Being in recovery is easy, right?
All it takes is the decision, the rest is straight forward. Been there, got the t-shirt?
Today we meet Liz, a songwriter based in the UK.
Liz recollects her own decision to quit drinking, and how she kept her recovery on track.
We talk superman, kombucha, hymns and happy times.
This is what we do best.
Liz, hi… let’s start with finding out a little bit about you…(what you’ve been doing/ are doing/ going to be doing)
I am one of those people who is never satisfied in one place. Maybe for a week or two I am content in a routine but I quickly get distracted by something bright and shiny elsewhere and off I go. Chasing dreams. It’s a pretty frustrating aspect of my personality but one that I am finally trying to embrace rather than change.
I started my career as a songwriter and I still do that. But along the way I have experimented in many areas of work from sign writing and novel writing to psychotherapy and youth work. I have loved and hated them all!
Who knows what ridiculous thing I will do next…
So what brought you here? I mean, you must have some kind of “drinking/ drugging/ addiction story”… care to elaborate?
I am an addict. I love happiness, pleasure, joy, thrills and deep emotion. Wherever those exist I feel drawn.
Alcohol has been a major part of my life since I was little. My Dad died of alcohol misuse when he was 52. He was a larger than life character and I was really close to him so I think I sort of took up the mantle when he was gone. I am one of five and most of us have struggled with this stuff.
I gave up drinking last year and swore never to return although in reality I only ever commit to today! “Just today” is my new mantra. It can get me through anything!
What was your drinking like at the point you decided to quit?
I drank every day as little as I could cope with.
By this I mean that if it weren’t for my children and a good marriage I would have drunk myself to death by now.
Sticking to a bottle of wine or equivalent every night was a massive effort. I didn’t make such efforts from Thursday through to Sunday.
I was never a falling over, swearing and vomiting drunk. Being well accustomed to drinking meant I could hold a lot of it and not seem drunk.
… and the final straw, for you, was what, exactly?
The day I gave up drinking I had a massive row with my husband about it.
Well, I say row. In reality I shouted and he listened. In my mind he was holding me back from drinking more and this was really pissing me off! His choice to drink only 2 drinks was getting right up my nose and I didn’t see why I should put up with it anymore.
Oh wow. I can hardly believe I even thought like that. Well, thankfully I had enough sense to look at myself. I Googled ‘am I an alcoholic?’ and the following morning began my day one.
Do you see yourself as being in recovery… If so, how? What do these words mean to you? If not… how so?
Well, I have recovered and now I am building a new life but I think that’s just semantics.
In the sense that I never feel completely safe from addiction I guess I am still recovering.
If I thought I could try a drink, have a cigarette, do whatever else, then I would be kidding myself. We all know how that goes.
I’m an addict. That’s a life sentence.
So, you stopped & changed your lifestyle (congratulations!)… how did you do that? How did you manage after you stopped? What did you do to motivate and maintain your abstinence? Any hints or tips, sources of inspiration for people seeking to do the same?
Well of course I have a whole heap of tips and advice on how to maintain sobriety on my blog VoiceofCalm.com. I started that to spread the word about freedom from alcohol and help others. My 3 main tips in early sobriety would be distraction, replacement and ‘just today’.
I distracted myself with all manner of things. I ran every evening when I would have been drinking. Just that feeling of having achieved something was good enough to calm my mind but then the chemical buzz running induces was a good replacement. Another obvious replacement for alcohol is sugar. I ate so much chocolate!
Finally, ‘just today.’ You can do anything for a day. If you start to think about never drinking again your head will explode so I needed to keep it bitesized. This mantra helped me over and over again.
Oh and AA’s 3rd step prayer. Although I didn’t do the steps this one was really helpful.
Not drinking alcohol can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did others around you deal with it?
Oh yes! When I quit, I assumed the major struggle would be my own will power.
No. That was much easier than dealing with other people’s reaction to my quitting.
I think the hardest times are in social situations with old mates I used to party hard with. I still love those people so much but my not drinking has been a big thing for them to come to terms with. My closest friends have been honest with me about this and we have talked lots. I actually think that we are closer for it.
Meanwhile, others have been really difficult and in every case I know that they are just reacting to their own problems with alcohol. People can be surprisingly unkind when they think their consumption is being scrutinised. (It’s absurd really because I am the last person to judge!)
I feel bad for these people because if you are struggling with alcohol it can be a really dark place. To be in denial means you still have some hard times ahead and it ain’t gonna be easy.
Were you successful from day one? Any relapses (etc)? How did you cope, emotionally with all this?
No relapses! I can’t imagine how I would deal with one so I am just removing that as an option.
If I did relapse it would be a supernova of a relapse. Sounds like fun doesn’t it. And this is why I mustn’t even entertain the possibility!
You’ve been sober/ clean for a while now – are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking has afforded? What are they?
Oh my god. How long have you got? I lost weight, regained my face shape from puffy to non puffy, discovered what it’s like not to be constantly tired, found consistent moods, got fit, discovered yoga, rediscovered meditation, learned to make Kombucha, became a better mum, better partner to my husband, better friend, started volunteering because I’m not as self absorbed, saved £60 a week, started writing my blog, which I love so much, no more hangovers, better memory, clearer thinking, way less anxiety and so far, no depression.
Life is so much better on every level apart from one – I don’t get pissed, which means the ‘highs’ aren’t as extreme but for all of the above I will make that sacrifice.
Any advice for people reading this… heh, can we learn from any of your mistakes?
I heard the phrase ‘superman syndrome’ when I was telling someone how immense I felt after about 6 weeks. It kind of pissed me off because I thought they were just putting a downer on my high. Something I don’t take kindly to! But I get it now.
Superman syndrome is a real thing to look out for. At about 4 to 6 weeks you might feel so invincible and so elated that you want to take on the world. You say yes to everything, plan a million new projects and eventually after a few weeks you feel exhausted.
You really want to avoid getting overwhelmed at this stage in recovery.
So I would just suggest resisting the urge to go out and save the world in week 6.
That’s not to say you can’t do it at some point but don’t forget to take care of yourself first.
So… Voice of Calm – what’s that all about?
I was in Maine on holiday last year and I kept waking up with that old hymn in my head – “Oh Lord and Father of Mankind“.
It ends with the words ‘Still small voice of calm.’ And I thought, that’s it! That’s what’s got me through this.
The sense that deep down, even through my madness and addiction there was a voice of calm, a knowing being who was waiting for me.
When I found my rock bottom it was there. A calmness that was like, ‘Hi Liz. I’ve been expecting you. Don’t worry about anything. All will be well. There is nothing you cannot do now. I will be here to help. All will be well.’
It’s not necessarily god or a higher power. Just an inner calm that I think we all have. So the blog is a celebration of this and my attempt to reset our view on alcohol and mental wellbeing.
What do you get from blogging, writing & sharing?
Clichéd but true – it’s a catharsis.
It also keeps me in the sobriety zone. I think that’s why so many people in recovery write blogs and that’s a great thing.
There is certainly an online community of people who are sharing stories and supporting each other.
I love that I can be a part of something so positive. Hopefully I have something useful to contribute to that.
I see you’ve also started doing some vlogging…that’s brave – how do you feel about doing that? What kind of connections are you making doing this?
Oh no! I don’t know if I will do any more of these. I did them as part of my Dry January posts. People reacted well to these but I am in the music industry and we don’t do low streams and views. It’s like kryptonite to me. (Oh another superman reference!) It may be best for me to steer clear.
It’s clear that your passionate about the subjects you write…”Drinking Wasn’t my Passtime”, for example – could you tell us a little bit more about the subjects you choose, why you address them and what your message to others is?
Whatever pops into my head!
Like I said, I am easily distracted. I tried planning the blog for a month but it didn’t work. I just go with what inspires me.
So “Drinking wasn’t my passtime it was my identity” is just me musing on the way I think many people view drinking: if I gave this up, who would I be?
I know a lot of women who believe that freedom is in being able to do whatever you want when you want and be accountable to no-one. But they don’t consider that they need to be accountable to themselves.
There is little self-care in their lives. In fact they often confuse wine for self care.
I want to bring their attention to this imbalance in their lives in a compassionate way. I have been there and I couldn’t see how odd this relationship with alcohol was.
I’m super honest too and I don’t mind an over-share. So if my story can help others than that’s great!
There seem to be a few subjects predominant on social media at the moment (Moderate Drinking… Mommy Drink Culture) – what are your thoughts on these subjects? Where do you stand, personally on these?
I just wrote a post called “Is pink gin the latest insult to women’s health?” The way the drinks industry targets women with sugary pink drinks in pretty bottles is utterly shameless. Women are suffering as a direct result, I have absolutely no doubt and yet the government do nothing.
In my opinion alcohol labelling needs to change to reflect health guidelines clearly on the front of bottles and cans.
It’s amazing how many people don’t know that you’re supposed to have no more than 1.5 bottles of wine a week. People are drinking in blissful ignorance and some people are dying of it.
Moderate drinking? Tried it. It was torture!
But that’s because I’m an addict.
If you can do it and you don’t have an addiction to alcohol then it’s the best way to be. But I’m afraid that moderation means a lot less alcohol than most people realise.
Ok… I think that’s enough work for you!! So finally, what’s next for you? For Liz?
I’m gonna go watch Fargo in the bath with a hot chocolate!
This is one of my new evening treats.
Other than that, more writing, more preaching and I might do a podcast. You just never know.
About our subject, Liz:
Liz is a songwriter based in Buckinghamshire.
She sees mindful living is an ongoing journey, not something that once completed never has to be reviewed. She passionately believes we are constantly learning and growing, and that true happiness lies within us, not outside of us.
Her blog, Voice of Calm is a place of inspiration and shared insight. A place to stay for a while, look around and visit regularly to refuel your spirit.
You can read more from Liz on her blog Voice of Calm.
Or I’m sure you’ll be welcome to follow her on Instagram!