Lovesober blog and website coming soon.

Queen of Hearts

I have been pondering Valentine’s Day and was planning to write about relationships and friendships and how to reframe Valentine’s Day a different way that widens the net greater than romantic love but I keep coming back to this. Self- love.

They say the most important and fundamental relationship you will ever have is with yourself. That one relationship affects all the others. And that love of self is often elusive. The way we regard ourselves, speak to ourselves, hold ourselves in esteem is often not equal to how we treat or view others. We are mean and critical , we do not acknowledge our efforts or achievements, set ourselves impossibly high standards , set ourselves endless to-do lists and are generally our own worst ‘frenemy. ‘

Self- love was to me, for many years, a sort of floaty concept that I didn’t really understand. I thought it involved the odd manicure or facial. I also knew it meant ‘not beating yourself up’ about stuff but that was about it really.

It was only when I stopped drinking and then after a few months sober, that I really began to delve into this topic at all. At first I was just concentrating on not drinking , reading lots of quit lit and getting those days notched up as my brain developed new neural pathways, eating lots of chocolate and just sticking with it. To be honest , from what I can gather that’s all many of us can do and that is fine. Enough. One step at a time.

About a year ago I discovered, an online coaching program which was all about self- care as an approach to sobriety. As I worked my way through the program: journalling, reading, watching inspiring interviews and ted talks , something started to happen. As I concentrated, not on the steely mission of giving up drinking, but rather filling my life with good stuff , my perspective started to shift and a connection was made. It started simply with a little ‘sober treat’  every day like a candle, a new journal , heart shaped post-its to keep my inner toddler happy.

I discovered mindfulness, sitting with a cup of delicious coffee in the garden instead of beavering on with work and then thinking ‘ Where has that coffee gone?’. I looked at sobriety as an adventure, began to try new ways of socialising and connecting with people that were on my terms- instead of expecting me to sit in a pub with a lemonade, meet me for a hot chocolate and a walk !

These little acts of awareness and self-care literally changed my relationship with myself. I prioritised myself in little ways, I made myself queen in tiny moments throughout the day. I served others I love too of course, making dinner and picking up the kids, working etc … but I took those moments for myself.

I thought about the woman I am and want to be and I got rid of old clothes , those old pre-baby spectres that hung in my wardrobe gathering dust, taunting me and I invested in just a few key pieces that reflect my life – great  wellies and a wax jacket for dog walking and some new exercise gear , a great pair of skinny jeans which I live in and dress up and down as I need. I realised I had neglected socks.. I love socks and have nice pairs now. This may seem superficial but it stopped me scrabbling around through old crap feeling irritated before the school run. It lowers stress so I am less triggered by that. It makes me happy.

Instead of feeling depleted and like I was still sort of making an effort to be sober (like I knew I was being ‘good’ and I ‘shouldn’t ‘ drink because it’s ‘bad’ for me, and I have a ‘problem’ with it ) I started to consciously  fill my life with this stuff that made it fun and easier in little ways so I was less triggered and looking to soothe the nerves or reward myself wth a glass ( bottle) of Pinot.

Later I watched webinars by Tara Brach and  Dr Kristin Neff as this self-regard/self-care practice continued and turned into self compassion. I became more attuned with my internal dialogue as a) I wasn’t drowning it out with wine and b)  I was tuning in/ leaning in. The dots of wellness seem to get joined up gradually as we journey towards a greater regard for ourselves bit by bit.

After a while I came to get a clear picture of what I like and dislike, I recognise a feeling which means ‘this is not Ok’ – in other words I discovered my boundaries ( again a concept I had heard of but I had no idea what they were). I have stood my ground with people ( I hate conflict) I have learnt to not let my inner bully run the show ( big one)  because I have a sense of how I feel when it takes over now. I put myself to bed when I feel poorly, I turn stuff down, I say ‘no’. I am learning that it is ok if people don’t like or agree with me.

Also I’d like to mention here that my relationship with alcohol before I quit was one of the most significant in my life. I was married, had children and friends, but I spent as much time thinking about, deciding whether or not  I was going to drink that day, recovering from it, regretting it , arguing with myself, feeling ashamed, as I did interacting with real people whom I love.

And my relationship with myself was constantly being damaged as I set rules and targets which I consistently failed to meet ( I’ll only drink one glass, I’ll only drink at weekends etc) And when I finally booted the booze out I began to meet my own goals and targets and my self- trust grew, prompting that blossoming self- esteem.

The greatest act of self – love I ever did was to make the decision to stop drinking alcohol. To stop something that was damaging me and my self-respect and self- esteem. That was the start of it and the one huge , fundamental building block or cornerstone of my palace. There rest has been and is continuing to be built and furnished with layers of wellness and good stuff. I know for me, from past experience that without sobriety as that cornerstone, the rest of it does not have a foundation.

So this Valentine’s Day , if you are on your sober journey take a minute to reflect on the fact that you did the hugest act of self- love you could possible do. You committed to yourself. You chose you, your life , your wellness, your present and future above alcohol, which for many of us was a great ( although a false, needy and damaging bad bf ) ‘love’. We are still unfortunately at a stage where this brave, passionate, brilliant  choice gets mirrored back to us negatively by society, so reward yourself and talk yourself up!  Get that pair of shoes, or book that break away with a friend , have a romantic walk with your OH or hug your kids, take a long bath, buy yourself some fresh flowers … but remember that you did that one fundamental thing which was you chose to heal that relationship with yourself which all others come from. Remember, you are Queen of your own heart now.

Some fun self- love stuff you can do:

* Sober treats: Anything big or small.
* Love letter to your self, your partner , your kids.
* Pinterest dream board of your hearts desires
* Heart post its with love messages to yourself
* Fresh flowers
* Scented Candles
* Rom com/ Bodice-ripper
* Date with yourself : cinema and hot chocolate
* Date with a friend:
* Random act of kindness:
* Walk by the sea/ nature /park.
* Bake some red velvet cup cakes
* Creative project – drift wood, pepbles, photos on your phone
* Star-gazing

My idea for is in the title I guess. When I started contemplating giving up drinking, when I had become concerned about my drinking I was , as I saw it faced with a terrible prospect – BEING SOBER! What? Live without that precious nectar alcohol, the magical elixir that everyone wants and loves? How awful! I knew I wasn’t happy with it , it had become all too easy to look forward to that glass of wine ( or three) at the end of a hard day and the hangovers were shocking – but to me sobriety meant dusty church halls and people bemoaning the fact that they ‘can’t’ drink. Not an attractive prospect … After all I wasn’t that bad. I have a home and family , a good job. I was not sitting on a park bench with a bottle of white lightening.

I did give up alcohol with the help of a fantastic online support group – Soberistas-and what I found was that rather than being a miserable deprived existence , being sober choosing to live life alcohol free (AF) is actually great. I feel about a million times better without a weekly hangover , doubts and remorse, and all that time I spent dealing with alcohol I know spend pursuing personal goals , health and happiness. If i had known I was going to feel this good I’d have done it years ago!

So why didn’t I? A big factor in my continuing to drink alcohol despite being very uncomfortable about my relationship with alcohol was that it didn’t occur to me . Sobriety I have often said, cannot be stumbled upon until all the wheels have fallen off the wagon. It is so lauded , celebrated and expected in our culture ( and aggressively marketed ) that I thought sobriety was only for ‘alcoholics’ who ‘couldn’t ‘ drink. It was not on my radar as a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice – people who don’t drink are often perceived as boring or treated with suspicion in a way they would never be if they didn’t smoke or take cocaine. After all alcohol is a drug , it’s just legal one.

I believe that a lot more people could be reached and helped to knock drinking on the head before the wheels do come off the wagon if we debunk the myths around alcohol and living alcohol free, challenge the stereotypes of what alcohol problems and use actually look like. This is a big conversation. We can look at the myths, the marketing , our norms and values as a culture and the true cost of alcohol use and misuse in the UK.

When I quit drinking , it was hard at first. Anything new takes a while to get used to right? But it wasn’t dreadful! I have documented my first year of sobriety in my blog here. And fairly quickly through reading great quit lit, making on-line buddies, discovering how to really look after my self-care , I dived into a wellness journey, living in an authentic way much more inline with my true needs and values. Which made me HAPPY. When you stop drinking alcohol you can’t hide you see, and as you live your daily life and deal with its ups and downs it generates a confidence so after a while , if you were to ask me if I would go back to drinking I would say ‘Are you mad?’. And I see this with so many of my sober friends.The conversation is not ‘I can’t’ but rather ‘Why on earth would I?”

So this website is all about the fun and learning I have had and continue to have in my sober life. From surviving the summer holidays, coping with Christmas, socialising to really important topics about self-care and the science behind happiness I want to get the message out there.

I love sober and I think you might just too.
Kate x

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