A collection of articles which don't readily fit into the other pages!

Banishing the booze

By Dr Rachel Black
I don’t drink. Never. Not at all. None. One year ago things were very different, and a set of circumstances led to me deciding I had to make this change. Basically, I was drinking too much, too often. 
I embarked upon a path that I thought would be all about giving up, doing without, and suffering from self-deprivation. I thought alcohol was the solution, rather than the cause of my problems and discontent. I did not consider how much I would gain when it was removed from my life. 

Life seems relaxed now 
One of the biggest differences is time. I have loads of it. Now that my evenings are not truncated at 6pm, my productivity disappearing along with the wine, I can reliably concentrate to do online banking and shopping. I have started a Spanish class, as I am no longer reluctant to drive. I have started my life long ambition to learn piano, with lessons on Sunday mornings no longer wiped out by hangovers. As my brain kicked back to life I started to write and published my first book: Sober is the New Black. I have a lot more time and space in my head too; life seems so much simpler now I am not preoccupied with drinking or its effects. 
Doctors' Support Network 2016 Rachel Black's book Sober is the new black mental health
There is a lot of planning when drinking most nights, including organising nights out, taxis, getting to the cash point, buying wine for nights in, deciding how much to buy. I had to calculate how hung over could I afford to be given my commitments the following day, requesting annual leave or ‘not on call’ as required, and dealing with monster hangovers, which left me fit for nothing. It’s a cliché but life seems relaxed now. There is no rush to get to wine time. There is no anxiety if things run late. Life just happens. 

Better family and home life 
My mood and personality have improved considerably. Eighteen months ago I considered leaving my home and family as I was making their lives miserable with my constant irritability, antagonism and over-reaction. I was ‘stressed’ about everything from making packed lunches to putting up the Christmas tree. Now I am calm, measured, and pleasant, and my moods are appropriate. I am a better wife, a better colleague, and a good mother who happily drives her kids to clubs and has the time for a chat at bedtime. 
I choose not to drink 
I need to continually remind myself that my life is now as good as it always looked on paper, only because I continue to choose not to drink. I was so reluctant to give alcohol up, worried I would miss all the fun; yet here I am, relieved to be free from its clutches, knowing I need never drink again. Why would you? 

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Sober is the New Black is available on Amazon:

Extract from 'Sober is the New Black'

​Fuelled by endorphins I left the gym without a desire to drink alcohol and with a sense of achievement at another small victory. Once again I had survived the danger zone and could continue to do so for the rest of the evening. Another sober day achieved and my ability to do this thing reinforced. 
After two sunkissed weeks we arrived home. I cannot remember ever having had a holiday without alcohol before. This holiday had been great. So much better than I had anticipated, having usually equated fun with alcohol. I came home truly relaxed and recharged instead of exhausted and gloomy, filled with dread at the thought of returning to normal life and work again. It seems paradoxical that I had to actively keep reminding myself not to drink to keep having the good feelings. Naturally I would tend to make these good feelings even better by adding a glass or two and it seemed strange to think that this would result in the opposite effect.  I had loads to say.  Life seemed sharper and I seemed to have a heightened awareness of my surroundings.  I felt different too.  I was actively living in each moment that passed.

Review 'Sober is the New Black'

By Dr Kathy Grant
Sober is the New Black is a doctor’s account of learning to live without alcohol. Rachel describes how wine can go from being an enjoyable treat, to a means of coping and finally to a necessity which took over every area of her life. After many attempts at restricting and controlling, she realised and eventually accepted that she had to stop completely. 

A turning point came when Rachel decided that she would not drink that night but promised herself if she really wanted to drink the following night then she could reconsider it then. This is similar to the AA philosophy of ‘one day at a time’. She attended some AA meetings, but didn’t join a particular group. Rather than view it as a disease over which we are power-less, or a question of ‘giving up’ and deprivation, Rachel came to see it as a positive choice to live without alcohol. She found support on the social networking site and was encouraged to write to express the emotions that come to the fore without the damping effect of alcohol. Much of the book is in the format of then and now, a comparison of dealing with everyday life with and without alcohol; for instance socialising, stress, and home life. 
Rachel is surprised to find her priorities and personality changing and that she likes herself better without the booze.

Recovery Gardening

By Dr Helen Plowman

My life was my garden 
When I was out of work a few years ago, I was quite frankly unable to work. The DWP and ATOS thought differently, but that is a whole other story. My life was my garden; I lavished daily love and attention on the small patch, which I had chosen as my domain, and I was rewarded with the benefits of a beautiful relaxing space and abundant fresh produce. 
Rosy glow of nostalgia 
Maybe I'm looking back with the rosy glow of nostalgia, but getting decent food out of the ground and having an attractive, well-ordered garden to enjoy was a huge positive in my life. Things are pretty different now. I have a part time care and support job, which includes 'sleeping in' overnight, and a small gardening business. Yet if you were to walk down my street, or look out of my back door, you would not think, 'a gardener lives here'. In fact you would think that I really hated gardening and never did any! It is chaos, with heaps of salvaged items jostling with overgrown shrubs, dead plants in pots and long grass. 
Dr Helen Plowman
Meeting the needs of others
The reason I hope that this little story will engage even the most horticulturally naive among you is the familiarity of the theme. Working hard to please others, whether in gardening or in health, we are meeting their needs. I acknowledge that I gain a lot through working: a sense of achievement, increase in mastery of skills and knowledge, peer recognition as an ‘expert’. All of these things have helped my self-esteem enormously. On the down side, this year I can't just nip out of the back door for a handful of spinach or beans; I'm not meeting my own needs and feeding myself. I have lost the reassuring sense of self-sufficiency and solidity that comes from looking after myself. 

Tending my own patch really matters 
Coming to the realisation that it's not enough for me just to be a good gardener, and that tending my own patch really matters, has opened my eyes. 
This is how we recover, one turning point at a time.
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