwise known 😁

I have forced my old legs up, and down dale, all the while feeling proud of my little self for doing it. I have always known I need to be outdoors more, I was an outdoorsy child who was out in all weather’s. Which is just another thing alcohol robbed me of, a constant hangover meant no energy for doing anything as daft as walking on the weekend.

I visited the white horse at Kilburn

It looks better from above

And there are a ridiculous amount of steep stairs to climb to reach the top, these dumpy legs were really struggling with them. I got to the top, with a sense of achievement and one eye on an empty bench in the distance. I dragged my weary legs to the bench and just sat.

The view from the bench

I sat there, I was overcome with emotion, it gets to me sometimes, that sense of wonder at just how far I have come. I let the tears fall and relished the sense of pride, that somehow I had found my way out of the darkness and into the light. I am always grateful that I found the strength to give myself a second chance at living and sitting there on that bench was one of those moments where I felt that gratitude deeply. May those moments never disappear.

On to earthing

One of my favourite things to do when I go on these walks is to get my feet wet in the streams and rivers we come across. It is a physical urge I feel when see water, it always has been. After a bit of googling I discover the notion of earthing. Physically connecting back to mother earth, she neutralises free radicals and other bad energy we pick up and makes us feel better.

This is another moment old me is rolling her eyes 😆

But I truly get it! And I love it! I remember early in my sober journey I pretty much sat in a bath for the first month as it was the only thing that made me feel half human, as a child I always wanted to be in water, I was forever in trouble for taking my shoes and socks off where ever we went and getting my feet on the damp ground. I feel it now when I’m near a body of water, that itch to touch it, that urge to feel it against my skin.

My feet

People may mock (old me certainly is) but this simple technique really seems to help me, so long may it continue. Admittedly in December I might not be so keen.

Earthing and eating ice-cream

I think we are about caught up. I hope summer is being kind to you

Till next time

Vicki xx

Memories

Facebook memories are a funny old thing aren’t they. After my last break up I had to spend a year deleting the memories each day, which was tedious and not always a great way to start the day.

By far my biggest break-up has been the one from wine, pinot, to be precise. As a retired blackout artist, pinot did a good job of deleting lots of my memories, but some that made it to Facebook, have remained. This is because however cringeworthy they remind me why sobriety is the positive choice for me.

Take this one for instance, a typical vino/ realxing bath combo, but what happens when we look a little closer?

I would have decided I needed justification, and validation for drinking on a school night, what better way than fishing for likes on fb? My brain will have told me to chuck in that bath bomb that had been lurking at the back of the cupboard for good measure, thats sure to up the likes 🙄

I press post and wait for the likes to roll in. I sit there all smug because…..well if everyone is liking my bath bomb, ethanol combo there can’t be anything wrong can there? Everyone is doing it and its perfectly normal.

Except

My bath would not have been the relaxing hours of bliss my Facebook photo was portraying…. nah I would have sat in said bath for all of 20mins. Pretended I was relaxed and cosmopolitan, with my ethanol and bath bomb combo.

I would have had a couple of glasses before getting in the bath, so that tiny glass would have lasted all of 15mins. Then I would be sat there, in my sweet smelling surroundings telling myself I was relaxed and this was heavenly, and no more than I deserved. After all my life was full of stress, sadly what I didnt realise at the time was wine was causing most of my stress, but that’s another blog for another day.

No actual relaxing would take place, I would be agitated that my glass was getting emptier by the second. There were times I would sneak the bottle upstairs with me but I couldn’t always get away with that. After telling myself I was super relaxed after my lightening fast bath, I would be out, and stumble off on the hunt for more pinot.

Everytime this memory comes around, I roll my eyes at the stories I used to tell myself to justify my drinking. This serves as a good reminder of the toxic relationship I had with booze and its not a memory that I want to delete any time soon.

Right I’m off for a relaxing bath, see you in a couple of hours

Till next time

Vicki xx

Exciting times!

Exciting things are afoot in the world of sunbeam sobriety.

I have decided to collaborate my counselling skills and knowledge, with the lived experience of my sober journey. I’m starting up my own business.

What exactly is a sober facilitator?

My role is to support you

Since getting sober, I have always wanted to give something back. I have waited for three years, not only until I achieved my degree, I waited until I was established in my sobriety, so I can ethically and professionally offer my clients the best possible service.


The sober facilitator service launches on Independence day, which feels appropriate. I can support you in claiming back your independence from alcohol

Check out sunbeam sobriety on Facebook Twitter and Instagram

I look forward to welcoming you

Till next time

Vicki xx

Reflections

I missed May’s blog! I’m so annoyed with myself but I was busy writing a dissertation. So rather than beat myself up forever and quit blogging (like drinking Vicki would do) I’ve decided to forgive myself and carry on.

So that’s that, uni is over! Which begs the question what next? And the answer is I’m not entirely sure. But what I have been doing is reflecting on where and who I am today, opposed to when I started uni. My uni journey and sober journey have been very much entwined from the start and I haven’t known one without the other.

I would absolutely recommend anyone getting sober does a counselling course or at least has some counselling. The journey we go on into sobriety demands some difficult truths and deep insights but i fully believe this work I have done on myself is what has lead to sobriety sticking this time, there’s a saying in sobriety that is ‘feel the feelings’ but what does’t get mentioned so much is how do we learn to deal with the feelings? Hell, we have been numb for so long it makes sense to have support while we learn to deal with the feelings. I guess I’m lucky I had a bunch of trainee counsellors propping me up while i learned how to feel the feelings.

I was a defensive little bugger when I started uni, and wasn’t going to mention my sobriety I thought I could just get a long with life and not really think about. I was wrong! If i was going to do sobriety right I had to accept it as part of me and be proud of it! Not the dirty little secret I was treating it as.

So I started to embrace my sobriety, I shared it with a few people I was getting close to and I allowed it into my soul, sobriety was becoming a part of me. My clothes began to change, gone was the drab, bright colours began to reside in my wardrobe. I’m fairly sure on several occasions I turned up looking like I had jumped in my wardrobe wriggled about a bit and worn whatever fell on me, but I didn’t care I was finding out who I was. The more I embraced my sobriety the more confident I became, I wasn’t happy anymore staying silent and hoping I went unnoticed.

I began having opinions and valid ones at that, I was making friends and finally I realised I was happy.

Drinking kept me quiet, it kept me trapped, it took away my opinions, it took away my colours, life was grey and hunched over when I was drinking, sobriety was pink hair and big ideas!

So I am sad my time at uni is over, but forever grateful I got to do it. I guess now it’s time I grow up, get a big girls job and be a contributing member of society. But i’ll do it with happiness in my heart my sobriety held safely in my hand and probably with pink hair!

Till next time

Vicki

Sober in a crisis

Its been a while since I have written on here. But I set myself a goal at new years to write at least once a month. Here is April

Covid – 19

My world like everyone else’s was turned upside down a few weeks ago, I first became aware of Coronavirus while we were visiting New York in January, it seemed like most other times flu makes the headlines, it probably wasn’t going to impact me too much.

Fast forward a few weeks and within 48 hours my placements were all cancelled at uni, then uni closed. I came home angry that day at what I thought was a massive over reaction, to find my 16 year old daughter in pieces that her GCSE’s had been cancelled. The thing she had been working towards for year had gone!

That’s when it hit me

I now understand that saying its like being hit by a ton of bricks, I felt my knees buckle and in that instant I almost walked straight out the door to buy wine, but I held fast and tried to calm the situation in my kitchen.

The next few days seem like a blur looking back but I’m fairly sure I fell apart, the kids continued at school for another couple of days and I cried, I struggled to get out of bed and I thought about wine…….a lot! I told myself there is no point staying sober when the world has gone to shit, and that was it, life I as knew it had gone. The first Monday morning of lockdown I got the kids up to do P.E with Joe and I cried, I felt scared, I felt confused and most of all I felt alone!

I was going through the motions without really connecting to the world around me, this disconnection is the wine witches best friend, it keeps us isolated and weakens our resolve, I’m lucky

I have good sober support online but I stopped checking in and pretty much stuck my head in the sand. Then came the anger god I was angry! Anger is a feeling that is very uncomfortable for me (most feelings are pretty uncomfortable for people used to numbing every feeling for years) one I don’t like dealing with. When it all seemed too much I began to recognise where I was…..

Grief and early sobriety

I was grieving, I like everyone else on the planet had suffered a big loss. According to there are 5 stages to grief

Denial

Made up of avoidance (yep) confusion (definitely) shock, fear (most certainly) and elation (not this time, but very normal). My urge to drink would have provided the perfect way to avoid what was going on.

Anger

Frustration, irritation (erm yes, anger was very prevalent), anxiety abso-bloody-lutely! I’ve worked out that when I feel anxious it quite often shows itself as anger (think fight or flight)

Depression

Overwhelm, helplessness and hostility yep all 3 usually at once

Bargaining

Struggling to find meaning ( yep) Telling ones story, i did this so much, i kept almost comparing how badly we had been impacted to how others had been impacted. this seems really selfish and self centred but its perfectly normal and can make us feel better if people hear us and we don’t feel so alone.

Acceptance

Finally we get to acceptance, this is often where we relinquish control, we accept that we are unable to change this situation and look for ways to find a new normal. I was so bloody relieved to get here but as is usual it didn’t last. That’s the problem with grief these stages aren’t linear. We can hop back and forth, feel them out of order and and all at once.

Looking for landmarks

I am a person who does not know her left from her right, this can cause issues but most of the time it is funny. When I travel, and begin exploring I look for landmarks to get me back to my hotel. Because not knowing my left and right affects my sense of direction I use this relatively successfully, what i couldn’t find when lockdown began was my landmarks, I couldn’t find anything familiar about where we were and worse I didn’t know how to get back to base.

Then it hit me

This was so like those early days of sobriety I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to recognise it. the similarities were staring me in the face, once again everything was different, I didn’t know how to be in this scary new world, anxiety, sleepless nights, confusion, loneliness, bargaining, denial. It strikes me now that I also grieved my drinking days in early sobriety but like a bad boyfriend it had to go. Finally I had found my Landmark, I had been here before and what I had to do was feel the feelings, trust the process and connect!

Connect I did

Starting with my sober circle, I got more active on my various platforms to connect to my wonderful sober buddies. Video calls began to uni friends and I began connecting better to those in the same house. I have just set up a Sunbeam Sobriety Facebook group in the hope of increasing connections as I see many sober warriors struggling with sobriety

Please reach out to your sober friends we have a tendency to lose landmarks and isolate when times get tough

And we all know connection is the opposite of addiction

till next time

Vicki xx

Acknowledge your needs

Today I have woken up alone in a hotel room a few years ago this would have been reason to worry. However there is no drunken story to tell (thank goodness) I have in my sobriety recognised a need to get away so get away I have.

I am in my final few weeks of a counselling degree and the pressure is immense, I have four placements as part of my course where I offer counselling to individuals, I travel in excess of 250 miles a week just to do uni and placement, then I have children at home, a cocker spaniel and an ex husband. My world is a busy one, I wouldn’t change a thing but I recognised I was starting to struggle, my motivation upped and left, I lost confidence in my ability at uni and all round wanted to crawl under a rock. This went on for a few weeks and when I heard myself say I miss getting smashed I knew I needed to take action

Grab the bull by the horns

I’m 2 and a half years sober so I wasn’t going to drink but the fact my brain was looking to escape was enough warning for me to grab the bull by the horns and take control.

I’ve cut back on my placement hours taking 2 of them to fortnightly placements which gives me an extra day off a week, I finally acknowledged that I need extra help at uni with my dissertation and final few pieces of work, so I’ve accessed that support, I’ve reached out to a few people saying I’m struggling which always helps and I booked a solo mini break.

control

I am currently on a coach trip to Durham and Holy Island, I have woken up today feeling rested and excited for the day ahead. Everyone at home is still alive and the house is still standing. It’s taken me over 20years to realise I need time alone to recharge, I realise this has most likely always been the case and my drinking to escape will be linked to this need. But physically escaping in a healthy way is more conducive to happiness than drinking ever was. When I look back I realise I judged myself harshly for this need for time alone preferring to berate myself rather than listen to my needs.

I will go home recharged and ready for the challenges heading my way over the next few weeks, my family will get a kinder happier me, my studies will get a focussed motivated me and my clients (who always get the best) will get a refreshed counsellor ready to support them.

We often deep down know what our needs are but rarely do we acknowledge them . It’s time to start listening to our needs, be kinder to ourselves and prioritise self care.

Have a beautiful self care Sunday

Till next time

Vicki xx

A little exercise

I have decided to get my 41 year old ass in to shape and add exercise to my routine. Many, many moons ago I was a happy outdoorsy kid who never stopped moving. I did really well a sports and could turn my hand to most disciplines.

Swimming is a fave but not easy to access, where I live.
One of my favourite memories is swimming here in Barcelona’s Olympic diving pool.

Fast forward a few years and into secondary school, I began to get bullied and as my confidence took knock after knock so did my interest in most things.

School became about survival, and towards the end of my school career I just avoided it as much as possible. I would find any excuse to get out of lessons and that included P.E. The trouble with P.E was, they could get at me more, running round a field or a pitch I would be knocked over, kicked or walloped with whatever bat/ball/ stick we were playing with, and that’s not to mention the taunts in the changing rooms.

The lengths I went to, to avoid the bullies is unbelievable when I look back, and really quite sad. Maybe one day I’ll share those but for now looking back at terrified teenage me is just too painful. My over riding memory of my time at school is just bone crushing fear, I’d skive and get caught, then be in loads of trouble but even that was better than facing the torture of being bullied every day.

It’s taken me a long time to stop allowing those bullies to affect me and I suspect part of that pain was tied up in my drinking, alongside many other things. While I’ve been looking after myself much more in the last 2 and a half yrs, I haven’t really stuck at exercise. Maybe there is some block because of the bullies, maybe this is my last bit of self sabotaging behaviour or another way to not be kind to myself.

Whatever it is it stops here, I am committed to including 30 mins of exercise a minimum of 3x a week.

It won’t be pretty at times, I’ve just done my 3rd work out of the week and these old bones do not know what’s hit them, but I do feel better once I’ve done something.

I won’t be blogging about how I work my way down to a size 6, and be pictured in super tight sports wear at every opportunity. When I do include exercise in my blog, it will be about a middle aged woman just trying to shake off those taunts, from all those years ago, and hopefully end up feeling a little happier in her own skin

Looking rough but 3x 30 mins this week, DONE!

Till next time

Vicki xx

How exciting

I am, very ,very excited this week. On Saturday I will be ticking something huge off my bucket list. At 9 am, Saturday morning, I fly to…. (drum roll please) fun city, the big apple, aka New York City!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Too excited

I am in fact, so excited about this trip that I have barely slept for days and now feel bloody rubbish! I keep waking up with massive anxiety, I love travel and have had some amazing adventures since getting sober but, by god I struggle with the actual travel part of travelling. The anxiety, I have been feeling all week, has got me thinking about my first couple of weeks in sobriety.

They call it recovery for a reason

That first 10 day stretch into sober life was hard, really hard. I had some amazing support in the form of Kate Bee’s sober school and the wonderful Jan 17 grads. But in those early days, I would go as far as to say I was zombified (is that a word?) and I can appreciate how easy it is to give up, giving up in those first few weeks. When you drink and drink a lot, we get used to instant gratification. Quite often when we go a couple of days without booze and don’t feel amazing for the so called sacrifice we get disheartened, the wine witch whispers this ‘shit ain’t worth it’ and we jump back on the drinking roller-coaster .

What we don’t do is give our bodies enough credit, we don’t give allowances to our poor battered organs trying to recover from years of abuse, we want the same quick fix that drinking provided. I do remember feeling disappointed in those early days, the lack of sleep was horrific, I felt like a new foal, wobbling about unsteadily on legs that weren’t used to holding me up, even the daylight seemed too bloody bright

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

But like most things in life, amazing things happen if only we push through that discomfort. When I began my sober journey in Jan 17 I went about 6 weeks without booze, I pushed past those difficult early days and for the first time in a long time I began to feel good again. In fact I had forgotten what it was like to actually feel good. I’d been in some sort of permanent hungover fog for years, mostly without realising it, I just thought that was how life was supposed to feel, permanently tired and to be honest a little bit disappointing.

Don’t believe the myth

But then the doubt crept back in and I thought I couldn’t live without booze. I discovered the moderation myth and spent the next few months jumping on and off the moderation merry-go-round. Each time it was a little harder to come back from. Finally in September 2017, I realised I wasn’t living at all with booze in my life. I was barely existing, so armed with everything I had learned over the past months I stopped drinking. The rubbish feeling returned, the wobbly legs, the sleepless nights, the too bright lights and once again I pushed through the discomfort. This time when the wine witch whispered I told her in no uncertain terms to F**k off. After about 10 days I began feeling good again

The wine witch doesn’t really speak to me anymore, sometimes if I’m super stressed or tired, she’ll pop up ready to say something but shes easily squashed these days. I dumped her ass, shes toxic and she’ll take you down with her, like any toxic relationship she lies and is only out for herself.

New York baby!

Even though I am feeling lots of discomfort about this trip, I worry about getting to the airport, I worry about forgetting things, I worry about leaving my children (they’re old enough and have family around please don’t panic). I worry about pretty much everything till I check into my hotel at the other side, then I have to worry about finding my way round. But I do it, I push past that discomfort every time, because I know something amazing is at the other side. I see and do amazing things all because I stopped drinking and, after seeing the price of cocktails in NYC, I’m going to save a bloody fortune.

This trip is extra special for me because I am meeting up with a few wonderful ladies from my sober tribe, how amazing is that? This normal woman, from a tiny Yorkshire town, is flying to New York and meeting friends for brunch!! This stuff used to happen to other people, now I’m making it happen, I have the capacity for amazing things because;

I put down the booze.

I make no apologies for the amount of blogs coming your way about New York, this could well be a once in a life time trip, I’m going to record as much of it as I can.

Till next time

Vicki xx