365 days of Sobriety

Bel’s Story

This Christmas Bel gave herself the best gift she could possibly give herself….365 days of sobriety 🎄 On this one year anniversary she decided to put it out there and share her story. Here goes…

When did it all start? Well I’d have to admit I’ve had a bad relationship with alcohol since I started drinking at age 14, binge drinking with friends over the park, nothing necessarily out of the ordinary for a teenager in the UK during the 90’s. Binge drinking at the weekends just gradually became the norm as I got older so I’ll skip to when I believe the problem really started and that, sadly, would have to be almost immediately after my daughter was born in 2006.

I was 27 when I found out I was pregnant. Completely unplanned and with the guy I’d been with on and off for 6 years. We were more ‘off’ at the time but both happy with the surprise. We decided that we’d only be ‘on’ again if it was for the right reason, which was because we wanted to be with each other and not just because of the baby. So I entered impending motherhood with the mindset that I was doing this alone (relationship wise).

I gave up my little much-loved rental flat and moved back in with my mum and stepdad to save pennies. Me and my stepdad get on great these days but back then not so much and especially not when living under the same roof, therefore this was not a great idea in hindsight and only isolated me further as I hid away in my room as much as possible so as not to upset the situation anymore than my mere presence already did.

6 days after my daughter was born my lovely Nan passed away, which was hard to cope with when suffering with hormone overload. Then the loneliness settled in. I’d gone from working Monday to Friday (in an office surrounded by most of my friends) and being able to do what I want when I want, to feeling isolated, unwanted, unattractive and alone, with a huge responsibility on my shoulders. So I started secretly drinking, just sometimes, here and there, not getting drunk, just a few swigs from the bottle when no one was around to give me that ‘buzz’ and ‘relieve the boredom’. I look back now and think that maybe it was something I could control, when everything else in my life at the time seemed so out of my control. Alcohol gradually became my friend (my secret soothing friend) when I didn’t really feel like I had any. Having a baby is supposed to be a wonderful thing, why would anyone think that maybe I wasn’t having such a great time?! All my friends were living the young, free and single life, as you do in your mid 20’s, going on holidays, nights out to the cinema, down the pub, etc. None of them had kids yet and I couldn’t be part of that lifestyle anymore as I had a tiny mini-me to look after and no money. I loved my daughter more than anything but I was deeply sad.

To make a seriously long 12 year story shorter, me and my daughters dad (now husband) decided to make a go of things when she was 4 months old and we moved into our own rental flat. Times were tough, the flat was small, we had enough money to pay bills but not to do much else for a long time. Gradually things got easier, the flats got (slightly) bigger and the money situation improved but one constant was my secret, and not so secret, drinking, along with all those feelings of worthlessness, ugliness and sheer hatred for myself.

I suppose I was what society would call a ‘functioning alcoholic’ although I hate that terminology. Why do people have to wear a label that separates them from ‘normal’ drinkers?! And what is considered ‘normal’ anyway?! Some people would say I wasn’t an alcoholic because I wasn’t dependent on alcohol, well not physically anyway but I definitely used it to deal with emotions. I believe that anyone who says “I could never give up alcohol” could be classed as an alcoholic. Why can’t you give it up? Because maybe you are addicted to an addictive substance?! If you can’t live without it then you are addicted to it. Anyone can fall victim to alcohol and it’s claws. No one is immune. There is no clear line, it is a spectrum and it just depends on where you fall within it. For me I knew I was higher up that spectrum when the bad times started outweighing the good. I could no longer genuinely laugh about my behaviour, even if it wasn’t bad, any memory or anecdote of a night out would make me cringe inside, and still does to be honest.

I suppose I was what society would call a ‘functioning alcoholic’ although I hate that terminology. Why do people have to wear a label that separates them from ‘normal’ drinkers?! And what is considered ‘normal’ anyway?!

I had many what I would class ‘rock bottom’ moments and if I detailed them all I’d be writing this for 365 days but there was one incident in January 2018 where during a blackout I upset my husband so much that he reacted in a way that was totally out of character for him (I obviously have no memory of my behaviour or his reaction due to said blackout). I knew at this point that I seriously needed to get my shit together before I completely ruined everything I’d worked so hard for in my life.

So 2018 was my year of change, I went to the doctor who was amazingly understanding and sympathetic with no judgement, she enrolled me on a 12 week alcohol awareness course and I also tried Nalmefene (medication designed to help you moderate your drinking) but the side effects were hideous for me. I tried private counselling and I did a lot of research online, reading blogs and joining social media groups. On a few of these groups I saw ‘This Naked Mind’ by Annie Grace being banded around as THE book to conquer the wine witch so I thought I’d give it a go. I read it slowly over the course of four months letting the words sink in. I was not disappointed and that book changed everything, it literally re-wired my brain and how I viewed alcohol. I would recommend that book to anyone questioning their relationship with alcohol as I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without that book. So thank you Annie 😘

By mid November 2018 I had completed my first long stint of being booze free, a total of 52 days, which was a major accomplishment for me. As it was coming up to the holiday season I decided to do the moderation test. I started drinking again but only socially to start with. As is almost always the case, the frequency and quantity gradually increased. I therefore made the decision that moderation wasn’t for me, I’m an all or nothing kinda girl. So Christmas Day 2018 was the start of my life without alcohol.

So today I stop counting the days! I no longer have to say “I’m this many days sober…” it’s just “I don’t drink alcohol anymore”. It’s been a bumpy road this past year and I’ve spent a lot of it floating around on a pink fluffy cloud feeling fantastic about what I have achieved…I’ve lost 22kg (48lbs), I’ve discovered a serious love of exercise (something I never dreamed would happen, I always detested exercise as an adult), I workout at least 3 times a week, I’m studying to become a fitness instructor/personal trainer, in addition to my day job, and most recently I got a promotion at work. None of this stuff would of happened had I continued drinking.

Now that’s the good stuff. To be honest I wrote most of this blog post over a month ago, as I thought it would be a little rude of me to spend Christmas Day doing it, and it was all fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!!! Since then I’ve had to amend the second part of this post and here’s why…

So some people still say to me that they miss ‘Drunk Bel’ and sometimes I miss her too but the truth is most people only ever really saw ‘Fun-Drunk Bel’, ‘Arsehole-Drunk Bel’ saved most of her appearances for her husband, she might of made a cameo appearance for friends occasionally but it was rare. When she did appear however I have no hesitation in saying she really was a selfish arsehole. She could be very bitter about the past, vicious-tongued and worrying (not coming home after work was an often occurrence). Towards the end of my drinking in 2017 and my early days of attempting to get sober in 2018, things got worse before they got better, as they invariably do. I created a highly intense home environment and a lot of anxiety (will she come home, won’t she, has she been drinking, hasn’t she). The private counselling, although only four sessions, opened up some doors that I thought had been sealed shut a long time ago and a load of shit came tumbling out, which sent my head in a spin. Even though I was educating myself and finding my road to sobriety, when I felt down I turned to my old friend/foe for comfort and absorbed as much of her as possible 🥴

Now whilst I’ve been on my fluffy pink cloud during 2019, floating around going “la-la-la look at the new me aren’t I fabulous” I neglected the one person who stuck by me through all this. Yes, the husband! So this blog post rewrite is because of that. Unfortunately he hit me with a sledgehammer (metaphorically) just over a week ago when he announced that he is struggling to move past everything. He still associates me with the person I was in 2017/2018 when things were at there worse. Now he has relaxed and is no longer in survival mode a barrage of different emotions and feelings towards me have overcome him. We are therefore separating. He needs space to heal and decide if he can move past this. So whilst I’ve been improving myself and had my head up my own arse this past year I hadn’t noticed the wounds I had created in him or do anything to try and heal them. I focused purely on myself, assuming that me getting sober and becoming a better version of myself was the answer to everything, it sadly wasn’t. My advice to those newly sober…don’t forget to nurture the relationships with your loved ones. If they’ve stuck with you through the bad times the chances are there are some deep wounds, no matter how strong they appear on the surface. Help to heal those wounds and turn them into fading scars, let them know you appreciate them, always remembering you are not the only casualty from your addiction.

So here I am one year sober with a real mixture of emotions. On the one hand I’m so happy that I’m this version of myself, I like who I’ve become and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been but I also feel very sad. Over the past 365 days I’ve achieved so much, more than I ever did during my drinking years but a big part of my life now hangs in the balance as a result of who I was. Yes I’m a much nicer person to be around nowadays but sometimes change can come too late. Getting sober is the best decision I ever made, I have absolutely no regrets there, and would I be the person I am today if I hadn’t become addicted to alcohol? Probably not. These days I tend to look at the hand I’ve been dealt in life and any hardships I’ve faced as a positive and see them as lessons learned. My only regrets are the casualties I have created in my journey to getting here. 2020 is around the corner and although this latest development in my life has seriously knocked my confidence, I’m going to continue to be the best version of myself I can be and really start appreciating those that matter most to me, my amazing friends and family ♥️

So ho ho ho that’s my journey-to-sobriety story and where I am as of today. If putting it out there is relatable and helpful to just one person then it was worth it.

Wishing you all a fabulous festive holiday and an even better new year!! 🌟

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Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol

We sometimes don’t realize how often we drink alcohol, or, how much we depend on that nightly glass of wine or beer. While drinking in moderation isn’t all bad, taking just 30 days off will positively impact your future drinking choices. Drinking alcohol is so ingrained in our society, have you ever thought what if we were much happier without it? Why not try The 30 day Sober Experiment. This is more than just ditching the booze for 30 days with our help we can help you change your relationship with alcohol for good!

Dry January

It is estimated that 5 million people will take part in Dry January 2020 for a huge range of reasons.  Many do it for charity and believe it to be a test of willpower, others simply want to detox after the boozy Christmas period.  Last Dry January I stopped drinking at 4.30am on January 1st and drank again the following weekend.  Huge flop.  But to be honest, when you use willpower, go into Dry January with an “I can’t drink” attitude and look forward to the 31st January like a child looks forward to Santa’s arrival, you’re probably not going to do that well.  It doesn’t help when well-known Cancer Research charities have slogans like “Take on the ultimate test of willpower going alcohol-free” and liken people who participate to athletes.  Wrong mindset! 

In Dry January 2018, Dr Richard de Visser of the University of Sussex carried out a study on over 800 participants by conducting three self-completed online-surveys at the start of January, end of January and in August.  He found that after participating in 31 days abstinence:

  • drinking days fell on average from 4.3 to 3.3 per week;
  • units consumed per drinking day dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1;
  • frequency of being drunk dropped from 3.4 per month to 2.1 per month on average

Additionally, participants reported improved sleep, most saved money and many lost weight, along with other reported benefits (see below):

  • 93% of participants had a sense of achievement;
  • 88% saved money;
  • 82% think more deeply about their relationship with drink;
  • 80% feel more in control of their drinking;
  • 76% learned more about when and why they drink;
  • 71% realised they don’t need a drink to enjoy themselves;
  • 70% had generally improved health;
  • 71% slept better; 
  • 67% had more energy; 
  • 58% lost weight; 
  • 57% had better concentration;
  • 54% had better skin.  

(http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/47131)

The majority of ‘normal’ drinkers do it for socialising, relaxing, celebrating and commiserating but unfortunately, without warning, alcohol can just become part of a normal day and inadvertently can be used as a crutch.  A habit can easily become an addiction without the drinker even realising it – and because there is such a stigma attached to the whole concept of alcoholism, it becomes a taboo subject that no one wants to discuss.  Let’s just get something straight here, alcohol is addictive.  It is the most harmful drug on the planet.  There is no shame in becoming addicted to alcohol as it is addictive.  We don’t go around saying, “oh he/she/they have a disease, cocainism!”  Why is this attached to alcohol?  Because it’s socially acceptable, legal and a huge money maker for the government.  It is convenient to blame the person rather than the drug because the government can’t afford for us to become a sober nation – it would cost too much money.  So, what starts off as an innocent part of the day, becomes a habit and over time, the neural pathways in the brain are changed at the subconscious level, and the habit is suddenly an addiction. 

Contrary to popular belief, there is no safe amount to drink.  The NHS has stopped calling the 14 unit recommended weekly limit, the safe limit.  It is now referred to as the ‘low risk level’ and it is still much riskier than people believe – just because it is legal doesn’t make it less dangerous, in fact it makes it more dangerous because people believe it wouldn’t be legal if it was harmful.  Most people don’t even know that alcohol is a carcinogen – even in small amounts.  Alcohol prevents you from burning fat, so you retain weight and this fat collects around the organs leading to fatty liver disease and heart disease.  It is also a leading cause of diabetes and obesity.  So, you might be asking what this has to do with Dry January?

Alcohol leaves the body after around 10 days, so even a weekend drinker never removes the alcohol from their body.  They are always affected, even at very low levels.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “I’m not hungover, I’m just tired”?  That is a hangover at its lowest level.  It is scientifically proven that taking a break for a month will improve overall health.  Studies have shown that cholesterol, blood pressure and heart rate can reduce with just a month off the booze.  However, even though there are huge benefits to Dry January and Stoptober, I still have a bit of a problem with the concept of them because they are ‘sold’ as a test of willpower and celebration at the end, with alcohol, is almost inevitable.  If a person goes into a Dry month with the reward at the end being a drink, they will push through the month using willpower.  They might hide indoors, avoid the pub and other social situations just to get through the month, but their attitude and mindset remains unchanged.

Abstaining from alcohol for 31 days, not only clears the alcohol from the body but if a person does it with the right mindset, new habits can be formed.  Instead of drinking, people find new ways of having fun, coping and celebrating and for those, they will have lasting effects on their drinking for up to 12 months.  Some people love it so much, they choose not to go back at all.  These are the people who approach Dry January with an attitude of “I’m not drinking” and who seek out a sober community to support them.  Perhaps they do it with friends, join sober Facebook support groups, follow a sober blogger or Instagram account, listen to sober podcasts, read quit lit or a combination of the above.  These people find joy in not drinking and take up new hobbies, join a gym, take up some form of exercise and embrace the dry month.  They aren’t white-knuckling it to the 31st with their drinking plans already booked.  These people end January more aware and more educated.  These people might go back to drinking, but they will go back changed and go back healthier.

So, this January, don’t punish yourself.  You don’t have to be an alcoholic to want to not poison yourself.  I wasn’t an alcoholic, but I’m no longer a drinker and it all started with a month off the booze.

The Sober Experiment can support you through Dry January

If you would like support during Dry January 2020, follow us on Instagram @soberexperiment or join our Facebook support group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1285276628316149/.  You can also purchase our workbook and journal on Amazon here to support you through the month.  Finally, click the link if you would like to find out about our 30-day supported coaching programme (only £19.99 this month), or please email soberexperiment@gmail.com or visit our website www.soberexperiment.co.uk.   10% of all our profits go to Nacoa, an amazing charity helping children of alcoholics.

Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol

Sober Christmas

Tis the season to be sober, but how do we stick to that? Sobriety can be a mind game and it’s totally understandable if you are feeling a little anxious about Christmas and have some jitters about your ability to stay sober in the weeks to come.

Here are some top tips to help you cope this Christmas

  • Reach out to your support network: Join our private Facebook support group, there is always somebody on hand to help out, give advice and listen to you when you need it
  • Make a plan: Carefully consider events you plan to attend and discuss strategies for coping with temptation.
  • Stay away from triggering places: it is OK to turn down invitations to any familiar hotspots where you used to get smashed. Avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants or other places if you have to. Do not be tempted to join in or test yourself.
  • Devote time to yourself: Get some exercise, do some charity work, watch your fave movie, download a good book – do what you need to do to keep your mind occupied.
  • Know when to say enough: Don’t be afraid to call it a night and go home.
  • Reward yourself: Whenever you pass up a drink or other substance give yourself a treat for making the right decision.
  • Create new traditions: Rather than worrying about what you are going to do instead of having that usual Bucks Fizz at breakfast or Baileys after dinner why not create new traditions that didn’t include alcohol like a trip to the theatre,, Nosecco with Fresh OJ at breakfast and maybe a long walk after dinner.
  • Take your own tipple: If you are out visiting family and friends why not keep some alcohol free drinks handy
  • One day at a time:Each day of the Christmas/New year period is just another 24 hours, so try not to give it any more power than that. Enjoy your Christmas and New Year, one day at a time.
  • Prepare a response: Some people won’t even notice that you’re not drinking, but it’s worth preparing a response for those who do ask about it. I’m driving / I’m tired / I’m not feeling well are all good explanations. Respond confidently and then move the conversation on.
  • Be positive and if you think you struggle with the whole ‘think positive’ thing then fake it until you make it! get your nails done, do your hair. have a beard trim, If you feel good on the outside, it will help you feel more confident inside. Keep smiling and force yourself to make an effort. Act like you’re having a fabulous time and who knows – it might just happen! Sobriety is a mind game so bat away any thoughts about being a sober loser or missing out. You have got this.
  • Be Mindful: Use Christmas as a time of reflection. What’s worked well so far? don’t go beating yourself about things in the past just try and learn from them, forgive yourself and move on. Mindfulness is such a powerful tool over the Christmas period. It not only helps you deal with any cravings and negative thinking that may crop up, but it also helps you experience the joys of this time of year. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment without resistance. It gives you chance to truly experience life instead of going through each day on autopilot.

Not drinking alcohol gives you a different point of view over Christmas. It certainly highlights how much alcohol is part of Christmas. The first Christmas without drink is probably the hardest and you do need to be firm, The reality is that you can do it and this Christmas can still be the best ever, despite the fact that no alcohol will pass your lips. Treat yourself to

  • Better sleep
  • Clarity
  • Clearer skin
  • No hangovers
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Stronger immune system
  • More energy
  • More money
  • More time
  • More creativity
  • More patience
  • A better mood
  • A better memory

You get the idea…..

Treat yourself to sobriety this Christmas

Photo by Renato Abati on Pexels.com

Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol

Not ready to ditch the booze just yet? Keep reading………

Did you know that just 30 days off the booze can open up a whole new world. If you aren’t quite ready to go sober just yet why don’t you treat yourself to The 30 Day Sober Experiment Christmas Package.

Alex and Lisa will support you the whole way through your experiment through Daily emails, Coaching Videos and access to our private Facebook support group offering inspirational and motivational tips on meeting the first milestone. You will also be offered access to a regular group webinar (our sober chat) for questions and concerns that may arise during the experiment. You can start this experiment at any time, no pressure just tons of help and support when you need it.

If you’re ready to change your mindset about drinking and change your relationship with alcohol for good then click below!

Alcohol and the workplace

How many people have gone into work under par after a heavy night on the booze?  I know I have.  The dry mouth, the headache, the irritability with colleagues who just want to get the job done.  I’ve popped chewing gum and mints constantly, drank endless cups of coffee just hoping no one noticed and dragging myself through the day.  And of course, everyone does know it’s a hangover.  Some are inwardly annoyed, and others find it perfectly acceptable.  I mean, it’s Monday so everyone drank on the weekend, right?  It could be a Friday, because Thursday is the new Friday and time for drink.  Or what about a Thursday, Wednesday is in the middle of the week, hump day and everyone deserves a drink or two don’t they?  As an employer, hangovers in work are very pricey.  In fact, 89,000 people are turning up to work hungover or under the influence of alcohol every day.  They cost the UK £1.4bn a year through either absence or low productivity1.  Think about it.  Most people would never take a Monday off work as it’s obvious.  But a Monday and a Tuesday, well that will convince the employer that they are ill, right?  So, what is your company absence record like?  Which days do you have the most absences?  Have you analysed it?  What are you doing about it?  How can you begin to approach it?

The first thing you need to do as an employer is understand the severity of the issue.  So, what exactly is a hangover?  Heavy drinking leads to an increase in alcohol concentration in the bloodstream.  The subsequent processing of this alcohol by the liver produces an extremely toxic substance called acetaldehyde.  This can lead to headaches, shakes, sickness, nausea, problems concentrating, fatigue and irritability.  Not only does this pose a practical problem, particularly in manual jobs but it can affect fitness for work, work attendance, performance and relationships with colleagues (who may be uncomfortable with dealing with it).  I’m not talking here about heavy long-term consumption.  This is your regular UK drinker.  Your regular UK worker.  And some jobs are at a higher risk in the UK.  Construction workers, manufacturers, financial services and other well-paid professional roles have statistics showing about a third of staff admit heavy drinking2.  To put this into context, it amounts on average to one to two people in ten turning up to work once or twice a week with a hangover.  If those people are earning minimum UK wage on a 37-hour week, they are costing you in the region of £6800 each, per year.  How big is your workforce?  Work out how much your hungover workforce is costing you in absence or productivity.

The ‘at-risk’ groups are:

  • Male workers;
  • Young workers <29 years;
  • Tradespersons/Manual workers;
  • Individuals employed in hospitality, retail, financial services and other well-paid professional roles.

It has been estimated that up to 17 million working days are lost each year in the UK because of alcohol-related sickness3.

As an employer, be aware that the availability of alcohol and your workplace culture can impact individual alcohol use and drinking patterns.  Working conditions, workplace customs (Friday drinking, lunchtime drinking, work parties) and environments increase the risk of alcohol consumption.

The ‘at-risk’ factors include:

  • Workers in isolation.  People working away from family and friends are more likely to drink alcohol as a result of boredom;
  • Workers undertaking long hours or shift workers;
  • Workers in uncomfortable or hazardous working environments;
  • Workers who lack direct supervision;
  • Workers under stress (often because they feel they are not adequately skilled or trained) or those with low job satisfaction;
  • Workers who do not form good relationships with colleagues or who are suffering from workplace bullying;
  • Workers with poor mental health (1 in 4 UK individuals suffer from a mental health problem every year in the UK)
  • Workers undergoing organisational changes or restructures 4.

So why is this your problem?

  1. Alcohol can impact the safety of workers who are hungover or under the influence of alcohol, and the safety of those around them.  This is particularly of concern if the occupation involves using heavy machinery or driving vehicles. 
  2. Alcohol can affect workplace relationships with co-workers and customers.  A hangover or withdrawals from alcohol can impact behaviour and mood.  If someone is still drunk, they might act in an unprofessional manner.  If someone has to cover someone who is absent due to a hangover (and they will know this), it can impact colleague relationships and resentment can develop.
  3. Alcohol can impact the workplace economy.  This is of particular concern when long-term alcohol-related concerns haven’t been adequately addressed.  There may be long-term sickness, loss of skills, loss of employees, and of course, the costs involved with new training or replacing staff.
  4. Alcohol use, even what you may consider normal consumption, can impact productivity.  This may arise from short-term absence, lower quality or quantity of work, poor decision making, disruption to operations, the need for cover for workers absent due to alcohol.

What are your responsibilities?

As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect your employees’ health, safety and welfare5.  This includes responding to alcohol use and related harm in the workplace.  You must have an effective policy in place that deals with alcohol-related problems and you must support your employees.

As an employee, they must take reasonable care of their own safety and health in the workplace and not endanger the health and safety of their co-workers, but do they know this?

As an employer, you should look out for unexplained or frequent absences, changes in behaviour, unexplained dips in productivity, accidents or near-misses and/or performance or conduct issues as early indicators that there may be a problem.

What can you do?

  1. Develop safe workplace cultures to prevent and manage alcohol-related issues in the workplace and involve everyone.  Many employees do not have adequate training around the issue and managers aren’t comfortable dealing with it. 
  2. Develop and implement an effective Work Alcohol Policy and Procedure.
  3. Promote and encourage workplace health.
  4. Educate and train your employees – this is perhaps the best action you can take.  Not only is it proactive and protects the wellbeing of your workforce but prevention is better than cure, and will save you more money in the long run.
  5. Provide access to support, treatment and counselling services.
  6. Test for alcohol – this is not a legal requirement, but it may be something you want to implement if alcohol use could harm employees (driving jobs/manual jobs/medical jobs, etc.). 

What can we do to help?

We can make education fun and engaging for your workforce surrounding alcohol, wellbeing and mental health.  We can raise morale and teamwork by involving everyone in our 30-day experiment.  Just 30 days off the booze can impact someone for six months to a year and ensure they drink more mindfully.  We can help you to develop an effective policy and procedure.  We can save you thousands of pounds.  Interested?  Contact us through our website https://soberexperiment.co.uk/presentations-in-the-workplace/.

References

1Institute of Alcohol Studies.  (2019).  Hangovers cost the UK up to £1.4bn a year.    

2Croner, I.  (2016).  Britain’s binge drinking culture at work. 

3Institue of Alcohol Studies.  (2017).  Alcohol and the working population.

4Alcohol Think Again.  (2019).  Facts about Alcohol and Workplace Issues.

5Health and Safety Executive.  (2019).  Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work.

Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol

Our Sober Story

Alex and Lisa met at secondary school through their parents.  Both upbringings involved alcohol as a normal part of life.  This was the way it was.  Their parents and grandparents owned pubs, held household parties and as their parents were friends, they were involved.  There was nothing unusual about this for that time and for that environment.  As owners of pubs, all their parents’ friends were social drinkers so it was perfectly normal for them.

 Alex’s earliest memory of drinking was when Alex and her younger sister poured drinks from the bar playing a pub game and drank some when she was just five years old but at least this was in her own home, so it turns out that this is perfectly legal in the UK.  Although, Alex knows that on a much earlier occasion, which she doesn’t remember, she drank red wine that had been left lying around the house. 

 Lisa’s earliest memory of alcohol was when she was about 6 years old and punch was being served at a family barbecue.  She was sneaking the punch with her friend, who had to go home drunk (she was about 7).  From these impressionable ages Alex and Lisa’s lives became steadily entwined with alcohol, beginning as most do in their early teens, using it to fit in with a peer group or as a crutch in social situations where confidence was lacking and ending in their late 30s with waking up and reaching for a left over glass of wine to rid themselves of the debilitating hangover from the previous nights session. 

Alex and Lisa – Alex with broiken arm after drunk night out.

Over the years there had been an incalculable amount of reasons for both to despise alcohol as it had been the direct cause of so many reckless, damaging and life altering situations. To name a few; the times spent in the A&E waiting room, waking up to the feeling of guilt and shame after a family bust up, being separated from friends on a night out with no money and a depleted phone battery with no recollection of how, why or when,  and the precious Saturday and Sunday mornings spent nursing self-inflicted illnesses rather than spending them with their young children.  Principal to all of these, the untimely deaths of both their fathers and two childhood friends through long term alcohol abuse.  These devastating losses were all mourned and bid farewell by raising a glass of the very thing that lead their lives to a premature end. No matter the state of affairs, alcohol in their eyes was not the culprit it was the cure, the escape needed for hard times or the essential ingredient of any celebration.  Both had taken part in, became experts in and then surpassed the idea of the mummy wine culture.

Weekly, Lisa would call Alex filled with regret and anxiety.  Alcohol had snuck up on her and she hated it.  Lisa had remarried and her relationship was suffering as he was a heavy drinker and Lisa felt she was being dragged further into it.  She had started to drink more regularly to get on the same level.  The alcohol was impeding her ability to deal with life.  Her now teenagers were going wild, she was working so hard in the week, and at weekends she was going out binge drinking.  She started to notice that she was living for the weekends and upon realising this was setting herself rules of staying in but breaking the promise over and over.  She was using alcohol as an escape from reality and felt she deserved the drunken weekends to be her ‘real self’.  She knew she had a problem.

 Alex was working all week and rarely had a drink on a week night but always wished for Friday.  Every Friday and Saturday Alex would drink 1-2 bottles of red wine in the house.  She had tried to quit after throwing a sandwich at her husband’s head because he was going out to the pub and she had to stay in, she drank herself into a stupor, alone in the house.  Alex stopped drinking because she believed he would leave her, then Alex found out she was pregnant, which took away any effort as she never drank with any of her pregnancies.  Unfortunately, Alex lost the baby at 3 months and went straight to the pub and drank, with the never to be born baby in her womb.  This excessive binging went on for another 10 months and Alex became bitter, angry and resentful when drunk.  She knew she had a problem.

hungover people

In July 2018 after many arguments with her inner voice, Lisa called Alex and announced she had quit drinking and was going to do a minimum of 100 days.  Alex was supportive and a little bit jealous. Lisa had started to thrive and with two other women she met through Instagram, she set up Bee Sober Mcr.  It became obvious very quickly that Lisa’s 100 days had turned into forever.  Meanwhile, Lisa did not preach at Alex but she did say “I think you’re going stop”.  She was right.  Alex had decided enough was enough and took the steps to quit.  In June 2019, Alex had her last drink.  Taking strength from the actions of her Father’s 10 years of sobriety before his death in 2009, she called Lisa to tell her she was stopping drinking for 30-days.  Again, this quickly turned into forever.  Both Lisa and Alex knew then that they would never drink again and they still do.  Both of their defining moments struck when they woke with an horrific hangover, that sealed the deal.

Together they started to discuss the benefits of sobriety and Lisa helped Alex  She recommended her first book, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and by mid-way through, Alex knew she would never drink again.  Since then, they have both read every sobriety book they could find.  They both noticed that other people were curious about their journey because if there were any two people in the world who would stop drinking, it would never have been them.  Onlookers were gobsmacked and intrigued and they helped several people to become sober;  Lisa’s mum, old school friends and work colleagues.

In September 2019 Alex and Lisa set up Sober Experiment, a Facebook Support group to help other people and tell them what worked for them.  It started to evolve and they became serious about making a difference.  They have now taken on a huge project whereby they are about to embark on workplace presentations to support improved health and well-being.  They have studied coaching, mentoring, recovery and used self-education to support others.  Next steps……. The Sober Revolution!

Day one…….again!

“I am NEVER drinking again!”.  My words every Sunday morning through tiny bloodshot eyes, a pounding head, ridiculous nausea and vomiting and walking hunched over so the ground didn’t wobble.  I have lost count of the number of times I said this to anyone who would listen.  I have also lost count of the number of responses that went “until next week”.  I really thought I meant it when I said it and this would be my day one.

It was never my day one.  By Tuesday, I would happily sip a glass of wine on the evening, unless the drinks police (aka my husband) gave me the familiar disapproving look, then I might have to wait until Thursday as apparently Thursday is the new Friday when you’ve been a drinker for over 20 years, well if you’re like me anyway.

But when it really was my day one, it was different.  I knew I would just stop and be OK.  I can’t explain how and I have never put any real pressure on myself to count the days because I feel free.  I mean, sure, the first 30 days were a challenge, the next 30 were up and down, but by day 90 I felt free and happy and all bouncy on my beautiful big pink fluffy cloud.

All too often I see people beating themselves up about their blips and failings or their absolute stupidity.  Is this actually necessary because if you’ve returned to day one, you obviously had some success before you drank again, right? 

I think there are two ways of looking at this and in honesty, I have experienced both.  My interpretation of how two of my favourite Authors describe returning to day one, are below. 

The first way is as the wonderful Clare Pooley describes it in her blog and in her book, The Sober Diaries.  She describes an image of standing in a beautiful field with flowers, sunshine and fluffy bunnies but over time the field becomes miserable – her analogy for drinking alcohol over time.  It is rainy more often and its just not as pretty anymore.  She explains how you meet people who tell you there is a better field if you will only get to it over the massive obstacle course.  You set off not knowing how far you need to go or how long it will take and at first you do really well.  After hurdling many obstacles and feeling more and more exhausted you give up and go back to your field.  At first, Clare says, it is “great to be home”, familiar.  But very quickly, you realise your field is awful.  Clare explains that this is like returning to day one.  The first few weeks are the hardest but every time you go back, knowing what you have to face to get back to where you were, it feels harder and harder.  I experienced this on my penultimate time of quitting.  I gave up for 35 days, which was tough as I did this with very little help or self-education, then started drinking again when my will-power ran out.  The next time I tried, the first 35 days (of what has now become my success) were gruelling because I was right back where I had been 10 months previously and I knew exactly what I had to go through to get to day 35 again.  I felt like a failure but Clare was right.  This time I went at it knowing I would succeed and armed with Clares analogy of the obstacle course.  This time I had ammunition because I had the promise of a beautiful field if I just kept going.  This euphoria and freedom really does exist and it really does take about 100 days to realise it and about six months to get there.  In fact, I got there in about four.

The second way of looking at returning to day one is as the amazing Annie Grace explains it.  Her Alcohol Experiment is about changing relationships with alcohol whether that to be a more mindful drinker or to quit for good.  Annie implies that often people don’t see a relapse coming and if it does, they are cruel to themselves.  It is a case of being vigilant and mindful and that to be free from the grip of alcohol you should decide upon wanting freedom more than you want a drink.  She explains (and I am paraphrasing here) that if you relapse, it isn’t a failure because once you have given sobriety a good go (at least 30 days), you have the tools to try again, this time knowing what the pitfalls are.  She says “let each temptation, each battle bring you closer to winning the war.  Learn from each fight, discovering your truth about alcohol and its role in your life”.  On my final attempt at stopping drinking, I didn’t have to rely on willpower.  I was educated and empowered and Annie had taught me all about cognitive dissonance and how to realign my conscious and subconscious mind to get on the same bloody page.  This time, I read and read and read and I started to understand.  And I really did change how I feel about alcohol – I no longer even want a drink.  So, I guess if I had to evaluate this, having been there several times myself, I would say that both ways of looking at returning to day one are correct.  What helped me the most was having an understanding that the pink fluffy cloud would eventually come and if I started to fall off, I knew how to get right back on again.  I finally had a full toolbox!

Every time you have to start again, it is more and more difficult.  You know exactly how hard that beginning part where you have to use pure willpower to get through an evening is, but you also know you’re capable of doing it.  Whether you choose to count your days as a mark of success or take one day at a time is your choice.  Anyone working through their recovery and on their road to freedom, get off your own back.  You are brave, strong and courageous or you wouldn’t even be reading this blog.  Stop self-deprecating and beating yourself up for being a failure.  You only fail if you stop trying.  My advice to you, is to definitely stick it out for at least 100 days before you try to decide and I doubt very much that you will even want to go back, oh, and read, read and read a bit more.

References

Read Clare Pooley’s blog here:  http://mummywasasecretdrinker.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-obstacle-course.html

Read Annie Grace’s article here: https://thisnakedmind.com/q-alcohol-relapse/

Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol

Self Care

We often tell ourselves we don’t need self care, and we don’t deserve it. That it’s pointless and self-indulgent. Self-care is not always easy especially when our self-worth is on the floor, making time to nurture ourselves often feels like an unnecessary effort.

Top Tips for Self Care.

For lots of people who experience low moods, getting a good night’s sleep can be a big problem. There’s a very close relationship between mental health and sleep and poor sleep leads to worrying, worrying then leads to poor sleep, Routine is so important. Before bed try and do something calming, such as listening to relaxing music or having a bath. Visualisation is great too, you could try picturing a scene or place that has nice memories for you. Meditation is one of my faves, I very rarely nod off to sleep without doing one of my sleep meditations, there are some great apps out there for this and I highly recommend the Buddify app.

Keep active. I know that the word active can send shivers down your spine when you are feeling so low, and exercise can be a real challenge, you can start gentle, Swimming, yoga, or even small walk to the end of your street can really boost your mood.

Be Kind to yourself. If you need me time, take me time. You really are worth every single minute. If you don’t manage to achieve your goals for the day, don’t beat yourself up, if you don’t do something you had planned that is ok too. Try and treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Being kind to yourself Is so very important.

Question your thinking.Try making a list of why you feel depressed, then ask yourself what can you change? How can you change it? Try keeping a diary, it can help you keep track of any changes in your mood, you might even find that you have more good days than you think.

Try new things. Go on I dare you…… Trying new things whether it be food or a hobby can help boost your mood and break unhelpful patterns of thinking.

Take small steps. Wishing you could just hide under the covers all day is OK, start small, maybe just start with a big stretch, make yourself a cup of tea and sit in your favourite chair whilst looking out of the window, try and see something good, is there a bird, a tree, a flower.

Talk to friends This one can be a little bit tricky especially if you are suffering with extremely low moods/depression. Most friends just want you to feel better, so they often make suggestions that can sometimes make you feel more inadequate. They are coming from a good place and It’s absolutely OK to ask a good friend to just listen to you and only make suggestions if you ask for them. It’s also OK not to talk.

Affirmations. Positive affirmations are so much more than just feel good quotes and positive statements. Positive affirmations are statements that are spoken out loud , and often repeated, to encourage and uplift the person speaking them. Affirmations can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging  and negative thoughts These positive mental repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently.

One in 5 of us will experience depression at some point in our lives, If you’re struggling with difficult feelings, and you can’t talk to someone you know, Please contact a helpline there are many helplines you can contact. These are not professional counselling services but the people you speak to are trained to listen and could help you feel more able to cope with your low mood. Your GP is often the first port of call and may refer you for suitable (usually free) treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, counselling, mindfulness meditation or exercise programmes. They might also suggest prescribing antidepressants. support groups like CALM, Depression Alliance and websites such as www.healthtalkonline.org are available to find out what others with depression have been through and how they dealt with everything.

Depression is a treatable chronic condition and, although it may not feel like it there are always treatments and therapies available. The most important thing to remember is that you ARE NOT ALONE. Help is out there and there is always hope.

I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains – Anne Frank

Download some free guides for complementary Therapy

According to drink aware regularly drinking above the low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units a week is linked to symptoms of depression. However, it can be difficult to know whether drinking is the cause of these symptoms or whether the symptoms of depression are leading to harmful drinking. Alcohol affects the systems of nerves and chemicals, in the brain and body, that help to control our mood2, so cutting back or stopping drinking can help to improve mood. The sober experiment can help and support you to change your relationship with alcohol for good.

Join our 30 Days Supported Sober Experiment

The Sober Experiment will support you the whole way through your experiment through Daily emails, Coaching Videos and access to our private Facebook support group offering inspirational and motivational tips on meeting the first milestone. You will also be offered access to a regular group webinar (our sober chat) for questions and concerns that may arise during the experiment.

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A Sober Love Letter

This is a letter we received from one of our Facebook group members. We asked her if we can share it with you as her journey has been incredible…..

A LOVE LETTER TO YOU ALL: Hi, today marks 45 days without drinking alcohol… this is a big deal…if you’re like me, you already know this. I wish I could say it was some moment of clarity that caused me to stop.

It could have been the time I acted a fool at the office Christmas party five years ago…it wasn’t. It could have been the time I blacked out when I first met my husband’s family ten years ago…it wasn’t. It could have been the time I went to a neighbor’s Halloween party a few years ago and apparently told off one of my neighbors because she wouldn’t paint her house, it wasn’t. It also could have been one of the times I woke up in a strange place with no memory of how I got there, but sadly, none of that was enough.

Here’s what happened to me…I had a CT scan for a different problem and the CT scan did my entire upper body. The doctor left me a voice mail with the results…nothing major, he said…just a fatty liver, blah blah blah.Fatty liver, in case you don’t know, is the first stage of liver disease. Also, in case you don’t know, the liver is really, really important and liver disease is really, really bad.

Some people get a fatty liver from eating wrong…I knew that wasn’t why I had it, why I had given this to myself. I knew, in that moment as I listened to the voice mail, I knew. I knew what I had known for years…I was slowly drinking myself to death. Death had just come to my younger cousin. He died of Cirrhosis of the liver…this is the final stage of liver disease…game over. I got the news on August 1st and guess what was the first thing I did? Did you guess that I drank alcohol? Bingo!! Yes I did! Lots of it! Of course I did! I needed comfort. I needed to forget. I needed to escape the terrifying truth that I was slowly killing myself with booze. Vodka to be exact.

Oh Vodka, how I love(d) you! I kept you in the freezer…the big bottle, the public bottle…but there were other bottles…of course there were! Bet you knew this too. Other bottles (that I obviously needed) were other places…the bathroom, my closet and lots of little airplane bottles to take with me places (in case there wasn’t enough)…There is NEVER enough…is there? Was yours wine? Or beer? Or something else? Doesn’t matter, does it…because there was simply never enough.

All of August I struggled to say goodbye, to save my life…but it was so hard. Why was it so hard? Well, for me, it was because of the very stubborn and oh-so-logical voice in my head…it had lots to say! You know that voice, I’m sure. She is a f***ing bitch and a f***ing liar! But she is also the voice of my longtime best friend! Surely, she is not trying to kill me! Or was she? I felt lost, alone and hopeless. And then I found two groups on FB. Club Soda and The Sober Experiment. I found you all.

You (mostly) lovely British drinkers wanting to NOT let booze ruin your life too! You were so sweet and so non-judgmental. You shared stories…some of you were doing so well and some of you were struggling…but there you were, every morning when I opened my computer, there you were, sharing your defeats and your triumphs…and slowly, I began to have hope. I started the 30 day challenge on The Sober Experiment on September 1st and vowed to go until my birthday in October (coming up)…that was the best I could do and you made me feel like that was pretty good! So today I have 45 days…in a row! 45 days of not drinking. 45 mornings waking up and REMEMBERING everything about the night before. 45 days of no shame, guilt or crippling fear. So thank you all! I love you all! I have hope…hope that my liver will heal, hope for a better life.

 45 days of no shame, guilt or crippling fear.

Lisa and Alex, I will come to Manchester one day to give you a proper, goofy, American hug! So I am sending you all love, especially I am sending love to anyone with less time. If you are in the first few weeks, and the voice is lying to you, please have hope. It gets better. Thank you for being here…it really matters…every post, every like, every GIF…it matters, you matter to me! I am 45 days sober today and I think you Brits would say “I’m feeling very chuffed with myself!” X O Yvonne

Our Reply: We want you to know, Yvonne, that we think you are amazing and one hell of a woman! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, we definitely are “well chuffed with you” xx

Moderating alcohol

Why don’t you have just one?

This innocent little question is probably the most difficult one a sober person has to deal with.  Not only do well-meaning friends and family ask this to your face on a regular basis but your alcohol voice (otherwise known as your ego) also pesters you constantly with this question.  I’m well-rehearsed at answering this now with a quick one-liner! One leads to five leads to dickhead!  I can’t just have one drink.  In fact, anyone who has decided to go sober probably can’t just have one.  If they could moderate at all, they would already be moderating and probably wouldn’t be sober.

So, let’s analyse this question and answer it once and for all:

First part of this is from my point of view, why would I want just one?  Why would anyone just have one.  What is the point in one?  One doesn’t get me drunk, which is the point of drinking alcohol, I think.  One only temporarily relaxes me and when it’s finished, I want another one so restricting myself to just one makes me miserable and irritable.  One means I am under the legal drink drive limit so I could risk driving and in honesty, isn’t that just ridiculous?  One does nothing for me whatsoever, so I don’t just want one.  One makes me want two, three, four, five and more and turns me into a complete dick so no thank you, I don’t want one.  One makes me feel groggy in the morning and it’s not worth it.  One is pointless in my mind which is why I never just had one and never wanted just one.  One drink is all I have to avoid to stay sober and I love being sober so stop feeling sorry for me.  It is easy to stop myself having the first drink, but I could never stop myself having the second.  One is the start of a chain reaction that I just don’t want or need anymore.

I don’t just want one.  One makes me want two, three, four, five and more and turns me into a complete dick so no thank you,

I can’t have just one!

The second part of this is from someone else’s point of view, why do you want me to have just one? Is it so that you feel better about having a drink? Is it so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable drinking around me? Is it so I fit in with you? Is it because if I have one you don’t have to have an entire bottle to yourself and that way you can say you moderated your drink? Is it because you are jealous that I don’t have to have one to enjoy myself? Is it so you don’t get uncomfortable that I don’t want to dance on the table or sing loudly or over animate when I talk? Is it because when I have one I have at least five and I am a bigger dick than you, so you aren’t the one with a drink problem? Is it so I don’t remind you of all the things you do when you are drunk because I don’t drink anymore? Is it because you think I am boring?

Is it all the above?

Just one doesn’t exist for me and that is the same for anyone who has decided to go sober.  So next time you ask me why I don’t just have one, my answer is because just one got me to this point in the first place.

Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol

Is sober boring?

So this post has been triggered by the shop keeper calling me boring for buying no alcohol G&T’s – Rude……I wasn’t even going to invite her round to drink them with me so I’m not sure what she was so concerend about! My initial response to said shopkeeper and perhaps one I should have kept to myself went a little like this “Hmmm well I find that I am much more fun now and pissed people repeating themselves all night bores the living daylights out me” Cringe…I am such a dick sometimes, I have now had time to reflect on this little encounter and rightly so, had to have a word with myself. In fact, I am quite shocked at my response, seriously who the hell do I think I am, the sober police? Bloody hell I don’t think she meant anything bad by it, in fact I once thought sober people were boring too, and what’s funny is, I would make a concious effort to avoid such people at parties, I, like many others, believed it was near impossible to have any fun without alcolol!

Since stopping drinking I now realise that this is absolute utter bollocks and that we are conditioned into thinking that we need alcohol to have fun, by the very clever and very rich alcohol industry. We have been led to believe that it enhances our social life and relieves anger, boredom and stress.
One of my biggest fears when I decided to quit drinking was that other people were going to think I was a boring sober person who had to be avoided at all costs.

I was so worried about how I could keep up Lisa the crazy party girl, Lisa the awesome host (always on hand to offer guests copious amounts of wine), or the rebellious version of Lisa – the one who believes you only live once and so encourages those around her to party into the early hours. Without booze on board I thought I couldn’t possibly still be any of those things, and I feared that I would turn into boring sober Lisa with absolutely nothing to offer.

That is until I challenged myself to 100 days of sobriety. I was beginning to lose my identity, I knew I didnt want to be out until the small hours anymore and I certainly didnt want the hangovers or anxiety the day after anymore, but I really didn’t want to be boring. I just wanted to see what life was like without alcohol in it, what would coversations be like, holidays, birthdays, airports? I wanted to experience life without booze…

What I have discovered is that sober is far from boring and although I have done loads of crazy stuff whilst being sober including a 7am morning rave under Mancunian Way, that Lisa the crazy party girl, isn’t actually a crazy party girl at all. I am happy being just me and without the mask of alcohol, I have discovered so much more about myself and those around me. Seriously, who knew that Party Girl Lisa is actually a chilled-out introvert and that mornings where so much fun? For me the fact that I wake up now without any crippling anxiety, remorse, guilt, headache and stomach-churning nausea is enough to keep me sober and if waking up refreshed, energised and invigorated every day is boring then so be it!

good morning

Did you know that you can change your drinking habits permanently with just days off the booze? Whether you want to cut down or quit altogether, the Sober Experiment is an awesome way to get started and reset your relationship with alcohol. If you are serious about going alcohol free and would love some support then why not join The 30 Day Sober Experiment