Is there a message in the bottle?

Maybe one of most precious things we can cultivate in life is self-awareness and the message in the bottle does not help self awareness. Knowing why we are choosing to live in a certain way or (re)acting to something is priceless, and we owe that to ourselves if we are committed to a happy and fulfilling life.

Hard to spot

It is amazing how we human beings, can easily get caught up with old habits and patterns. Once they become ingrained in our everyday life, it can be hard to spot them because we identify ourselves with them. These difficulties can be quite avoidable, if we are able to cultivate self-awareness.

Use lots of kindness and self-love

However, self-awareness must be cultivated with kindness and self-love. This way, we can make sure that we fully understand why some types of behaviour have a grip on us, accept and work with them. But it must be done always with kindness, self-acceptance and self-respect.

Self-awareness is not self-criticism

Self-awareness has nothing to do with destructive self-criticism, which is harmful and counterproductive. We need to connect with our truth and be aware of our self-talk.

Life is a continuously evolving process and whatever we learn to be true will help us move forward or hold us back in life. What messages is life sending to us? Can we understand them?

Are these messages in the bottle really part of us?

It is important to read those messages, knowing where they are coming from and if they are really part of us or just a learned behaviour. When it comes to the habit of alcohol consumption, for example, it pays to be aware what it is trying to tell us about ourselves.

What if we could read the message in the bottle?

When we do that work, it is easy to stop on the surface rather than diving deep. It can be challenging and scary at times. What if we think that there is a message in the bottle, waiting to be read and understood?

Editor’s Note

There are many ways to develop self-awareness, some of which we list below.

  1. Meditation can be very useful. Click here for more details

2. Understanding how your childhood is affecting your thinking can also help. Click here for more details.

A top tip if you’ve broken your new year resolutions

So all those New Year resolutions feel like a huge weight around our necks as we try to keep them going. Or maybe we’ve already broken them and feel like a total failure.

 

It’s impossible to keep New Year resolutions

It’s easy to feel it’s impossible to change. There are just so many things working against us- stress, too much pressure, drink cravings, not feeling able to go out with friends. Fear of upsetting people, because they see us not drinking or not drinking as much, as a threat to them. We feel like we’ll never succeed and our egos are hurt. All we feel is despair.

If you’re feeling like this, then this tip on hope will help.

 

Have the right type of hope

Joanna Macy  believes there are two types of hope. One is hope is based on outcome

So may be your new year resolutions look like

I will control my drinking”

“I will be a size 10,”

“I will get promoted in work”

 And so on. You hope you will achieve these New Year resolutions.

The problem with these type of New Year resolutions is it is easy to get “blocked” when you feel under pressure or don’t rate your chances of success too highly.  It’s much harder to keep going because human nature means we’ll only really act when we feel we succeed.

 

Hope based on your intention

By focusing on our intention though we’re more likely to succeed in our new year’s resolutions.

By focusing on our intentions and letting that be our guide we remove a lot of pressure on ourselves. We allow ourselves to see our actions as being part of learning about ourselves and our mistakes are part of our learning. We no longer label ourselves as failures when we don’t succeed first time.

 

We never know how things will turn out

We really don’t know how things will turn out. We cannot control what happens in our life. All we can really control is how we respond to it. If we have intentional hope it helps to makes us stronger. So we don’t know whether we’ll succeed. But if we accept even making a new year resolution, is a step in the right direction then we’re more likely to be successful.

 

Think Lord of the Rings

In this epic book and film, the little three foot high hobbits, Frodo and Sam were up against a huge evil army and power. They knew the chances of success were so small as to be non-existent, but because they had an intentional hope they succeeded. Their much more able and powerful friends fell away but they just kept going. Despite all the hardships and problems, they never lost hope in what they were doing. They just kept travelling on, accepting it was very difficult.

 

 Praise yourself for your intention

So instead of blaming yourself for struggling or breaking New Year resolutions, remind yourself that you’re a work in progress. You have the right intentions and you have hope you’re going in the right direction.

So set goals, make New Year resolutions but make them with hope that you are going in the right direction rather than actually getting to that size 10.

You’ll be surprised the difference it makes.

This post was drawn from an article in the Irish Times which you can read here.

 

Life tips on the go – part one

Is n’t it strange the way we all know we’ve got to keep exercising to stay physically fit, but we ignore our mental fitness? Yet mental fitness is a key part of managing our drinking. The better we feel mentally the less likely we are to drink too much.

We’ve talked previously about things that help our mental fitness here and here.

 

My life’s too busy

But in our very busy and hassled lives it can be really difficult, if nearly impossible to keep doing these helpful things every day. I’ve found the last few weeks really stressful and hectic -even more so than usual. So when I came across some key messages from a book I’d read previously it really helped me. Because I’d forgotten most of them!  Just a quick glance at my one page listing and it helped me to not get sucked into all the drama around me and maintain some sense of peace amongst the chaos.

 

Life Lessons

The book is called

Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us about the Mysteries of Life and Living

It’s by Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler. Elizabeth has since died after a long exhausting illness which left her totally helpless. While the topic may seem depressing, it’s anything but and well worth your attention.

 

Need some inspiration?

I first read the book about nine years ago, when my wonderful, active, loving, kind Mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I needed something to help me make sense of the awfulness of what lay ahead. Although the book title may seem grim, the content was inspiring. I ended up listing some of the key messages. They’ve really helped me cope with the last few years as life got harder and harder. After a day with my Mother who at times became this awful demanding stranger, one or two drinks at the end of a long day, often seemed like an easy solution. But using this book I’ve found I don’t feel the need to hit the bottle.

So for the next few posts, I thought I’d just list some of the key messages from each chapter which covers topics ranging from love and power to patience and play.

The 14 topics are

life tips

 

So here are the key life tips  from each topic starting with authenticity – being yourself.

Life Tips: Authenticity- Being yourself

  1. Allow yourself to be you, not a role
  2. Accept your positive and negative sides
  3. You are unique

It’s easy when we’re targeted by all kinds of marketing, media messages, and demands on us to lose sight of ourselves. But by recognising we’re not a role, – an employee, a business owner, Mother, Carer etc etc we can be happier, because we’re less likely to become stuck.

Accepting we have our good and not so good sides is important. It gives us permission not to be perfect and think more kindly more of ourselves when we behave or do stuff we don’t like.

In the next post, we’ll continue with the rest of Elizabeth’s and David’s important life tips.

Forgiving yourself for drinking too much is vital

It may sound strange but forgiving yourself for drinking too much is vital to taking control of your drinking. Many people who drink too much often feel a deep sense of shame. People of my generation will also have a good ould dose of Catholic guilt, making things even worse.  People think about the time they made an eejit of themselves at the office outing. Or were n’t able to bring the kids to the park as promised because of a hangover. So they become buried in  shame rather then focusing on what needs to change.

 

Release your heavy burden

By forgiving yourself, you release yourself from the heavy burden of self-judgement, guilt or regret. It is this very burden that often makes people drink more as they try to block out these horrible feelings of shame and remorse. It literally becomes too painful to sit with the feelings so they drink to block out the feelings. So forgiving yourself correctly is key and you can also learn something very valuable too.

 

How to start

First of all think about the event or incident that you need to forgive yourself for. Maybe you were so lost in your own drama and suffering that you did not recognise the damage you may have caused to others. Certainly in our culture, with our acceptance of heavy drinking this may be the case. So if you did not have the insight, you have now, how could you have acted differently?

 

A key question

But maybe despite having insights that you’re drinking too much, you still continue to drink and harm yourselves or others. So a key question to ask is what you have learned from these “mistakes”. The ancient Chinese don’t have a word for mistakes. The closest English translation is “learning opportunity”.  So referring to drinking too much as  “mistakes” sets us up for a big fall. Yet, so many treatment approaches to drinking seem to punish people for making mistakes.

 

Many alcohol treatments encourage shame

I read a recent article on an Irish addiction treatment centre which uses the “Minnesota” model. This treatment model is based on the AA method and sees success as not drinking at all. The language used creates shame. Residents are asked to admit they are powerless over alcohol and ask forgiveness of others for their “shortcomings”.No mention of forgiving themselves. Residents  urine is tested for traces of alcohol. At mealtimes, they stayed quiet, apart from one lady standing up to read a few lines about the impact of alcohol addiction.

No where in the article does it quote treatment  success rates. For example, the percentage of people  attending the centre whose lives are better as a result of staying in this centre.

 

Toddlers don’t shame themselves

Watching a child learn to walk is a good example of how we should treat ourselves.  Toddlers usually crawl first, then they start taking tiny little steps. hanging for dear life onto chairs, tables, the nearest available hand. They fall down. They may cry or laugh but they get back up again and slowly they become steadier on their feet. Then they stop falling. They learn from every fall. They don’t tell themselves they’re stupid, or shameful for falling. We seem to learn that kind of thinking later as adults.

 

We don’t shame toddlers

When we see toddlers falling, we don’t give out to them. We praise and encourage. We help them up again. It’s one reason, why they don’t give up. They keep trying, until finally, we’re the ones chasing around after them and trying to keep up with their running.

 

Don’t punish yourself

So next time you drink too much, you have four choices.

  1. Do nothing
  2. Repeat too much drinking again
  3. Beat yourself up for not being perfect and being able to control your drinking
  4. Forgive yourself and learn from what happened.

Of these four choices, the one that is most likely to help you is choice 4. Forgiving yourself and learning from what happened. What happened that made you drink too much? What was the payoff or benefit to you? (We’ll cover these in a future post)

For example

You were with friends and could not say no without feeling awkward. In this case you might find this post here useful.

If your feelings drove you to drink, you might find this post  here helpful.

Or you’ve realised you can’t do this on your own and you need more help. You might find this post here helpful.

 

Try forgiving yourself for drinking too much

So forgive yourself, accept what happened. Then find the learning in what happened and you’ll be further down the road to controlling your drinking.

 

 

Bressie’s six top tips for good mental health

We were at a very interesting event  where Bressie, the celebrity mental health campaigner gave his top tips for good mental health. They’re worth sharing.

 

1.Limit exposure to toxic people

These are the people  you meet who are  always moaning or being negative. They don’t even have to be nagging you, they may just be giving out about the world and how bad it is  in general. Limit the time you spend with these people as they will lower your energy levels.

 

2.Draw a circle

If you do have to spend time with toxic people, then before you meet them, take a few minutes to draw a high, thick colourful imaginary circle around yourself. Then tell yourself, nobody can get into your circle. When you’re with this person keep thinking of  the person being outside your imaginary circle and you’ll be impacted less by their negative energy. This is a very helpful tip for people who have a lot of empathy and tend to absorb other people’s emotions.

 

3.Be grateful

Each day before you get out of bed, think of a list of 30 things you’re grateful for. These can be as simple as you’re glad you’re awake, to looking forward to your breakfast, to meeting a friend. Initially it can be hard to think of 30 things, so start with 10 and build up. What this does is changes your mind set so your day starts on a much more positive note and you’ll have more energy to get through the day.

 

4.Limit the amount of bad news you listen or read to

We’re biologically wired to respond more to fear, because as cavemen the ability to react to threats kept us alive.  So the media attract our attention by always focusing in on bad news and creating a sense of fear.  They rarely report on all the good things happening because that does not sell enough newspapers or attract social media attention.

So limit the amount of bad news you read or listen to especially when there’s yet another dreadful tragedy. It does not mean you don’t care about the people involved. Does reading every little minute detail about a tragedy really help anybody? Why not focus your energy on something more positive instead to show you do care?

Try just two  days without reading or listening to any  news and you’ll be surprised how positive your mood becomes.

 

5.Stop judging people

As Atticus Finch, said in to “To kill a mockingbird”

You never really understand a person, until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”

bressie

Yet, we spend a lot of time and energy judging people and what they do. Getting annoyed or angry at what someone does or does not do. Wasting a lot of energy on our thoughts saying,

“Well she was right out of line, saying that, she’s so mean and unfair, does she not realise I worked so hard on that”

We need to accept we can’t control what other people do and all we can control is our reaction to other people.

We don’t know what is going on in their lives. There may be very good reasons why they are acting the way they are.

So assuming you’re not in a toxic  relationship and need to take action to protect yourself, don’t waste time judging and analysing other people.

 

6.Don’t use alcohol as a crutch

Bressie has been very open about his own struggles with mental health and using alcohol to manage his anxiety. While the first drink of alcohol can initially help you relax  all the research shows  alcohol makes you depressed.  So don’t binge drink.  Drink less than six standard drinks each time your drink  and have two days off alcohol every week.

bressie

For more information on managing your drinking and avoiding hangovers, please click here.

Bressie has set up “Lust for Life”

If you find these tips helpful, Bressie and his team have set up a useful website on all things mental health  and well being and you can find it here.

 

I drank to be normal and not feel like a fool

I drank because I was n’t normal

“Dear God, please, make me normal”  I whisper these words while on my knees at the side of my bed. I need to whisper them because if my husband heard me, he would then know, I wasn’t normal. It would explain why I drank the way I did and drove him crazy in the process.

I had this daily ritual for the best part of ten years of my life. Ten years when I drank too much. God bless God, but he never actually answered my prayers and made me normal.

 

What is normal?

I even did all the actions that went along with a determined person asking God to fix them. You know the ones. Squeezing the eyes tight, putting the hands in the prayer position and being on my knees. All the tell tail signs of desperate women trying to gain acceptance in a world were only the “normal” survive. So in trying to feel  normal I drank too much.

I know it sounds like a cliché, but I now have a daily gratitude chat with myself. It includes

Thank God I’m not normal.”

Simply because what is  normal ?

 

How is normal measured?

 So scientists decide to look at studies of “normal” patterns of behaviour. Let’s say for example they want to know how quickly children learn the alphabet. They take a classroom, look from the slowest to the fastest. Then they  take the group in the middle and declare this group the “normal or average”.  This group’s  speed and time is  the average time to learn the alphabet.  All the school programs and curriculum are designed around the average child. (I’ve over simplified this a  lot but you get the picture!)

 

Lovely shiny labels

Mental health is sometimes measured  much the same way.  A some what exaggerated example.  Scientists  take groups of people, going from the “ manic”  to the “ catatonic”.  Then the middle group are defined as the “average or normal” behaviour. The rest get lovely shiny labels. Usually  with some expensive drugs to help them fight their “disease or disability” and change their behaviour to normal.

 

Homosexuality was not normal

Don’t laugh. This type of process was once used to label people who are homosexual as not normal. At one stage, less than 50 years ago,  homosexuality was labelled as a disease in the DSM. The DSM is  the psychiatrists bible of mental health disorders.  So because people who are homosexual are a smaller group they were seen as ” not normal”. They were told they were ill. We still see the awful effects of this to-day with rates of mental health distress higher in men and women who are homosexual

So remember

There’s No Such Thing As Normal

We seek to be normal

You’re probably still thinking -ERM….YES, THERE IS!  And you and I desperately try to fit in there for fear of looking like a fool. So all through your educational, social, family and love life, we seek to be one thing. Normal, and this is where my problems began.

To fit into the norm, many of us must turn our natural talents up or down to suit the social circle we live in. Some of us have gifts in ways that are truly beautiful. But because we live in a world where it’s not good to stand out  we tone them down. It means our actual brightness and brilliance is never exposed. It’s almost  tragic when you realise that you and I are being denied the talents of musicians, artists, playwrights because they are trying to fit into the normal world.

 

I missed the opportunity to enjoy my children

For me, the real pain hit hard. I realised I was so desperate to fit in and be acccepted as a good, “normal” mother that I missed the opportunity to enjoy my children.

I was sticking to rigid  routines and forcing my kids to keep up with “normal” children.  From sleeping through the night, to  toilet training and  reading ability.  The pressure to have our  children “normal”  is disastrous for any mother. We know that children develop at their own pace and speed. By forcing them to fit into the middle normal section of society, we are sending the message to them that they shouldn’t be different.  They are not wonderful as they are.

 

I don’t worry now about how “normal” I am

I’m thankful now. I don’t have to worry (or even care) about how normal I am. I’m blessed with a mind of my own and talents  I have developed over time. Of course, I’m not totally confident inside.  I still have insecurities. I very often have to double check my words before they come from my mouth. I do this as I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone and not everyone thinks and feels the way I do about everything. But this is what makes being human so interesting.

 

A world with no shame

Imagine a world where there was no judgment, shame, norms or rigid  rules about how we should behave. A world where we drank sensibly, purely for pleasure and without harming ourselves?  (Ok we still need good rules about not killing each other and stopping at red traffic lights.) But imagine  a world where love, freedom, and respect were the three most important components to a blissful society. Well, this is how our world is supposed to be. So why isn’t it?

 

We are easier to control if we strive to be normal

Society tries to  keep us in a constant state of normality.  We are easier to control this way. The way I drank  meant I did n’t  have the energy to think and question things around me. Some people would lose out on a great deal of money and power if the whole world started to think for themselves.  What  if everyone walked away from making products and doing things that don’t serve humankind or our planet?  What if we started bringing our  gifts, talents and beautiful selves to the surface. What do you think might happen. Yes, you’re right. Our lives would be incredible.

As the song goes

“Tell me why are we so blind to see, that the ones we hurt are you and me

From, Coolio, Gangsters Paradise.

 

Don’t be afraid of society’s judgement

So be the person, you would want to be if you were not so afraid of society’s judgement. Be a good role model of a person happy with themselves.  So  your children will be grow up to be happy in their own skins and not trying to constantly to fit in.  Be the person you would like to hang out with.

You’ll be more fascinating, fun and dare I say it…One day being just ourselves may be “Normal”

Top tips for Managing Emotions (Booze Free)

I successfully managed to avoid feeling any emotions for the best part of twenty years. Every time I felt angry, sad, happy, bored or worried, I would have a drink. And not just one drink, but several. I saw a counsellor a few years prior to quitting drinking permanently and he told me he thought my emotional maturity was stuck somewhere around the age of fifteen – a petulant teenager. At the age of thirty…

When you first cut out alcohol from your existence, experiencing the full hit of emotions can be tough. Every feeling seems weird, and extreme emotions can feel really uncomfortable. Initially, sitting with these feelings can seriously increase cravings for alcohol because that’s how our bodies are accustomed to dealing with them – blotting them out.

The thought that kept me sober during the early alcohol-free months was that if I gave in and had a drink, I’d be right back at square one. I knew that I was becoming more adept at dealing with my emotions, and even though the biggies (anger, heartache) were plain horrible, I truly wanted to feel them. I wanted to grow as a person, to move on mentally from that fifteen-year-old girl who couldn’t cope with the more challenging aspects of life. Every time I found myself sitting with a difficult emotion, I tried to be mindful of it – to understand why I was feeling like that, and to treat myself kindly.

Here are my top survival tips for getting through the process of learning to feel emotions…

This too shall pass

OK, you may feel awful but it’s not going to last forever. Accept that the range of human emotions includes good and unpleasant, but all are fleeting. Go with the feeling, embrace it, and trust that you’ll come out the other side soon enough.

Get into exercise

I love running, and nothing helps me cope with unpleasant  emotions better than a jog through the woods. Endorphins, fresh air, escaping the demands of others…the benefits are many!

Feeling emotions is good

Feeling emotions properly means that you are growing as a person. You’re building emotional resilience. When the storm has died down, you’ll be a much tougher cookie than you were before it began.

Do  things you enjoy when you’re feeling down

Alcohol does not help you cope with problems or unpleasant  emotions – it just masks them. All you are doing by drinking on your troubles is avoiding the inevitable. Discover alternative ways to deal with tough times: a candlelit bath, a stroll in the countryside, coffee with friends, a shopping trip…there are plenty of things that don’t involve drinking that will help lift you out of a slump.”

Editor’s Note

Lucy gives some really good tips on managing emotions. It can be useful rather than labelling unpleasant  emotions as  “negative”” or “bad” to see them as motivation to take action, much like the physical  pain in our hand, warns us to take our hand out of the fire. Without that physical pain, we would leave our hand in the fire and get burnt.