It doesn’t feel like long ago that I struggled to go just one week without alcohol. So it’s hard to believe that it’s now been two years without a drink. My original goal was to stop drinking for a year. However, after seeing how much my life changed in that year, I decided to stick with the sober life. I haven’t decided that I will never drink again but the longer I stay sober, the more reasons I find to want to stay sober.

Giving up a twenty-year binge-drinking habit has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The new lifestyle still presents challenges, although it has proven that sometimes the hardest things to do are often the most rewarding.

Last year was tough. I consciously didn’t date anyone all year. I knew it was going to take at least twelve months to adjust to an alcohol-free life and to feel comfortable enough within my new sober skin to go on a first date. I also avoided as many social events as possible. Just the thought of going to a pub or bar, sober, made me feel uncomfortable. A few months into the year I came to the realisation that I not only had social anxiety but most likely always did have, and had been self-medicating with alcohol.

A few months into the sober life I got invited to a party. I knew I had to go because it was for a good friend and I couldn’t avoid parties for the rest of my life. I was dreading the thought of going. I constantly pictured myself at the party being socially awkward. I would keep coming up with excuses in my head of how I could get out of going. However, I knew that to move forward I would have to get over these hurdles. As it turns out, the party wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, nor were the next few parties after that. It’s like anything I guess, the more you do something the easier it becomes. Which is what happened after the first sober date; once I’d jumped that first dreaded hurdle it became easier and easier.

Slowly, I would start to see the benefits of being the sober one. Sure, maybe I wasn’t as loud, or cracking as many jokes, as the people drinking but at least at the end of the night I was coming home with money in my wallet and a clear head. It was a nice change to be able to remember everything that happened on a night out. The biggest benefit was saying goodbye to hangovers. Waking up fresh on the weekends has opened up a whole new world of opportunities. This simple pleasure was something that I’d not really experienced many times before. In my first (and last) blog ‘My twenty-year love-hate relationship with alcohol’, I calculated that I’d roughly wasted three and a half years of my life laying on a couch watching TV, hungover. With hangovers now out of my life, I’ve gained at least one night a week (from not drinking) and one full day (from no hangovers). I now find I have time to do things that I’ve wanted to do for years but never thought I had the time or money.

Another huge benefit of saying goodbye to booze is the amount of money you save. Also, the amount of energy you find you really have. Last year I discovered that with all the extra time, money and energy I had, I could finally start living the life that alcohol was holding me back from living. My thirst for alcohol became a thirst for knowledge. I took a short course in photography, which was something I’d always been interested in. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing two more similar courses. I also started up at a guitar-building school and built a bass guitar as well as rebuilding an old bass guitar that I had. I started studying Spanish. Learning another language was always on my bucket list. When alcohol was in my life, the thought of studying anything after work was just not an option. I couldn’t think of anything worse back then. Probably because I spent most of the week tired and recovering from the weekend. When I was drinking I would come home from work exhausted and quite often fall asleep on the couch before dinner. These days, most evenings I feel like doing something productive.

Realising how much more time I had on my hands got me thinking how I could get more hours out of a week to do things I wanted to do. So I slowly cut back on TV, to a point where I don’t really watch any now. I was watching probably three hours a night and maybe ten hours a day on a weekend, if I was really hungover. That’s up to thirty-five hours a week I’m getting back. So now I feel like I’m making up for some of that time I wasted with all those hangovers. I cut back on social media as well. Cutting out roughly an hour a day gives me another seven hours per week.

I love to travel. A big dream of mine was to do a big trip around the world. So now with a clear head, I put together a plan to make it happen. Obviously giving up partying was a huge saving but it also got me thinking of other ways to save money. As the year went on I could almost feel the brain cells grow back and actually started to feel smarter. Well, I was at least thinking a hell of a lot clearer anyway. Even the fact that I’m now writing blogs. The old me would have laughed at the idea of writing. The old me couldn’t have been bothered. My memory has never been great but I think that has improved a bit as well.

So by the end of 2017, after a year of planning and saving hard, I was off on my dream holiday. I travelled to twenty countries over six and a half months and ticked off a bunch of things from the bucket list. Peru and the Inca Trail were at the top of my bucket list. I got to spend seven weeks in Peru and did the Inca Trail. It was as amazing as I hoped it would be. I swam with sharks on the Belize Barrier Reef and snorkeled with a manatee. I went caving in some beautiful caves in Cuba, Belize, and Vietnam. I went to a few NBA games in Canada and the US and went to an NHL game. I went on the biggest zip line in the southern hemisphere, in Costa Rica, Superman style. In Nicaragua I saw flowing lava in a volcano, I climbed volcanos and even boarded down one. I met hundreds of people and made new friends all over the globe.

Living that dream was the best thing I’ve ever done. There is no doubt that it was better than a bunch of nights out at my local pub. That was another one of my reasons for wanting to stop drinking. I figured that I had been drunk so many times and had so many nights out but there were so many countries out there waiting to be explored. So why would I want to live the repetitious life of getting drunk every weekend when that money could be getting spent on something much more rewarding.

I think one appeal of alcohol is that it’s a quick solution to make you feel good. At least, that’s what we think. Is it really making you feel good though? If you are a heavy drinker like I was, there was only really a window of maybe a few hours that you felt good and happy before things started to get blurry and memory loss kicked in. For that few hours of feeling good, I would have to pay. Not just financially but for the next few days whilst I recovered. They say the older you get the worse the hangovers get. I partially agree with that. In my case, the hangovers were not necessarily getting worse but just lasting a lot longer. I don’t believe that it was just because I was getting older though. I think it was because the older I got the more alcohol I could handle and the longer I could drink for. As an adolescent, I maybe drank for two to six hours before vomiting or passing out. As I got older, I practically trained myself to be able to drink all through the day and night. So if your drinking sessions are three to four times longer than when you started out drinking, it makes sense that the hangovers are going to last three to four times longer.

So I eventually realised the hangovers that lasted for days were just not worth the one night (a few hours) of fun. In fact, the nights were no longer even really fun anymore. Rollercoasters are great fun but I imagine if you sat on one for twenty years, the novelty would probably wear off. Not only was drinking no longer as fun as it used to be but it was slowly becoming depressing. I felt like I was walking through a really long tunnel, slowly walking away from the light (the fun times) and into the darkness.

I think a lot of people are under the misconception that a night out with friends was fun because they were drunk. Maybe the night out was fun because you enjoy the company of your friends and they make you laugh. I don’t miss the taste of alcohol or the action of drinking. I do miss hanging out and having a laugh with friends though. It’s just unfortunate that having nights out in our culture, and most Western cultures, usually involves alcohol.

When I went back to work after travelling for the first half of the year, there was a new guy at work. He’s one of the most stereotypical Australians I’ve ever met. A tradie who’s life revolves around football, cricket, gambling, and beer. When he found out I didn’t drink, it was as if I’d just told him I was an alien or something. ‘What’s wrong with ya!?’ he said, in absolute shock. That reaction really annoyed me. I don’t think it was necessarily him I was annoyed at though. I was more annoyed because I felt that statement summed up the mentality of so many Australians. Because the vast majority of Aussies drink, they seem to think there must be something wrong with anyone that doesn’t. Coming home and having to deal with that attitude again was kind of unwelcoming.

People get stuck in loops. If you have a big night every weekend you usually feel pretty run down for a few days. Later in the week, you might feel like you need to get drunk to pick you up again. I think that in itself is a misconception though. Does it really make us feel that good? We might tell ourselves that it makes us feel good because we’ve had so many fun nights with alcohol. But really, there’s nothing fun about drinking alone and it doesn’t really make you feel good either. In fact, if you’re drinking alone, it’s probably making you feel more alone. Some people say they like a drink because it helps them relax. Is it the alcohol making you relaxed though, or the fact that you’re no longer at work and now sitting at home with your feet up. Ask yourself: Why do I drink? Question your relationship with alcohol. Is it really making you happier? I would actually love to hear all your answers.

Other negative loops can be eating too much and having weight issues. I’ve never really been overweight but I can relate to overweight people. Eating fatty or sugary foods is a way to momentarily feel good but then you may have the remorse when you start to put on weight. You might start to get down because of how you look, so you eat something that tastes good to make you feel better again. It’s a snowball effect. Drinking is the same. I enjoyed getting drunk (in the early days anyway) but then would have regrets about wasting money and only having myself to blame for feeling like rubbish for days after. It starts to really beat you down after so many years.

In my last year of drinking, that metaphorical tunnel was getting dark. To my surprise, it continued to get darker after I stopped drinking. Eventually, I stopped, I turned around. Now I’m heading back towards the light end and into a much happier and brighter future. I’m slowly becoming stronger, healthier and wealthier. I now feel like I’m stuck in a positive loop. The healthier I become physically, the healthier I become mentally, so I want to become stronger and healthier physically etc. At thirty-eight years old the thought of turning forty was really getting me down. Not now though; now I’m genuinely excited to see what my future holds and no longer worried about being in my forties.

It’s probably no real big surprise that one of the biggest benefits of getting rid of binge drinking from your life, is the health benefit. I had suffered from headaches and poor digestion as long as I can remember. Now for the first time in my life, my body is functioning the way it should be and coincidentally, no more headaches! For decades I had tried to work out what was causing the headaches. I now believe they were caused by digestive issues which were most likely linked to dehydration from binge drinking. The last few years I was drinking, I also noticed my legs would ache a lot. Sometimes to the point that I couldn’t sleep because my legs were so restless and aching so much. I had read that this could be caused by being dehydrated.

Which made sense, considering I was almost always in a state of dehydration. When I was drinking, I would constantly need water at hand, even all through the week. I was always thirsty. About six months after giving up alcohol, I started to notice that I could survive without having a water bottle constantly attached to my hand. About six to twelve months later, I started to notice my legs weren’t aching as much. There were a couple of times in the years leading up to me giving up alcohol that I had a month off drinking. When my legs still ached after a month sober, I decided that it must have been just from work and because I was getting old. Even though I didn’t think it was quite right to feel like that before I’d even turned forty. As it turns out, it takes longer than one month for your body to fully recover from twenty years of abuse. So, my advice to anyone looking to give up drinking is, don’t give up after a month because you haven’t noticed enough changes. It’s now been two years for me and I’m still discovering new benefits. I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety but I definitely am an overthinker and occasionally get anxious about things. For example, I would overthink everything I posted on social media. I probably deleted fifty percent of things I posted because I would sit there overthinking what I had posted and wondering what people would think. In the last year, I think I’ve only deleted maybe one or two posts. So obviously my mental health is in a much better place as well.

They say ‘you are what you eat’. I now know what they mean by that. Although, I think the saying should be, ‘you are what you consume’. It’s amazing how much your mental and physical health changes when you stop fueling your body with rubbish and start filling it with decent fuel.

A quick recap of the last two years:

  • Made peace with who I really am.
  • Randomly got offered (and accepted) a great job.
  • Travelled the world for six and a half months.
  • Swam with sharks.
  • Hiked the Inca Trail.
  • Climbed a volcano.
  • Lowered my anxiety levels.
  • Became healthier and stronger both physically and mentally.
  • For the first time in thirteen years, got involved in a serious relationship.

Far too many amazing life-changing events to just be a coincidence that they happened when I stopped drinking. Having said that, I did go through some tough times as I adjusted to a life without alcohol. My tip for anyone considering going down the long and rough road to a sober life (I learned this on my travelling. It’s a bit of a cliche but it’s true): Sometimes the longest and bumpiest roads, lead to the best places.

Anonymous

Written by Zane Pocock

If you’ve decided to forgo alcohol, maintaining a healthy social life is one of the most difficult aspects that many of us are familiar with. This is a complex enough challenge when we stay in the same place; maintaining friendships that have been partially built on drinking, getting through the Christmas season and getting to know yourself again are just the start of the hurdles we face.

But removing yourself completely only makes this change even harder, even if it might initially seem easier to start over. Whether by choice or for work, family or any other reason, sometimes we find ourselves leaving our old lives behind not only behaviourally, but geographically as well. It’s no small undertaking and it can be even more difficult when we’ve already removed a crutch we previously relied on.

I have now moved to an entirely different country twice since I decided to stop drinking. The first time was so difficult that I reflect on those three years with a feeling that I partially wasted a chunk of my mid-20s.

The main realisation is obvious in hindsight but difficult to confront when life is already busy: not all enjoyment, socialising and purpose can come from work and family. No matter where we find ourselves, it’s imperative to build a community. In my case, the easiest way to do this in a new environment would have been to hit the piss and connect with others over painting the town red. Hell, I’m comfortable admitting that I did that the first time I moved and I still have lifelong friends from that time.

But habits change and now I don’t drink. I’m still comfortable and happy about this decision, but it has made life difficult when moving around the world. So what do you do?

Here are some tips I’ve discovered for moving to a new place as a non-drinker. They can probably be applied to all situations, but moving geographically is a particularly difficult challenge to navigate. The key is to follow through on these intentions.

 

Build your comfort zone

This post is all about getting into social environments and building your sense of community without the help of alcohol. Although it might seem counterintuitive, one of the best things I’ve done is put a lot of effort into making myself feel at home.

For the three years that we were living in Sydney, my wife and I never set up our own place. We moved into a fully furnished apartment because we liked the harbour view, and that was that. But it never once felt like home – it always felt like we were living in someone else’s life, in transit to whatever our ‘permanent’ home was going to be.

This was a mistake. No matter how important it is to get outside and meet people in your new community, it’s equally important to have a home that you feel comfortable in; somewhere that offers respite from a loud, busy world and can function as a home base for all the battles and challenges you’re going to face.

So, what makes a place feel like home for you? For us it meant we needed to buy our own furniture, invest in some resilient house plants, and front up for the wall-repair costs to install some art that we actually wanted to live with. I had forgotten the feeling of walking in the door and feeling the stress drop off as my nest was revealed before me. It’s helped me acclimatise and jump into unknown situations with the knowledge that there’s a comfortable respite waiting to greet me later in the evening.

 

Join a Meetup group

What are you passionate about? A great hack I’ve found for easing into social situations without the help of a drink, has been to connect with others that are interested in similar things to me. It means the conversation flows relatively seamlessly – in many cases, so effectively that I found it easier than with alcohol.

Meetup is a powerful online tool for this, with in-person gatherings organised by crowds of like-minded people in various group sizes and locations. I was astonished by how many groups I could join when I signed up for the service and I’ve made healthy use of it. I try to get to something every week and my community thus far has essentially grown from this central hub.

There are other options, most of which are facilitated through other virtual or online communities – it all depends on what social channel your people tend to concentrate on. Local Facebook groups will often be very specific and bond over a sense of where you’ve come from. In my case, for example, a group of New Zealanders in New York has been a supportive, thriving community. Or an app like Shapr facilitates one-on-one meetings. This has been great for professional and personal connections alike, in a context that allows for deeper personal relationships to be built.

 

Join a sports club

This is similar to interest-aligned socialising such as joining Meetups or book clubs, except sport is a particularly helpful exercise (sorry) thanks to the endorphins – locking those good feelings into a connection with the people you’re with and forming incredibly deep, meaningful social bonds. The key thing to realise here is that you don’t have to be any good.

It’s also a great way to get to know a different culture. For me, baseball was a foreign concept, but through engaging with a local club I now feel like a piece of the American puzzle has been filled in for me – while also being a lot of fun.

 

Show up

When I’m at home before an event, the sun has set and I’m a little tired from the day, I’ve always found it the obvious choice to just stay home. Social environments exhaust me; even more so now that I don’t have a prop to launch me into everyone else’s superhuman social level.

But from my recent experience, Woody Allen seems to be right when he says, “Showing up is 80% of life.” When I moved earlier this year, it didn’t take long to fall into the familiar trap of signing up for things then using every available excuse not to go. I was tired, it was too hot, the commute too long, I had very important work to do … You know them all.

But in the past couple of months I adopted a policy that I had to go to everything I signed up for. This had some great benefits. It forced me to filter the signal from the noise on all the great groups I’d signed up to, through Meetup and the like. For most of us, we’re never going to go out for something every single evening. That is objectively exhausting and it requires being picky about what you sign up for. It means I’ve actually gone to things and now that I’ve met people, not only do they expect to see me again, but I also feel familiar with the environment and more comfortable heading out. It’s a self-reinforcing social cycle.

 

Keep in touch back home

Life gets busy, and if there’s one thing I know painfully well it’s that international social connections take a lot of effort to maintain, even with the global communications infrastructure we now have at our fingertips. Heck, sometimes it feels difficult enough if people are just in another neighbourhood.

Thing is, when you’re not seeing your friends, family and colleagues as often as you used to, it’s easy for this to escalate into full-blown social isolation – even if you’re doing everything else to establish a new community, perfectly. Home is where the heart is, and no matter how well you set yourself up, you’re likely going to miss everyone you’ve left behind.

Some people I know are really good at managing this, but if you’re not one of them then the solution, unfortunately, is good scheduling. Particularly if you’re managing different time zones, it’s helpful to have a regular recurring catch-up with the people you miss the most – it reduces the cognitive load for everyone involved and the game theory means everyone will give a second thought to cancelling at the last minute – what if you’ve arisen early or passed up another opportunity? Take your pick of medium for this – there are so many services from Skype to Facetime that there’s no point listing any preferred ones.

 

Challenge yourself to start conversations

In case you can’t tell by now, I’m a ‘textbook’ introvert. Socialising doesn’t come naturally to me and it takes a lot of energy to feel confident without liquid courage.

Are you curious about the place you find yourself in? That curiosity alone is probably enough to fuel an avalanche of questions for any locals you meet. That’s been the case for me. We all know this can be easy if you go down to the local bar, but if that’s difficult to manage then you can try some other tricks. One of my favourites is to skip the supermarket and instead go to the local butcher, baker, farmers’ market and the like. These environments are socially similar to bars as they often become local community hubs and you’ll find the people behind the counter will have sunk deep roots into the local goings-on and way of life.

I also try to make a habit of striking up conversations with taxi- and Uber drivers, people I’m stuck in a queue with, and in any other situation that seems ripe for a chat – with varying success. Pro tip: New Yorkers don’t like talking on the Subway.

 

Practice self-care

No matter how many times people stress the importance of looking after yourself, it’s always worth being reminded of it and I’m sure many of us have yoga, meditation and exercise goals on our New Year’s resolution lists.

But the amount of noise generated in the name of self-care doesn’t undermine its value. A good diet, for example, is going to substantially change how your mood evolves in the course of a day and have a material impact on how you interact with others while you’re building your community.

Proper self-care brings the disparate pieces of the puzzle together. It means you have routines to get in to the day and unwind at the end of it. Exercise helps you think straight, and consistent sleep cycles help you reinforce things you’ve learned and build good mental models for your new environment. Look after yourself and the rest will follow.

 

Consider getting a pet

This one might be a bit difficult to manage so it’s certainly an optional suggestion. With that caveat aside, getting a dog is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my sense of community.

Within a few months of our most recent move, my wife and I had adopted a puppy. It’s a blessing in disguise because we’re constantly being forced outside for her toilet breaks, only to meet half the residents in our neighbourhood. Even ‘back home’ I have never felt so connected to a community as I do right now. After all, dogs will be dogs, and when they get together to do their doggy things the only option owners are left with is to get to know each other.

If a pet isn’t appropriate for your situation, just talk to your neighbours! I feel like I’m tapped into this thriving hyper-local network which isn’t exclusive to dog owners – it just helps to have the excuse. Now, when we have 20 police officers gathering in the apartment building hallway (true story) there are enough of us connected to systematically work out what’s happening, despite their tight-lipped approach. It’s deeply rewarding – and even a good safety precaution – to know the people you live amongst.

 

This list is not exhaustive, but it accurately presents the steps I’ve taken to build a community in a new environment as a non-drinker. What was a daunting task when I first moved, is now an opportunity to slowly construct exactly the life I want to live and the community I want to be surrounded by. If you find yourself in a similar situation, see it for the promise it holds and invest heavily in building your new social life. It makes life fun again. What have you found that works for building your community?

 

Jeff Beck – “Playing in front of an audience is total lunacy. Walking out in front of everyone is just terrifying, yet I have to do it. There’s a frozen moment when you set foot on the stage, when you don’t know if you’re going to fall over, or if someone’s going to give you a hard time in the front row. It feels like I’m facing death every single day I go on.”

Whether you’re in Red Hot Chili Peppers or a local cover band, you are the crowd’s reason to let go and get off.

Work environments for the nine-to-fiver range from mud and bricks to LCD screens; but as a musician, yours will be security guards, bar tenders and punters intoxicated on liquid amber, mary-jane and – if you’re doing your job correctly – great music.

As a musician, you will always be around alcohol and drugs, and for me celebratory vibes are contagious. I always want in. When I first cut out alcohol (after smashing apart yet another stage) I could only enviously watch my friends and fans laugh and drink the rest of the night away. Unfulfilled and feeling left out, I’d have to remind myself of why I chose to go dry.

My relationship with alcohol wasn’t an emotional one. I didn’t drink to numb anxiety or boost confidence. I didn’t even drink to relax. Alcohol was my ticket to the loosest circus in town.

Throughout my 20s, I’d poke bears and prod lions until the birds would sing the sun up, and laugh my fatigued body through the following day in the studio. But when hangovers became a mental and emotional rollercoaster, I thought twice before pouring my third rum. Soon, anxiety claimed alcohol altogether. I couldn’t touch a drop without feeling the fingers of fear slither up the back of my neck. It was no fun anymore, so I went dry for three years. Unlike many, this was a decision I was happy to make, but challenges surfaced – or, should I say, indicators began flashing. The void that alcohol abstinence left showed me things about myself I never knew existed.

The night I decided to quit drinking. I can laugh at it now, but my reaction to alcohol was an indicator of physical and emotional debts that needed to be paid.

Fortunately, booze made me play like shit, so it was never a problem around show time. But many musicians drink and use to dampen nerves or general emotional heat, others to keep the dying flames of passion alight. Networking, industry and crowd perception can also anchor many to the bottle. Being a substance of surrender, it can be a solution to dissolving stresses that block the creative highways when trying to write. Naturally, going dry will effect what alcohol depends on. For me, socialising became boring, and relationships shifted. It was as if the contrast on my social life had been turned down. I knew that as long as there were parts of my personality left unexpressed, I’d continue mourning the “fun times” and thus alcohol (now I understand yoyo sobriety). Thanks to the knowledge I had acquired dealing with anxiety, I was able to fully shift my relationship with alcohol.

I’m lying on my back in a sweaty state of blissful exhaustion and completely comfortable with mortality after one of the most amazing sex sessions I’ve ever had. As I’m enjoying the mental replays, I start laughing. I can’t believe I said that. I can’t believe she did that. It seemed natural at the time but from the ground up, it was almost embarrassing. With no substances in our systems, we rose above the day’s fatiguing stressors beyond boundaries and judgement. It was a ride of unfiltered connections much like the ones I chased socially with a bottle. Then it hits me. Alcohol is not the state itself, but a catalyst for bringing out something in me that already exists. I begin questioning every belief between alcohol and social fun.

Mood state change, night life stamina, psychological guard dropping, confidence, boldness, unfiltered connections, creativity, light-hearted shit talking, deep and meaningful conversations, laughing, dancing, climbing street poles, straddling street poles, networking, industry perception, crowd perception, relaxation, fear, presence and letting go of stressors were all qualities I learnt how to trigger substance-free through challenging the beliefs that inhibited them, and applying different internal strategies. Not only was the void filled, but a mental discipline was created in me that I apply to other areas in life. It took time, but some of the biggest, cosmic fearless nights I’ve had have been dry. And I remember them! Now I enjoy a glass of red for different reasons. There’s no void. I’m not chasing or dampening anything. There’s no clinging. It’s a take it or leave it situation.

An afterthought for the artist that is worried about perception – I reflect on my hangs with Slash, the guys from Deep Purple, B.B. King, Jimmy Barnes, whoever. Artists whose images are stained with drugs and alcohol, are loved because of what they do and who they are when they’re on it, not because they’re on it in the first place. When Courtney Love urinated on stage at The Big Day Out, nobody asked, “What was she drinking?”

Read more about Nathan and his incredible story here

The best advice I have heard about living the most fulfilling and optimistic life was given to me by a man I hold in the highest regard. A man who is a father to eight kids, plus half the neighbourhood. A man who makes the most of every situation and even if something really shitty happens, like bankruptcy or a terminal illness, focuses on the good stuff and making the most of the present moment, constantly asking, “don’t you love it?” A man who opens his door (literally) to anyone of any status or background. A man with the biggest smile and an even bigger heart.

Surround yourself with positive people,” were his words of advice when I graduated high school with one of his step daughters, and it has stuck with me to this day.

Spring is upon us here in the southern hemisphere, bringing with it a season of transformation. Trees that shed their leaves and flowers in winter are now starting to bud and the weather is warming up, bringing clearer days with it. We feel rejuvenated from hibernating through winter and there is a sense of growth and new beginnings in the air.

Spring tends to be the season during which we feel inspired to make some changes to our lives.

We often say that a person is exhausting or drains our energy. They may be someone who takes from you in ways that you understand, or in a subtle way that you can’t put your finger on. This could be your partner, a friend, a colleague or anyone that you interact with often.

I’m not encouraging you to ditch a friend who is going through a hard time and seems to be in a negative place. That friend needs your support now more than ever. But you have to think of yourself first because if you feel drained and uninspired, you won’t be able to support anybody. Just be aware of these people and the place where they find themselves. To keep your spirits high, you may want to think about saying ‘no’ when you just don’t feel strong enough to take them on that day, or if you’re no energised enough to meet up with them. You can always reschedule for a time when you are feeling better and not so vulnerable.

On the other hand, there are some people who leave you feeling lighter and good about yourself. They lift your mood with a simple laugh or joke, or some great advice. These people are easy to be around and they make you love yourself more, too.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel awesome and you may be able to be that person to someone who needs it. It will make you happier, more inspired and optimistic. So, how do you do this?


Be thankful

Finding contentment is a real challenge for people in the western world. We are constantly searching for something more, whether that be through material possessions like houses, cars and tech, or shifting environments in our travels, careers and relationships. But when we focus on the good in our lives, we are likely to attract more of it.

Be passionate

We become passionate when we really love what we are doing or feel strongly about something. Being passionate means you are inspired, motivated and full of purpose. We enjoy being around people who are enthusiastic about what they are doing and their passion can sometimes even ignite our own.

Visualise it

Visualisation can be a powerful tool. Have you ever seen yourself in a situation, like receiving an award or getting a promotion, and felt it is so real that you just knew it would happen? To practice visualisation, it’s important not only to see and watch the event unfold but to also feel it in your body and notice what you can smell and see around you. For example, if you’re visualising a holiday, try to feel the breeze on your skin, the smile on your face and the joy as you splash around in the water. Realise how good it makes you feel.

Meditate, or try yoga and Tai Chi

These mindful practices allow us to tune into a state of peace and calm, decreasing the stress levels in our bodies. Yoga and Tai Chi are great practices that enable moving meditation. They can help you slow down and reset.

Strive for a nutritious diet

Food plays a huge role in how we feel. If our bowels aren’t working properly and we are not digesting our food, we can feel bloated, tired and drained of energy. It is hard to feel optimistic when you just feel like slouching on the couch.

Adopting some of the tools above in your day-to-day life, as well as limiting your time with people who aren’t bringing out the best in you and surrounding yourself with passionate, inspired and optimistic people, can really start to change the way you think and feel, for the better.

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We’ve all heard of a bucket list (the things you want to do before you kick the bucket), but why should we wait to see the pearly gates on the horizon before we do the things we have always wanted?

What is stopping you from living life right now?

Recently we caught up with Seb Terry, who travels the world helping people tick off their 100 Things list. He is the ultimate guru when it comes to creating your list and choosing to live a more fulfilling life.

Even if people do have a bucket list, not many things on it get ticked off, as day-to-day life tends to get in the way. These reasons and excuses may sound familiar:

Money – “But I don’t have enough; I can’t afford it!”

Failure – “I won’t be able to do it; what if I don’t win?”

Commitments – “I am too busy at work; I already do too much; I have kids and a dog and a partner!” 

Opinions – “What would people think?”

Comfort – “I have control over my life at the moment, if I change anything everything will fall out of place.”

Success – “What if I really love it? What if I’m good at it and don’t want to go back to my old job?” 

Fear – “I don’t know if I am ready/brave enough.” 

Give yourself permission

Sebastian Terry says we choose to do something or to not do something and in the middle sits one word; permission. 

The first step in deciding to write or start ticking off the things on your list is to give yourself permission. You’re the only one with the power to allow yourself to think about what you really want to achieve in your life.

Choose 

When we’re young we know what we want; we would be able to sit down and write an endless list with no concerns about how to make it happen or whether it’s realistic or not. But we get older and we’re told what to do and how to think by other people. Things are laid out for us by others. By living your own truth you are choosing to empower yourself.

Grow

In order to grow, we have to step out of our comfort zone. Creating and ticking off your list allows you to shape your identity, or redefine your purpose on this earth and revisit your values that may have been shadowed or buried in a pile of work and responsibilities.

 

 

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Ask 

You will never know an answer until you ask and most of the time, you have nothing to lose by asking. Asking if someone wants to join you in your quest, asking for the time off work, asking if someone needs a house sitter in the Canadian Rockies, asking if anyone has a workshop you could rent to start your craft. Passion inspires passion. People generally want to help other people achieve their goals.

Start writing

What is something you care about so much that you don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks?

Write it down.

You just need to know why you don’t need to know how just yet, the how will come. It’s the idea of manifestation = action, know what you want, put it out there by thinking about it, talking about it and looking into it. Before you know it, that dream will start taking shape.

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Want to be a part of  Hello Sunday Morning’s Experiments Challenge? Join us by ticking something off your list, sharing on social media and tagging #hellosundaymorning  #experimentschallenge 

 

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Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has proven psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits. It’s a difficult task to master, but if you can somehow introduce a regular meditative practice into your daily life, you will soon begin to notice positive changes.

Who’s not up for some positive change once in a while?

Historically, meditation was practised by saints and sages to bring about the joyful state of self-realisation; a state of consciousness where a person is free from worries and anxieties and is completely present in the moment. Meditation can lead you to become more mindful and clear-headed, gaining a greater understanding of life and purpose.

If your mood (anxious, stressed, tired) tends to be the trigger for drinking, try swapping the habit of pouring a drink with sitting down and meditating for just five minutes. Meditation resets your mind so you can move through the triggers, feelings and thoughts and get onto a more productive and healthy action like cooking dinner or getting organised for the next day.

We explore some of these techniques in our app, Daybreak, for iOS and Android.

Try this simple practice of controlled breathing from our in-house clinical psychologists to help set you up for your meditation.  Read through steps 1-5 and then give it a try.

How to clear your mind:

  1. Get comfortable
    Sit in a comfortable position, as comfortable as you can get. Sit up straight and relax your shoulders and muscles.
  2. Deep breath in
    Take a deep breath in through your nose. Count “one, two”.
  3. Slow breath out
    Breathe out through your mouth, pucker your lips (as though you are about to whistle) and breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in. Count “one, two, three, four”. Don’t hold your breath between breathing in and out, aim to keep your breath flowing smoothly.
  4. Deep breathing
    Check you are using your diaphragm by placing your hand on your stomach. If you are using your diaphragm you should feel your stomach move out as you breathe in and move in as you breathe out. This helps to ensure you aren’t taking shallow breaths. Remember to keep your breaths deep, not shallow or big.
  5. Eyes Closed

Now close your eye and continue breathing this way until you feel relaxed.

What are the benefits of meditating?

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Stress: When stress overwhelms you, it can have serious health implications including anxiety, depression and even cardiovascular disease. Meditation activates the body’s natural relaxation response and not only calms the mind, allowing you to relax and the stress to gently leave the mind and body, it also it provides a deeper knowledge and understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.

Anxiety:  The purpose of meditation isn’t to get rid of your anxiety, but to help you become more present in the moment. We often experience anxiety because we fixate on the past or on the future. However, meditation quiets an overactive brain so you’re intentionally focused on the here and now. 

Sleep: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials for insomnia found that eight weeks of in-person meditation training significantly improved total waking time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia.

Relationships: Mindfulness enhances couples’ levels of relationship satisfaction, autonomy, closeness and acceptance of each other while reducing relationship distress.

Cognition: Meditating for just four days is enough to improve memory, executive functions and their ability to process visual information. Meditation leads to activation in brain regions involved in self-regulation, problem-solving, adaptive behaviour and introspection. A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal ageing.

Research also suggests that practising meditation may reduce blood pressure and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

So where do I begin?

Try the tips below to start on your journey to a clearer mind. You can even try a movement meditation if that suits you, rather than sitting still. Sometimes this is just walking slowly and focusing on your footsteps, the sounds and your surrounds. Or a gentle, slow yoga practice moving with the breath.

Meditation Tips

Resources to help you start


  • Youtube videos like this Six Phase Meditation
  • Apps like Smiling Mind – a completely free set of guided meditations developed by a fellow Australian charity.
  • Meditation group meet-ups.
  • Meditation schools and classes in your area. Many yoga schools also offer group meditation.

If you find you need extra support to help you change, check out Hello Sunday Mornings’ mobile behaviour change program, Daybreak.


19 books to read about alcohol

A few weeks ago we asked members of the Hello Sunday Morning community to share with us any books that have inspired, empowered or informed them to change their relationship with alcohol. The response was incredible and wide-reaching. Because we believe it’s so important to acknowledge that individuals define their own relationships with alcohol, we’ve collated here the vast majority of recommendations we received. These traverse a wide range of tactics and ideologies, so we encourage you to read what sounds good to you.

So without further ado and in no particular order (except for the first one, which is our team’s go-to), here we give you the Hello Sunday Morning reading list to help you on your journey to change your relationship with alcohol.

The Biology of Desire

Marc Lewis, PHD, convincingly explores here the theory that addiction is not a disease. It’s a game-changer.

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From the blurb:

Through the vivid, true stories of five people who journeyed into and out of addiction, a renowned neuroscientist explains why the “disease model” of addiction is wrong and illuminates the path to recovery.

The psychiatric establishment and rehab industry in the Western world have branded addiction a brain disease, based on evidence that brains change with drug use. But in The Biology of Desire, cognitive neuroscientist and former addict Marc Lewis makes a convincing case that addiction is not a disease, and shows why the disease model has become an obstacle to healing.

Lewis reveals addiction as an unintended consequence of the brain doing what it’s supposed to do-seek pleasure and relief-in a world that’s not cooperating. Brains are designed to restructure themselves with normal learning and development, but this process is accelerated in addiction when highly attractive rewards are pursued repeatedly. Lewis shows why treatment based on the disease model so often fails, and how treatment can be retooled to achieve lasting recovery, given the realities of brain plasticity. Combining intimate human stories with clearly rendered scientific explanation, The Biology of Desire is enlightening and optimistic reading for anyone who has wrestled with addiction either personally or professionally.

High Sobriety

We’re unsurprising fans of this one: the chronicles of Jill Stark’s 12-month Hello Sunday Morning experience.

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From the blurb:

‘I’m the binge-drinking health reporter. During the week, I write about Australia’s booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off.’Booze had dominated Jill Stark’s social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze?

Booze had dominated Jill Stark’s social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze?

This lively memoir charts Jill’s tumultuous year on the wagon, as she copes with the stress of the newsroom sober, tackles the dating scene on soda water, learns to watch the footy minus beer, and deals with censure from friends and colleagues, who tell her that a year without booze is ‘a year with no mates’.

In re-examining her habits, Jill also explores Australia’s love affair with alcohol, meeting alcopop-swigging teens who drink to fit in, beer-swilling blokes in a sporting culture backed by booze, and marketing bigwigs blamed for turning binge drinking into a way of life. And she tracks the history of this national obsession: from the idea that Australia’s new colonies were drowning in drink to the Anzac ethos that a beer builds mateship, and from the six o’clock swill that encouraged bingeing to the tangled weave of advertising, social pressure, and tradition that confronts drinkers today.Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap.

Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap.

SOBER – Son Of a Bitch Everything’s Real

Sober is a fictional story written by Pam R. about her experience with the program Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life.

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From the blurb:

Some people can drink socially, some people cannot. Lena Harod belongs to the latter group. An active alcoholic, Lena has reached a pivotal point in her drinking career. Racked with guilt, shame and self loathing she is driven to despair beyond comprehension. Lena’s story begins on an ill fated evening where her options look bleak. A chance meeting with a stranger sets her fate and her journey towards sobriety begins. As Lena slowly returns to the world of unaltered reality, she begins to see herself, other people and the wider world with a clarity she’s never experienced. SOBER is a fictional story of one woman’s experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. It explores the trials and joys of finding a life without addiction with honesty and

SOBER is a fictional story of one woman’s experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. It explores the trials and joys of finding a life without addiction with honesty and humor. Lena could be any of us and this illuminating story will show the reader, that with a little courage and help, it’s never too late for redemption and recovery.

Okay I Quit, Now What? Becoming a Reinvented Alcoholic 

Mark Tuschel doesn’t care if you drink or don’t drink, he simply declares how he made the changes he did. The book’s 12 chapters correspond to his method of change.

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From the blurb:

Quitting destructive drinking is the easy part – staying quit is the hard part.What do you do tonight, tomorrow, next weekend, when you go on vacation, for the rest of your life?

Okay, I quit. Now what? is filled with practical strategies and concepts to make the most out of living sober.

Many people expect too much out of life just because they quit drinking. This is an honest and raw view of life after liquor. Living sober can be the greatest thing you ever do – but you must be an active participant in your own Re-Invention to get the most out of sobriety.

This thought provoking book will get you thinking and planning your new sober lifestyle. Personal responsibility and pride are the foundation of the principles.

This is NOT a 12-step book or religious based. It is nontraditional and sometimes controversial. Adult language and situations are used in this book. NOT for the timid or bashful. It is written for those of us who want to control our destructive drinking and live a fully engaged, normal life.

Mark lives what he writes. He is a former drunk himself. He brings “real life” strategies to this book. Okay, I quit. Now what? is helpful to steppers and non-steppers alike.

“I have discovered that there is a very large subculture of non-steppers who want to succeed at sobriety, enjoy their life and be proud of accomplishing it on their own. Okay, I quit. Now what? is an alternative to traditional step systems. It is not religious based; it is personal responsibility based. Sobriety is an evolutionary process. Don’t just recover… Re-Invent yourself.”

This book has 12 chapters that will give you ideas on how to handle sobriety and make the most out of living sober. It is practical and real. The purpose is to get you thinking and get you involved in maintaining your sobriety. Take control of your sobriety and get the most out of your life. I believe this book will help you go in the right direction, or at least get YOU to think on your own.

Drunkard 

Neil Steinberg is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who had a very public battle with the bottle. He openly describes his drinking habits, routines, obsessions and secret behaviours before and during his change.

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From the blurb:

An extraordinarily honest memoir about the life of a functioning alcoholic and the realities of recovery from a veteran columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times

Neil Steinberg loves his wife. He loves his two young sons. He loves his job and his ramshackle old farmhouse in the suburbs. But he also loves to drink, a passion that rolls merrily along for twenty-five years until one terrible night when his two worlds collide and shatter.

Drunkard is the story of one man’s fall down the rabbit hole of alcoholism, and his slow crawl back out. Sentenced to an outpatient rehab program, Steinberg discovers that twenty-eight days of therapy cannot reverse the toll decades of vigorous drinking take on one’s soul. In clear, distinctive, honest, and funny prose, Steinberg comes to grips with his actions, rebuilds his marriage, and reclaims his life.

Unlike outlandish tales of addiction’s extremes, Steinberg’s story is a regular person’s account of the stark-yet-common realities of a problem faced by millions around the world. Drunkard is an important addition to the pantheon of critically acclaimed, bestselling memoirs such as The Tender Bar, Drinking: A Love Story, and Smashed.

The Easy Way to Stop Drinking 

Allen Carr has a reputation for helping millions of people across the world control their drinking, eating and smoking habits. His method makes you think about the reasons behind your drinking.

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From the blurb:

Carr offers a startling new view of why we drink and how we can escape the addiction. Step by step, with devastating clarity and simplicity, he applies the Easyway™ method, dispelling all the illusions that surround the subject of drinking and that can make it almost impossible to imagine a life without alcohol. Only when we step away from all these supposed pleasures and understand how we are being duped to believe we are receiving real benefits can we begin to live our lives free from any desire or need for drinking.The Easyway™ method centers on removing the psychological need to drink—while the drinker is still drinking. Following the Easyway™:• You will not need willpower• You will not feel deprived• You will lose your fear of withdrawal pangs• You will enjoy social occasions more• You will be better equipped to handle stress.

The Easy Way to Stop Drinking is a landmark work that offers a simple and painless solution to anyone who wants to escape from dependency on alcohol without feeling deprived.

How To Tell Them You Don’t Drink 

Rachel Black provides some real-life experiences with practical tips on how to share the news of cutting back or going drink-free with your family and friends.

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From the blurb:

Giving up alcohol is hard enough without the additional anxiety of how to break the news to family and friends. What will they say? What will they ask? What will they think? Whether you choose to tell them the truth or make an excuse this guide provides examples of how you can make it easier and how to respond to the questions they will ask.

This book, like its predecessor ‘How to Party Sober’, is a little gem for those who choose to remain sober in a World soaked with alcohol and where drinking is the norm. Again, full of real life experience with many practical tips to guide you through tricky conversations. A must read.

The Sober Revolution-Calling Time on Wine O’Clock

Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca look specifically at women and their relationships with alcohol, exploring the myths behind society’s acceptance of the habit.

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From the blurb:

Do you count down the minutes to wine o’clock on a daily basis? Is a bottle of Pinot Grigio your friend at the end of a long hard day? If you want to give up being controlled and defined by alcohol then now is the time to join The Sober Revolution…

Fed up of living in a fog of hangovers, lethargy and guilt from too much wine? Have you tried to cut down without success?

You are not alone. When it comes to alcohol, millions of people around the world find it hard to exercise moderation and become stuck in a vicious cycle of blame, guilt and using more alcohol as a way of coping.

The Sober Revolution looks at women and their relationships with alcohol, exploring the myths behind this socially acceptable yet often destructive habit. Rather than continuing the sad spiral into addiction it helps women regain control of their drinking and live happier, healthier lives.

Sarah Turner, cognitive behavioural therapist and addictions counsellor, and Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberistas.com, the popular social networking site for women who have successfully kicked the booze or would like to, give an insight into ways to find a route out of the world of wine.

The Sober Revolution will open your eyes to the dangers of social drinking and give you the tools you need to have a happy life without the wine. Read it now and call time on wine o’clock forever.

Glass Half Full

Lucy Rocca retells the story of her journey from devoted wine lover to becoming sober and truly happy for the first time in her adult life.

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From the blurb:

In April 2011, Lucy Rocca woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of how she had ended up there. After accepting that her drinking had spiralled out of control, she made the decision there and then to never touch alcohol again. However, the early days were a challenge, and Lucy began recording her journey in a blog as a way of helping herself move forward to a happy and sober future.

For someone who defined herself by her love of drinking for over twenty years, letting go of the booze crutch was initially a challenge, but over time, Lucy began to realise how much happier she was living alcohol-free. Glass Half Full is the story of her journey from hopelessly devoted wine fiend to sober and truly happy for the first time in her adult life.

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol

Millions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the misery and stigma associated with recovery.

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From the blurb:

Millions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the misery and stigma associated with alcoholism and recovery. They fear drinking less will be boring, involving deprivation, difficulty and significant lifestyle changes.

This Naked Mind offers a new solution. Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, it will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture. Annie Grace brilliantly weaves psychological, neurological, cultural, social and industry factors with her extraordinarily candid journey resulting in a must read for anyone who drinks.

This book, without scare tactics, pain or rules, gives you freedom from alcohol. By addressing causes rather than symptoms it is a permanent solution rather than lifetime struggle. It removes the psychological dependence allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking). Annie’s clarity, humor and unique ability to blend original research with riveting storytelling ensures you will thoroughly enjoy the process.

In a world defined by ‘never enough’ Annie takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of alcohol and specifically the connection between alcohol and pleasure. She dispels the cultural myth that alcohol is a vital part of life and demonstrates how regaining control over alcohol is not only essential to personal happiness and fulfillment but also to ending the heartache experienced by millions as a result of secondhand drinking.

Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to the life you have been waiting for.

Wasted

Elspeth Muir explores a personal story of loss and grief and recognises a society that not only permits but encourages the damaging drinking habits of young Australians.

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From the blurb:

In 2009 Elspeth Muir’s youngest brother, Alexander, finished his last university exam and went out with some mates on the town. Later that night he wandered to the Story Bridge. He put his phone, wallet, T-shirt and thongs on the walkway, climbed over the railing, and jumped thirty metres into the Brisbane River below.

Three days passed before police divers pulled his body out of the water. When Alexander had drowned, his blood-alcohol reading was almost five times the legal limit for driving.

Why do some of us drink so much, and what happens when we do? Fewer young Australians are drinking heavily, but the rates of alcohol abuse and associated problems—from blackouts to sexual assaults and one-punch killings—are undiminished.

Intimate and beautifully told, Wasted illuminates the sorrows, and the joys, of drinking.

Drinking, A Love Story

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From the blurb:

Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as “liquid armor,” a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.

Mindful Recovery

Thomas Bien explores a spiritual path to beating addiction and guides you step by step through ten powerful “doorways” to mindful change.

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From the blurb:

In Mindful Recovery, you’ll discover a fresh and effective method for healing from addiction that can help you handle important challenges, from managing anxiety and resisting cravings to dealing with emotional and physical imbalance.

Drawing on both ancient spiritual wisdom and the authors’ extensive clinical psychological work with their patients over many years, Mindful Recovery shows you how to use the simple Buddhist practice of mindfulness to be aware of– and enjoy– life in the present moment without the need to enhance or avoid experience with addictive behaviors. Mindful Recovery guides you step by step through ten powerful “doorways” to mindful recovery, giving you specific strategies that can help you cultivate a sense of calm awareness and balance in your life.

Filled with personal stories of recovery, practical exercises, instructions for meditation, and more, Mindful Recovery accompanies you on a journey of exploration and healing that will help you find the strength and the tools to change, leading you to a fresh new experience of everyday living.

Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Control Alcohol

Alan Carr shows us that once we step away from all the imagined pleasures of alcohol and understand how we are duped into believing that we receive real benefits from it, we can lead our lives free from any desire or need for a drink.

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From the blurb:

Allen Carr established himself as the world’s greatest authority on helping people stop smoking and his internationally best-selling Easy Way to Stop Smoking has been published in over 40 languages and sold more than 10 million copies.

In his Easy Way to Control Alcohol Allen applies his revolutionary method to drinking. With startling insight into why we drink and clear, simple, step-by-step instructions, he shows you the way to escape from the “alcohol trap” in the time it takes to read this book.

His unique method removes the feeling of deprivation and works without using willpower. Allen dispels our illusions about alcohol, removes the psychological dependence and sets you free to enjoy life to the full.

Kick the Drink … Easily

Jason Vale argues that there is no such thing as an alcoholic and that we have been conditioned to accept alcohol as a “normal substance in today’s society,” despite the fact that it is the major cause of many of today’s social problems and a wide range of health issues.

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From the blurb:

There is no such thing as an alcoholic and there is no such disease as alcoholism! (as society understands it). Whether you agree with this statement or not, one thing is for sure, you will never see alcohol in the same light ever again after reading this book. Jason Vale takes an honest and hard hitting look at people’s conceptions of our most widely consumed drug. Jason’s major argument is there is no such thing as an ‘alcoholic’ and that we are conditioned to accept alcohol as a ‘normal’ substance in today’s society despite the fact that it is the major cause of many of today’s social problems and a wide range of health issues. This book is much more than a simple eye opener, it will: change the way you see alcohol forever; show you how to stop drinking; help you enjoy the process and enjoy your life so much more than you do now without having to drink alcohol. So open your mind and take a journey with Jason to explore the myths about the most used and accepted drug addiction in the world!

Mrs D is Going Without

Lotta Dann stopped drinking and secretly started a blog that charted the highs and lows of learning to live without alcohol.

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From the blurb:

Mrs. D is an alcoholic, albeit a very nice, respectable, articulate, and groomed alcoholic. This is an honest, upfront, relatable account of one suburban housewife’s journey from miserable wine-soaked boozer to self-respecting sober lady. This book is an inspirational tale of self-transformation, addiction, and domesticity. This book lays out the entirely unexpected solo journey Mrs. D took in the first year of her sobriety, and reveals the incredible online support that came through on her confessional blog, a blog intended to be a private online diary but which turned into something else quite remarkable.

In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts

Based on Gabor Maté’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach.

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From the blurb:

He would probably dispute it, but Gabor Maté is something of a compassion machine. Diligently treating the drug addicts of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside with sympathy in his heart and legislative reform in mind can’t be easy. But Maté never judges. His book is a powerful call-to-arms, both for the decriminalization of drugs and for a more sympathetic and informed view of addiction. As Maté observes, “Those whom we dismiss as ‘junkies’ are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves.” In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts begins by introducing us to many of Dr. Maté’s most dire patients who steal, cheat, sell sex, and otherwise harm themselves for their next hit. Maté looks to the root causes of addiction, applying a clinical and psychological view to the physical manifestation and offering some enlightening answers for why people inflict such catastrophe on themselves.

Finally, he takes aim at the hugely ineffectual, largely U.S.-led War on Drugs (and its worldwide followers), challenging the wisdom of fighting drugs instead of aiding the addicts, and showing how controversial measures such as safe injection sites are measurably more successful at reducing drug-related crime and the spread of disease than anything most major governments have going. It’s not easy reading, but we ignore his arguments at our peril. When it comes to combating the drug trade and the ravages of addiction, society can use all the help it can get. –Kim Hughes

Alcohol Lied to Me

Craig Beck tried all the willpower-based attempts to stop drinking and failed. Slowly he discovered his truth about alcohol and one by one all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart.

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From the blurb:

Craig Beck is a well-regarded family man with two children, a nice home and a successful media career. A director of several companies & at one time the trustee of a large children’s charity. Craig was a successful & functioning professional man in spite of a ‘2 bottles of wine a night’ drinking habit. For 20 years he struggled with problem drinking, all the time refusing to label himself an alcoholic because he didn’t believe he met the stereotypical image that the word portrayed.
He tried countless ways to cut down; attempting ‘dry months’, banning himself from drinking spirits, only drinking at the weekend & special occasions (and found that it is amazing how even the smallest of event can suddenly become ‘special’).
All these ‘will power’ based attempts to stop drinking failed (exactly as they were destined to do). Slowly he discovered the truth about alcohol addiction & one by one all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart. For the first time he noticed that he genuinely didn’t want to drink anymore. In this book he will lead you though the same amazing process.
The Craig Beck method is unique…

  • No need to declare yourself an alcoholic.
  • A permanent cure, not a lifetime struggle.
  • No group meetings or expensive rehab.
  • No humiliation, no pain and 100% no ‘will power’ required.
  • Treats the source of the problem not the symptoms.

Under the Volcano

Malcolm Lowry’s novel tells the story of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcohol-dependent British consul in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac, on the Day of the Dead, 2 November 1938.

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From the blurb:

Geoffrey Firmin, a former British consul, has come to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. Here the consul’s debilitating malaise is drinking, and activity that has overshadowed his life. Under the Volcano is set during the most fateful day of the consul’s life–the Day of the Dead, 1938. His wife, Yvonne, arrives in Quauhnahuac to rescue him and their failing marriage, inspired by a vision of life together away from Mexico and the circumstances that have driven their relationship to the brink of collapse. Yvonne’s mission is to save the consul is further complicated by the presence of Hugh, the consul’s half-brother, and Jacques, a childhood friend. The events of this one day unfold against a backdrop unforgettable for its evocation of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical.

Under the Volcano remains one of the most powerful and lyrical statements on the human condition and one man’s constant struggle against the elemental forces that threaten to destroy him.

Whether your Valentine is your high school sweetheart or you met them on Tinder a few days earlier, here are some Valentine’s Day date ideas to spice up your love life.

The key to a great Valentine’s Day

Have no expectations. It’s usually appreciated when you have planned and put effort into creating the perfect date,  but spontaneity can also work wonders in the romantic world. Try not to become too attached to an idea or a reaction from your date, as sometimes things don’t always turn out as you have imagined.

There is no positive outcome from comparing. So what if you’re friend got flowers sent to her work, was picked up in a limousine and taken to an exclusive day spa followed by a candle lit dinner on top of a tower? Maybe that kind of extravagance doesn’t suit you or your date and something a little more low-key is just right.

Nerves are a good thing for a great date

Although people tend to drink before a date to calm their nerves when they meet a potential Mr. or Mrs. Right, not all dates need to involve drinks at a bar. A lot of the time being nervous means you’re excited!  Go with an open mind,  dress comfortably and just be you. Make the most of those butterflies in your belly: they don’t often stick around after the honeymoon phase.

Date Ideas ♥♥♥

Cook dinner together

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What’s more delicious and comforting than homemade pizzas? Nothing. Tie your hair up and get a little messy. Cooking is a great way to learn about people and it gives you an activity to do for those awkward lulls in conversation.

Try to include ingredients out of the list of aphrodisiac foods that are proven to spark romance, such as:

  • Chilli
  • Cherries
  • Chocolate
  • Figs
  • Oysters
  • Artichokes

Check out what’s on

Check out if there is anything interesting or new happening in your area, like a film festival or outdoor cinema, an art exhibition or a pop-up food truck.

Keep it simple

Find a scenic spot such as a headland, rooftop or beach. Pack a blanket and pick up some takeaway goodies like fresh prawns and ginger beer. Don’t forget a portable speaker to play smooth tunes in the background.

Our favourite love songs:

Moondance ♥ Van Morrison

Let’s Stay Together ♥ Al Green

Your Song ♥ Elton John

Just The Two Of Us ♥ Bill Withers

Let’s Get It On ♥ Marvin Gaye

Go on an adventure

Take a walk and explore the city, hike in the bush, swim in the ocean, find a waterfall, or search for a secret spot where you can be alone.

Try something new

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Sign up for a class like dancing, pottery or photography: you never know what may spike a shared passion.

See a gig

Share a taste in music? Head along to a live gig and let the music serenade your ears and the feeling of love satisfy your heart.

Drive somewhere

Road trip! There’s nothing like heading down the highway with the wind in your hair and a lover beside you. Head out of town for a day or night, park up somewhere beautiful and bring some delicious snacks.

Need to reignite an old spark?

Take this specific time of year to really appreciate your loved one and your relationship. Reflect together on the start of your love, or on memories that make you smile and make your heart feel full. Try something new if you have been doing the same thing together for a while; maybe it’s time to mix it up with an adventure or an outing to somewhere different. It’s remarkable what a little change can do.

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An open cage represents freedom and alcohol on Hello Sunday Morning

How context frames the things we rely on

It’s been three months now of my first ever prolonged alcohol-free experience, so I’ve decided to write down some thoughts about it. The following reflections are not from someone with a dependence, nor from a party animal or binge drinker. It is not a personal alcohol problem that has triggered this alcohol-free experience, but a simple medical treatment. You might think, “well, what’s the big deal then?” — but these three months without a drop of alcohol have made me question how we draw the line on what we call dependence.

Why is it a big deal?

Being a teenager — an average one, I believe — I was avid to break free from adult rules that decided what I could and couldn’t do. Being a not-yet-adult was so confining! Not being able to work and earn your own money, needing permission to go out with friends, not being allowed to drink or smoke (although, of course, most of us did these long before the legal age). Even though I had relatively liberal parents compared to my friends back then, those limitations were everywhere, and it bothered me that I couldn’t decide when I felt responsible enough to do or try certain things. I think a lot about freedom since those teenage times. I praise it, chase it, and even avoid some commitments. The ability to do what I please at any time and make my own decisions is precious to me.

Teenage-hood is arguably the most socially busy time of our lives, and that’s the time when we are finally allowed to drink. It is not a coincidence that social life goes so hand in hand with alcohol and tobacco, the two hugely advertised drugs that mark our breaking free from our repressed childhoods. No more allowing adults to make decisions for us on how to have fun! Besides, it’s from adults that we’d learned to associate alcohol with friends and fun.

The irony is that, although we become free to choose alcohol or cigarettes when we reach the age of independence (which most of us do, as with anything that has been denied to us previously), choosing drugs as social enablers actually leads many of us to the complete opposite of freedom.

“Anyone can see that a child is not free when he desires milk, nor the drunken man when he says things which he later regrets.” — Rudolf Steiner

I love Steiner’s quote as it illustrates very well how, when we are under the effects of alcohol, even at a moderately tipsy level, we lose control of our will. Free will is the capacity to act and decide independently, without influences. As you might guess, being so paranoid about my freedom, I have always been a bit uncomfortable about losing my free will. I believe that’s one of the reasons why I’ve never drunk too much alcohol. Being tipsy is already distressing for me, besides associating it with sickness, which I believe is one of the most terrible natural opponents of freedom.

Still, I’ve never had anything against alcohol itself. I do enjoy a fresh bitter ale at a sunny terrace, and lately, since living in Australia, I love a glass of Shiraz with a tasty local dinner. And I carry the pride of tequila in my veins as a good Mexican, so for over 11 years living abroad, I’ve been pouring my sweet roots to friends from different places around the world, teaching them how a good tequila shouldn’t be drunk as a shot, but rather slowly, tasting it!

A better understanding

For over nine months now, I’ve been listening, reading and following stories, news, and theories about drinking. Funnily enough, my four months of alcohol-free experience comes at a time when empathising with people who want to drink less is part of my daily life. I’ll give you a bit of background on this.

Less than a year ago, my boyfriend and I moved to Australia: the second-ranked of OECD countries on (pure) alcohol consumption per capita, as ranked by the World Health Organization in 2015. Quite a shocking fact when you’ve lived in Finland, thinking that no other country could beat them!

We lived for over a year in Vietnam in between Finland and Australia, where we were fascinated by always having a fridge full of beer at the office (it was an Australian company). The interesting part was not that we had those beers at work, but that it remained full! There was no need to refill with beer very often. Fridays came, when we had a small get-together at the office, and we foreigners were almost always the only ones with beers in our hands. This isn’t to say that Vietnamese wouldn’t ever drink, but local guys would rather play games, ride their scooters back home safely (or relatively safely), and avoid having their wives angry at them. The women, meanwhile, would take care of their figure by avoiding the calories from alcoholic drinks.

When we moved to Sydney, I was already looking forward to becoming a freelancer working on ethical projects. I didn’t want to work any longer for large enterprises where design was a mere tool to increase profit. I had long awaited the opportunity to use my skills for a cause to make this world a better place. Freedom and inspiration were going to be my drivers from now on. After about a month in beautiful Sydney I was dealing with my lack of leadership and contacts to turn my saving-the-world ideas into a living; then, serendipity hit me, and I joined the inspiring team of Hello Sunday Morning, a small charity with a mission to help people change their relationships with alcohol.

The thing that drove me to Hello Sunday Morning was the organisation’s mindset around alcohol and drug consumption. It conveyed a very positive view where openness, motivation, and support were the tools to help people free themselves from habit. The aim was to use state of the art psychology and technology to help people change their habits to healthier ones.

I’ve been learning a lot since becoming part of the team. Listening to my colleagues’ knowledge, plus interviewing very diverse people from our focus groups and reading about addiction, habits, and behaviour change has been renovating my view of alcohol in society.

I didn’t ever suspect that helping people rise above dependence would be my way to make this world a better place. I didn’t ever consider alcohol as something to worry or care much about. I would often avoid drunk people, even family or friends, and sometimes blamed them for not “controlling” themselves. I would ignorantly assume that people with addictions didn’t want nor appreciated help or concern. We tend to generalise, and I had been doing so for many years. When I was still of a young age, wondering about the reasoning behind those strange things adults did, I would see my dad now and then behave in an odd and embarrassing way after a meet up with his friends, and I would only feel pity, shame — and, a few times, even disgust. I had learned to relate alcohol to grumpy, annoying and careless behaviour. In a way, as Ellen J. Langer explains it in her book Mindfulness, I had a limited view of alcohol dependence during my youth and didn’t consider all the different reasons behind alcohol consumption, nor the possibilities to improve things. The truth is, all of us can do a lot to help people free themselves from dependence and habits, and even prevent it to a certain point. We can all do this with a bit of behaviour change.

From my early views about alcohol, you may assume I would reject it and avoid drinking myself, but that was not so. I was always free to choose what I would see as the non-stupid, non-annoying way, of course. But going out with friends to have fun is rarely an alcohol-free situation, and wherever there’s alcohol, especially when you’re young, there’s a good amount of social pressure to drink to a point where you start to lose that sense of free will.

I have indeed chosen stupidity many times. Once or twice as a teenager I drove a bit tipsy, noticing I had drunk more than I meant when my calculations for driving through a narrow space were not good enough (and later lying to a trustful parent who lent me the car). Luckily for me, a small car scratch was as far as it went. I have never drunk to the point that I lost memory of it, nor have I experienced those terrible hangovers one will often hear about from friends. But we don’t usually realise when freedom disappears. Freedom to enjoy a social life with or without alcohol, to decide whether drinking or not when under pressure, to choose when to have the last drink.

We usually understand alcohol dependence as the point when a person cannot stop drinking on a daily or almost daily basis. But on a normal outing with friends, a simple dinner with your partner, or a Christmas festivity, are we really free from depending on alcohol to feel like we fit in or have fun?

Because I currently don’t have the freedom to choose to have a drink, I realise how easy it is to enjoy life without falling to the pressure of having one. Perhaps I will appreciate that freedom of choice even more after I am allowed to drink again, and may understand better the reason behind choosing to have a beer or a glass of wine instead of water and lime. I will probably savour whatever I pick with more delight and decide based on taste and what makes me feel good.

Originally posted on Hello Sunday Morning’s Medium page by our wonderful Design Lead, Brenda.

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It’s the start of a new year and generally people will be feeling pretty optimistic about the time ahead. Resolutions have been made, goals have been set and a plan of some sort has been established. Perhaps you’re feeling like you can take on the world!

Here are some tips on how to keep your good vibrations up while getting back into the swing of things.

How to stay optimistic throughout the year

Listen to music

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“Music, the combiner, nothing more spiritual, nothing more sensuous, a god, yet completely human, advances, prevails, holds highest place; supplying in certain wants and quarters what nothing else could supply.” Walt Whitman.

Plug that speaker in and let the magic happen. The power of music can do wonders on lifting moods and keeping us feeling good. Check out these 52 songs to cheer you up every time.

Listening to tunes that make you want to shake your hips or tap your feet has been found to lift your energy levels. When music sparks something in us or makes us want to bop our head, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that produces positive feelings. In fact, it has been proven by physiologists that playing music benefits your brain more than any other activity

Music can also be very therapeutic and has been used as a substitute for sleeping tablets, as a motivational device to ‘move’ out of low moods or depression, as a coping mechanism for various problems, and as a way we connect with others.

Top up your optimism by being spontaneous

Marie Lethbridge, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist at Mind Health Ltd, says that being spontaneous allows us to be mindful and totally immersed in the activity we’re engaging in, which has been linked to an increase in mental wellbeing and happiness:

“Often we behave in a rigid, planned and fixed way because of anxieties and worries we have … Instead of worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, acting instinctively allows us to engage fully in what we’re doing at the time, and focus our whole attention on this.”

But how do you become spontaneous? We have some ideas to add a little spice to your life by mixing it up:

  • Jump off the bus a few stops earlier and wander back home. Remember to stop and smell the flowers.
  • Leave a weekend day free to wake up and do whatever you feel like doing.
  • Be impulsive once in a while; it keeps things exciting.
  • Just say ‘yes’ and don’t over analyse.

Sustain optimism by getting outside

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It’s hard to feel stressed while lying in a fluffy patch of grass with a gentle breeze tingling your skin and the sun shining through gaps in the trees. Spending some quality time with nature can be beneficial for anyone who wants to increase their Outdoorphins or Vitamin G (green).

Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, has researched how being outdoors can even make us nicer. “In nature,” he says, “we feel more in touch with who we really are and what we want to do.”

And it makes you happier: a study from the University of Essex in the UK found that 30 minutes of walking in a green scene reduced depression in 71 per cent of participants.

To go about the new year walking on sunshine, you first have to get some!

Did you know that by looking directly into the early morning sunlight you increase your serotonin levels, a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping you feel calm and focused? The key here being “early morning” – please don’t look at the sun when it’s too bright.

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Without enough sunlight exposure, a person’s serotonin levels can dip low and cause a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that is triggered by changing seasons.

A little bit of sunlight and exposure to UV-B radiation in the sun’s rays is the best natural source of  Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and overall health, including decreasing chances of osteoporosis, and assisting in healing skin conditions.

The daily top-up: get enough sleep 

We have all heard these before: “sleep tight”; “beauty sleep”; “well rested”.  And for good reason. There are many benefits to getting the perfect night’s sleep for your physical, mental and spiritual self. Not getting enough pillow time can lead to irritable moods and a gloomier outlook on life.

Research studies in healthy people have shown that even one night without sleep causes sleepiness, fatigue, irritability and lack of motivation. Sleep loss will make us feel more upset, angry and sad in response to unpleasant events and make us less able to enjoy and be happy about good things in our life. This increases feelings of negativity and negative reactions when something doesn’t go well or as planned.

Give your passions some love 

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There were probably many people who made a new year resolution to take up something they have always wanted to do. Passion drives you to push limits (limits which you often create for yourself) and it gives you the opportunity to inspire. Like signing up for karate classes or getting into yoga. We all have things that we love doing.

It’s easy to get caught up in work and responsibilities and not make time to do these things we love doing and after a while we can even forget that good feeling that comes over us when we’re pursuing our passion.

It’s important to find the time to fit the passion in to keep the pessimistic attitude out.

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