2018 Highs and Lows

2018 was a mixed bag for me. I successfully achieved a year of no alcohol in 2017, which was a massive achievement in itself. I had undertaken an incredible journey of self-discovery, in large due to the support of One Year no Beer. I was immensely proud to have achieved, at long last, a new year’s resolution that I had set out to achieve in 2017. In 2017, I also set myself a goal of a “medal a month”. I am not incredibly fit, in fact weight and fitness is a goal I still struggle with today. I did however, in 2017, through not drinking and being incredibly stubborn, complete a series of marathons, half marathons, 10 and 5kms. I’m not a runner, held back my own self-limiting beliefs of “I can’t run”, but I walked, often achieving the unenviable position of coming stone last. I didn’t mind though. The sense of achievement at completing these events while raising money for my favourite charities was enough for me. I ended 2017, with a sense of pride in achieving  what I had set out to do at the start of the year.

I rushed headfirst into 2018 with a renewed sense of motivation and focus on my wellbeing. My health got the better of me however and I ended 2018, fatter and less fit than when I started the year. I have been an asthma suffer for almost 20 years and in 2018, I struggled to control it. I was caught in a vicious circle of knowing that exercise strengthens my lungs, but also not having the energy (or oxygen) to do the exercise my body needed. 2018 also proved to be one of the most stressful at work, sadly in large due to a very serious illness suffered by a work colleague, resulting in extreme extra work load me as I was the only other person qualified to undertake his role, together with my own. I am pleased to say he is now on the mend and back at work in 2019. Watching his struggle in the last year however was also a stark reminder our mortality. All the more reason to live life to it’s absolute fullest.

I worked crazy hours in 2018, struggling with my own health, which with hindsight I can now see was exasperated by the immense stress I was under at work. I ended 2018, feeling somewhat of a failure, having not undertaken many events and my deteriorating health and fitness. It was time to take stock and look back at the positives of 2018, rather than focusing on what I hadn’t achieved. I think we are all sometimes guilty of this; we do not celebrate the wins as much as should, instead focusing on the things we did not achieve or have not achieved yet. So I took stock.

These are the things I achieved in 2018.

I commenced a certificate in counselling skills, one night a week at college. I honestly believe that everyone should take this course. I was once sceptical of talk therapy and how it could benefit anyone to talk about personal matters to a stranger, still I valued my ability to listen and emphasise with others and felt that I should explore this option as career prospect in the future. I have always had a strong interest in psychology and the workings of the human mind. The course for me has been eye opening; not only do I know have a new found appreciation of talking therapy, I also realise that I have many skeletons in my own closet that are worth exploring, some of which may explain my self-limiting beliefs, I have had for years. I am very early on in this path of self-discovery, but I am a little excited, yet also filled with trepidation about where my journey of self-discovery may take me.

For years, I have suffered with a bad back, in part due a very silly incident when I was 20 years old and thought it may be fun to slide down an escalator. Escalator 1, Lou 0. I invested 4 months of my time attending an intensive course treatment at a chiropractor, where I learned that nothing in my back was aligned. My hips were at different heights and my spine looked more like a banana than a ruler in the X-ray. I attended twice a week for 4 weeks and then once a week for a further 12. Together with the commute to get there, this proved to be a massive investment of time and money, which was worth every minute and penny.

In April, I was nominated for a local award “Heart of Gold” by a friend I had helped. I didn’t believe my small actions were worthy of such recognition, but I was honoured and accepted my nomination with grace, attending a glitzy awards ceremony. I didn’t win, however I didn’t mind at all as I was honoured to be there (and the winner donated a kidney to her toddler nephew, it was tough competition).

In May, I completed by usual annual Moonwalk Marathon in London, which is a 26.2 mile power walk through the streets of London, in a bra, overnight. 2018 was also my 10th anniversary of taking part in this event. While I had undertaken the training and had a decent level of fitness at the time, I really struggled with this one. I finished in tears with a vow of “never, ever again” to which most who knew me laughed. They had heard this many times before.

In 2018, I also commenced and completed a course in “Understanding Autism”. When I registered for this course, I must admit, I underestimated the amount of work that would be require to attain my qualification, or I would not perhaps have signed up at the same time as commencing the first year of BSc Psychology with counselling through the Open University.

In September, I was honoured to be nominated by a colleague at work for a “Making a Difference” Award, to acknowledge my years of Moonwalking and raising awareness and funds for Breast cancer. I’m still blown away by this memory, especially as Nina Barough (founder of the Breast cancer charity, Walk the Walk) had recorded a video message for me.

In October,  I passed my first University module with distinction, however despite all this, I ended the year feeling disappointed in myself. Time to give my self a swift boot up the backside. The reason I am writing about my 2018 achievements is not to sound boastful or big headed, so please forgive me if it comes across like this. I am writing this, so that I can take stock of my personal achievements and feel proud. I have always suffered from being too self-critical and one of newest resolutions is to practice self-love. I am good enough.

In 2018, my health suffered, perhaps I was doing too much in an attempt to feel I was achieving. I was stressed, unhappy, my asthma deteriorated, so much so that despite my achievements, I spent far too much time on the couch. Perhaps why I felt like a failure was because of what I was not doing, I wasn’t taking care of my health, I wasn’t climbing mountains and I missed out on far too many sunrises and sunsets. I needed to find balance.

In April, I spent an afternoon in hospital after experiencing chest pain, the result of a spirometry test were less than favourable. With hindsight it was no wonder, I felt I did not have the energy to do anything physical, preferring Netflix and chocolate during my downtime, instead of walking and embracing the nature on my doorstep.

I have worn a 24 ECG halter monitor to try and establish the cause of my fluctuating heart beat. I had DXA scan which revealed I have osteopenia, the pre-cursor to osteoporosis. There is a genetic link to this (thanks Mum) but there are also many positive things I can do to prevent acquiring full blown osteoporosis in the years to come.

In October, I lost a very close friend who had been battling mental health demons for many years, to suicide. This event left me reeling and more determined to make the most of the time I have left.

2018 was definitely a mix bag….

In 2019, I know I need to take further steps to improving my health. I am overweight, I need to take steps to reduce stress, improve my lung function and improve my bone density.  The first step to acknowledging the high and lows of 2018 and to look forward to 2019 is writing this blog.

be-kind-to-yourself

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Time

gray double bell clock

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

What is that one thing we all want more of?

How often do you hear the words, “I’d love to…., but I don’t have time.”

How many of you if asked “Would you like more time?” would say “Oh yes please!”

We all lead such extremely busy lives, probably busier than any other time in history some may argue. Our lives are filled with Jobs, kids, housework, DIY, Gardening, Keeping fit, social media, socialising, TV Binge watching. Today we are very rarely bored – there is never “Nothing to do” Kids of today, don’t even know what boredom is.

What if as an adult, I told you can – you can have more time, to do with, whatever you choose; Time with friends and loved ones, time for goals, more exercise, study the course you have always wanted to,  time with kids and parents who are growing older and who will not need you anymore, or won’t be here 😦

I’m going to let in you on a secret; I wish I had known earlier in my life. If I had known it earlier I wouldn’t be left with certain regrets.

You CAN have more time, you can have more time, BUT you will need to make one sacrifice.

…………. Alcohol

For the past 314 days, I have been alcohol free. Those who know me, will testify to that fact that if asked, if I could not have a drink for a whole year, they would have probably laughed so hard they would lose their false teeth if they had any (You get my point)

If I’m honest, even I didn’t think I would last an entire year without my favourite tipple or being merry. I started drinking when I was 15, it was cool back then, it was cool to go to school and say you had consumed copious amounts of alcohol on the weekend. I even got drunk one weekend on a Sunday afternoon when my parents were out because I didn’t want to go school on the Monday (It had been a quiet weekend) and admit that I hadn’t been pissed[i] on the weekend. My parents drank every day, they were great hard working parents, but I grew up thinking that daily drinking was a norm. In my house we even had a fridge especially for beer and wine and a cabinet for spirits. It was like a fully stocked bar – teenage heaven to unsuspecting parents. Yes, Sorry Dad, that white spirit you rarely drunk may have been topped up with water … and Mum, the time you thought that Rebel [ii]had ripped you off because your happy box was half empty, I may have had something to do with that (oops).
For years, I have had a love/hate relationship with booze. I love to party, love to sing (I sing less sober, but probably sound better)

The perceived benefits of booze are the ones we all love, it’s social, it reduces inhibitions, makes us party hard, laugh more, take risks we wouldn’t usually take (There will be actual science behind all this  – alcohol and the effects on the brain)

I used to love a “good drink” ……. until a point.

I have no off switch, moderation is not a word in my vocabulary, I am all or nothing girl, always have been (might explain the extra pounds too) I could turn this into a novel and tell you an abundance of sordid tales about my drunken behaviour over the years but 1) My Dad and kids might read this and 2) I no longer go to confession. I’m sure it is enough to say that sometimes in my drinking past, I have behaved out of character and for that, yes, I have regrets and in some instances if my bad drinking behaviour ever affected anyone else, then I am also sorry.

I know one should not dwell on regrets, I cannot dwell on regrets, however one of my biggest, is drinking the weekend my Mum passed away. If I hadn’t drunk on that Friday, I would have followed my instinct and driven straight around to my Mum’s house that afternoon when I knew she wasn’t well. If I hadn’t drunk on that Friday into Saturday morning, I wouldn’t have spent the last day of my Mums life with one of the worst hangovers ever – one that would have usually crippled me to the couch for the day. If I hadn’t had such a bad hangover, I might have driven back to the hospital that Saturday night when again instinct told me that my Mum wouldn’t be recovering this time.

If If If,

Me, not drinking probably would not have changed the outcome for my Mum but it certainly would have changed how I remember that day, that last beautiful day when my Mum’s time ran out.

In my younger days it was literally quite easy to recover from a big sesh[iii], the youthful liver metabolised the alcohol (and fat incidentally) beautifully and drinking also only happened on weekends or at parties.
Then habit kicks in –  the bad day drink,  the good day drink,  the bad news drink,  the celebratory drink, Monday Drink, Tuesday drink, you get the picture… it simply becomes a habit.

Habits are formed when the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine [iv]……… and once formed are very hard to break. We cheat ourselves into believing that we need it, we need it to be social, we need it for nerves, we need it for stress, when in fact what we really need is to give our fucking livers a good rest!

That poor liver of yours has had to work bloody overtime for so many years, it’s actually creaking. I know mine was; I felt awful. Even after a drink, that wouldn’t be considered a heavy session or a lot to drink, I felt lethargic and I had heart palpitations, a fairly recent development which definitely wouldn’t have been good for the old ticker if it had continued. I felt bloated and I was really worried about getting “old woman alcohol face” Ladies, look around at older woman who love their wine (No offense intended) but boozy face as I call it, is not attractive and as for those nasty little blood vessels that burst and appear over time – awful – I could actually picture my face looking like this and it wasn’t pretty – whoever said visualisation helped was right, and while visualising what you’d like to achieve is the recommended option, no harm in giving yourself a bloody good fright either. (That’s what those disgusting cigarette boxes try to achieve)

Another reason for taking a break from the booze was injuries, I was very tired UDI’s[v] as they are commonly known in the “cool drinking gang”.  I have too many to mention over the years because quite honestly, I can trip on my own shadow sober, so you only imagine how I was with a few drinks in me. I will however confirm that my UDI’s consisted of broken toes, ribs and even a serious spinal fracture (that one still makes me feel ill to this day)

So many people have asked me over the year, why am I doing this? This is my honest answer. Yes, I AM doing a one year challenge and that is the standard answer I have given this year, however if you are reading this and haven’t fallen asleep by now, you now know the full reasons why.

The first few months were very tough, and in January and February, I was total recluse, in part because I completely miserable and in part because I couldn’t walk anywhere on my pesky broken toes. It was during this time of couch misery that I discovered One Year No Beer. I don’t know if I would have had the resolve to stick to this goal without OYNB, my track record of fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions is not outstanding, I’ll admit…

In March I slowly emerged from my cocoon of misery and the rewards have been pretty mind-blowing. I have walked 3 marathons, 3 half marathons, a few 10km and 5km and I’ve zip lined across the Clyde. I’ve taken my Dad to Dublin and been on holiday to Portugal with my family all without an a alcoholic drink, but more importantly, I have been present, truly present and enjoyed every minute.

One unexpected but beautifully welcome consequence has been the gift of time…

Time now, because I haven’t had a single day or night this year where I have entered that Booze Time Warp – all drinkers know those nights – when it is 8pm one minute and 3am the next and then next day, you don’t remember any of it, nor have I wasted a day on the couch due to a hangover! Don’t get me wrong, I have had days on the couch, but these have been of my choosing and not because I am too ill to move.

I can drive anywhere, anytime, which means I can even put fuel in my car on a Friday night at 10pm if I want to – do you know how liberating this is and how quiet petrol stations are at 10pm on a Friday night.

I am taking the time to write this and I don’t think I have written anything this long which wasn’t for work or study, since I left school.

The evenings and weekends are longer and somehow you fit so much more in. I am more present, I remember everything, my head is clearer, I am planning and dreaming and goal setting. Unfortunately my love of a glass of fizz has been replaced by a love of chocolate but hey, Rome wasn’t built in  a day and I am still a “work in progress”

Time later, because I’ve probably added time at the end too because being healthier should statistically add a few more years on, provided the proverbial bus doesn’t get me first.

I would like to say a very big Thank you to One Year No Beer for getting me through this year. OYNB is founded by 2 very inspirational men, Ruari and Andy. You know that saying that goes something like “if I can help just one person, then I will have made difference in the world; I will have succeeded” Well you have both helped me inordinately with the support and motivation on this challenge. You are quite literally changing the world’s view of alcohol (and I’m sure you are also responsible for the momentous increase in the sale of and new products in the AF Beer market) I love the ethos of OYNB and everything is stands for and wish you every success in building OYNB in to a successful business, while changing more lives.

If anyone else would also like the gift of time, try a break from the booze, honestly, you have absolutely nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Lou

November 17

[i] Slang – Drunk/Intoxicated

[ii] SA Off Licence Chain/Bottle Store

[iii] Drinking Session

[iv] The Power of the Habit – Charles Duhigg

[v] Unidentified drinking injury

Hello from me

After years of thinking about it, I’ve decided to start a blog. With a million thoughts and views always racing through my head, now is a good a time as any to share them.

I’m not yet entirely sure what I will speak about, just that I usually have a lot to say on most things.

I’m a full time career woman, student – studying Psychology and Counselling and I am also a Mum of 4, one who is grown up and travelling the world and one who has ASD, high functioning Autism or Asperger’s.

After being a bit of a party animal since my teens, I have recently chosen an alcohol free life and I’m loving it. Life is too short to waste time on hangovers. pexels-photo-132037.jpeg

Let the blogging commence, once I have figured out how this site works……