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BrainDump: One way ticket

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

I need some motivation so I’m just going to try writing and see where it takes me this morning. I am about 70% through my latest assignment for the MAPP and its tough going. I am lucky enough that I have been able to take a few days to try and just get it finished. But now I’m flagging.

The piece of work is challenging in lots of different ways. Like a lot of study on the course so far, it’s a unique combination of academic focus on positive psychology as a growing social science and experiential self-reflection as we each develop our practice thought applying aspects of the theories to our own lives.

Positive Psychology has prided itself on its scientific nature and approach, and I struggle sometimes with aligning this with my own goals and needs when I am examining areas in my life. This assignment is no different.

I am using a process of journaling to reflect back on a period in my life where I decided to become alcohol free. This has involved reflections on around a three or four year period, some of them painful to me and my family, and then add to this further analysis of key themes related to how I have grown, developed and changed.

It’s been over 300 days (I think around 314) since I last had any alcohol and I would say that I have fully established an alcohol free (AF) existance. I have learned that this is not a life without temptation, the fear of missing out but also that these are not the biggest or most important things in my life.

In quitting a habit which was not only damaging my physical health but also contributing t the impact of my mental illness I have made a good choice, for me. I don’t make any assumptions about others around me who still drink, although I have to choose carefully how and when I want to socialise as alcohol remains a firm guest at the table at most occasions.

The biggest thing so far that I have experienced is learning to be myself, all the time. That has meant sitting with my joys, sorrows and my anxiety. Evenings really feeling the pain of losses from years ago, perhaps finally the experience of grief I have been burying and masking through my functional drinking which only became more and more entrenched over the years as I more and more felt ’I deserved it’ so I could relax.

I drank to feel more whilst feeling less. I used alcohol as a form of coping, except it wasn’t coping. Because it wasn’t the real me. What clicked was that the reason I drank alone at home each evening was the same I overdrank without fail when I socialised. I wasn’t comfortable being me.

My goal was to learn to cope without alcohol and I have done this. In the past few months I have dealt with a parent having a health crisis, I came within an inch of quitting my MAPP studies and on top of this I have finally faced up to elements of my own past that I once thought made me a lost cause (and an outcast/alien, more on that another time if I am ever brave enough). It is impossible to learn to cope when you rely on something outside of yourself to help you fake it in my experience.

Yes I am eating more cake, I still have cravings at certain times of day to change my mood. However, I eat one sweet thing then I stop. This was never the case with alcohol. One glass was never enough, and like the meme I saw yesterday ’If one glass is never enough, then you shouldn’t be having that glass.’

Anyway, I hope his doesn’t sound preachy at all. It hasn’t been a fully positive experience, I wouldn’t advocate following my footsteps without a lot of thought and a full review of the support available should you choose to make the change. All I can say is that I have felt both better and worse since becoming alcohol free and it is this combination which has made me stronger and better.

I also know that I will never go back. It just isn’t worth it as I have so much in my life now that I value more. I like being this me who has authentic friendships, can balance work, life and study better and who practices mindfulness daily as a release for stress through a variety of creative hobbies.

If this makes me middle aged, I don’t care. Middle aged Lena is definitely an upgrade although she has her bugs. I am a better person, better wife, better mum, better friend and better human being. I know I will never stop learning and sharing my journey - thanks to the MAPP I now know my strengths.

I feel a bit more motivated now. It has been a hard slog, both this last 300 odd days and this assignment too. When I knew I was studying adult development and change models on the course, it seemed there was no way I could not write up this past year as it has been such a profound journey, one I will never make again.

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