are you buying this?

In my early thirties in Melbourne I lived in a share house with a Marketer. This guy was really good, I mean he had the values and emotional depth of a teaspoon but he was a true savant. And by that stage I owned a bar and had worked in the liquor industry for a decade so my own moral high horse resembled a Shetland pony, who was I to judge?

One of our favourite pastimes was to kick back on sunny afternoons with far too many beers and practice pitching to each other. I taught him everything I had learned from ten years of sales management for global liquor giants, he taught me the way to market women anything- wrinkle cream, floor cleaner, perfume or alcohol was always the same… make them feel insecure, not quite good enough in some way (not sexy enough, thin enough, pretty enough, perfect house wife enough) then give them the solution, hey presto! Problem solved.

‘Compensatory Consumption’ , its psychological name- is a behaviour in which individuals try to overcome a threatened perception of self (you’re too mumsy, too boring, too fat, too beige, too sad) by acquiring the product advertised to you….

Perhaps unsurprisingly the third housemate in that mix who was a childcare worker would sit with us, utterly aghast, sipping her cider and mourn the lack of restraint or ethical consideration given to our imagined consumers. My response was if you’re not breaking the law and you abide by industry regulation you’re good, right?

Then why, in the last few years does alcohol advertising targeting women feel so very, very wrong?

In January 2014 the Sydney Morning Herald published an article with the headline,

‘Woolworths claims liquor ads help protect children’.

Woolworths, a behemoth Australian Supermarket chain also own BWS and Dan Murphy’ liquor stores, as well as conglomerate of pubs operating under the ALH Group and at the time were the largest alcohol retailer in the country.

In their submission to Liverpool Council in support of a proposed Dan Murphy’s store opposite a primary school, Woolworths cited advice that ‘early exposure to any form of advertising is vital to protect young minds against the seductive powers of capitalism’. At the time I thought this was hilarious- it was big news in the liquor industry, there was much giggling, the word benevolent was thrown around.

Total alcohol advertising expenditure in Australia was last reported in 2007 at $128 million dollars and this is highly conservative given that it relates to the advertising of products rather than of alcohol outlets. $128 million dollars buys an awful lot of billboards featuring under-fed, sparkly eyed twenty year olds, wearing sparse but sparkly things and practically dripping with the promise of a life made better with Midori .  But this is the way the liquor industry has always played the game.  The idea that alcohol will make you more shiny, more fun (and let’s be honest- as every beer commercial in the history of the universe would have it, more likely to get laid) is the promise that has always existed, and for the most part I think we can all acknowledge that we can see the advertising here.  Just the usual aspirational, don’t you want to be like her nonsense. Its lame, but its playing by the rules.

What has changed, what feels new and disconcerting is the online Ad game. And that’s when you can even spot the Ad.

Social is the lawless Wild West of Marketing and every insta-famous twenty five year old is chomping at the bit for product placement gigs and tequila selfies. Mommy bloggers living their best life with ‘Mommy Juice’ to make the play-date magic happen.  Because the internet would have us believe ‘mummy is more fun with wine’ are we just too damn grumpy without it?  Is this the beverage equivalent of selling wrinkle cream to women by telling them they look old? In a world of filtered light and Photoshop it’s never been easier to convince women that we are not enough.

The message that alcohol is mummy’s little helper is insidious and unavoidable. I have been sober for two and a half years with carefully curated social platforms and I still can’t get away from it. Incredibly however, despite the ever increasing enthusiasm by advertisers for the female share of market, the double standard is stronger than ever and the mainstream media it seems still love to jump on that bandwagon – mother’s ruin.

We do love to indulge in a good public shaming for women who break the rules and nothing grabs headlines quite like ‘Drunk Mum’. In early May, Chanel Nine in Australia ran a special on 60 minutes ‘the shocking rise of Australia’s drunk mums, depressed, stressed and passed out drunk in the car…’   I watched this feeling disappointed and slightly heartbroken

Not only did the question of predatory marketing, its impact on women and the saturation of online media with messages of mums drinking to cope go unasked- the Television station that ran this clip on their Facebook page followed mere hours later with a story featuring ‘additional extras to pack for your labour plan’ – Champagne and smoked salmon so that just after squeezing a watermelon out your vagina, you too can drink again. Lord, really?

We live in a country where 560,000 women between the ages of 35-59 suffer cognitive brain damage from Alcohol Abuse and yet the best we can seemingly muster for public debate is to lament the ‘fallen women’, to shame them and to send a message that a) if you’re not passed out in your car- carry on, you don’t have a problem and b) if you are, don’t tell anyone- it won’t play out to well for you.

When we make this issue entirely the fault of the women who are struggling we dismiss the forces that have driven them to believe this is the only way to cope in the first place. The liquor industry, the media, and social media- we excuse ourselves from any sense of moral culpability.

When we publicly shame or endorse this shaming we turn women away from the doors of the people who can help them- silenced by the belief that everyone else must be able to manage their drinking- after all we see enough of it- everyone’s doing it and these women feel alone in their failure to moderate and manage. Only they have a problem. Only they can’t be the fun mum with a baby in one arm and a bottle of rosé in the other. What they don’t see is this isn’t reality- it’s an ad for a life you are supposed to want to have.

I say we start a rebellion. A rebellion of loving ourselves and no longer letting others profit from our insecurities.

I speak to every woman who has had enough of being told that you’re not enough.

I am not the product

I am not going to compensate for being tired, busy, slovenly and three weeks behind on my housework by getting blitzed and waking up to feel full of shame and self-loathing.

I don’t need wine to feel sparkly. I already sparkle. I don’t need alcohol to be fun, witty, better in bed or more confident.  Wine doesn’t make you enough.  You are enough- right where you are.

Sober on, rebels x

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The benefits of quitting drinking

I remain a little vague, nay- puzzled on how this came about but something strange happened on the weekend. Out of the blue I was struck with motivation to undertake some spring cleaning (wtf, really?) of the cupboard clear-out variety (don’t judge me- this happens about once a decade at my house).

Anyway, it was a spontaneous whim that I just decided to go with, let loose, ride the wave (try not to be too jealous of the glamorous life I lead) but hell, I’m not one to be overcome with desire for house work frequently, I was curious to see where this would end up and I embrace any possible excuse to play Beyonce loudly and dance badly before midday. Somewhere around shelf three and half a packet of M&M’s later I discovered an old note book and inside was the journal  I kept for my first year of not drinking- here is an entry after three months of quitting  drinking for anyone who might be thinking about doing the same, maybe my experience might be of some small help.

90 days

Ninety Days – it seems longer when you write out the numbers. Ninety days of no hangovers. This is the longest I have gone without alcohol in twenty years. I feel like a different person already.  Best bits so far:

My skin is better. It’s not grey for starters. I no longer have that nightmare of Caroline Hirons yelling like an angry British nanny “what do you mean you didn’t take off your make-up… GET IN THE SEA”

My eyes don’t do that horrible thing where they look like little raisins (this was probably never my eyes- just my face being really fucking bloated and making them look that way), either way a definite improvement

Heaps of energy. All the energy, I actually wake up feeling rested and that is because….

Sleep

Sleep is THE SHIT. The difference here being- it’s actually, really, truly sleep (not passing out on the sofa) Ha! It is marvellous. Also, no 3am wake up sick to the stomach that I drank again, no night sweats all caught up in twisted sheets, flushed with shame and promising not to drink. Just snoring, blissful snoring and waking up feeling grateful (and loudly denouncing the mere suggestion of snoring)

No morning-time- almost -awake, in the half-light peeping at phone out of corner of my eye oh my god, who did I text last night….. trying to delete without really looking because I don’t want to know.

No more headaches or dry eyes

Have lost weight. This will not continue if I keep eating Jaffa Cakes, nonetheless- for now, have lost weight.

WAY less anxiety.

Now when I feel my anxiety rising I am much better equipped to do something (EFT tapping, exercise, call a friend)  I always thought the alcohol was helping- turns out it has been making things harder than they needed to be.

My hair is better. Is that weird?

Feel calmer, more peaceful.

Have realised that visualising the Wine Witch is the best way to beat cravings and drinking nostalgia. She generally bothers me when I’m driving home from work just stop on your way and buy a bottle for tonight, you deserve it or getting ready to go out with friends, you’ll be so much more fun if you drink. Now I just tell that Wine Witch Bitch to GET IN THE SEA.  Really, I just think, Oh do shut the fuck up and move on.

My life is actually NOT dramatic. This is a good thing. No alcohol= no drama

On the flip side some things that are hard;

Mum is getting on my nerves. This is probably not her (somehow I don’t think she has just coincidently radically changed in last ninety days) I am however, used to three glasses of wine before I talk to her. I think I have some unresolved shit I need to work through. I’m going to keep to text for now.

I still feel really raw. Things hurt. There is still so much to deal with and sometimes I just want to hug my dogs and cry. Sometimes I miss the numbness. But I don’t want to go back. Even after a hard day- I feel good because I am victorious, I didn’t drink. I’m stronger than that.

I am so fucking lonely.

My bones ache from the lonely. It feels really heavy. I still haven’t found anyone else who doesn’t drink. How can I not know one single person who would get this? Would I even tell them if I did? I am too stubborn to admit I was struggling with drinking to anyone but my sisters.

I hate my job. I always hoped this was just because I was nursing a hangover. No, turns out- it’s not me… it’s them. This is bad but on some level also reassuring.

I now have to deal with the things I preferred to ignore while drinking. The adult-ing things.  The bill things, registration things, health insurance things, tax things – I used to have a drawer for them ( I called it the ignoring drawer). They’re getting filed in a pretty organised folder now. I don’t love it. I do feel like a grown up for doing it though, that’s something.

This three months has been hard and sad and amazing all at the same time. I am beginning to feel like myself again. I laugh a LOT more

I want to keep going.

Fast forward a little over two years. The best thing is everything above. And more.

If I had to pick just one though, one thing that changed for the better- something I got from quitting drinking a bottle of wine a night that I never had before- it’s Peace.

Now being a Roman History nerd I can tell you, the Latin for Peace is Pax.

It’s often slightly misinterpreted though. Pax, by definition is not peace.

It is a treaty that comes after a time of war.

And so, it is.

A treaty.

Pax

No longer am I at war with myself.

And I wish that for everyone who wants it, because in today’s crazy world we all need a little peace. There is enough conflict without being at war with ourselves.

 

Claire x

The Boundary Line

When we start to change our relationship with alcohol as part of the process of building a life we don’t want to escape from on the nightly bus to oblivion, oftentimes we go through a process of learning to look after ourselves. Rather, learning to look after ourselves kindly, respectfully and without drinking to numb our day to day experiences of people, places and things.

Many early experiences in recovery can feel like you just ripped off a plaster.

You feel bare.

Unprotected, wide open and without the anaesthetic of a bottle of wine that you may have become accustomed to, emotions can feel overwhelming in their intensity and endless in duration. Until of course, they pass. And they will, I promise.

For the most part this living life, as the amazing Mrs D (livingwithoutalcohol.blogspot.com.au) calls it ‘in the raw’ is equal parts rewarding, terrifying and painful after years of checking-out of uncomfortable emotions, or any emotions for that matter.

Life in the raw is where all the magic and amazing stuff happens. But sometimes it’s also where we deal with shitty people, relationship problems, past trauma or a multitude of things we chose to bury our head in the sand and hide from when we had been drinking; health, debt, dental work, or a toxic colleague- you name it, we’ve all got something. Often having been in the habit of discrediting or invalidating our own hurt, it can be so hard to break this pattern and do otherwise but please, don’t discount your emotions. Your emotional reaction to people and events is valid. By all means unpack it when you feel calm and safe but your reaction, if you are hurt or uncomfortable is real.

It is valid.

And it is not your responsibility to set about fixing or excusing the behaviour of anyone else, no matter how noble their intentions might have been. It is your job to protect your early sobriety, your emotional wellbeing and to trust that you can establish healthy relationships with other people.

And one really loving thing you can do for yourself is set boundaries.

Boundaries are not about other people.

They are about you.

The ‘other person’- often someone we care very much about, does not necessarily intend to hurt us when they trespass our landscape, intruding into parts of our emotional or physical environment we do not want to share. You can certainly maintain kindness and compassion when asserting a boundary (with some practice) I’m going to own the fact that in frustration I have snapped when I feel the intrusion of a personal boundary and I imagine the sting seemed harsh when the intention had been good.  I keep trying to learn though, because each time you assert a boundary, calmly & clearly- you are creating trust with yourself- to own your own power in relationships.

Be gentle with yourself too. Working on boundaries in families and relationships is fraught with faux-pas.  Just because you have known someone your whole life or been married to them for twenty years- it doesn’t make these conversations easier to have but, if you can blunder along it often brings a sense of respect and greater understanding.

Relationships worth fighting for are relationships worth establishing boundaries for too. No one is entitled to ownership of any part of your spiritual, emotional or physical self- what we choose to share is just that, what we choose to share- not an obligation.  You own the power to decide how much and who with. Be willing to teach your boundaries to those you care about. Be wary only of those who are serial offenders.  People who do not learn and listen to you when you spell out your discomfort. Walk away.  These are the people whose respect for you ends where your boundaries begin and you shouldn’t waste your time with someone who is constantly hitting outside the line.

Sober Vacay

Ah, sorry for the radio silence. Somehow in the last couple of weeks the universe has conspired to keep me (mostly) happily absent from my laptop.

I clocked up 800 days alcohol free last Saturday and a spontaneous Bali escape collided to make it the perfect celebration- or sort of.

In the last couple of years I’ve had a few sober ‘stay-cations’ plenty of overindulging in books, bed and brownies and a couple of family trips, either to visit or travelling with my sister who fortunately was never a big drinker and would rather hit up a yoga class than a bar. I have done only one short trip myself.

I enjoyed it but I felt at a bit of a loss too.  I was in Bali then also (it’s the three hour flight, its almost too easy for a few days away) and Asia until that point for me had always meant swimming, sun and beer before lunch because… well, because holidays, right?  It’s ingrained in my psyche and that’s the funny thing about recovery- you can think you have learnt new patterns for your old habits and then bam- you forgot one.  So, I survived it but didn’t nail it and that’s Ok, I was Ok with that.  I just thought I would ace the shit out of it this time- I mean 800 days – I was totally up for challenging myself.

Ubud is in the mountains and is a yogi, vegan paradise. I spent the first couple of days clocking many k’s under my feet exploring parts I hadn’t yet seen, feeling the crushing weight of humidity soaking me through and then the relief of afternoon rain, feasting on amazing raw deliciousness and then crashing onto a mat at yoga barn for some yin and sound healing. It was bliss.  And one of my favourite parts about Ubud, there are hardly any bars. Anyway, before you get jealous on day four I decided to take a motorbike tour of the small villages in the mountains around Ubud and made the (in hindsight) questionable decision to swim in a local waterfall – I was after all determined to smash this holiday adventure.

That night it started with some back pain. Just a smidge.  Then a smidge more. I had an early flight home the next morning and although I didn’t feel well I powered through the airport checks, boarding and take-off.  The tea trolley came and went, everyone settled down for some in-flight entertainment and then OUT OF NOWHERE…. I pole vaulted my fellow travellers in a mad dash for the loo. Drenched in an icy sweat I was on my knees hugging that toilet, weeping, beset by some mutant strain of killer water poisoning .  If I so much as let my mind slip for a second to consider my situation the sheer disgustingness of having my head in AN AIROPLANE TOILET,  I simply got sicker.

As I surfaced for breath I could hear other passengers outside the toilet speculating. There can’t have been much in way of good movies on offer because the level of interest was a little too concentrated on me heaving my heart out for my liking. The majority concluded I was probably hung-over and scoffed at my misery, there were some faint murmurings about the possibility of quarantine and of course, the obligatory middle aged man who thinks every woman aged between 14-60 is, if remotely unwell almost certainly with child and being the fairer sex should be given a lay down and some smelling salts.

I was inconsolable.  I was pretty close to hysterical. And filled with embarrassment and shame, being sick is bad enough.   Being sick trapped with three hundred odd people you don’t know on your hands and knees in front of a filthy toilet is infinitely worse. I wallowed in my misery feeling progressively more dreadful until…I had COMPLETLEY surpassed giving a shit what anyone thought of me. I just wanted it to be over, the flight, the commentary of the people on the other side of the door, the spewnami, all of it.

And then I went dead calm. I reminded myself that no matter how bad this was, if I just took it one minute at a time, literally one teeny minute at a time, I could do it. I stopped crying. I kept hugging the toilet. There were many minutes. When we landed I was offered to disembark first. I’m not sure what kind soul thought I might like to walk out in front of everyone on board, a ‘parade of shame’…’the girl who hurled’ but I ended up waiting until the plane was empty and hobbling out avoiding eye contact and noting I would never fly this airline again for sheer embarrassment no matter how kind the hostess had been when I couldn’t find my carry-on.  I walked to the front to ask and waiting for me was the lady I had been sitting beside.

She had bought me a bottle of water. She had sent her husband to get the car. This absolute sweet heart of a lady who I had never met before carried my bag and rubbed my back and walked me to her husband waiting valiantly with the car, all so I didn’t have to get the bus to the long term car park.

A small gesture maybe but so incredibly kind.  I mean by this point I was a red-hot mess. I had puke-face (you know when you’re not sure if there are remnants on your face and have lost the will to care), I had been kneeling on a revolting bathroom floor and literally almost every other passenger on-board had decided I was either a hung-over wreck (haha not any more suckers) or carrying a terrifying new strain of bovine flu and best given a very wide berth.

Somehow over the next few days with the help of amazing friends my dogs got walked and fed. Groceries were delivered and cooked meals were put in my fridge.  Yesterday I even had a shower, victory!

And now, back to being clad in PJ’s I can (almost) see the funny side. In so many situations I’ve been like the passengers on that plane- you don’t know the story of what is going on with someone, so you make it up, speculate, fill in the blanks.

It’s so easy to judge people, especially when we don’t know them. Hell, it’s even kinda fun, it’s so easy to want to take the moral high-ground (thank you, every smug and righteous fellow traveller who revelled in what you thought was my hang-over) to make yourself feel more virtuous. And it’s so damn easy to put in your headphones, avoid eye-contact and turn away when someone is struggling right in front of you.

I don’t want to choose easy. I want to be like the lady who stopped. Who bought a bottle of water and offered to drive me- not just to my car but all the way home.  She never asked why I was sick, she just made me feel a little better.

I want to be the kind of friend who brings groceries, walks dogs, shows up and is in general pretty fucking awesome. And I do that best sober so, there’s some more motivation to keep on keeping on. Although, I think I’ll start with toast.

PAWS for thought

Friday afternoon, its Sunny outside and I have grand plans for the weekend… however, after yelling at half the office this morning I just ate way too much pasta for lunch, and now, given the opportunity I would crawl into the foetal position under my desk and have a good old cry. PMS my friend, I really wish you would fuck off home already.

Feeling at the mercy of your emotions, hormones and exhaustion is basically just balls.

I have nothing good whatsoever to say about it, in fact I’m reminded of the time Hilary Clinton was asked to say something nice about Donald Trump…

I’ll just hold some space for deafening silence right here

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It’s like a hostile takeover wherein I unwillingly see-saw between feeling overwhelmed and utterly spent to irrationally pissed that someone (I know who you are) ate the last of the crunchy peanut butter AND  PUT THE CONTAINER BACK IN THE CUPBOARD.

I suppose the one small mercy of PMS is its predictability. I love the app called CLUE- it tracks your cycle and I can literally see a little storm cloud approaching on the calendar right about the time I start visualising a swift left hook as my method of communication. Short, sweet and sends a clear message.

I’m surprised time and again when I speak to women who have quit drinking and are completely uninformed of what to expect – we have no public awareness of  early sobriety. Zero. Nilch. Nadda.

You quit smoking and there is a little timeline of what to expect in the first 24 hours, first week, first month and on and on. It’s motivating. They have diagrams you can print off.  It’s a really great tool for the people in your family or co-workers to understand cravings, how long they last, when they peak and when they should shelter in a bomb proof bunker to avoid your lovely self. And yet, when you decide to stop drinking a bottle of wine a day (or whatever your beverage of choice is), the information that is available- sweet F.A.

One example of this is PAWS. It sounds cute, don’t be deceived.

Post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) describes a set of persistent impairments that occur after withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, antidepressants and other substances. *thank you Wikipedia*

Many of us experience a few days to a week of exhaustion, headache and craving when we first quit (if this is you right now, keep going its totally worth it and won’t last long) then comes euphoria, Hello pink cloud!! It’s great and lovely and full of unicorns and chocolate covered coffee beans and you’re cruising along and then…

Bam, PAWS jumps out and smacks you around the head with a very large stick

My first episode of PAWS was about day 65. I did not know what the hell was going on. I was exhausted, just so, so tired.   All I wanted to do was watch Titanic and sob my heart out – and Titanic was bad enough the first time I saw it, why would anyone in their right mind watch it again? I wasn’t in my right mind. It was a scary time.

I had strong thoughts that a drink would make me feel better, in fact by day three of PAWS I thought a drink was the only thing that would make me feel better, feel like myself again.   This second stage withdrawal- (even if you were not physically addicted to alcohol) coming out of the blue as it does is a common cause of relapse.  Fortunately I hung on and settled for a Midsomer Murders marathon, crying at the drop of a hat and more chocolate than I care to remember.

Some symptoms of PAWS are; mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, variable energy, low enthusiasm, variable concentration and disturbed sleep.  Doesn’t that sound like a blast?  Having said that- I taught myself to see PAWS as a good thing.  I know, weird but bear with me, once I had finally stumbled across what it was I realised that I had reached this point and failed in the past, I just didn’t know what I was encountering at the time.  In previous attempts to quit drinking I told myself I would feel better if I had a beer and I did at first, until I felt a whole lot worse and was back to where I started.

Forewarned is forearmed, knowledge really is power and once you see what your body is doing during a PAWS episode it’s easier to give in, rest and binge watch Netflix, safe in the knowledge this too shall pass.

Post-acute withdrawal occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain improves the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new equilibrium causing post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

So, your amazing brain is trying to heal itself and it’s wobbling a little bit as it figures out how it should look when it’s not floating in ethanol. After fifteen years of regular drinking it seems fair to me that my brain might need a moment to dust itself off and find some composure.

Episodes generally don’t last longer than a few days, knowing this in advance helps wait it out and the longer you go without drinking the greater the stretches of time between episodes.

After my first episode, when I knew what I was dealing with, I made a PAWS box, it was a ‘break glass in emergency’ kind of deal. Face mask, good book, glasshouse candle and a yoga ten class pass for the studio close to my house.  When I had PAWS I would try and lay low.  This is self-care, giving your body the respect it deserves; it is after all doing some pretty tremendous healing.

PAWS can occur up to two years after you quit drinking although mine was fairly infrequent after about eighteen months.  The lesson I learnt from PAWS is still with me though- sometimes the best thing you can do for your recovery is walk your dogs, kiss your loved ones and make a date with a book and your bed because it’s what you need, this isn’t being selfish- this is what healthy self-care looks like.

So, me and my PMS have a date with a block of chocolate, Jack, Rose and everyone else on board the good ship at some stage this weekend, safe in the knowledge that this too shall pass xx

Happy Friday lovelies.

High-functioning, baby

I had lunch with an old colleague & friend of mine this week, he’s a funny guy- I named one of my dogs after him (basically may as well have been my first born child) He’s one of those people you don’t see for years but you pick up exactly where you left off because they never seem to change.

When I worked with this guy he was legendary. Actually he was a visionary.  In an industry where the more sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies of senior management were glorified, this friend of mine was always a charmer- the kind of boss who was so utterly persuasive when he would talk about his vision that you just want to scream hell yes! I’m coming with you. He still is, actually.

Anyway, I filled him in on Hunter Sober and all things ‘project sobriety’ in my life. His response… you never needed to quit drinking.  You were high functioning, like me.

High Functioning? One of my clearest memories of this gentleman is finding him past out asleep in his office at 11am after a big night out.  Or the time I had to  drive him to a liquor store after he got a terrible result on his annual liver test (I had to drive because he’d had a wine or two at lunch) commiserating that he would have to quit drinking, we composed a eulogy to wine- at the time it was hilarious.  In hindsight it’s kind of devastating, he never did stop.  As we chatted he admitted he had tried for years to moderate or quit, knowing it was affecting his health and marriage but in his typical fashion he capped off the conversation proudly telling me ‘at least I’m still high-functioning baby’

I wonder if he thinks the creativity he is known for would dissipate if he didn’t have half a bottle of scotch to fuel it? Drinking’s like that, after years of using it as a social lubricant or to get into your creative space- you forget how to go there without it.  This friend is like many others that I have worked for or with in senior management over the years and it transpires there is a comorbidity that’s more common in the high-powered achievers: The likelihood for substance abuse.  Most experts agree that this overlap is also quite logical, and it’s readily explained in psychological, molecular, and neurological terms.

Here are a few traits outlined by David Linden, PhD, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine that sum up visionary leaders-

They are; risk-taking, have a strong drive for success, obsession, dedication and novelty-seeking.

Now have a look at the traits, defined by Dr. Linden that make a ‘good’ addict.

They are; risk-taking, have a strong drive for success, obsession, dedication and novelty-seeking.

Dr, Linden argues that the traits that make a good CEO or visionary leader are precisely what make a “good” addict. He says that the pleasure derived from success, and in particular from risky or novel business ventures, is borne of the very same brain pathways that make substance use so irresistible to some.

Coming back to my friend, how do you plead a case for recovery when the prevailing mentality is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? And here I’m not just referring to his attitude, what Board, HR manager or Company would stop and intervene for the welfare of their leaders and employees so long as everything is ticking over nicely – even though they may be very aware of a problem. Also, if you have only ever been high-functioning and never had a low-bottom, how do you motivate yourself to stay sober if you get there in the first place?

Perhaps from a workplace perspective we could start with a shift in corporate culture. Last year I was offered, as a bonus an all expenses trip to Fiji with a partner or friend.  The catch was that ten other colleagues would go at the same time and the unwritten expectation was that it would be a major drink-fest.  When I responded thank you but no thank you I was singled out for not being a team player (I believe the actual term was total fucking killjoy).  We need to teach our businesses to reward and recognise in ways that are healthier than a Friday night round of drinks or ten.

My friend is responsible for his own health and happiness but he is also the product of his environment. Everyone knows he has a drinking problem; he is as notorious for it as he is for being an exceptional talent (clearly not as surreptitious as he would like to think).  No one has ever called him out on it though, are they afraid because he is the boss or do they not care as long as he keeps performing?

Dr Linden stresses that addiction is so common because it is, after all, just another form of learning. Since high-achieving people are if nothing else good learners, it makes sense that they might be more likely to be substance dependent.

I don’t have the answers but I hope my friend starts the process of ‘unlearning’ soon.   I hope he can see that his brilliance, his creativity and his ability to be a great leader is in no way tied to his drinking. And I hope he does it in time.

After all, everyone is high-functioning…until they aren’t, baby.

 

 

Trigger Happy

Trigger Happy [trig-er-hap-ee]

  1. Ready to fire at the least provocation, regardless of the situation or probable consequences
  2. Heedless and foolhardy in matters of great importance and recklessly advocating action that can result in war

This weekend had me thinking about triggers. A lot.

I have always been a little trigger happy. Short of patience and naturally passionate I have definitely been known to fire with the least provocation and not solely with regards to my own interests.  I am the friend you rant with, who will be indignant and furious on your behalf, who would draft an army to avenge you with absolutely no thought to the consequences at all.  Heedless and foolhardy in matters of great importance seems at times a fair descriptor too, but I am never more so than when I am in a state of frustration.

There is a strong link between a low tolerance for frustration and problem drinking/substance abuse.

Plenty of us know, even when we are drinking what the triggers that make us reach for a glass of wine are. Common triggers are feeling anxious, angry, tired or overwhelmed.   Many of you may have heard of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired).

But the thing is, often triggers feel pretty unique. Your kids may be a trigger (very common, yes we know you love them- they can still be a trigger) maybe it’s your job or your boss or your mother in-law. My greatest triggers are change of any variety.  Change and I have never been on good terms- I have ranted for a good half hour when the regular morning radio host I listened to had the gall to leave her job. Damn you change, damn you. Also mansplaining (look it up-it’s a thing), feeling exuberant and forgetting how else to celebrate and lastly- extreme frustration.

On Saturday I decided in a moment of madness that it might be a good idea for me to build the website for Hunter Sober myself. It didn’t take long for this to stop seeming like a good idea.  I am terrible with IT & anything connected to a cable.  My mum once had to explain to me what a blog was.  This was never going to end well.

By lunchtime when I realised I had to call the domain host in America, off a mobile from Western Australia, I started to feel a little frustrated. After half an hour on hold a delightfully friendly customer service agent told me he loved my accent but couldn’t understand me, -is an Australian accent really that hard to understand? Eventually (after much giggling on his part) I had managed to spell out my problem.   Oh, he replied in his adorable, easy to understand drawl- the nameserver of your domain is not pointing to our server.

Sorry, what the fuck? Is that actually even a sentence? How can it point to anything, I don’t understand, am I supposed to have my laptop pointing at something?

There was no point asking these questions.

We were so lost in translation I was more likely to find out what Meatloaf wouldn’t do for love than solve my computer problems and my mobile bill was already going to be worthy of a fainting spell without another hour on the line spelling each word as I went…just.to.be.clear.

So, I youtubed a tutorial. Actually it was more like five tutorials- I’m quite a slow learner.  I started to make progress.  That is until I tried to migrate this blog into the website.

Oh the agony.

I actually got so annoyed I Googled- what to do when very f-ing frustrated.  I kid you not, the first response was, pour yourself a drink.  Not helpful Google. Not helpful at all.

I settled for swearing in the shower and then eating my bodyweight in chocolate covered sultanas. Perhaps not the most calorie controlled method of dealing with the problem but it was effective and I didn’t drink.

In the end I managed to get the site up and looking basic but respectable. I did it all myself, with only the assistance of Rajeev, my youtube tutor.

Maybe this is what progress looks like two years into sobriety. Far from perfect but a hell of a lot better than the way I would have dealt with frustration before, that would have involved a very quick trip to the bottle shop and almost certainly not finishing the job.

Here it is, www.huntersober.com.au one step at a time I will keep putting information up that will hopefully be helpful. I just need to replenish my chocolate sultana supplies before I continue,

 

Claire x