These are some of the things I have learned over four years.
hola sober For the adventurous sober soul
TEN FECKS TO GIVE
COMMUNITY THE POWER OF MANY WOMEN GATHERING TOGETHER
HOLA SOBER CHAMPIONS WOMEN IN SOBRIETY EVERY SINGLE DAY CHAMPION
CONNECTION SOBER STRANGERS BECOME FRIENDS AND YOUR CHEERLEADERS
CONGR ATULA TIONS. YOU FOUND THE TEN FECKS TO GIVE, THIS IS A GOOD DAY.
TEN FECKS TO GIVE
Feck #1 Oh Shite, the Giant Feck + Don't drink
Feck #2 Feck #3
Feck #6 Feck #7 Feck #8
10 FECKS TO GIVE
editor's note I get emails every week from ladies across the world asking very similar questions and I understand they want me to offer a magic bullet to end the pain and desperation they feel but - that's not possible. Some months ago after a raft of emails all asking the same thing, I decided to put together THE GIANT FECK as a gentle but clear guide to women wishing to stop drinking. I recognise myself in so many of the emails I receive and each FECK I suggest as a cornerstone, is one that has worked for me and others. This is a reworked edition to keep it fresh and current. I really do hope with every part of me that you wake up this morning with newfound strength and read this over morning coffee. Please understand as with all things, this is FECKED together, it is not a book or a chapter , it is ten fecks I think might help. Lots of love and congratulations on finding your way here, that, my friend is a good place to start.
Lots of Love
Susan Christina FOUNDER + EDITOR + PUBLISHER
WHERE IS YOUR DRINKING TAKING YOU? DO YOU EVEN KNOW?
NOT TODAY LADYNOT TODAY
IF YOU NEED SUPPORT..
THE WORD FECK WHY THE F WORD?
I am Irish born and bred, from a city that speaks with a colourful vocabulary using the word 'feck' in a multitude of colourful ways. As the Founder of Hola Sober (named embracing my Spanish place of residence) I know the power of words and therefore to give a feck matters to me. Feck is a slang expletive we use as the less serious alternative to the expletive "fuck" to express disbelief, surprise, pain, anger, or contempt. "The most familiar modern use of feck is as a euphemistic substitute for fuck, as in the phrases Feck!, Feck off!, feck it, feck-all, fecker, feck(ed) up, fair fecks (kudos), (for) feck(‘s) sake, fecked (exhausted, ruined, in a bad situation), and the intensifier feckin’ or fecking, which often collocates with hell, eejit, gobshite or some such insult." - Stan Carey
Feck covers a multitude and to give a feck means to care and where women and alcohol are concerned, I do give a feck. A GIANT feck to be honest. I personally know how much of a fecking nuisance wine o'clock can become and worked very hard to free myself. I am also hugely aware that there are thousands of women still locked in the shadows of their kitchen laying into wine nightly wishing to stop but not knowing how to, or where to go for help. MANY fear the fecking idea of a smokey church hall for the next three decades of their life and need to know, there are many pathways to recovery! Enter stage left, fecking modern recovery discovery without a fecking label insight. It is a wonder. Fecking fabulous stuff with women supporting women to live their best life without the need for fecking alcohol. Did you know that alcohol amps up your fecking anxiety not reduce it? Or that guilt and shame you are walking around hidden underneath your good cashmere coat do NOT have to be your waking thought each morning? Nope, neither did I. Read on + find out the fecks to give!
THE GIANT FECK
ARE YOU FEELING LOST DRINKING NIGHTLY IN YOUR KITCHEN SLOSHING THROUGH
WINE O CLOCK?
THE GIANT FECK
DO YOU WANT TO STAY LOST? AND DO YOU WISH SOMETIMES YOU COULD JUST DISAPPEAR?
FECK #1 THE GIANT FECK MOME N T #1
Inevitably the 'Oh shite' phase happens after some meltdown or other and you find yourself apologising for whatever you said or did last night. That's on the basis that you have been gifted with the memory of it in the first place. Oh Shite lasts for hours, sometimes days when you shudder in quiet horror at what you said with a bottle swirling around in your head. Anxiety abounds, hangxiety is in full flight through your body and you begin to go from oh shite feelings to feeling like a piece of employee the whole shite show just descends and gets darker and darker with every passing hour. You are also MORTO as it is becoming increasingly obvious to those closest to you that although you look like a fully-high- functioning-mammy-and-wife, shite as a human being, as a mother, a wife, a sister, an
you are quietly sloshing your life away nightly in the kitchen. The killer moment on my journey is when I started googling 'How much wine is safe for a woman to drink daily?" This was so very telling as it was all internalised and I didn't share my concerns with any other human being; it was me, myself and I in the company of my laptop surfing the net for solutions to keep alcohol in my life, yet manage it in a way that did not cause the roof to fecking blow off my life. Once you hit the OH SHITE phase you are already entering the GIANT FECK without even realising you are ten fecks away from a great life. Is there a spiritual guide to how to deal with the oh shite mornings? No, it's a slow but STEADY realisation that you can't go on lashing into the fecking bottle nightly. Prof. Google repeatedly points out that you SHOULD be addressing this wine o clock-addiction business, but, in your mind Prof. Google is not in the book club which consumes more wine than the local pub on a match night.
One too many early mornings where you are only capable of uttering 'oh shite' as last night's kitchen antics make their entrance through the foggy dawn haze. Oh shite. oh shite. oh shi te. I recognise the oh shite phase of the giant feck having been there more times than I could admit, yet here I am on the other side of it all, happily not drinking."
moment of clarity that will bring (I hope) you to your very knees seeking the fecking help that exists out there at the touch of a button. Please face reality, drinking daily is not normal, healthy or wise and it must stop.
You feel as though no one understands you, your situation or your life. Prof. Google also doesn't fully comprehend the complexities of who you are and what you are dealing with - at least that is what you keep telling yourself as you pour another glass of oh shite. The word FOREVER is an issue and SCREAMS at you wondering how in the honour of Jaysus you can make it through Christmas, Book Club or your marriage without being three sheets to the wind. Trust me, at this point you are doomed to a life of absolute success as the the GIANT FECK is fast approaching. In my experience it usually hits at dawn with a hangover that is almost too much to bear or after a conversation with a loved one or THE COLD KITCHEN STARES scenario (omg...is there anything worse than the glazed look over the bowl of Rice Krispies with only snap, crackle and pop as the table conversation...) and when it hits it hits hard. The GIANT FECK is often experienced with your head in your hands, weeping and begging the universe to help. For the first time in decades you call on all dead relative and Saints you have not spoken to since Sr. Catherine's class aged 4 years old, to help you navigate what you are feeling. An Irish person saying "Oh FECK," is often a signal to the world that it might damn well spin off it's fecking axis or possibly a tractor has broken down - but - either way it's a GIANT FECK
The Giant Feck
The is a hard one to accept, even harder to put your hand up to but when you have enough oh shite mornings, even you will begin to accept you are up shit's creek without a paddle if you don't get a handle on this. Let's face it, you have tried dry January, dry October, only drinking on high days and holidays, November for the souls and feck, NONE of it is working. You will be feeling shite, saying oh shite and often have your head in your hands desperately wishing the Giant Feck wasn't so obvious to you. Deep down you know you need to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol. Deep down you know you have to stop this self- destruction but there is maddening part of you that wishes you could continue to have a few drinks like Eileen down the street. You can't. This is a serious issue for women masquerading as some me-time bullshit that is slowly and steadily erroding at our power in our own lives, those of our families and in society as a whole. We are compromised as women rendered powerless by a glass in our hand. The Giant Feck may make you scream but trust me, this is the breakthrough moment of real hope
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
"It’s a swirling mess in our heads, we know this, but we don’t know this. We want to stop drinking but we don’t know how to stop drinking. We want a life of peace and simplicity but the sheer boredom of that prospect paralyzes us from ever actually doing something about it. We justify. We deny. We are at war with ourselves and the world, the bottle and the glass but do little to change the status quo because it’s a crutch, a coping mechanism, it’s safe and unsafe ground. We love it. We hate it. We loathe it. We despise it. We shop for it. Plan to have it. Plan to not have it. An endless round of promises, broken promises, broken Mondays, broken Sundays. An endless exhausting cycle of chucking wine down the sink and regretting that act of defiance hours later. It’s stopping at the wine store, parking the car, having a conversation to not go in, to then go in, to have another conversation in the wine aisle, one bottle, no two bottles, no one bottle, no two bottles. No bottles. This time no bottles. Yes, just one bottle. Regret that decision. Be grateful for that decision. One is better than two. Dysfunction. Wild-eyed dysfunction with lipstick and heels on but dysfunction nonetheless. The wine years, blind and utter chaos."
no labels YOU decide what you call yourself
MODERN RECOVERY IS ABOUT FREEDOM FROM ADDICTION. A LABEL? YOU CHOOSE.
PLEASE REMEMBER THAT. YOU CALL YOURSELF WHAT THE HELL YOU FECKING WANT.
not today lady, not today.
You make rules and you break the fecking rules. You are like a local Ban Garda (Irish female police Officer) policing your own drinking within an inch of its life; some of you even count lemons if you are a gin drinker as an indicator of HOW MUCH you drank..
No matter what rules you set, you break them.
You set out to have one glass but it never stays that way. YET no one outside the posh mahogany slate grey-painted front door knows a blind thing about your antics of an evening. But YOU know and that is all that matters in the GIANT FECK: admit your truth to you and be grateful for the GIANT FECK as it may well have saved your freaking life. You may be wondering why I would want anyone to give thanks to the GIANT FECK and I will explain. To me, this is the moment when we as women FINALLY begin the journey home to ourselves. We see that we have to do something, we have to get a handle on this monster destroying our every waking moment, and to do so, we need to do something drastic. We need to stop googling and start finding an online course, quit-lit books we can read, a podcast we can listen to that goes beyond asking Prof. Google are we drinking too much and instead take control of our lives. I found The Sober School in my GIANT FECK moment and signed up for 6 weeks of THE UNSTUCK course to help me put down my wine glass. The reality is that the GIANT FECK is a low moment often spent in lonely despair and BIG girl tears running your mascara south but in an odd kind of the way it is you calling you on your own bullshit and as the song says (The Script) "It is the end where we begin" in many ways. NOW, all you have to do is not drink today no matter what else you do tonight in that kitchen of yours, do not give into Moderation Mary and her bullshit of just 'one.' YOU and me both know you can't even drink one cup of tea let alone a glass of wine.
THE GIANT FECK
YOU decide. YOU can call yourself whatever you choose.
Stop thinking, "holy FECK, if I have to quit drinking, I must be an alcoholic."
The whole label of "alcoholic" had me paralysed for years, wrapped in fecking knots. I did an online class and don't identify with any labels in this space, yet I learned I was addicted to an addictive substance and after the GIANT FECK kitchen moment, I enrolled in Sober School, took that help and guidance leading to a life of health and wellness.
If you are afraid of labels, don't be. YOU decide what the label is.
Try the label Fabulous, Badass, Sober Warrior or Alcohol-Free as a fit and FECK everyone else.
THE GIANT FECK
"When women lose themselves, the world loses its way. We do not need more selfless women. What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world's expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves. What we need are women who are full of themselves. A woman who is full of herself knows and trusts herself enough to say and do what must be done. She lets the rest burn.” - Fecking Queen Glennon Doyle -
GLENNON You can be shattered and then you can put yourself back
together piece by piece. But what can happen over time is this: You wake up one day and
realise that you have put yourself back together
completely differently. That you are whole, finally, and strong - but you are now a different shape, a different size. This sort of change - the change that occurs when you sit inside your own pain - it's revolutionary. When you let yourself die, there is suddenly one day: New life. You are different. New. And no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore.
- Fecking Queen Glennon Doyle -
THE FECKING G A T H E R I N G #2
You will be shocked at the NUMBER of fabulous women on sober recovery support meetings. If you are like me, you will keel over at the small crowd. I went online to my Sober School class and there was 200 women in there, I nearly had to be put on oxygen in shock. Everyone appeared normal, very normal in fact. There will always be a few random nutters in life but I am glad to say, I have not met many in the sober space. Sober women are fecking fabulous ladies who have just like you, were once in the grip of wine o'clock.
What shocked the living life out of me was the 'type' of woman in my online class and in zoom- support-rooms. These woman looked normal (their vocabulary was alien to me in places as I am sure mine was to many but outside of the lingo it was great) They sounded like me. They were people I would choose to have a cup of coffee with and yet, I have never met these ladies in real life but they feel like my sober sisters and family. There is safety in numbers and the heavy blanket of shame + guilt felt lighter somehow... If drinking too much leaves you isolated and alone in your kitchen, giving the fecking thing up instantly transforms your world into a raft of lovely connections. Your phone is suddenly a lifeline to a chat group.
Going to a support group feels a little odd at first but you will find yourself looking forward to the gathering nightly as it is a truth telling space where you come as you are and the meeting leaders meet you where you are at. It's real. You will laugh and you will cry but more than that, you will make wonderful friends in the fecking gathering - friends you didn't know you needed until you put down the wine glass. Trust me it is fecking badassery of the highest order when you find the balls and courage to say 'I have a problem and I need some help here.'
Fact : There are thousands of women being rendered powerless nightly in kitchens around the world. They too are embarrassed at how out of control there drinking has become. They too are guilty and feeling shameful. They too are feeling as if there is no way out of this and spend nights on end trying to talk to Moderation Mary in one last attempt to keep wine at their fingertips.
THE GIANT FECK
YOU are not defective. Once you reach out and seek help, YOU can be part of the gathering online of like-minded women who have fallen prey to hitting the wine rack nightly by being brave enough to sign up for support. Please know YOU are not a failure. YOU are not defective, weak, or a bad person. YOU are addicted to an addictive substance and once you put that glass down, no matter how fecking scared you are - there is support, love, learning, and wisdom on the other side of the glass in zoom-room- support-groups and daily emails in abundance. I believe in small fecking closed group meetings of support so that women can share the fecking hard stuff without feeling they are auditioning for fecking Saturday Night Live or a slot on X-Factor.
FRIENDS sober I cannot say how IMPORTANT sober connections are on my journey as there isn't a price I can put on my sober sisters. My home team are women from my online class and we are thick as thieves. (not that any of us have ever done time for fecking burglary, it's just an expression) I LOVE these ladies and our non-negotiable is ALCOHOL. That's how we connected, at Sober School not swim class! My sister Gee is like throwing up a mirror and Colette and I share our sober date and birthday so yep, she is my Canadian warrior We connect daily and as I say, we don't drink that's firmly off the table, all other discussions are an open book.
TRUST ME, IT'S A GAME CHANGER TO HAVE FABULOUS WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE WHO 'GET IT'
What do they say?
"There is no way I would have been able to get sober without other people. I tried and failed having notched up 40 days and of course what did I do? I celebrated with FECKING wine.....OMG......" "But I don’t think just anyone could have helped me through those early weeks; they had to have walked my journey. There’s a striking contrast between the life I led before recovery (one of solitude, isolation and desperate loneliness) and this new sober life. I don’t think I’d be nearly six years sober without building connections with other people in recovery." Olivia Pennell "My sober girlfriends have been the game-changer for me and the ladies I have met through Hola Sober are like pocket sisters to me. I really like knowing they are there when I need it and I don't feel alone even when I am alone." M. "I did not go into sobriety looking for new friends, who does that at fifty odd years of age? What I have found is that these ladies don't need me to explain a single word and yet they know what I am feeling. They jump in before I even have to ask for help. Recently I had a big night out and was super nervous as it was my first sober night out with friends. It was SUPER to have them in my phone to message from the ladies bathroom when I felt unsure of myself and I got such support, it was just amazing." L.B.C. "If there’s one tip I would give to people new in recovery, it would be this: foster these new relationships with people in recovery like your life depends on it. It does in those first few months. These relationships are the bedrock of a sustainable recovery; they’re the people you call when you’re struggling. They’re the people who understand your struggles and can offer their insight or just hear you. They’re the people who tell you they know how hard recovery is and that you’re doing a great job. They’re the people who you call when you can’t sleep; and they’re the people that remind you how important it is to take care of yourself. They are your tribe, and they ground you in recovery. Without them, you can become disconnected from recovery be faced with new challenges like loneliness and isolation, which can lead to relapse." - Olivia Penell
THE STRANGERS WHO BECOME FRIENDS
SOBER CONNECTIONS FECKING FABULOUS WOMEN FINDING EACH OTHER
I cannot say how IMPORTANT sober connections are on my journey as there isn't a price I can put on my sober sisters. My home team are women from my online class and we are thick as thieves. (not that any of us have ever done time for fecking burglary, it's just an expression)
These ladies are the strangers who have become my best friends.
Journey to WELLNESS
Not today lady, not today, without this pledge, all the healthy organic bullshit is a window dressing and damn useless.
SUSAN CHRISTINA FOUNDER + CREATOR HOLA SOBER
THE FECKING L E A R N I N G #3
THE SCIENCE IS DAMNING listen up
Once you start reading about addiction and the pinkification of the drinks industry, your mind will be blown. You have been fecking conditioned into thinking alcohol is needed at every fecking turn in the road - IT IS NOT.
Alcohol is an addictive substance and using it to self-medicate and get through life leads us to inevitable addiction.
The GIANT FECK
THE LEARNING There is a fecking load of books out there that I never knew existed because I didn't have a problem believing my nightly drinking was normal. From Clare Pooley to Ann Dowsett Johnston to Catherine Grey to Laura McKowen, you can read about women JUST LIKE YOU who have successfully put down this shite and live healthy happy lives. There is a whole lingo out there in the sober world that I never knew existed. Each book I read made me feel better and further connected me to a world I NEVER wanted to be part of, The FECKING SOBER UNIVERSE.
FECKING REALITY CHECK
I am not going to bombard you with the things I learnt in online Sober School but maybe a few will resonate with that fecking head of yours. Alcohol in women causes the following physical + mental health issues. Increased Risk For Breast Cancer Women who consume a drink a day have a 10 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink. Can Endanger Pregnancy Pregnant women who drink heavily put their fetus at an increased risk for learning and behavioural problems and abnormal facial features. Alcohol Abuse Women are the fastest growing segment of the alcohol-abusing population. Higher BAC levels Due to lower levels of water retained in the body, women reach higher blood alcohol concentrations than men who drink the same amount. Alcohol breakdown Women break down alcohol less efficiently than men. High consumption negatively affects women’s cycles Excessive drinking may disrupt menstrual cycling and increase the risk of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery. Increase Risk of Disease The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men. Brain Damage Research suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to the brain damaging effects of excessive alcohol use. Moderate Consumption Moderate drinking is defined as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. Higher Income, Higher Consumption Women with household incomes above $75,000 are more likely to binge drink than those in lower income brackets. Deadly Dependence Alcohol dependence is twice as deadly for women as for men. Early Dieting, Later Misuse Girls who start dieting in sixth grade are more likely to engage in alcohol misuse later in life. Birth Control Birth control pills slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body.
- source HEALTH JOURNAL April 08,2016
"The dead giveaways is, you set out wanting to drink a certain number of alcoholic beverages, but the lion's share of the time, you drink more than that. You consistently set out on a night's drinking thinking, 'I am going to drink X' and instead you consistently drink Y. That's it. If you consistently drink more than you intend to, that is the red flag. Think about it. Where else in life do you do that? I don't go out intending to have two soft drinks and then have four. I don't buy a whole cheesecake, intend to have one slice and then consistently, predictably eat all of it, despite trying, trying, trying to stop doing so (I realise many will struggle with this, and my sympathies go out to them). Thus I do not have a dependence on cheesecake. Simple. Cheesecake is not my thing. I do, however, frequently pick up my phone intending to look at it for ten minutes, and find that - whoosh - an hour has slipped by. Therefore I am somewhat (not heavily, but kinda) addicted to my phone. Like most of us are. Alcohol was my thing. My phone is my thing. And if alcohol is yours too, know this : there is nothing wrong with you. Only something wrong in the widespread notion that all of us should be able to 'take or leave' something wildly addictive. OK?OK.
*Steps off glittery soapbox and drops mic*
Recommended Reading from Catherine The UNEXPECTED JOY of BEING SOBER SUNSHINE WARM SOBER
IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW SLOW YOU GO
SO LONG AS YOU DON'T STOP
#4 THE FECKING ACCEPTANCE
The dress is not compulsory
This is a difficult but important feck to give.
This is big as I still have difficulty accepting Henri's goal keeping Ireland out of the World-Cup but the fecking truth is that once we accept that maybe hitting the drinks trolley nightly is not the best way to spend an evening - the better.
This feck requires a truth that you have not faced for some time. YOU need to stop running and face it and fall into your full power.
No one is coming for you, we must save ourselves
Once we have had the GIANT FECK, we don't drink and we learn about the pinkification of the drinks industry targeting women through marketing and the subliminal messaging, we are faced with our cruel horrible reality. We drink too much. We need to save ourselves as no one is fecking coming in the side door to save us. That's our fecking job to do - save ourselves. Fecking lean in to the acceptance of the realities of your drinking and all else will fall into place. Trust me. This is a fecking fact. Accept and the universe starts to work in your favour presenting you with what you need.
THE GIANT FECK
ACCEPTING THE FECKING TRUTH THIS IS A MUST
For me personally acceptance was a huge part of my journey which sounds like a crock of shite coming from an Irish person as I have used the word journey which makes us crawl as a nation BUT it's the truth. Learning that the fecking drinks industry has turned wine o'clock into some rite of passage for women - shocked me. Learning that alcohol increased anxiety and depression blew my fecking mind. Understanding that alcohol is a toxic liquid that is a KNOWN addictive drug yet sold in every supermarket in the world was a fecking low moment for me. I had fecking fallen hook, line and sinker for the myth that alcohol was needed at every celebration in my life, was needed to exist as a mother and a full-time working one at that. That's a load of shite but for decades we have been peddled this nonsense and so we buy into it. For some OBSCENE reason I equated having a glass as some form of women's liberation in the kitchen when in fact it was something so far from that truth that it could have killed me. I had to face reality which for me was I was over drinking nightly and I had to accept that I could not sustain my life with that much alcohol sloshing around my life. Like many women,
I had used it to self-medicate, zone out and threw it at all things in life escaping down the neck of a bottle
so I didn't have to face up to whatever was spinning in my universe that month.
I had to accept I was addicted to an addictive substance and on the evening that I accepted that fact - my shoulders felt lighter, my world seemed better and the fist digging in to my chest for a decade lifted. I knew what I had to do - I had to stop drinking and in doing so I would at least give myself a shot. Not unlike the GIANT FECK moment, I cried big girl tears but they were more out of relief than fear as I knew instantly that not spending hours of my life having internal dialogue about what I would and wouldn't drink would be a relief to the noise in my head!
YOURSELF LO VE THE TRUTH WILL LEAD TO ACCEPTANCE OF WHO YOU ARE AND SHOW YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. THE NEXT RIGHT THING.
THE GIANT FECK
ANN DOWSETT JOHNSTON
DRINK : THE INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WOMEN AND ALCOHOL
" I think we have decided that we can and we can do everything that men do and we've done very well in the post-secondary sector. We outpace men. We go toe-to-toe in the workplace. We all know that. Democratically we're equal. Hormonally and metabolically we're not. And so what has happened is that women have gone toe-to-toe with men vis-à-vis alcohol and was suffer the consequences much faster. Telescoping is real, meaning we become addicted much faster. We develop breast cancer, 15 percent of breast cancer cases are related to alcohol consumption. And we haven't had a public dialogue about this. I'm not saying alcohol's the new tobacco but I am saying that the alcohol industry has behaved like the tobacco industry targeting women and we have to be aware of that. Alcohol is the modern women's steroid and it enables us to do the heavy lifting involved in a life that has everything, taxing jobs, motherhood. We have to be perfect. We have to be perfectly thin, we have to be perfect at work, we have to perfect like our mothers at home et cetera, And it's a perfect--it can be a perfect storm of trouble. And you come home de-stress with a glass of wine and decompress quickly as many, many people do and usually when I'm talking to a group of women, they're all nodding their heads yes, I pour that glass of wine when I come from work. And it's normalised. We live in an alcogenic culture and it's normalised. What's not expected is that it catches up with you and it caught up with me."
For many this book is a MUST-READ and a much loved copy in their home sober library. Published in 2013
n Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, award-winning journalist Anne Dowsett Johnston combines in- depth research with her own personal story of recovery, and delivers a groundbreaking examination of a shocking yet little recognized epidemic threatening society today: the precipitous rise in risky drinking among women and girls. With the feminist revolution, women have closed the gender gap in their professional and educational lives. They have also achieved equality with men in more troubling areas as well. In the U.S. alone, the rates of alcohol abuse among women have skyrocketed in the past decade. DUIs, “drunkorexia” (choosing to limit eating to consume greater quantities of alcohol), and health problems connected to drinking are all rising—a problem exacerbated by the alcohol industry itself. Battling for women’s dollars and leisure time, corporations have developed marketing strategies and products targeted exclusively to women. Equally alarming is a recent CDC report showing a sharp rise in binge drinking, putting women and girls at further risk. As she brilliantly weaves in-depth research, interviews with leading researchers, and the moving story of her own struggle with alcohol abuse, Johnston illuminates this startling epidemic, dissecting the psychological, social, and industry factors that have contributed to its rise, and exploring its long-lasting impact on our society and individual lives.
THE FECKING WALK INTO FREEDOM #5
#5 Fecking Exercise YOUR body will thank you for this particular feck.
EXERCISE The type of exercise doesn’t matter all that much. It can be aerobic, yoga, or a gentle jog around the local park but what is important is that YOU DO IT. Any exercise is going to work wonders for your brain and your mental health. I have found by walking daily for 35-40 minutes I feel fitter, less stressed and more in tune with myself than any glass of vino ever fecking made me feel. I know, e xercise releases endorphins, amazing feel-good chemicals, into your brain and they are fecking brilliant at making us all feel better. I know when I finish my brisk walk I feel tremendously clear and in good spirits which is the endorphins kicking in. And for those who drank to escape depression or anxiety, exercise is a wonderful way to feel good naturally and be in tune with your own body which in fairness is a hell of a lot easier when you are not three sheets to the wind on a school night.
"When I think back to getting sober more than six years ago, I know there are many reasons I was successful: I had a supportive family. I had the tools and resources to go to treatment. I had the necessary mindset. And I knew I was better off without alcohol in my life. But when it comes to maintaining my recovery for the past six years, there is another aspect that I know without a doubt has played an enormous role in keeping me sober: staying active and making exercise a priority. It’s no secret that exercise is known to improve mood and increase certain brain chemicals. But for me personally, it’s been more than that. Being active provides both an outlet and a goal to work toward. I know for many in recovery, it’s served that same purpose. "
Beth Leipholtz October 8, 2019 (to read Beth's full article click here
GET UP OFF YOUR ARSE AND TAKE SOME EXERCISE.
DAILY SOBER RITUAL Exercise is a vital part of our new healthier don't drink fecking lives. Walking, running, tennis whatever flies your kite. But it is vitally important you get up off your arse and move that body of yours into a daily-weekly program.
BETTER, FASTER, AND STRONGER Getting up off that lovely arse of yours is vitally important We’re too sedentary as a society and sitting drinking oceans of Rioja has done little to improve our overall health. Can I be clear? I do not mean that suddenly you start to aim for a place on the Irish Olympic Marathon Squad or win the local Parish 10K race - I’m speaking about exercise at the most basic level – movement, getting your heart rate up, doing something to get your body going. That’s your starting place, moving your arse. Every Sober Woman on the Planet will tell you...
35-40 Minutes of brisk walking daily improves mental health
THE FECKING KNOW I N G #6
Feck, for me, it is impossible to unknow what I know and my life is so much more fecking fablissssss why would I want to unknow the fecking knowing? Once you have read a quit-lit book, signed up to the class, listened to the podcast, and ACCEPTED your drinking career, the knowing is TOO BIG to let go of.
I CAN'T UNKNOW THE KNOWING
If you unknow the knowing you are a fecking eejit buying into the bullshit of fecking relapse. Why the feck would you toss all your work down the fecking toilet? Or is it, you giving yourself the fecking opportunity to lace into another bottle when a curve ball hits? Grow up, this shite is tough, your life depends on this shite. Alcohol nearly killed you so fecking wise up.
DON'T SHY AWAY FROM THE KNOWING, LEAN ON IT.
THE KNOWING ONCE YOU LEARN, YOU CANNOT UNLEARN
Now that I know alcohol is addictive and I do not need it to self- medicate or to zone out from my life, I feel healthier and happier. I have read the books and listened to the podcasts which say more or less all the same fecking thing in unison and they say: YOU have a problem, YOU are not alone, YOU are not broken or defective, YOU were addicted to an addictive substance and step inside the circle of support that spans the globe daily for women to find the means to empower themselves living alcohol free lives.
DON'T SHY AWAY FROM THE KNOWING, LEAN ON IT.
THE KNOWING YOU CAN'T UNKNOW THE KNOWING
The KNOWING for me is inescapable - I slid into the habit of drinking a glass of wine each night, than it became two glasses and before long it was a bottle. It started out as allegedly 'me time' but slipped way beyond 'me time' into the darkest corners of my mind where at times, I really had no desire to wake up tomorrow. Think about that. I had a full life, a wonderful husband, three amazing boys, a family at home in Ireland, a job, a designe r coffee machine and one good bag and yet, I sometimes hit the pillow with no desire to face tomorrow feeling defeated by a substance so socially acceptable that to give it up seemed inconceivable to me. I feared the margins of being a non drinker MORE THAN GIVING THE FECKING THING UP. How fecked up is that? Once I accepted that I now know this shite, I can NEVER unknow because I do not suffer from a disease, I am not weak or broken (at least no more than Mary down in No. 65) BUT daily drinking disempowered me in ways that nothing in life ever had. Nightly it rendered me powerless in a kitchen into stupidity and ridiculous conversations about shite that didn't matter, arguments that never needed to happen and put a black shroud over all things. How can I possibly unknow the knowing? Why would I possibly go back to that emptiness and disconnection? I live in freedom from the beast that is alcohol and take care of myself and this fabulous sober freedom with connection + ritual within the KNOWING. This keeps me safe from our old friend that fecking bitch Moderation Mary and her best friend Inner Critic and if I am not taking care of myself, I will end up with the Holy Trinity of feckers - the BIGGEST fecker Just ONE. This fecking trinity of Moderation Mary, Inner Critic and Just ONE is the end of many a fabulous woman's life as the grim reaper is usually not fecking far behind........... My knowing is I will never unknow.
THE FECKING R I T UA L S #7
I am Irish and we love a ritual, go mad for candles and TRULY BELIEVE if your grandmother lights one before a big exam, you are sorted. This I continue to believe. My rituals are MINE. YOU get to create your own which is the magic of modern-recovery-discovery. Fecking a-la-carte is not just for restaurant dining. If you do not want a ritual and choose to live ritual-free that too is PERFECTLY fecking okay.
CREATE YOUR OWN DAILY SOBER RITUALS. CELEBRATE YOUR NEW POWER.
CREATE YOUR OWN
RITUALS ONCE YOU LEARN, YOU CANNOT UNLEARN
The joy of ritual is a personal choice. Many women live in complete freedom from the monstrosity that is alcohol, others lean into the ritual of routine to ring-fence their alcohol-free life. Some women go to a meetings as part of their sober ritual, others light candles daily. Some people prefer a spark of spontaneity in their lives and dread the thought of anything becoming too predictable and mundane but let's be honest, you probably have a morning routine of shower before coffee or after, of washing your hair Tuesday and Fridays only etc., Think of a sobriety routine as more of a valued ritual, the practice becomes full of purpose and for me that is what it is - with purpose. I am a fecking morning candle girl ending my sober ritual with a pledge I wrote (inspired by J. F. Kennedy which is bullshit for a bastardisation of words he utered changed and made to fit what I wanted to say) You create your own sober rituals whether they include meetings, sober connections or candles - the joy is you get to create what works for you and you alone. ANOTHER RITUAL I love is the ritual of fine glass ware. I bought a lot of vintage glasses at the outset of my journey as why should I not celebrate my zero drinks in a fancy glass? Again YOU decide but please don't fecking sell yourself short by putting your Friday evening drink in a juice glass........seriously, you are an adult not at a children's birthday party!
THE FECKING GRATITUDE + JOY #8
YES, gratitude is a big part of my sober journey, as is joy. This is not the fecking pink cloud but is a daily sense of peace that I can now be joyful about the simplest of moments and victories in my day.
IT'S POSSIBLE. NOT THAT YOU BELIEVE THAT NOW. BUT IT IS.
Steady on I am not saying lash out and buy a fecking gratitude journal or jar - but full confession here - I did both....it DOES FOCUS you on the magical sober gold moments that litter your new life.
CREATE YOUR OWN
GRATITUDE DON'T RUN, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUY A JOURNAL
Gratitude has been shown to literally change or rewire the brain (smarter people than I have studied this shite) by focusing on the things we’re grateful for. The brain can be trained to notice the good instead of the bad and I found I was so appreciative of EVERYTHING in my life that my journal was 100000's of words nightly as I swear who knew hot chocolate was THING? They were simple things but they mattered to me beyond words because not drinking meant I ACTUALLY fecking noticed them in the first place!! When life throws curveball gratitude is so very important and having practiced it for some time before the first one landed in sobriety, I went on auto-pilot finding gratitude even in the darkest of cloud settings. Making Gratitude Lists The easiest way to practice gratitude in your daily life is to make gratitude lists even on a post-it note but do it. Many women set time aside an early morning or before hitting the sober pillow and it gives them a lovely sense of what truly matters in life. If you’re having a difficult day and you’re having trouble thinking of things to add to your gratitude list, there are a few methods you can use to get your brain going: Look around you and write down everything you see that you’re grateful for (my dog, my fecking GOOD pure wool throw etc) Start with the basics – you’re alive, you’re sober, etc. Write down people you’re grateful to have in your life (or just your dog if that's the case but it's at least one thing) Make a list of all the good things that have happened since you got sober. YOU will be surprised how joy increases in your life once you find gratitude in your day and putting down the wine glass is really a chance for you to experience a level of joy that you cannot even begin to imagine was possible. This may sound like a fecking exaggeration but I have yet to meet a sober queen who regrets giving up the sauce and does not have a life that is A BILLION TIMES better than before - NOT perfect but there is joy in abundance in the simple things.
warning JOY WARNING
STAY REAL. IT TOOK US YEARS TO GET HERE, IT TAKES TIME TO GET OUT.
Establishing a joyful life in recovery usually involves a bit of patience so do not expect to wake up tomorrow morning running through the poppy fields of joy - it ain't fecking happening. There will be many small moments of joy right from the beginning (NO HANGOVER is often a HUGELY JOYFUL moment) but it can take a bit longer before you feel fully happy and joyful with twists and turns on the road. So, be patient - start with gratitude and joy follows.
THE FECKING FREEDOM TO BE P R E S E N T #9
Having been MIA (Missing in Action, present but absent for a long time, I am now fully present (which on occasion I am quite sure drives my family bonkers and they would probably welcome a moment of peace but hey c'est la fecking vie!!!!
BEING PRESENT. BEING IN THE MOMENT. BEING YOU.
When you zone out from the bad stuff, you also miss out on all the good stuff. It's that simple. STAY for all of it.
B E I NG P R E S ENT
“Being present” is a not a term I heard very often growing up and I believe recovery has adopted it from somewhere but what it means is : "Staying present in your life, also sometimes referred to as remaining “mindful”, through every distressing emotion, tumultuous situation, or overwhelming joy, is perhaps the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do (we know, it’s a total oxymoron). It is also arguably one of the best natural acts you can practice to improve your focus, decrease your stress levels, and manage overwhelming emotions. Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating a state of awareness. It is rooted in eastern traditions and has been continually adapted to western medicine and psychology. Staying present, or remaining mindful in your daily life, is not one singular act. Instead, mindfulness involves various techniques and practices that exist for those looking to cultivate the act of remaining present in their daily life. It may be easiest to think of staying present as a practice, or a consistent chain of actions that revolve around mindfulness, rather than a single action. When you’re present in your life, you are not thinking about the past, the future, or contemplating anything other than what is right in front of you. When you’re present, you face challenges head-on, you weather uncomfortable emotions, and you cope using healthy coping skills. Staying present in your life and making sure you’re grounded in this moment may sound simple but it’s often harder than you might think, especially when you’re in recovery from a mental health condition whose symptoms innately pull you out of the current moment, like anxiety or addiction. "
- Amelia Sharp (Senior Web Editor at American Addiction Centers)
The Giant Feck
B E I NG P R E S ENT
Play: When you feel good you feel strong. Feeling a sense of your own well-being strengthens your ability to have an “I can handle it!” attitude, which lessens fear and improves flexibility. Play means engaging in an activity purely for your own pleasure, enjoyment and recreation. Such activities release mood-enhancing endorphins and, when experienced with others, create a sense of connection, community and trust— all of which makes the present moment more tolerable, bearable and even fun, which creates new neural pathways logging feel-good experiences. Be Conscious: Addictions promote a lack of consciousness, literally and figuratively. They offer escape; a way to dissociate from the real world and exist in a fantasy where problems cease to exist, fears shrink and our ability to manage anything seems to magically enlarge. Alternatively, recovery requires a return to conscious awareness, one that recognizes both the external and internal world. An easy way to develop this skill is to be curious. Ask yourself questions about what you and others experience and your response(s) to it. For example, “What do I think about what just happened?” or “How does he feel about what she just said?” Reflection creates consciousness. Attend to Your Senses: Your conscious mind filters approximately 40,000 bits of stimuli per second. Your experience of any moment begins with this sensory relay to your brain. Taking stock of your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) brings you down into the actual processing of any second you’re in. Asking yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” or “What do I hear in this moment?” connects you to how your brain is immediately perceiving the data it receives. Share Your Experience: The more emotion you feel in any moment the more deeply it encodes in your brain, memory and emotional landscape. Sharing a moment by healthily connecting to someone else gives the experience emotional resonance; it engages the limbic system of your brain that encourages the dopamine circuit which promotes feelings of harmony. The end result: the creation of a sense of peace, calm and belonging. Notice Details: Being present means paying attention and noticing both the big and little picture. Developing your connection to the present moment happens automatically when you notice the details of the moment you’re in. Techniques for Trusting the Present Moment The most effective techniques combine what you sense and what you feel in pleasurable ways that retrain your mind, body and brain to trust the present moment rather than be suspicious or afraid of it. Here’s a look at five such techniques:
-Michele Rosenthal ( 2015 in Living in Recovery )
LIVING COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SKIN
Living in freedom, empowered by the decision to put down the wine glass.
| HOLA SOBER| IMADRID |
HOLA SOBER PLEDGE
Today we dare not forget that we are the heirs of that first revolution; let the word go forth that the torch has been passed to a new generation of women. Let all who hear us speak know we will bear any burden to support our Hola Sober sisters on this journey. To all sisters on high, know we are here fighting a new fight as a new set of revolutionaries who will oppose all who stand in our path, to assure the survival and the success of our sobriety, at our very core this much we pledge.
| HOLA SOBER| IMADRID |
B E I NG P R E S ENT
When I first quit drinking, I kept thinking about everything I’d lost. I used to wonder – will I ever get used to this? Will it always feel like something is missing? I was so caught up in these thoughts I nearly missed what was happening right in front of my eyes. Alcohol-free living had (quietly) started to give me more choices than I had before. It gave me freedom. Options. Sobriety isn’t about what you’re losing – it’s about what you’re gaining. Where is your focus? When we think about sobriety, we naturally tend to zoom in on the thing that’s gone away – the alcohol. Right from the get-go, we’re in a deprivation mindset. We can be so focused on what’s gone and what we’ve lost, we miss the freedom that’s come into our lives in its place. Practical choices and freedoms When you’re not drinking, you can spend your money just how you want to, because you don’t have to keep fuelling your habit. You get the option of starting your day right and waking up exactly when you plan to (not at 4am!) You can jump in the car at any time of night and call friends without worrying if they can tell you’re drinking. When you’re with others, you have the freedom to be totally focused on the present moment, rather than wondering where your next drink is coming from. A free mind When you’re sober, you are free from the decision hell that comes with using a drug like alcohol and trying to control your intake of it. This extra brain space gives you so many choices and options to do more and be the person you want to be. Lockdown freedom Now more than ever, we need to be making lifestyle choices that give us maximum freedom. Alcohol puts you in a little prison – a mini lockdown of its own making, where it takes options away from you. None of us need that.
KATE BEE - The Sober School - CLICK HERE for the video/blog
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