How to enjoy a sober Christmas – 5 tips

Christmas is fast approaching and with it, so is Christmas party season, and the excesses that go in hand with it.
For me, Christmas brings a range of mixed emotions – I love the feel of festivity, colour, lights, warmth, kindness…you know, all the sort of stuff that makes Winter seem cosy – but the flip side of the coin is the hall pass it gives everyone to drink way to much and normalise binge drinking. The victims are varied – from the usual non drinker who indulges at the office party and the shock to the system it causes them through to the seasoned functioning alcoholic ( I know him well ) who relishes in the excuse that Christmas gives them to drink more frequently, more heavily and dress it all up as festive cheer.
Perhaps the biggest victim, although i am trying to dress this up as an objective view rather than one of self pity, is for the recovering alcoholic, who works tirelessly to maintain their sobriety and all that it brings to their life, who enters the months of November and December under a barrage of advertising, expectation to drink and a never ending schedule of family, friends and work functions where booze flows freely and it feels like the whole World is having the best time ever as a result.
If that resonates with you, then fear not, as RCVRY is on hand to help out – this time with our top 5 tips for surviving the silly season as a non drinker!!!

1. One day at a time – we’ve all heard it and we’ve possibly all lived by this mantra as well, but during this time of year, it becomes our staunch ally. As November darkens our doorstep and the first fairy lights appear in neighbourhood windows, a sense of foreboding may come over you as you fear the onslaught of the festive cacophony. But – rather than fear the oncoming 2 months, remember – take it one day at a time. If you live in dread of this time of year two things will happen – firstly you simply won’t get any enjoyment from it, and there is plenty to enjoy, ESPECIALLY in sobriety, and secondly, the massive hurdle ahead of you will weigh you down and cause you more anxiety and potential worry than is healthy. Keeping it in the day means you’ll tackle things as they arise and not waste precious mental energy tackling things in your own mind that may never even come to fruition. Before you know it, we’ll be in Dry January, everyone is living the sober dream with you and you’ll be looking back at Xmas with happy memories – trust me.

2. It’s ok to say “No”– Seriously. It’s your life and you can make your own decisions. Try it, it’s really rather liberating. If the rest of your colleagues are going for a lunch time drink on the last day before the the Xmas break, and you don’t want to put yourself in temptations path, you have every right to just say “No”. Yes, you’ll get some abuse, but after they’re 2 pints in, the sad truth is they won’t really care if you, or anyone else for that matter, is there – and you will have escaped potentially derailing your valuable sobriety. All through the power of the word “no”. Apply the same rule at Christmas family functions. If you arrive and 30mins in everyone is partaking in a few alcoholic beverages, and you feel uncomfortable or tempted – it is fine for you to make an excuse and leave. Your life remember. Any expectations people have of you to stay and be a part of these celebrations are massively out weighed by you maintaining your sober life.

3. Remember to pat yourself on the back – I mean it. Be smug if you need to. When you left that family function, or said no to those lunchtime drinks, and you wake up the following morning without a trace of a hangover, a dry mouth, a thumping headache, regrets, periods of blackout and not even a sniff of vomit on last nights clothes – give yourself a congratulatory high five – you did good. If it helps, get up and do something positive and indulgent in that morning time when your less sober peers are all still in bed languishing in a World of hurt, wasting their day due to over indulgence. It’ll make you feel better. When your WhatsApp group chat starts pinging with details of the previous night, don’t dwell on what you missed ( the reality is always 10% of the legend created in the aftermath ) but revel in what you escaped instead.

4. Do some fun stuff – Christmas is a fun time of year. Millions of kids enjoy it every year without a drop of the hard stuff. I’m not suggesting you go and sit on Santa’s knee, but reward yourself by doing some fun, sober activities – they’ll make not drinking seem even more worth it. From the cinema to rock climbing – there’s tons of great activities you could get into, and although they will invariably come at a price, you’ll be saving money in the long run, as well as the small matter of your health and mental wellbeing.

5. Give something back – It’ll make you feel so good. Giving presents is always a nice feeling, but is there something you can do in any small way to help someone still in active addiction? If you’re a member of a 12 step group, is there a service position open you could take up? It is amazing how much you’ll get from giving back to the recovery community. Not only does it focus you on your own journey, but it helps others to. This time of year doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be about excess and temptation. It should be about giving and showing gratitude – both very important pillars in recovery.

So there you go – 5 tips to help you stay dry and positive in December. There’s no escaping it, it is a tricky time and probably one of the most prolific for alcohol temptation in the calendar year ( along with holidays ). However, with the right mindset and approach, it can be the best time of the year and one to enjoy and look forward to.
Since I’ve found and maintained my own sobriety, I have had some of my best Christmases ever ( well – since getting my first BMX at the age of 7 ).
Good luck.

5 Reasons to carry on drinking ( and why they’re not true )

I’ve already written a blog post on some of the reasons why it’s good to give up drinking – and I could probably write another 1 blog posts on the same subject but with totally different reasons in each one.

Howwever, one of the biggest challenges that someone who maybe contemplating giving up drinking, whether it’s for a temporary measure, or whether its to be a more permanent fixture, are the reasons to carry on drinking.

I’ve been in that position where I was weighing up the pro’s and con’s of going don the sober road, and until my life had completely imploded due to drinking, I always came up with good reasons, in my head, why I should carry on drinking.

In sobriety and having clear thought of mind, it seems crazy that I even trying to balance the books of pro’s and con’s – let alonge that I let myself come to the conclusion that carrying on was the better bet – but I also realise now that I was lying to myself almost to the point where I completely 100% believed the lies I was telling myself.

It’s no surprise that when I start talking to people about the prospect of giving up drinking, they come up with the same reasons, or excuses as they should maybe be called, as to why they would like to, but can’t – the top 5 are listed below :

1. Drink is the only thing that I have to look forward to : Welcome to the biggest deception alcohol plays on us. It takes away everything, and like an abusive partner, it brings you to the point that you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it – it becomes the only thing that gives you momentary reprieve from the hell that is your life.

The deceit part – alcohol has created that living hell around you and made itself the only thing you look forward to. All the time you’re not facing the real World, and taking a daily trip to planet blackout via alcohol, you’re not facing up to, solving and learning from life’s challenges. It’s these things that actually help us grow as a person and give us the tools to become….well good  at life.

Perhaps the biggest thing I can tell you though, is that a life without alcohol awakens all your senses to levels you will have forgotten exist, and you’ll begin to see the World as totally different place, and you’ll look forward to and enjoy things DAILY. You’ll get pleasure from things you never imagined you would.

Even now after years of sobriety, I find myself gaining pleasure from things like smelling a tree as I walk my dog, enjoying a coffee in nice surroundings, watching the sunset on my train journey home – things before I wouldn’t have take a blind bit of notice of, let alone enjoyed.

Because it might be the elephant in the room as well – yes sexual relationships are far more enjoyable and pleasure able – for both parties i’m Sure – when sober.

My biggest fear was what would I look forward to on a Friday night – that has always been the one night where I felt I deserved a drink ( never occurred to me that it was no different to the other 6 nights where my drinking was concerned ) – what how would I unwind after a tough week working without a few bottles of wine?

The answer – there isn’t any one answer. I do loads of different things – I LOVE Friday nights. Much more than before. I might watch a movie, go for a meal, have a takeaway, see a show, go for a drive, go for a walk, play games, have an early night, cook an elaborate meal….. and the list goes on – whereas before, all I could look forward to was one thing – drinking. The setting maybe have changed, although it rarely did, but the activity was the same – drinking.

Believe me, you have a lot more to look forward to in sobriety, and you will enjoy whatever you do x 100

2. Without drinking, I’ll have no social life : Completely not true, but, I won’t lie to you, your social life will change. You will findyour circle of friends will change. Some of the friends who you no longer see anymore will be through your decisions, and some who you no longer  see will be through their decisions. Because you have made the brave and tough decision to cut drinking out, a  lot of people aren’t ready to do so yet, and all the things we’re talking about here are still every day life for them.

You’ll soon start to wonder why you spent so much time, and money, doing things with certain friends or no kind of return. You’ll find that you start wanting to do all sorts of different things – you might take up a hobby or 5 and those will spurn a new social life all of its own that is both rewarding and satisfying.

You may also find in time, that you do hang out with those old friends in the same places – and they may still drink, but I almost guarantee you, that you’ll view those social occasions very differently. You may find yourself counting down the minutes until you can leave because they just seem pointless. You may also find yourself tempted to join in again. Either way, you’ll see that those types of socialising aren’t the positive experiences that you once found them to be, on any level.

Socialising without alcohol exists and you’ll find there is a depth and variety of social life that you possibly never could have tapped into before. It’s not limited by being within walking distance or by the fact of whether it involved a bar.

3. Life will be boring without drink : Incorrect. Life with drinking is boring. It’s repetitive. It’s small doses of enjoyment, ever decreasing, interdispersed by growing periods of negativity, anxiety, depression, broken relationships, self loathing…I could go on. Boring.

Life without drink – full of hope and possibility. Full of learning. Full of enjoyment and satisfaction. Full of ability and self love. No barriers to what you can do. No hinderances to enjoying every day – no hangover, no dehydration, no regrets, no hiding, lying, no wasting money on a bottle of false promise – a life so un boring, you’ll hit the pillow every night wondering how you ever found the time to enjoy anything during active drinking days. The answer to that is – you probably aren’t enjoying life. Not really.

4. What will I do at Christmas? : a weirdly specific point here, and you can replace Christmas with Birthday for some people – but the premise is the same. We tie certain events into our drinking – but really all these events are, are excuses to accelerate our drinking beyond our normal levels. They’re days when alcoholic behaviour is normalised and forgiven, and has been for generations.

A lot of the time, this mindset is purely habitual. You always have a glass of wine Christmas Day morning, or its traditional to go to the pub pre dinner and come back and have many bottles of wine before falling asleep – where’s the harm, you do it every year, and surely this is what makes Christmas what it is right? Wrong. So wrong.

By over indulging alcoholically on these important days, you’re denying yourself getting the best out of them. Imagine reaching Christmas Day evening still full of energy, fully coherent, with vibrant and rich memories of the whole day having given the best you to everyone you spent ther day with.

Also, imagine waking up Boxing Day morning feeling great and ready to go again without the fog of hangover or the depleted energy levels that you would inevitably suffering from.

These days are MORE enjoyable sober, you’ve probably just never given them the chance to find out. Try it – I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

5. What will I do when I go on holiday? : Much the same as the Christmas / Birthday scenario, it’s insane how we can associate an activity or event and its success with drinking.

A lot of people see holiday as the perfect excuse to take the gloves off with their drinking – it’s no holds barred. There’s no work to have to face, everyone is in the relaxed holiday spirit and it’s just not frowned upon to have a beer at 10am, or a 7am pint with breakfast at the airport – let alone making the most of the generous spirit measures they give you abroad. And hey – if you’re going all inclusive, you want to get your moneys worth right?

Stop. Just stop. The fact of the matter is holidays are way better without drinking. You find you have more of the day to enjoy the setting of wherever you are, you can immerse yourself in the culture if you so wish, much more easily, and you’ll return from holiday feeling genuinely much more relaxed and recharged. Your body will have benefitted from the change of pace, and mentally you will have given your mind the breather that we all need from the chaos of everyday life.

I was 6 months sober when I took my first holiday, and yes, it was all inclusive, and it bars by every pool as well as wine offered with every meal. The previous version of myself would have indulged at every opportunity. But – I had the best holiday ever. I was fresh every day, I Absorbed a lot more of the ambience of the holiday and I was ready and willing to do a lot more of the cool things that were offered, like day trips etc.

I came back from that holiday feeling like I had grown from an experience point of view, from a knowledge point of view and from a spiritual point of view. On top of that – I felt completely ready to face the day to day grind again. And dare I say it – I looked great.

So there are the top 5 reasons to drink as I hear them. If you find yourself using these reasons, I hope this post resonates with you and helps in some way.

Life without drinking, whether short or long term, is so much more rewarding. Don’t fall for the false promises alcohol makes you – it never delivers on them.

 

 

The 1st RCVRY Vlog

The first ever RCVRY Life Vlog is live below – in the truie style of a vlog ( rather than a professionally produced video ) we did it live and uncut. We hope you enjoy and would love to hear back on any subjects you’d like us to feature in future episodes.

This weeks episode is by our founder, Matt McCoy, and he kindly shares 5 reasons why giving up drinking would be a good idea.

5 Reasons to stop drinking

5 reasons to stop drinking alcohol

When I decided to write a blog post on reasons to stop drinking, it proved to be more challenging than I could have imagined. To try and condense the hundreds of reasons to not drink alcohol anymore into just 5 just felt impossible. What you’ll read below are 5 of many, and all I can hope is that 1 or more resonate enough with you to make you want to read more and perhaps even take a sabbatical from drinking for long enough to see the undoubted positive effects.

  1. Save money – it’s been a while ( thankfully ) since I drank – but I’m told by those in the know that a glass of wine in a pub can easily set you back £8-£10. Apparently a mere pint of good lager can tip the pocket scales at £4-£5.

You don’t have to be a maths wizard to realise that even a few drinks post work a few times a week can make a serious dent in your disposable income – and quite possibly in your not so disposable income. Then of course there’s the “big” nights out to factor in, as well as the “at home stock” you need to account for.

People – alcohol is eating up your hard earned cash and for no return. A good way to help you focus your non drinking efforts is to choose something you’ve wanted to buy for a while. For me, it was a games console ( go ahead judge me ).

I the broke that down into the number of drinks I would have to NOT drink to pay for it. Staggeringly, within a month through just not drinking I had enough to buy my shiny new console, which I might add, I still play today and have had way to many hours fun with. If I had drank that money – I would simply just be poorer today with nothing to show or have enjoyed for it. Makes it seem a bit easier doesn’t it?

2. Your health – the effects of drinking on health. We’ve all read the headlines and we probably think we all know what there is to know about this subject, and we’ve all ignored the advice anyway. But let’s do one thing. List 3 things you might like to address about your overall health – so for me it was lose weight, have more energy and achieve a better complexion. Me? super vain? Never.

But seriously, these were things that bothered me, and I wanted to know how much my drinking had an impact on them. Take a measure of the things that are on your list, give up drinking for a month And re measure them. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You see drinking has effects in all sorts of ways on our biology and well-being. Not just the obvious ones of being dehydrated and potential liver disease.

3. Your sanity – ever suffer from anxiety? Maybe feel a little down sometimes? Ever have feelings of shame ( warranted or unwarranted ) after a night on the sauce? Yep most of us do, or have and will do again.

So let’s start putting a stop to these horrible negative feelings. Alcohol is a depressive drug. That’s not scare mongering, that’s fact. Hand in hand with that, it can cause high levels of anxiety as part of the withdrawal process as you sober up.

A prolonged period of drinking can cause depression and anxiety to become ever present partners in crime in your daily life, and no one wants that. I can tell you from experience, that both these symptoms can and do clear up when you stop drinking….. and it feels amazing and marvellous.

Add into this equation the things we say and do which we wouldn’t when not inebriated and which we regret – well that all weighs heavily on our psyche as well. Give your mental wellness a boost and see how you feel with a month without drink.

4. Your self esteem

5. To realise your potential – so here’s the crux of what we’re about at RCVRY. Everybody had potential. EVERYBODY. Very few of us come close to realising this potential, utilising it and showing the World what we can really do. There’s just to many hurdles and barriers in the way. To get to that optimal point is hard work as it is, let alone when you have all the above to deal with as well.

So you reach a cross roads. Do you just grab another drink and plaster over that nagging feeling you’re not being the best you could be. Welcome to the one way ticket of negative spiralling. Or do you start to feel great about yourself by taking simple positive actions, and proving to yourself you can be the amazing person you really are? The biggest and most impactful step to doing this? No prizes if you just shouted “give up drinking” but a massive pat on the back and you have my full support.

alcoholic - definition

Alcoholic. Part 1.

Alcoholic. Alcoholism. Drunk. Addict.

If you’re reading this blog, I guess the chances are that you’re already well acquainted with these words, and perhaps even better acquainted with what it means to BE one of these words.

I certainly epitomised all 4 of them in my active drinking days – I was an alcoholic, drunk, in the throws of alcoholism and suffering from the disease of addiction. Reading that on paper, what would you expect me to look like?

The general perception of someone who fits the words at the top of this post would be perhaps a male ( perception has gender stereotypes to you know ), unshaven, bad hygiene, torn and ragged clothes, perhaps living rough, certainly no job, no mortgage, unlikely to be in any form of meaningful relationship, sips from a bottle of cheap whiskey out of a paper bag rather than coffee first thing in the morning and should generally be avoided at all costs.

That is the stigma that is attached to the terms above. That, when you tell someone you know an addict or an alcoholic, is what their mind conjures up as a mental image of the person. So no wonder then, that there is such a great deal of anonymity around 12 step groups, and also no wonder that there is such a big issue around people identifying themselves as someone who perhaps has a drinking or addiction problem.

You see, if deep down, when you drink, you have a small voice or a spark of intuition that you are perhaps having more than you should, or the habit has become something a little more, the rationale that you’ll quickly tell yourself to quieten that voice is that you do not match the stereotype of an addict or an alcoholic, so therefore you can’t really have a problem.

Back to me ( us addicts are incredibly self-centred you know – even in recovery ), on the surface, I wasn’t any of those things. I definitely had coffee in the morning ( I needed something to help shift the blurriness that only drink fuelled sleep can induce ), I showered every day, rented my own property, had my own business even and to anyone looking inwards at my life, they would say I was doing ok. Certainly not a poster boy for the term alcoholic.

Notice how I said on the surface? That’s important. Because all that good stuff I was doing, and that my life was portraying was purely a well constructed show – partly orchestrated for the public eye, but also, in my denial, for my own viewing pleasure.

Beneath that surface façade, there were steps towards becoming that stereotypical drunkard. It is fair to say that if going from someone who doesn’t drink at all to being the homeless addict is a journey, I had just boarded the high speed service that wasn’t stopping at to many stations on the way there.

This isn’t really the issue I’m raising though – the issue is more that being called, categorised and stigmatised as an “alcoholic” is wrong. I was alcohol dependent. I was addicted and still have an addiction to alcohol ( if I were to start drinking again, I have no doubt it wouldn’t be the odd glass of wine here and there – I would drink myself to death – therefore I am an addict ). The term that is bandied around is a “functioning alcoholic” – that’s someone who maintains a successful form of life whilst indulging their lust for all things inebriating.

Being called an alcoholic, or suggesting to someone they may be an alcoholic, or wanting someone to have that internal dialogue with themselves around the fact they are an alcoholic is damaging, because if they don’t at that time, match the description of what we perceive an alcoholic to look like and behave like, then it’s easy for them to deny ( to others and themselves ) that they are an alcoholic, and in the black and white of that situation, they’ll then normalise their drinking and carry on at pace.

If however, we can park those terms for a second, and start to look at different ways to categorise how our alcohol consumption is affecting our lives, then there is a chance that addiction can be identified within the individual at a much earlier stage. It doesn’t need a one stop shop label’ There are degrees of addiction from the harmless one glass of sherry every Christmas right upto “the end game” phase I found myself in.

For me, the education about my situation came after the horse had bolted – in hindsight ( wonderful thing blah blah ), I can  see that my daily bottle(s) of wine, ever earlier start time, sneaky drinking behaviour, chaotic way of running my life, inability to be honest, incapable of treating my relationships with the respect they deserve – the list goes one – were all casualties of a dependence I had developed for alcohol. If, aside from the last dark days before entering rehab, you had asked me if I was an alcoholic though, I would have said no.

If, you had asked me if I habitually drank alcohol – chances are I would have said yes. If you had then logically asked me if I would find it difficult to break that habit, I would have also said yes. If the conversation continued and you asked me was there any part of me that wanted to not “have” to have that bottle of wine or 3 every day, I genuinely think I would have admitted that yes, I did wish I could break that habit.

You see, a different way of coming to the same conclusion – I was and am an alcoholic, but if you’d called me an alcoholic, whether through denial or mis-education, I would have laughed at you.

Lets bring this conversation into the current day. I’ve been in recovery for some time, I’ve learned a lot, I am a better person In every way. Ask me now if I’m an alcoholic / addict and I will gladly tell you I am and that I am proud to be one. Because if I wasn’t one, I would not have had the benefit of gratitude and love of life that I have today.

But still, if you were to tell people who know of me but don’t know me on a personal level that I am an alcoholic, they would see it as a purely negative label. We know enough now to understand that addiction is as much a physiological disease as it is a mental illness – no one wakes up wishing they could not get through the day without being completely intoxicated and messing their life up. Believe me on that point.

So the time has come to change the perceptions of what alcoholism really is, and therefore what an alcoholic really is – and by doing so, hopefully we can also start to help people long before they get on that fast train to stereotype of what an alcoholic looks like.

Look out for part two of this blog post coming soon – it tackles the issue of “Do I have drink problem”

12 steps.

AA and the 12 step program saved my life. I will forever be indebted to that society and that program – in so many ways, like it does for so many, it shone a light down my path to recovery that I just wouldn’t have been able to navigate on my own.

It, along with the support of loved ones and a harsh but ultimately essential period of residential rehab, formed the beginning of a life so rich in happiness and contentment that I dared not even dream of it.

So why have I felt the need to found my own program for addiction? Am I in competition with the 12 step programs that exist out there? Do I not believe they work? Should someone do the RCVRY program and not attend AA anymore? What’s the difference between the two programs? These are all valid questions, and ones that I get asked a lot. So I thought a blog post could help answer them, and as ever, invite conversation and discussion!

First up – I am in no way in competition with any of the fantastic 12 step programs out there. They saved my life and they continue to save lives every day. For many, they are the daily elixir of staying clean and not falling back into bad habits. The essence of the program has been around a long time, and such is it’s power and reach, you can find a 12 step group just about anywhere in the World now – even at the foothills of Mount Everest ( I am told! ).

I rarely attend AA anymore – but for years I did, and I definitely will do again periodically. That’s one of the many positives of these programs – you can drop in to most meetings, even if you have never been before, and immediately feel at home.

If you ever feel the temptation, or just need a top up or a reminder of why you’re in recovery – you can get along to a meeting and share, listen, absorb, chat – drink awful coffee and tea – a truly fantastic service open to us addicts. So no – i’m not in competition with AA, NA, GA or any of the other groups.

Second up – do I believe 12 step programs work? Here’s where I guess I’ll start to flirt with controversy – but do read my whole explanation before you pass judgement.

Yes I believe they work – but it depends on what level you’re asking they work. Do I believe a 12 step program alone can deliver you from addiction and nurture you to being the best person you can be? No. Definitely not. Should it? I don’t know in all honesty. I guess not, it’s not the job of that program to do all that – it’s the purpose of the 12 step program to help you find recovery, help you stay in recovery and help you help others .

The steps have been proven to work, and depending on where you look, there are a variety of statistics as to how well it works. I think it’s easy to forget that even the fact that a group of addicts can all assemble in a room at the same time on the same day every week, and be part of a ( in the most part ), organised meeting is a miracle in itself!

What these programs do give which is invaluable is a sense of community for an issue that is still largely ostracized by society. So the 12 step programs do deliver an awful lot….upto a point. I do also believe that whilst they can be a factor in helping you find recovery, I’m not convinced that it is the whole answer, and I’m not sure the program is designed to take you forward into a life post that initial recovery.

Many people feel it does and it has for them, but I feel the 12 steps bring you to a point – a good point – but not necessarily any further. I’m also not sure that because of the scale of the audience the 12 step programs address, that it is fit for purpose for everyone.

When I talk to people about where they’re at, and then start talking about the 5 elements of the RCVRY program, it soon becomes apparent that what they really need is a bespoke program based on their own situation and their own journey into – and out of  – addiction. I always recommend that attending 12 step meetings should be a part of the overall program, and having worked through the steps, I am in a good place to other advice and insight into what the steps mean ( or at least what they meant to me ) and discuss the fundamentals behind them.

Where RCVRY comes into its own is on two separate levels. Firstly – it is bespoke to the person. For this reason, and I guess it’s a downside, it can never be something that I can deliver to the mass market. It is not a one size fits all solution, it is structured path based on the individual and includes a lot of support.

Secondly, the program is designed to help get into recovery, maintain recovery ( and this is, to be fair what AA et al all do as well ), but then also to excel on the other side of recovery.

Through working the structure of RCVRY and addressing the 5 elements as they are relevant to your own life, you can not only feel confident in your recovery but you can also work towards being the best person you can be in every aspect of your life.

Drinkers Like Me : Adrian Chiles

I was pleased and even excited to see that the subject of alcoholism was going to be featured in a BBC documentary, shown in a prime time slot, on the sensible and serious BBC2 – Adrian Chiles : Drinkers Like Me from the outset looked like it could be a good forum to highlight the serious issue of addiction that is endemic in our society today.

Having watched the program from start to finish, I was left with mixed feelings about the messages that came across from the show. This is by no means a review, and I certainly don’t have the credentials to be a TV critic – but I do know a thing or five about addiction and specifically, my chosen specialist subject, alcohol addiction, so I do feel in a comfortable place to have a reasoned opinion.

What I found refreshing was Mr Chiles openness about how much he drank, and the concerns he openly explored as to what that amount could be doing to his health, both physically and mentally. To be fair to him, he set himself up to be scrutinise and perhaps even criticised for having a daily drink ( apart from Thursdays – he was keen to labour, never Thursdays because he was on air – but then I would always insist I wouldn’t drink on nights before I had a long drive the following day – and I always did #justsaying ), but actually, I think what came across was the fact that his drinking habit is not out of the norm for a lot of people in the UK today.

A bottle of wine a night, a few pints at lunchtime followed by a few post work drinks, a few tinnies during the football, a bottle of Prosecco while catching up with friends, a glass or 3 of Pinot while cooking the kids dinner – whatever the reason, there is a large slice of us who enjoys a regular, maybe daily, drop of alcohol. The line between this habit being a well deserved relief from the stress and pressure of our modern lives, and it becoming something more damaging is blurred at the best of times, even more so when drinking alcohol has been so normalised through advertising and media.

In one clip of the documentary, Adrian ( I feel I’m on first name terms with him now, since I’m delving a little deeper ) was with some friends in a pub at 10:30am pre going to a football match. There was nothing that suggests that he “needed” to have a drink in the morning, but because it was a football day with an early kick off, it was completely normal to indulge in some pre match pints… regardless of the time.

The psychology behind this wasn’t really tackled – I know from my own experience that any event which gave the green light for early drinks was always very welcome – but I am openly an alcoholic. I admit that I have an addiction with drinking and that my relationship with drink is toxic. I guess my point here is – if someone, anyone, feels compelled to drink 3 or 4 pints of Guiness at 10:30 in the morning, what is the rationale for that being healthy?

Because it’s football? – I’ve watched a lot of football sober since giving up drinking, and believe me, it’s far more enjoyable.

Because of peer pressure? – Please. These were men all in their late 40’s / early 50’s – they didn’t seem shy or retiring – if they didn’t want to do something I don’t think they would have any problem saying so.

So perhaps it was genuinely because they just wanted to, and as a counter argument, I have to concede where is the problem with that? They seemed to be enjoying themselves, nobody came to any harm and maybe it did enhance their enjoyment of the game.

But.

But.

Go a level deeper. What is it that made their brain tell them that to make the day better, a few drinks would be a great idea? Stick with me here, because this might become a little complicated, more to do with my written articulation than the actual concept.

To often we assume that what our thoughts and our brain tells us to do is “us” in terms of our conscious being. It’s part of our personality so to speak – so a lot of addicts will berate themselves for being broken, weak willed, a lesser person. All completely untrue. What if, actually, the addiction was born from a physiological reaction that was born into our psyche from a very early stage.

Sugar and alcohol excite and invigorate the part of the brain that is linked to the feeling of reward – a lovely feeling. Over the years of our existence, this feeling is married to memories of when this feeling was stimulated and very cleverly, it links all the pieces of the jigsaw together.

What has alcohol and sugar in abundance? Lager, beer, wine … etc – what occasion does the brain associate with this? In the case of Adrian, football. So the physiological reaction had quite possibly already determined that having a few drinks would result in an instantly good feeling. The longer term damaging effects of those pints is parked for that instant hit of happiness and pleasure. What chance did those poor unsuspecting guys really have of NOT having a few pints when it was hard wired into their psyche that the best and quickest way to have a great sensation would be to get a good dose of the amber nectar down their necks.

Now – a new physiological reaction comes into play. Blood sugar levels. As we have one drink, our levels spike, and just as rapidly start to decline. Our natural reaction is to get more sugar into our veins as quickly and efficiently as possible, all the while maintaining the stimulus of the reward part of our brain. The obvious answer has to be another pint – and so the chain reaction begins, and for many people, becomes hard to end.

I recognise this even today from my daily diet. If I have something sugary early on in the day, the rest of the say, almost sub consciously ends up being filled with bad, sugary or high carb food. My body yearns for it, crying out for another fix.

If I steer clear – I never seem to reach the point in the day where I’m so hungry I’ll eat absolutely anything. So the relationship between ourselves, sugar, alcohol and the stimulating effects it has on us is far closer to the surface of why we are compelled to drink than we think or realise. It has a lot less to do with someone just being “broken” or addicted. And understanding what is in play when you feel the desire to have a drink can help massively in not taking the drink in the first place.

There were two other stand out moments for me in the program. Let me cover them quickly before summarising.

The first – Frank Skinner. Sober for 30 years, Respect to you Frank. But your advice to Adrian to keep on drinking?!!?? Really??? I found this to be so odd. Cutting down or stopping drinking is tough for most people, and a clear message from the program was that Adrian himself had almost unwittingly found alcohol entwined into his daily life – and even just starting to moderate what he drank was going to be difficult. So to casually suggest he carry on regardless was awful advice – but then I did also feel that Frank Skinners whole demeanour towards the fact he had given up drinking was one of almost bitterness. He stated, somewhat sadly, that his social life had never recovered – my own experience of people in recovery is that their social lifes have never been better or more fulfilling.

The second stand out moment was at the end – Adrian revealed that he had cut down on his drinking ( good man ), but was supping a pint of Guiness as he revealed this. So despite educating himself fully on the damage drink was doing to his liver, the impact it could be having on his health and the revelation that it become part of his daily life –  as well as talking to and visiting recovering alcoholics and surely hearing their story – he was still enjoying a pint.

This is in no way a criticism, but an observation on the malicious and sinister nature of alcohol. Even when all the facts point towards the unavoidable conclusion it really doesn’t do anything good for us, the most a lot of us do is cut back a bit, and the realistic view is, that period of cutting back is temporary.

Well done to Adrian for tackling the issue head on and giving an honest and interesting view from the perspective of a relatable middle age(ish) person. I loved the program, but just felt that it highlighted even more than ever the blight that alcohol is having on our society without really delving into how to recover from it.

 

Relapse.

Relapse. Go ahead say it. It might take some of the fear out of it straight away – or it might not. It might make you shudder, it might make you cringe as you maybe remember your own experience of one, or it might even strengthen you as you use it as your resolve to stay clean. Whatever the word, and the event, of a relapse does to you, it’s one of the most dangerous subjects in recovery that I have come across.

In the true spirit of the band of brothers and sisters that recovering addicts are, let me share my own experience of relapse. It has happened once, and it happened very early on in my recovery. There were definite triggers for it, and I can pin point them – but even knowing and acknowledging there were reasons behind the relapse did nothing to lessen the shame I felt. In fact, the feelings I had about that “slip up” took me right back to the mental state that was all to common during my active drinking days – anxiety, embarrassment, deceit, pity – the list goes on and none of the words look or feel particularly positive. At this stage of my recovery, I was still somewhat of a nomad in terms of attending AA groups, so hadn’t settled on a Home Group, and as chance would have it, it also occurred on the weekend before I started a new job in a new location that I was moving to – this at least in part helped me get over the embarrassment part of the relapse, as I could and did treat the new beginning as exactly that – a new start.

It was the one and only time that I gave in to the demons of addiction since going to rehab, and ladies and gentleman, here’s the kicker, I am grateful I had that relapse. Yes. Grateful. I have even included it on my gratitude list a number of times since – because the lessons I learned from that episode and the dissipation of fear around the subject of relapse that it gave me have been worth their weight in gold.

Let me start with the lessons I learned.

Probably the biggest was that what I thought I was missing from drinking was really not that attractive, sexy or exciting. Having given up drinking after 25 years of barely ever going a day without a drink, and as the memory of what it was like to indulge in that most poisonous of liquids started to fade just a little – there was that little voice in my head, and I’m sure some of you know the one I’m talking about – the one that kept saying ” it wasn’t so bad”, ” just one won’t hurt”, “what could possibly happen?”.

Coupled with the other voice in my head that was almost daring me – “you’re really gonna go your whole life without a drink???”

There was a …. curiosity … I guess …. around what it felt like to drink and get drunk, as if 25 years of doing it on a daily basis hadn’t taught me all I needed to know on the subject. Then there was the wonderment at how good did it really feel? Obviously at this point I’d spent a few months doing little else except practising the lore of the 12 steps and understanding that alcohol was not going to do me any good – and in fact, without it, my life was already starting to go much better – but like a carefully edited movie trailer that shows you all the best bits of a film within 90 seconds, my brain played tricks on me. Stop. It wasn’t my brain playing tricks on me, that sounds like I’m passing responsibility to someone else, as if my brain is completely not under my control – no, I was playing tricks on me, and started to just think about the great times of drinking.

Lastly, I think there was a part of me that had the relapse itch to scratch. If I hadn’t done it, I would have spent a lot of time energy wondering about it. Maybe the longer I remained sober, the more that feeling would have built. Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe it would have lessened and disappeared altogether – who knows. But at that point in time, there was a very strong feeling within me that I needed to know what a “relapse” felt like.

So, what did it feel like? Happily, it felt awful. It did all the things I had learned drink would do. It made me feel depressed. It made me feel beaten. My self esteem plummeted. It took me low. It took me right down. Within a few hours I felt like I was back where I started, and everything I had learned in recovery was for nothing. I didn’t feel it right then, but now I see it was one of the best things to have happened to me in recovery.

The mystique of drinking was truly gone once and for all. It suddenly didn’t hold any more magical promise for me.

Waking up with that horrible dry mouth, a mind full of regret and an anxiety that bordered on mania, I could well and truly say that relapses were not good things, not things to try every now and again and certainly took away any notion of “it wasn’t all that bad” when I reminisced on my drinking days.

It was a harsh lesson, a painful experience emotionally – but an important one.

I think another dangerous side of relapse is the way we perceive others will view it. I’ve seen people suddenly stop going to AA meetings, only to bump into them at other AA meetings – their reason for changing groups  was simply the fact they had endured a relapse – or a period of relapse, and felt they would be judged, or that they had failed when they returned to their group.

Of course this is completely against the ethos of AA – it’s a community that doesn’t judge ( in my experience ), but the feelings of shame and guilt overpower that reasonable logic. The powerful, deceitful cunning effect of alcohol.

So whilst I don’t wish a relapse on anyone, and if you’re in recovery, I hope it remains a clean run for you – if you do stumble, you’re not alone and don’t be ashamed of slipping up. Do learn from it though. From a seemingly negative situation, take the positives. Use it to help you stay on the clean path for the longer term. Good luck.

Why I started “rcvry” and what it means to me

Starting “rcvry” in some ways wasn’t an easy choice – I had managed, in my own recovery, to resurrect my career, I was in a good job in the city earning good money and for the first time in a long time, life was stable and comfortable. After many years of no stability and living in the chaos of addiction, this probably should have been enough, and for a time, it really was. But there was a constant nagging feeling of unease – I wasn’t feeling fufilled, and I wasn’t feeling like I was doing what I should be doing with my new found ability to manage life more effectively.

And so, whilst difficult to wave good bye to the financial security such as it felt,  on the other hand it became an easy decision, because one of the many important lessons I’ve learnt on my journey, is that money does not bring happiness – and maybe more importantly, doing something you love and that is rewarding is about as good as it can get,

If you’re reading this and are still in the grips of active addiction, let me reassure you that those toxic thoughts of “what will I do if I’m not drinking – life would be so boring” could not be further from the reality of sober life, but as with a lot of our thinking when active, it’s so warped that it feels impossible to connect to the real World and the opportunities that await us there.

One of the 5 elements of my program is “purpose” – and I think purpose plays a leading role in the production of my “why am I doing this” mind show. For a long time, even in recovery, my purpose was either non existent, or was very short term focused, and quite often, quite selfish.

It went from stay sober for an hour, to stay sober for a day, then a week, then a month, then a year, until eventually staying sober wasn’t enough of a purpose alone to motivate me daily.

Then my purposes became a little more wide reaching – maintain a meaningful relationship, treat the person in that relationship right, get and hold down a decent job, give 100% at that job, be healthy, do 10k steps a day – you see all sorts of fairly positive, habit forming purposes, but they were all probably to achievable in some ways.

During all this time though, I kept experiencing a recurring experience that constantly left me feeling good – an ability to listen and help others through sharing the different experiences I was trialling in order to become a more optimal person. It took a long time for the penny to drop,  but eventually it did – my own recovery from addiction, and the ongoing personal development I was experiencing, was not down to any one thing – it was down to multiple things all working together. The moment I realised this, I SERIOUSLY began researching.

Like a lot of addicts, I have that sort of nature that when I get started on something, I’m like a dog with a bone – I want to know everything, I want to be the best at it – I can’t rest until I feel as if I am an expert at what I’m trying to study and understand.

I realised that diet was playing a big part in my energy levels and also in my cravings for sugar / alcohol – so I watched every documentary ( and believe me there are loads ) on healthy eating, from veganism, to juicing, to fasting – you name it I studied it. I went a step further – not only did I study but I also trialled everything I read about. I’m big believer in walking the walk as well as talking the talk, so that’s what I did.

Spiritually I studied ( and continue to study ) everything from chakras, to Tarot to aura’s – I started realising the concept of there being a life energy that we don’t tap into in our modern, logical World as being a reality. The more i learned and practised, the more I realised that to reach a recovery point that I could move forward from and actually start to excel in life again, I needed to tackle 5 fundamental area’s – and that’s where my 5 elements of optimal were born from.

It was around this time that I relaised, that for me personally, the traditional 12 step program, which had done such a great job during that first 12 – 18 months of sobriety, wasn’t really taking me forward anymore. I wouldn’t hear a bad word said against AA – it saved my life in many ways, so it’s not a criticism i’m making – I just felt it wasn’t doing the job of helping become the best me, and I recognised that some of the ways it worked were outdated in this modern World.

I started to become almost evangelical in talking about how I was keeping myself in a good shape, mentally and physically, and the more I spoke, the more other people wanted to listen and practise what I was talking about, and lo and behold, people who were suffering from addiction started to tell me that the program I had loosely explained to them was working. They felt better. But, they wanted more. They needed some structure, and they needed to understand what each element really meant – so I spent the next 6 months researching even more, and putting together what you can access through this site – a simple, but rewarding program that will give you the tools to beat your addiction, and also help you become the best person you can be – in most cases, beyond what you could even imagine right now.

I had discovered a purpose that really motivates me and drives me, – help other people become optimal.

rcvry – more than a program

Welcome to rcvry, a place where you can finally relax and look forward to a life that’s full of potential and opportunity, rather than be stuck in the negative cycle of addiction, whether that addiction be alcohol, drugs, food, toxic relationships – or just about anything that you find yourself doing, that has detrimental consequences to your daily life – but you still do it anyway.

The very first thing I would say, is that no matter how crazy you might find your own behaviour, or bewildering you think your life has become – don’t worry, you’re not alone. One of the greatest strengths I found when I finally decided that enough was enough and I had to get clean, was the fact that there were thousands of people in similar situations who were also suffering from the disease that is addiction.

The fact you’ve found this blog post and have read past the first two paragraphs should also give you strength – it means you’ve decided to find help and support, and it means you’re serious about finally setting yourself free from the shackles of your addiction. What you’ll find here are different options to lead you through the path of recovery and out the other side. This program doesn’t stop with you just being able to manage your addiction though, it’ll take you much further. It’ll help you become the best “you” that you can, and want to be.

There are no magic wands or instant success stories. This is a process that takes time, dedication and effort, but it is also a process that increasingly becomes rewarding and fulfilling. It’s also a program that is bespoke to you, your needs and your ambitions. You’re an individual, and nothing is more personal ( in my experience ) than the relationship you’ll have formed with addiction, and that you will form with recovery.

If you’re ready to claim back your life, become optimal and develop the tools to keep moving forward, you’re in the right place.

Good on you for coming this far already.