My Inner Latina Dance Goddess

I just might be a tad behind the times, perhaps a little out of fashion when it comes to the lastest exercise craze – but last night, I tried Zumba for the very first time, and I LOVED it!!

It could’ve started slightly better, if I had actually arrived at the correct venue, but merely a 5min mistake. I made it and met the lovely instructor. She welcomed me and her advice was not to worry if I lost my footing, just to keep going. Okie dokie I thought – (NO, ‘oh fuck’ was actually what I thought) but here we go!

The music was pumping and she started dancing with a vivacious energy that was so contagious! I was off, with a smile plastered to my face, I followed her moves….well as easily as I could. I harnessed my inner ‘Latina dance goddess’ and gave it my all. It was exhilerating just letting go and joining in with all of these women. (Full disclosure, I’m positive I would’ve looked more like an unco woman tripping over herself, literally, but I’m sticking with the Latina dance goddess because…. why not?).

I don’t ‘do’ exercise classes, purely for the fear of what everyone else will think of me. Ridiculous I know! I hear how silly this is, because I’m only depriving myself, but the struggle is real (it’s one of my things). The last exercise class I went to was in London, at the Pineapple Dance Studios. I was 23, and loved to dance. I found a ‘street dance’ class that sounded like fun. My goodness, I was in a studio with at LEAST 50 others who all knew the choreography; I was flapping around the back of the pack literally like a fish out of water! I only attended the one class, and carried on to let it reinforce my fear of exercising in groups.

My journey to wellness is ongoing. Yes, I’m well out of the dark times, but learning new ways to live better can push me, and when I feel this pushy discomfort I acknowledge it, and like last night I show myself that I CAN do it. So my inner ‘Latina dance goddess’ will be taking to the dance floor next week! Nothing can stop her now.


I’m A Terrible Mother…

Once upon a time I believed that any random woman could take one look at me and see what a terrible mother I was. I was caught up in the battle of the ‘should do’ crusaders; you know, the mothering ‘advice’ providers. Being told I should ‘put that baby down’, questioned over where she slept (which was often in our bed) or listening to throw away comments like ‘take that dummy out’ or ‘you’re feeding her AGAIN?! (referring to demand feeding).

As mothers, we get to choose how to raise our babies. Some wonderful Mum’s, feel so confident in their parenting style they don’t give a fat rats about unsolicited advice. I wasn’t her, in fact, I was far from her; I felt pressure from all around. The pressure for me at this time was excruciating, and that combined with not being in the best headspace, I chose to isolate myself.  The mere weekly visit to the supermarket triggered panic, simply because it was full of people who could see me; see me for the terrible mother I had allowed myself to feel like.

From reading this, I’m sure you can see how bad my head space was; I wasn’t a terrible mother, it was just the lead up to what I refer to as the ‘pivotal time’ in my life when I was admitted to a Psych Hospital. I was in a pretty bad way, lots of darkness and fear, yet I now look back on it as life-changing, in a positive way because of the lessons I learnt.

Last week I was the guest speaker at a maternal mental health peer support group, to share my personal journey of mental health. What made this extra special was that my story actually began during the pregnancy of my first child, needless to say, it brought back memories. I felt such a privilege sharing the same space as these Mum’s and being invited to stay for their personal sharing time. The word support doesn’t seem enough to describe what I saw, not only did the lovely facilitators offer understanding and advice, so did many of the women; I’m in awe and still feel inspired.

I think we often need to be more mindful of the things we say to women with young children about how they are parenting. Considering how large the advice spectrum is for parenting, it’s very likely that all of us, at certain times, will see something that perhaps we don’t agree with; but I pose a challenge to ask ourselves ‘does it really matter?’ Does it really matter that a baby is bottle or breastfed? Has a dummy or no dummy? Sleeps next to Mum or in another room? Eats homemade mash or store bought? If they wear natural fabrics or not? or if they can feed themselves with cutlery, or not?

My answer to these trivial questions is, ‘no’ it doesn’t matter. What matters is showing respect to personal choices with a kind heart.

Sending love to all Mum’s who are feeling the struggle, and an extra squeeze to those currently in the darkness ♥

Those Special Women

I’m beautiful, bright, curvy, emotional, full of love; I’m all woman. I have birthed two children and learnt some of my biggest lessons from being a mother. I can make a house, a caravan, even a tent, a home. I’m sure I talk more than the said 20,000 words, of your average woman, spoken per day – what else can I say, it’s one of my gifts. I get hormonal, have saggy boobs, and stretch marks, but this privelege comes from having grown and fed two humans. I am grateful. I am a woman who acknowledges her fears, and does it anyway (well most of the time). A woman with depth, strength and heart. I’m a wife, a daughter, an Aunty, a friend; a fellow female human.

Today is International Women’s Day and I’ve been reflecting on the women who have shaped me into the woman I stand as today. I think the best place to start is with my Mum. I was born to a mother who showed great strength through adversity, and as a teenager I was lucky to be aware enough, to witness her massive growth as she stepped into a different type of life. I have often found myself thinking, ‘well if Mum could do it, so can I’, she has taught me many things.

Two of my teachers from school made an impact on me; the first being a very maternal, early primary teacher, who always made me feel safe. And the second, my chemisty teacher in my last year of high school, who listened to me when I was broken hearted and she offered guidance. I wish both of these amazing women could know how much of a difference they made to me and how much justice they did for their profession.

I managed a salon in London for a lady owner for almost 5 years, she taught me a HUGE lesson about treating your staff well, and the staff will treat you well in return. The first time I experience this was one busy Saturday, I arrived at work 20mins late (I’d slept through my alarm, and I cannot STAND being late, I was freaking out!), I felt like I’d hardly slept, woken up with no boyfriend beside me (I had no idea where he was!) and with the WORST hangover ever. I had really messed up. I was excusing myself from clients to quietly be sick out the back (as quietly as one can do), then return to finish their hair (the situation was not good). My previous boss’ aim wouldv’e been to make our day hell, she would’ve booked in extra clients, halved our lunch breaks and tried to punish us. This boss, took almost every second client off me that day to alleviate my workload, in turn making HER day hectic. I had never experienced leadership like it. I never did that again, and I have tried to be as generous as her in my leadership since then. Over those 5 years she became more than just a boss, she became a friend also.

Then there was my therapist. She was a mature woman, with hearing aids in both ears, who had trouble hearing what I was saying if I was talking and crying at the same time; but we managed. What a woman. She changed my life. She was the person who guided me through my Bipolar diagnosis, quitting alcohol and feeling miserable – to a woman who had skills for regulating her emotions, dealing with life’s shit in a healthy way and discovering who she was. I saw her on and off for years, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for her and all of the wonderful change she helped me achieve.

My last and most important woman would be my best friend, my sister from another mister, my friend who feels like home. We have been friends since we were 13yrs old. We have experienced a lot of lifes “firsts” together, boyfriends, drinking, smoking, wagging school, and sneaking out at night. We’ve shared so much fun, we’ve travelled together, we’ve eaten delicious food together, danced both on bedroom and nightclub dancefloors, we’ve talked endless hours about our relationships, we’ve supported each other through the tough times, we’ve laughed uncontrollably for untoll hours and of course we have had our disagreements. It wouldn’t be as deep a sisterhood if we hadn’t. What makes us special, is we talk and make it right. We communicate similarly and understand deeply what the other person needs which is something that makes this friendship so very special. We have seen each other utterly broken, and we’ve gathered the other up into a warm non-judgemental hug. We’ve seen each other through heart break, family problems, crap jobs, and just listened to each others general woes. We’ve witnessed each other fall madly in love, marry, become mothers and follow passions – how incredibly special. I get to wander this earth knowing this beautiful woman, my beautiful sister, is right beside me no matter how far apart we are physically.

These are just some of the women who have had a large impact on me in my life. I’m so grateful for all of the wonderful women in my life, whether they’re girlfriends, family, mentors or professionals, I’m grateful every single one.

Today is a day we honour our fellow women, in all of our forms. Think over the women who have shaped you into who you are today and feel the gratitude for the impact they have had on you, whether it has been large or small.

The Challenges of Bipolar ‘Recovery’

Bipolar – the illness where yin and yang are most obvious in their places. I say this in a relatively relaxed sense, purely looking at the positives and negatives, and the ups and downs of the illness.

I want to share with you how I found the process of finding stability and recovery via doctors and therapists. I was in severe need of help due to my low mood but what I discovered along the way was A LOT more than just eliminating depression (which was all I was after).

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder I was 28 yrs old, but there had been chronic signs of this illness for the previous 10yrs. I’d learnt how to self-soothe early on, unfortunately, the self-soothing wasn’t a positive type of self-soothing. I took to drinking, smoking and having sex at the age 14, luckily these things distracted me enough to cope with the feelings I felt bubbling up inside of me. But by the age of 20, I had added drugs to that concoction. I gained validation from men and how much attention I got from them. I gave myself away under my own pretence of it ‘just being fun’, but actually in the hopes of being embraced with the love I so desperately needed.

My elevated hypomanic moods were (in my eyes) great. I could’ve happily lived with my elevated moods, but my lows were desperate and unbearable. It was fair to say my initial goal was to simply get myself out of the black hole and that was what I focused on, climbing my way out day by day.

When I was first medicated for bipolar, there was one thing that I don’t think I could’ve been ready for – the loss of the highs, because I was just so focused on getting rid of the lows. As time progressed on this journey I slowly started to recognise the loss of my highs too. The adjustment was challenging to say the least.

When I thought of my highs I linked them with partying and having fun, but when they were taken away from me I realised there was a lot more tied up in those highs. My impulsiveness which often led to some great adventures, my playful side, my creative thinking, my sex drive, my confidence and the biggest one – my proactive motivation.

I was a highly driven person, fueled by ambition and my hypomanic times were when I would really achieve.

The downsides to the hypomanic times are the risks I took and the times when I pushed the limits a little too far (or a lot too far!). For me, it was doing things that caused disharmony in my everyday relationships, things that got in the way of my job, and things that risked my health. I had little emotional regulation, I was aggressive and at times flippant, often hungover as I abused my body with substances; all of which made me a very unhappy soul.

Who knew there could be so much good and bad in an elevated mood.

It wasn’t something I noticed at the beginning of my recovery, as the stabilising of my mood meant I was pulled out of the black hole and this to me was a sheer relief. I focused on learning new skills for my emotional wellbeing and I reaped these rewards. But over time I noticed I was lacking my playful, adventurous, creative, and proactive self. My confidence was shattered and I began to mourn the loss of my past high moods.

This is often the point some people decide to stop taking their meds. The stability can feel so ‘blah’ compared with the extreme moods you become so used to.

I don’t know how long I expected this adjustment period to go on for, but I sure as heck didn’t expect it to last years.

I went sober at the same time of my diagnosis and the two things I spent years coming to grips with were the loss of the highs and everything that went with them, and fully accepting how uncomfortable I felt sober when others weren’t. I either felt like I was missing out or irked at them for having fun and being silly. I knew, in theory, I should still be able to have fun like them, but honestly, it took years to tap into this part of me again.

The reality is that these two things are MASSIVE lifestyle changes which require massive growth. The growth comes in the form of heaps of tiny opportunities to step into your new self, to be brave and continue regardless of how you are feeling.  All of these things together create positive changes for your wellbeing. The results are gradual but worth it!

I’m now 39 yrs old and 11yrs into this journey. I’ve learnt ways to regulate my emotions (and I’m still learning!), I’ve learnt I have everything inside of me that I need, I show myself the love I needed all that time ago, I’ve learnt what’s really important to me, how to take risks that stretch me in growth, I’ve learnt how to shrug off the remnants from my addictions (when they come knocking) I indulge myself every day in what makes me happy; no substances, just animals and the beach. I work to keep balance on my ‘Life Wheel’ and I nurture my most precious relationships, for this is where so much of my joy lives.

As challenging as it is in those first stages of finding stability, there is so much to hang on for. I totally get why some people stop treatment and revert to their old selves, but I would love to assure you that when you push through the tough bits you are rewarded by a new calmer way of life. I’m a fan of the saying ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’, and this couldn’t be truer in personal development and mental wellbeing.

For those awesome people out there trying to support someone through these challenges, the most helpful things for me were helping me find fun again, trying hard to understand how ‘blah’ life feels and getting me along to fun events. Joy is a great healer. Be patient and show understanding, the emotional rollercoaster makes it difficult for everyone, and finally, encourage them to attend regular therapy to keep learning new ways for their emotional wellbeing.

The Abilities of a Young Mind

Recently I was out for dinner with a girlfriend when she received a call from her husband because her daughter wanted to say goodnight. Her daughter was feeling sad that her Mum wasn’t there for the normal bedtime routine. I listened to my friend gently talking to her daughter, validating her feelings and assuring her how much she loved her and missed her also, but they would see each other in the morning.

As I sat there I wondered to myself how different life would’ve been had I been parented by someone who validated my emotions like that when I was a child.

Now, before I go further, I will say that my parents ‘parented’ the general way most people parented back then with comments like ‘come on, cheer up’ or ‘you’ll be alright’. Of course, I survived, but in the spirit of there always being room for improvement I strongly believe validating children’s feelings and helping them make sense of their emotions makes a HUGE difference to how they function as an adult.

The way we cope with adversity in life comes from how we were taught; from watching others, or what we’ve been told is ok or not ok to do, or from doing the exact opposite of what we’ve seen or experienced. Once we are adults, unless we make a definite effort to change how we deal with life, we continue to do the same thing. For those who learnt healthy coping skills, this works great! For those who didn’t, it can be tough, and lead to the prolonging of mental and emotional distress. The waters are murky by the time we are adults if we have trouble coping with stress and difficult emotions, finding the clearer waters can be like sieving mud in an estuary.

As adults, anyone can learn new skills, but can you imagine how awesome a little person would be if we taught these skills to them? They are absolutely in their prime to learn this stuff! Anything we talk to them about becomes normal to them and anything we teach them as simply a-way-of-life is taken in and absorbed like a sponge. It sticks. Ahhhh…..the abilities of a young mind!

What if we taught children ways to deal with stress, anxiety, hurt, and other normal low feelings we all experience at times. Teach them ways so they can bounce back much quicker and ways to calm themselves.

Can you imagine how different life would be with skills in-built for when you get to your teens and adulthood? I can!!

As parents, we spend lots of time teaching our children about their physical safety, from not hurting themselves on plug sockets, to crossing the road, to not burning themselves on the oven or fireplace, to hygiene. This training is extensive and goes on for years! But how much time do we spend teaching them about their mental health?

This is the very reason I’ve created ‘Offspring Wellbeing’, to teach adults skills to help children have better emotional and mental wellbeing.

Our mental health system is limping, operating out of the ole ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ scenario. It is severely underfunded and will take a long time to fix. We have people working hard to fix this, but in the meantime what can WE do??

We focus on the next generation! Our children. Can you imagine how different society would look in 15yrs time if we have a hoard of young people coming through with wellbeing skills that would help them through times of adversity? There would be much less strain on our mental health system and much more Wellness.

Let’s do this!

My nudge from The Universe

This morning I had what I would call a ‘loud’ experience. It wasn’t ‘noise’ loud, but slap you round the face loud.

I am a believer in ‘The Universe’, what you put out – you get back, you ask – and you receive, and what you need is presented to you.

This morning I took my two children to the hot pools, for them to play and me to relax. Lately, I have been feeling like I’ve lost my mojo-for-life and while I’ve been on a major health and fitness journey, I’ve been neglecting other important parts of me; so before we left this morning I did some EFT (emotional freedom tapping) to release some built up emotions. I lay trust in myself and my ability to navigate this phase and asked the universe for guidance.

Thank you, once again you delivered.

While relaxing in the pool a very kind and friendly man approached us and started randomly chatting. He was telling us about how he practices gratitude while walking his dog early in the morning, using prayer beads and finding something to be grateful for each of the 110 beads. A challenge he said.

I felt like bursting into tears, for the loudest slap had landed on my cheek, a reminder of how much I value gratitude – from this stranger. He was put in my path today and I’m grateful.

It’s so easy for us to remember these wellness aspects when we are bumbling along and life is tickety-boo, but once something takes a slight deviation from our happy course it’s easy for us to forget. I find when I’m in this space I need to up my game and implement lots of my feel-good tools; journaling, gratitude, affirmations, daily intentions, mindfulness, exercise, eating well and spending time with dear friends.

Once again….Thank you.

The Colour of My Life

I have led a pretty colourful life. A life I am so proud to say has been full to the brim with experiences. There have been crazy times, out of this world times, desperate times, loving times, petrifying times, eye-opening times and hilarious times. I have fought, I have won and I have lost. I have gained an amazing amount of perspective and know myself inside and out.

I have failed, as a daughter, a friend, a wife, a mother but the most hurtful one is how I failed myself time and time again learning some of my colourful lessons. I was an addict who went back for more, even knowing the after effects would be hurtful and ugly. I had an untreated mental illness and struggled to get any emotional traction in life.

I have risen up and succeeded, as a daughter, a friend, a wife and a mother. But the most amazingly satisfying success has been for myself, learning some more of my wonderful colourful lessons! I’ve learnt how to turn my demon’s into loving strengths and how to set my heart and mind free.

Your failings and your wins are what make you who you are, celebrate your colour! Too many of us see our hard times as just that, but they are what shape us.

I prefer living life in colour.

The Man I Let Treat Me Like I Was Nothing.

Overwrought by uncontrollable tears. I’m lying in the bath feeling alone and desperately sad.

My boyfriend who was living with me simply didn’t ‘do’ emotion, or ‘my’ emotion at least. He would dismiss my feelings, ignore me when he got home at night, telling me he needed quiet time.

He had chosen a lively, talkative young woman as his girlfriend, full of love, life and gusto, however, it didn’t take long for him to find these attributes too much for him to handle.

I look back on this particular relationship with a lot of disappointment. He wasn’t kind to my heart and didn’t care for my emotional wellbeing.

I had no idea I had bipolar disorder; it went undiagnosed for many more years. I was a happy outgoing 21yr old, living it up in London. I found ways to self-soothe, build my confidence and enhance my life; I was an addict. I used alcohol, drugs and men to fulfil my needs to make myself feel better. I had operated like this for a long time, but it was at an all-time high when I moved to London that year.

From the outside, I looked like I had it together. I managed a Hairdressing Salon in London and I had my own flat. I was an explorer; I travelled many places both with friends or on my own. I was a chatterbox who never had trouble making friends. I partied hard and was always in the middle of a damn good time. From the outside, I looked like a confident young woman making the most of being young and free.

On the inside. I woke most days feeling like utter rubbish. I would call home nearly every morning alternating between my best friend, my Mum, and my Dad. That was how I started my day. I guess living alone had its disadvantages but I felt living with a stranger would be equally problematic.

I socialised a lot. I would go out and have a great time and boost myself the best way that I knew how. I always had a great time. People only saw the ‘fun’ Bex. But the next morning I would wake up feeling terrible again.

Over the years that low feeling in the morning fluctuated, and one of those points was where I started this post when my boyfriend was living with me. It was morning, I was trying to get myself together so I could go to work. I was lying in the bath sobbing, not just trickling tears, chest heaving sorrow. That morning, my boyfriend popped his head in and said: “I’m going”. I asked him “do you have to go right now?”, I was desperate for some love and kindness. He grumbled and left. He didn’t even acknowledge my emotional state. The after effects of that gesture were everlasting and corroded what little love we had left.

When I think of the lowest times in my life, that one always jumps to mind quickly. It was an awful situation I had myself in. Our relationship had been on and off due to his inability to decide if he loved me or not.

Everything I have done in my life I can look back on and see what I gained from it, often it is a lesson. I don’t have regrets, cause I see no point in regrets. It’s self-damaging. I own my mistakes and learn from them.  So what did I learn from this man? It wasn’t as much as I have learned from other relationships, I will say that, but I have never ever since then been in any type of relationship where I am not valued and cared for. To have let him walk away from me that morning like my emotional wellbeing meant nothing to him, and then return that night and sleep in my bed, was me accepting behaviour that was damaging to who I was.

I do recognise that perhaps it was hard to live with me back then. I lived on a daily emotional rollercoaster and didn’t realise how incredibly messed up I was nor that I had a mental illness. Half of me was the picture of a fun, hot, sexy girlfriend, and the other half was a hot mess. Either way, illness or no illness, I accepted him dismissing me, and I  own that. We were not a match made in heaven.

When we have a mental illness we generally feel unworthy of love. We feel like the biggest burden on earth, and sadly that is often the reason people commit suicide, they believe their loved ones would be better off without them. This is how we can end up in relationships that treat us less than we deserve. We either cannot see we deserve more and just take what we are getting, or we aren’t in the headspace to make a positive change for ourselves and NOT accept it.

A person who loves you completely will continue to support you through it and keep showing you that you ARE worthy.

That was at a very turbulent time of my life, and the height of my addictions. It is now, 17 years on that the story is incredibly different. I gained a beautiful life by dealing with the addictions and the underlying reason why I was self-soothing and I remain stable by using healthy coping skills, taking medication and by keeping my wellness as balanced as I can.

 

Rebecca Allen - bexallen.com

 

Resting B!tch Face or Peace?

I recently had a trigger when a person considered me and my business a threat and reacted by being childish and rude. It hit me for six, I wasn’t expecting anything of the sort. It took me three attempts at contacting her to realise that I hadn’t actually made a mistake; she was being deliberately rude to me.

When I realised that, the first thought that came to mind was “well if she goes around perceiving everyone as a competition, then competition is what she will attract”. Now that’s not me sticking my finger up and saying “I’ll show you”, its what I believe about the law of attraction. I cannot stress how happy I was that that was my first thought! Yes, there were other thoughts that crept in like ‘giving her a piece of my mind’ etc but I left those thoughts behind, lowering to her level would upset me further. I do not consider myself a threat to her, nor her a threat to me, full stop.

The following day after my self-realisation, it was suggested to me, completely out of the blue by a person I was having a random conversation with, to approach a business who were currently unhappy with their current service. Guess what…..it was that rude woman who they were unhappy with. Karma? Whatever you call it, it was incredibly uncanny.

It wasn’t long after this I was invited into a group of like-minded people in the same industry who are of the collaboration mindset or abundance theory mindset. I have never met such an amazing group of strangers, so willing to share knowledge, and clients if they themselves are busy. It has been such an UPLIFTING experience. Collaboration beats competition hands down, every time.

Abundance theory is a mindset that looks at each glass as half full (if not fuller) and sees the world as offering endless opportunity. There is more than enough for everybody. When you live like this, you simply attract more of this.

Once upon a time that negative interaction I had with that lady would’ve really knocked me, for days, perhaps longer. I would’ve taken it personally and thought I had done something to deserve being treated that way.

To see how we have grown without noticing those little steps along the way that have got us to this point is priceless.

The steps that have got me to where I am are-

  • Seeing ‘first hand’ how positively the abundance mindset works for some people I’ve met.
  • GRATITUDE: The biggest mindset changer for me, being grateful for every opportunity we have no matter what the outcome is, and being grateful for everything in my life; past and present, grateful for the good and not so good, all of it have made me into the woman I am today.
  • Understanding the law of attraction and practising it. Once on this ride, you will notice how we all attract what we get. If we experience constant let downs or stresses, this is what we will continue to attract. But when we purposefully practice abundance and love or other positive things, that’s also what we will attract.

We cannot change how others interact with us, but we can change the way we ‘perceive’ their interactions with us. The way I noticed that that woman was setting herself up for competition, rather than focusing on why she reacted negatively toward ‘me’, is a positive self-preservation mindset. Everyone can do this!

Still, like air,I rise.

When Self-Soothing Turns Ugly

I’m very open and have made it common knowledge the issues I have had with addictions in my past. It was my way of self-soothing, confidence building and life-enhancing the best way I knew how. I was a heavy drinker, a partaker in drugs and I gained all of my self-worth from men who wanted me.

There are countless movies and novels out there where some person is living a crazy life and uses addictions to cope. Three instantly pop into mind, Sandra Bullock’s “28 days”, Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” and Marian Keyes book “Rachel’s Holiday”. I found these all highly entertaining, as I could see myself in all of them. Funny as entertainment, yes, but when you zoom out, the story is bigger and much darker.

I was always the party girl. I would never agree to be the sober driver because that would’ve meant me actually being sober! In fact, I remember the last time I was the sober driver; it was my 17th birthday and my best friend and I had stopped into a party where our other friends were. As we got there they were all about to pile into a car and head into town to hit the bars. They were already drunk and planning on driving so I jumped in and offered to drive as I was still sober. That was the only time I recall being sober-driver while I was living that life.

Being sober to me was unbearable in any situation where others were having fun and weren’t sober.

I now look back on that Rebecca and see all the discomfort she was covering up. I required all of the false boosting because without it I felt sad, insecure, boring, not good enough, shameful, and mighty angry.

Addictions are complicated. We partake in something that is not good for us physically, mentally and emotionally, yet when acting on the addiction it feels so damn good. Someone once asked me why I kept taking ecstasy when the come down was sooooo bad for me, the simple answer was that the high outweighed the come-down.

Whether the addiction is drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, prescription meds, food, shopping or smoking, they’ve become an addiction because they play with the fancy feel-good receptors in our brains. There is a rush, or a high or a feeling of calm, that the person feels unable to gain without their chosen indulgence.

I think ‘addictions’ are often related to severe drug abuse, severe alcoholics, gamblers who have lost everything, and obesity or anorexia sufferers. This isn’t the case. There is a large grey area in addictions, where people are affected differently. I’ve heard many people say to me that ‘they could stop if they wanted to’, but they just don’t want to. Yes, that probably is true, but what I encourage people to look at is how their behaviour affects their lives and those in their lives including their partners, children, work colleagues, family etc, then and only then, can a person decide if there are disruptions to those relationships and if they are willing to make some changes for.

Deep down inside I knew I had a problem for a long time, but didn’t realise how bad it was, how much I was covering up and how much it had affected relationships in my life. I was argumentative and somewhat aggressive when drinking because underneath it all I was SO UNBELIEVABLY PISSED OFF. I had no idea why I was so angry, but I just couldn’t bear to sit in those feelings. I would just lather over the feelings with things that made me feel good.

How did I stop? With the help of a psychotherapist, I first learnt what was underneath all of the covering up, and to work on those issues. Then, with every unhealthy mechanism I stopped, it would be replaced by a new healthy coping skill. Consciously choosing ‘distraction’ was one of my first steps. I would throw myself into something like exercise, calling a close friend, or losing myself in something crafty, anything that I knew that could move my thoughts.

When I felt the urge to drink, it was nearly always because I’d had a negative experience. Learning to accept and ride out the negative feelings was completely new to me as I had always glossed over them in the past. I learnt a new skill that helped me practically deal with any uncomfortable feelings that came up by using ‘wise mind’. It is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the wise mind skill is taught to help people who are conditioned to invalidating their experience, to instead relearn to find and listen to their inner wisdom, or intuition. Wise Mind is about using both emotion and intellect to inform decisions in the service of better judgment and balanced decision-making. If there was just one reason a person should seek professional help with addictions, this is it. They teach you other healthy ways to process your triggers. Having those skills makes the journey 500% easier!

Codependency