Sobriety and Mental Health

Today I am 2 months’ sober. And 2 days ago it was World Mental Health Day. All the 2s, eh?

2 months isn’t a long time really, BUT I have been on the early sobriety rollercoaster for about 5 years now. And 2 months is the longest I have done, not being pregnant. So I am pretty pleased about it. No fanfares or anything, but yes, it’s good.

I have made YouTube videos about my drinking and also made a podcast about it (The Sober Woo, links below to the main platforms) but I haven’t written much about it, so I thought I would do that today.

I will just bullet point my drinking story here for those who don’t know it and are curious.

  • Average British teen drinker, 90s Britain, everyone drank to oblivion, including me.
  • Continued into 20s and 30s – I was a party person, but so was everyone else. I was ALWAYS the one to suggest after work drinks. And ALWAYS the last to go home.
  • Became a mum at 30, then again at 32 and 38. And I knew this drinking ‘me’ was no longer something I wanted to be. Began to explore sobriety through groups like OYNB. I would go sober for a few weeks or a months. Fell off wagon ALL THE TIME. Didn’t really understand yet that this was sober curiosity.
  • Started to get into wellness and experience deep cognitive dissonance. Who was I? Yoga Mum? Or Booze-face Mum? I know which one I wanted to be so why did I keep falling into old habits?
  • My mental health has always been an issue, but I never felt it was ‘bad enough’ as I always bounced back. 2 years ago when I turned 40 I had a diagnosis of MDD (major depressive disorder). I wasn’t sure I agreed but I went on Sertraline.
  • Then about a year later I got diagnosed with ADHD. This made way more sense to me I made a video about it here.
  • For the last year or so I have really deepened my wellbeing practices. I am restarting my yoga teacher training, online this time with The Mindful Life Practice (after bailing on it last year at an in person course as I found it too intensive). And also I have almost finished my Holistic Mind Body Practitioner coaching course.

So there is me in terms of my drinking and mental health. Up to now.

I chatted on my Instagram this morning after the school run about mental health and sobriety and that’s what I want to expand on here. See, I had a meltdown at the weekend. In some ways it was the worst I have ever had. I just lost my mind. A flick switched in me and I went into my lizard brain, from the primeval times, and felt like I had to get a beast out of me.

It was really intense. I just couldn’t take the feeling inside anymore and it had to be released.

Now I am not saying what happened was good; it wasn’t, clearly. I felt so terrible and spent the day in a shame hole. But here’s the thing: I am sober now. And so I could feel it all. I grieved. I actually made the weirdest noises as I cried about the feelings I was having. Of unworthiness. Of uselessness. Of me not deserving to be here. It was pretty raw.

I won’t go into details of what discussion prompted it. But (though this wasn’t the intention) it made me feel like I was incapable of being an adult, of being responsible, of sticking to something we said we’d do. Like I was basically a failure and actually a drain rather than a contributor. Like I was fucking stupid and fucking shitty and I didn’t deserve anything that I had. What was the point of me?

This is just one of the many lovely stories I tell myself. You probably have one or two, too.

The reason I share this is, as it was World Mental Health Day, because it’s so important to bring the dark things into the light. By doing this we release it and show other people that they are not alone.

The big difference is that, being sober, I could feel it, and observe myself feeling it, but know it wasn’t true. And then pick myself up and move on.

Flashback to drinking days? I would’ve found the day so intolerably awful that by teatime I would have wanted a quick fix and also maybe a sticking plaster to repair any damage – ‘let’s get some wine’ I would have said, ‘lift our spirits and try to reconnect’. Yes, it would have felt nice after one or two glasses, but the truth is, it’s never enough. Not to fill that hole. The only thing that can fill it is feeling it and releasing it – and moving forwards. If you keep drinking over it then it never gets released.

On my mind body course we are covering a lot of stuff about stress, and I am also reading When The Body Says No by the compete legend that is Gabor Mate. The mind body connection is real. It’s widely accepted now that the body is a whole. That mental experiences create physiological effects. When we get stressed, it creates illness. The field of study is called Psychoneuroimmunology.

It’s a BIG subject, suffice to say that trauma and stress (not just stress as in a big day at work, or moving house, but internal stress of the mind, which mostly relates to intergenerational trauma), unless addressed and released, will make you ill. To give an example that Mate uses, there are studies looking at the link between MS and people who have no boundaries and cannot speak up for themselves. As Mate himself says, this is not blaming the patient, rather it’s understanding the mind body connection and its role in chronic illnesses, which we must do so people may be prevented in the future from suffering with these awful diseases.

When we suffer internally, when we feel attacked, or we are triggered and taken back to a place in our minds from our childhood, we suffer stress, a lack of ease, we experience dis-ease. This feeling, unless it is seen, heard, acknowledged, will be held, somewhere in the body. Things like yoga, meditation, dance and other somatic work will help release these blockages.

What has this got to do with sobriety and mental health?

Well, when we block and numb out with a drink (or drugs, TV, sex, OUR PHONES!) we choose to turn away. To zone out and not feel, process and release.

When I’m sober, I have to feel all the feelings. And I’m hoping this means that they get released easier. I’m still working on that bit. I think I have so much work to do. We all do.

But now I see that I am worth it. So are you.

We’re here on earth to enjoy, live, love and milk every last drop of it out. It’s not long either. And if I’m lucky I’m over half way through. So I want to give myself the best chance possible, by honouring myself and being compassionate – even when I fuck up. ESPECIALLY when I fuck up.

Bad mental health is not pretty. It’s become quite fashionable to talk about mental health, but please remember that when it’s happening to you, your loved ones, it is ugly. It is scary. It is traumatising. It is very hard talking about the horrible parts. Depression sometimes presents as anger, as lashing out. Trauma and not coping and overwhelm don’t always show up as a gentle weep on a pillow. It can look like someone throwing something, or punching a wall.

It’s very nerve wracking sharing on these things. But we must do it. We must keep talking and keep sharing.

Being sober has been the number one best thing I have ever done for my mental health. If you are considering it, please be heartened by my story. I can’t put into words the peace of mind and inner calm (apart from when I’m melting down!) it has given me. If you wish to message me about getting sober, please do. On Instagram or over email.

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