‘The Shamanic Journey is the ancient method of the shaman that can be used by everyday people for healing, personal growth, and to connect with nature’
If you’d said to me a year ago, I’d be trying out different therapies, attending meditations & gong baths & considering yoga as my New Year Resolution, I’d have told you you were mad.
I would’ve also told you that you were mad if you’d suggested I’d become alcohol free for the rest of my life and just look how that turned out.
The main thing I miss about drinking alcohol is ‘getting out of my head’. When I say that, I don’t mean drinking myself into a black out state but actually taking a break from myself and stopping the internal chatter.
You see, I have a very busy brain. I always find it hard to just ‘be’ in the present, always thinking ‘what next?’, always looking way too deeply into any given situation and always overthinking to an overwhelming degree.
Through trying different therapies and activities, I’m looking for something that shuts me off from every day life, just for an hour or two, that gives me space from all the things that we worry about. I want to go somewhere lovely, somewhere peaceful, somewhere I actually shut the f**k up.
I get a fair amount of headspace from walking in the fresh air, listening to my audio books, my mind distracted from mundane normal life. I also love the way gong baths take me to another place for a small snapshot of time. But I want more.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by a special friend to attend a Shamanic meditation for 12 ladies on 12/12. Double numbers have great significance as does the number 12. I had no idea what a Shamanic meditation was and kind of didn’t want to know beforehand so that the experience was totally brand new and so that I didn’t have a chance to become cynical about it! All I knew is that I’d be going to a friends house in my comfies and needed to bring a blanket, a pillow and some water.
When we arrived, we all took a place on the floor or couch in a large room lit dimly by the lights on the Christmas tree. Our host for the night explained that she would be guiding us on a Shamanic journey and asked us all to share what we were expecting from the evening. It was a great ice breaker as, although I knew most of the women, I didn’t know them all. By sharing our expectations, it also connected us all in the room, ready to begin our journey.
Meditation involves a lot of deep breathing. Before Soberdom I would’ve been utterly self conscious in a room full of people breathing in and out loudly. But breathing is helpful and soothing and takes you to a meditative state and so breathing is what we did.
Our host advised that she would be taking us to a place of nature, like a wood, and we’d journey through it until we found our ‘power animal’. We were asked to observe how the animal behaved and continue on with the animal until we found a hole or a door or likewise to lead into the spirit world. This journey would be accompanied by drumming at different speeds at different parts of the journey.
Honestly … I won’t lie … my brain screamed WTAF (what the actual f**k)!! Power animal? Hole in the ground? Drums?
But I was curious. There was a possibility this may give me what I was looking for and … you never know til you try right?
So the meditation began. I saw a wood with bright light, mainly turquoise, and I continued on until I reached a clearing. I had a distinct thought that my journey was mundane & predictable. ‘Just’ a wood and ‘just’ a clearing. There was a fire burning in the clearing and I chucked a few names into it, hoping they would burn away for good, and carried on. I was conscious I was supposed to be looking for my power animal and expected to see a tiger or a lion or a jaguar but instead saw a non-descript green snake hissing at me. Again, I was thinking ‘oh great, all I get is ‘just’ a wood and now I get ‘just’ a snake’. Brilliant.
When the meditation finished, I felt so very relaxed and calm but also short changed as my fellow roomies talked of eagles & owls & wolves as their power animals. They talked of snow and hearts and water and music. I ‘just’ had a snake and some blue light.
But, once I explained what I had seen, it transpired I didn’t ‘just’ have a snake. I had one of the most powerful animals of them all as the snake represents healing, rebirth, transformation, shedding of skin. Ironic eh?! And the blue light was representative of the hottest part of the flame, of fire, of healing.
I felt bad. I’d dissed my snake & I’d dissed my journey when in fact I was terribly privileged to have seen what I had seen. I then realised that my Shamanic journey had been very representative of my life at the moment, that I feel my life is very samey, that I think other people are having better journeys than me and that I’m not seeing what I have in front of me as special and lucky. What a wake up call!
My overall feeling after the meditation was ‘I need to do that again’. It was kind of trippy and kind of chilled and kind of cool. I’m fascinated at how all of our journeys in the room were so different and yet so representative of our lives. This can’t be mumbo jumbo right?
My advice to anyone struggling with their own mind is give it a go. What do you have to lose? The answer is nothing but you may gain a new pet (power animal) and a couple of hours peace.
Christmas. A time of peace & goodwill to all men. Or a bloody logistical nightmare. You choose.
Believe it or not, when we were small, we managed to have a good time without alcohol. We managed to put up the tree without having a sherry & managed to party without a Prosecco. We managed to get up on Christmas morning full of joy rather than green at the gills & full of woe. We managed to get so excited on Christmas Eve without the aid of a beverage and be happy just in the knowledge that some big bloke with a beard was gonna make all our dreams come true. If only that bit were true.
Instead, somewhere along the line, alcohol became the uninvited guest. A glass of sherry & a brandy laced mince pie for Santa, sherry whilst you put up the tree, brandy in the Christmas pud, Prosecco to celebrate doing the wrapping, port in the innocent cheddar cheese, gin in the advent calendar. Jesus (pun), the list goes on.
There literally is no escape. And this is all due to marketing companies knowing exactly who to target at this time of year. The stressed ones, the sad ones, the ones at the end of their tether. The shy ones, the nervous ones, the ones who don’t know when to stop.
Here’s an interesting fact. You don’t need alcohol to do any of the things you think you do at Christmas. Ironically the tree goes up better if you’re not half cut, and the Christmas dinner is better if you’re not so hungover you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t buy as much crap online if you’re not swaying in front of your computer and you don’t hate Christmas as much if you’re not constantly hungover.
One of the consistent worries of being sober at Christmas is what other people will think. Why exactly do you care what other people think??! Surprisingly, some people don’t need alcohol to have a good time and using the excuse ‘but it’s Christmas’ shows their insecurities more than yours. You have made a monumental decision NOT to poison yourself because some London marketing company told you to do so! Be bloody proud of that! Be the ultimate rebel against a society with a twisted brain!
One day, being drunk will be as alien as being sober. When the big cats understand our country is actually a nation of (legal) drug addicts and something must be done. It will (hopefully) be sooner than we think. It’s not easy being sober at this time of year but it is possible. Give yourself the biggest gift of all and do it for your health, your wealth and your happiness.
A year, 12 months, 365 days since a drop of alcohol passed my lips, since smoke hit my lungs, since I stayed up all night, since I threw up, since I suffered hangxiety.
In this epic year, I’ve changed jobs, got a new car, lost 3.5 stone in weight, got rid of a toxic relationshit & gained addictions to walking & Magnums, Curly Wurly’s & podcasts.
I found my sobriety twin Steve, my SSS Emma & countless new fantastic sober friends through various online support groups Club Soda Together, Team Sober UK, Recovery Buddha & Gary Topley – alcohol awareness specialist. I can’t thank you all enough.
My blog has gone from strength to strength gathering followers from places such as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Spain to name a few. I’ve made video blogs & been interviewed for podcasts. I’ve heard the worst stories that alcohol can do to a person but also epic success stories from people who had no hope.
I’ve cried a lot, laughed loads, been pissed off at the injustice that I can’t have ‘just the one’. I’ve sober dated & sober kissed & sober ran the other way. I’ve been on a sober holiday & went on a sober boat party.
I fell in love with Russell Brand, discovered audio books, started counselling, went to gong baths & hung in a cocoon.
I decluttered my flat, employed a cleaner, E-Bayed my old clothes, bought new clothes, purchased a bloody cagoule (yes really) & resized my rings.
I drank shit loads of Elderflower cordial, ate too many Curly Wurly’s, way too many Magnums & thousands of Lindor Balls. I discovered I do actually like cheese.
I got a tattoo & I decided I would never drink again.
Sobriety is so much more than not drinking alcohol. It is a way of life, a freedom like no other.
Without alcohol, I can do all the things I couldn’t do before. I sleep well, eat well, exercise regularly, love myself .. all the ingredients for a happy life.
Alcohol clouded my judgement about myself. It made me feel a failure, unworthy, fat, unloveable. I am none of these things without it.
Alcohol made me believe it was my friend, that I needed it in my life to be more confident, funnier, sexier, a better person.
Alcohol is a lying bastard.
Will I drink again? Why on Earth would I? Alcohol made me sad, depressed & distorted my view of the world and myself. I never want to lose sight of the person I have become without it.
I am worthy. I am loveable. I am sober. I am free.
With mahoosive thanks to
Jen & her amazing Team Sober UK – https://m.facebook.com/groups/1622901908009979
Laura & fantastic Club Soda – https://joinclubsoda.co.uk
Gary & his fab group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/715729241889906
Penni & her awesome group – https://m.facebook.com/groups/1524386261221269
And EVERYONE who found me. You all rock 🙋🏻🐟
I’ve always thought I was lucky that my sober year began full of illness. Not wanting a drink or a cigarette certainly helped my sober quest, although missing out on Christmas parties because I was deaf and not being able to work for the first week at my new job was not ideal.
By the New Year, I was feeling better and had been sober for 5 weeks. It was then that the reality started kicking in. A year was an awfully long time.
If you’ve ever done Dry January, there’s a certain euphoria around day 29/30 when you can almost taste the wine on your lips. You think about it constantly, planning how to celebrate your enforced alcoholic fast, deciding what you’re going to drink when the restriction is lifted and discussing how great it’s going to feel when you take your first sip of Devil’s juice. Then get completely hammered.
Well, that euphoria still creeps in at the end of month 1 but you have no debauchery to look forward to. Instead, I rewarded myself in other ways, buying little gifts as I reached each milestone .. a ring, a necklace, a plane ticket .. I needed these things to look forward to, to make the journey worth it.
From the start, I found socialising hard. I had always been the ultimate party animal. Now I was the ultimate wallflower. My friends were wonderful, always making sure there was alcohol free alternatives for me to drink. But it was strange for them too. I was there. But I wasn’t there. Dawn the Drunken (crying) Devil had disappeared, leaving a sombre, Elderflower sipping Sober Fish in her place.
The sober me soon realised that the best time at a party was the beginning before the slurring began, rather than at the bitter end that I was used to, watching the sun come up & freaking out. I’ve never had so much sleep! There is a certain smugness to a regular 10pm bedtime .. in fact, I turn into a pumpkin shortly after! My sleep is so different. Solid, deep & restoring. There are no more lazy lie-ins .. I wake up early and snoozing is a thing of my drunken past.
In May, I set myself a challenge to walk 10000 steps a day. I’ve never really challenged myself to anything before. I mean, I could barely stick to a diet, let alone anything else. But Soberdom was going well so it was time to tackle the booty. And I loved it! And smashed it! And so my addiction to walking began.
It has totally taken me, and everyone who knows me, by surprise that I’m walking to the extent I am. I went through periods of exercising before but became despondent if I didn’t see quick results. This time, the results are clear.
Cut out alcohol = weight loss = more energy = expel energy by walking.
I now try to walk at least 5 miles a day and the weight is staying off. It’s a winning formula!
After tackling the alcohol & smoking then the weight then the exercise full on, it was time to tackle the brain. The emotional iceberg was thawing, leaving feelings of ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘where am I going?’ and ‘what do I want?’. So I started counselling & light mediatation & gong bathing, even hanging in a cocoon on one occasion! I am constantly surprising myself.
My words of wisdom to you.
Be patient. This has been a long but incredible year. Nothing happens overnight. You have spent years abusing your beautiful body and it will take time to recover. It will need sleep and exercise and nourishing. It will reward you but only when you are repetitively kind. Remember, it knows your habits better than anyone else.
Be brave. You can do this. If I can, you can too. I promise.
Make sacrifices. Your life will have to change. You will miss out on things. You will sleep when your friends continue to party. You will drink water while they drink champagne. But their reward is temporary & yours is permanent. Remember that.
Don’t give up. You may not succeed the first time but that’s ok. Keep trying. How many times have we all said ‘I’m never going to drink again’ but then crack on for another 10 years. In the words of Ice Cube ‘You can do it, you put your back into it’.
I love a good success story. One of my favourite programmes used to be ‘A Year To Save My Life’ with Jessie Pavelka. Each programme focused on a morbidly obese person & Jessie coached them back to a better version of themselves over a year. Plus Jessie was hot. Super hot.
What I didn’t know when watching this programme was that in a few years time I was going to need to save myself. That my not so secret bingeing of takeaways & wine & Marlboro Lights, plus meeting the relationshit, plus working in a highly toxic environment, was going to lead me into a year to save my own life. Dramatic but true.
Whilst documenting my progress this year & through the power of Facebook reminders, it appears I flirted with Soberdom far more than I remembered. Yes I did Dry January but I also had other periods across the years when I wearily climbed onto my lonely rickety wagon. I now understand that my relationship with alcohol had been bad since the very first moment it hit my lips. I very rarely ‘had a glass with dinner’ or ‘a quick one down the pub’.
I drank to get hammered. To forget. To stop thinking.
I’ve learnt over this year that lots of us drink to forget. That there is a lot of trauma behind alcohol. That alcohol promises to make things better but actually makes things a whole lot worse. That alcohol is a poisonous demon that damages relationships, careers, friendships, emotions, routine, self worth, looks, lives.
When I started my initial experiment to lay off the sauce for a year, I naively believed it was just a matter of saying no to Sauvignon & yes to Squash. How wrong could I be? Saying no is the tip of a ginormous iceberg packed full of emotions & feelings, just waiting to thaw.
Once the ‘experiment’ had started, it was fairly easy for me not to drink or smoke. I was ill, stressed, run down, fat, tired, sad, finally single and emotionally ruined. Ready. There was no real reason not to begin and I was actually sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
Day 1 began with a hangover. Day 2 began with a trip to the doctors. I’d been away for the weekend & my eczema was the worst it had ever been. I was covered from head to foot, literally scratching myself to pieces. Whilst away, I’d noticed that I’d been given the wrong steroid cream and it wasn’t touching the sides. Scratch, bleed, cream, scab, scratch, repeat. The cycle of eczema alone is enough to drive someone insane.
At the doctors, I broke down, shouting at the doctor I’d seen the week before who has apparently decided (without my permission) to reduce my steroid cream to a lower strength. I yanked my clothes off showing her my poor damaged body saying ‘look! Look what you’ve done’, only she hadn’t really done it. I had.
The doctor was visibly shocked at the state of my skin and at how stressed I was and immediately gave me my normal prescription, apologising profusely. However, she still failed to find out what the real problem was, the underlying cause(s) of why I was really scratching myself to bits. She also never asked about my bad habits which clearly were contributing to the problem. I left the doctors clutching the correct medicine. A temporary fix to a permanent problem.
As if this wasn’t enough, I also had a sore throat. Which turned into a cold. Which turned into an ear infection leaving me deaf. Which turned into flu. Which rendered me bedridden just as I started my new job. My body was actually shutting down on me.
I’d never been so ill. With hindsight, I truly believe that my body was screaming out at me to look after it. Years of abuse had started to take its toll. Isn’t it interesting that we all seem to plough on year after year, expecting no side effects? Well, I got them all. At the same time.
And so my year of sobriety began on 27 November 2016, 5 weeks earlier than planned. Little did I know then, it would be the year that completely changed my life.
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