Sober Stories

The Goal Isn’t To Be Sober. The Goal Is To Love Yourself So Much That You Don’t Need To Drink.”

— Anonymous

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What a great honor to be interviewed by the inspirational Lotta Dann … otherwise known as Mrs D:

“Mrs D is the name Lotta Dann gave herself when she began anonymously blogging in 2011. Through her long-running blog, Mrs D Is Going Without, Lotta discovered the incredible power of online support for people quitting drinking. Her best-selling memoir, telling the story of her recovery, was published in 2014, and later that same year Living Sober was launched. Living Sober takes all of the powerful aspects Lotta discovered about online recovery, and condenses it here into one space, making it readily accessible for thousands of people so that they can also turn their lives around.”

Mrs D, a journalist, blogger and author is a relatively well-known name in New Zealand recovery circles. She has written several books about recovery and is an advocate for people in recovery in NZ.

She says her work and social environments made it easier for drinking to become a regular occurrence.

“The main thing that I think contributed to my drinking is the booze-soaked society I live in, where alcohol is normalised and glorified and used liberally at every turn,”
My interview is this week’s Sober Story.
This week’s Sober Story comes from Patti, a 62-year-old from the US now living in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

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Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?

Patti: This latest time – over six years.

Mrs D: What can you tell us about your childhood growing up and the impact that had on your drinking?

Patti: I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family. Both my parents were alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic, workaholic and adult child of an alcoholic. All un-treated of course. He was charming at times, Irish and told a great tale. My mother’s alcoholism looked bad – she was a sloppy, sad drunk. She’d sit in our kitchen, drink bourbon and often cry listening to opera records. My dad drank high end booze at nice restaurants, a ‘functioning alcoholic’. He drove a nice car and wore a suit. My mother stayed at home in her bathrobe. You get the picture. My mother died of alcoholism when I was only 16 years old.

Mrs D: That must have been tough.

Patti: This was in the early 1970’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, there were lots of drugs everywhere to help me numb the pain. I learned at an early age how to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol. I drank and used drugs throughout my teens and twenties. I blacked out right from the beginning, almost every time I drank. Somehow I got a degree, sometimes that still amazes me. When I was in my early twenties I was absolutely out of control – waking up in strange places; losing my car, forgetting where I had left it; waking up next to people I didn’t know… it was a time of intense shame and humiliation. Eventually I met my husband, and he didn’t drink much, so I curtailed my drinking and using while I was with him, and that probably helped to save my life. Just before my thirtieth birthday we started talking about starting a family, I knew that I did NOT want my children to have a mother like mine, so I went to my first AA meeting 2 days before my 30th. I found a woman’s meeting and I walked in and felt at home.

Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?

Patti: I was in the pink cloud of recovery for the first year, grateful and excited. By the 2nd year, when I started doing some intense counselling and looking at my family of origin, I went through some intense grief and anger, but also relief that it was finally coming out. There were about twenty women in the room, mostly my age, and mostly caring and empathetic. I was so lucky, at that first meeting, I found my tribe. A few years later we moved to New Zealand and when I went to my first AA meeting I was devastated! There were about five people there, mostly old men who were pedantic Big Book thumpers. I felt like I had lost my tribe. It didn’t take long before I quit going to meetings.

Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?

Patti: Yes. I had two babies and was focused on being a good mother with no alcohol on the scene. But as my sons got older and started school I fell in with other mums who often got together and drank wine while the kids played. These were the ‘cool mums’, ‘The Yummy Mummies’, drinking good wine on the deck after school. I had ventured away from recovery circles and had become very complacent in my recovery, and it wasn’t long before I had my first glass of wine after being sober for almost 13 years.

Mrs D: How did that go?

Patti: When I picked up again, I drank with a vengeance and it progressed quickly. Soon I was waking up feeling remorseful and promising myself I wouldn’t drink so much, or that I’d give up booze for good…until the next time. I started hiding my drinking from my husband. With sheer luck, I didn’t get in any accidents nor hurt anyone in that time, except myself. I felt shame and had horrible hangovers every time I drank. My middle-aged body could not cope with alcohol like it did as a teen or in my twenties. I ended up drinking for the next 13 ½ years until 2014.

Mrs D: What led you to stop again?

Patti: In 2014, after drinking at a work gathering, my business partner said to me, “You really shouldn’t drink with workshop participants; it’s not a good look.” And I knew that was true. I talked too much, got too loud, and made stupid jokes. I thought I was the life of the party, but no one else did. At the same time, I was writing my first book, a self-help book for women. I felt like a total hypocrite! I was advising others to ‘live their best lives’ and yet I was screwing my own life up. So I decided to give up alcohol again. This time I was not giving up alcohol for my husband or for my kids; I was doing it for me! That was in 2014, and I haven’t had a drink since.

Mrs D: Where have you found your support this time.

Patti: I was still in that same small town, and the meetings had the same old men with the same pedantic ways of doing meetings. If I had an emotion, any emotion, I was told “Just don’t pick up and go to meetings.” Sigh. So another woman in recovery and I decided to start our own meeting. We started it under the banner of NA – but opened the doors to anyone with any addiction. We focus on Emotional Sobriety, empathy and caring. I consider my sobriety now, a bit of a patchwork approach. I read voraciously and am in the process of writing my second book now – focusing on women and recovery – finding our own path on that journey.

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

Patti: I really liked my own company! That totally surprised me. I was afraid of being along with myself when I was drinking, thus drank alone at home quite often.

Mrs D: What are the main benefits that have emerged for you since you last got sober?

Patti: My health improved: I started meditating daily, doing yoga, eating better, sleeping better, and ALL of my relationships improved – every single one!

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

Patti: I wish I had started my own 12-step group earlier on, before I relapsed. It makes all the difference in the world to feel like you’ve found your tribe. However, with that said, my relapse taught me a lot – about humility, about empathy and I can totally be there for anyone else that has relapsed.

Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this
journey?

Patti: Jump in completely! Immerse yourself. If you don’t like a meeting, if you don’t feel at home – then go to another meeting or find someone you like and respect and ask them what meetings they like, or start one yourself, or go to a Zoom Meeting – there are hundreds of them from all over the world! Find good TED Talks, read good books on various topics related to sobriety and keep going – Don’t Give Up On Yourself! You are Worth It!

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

Patti: You can read more about me and my journey on Thrive Global, on my blog site, or my website.

 

 

In other news … I will be a part of a free online summit this month that might interest one or two of you:

How-To face a Devastating Diagnosis or the anxiety of “What If”…

This Online Event will be nurturing and informative:
Here are some of the topics to be covered:

  • How someone outlived her Doctor’s diagnosis by 20 years
  • How-To let pain out instead of numbing it.
  • How-To empower yourself when facing a devastating diagnosis
  • To move through emotional pain with confidence
  • How-To face future fears after a diagnosis
  • Strategies for emotional freedom
  • Why creativity is powerful

The summit begins on July 13, lasts for 5 days, and ends Friday July 17. 

Each interview is about 30 minutes, packed with helpful information. You can join me on Thursday July 16.

I hope you can join us. Reserve your spot now!

 

I’ll close with an informative talk about addiction by one of my favorite addiction specialists – Dr Gabor Maté

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what I have shared. It’s always a bit awkward being so visible . . . so feedback is always appreciated!  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Tell your inner critic to shut up!

“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up!”

― Ann Bradford

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Do you ever feel like your inner voice is not your best friend? Do you find that voice telling you that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong? My inner chatter is often telling me that I’m not doing ‘it’ right. It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is – doing a task, helping someone to do something, even just trying to meditate. I used to think that I was alone in this and that I was just flawed and hopeless. Then I started working with other women in workshops and discovered that almost all of us do this one way or another. It is painful to realize how many of us believe these negative voices in our heads. I wrote about this topic recently on Thrive Global.

Most of us received plenty of negative messages growing up, and usually those messages are blindly accepted and believed. These negative messages from our inner critic create new neural pathways which become embedded in our brains. This becomes negative inner chatter creating limiting beliefs which adversely impacts us in many ways.

A neural pathway is the way that information travels through the neurons, or nerve cells of the brain. We create new neural pathways every time we hear or experience something new. The more we experience something, the more embedded this pathway becomes, and unfortunately, a lot of us have some very negative messages firmly rooted in our brains.

Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task.

Is there a way to overcome the negative stories that we once heard and now continue to tell ourselves? Is there a way to shift those pathways so that they are less destructive? Yes! There is a practice which you can start using right now, which will bring about changes in the neural pathways that keep you stuck. Using Creative Positive Reframing, you can take limiting beliefs and creatively transform them so they become supportive rather than destructive. You can reframe and create a new perspective on how you think by using these seven tools:

Pay attention — Pay attention to your thought process.

Action: A good way to pay attention to your thought process is to pay attention to how your body feels. You can tell if the thoughts are self-defeating and destructive if they negatively impact your body; for example, a knot in your stomach or a lump in your throat, clenched jaw or tight shoulders.

Practice: Scan your body to check in, notice any tight spots or knots. Observe/pay attention to the thoughts that you are focusing on when you feel tight; think about why you want to change those thoughts; what is the negative impact on your life?

Get the negative out — Write out the negative.

Action: Nature abhors a vacuum. When you cannot get out of a negative thought spiral — write it out. Get rid of the negative to make room for the positive.

Practice: Get negative thoughts out of your head by emptying it out on paper. Think of it as an emotional enema! Write about all the negativity spiralling in your head. Allow a stream of consciousness to flow and let it all come out. And then tear the paper up.

Replace the negative with positive — Use positive statements and questions to replace the negative

Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations and questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral. However, sometimes when we use affirmations that do not feel real, our brain does not believe it, and this can embed the negative even more deeply. For example, if you are struggling to pay the rent and you say to yourself: ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for all of my needs’, perhaps your thoughts will rebel with: ‘Well, that’s not true’ — and then will go on to prove how wrong you are, throwing you further down the negative spiral.

Practice: Creative positive statements wherever possible; and try creating questions as well. Research shows that the use of questions instead of statements works effectively. Questions work with the brain’s natural inquisitive nature; pose a question and your brain will work to find an answer, creating more positive neural pathways automatically. So if when you say “I am wealthy” and your brain rebels; try asking for its help by saying something like “Money is coming to me easily and effortlessly. What do I need to do to increase my cash flow?”

Think about the ideal and be clear why you want it — Create an ideal scenario and know why it is important to you.

Action: In order to create new neural pathways and escape the negative spiral, it’s important to have a replacement to start thinking about. For example, if you are stuck in fear about money, and in a negative loop, start thinking about the flip side and create a picture of the ideal.

Practice: Describe your ideal financial situation, be as specific as possible. Have fun with this: let your imagination be your guide. You don’t need to write this out, just tell yourself the story. Picture yourself living with plenty of money. See yourself living the life of your dreams; actually feel how good it feels. And then focus on the why; why is it important? For example, allow yourself really examine why having more money would make a difference in your life. What is the deepest reason you want this to manifest? Keep going deeper and deeper into why you want to achieve this until you feel like you have hit the heart of it. You will know it when you have hit it, there will be an emotional charge linked to it. Allow yourself to feel the depth of that emotion.

Creative visualization — Picture the ideal and embed it in your brain

Action: Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ or visualizing something to attain that which you most want, or want to change. It involves using the mind to see that which you want to achieve; or using the mind to change the negative into positive. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative. The key to visualization is to create a mindset that you already have that which you are trying to attain, and to believe that you deserve the positive result.

Practice: Relax and take time to do this. Close your eyes and let the movie of you having your heart’s desire run in your mind. Enjoy the process. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.

Stay positive in the process — Keep a positive attitude as you practice

Action: The field of Positive Psychology points out many benefits of staying positive and being happy. Happiness brings social rewards, helps people recover faster from illness, and have more resilience. Happy people feel like they are in control and are empowered and therefore usually feel more confidence, optimism, and a sense of well-being. These are all good reasons to try to remain in a positive mindset, but one of the main obstacles to positivity is that our brains are wired to look for and focus on threats. This mechanism was helpful back when we were hunters and gatherers, but now this mindset breeds pessimism and negativity because the mind tends to wander until it finds a threat. But there are many methods to overcome the brain’s negative bias.

Practice: The most straightforward method is to focus on love and compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. These positive mind-sets shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Even simply thinking about someone you love or something you are grateful for, can help you shift from a negative mindset to a positive one.

Be creative — Creativity helps us shift from the negative to the positive

Action: While you are focusing on shifting limiting beliefs into more positive and supportive beliefs, it is helpful to be creative in the process. An expression of creativity, in any form, can be helpful in shifting our mood and removing us from a negative spiral. Not only that, but repressed creativity can have the opposite effect, and can ultimately express itself in unhealthy ways, such as bad relationships, stress, neurotic or addictive behaviors. Perhaps the most common manifestation of repressed creativity in women is depression, which, of course, only increases the negative downward spiral.

Practice: There are so many ways we can get creative, and they all involve play: start journaling and play with words; get some oil pastels and play with color; go outside, garden, and play in the dirt; learn an instrument, dance, and play with music; cook and play with spices. There is no right or wrong way to be creative. The only important thing is to allow ourselves to connect with our own creativity.

The next time you find yourself falling into a negative spiral, use these seven tools to tackle those limiting beliefs, and transform them so that they are supportive rather than destructive.

I want to close with a wonderful video clip with Lisa Nichols and Marci Shimoff, appropriately entitled: ‘How to Stop Negative Self Talk.’

 

I’d love to hear about how you get your inner critic to shut up.  We all need as much help as possible with that negative committee! And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.