How I beat the drink

Sober Butterfly Collective Co-Founder Katy talks about her experiences. You can also read about how the end was her beginning.

So I decided to give up drinking, what now?

I initially stayed quiet. I kept this new found determination to myself. Why? Because I didn’t want to clutter my mind with all the questions and I didn’t have any idea if this was the right path to take. I began by reading all the ‘quit lit’ I could get my hands on, I consumed those words with a new found hunger. I got lost in others stories of how the authors became sober, and more importantly stayed that way. I also discovered inspiring podcasts, (putting my crime podcasts on hold and instead searching for discussions to do with sobriety)  These were my new loves and I lived by them. I would read and listen endlessly about alcohol, the effects, studies, health, personal stories both funny anecdotes and emotional stories.

This started me off on my journey as the next 461 days and counting have not been plain sailing and I have been through all the feels. The best description for how I felt throughout my first year of sobriety is vulnerable. I have always tried to avoid feeling such a way, but I can promise you in my vulnerability I have found myself. To be vulnerable is the most beautiful, purest state we can be. I honor it. 

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection” – Brene Brown.

I have made a list of some of the things that have guided me through my first year of sobriety and beyond. This is what has helped me..

Therapy

I have anxiety. I also have various other diagnoses but anxiety is what I most identify with and live with day to day. 

Before I gave up alcohol I began with talking therapy, then Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This helped me with many, many things but what I most gained from it in that first year was a greater sense of self. I learned how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and to live more in the present moment. Our thoughts are only thoughts and they can be changed. Worries, fear and uncertainty would be a big trigger for me to reach for the drink in an attempt to numb all of these feelings. By learning to sit with the uncomfortable without the crutch of alcohol, I began to understand my anxious thoughts and feelings. They began to dissipate faster. By not drinking I allowed space and gave a voice to what I needed to hear. I allowed healing. I faced what I needed to head on with a clear mind and a new found strength. I gained a greater connection with myself. 

Unfortunately there is a long waiting list for therapy under the NHS. While I was waiting for my CBT I had to self fund. But during this time I discovered the amazing work of the charity Mind who run peer support groups, workshops and courses. All geared towards mental health and wellness. The beauty of these groups aren’t just the resources and tools you will gain but in connection. There is something very healing about being surrounded by people who have similar experiences, thoughts and feelings to you. I will always be very grateful to the beautiful work Mind does, and have since become a volunteer within their peer support groups. I would like to say as a pay back for how they have helped me. However I gain so much from doing this, it is purely my pleasure to do it. I found a purpose, and purpose has been instrumental in my journey to wellness. 

“Avoiding your triggers isn’t healing. Healing happens when you’re triggered and you’re able to move through the pain, the pattern, the story, and walk away to a different ending” – Viena Pharaon.

Journaling

An off shoot from therapy is journaling which has been one of the last things I have got to grips. I was resistant and I found it scary writing down my thoughts and feelings on paper would make it real right? I carry a lot of thoughts in my head, and yes thoughts are only thoughts and I can change them. But they are still there whirling around making everything feel overwhelming.

 I discovered the beauty of putting pen to paper is they vanish from your headspace. Similar to the effect I would seek by drinking alcohol, but this time rather than numbing out the feelings temporarily to have them return with more force and determination. Instead, they would remain on the pages to be at my disposal should I wish. 

I do find it helpful to read back over my words from time to time, it helps gain some perspective. I would re read them and be surprised by how consumed I was by them. This would lead to gaining evidence for myself that despite how much fear, upset and spiraling I was feeling at that time that ‘this too shall pass’. 

What upsets me today might not even bother me tomorrow and with drinking my tomorrow would always be worse. I have come to understand how powerful and releasing the written word can be. 

“I can shake off everything as I write;

my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

Movement

I have practiced yoga for many years, but it became extremely important to me when I quit drinking. I stuck to the same type of yoga, the same classes, the same teachers. 

My new found time allowed me to expand my horizons and look for something different. I tried different styles and classes, this was great at expanding my confidence. I soon found myself in a new found routine, surrounded by new faces and a new found love of movement. This felt good. I made new connections, which became my new social life and there wasn’t a drink insight ( just water). Because a lot of my drinking was habit based, a new routine helped with reforming new habits. My mind and body started to receive all the feel good endorphins from exercise, the need for mind numbing chemicals from alcohol diminished. Discover more in Katy’s blog post about Yoga & Sobriety

I have turned to running through various stages of life, with a love hate relationship with it. I go through phases of running regularly and it becoming an absolute must in my life and relying on the movement for clarity of mind. But also times where the thought of pounding the pavements as pure torture.  I am learning not to question this cycle but just to trust my body and listen to it’s needs. As long as my life includes movement in some shape or form, I will stay healthy and well.

My most favorite movement is walking in nature. In the country, in forests on beaches, connecting to mother earth. For me this is by far the most healing and restorative practice I can do. When I feel bubbles of anxiety I grab my earphones and walk, the relief comes every single time. 

“Change happens through movement and movement heals” – Joseph Pilates.

Reiki

My beloved Reiki (Energy Healing) how I love you. I first went for Reiki years ago but it wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t the right time, or possibly the right practitioner or perhaps both. During early sobriety I was struggling with a tough period of anxiety when a friend told me about a reiki session she had. Something sparked from within so I got the details of her healer and booked an appointment. It was transformational, I had not only found something and someone special I had also found a new way of life. This was to become a door to the higher realms of discovery. A Journey to find the light. A path to a more spiritual way of being.

I struggle to put into words what Reiki has and continues to do for me. I can only liken it to a feeling of ‘coming home’ release, lightness and energy. Each session is different, and is felt deeply. It’s a healing of old wounds that run deep within us all. It gives me life. I now go monthly and have developed a deep relationship with my healer, It’s beautiful. 

I don’t want to write too much here as everyone’s experience with Reiki is different, it’s a very personal journey. I trust within this practice that everyone receives what is needed at the right time. 

I have recently trained in Reiki level 1, and I am excited about what’s to come and my journey with this. 

Reiki is love, Love is wholeness, Wholeness is balance, Balance is well being. Well being is freedom from disease.” – Dr Mikao Usui.

Learning 

There is a long standing joke within sobriety circles about how in the early stages we seek new hobbies and skills. This was definitely true for me. We find ourselves with more time, more energy, a little more disposable income and with a clearer mind.

 I’ve tried my hand at knitting, crochet, women’s circles, sound baths, herbology, mindfulness classes, spiritual workshops, crystal healing, aura and oracle card readings, meditation, lightworker classes. The list goes on, and so does my desire to expand my list. 

I found a passion for learning, and this also provides me with connection. I have met the most brilliant and interesting people I wouldn’t have ever been privileged to meet. In turn this provides me with gratitude, self belief and confidence. 

I find a lot of courses and workshops through Eventbrite, social media and simply by googling what is going on in my area. Try it!

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to be like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.” – Barbara Sher

Self-care

Self-care is the single most import and loving act someone can gift to themselves. It has taken me a very long time to allow myself this without attaching guilt to it. My self- care consists of many things, some are yoga, running, reading, spirituality, affirmations , meditation, baths, music, walking, nature, holistic’s, crystals, podcasts, sleep, connections, groups, workshops, loved ones, tv, film, journaling, meals out, beauty treatments, fresh flowers, yummy treats, time alone, I could go on! Self-care is about loving myself, understanding I am worthy and deserving. It has taken a long time to get to this point, but it is fluid. My emotions roll like the ocean, sometimes I feel unworthy, feel guilt and revert to self sabotage. 

Part of my self-care is following the rhythms and cycles of my body and in nature. Understanding my different needs throughout my monthly cycle and each season has been useful to me. I also follow the phases of the moon, which can link very closely to our own innate phases. Ritual has become a big part of my life, whether its being a simple tea ritual, the mindful act to boiling the water, adding the leaves and being still with yourself while the tea brews.

 In early sobriety I used to wake up very early (common in early sobriety). I would make a hot drink, wrap myself up warm, take myself outside to watch the new light of the day gently rise and illuminate the world around me. This became my ritual and I loved it. I don’t rise as early these days but from time to time I like to return to this ritual, it’s beautiful and healing. 

The simple act of lighting a candle can become a ritual, creating a space just for you. As my journey into spirituality and lightwork deepens, I have created a physical space for both personal and shared ritual and ceremony in my everyday life. Creating myself a space in my home that’s just for me has been really important. I take myself there often and it provides me with comfort. My sacred space has grown over the years and started with a few much loved things. I took over a corner in our front room with a small table adorned with candles, crystals and fresh flowers. This space is growing and evolving as I do. 

“Self care is how you take your power back” – Lalah Delia.

Connection

I have saved what I believe to be the most instrumental part to my sobriety until last. Connection has made the biggest difference to my life. Without connection I don’t think I would of stayed alcohol free.

 All I have written above, have provided me with connection in all sorts of ways. Finding other people also on their sobriety journey has allowed me to feel less alone on my journey. Relating to other peoples stories has helped me to understand my own feelings and behaviors. Their strength grew my strength. Their vulnerability has helped me with my own vulnerability. Sharing their journey has helped me to share mine, in sharing mine I hope to help others, thus creating a beautiful endless chain.

 I made my first in person connection through the Sober Girl Society, they were running a brunch in Manchester. I went alone, to a different city (anxiety inducing for me) I didn’t know what to expect. I was very nervous and my anxiety was high, but the drive for connection was higher than my fear.

 I am and will continue to be extremely grateful for that drive as it was here I met a large group of people all at different stages of sobriety, some of whom have become and no doubt will continue to be some of the most important people in my life. From here our connection and friendship grew. Through ‘finding your sober tribe’ posts from SGS, our circle grew. We found connection through giving up the drink but as we learn and grow we connect on so many other levels. We are friendship. We are support. We are confidants. We are family. A beautiful sober family. 

“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

My journey is so much more than being alcohol free, however I could not begin to heal old wounds until I learnt to sit with the pain. 

Co-Founder of Sober Butterfly Collective

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