The vulnerability of happiness

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on

It is often said that we are at our most vulnerable in terms of irrational thinking and behaviours when we are under stress – going through a difficult time at work, financial worries, bereavement, relationships, etc. but I find that my vulnerability (and I’m talking on a personal level about my sobriety) is often when I’m happy and content.

My alcohol dependency manifested during some very dark months but my relationship with alcohol was built on the foundations of enjoyment, care free thinking and socialising. Now that I have my mental health in a good place (which isn’t something I’ve been able to say often since I started this Blog) my addictive voice is trying to latch on to the feel good factor after failing to win the battle against my rational thinking when I was going through a rough time earlier in the year.

Instead of my ‘beast’ as many people who use AVRT like myself like to call it solely waiting for the opportunity to strike when I’m feeling down, it has started creeping into my head when I’m out running, out for a meal with my friends and today for example, simply because it was sunny and I passed a pub beer garden. Now don’t get me wrong, my beast has used those examples many times in the past when I have been in various places on the mental health continuum scale to try and lure me back to alcohol but it tended to be at it’s quietest when I was happy. This is a different tactic and it caught me off guard if I’m being honest.

No I haven’t drank alcohol and no I haven’t started planning to but for the first time in at least a month to six weeks I’ve had a real battle over the last 48 hours and it has been a reminder that we can’t let our guard down in recovery. I’m not recovered, I’m still recovering.

I disagree with the simplistic language that Jack Trimpey, author of Rational Recovery and the AVRT (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique) Guru uses at times where he states that once you put your Big Plan in place you are free of your past. I know people who have used AVRT and indeed consider themselves ‘broken free’ of their addiction and I have no doubt that will be me one day but you have to get to that place first. It’s a path that you need to go down and experience, something I am clearly still doing based on what I’m sharing today.

I understand AVRT and I understand my mental health. It has taken a long time for me to be able to say that though. I’ve been able to stay sober and rationally overcome my addictive voice this week because of the understanding I have developed since my journey began back in February 2021.

That’s all for today. Short and sweet. It was simply a reminder to others who are trying to stay sober that it’s not uncommon to have some of your biggest battles when you are happy – our addiction will do anything to get what it wants so stay focused on that goal you set back on Day 1. To not drink or use again.

Living Alone

It’s been a while since I last blogged but with the skies clearing and my mind more settled of late I wanted to share how things are going.

I’ve moved out of the family home and now live about 4 miles away from my wife and two daughters. It’s been a busy and stressful period (as house moves always are!) but most of the essentials are in place along with the majority of the household admin you are forced to endure (council tax, utilities, insurance, etc).

I’m not going to go into detail about my marriage because it’s not fair for me to share stuff which relates to my wife, who I will always love and respect – especially as the mother of our two little girls. All I will say is that I have to take responsibility for the way things have turned out and I now have a period of personal reflection and growth to do over the coming months and years. I’ve lost the family unit which I took for granted far too often in the past but I won’t lose my wife as a life long friend and the love and connection I have with my daughters.

Returning to work after 5 months away has also been a rollercoaster. It’s the longest I’ve ever spent away from my job in the 16 years I’ve been there so it’s been tiring and a bit anxiety inducing getting back into a routine and returning to the fold. Throw in the fact I’m still on tenterhooks with regards to my daughter’s recovery from her illness, the house move and the separation from my longterm partner and I’d be forgiven for being a little wobbly. That’s where sobriety is important.

It would be far too easy to feel sorry for myself or justify using alcohol to help take the edge off. Especially now I live on my own. Sure, the girls have started staying over now that I have furniture but they primarily live with their Mum so I spend a lot of time on my own in a new village, living a sober existence which limits the amount of time I see my friends (because going to the pub is the default location for socialising around here).

I’m running, I’m busy making this new place my own and Yoga class is still a fixture each week. I’m aiming to work back in the office much more to avoid the isolation that working from home can create and I’m seeing a Therapist (as I have done since just before Christmas). I’m doing a lot of things right and the grip alcohol has had on me in the past and on occasions in recent history isn’t there at the moment. I’m feeling pretty relaxed and optimistic about the future so it’s imperative I use that current mindset to springboard myself into a positive Summer. Even just seeing more of the Sun since the end of March has been a mental lift.

I continue to use the fundamentals of AVRT (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique) as my default approach to managing any feelings or internal conversations about having a drink because knowing my ‘beast’ – it’ll latch on to me when I’m alone and feeling a bit bored or reflective. I have little desire to drink socially these days and will generally be ok when I’m in environments where alcohol is present (despite making a conscious effort to minimise my time in those places) but it’s when I’m alone in the security of my own home that I find things ramping up a few gears. That’s when I have to dig in and use the tools which have served me so well since February 2021. Prior to me entering recovery 26 months ago I was drinking most days and binging pretty much every time I did pick up alcohol. I was bloated, depressed and at times suicidal. I felt more alone than I ever have despite having my loving family right under my nose. Yes, I’ve had a few moments of weakness in the last two years or so but thankfully they have been few and far between when you look at how much of this time I’ve spent sober and mentally stable. I won’t dismiss that progress and nobody can take that away from me either.

I can’t change the past but I can learn from my mistakes and experiences to shape my future. I will work hard on me every day. If I do that I know I can be the best Daddy, friend, family member and work colleague to the people around me.