What an amazing experience going live on Facebook and Youtube with Jen Clements, from Thrivalist Sobriety, and Freddie van Rensburg, counsellor, to discuss sober living tips in celebration of my 12 years of sobriety.
One thing that I have learned about recovery over the last 12 years is that there is always something new to learn and there are always more things to add to your recovery toolkit.
Talking to Jen was an absolute treat as she is in a slightly different field in recovery, focusing on those people that are struggling with their drinking rather than raging alcoholics that require hardcore rehabilitation.
Freddie and I go way back and we have had many discussions about addiction, recovery and mental health, but as always he has opened my mind to many new things.
Jen is a South African sobriety coach living in Australia. This is a career that she got into organically through her own process of trying and failing to get sober through Alcoholics Anonymous. She felt like she didn’t fit neatly into that box as she does not identify as an alcoholic but rather a grey area drinker.
Through trial and error she managed to free herself from her addiction which lead her to sharing her story on social media and in turn this lead to people reaching out to her for help and she started coaching people for free.
She was working full time as a lawyer and doing the coaching on the side. She fell in love with helping others and saw that there was a gap in the market assisting the grey area drinkers. She quit her legal career and studied life coaching, specializing in sobriety coaching for women.
She runs an 8 week sobriety course for women with her business partner Lucy. You can find out more about their course on their website Thrivalist.
I came across Jen’s Instagram channel a while back and the positivity and enthusiasm really caught my attention. I had to get in contact with her and ask her to join us for this live video to spread such an important message.
Freddie van Rensburg
Freddie is a drug addict, alcoholic, sex addict and codependent who has been clean for 10 years. He is a counsellor with a focus on addiction and he has the spirituality podcast called Meet Me In The Field. In fact I was a guest on his podcast in 2018 and you can listen to that podcast here.
I met Freddie when I was working as the house manager of a rehab and he came in as a client. We have stayed in touch and become good friends over the years. It has been so inspiring watching his journey and in recent years working together to spread the word of recovery.
A Little Bit About Addiction and Recovery
Addiction is very often a very misunderstood topic and there is also so much stigma surrounding addiction.
The truth is that addiction is a widespread problem that is increasing all the time. Addiction knows no boundaries, it can happen to anyone from any country, any race, gender and any upbringing.
Addiction very simply put is using something outside of yourself to change how you feel. It can be a substance that you use, such as alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs. You can also become addicted to many other things such as exercise, sex, relationships, pornography, work, self harm, gambling, the internet or your mobile phone.
The real problem of addiction is not the drug, substance or action you are addicted to, it is not being able to face whatever you are feeling in a healthy way. If you remove the drug the addictive behaviour is very much still there. This means that the hard work of recovery is only about to begin when you remove the drug.
The hard work is getting to the root cause of the addiction, it is facing all the negative self talk, the negative self talk and the dangerous behaviour patterns. This is why sober living tips are so important.
My addiction kicked off at the age of 14 years old. Following being raped I started cutting myself. Very soon I started drinking followed by taking drugs. Although being raped did send me spiraling out of control I don’t believe that was the root cause of my addiction as I was already struggling.
I spent the next 15 years in abusive relationships with men and using drugs and alcohol to numb my feelings. I was stuck in a vicious cycle that I struggled to get out of. In 2008 I went first into a psych ward, then into an outpatient addiction program, then into a safe living home and then backwards again into a secondary care rehabilitation facility.
I stayed in secondary care for 3 months and then into a series of safe living homes. By the time I was ready for the real world I had spent close to a year in treatment.
For a year following that I worked in the secondary care facility full time, in a live-in position, as the house manager. It gave me an incredible insight into recovery and addiction which I will be forever grateful for.
Sober Living Tips
I have written many sober living tips on my blogs over the years but having guests join me live to share their sober living tips has brought many new angles and ideas that have not been shared on any of my platforms before.
This is one of the big things I have had to learn in recovery – how to take responsibility for my life and for my part in things. In active addiction I pointed fingers at everyone and everything. It was not easy for me to see how I was making my life a misery.
Now that I am 12 years in recovery it is just as important for me to always look at myself and what is my responsibility before I look elsewhere. It is so important for me to take ownership of the things that I do wrong.
It is when I stop looking at myself and start being resentful and laying blame everywhere but my own feet that I start seeing things in my life going wrong.
So always keep your side of the street clean. Own your issues.
The Gentle Art Of Self-care
Self-care is such an important part of recovery. Those in active addiction have a tendency not to look after themselves and when this happens it is not easy to love yourself.
Be kind to yourself, look after yourself and in time you will learn to love yourself.
This is especially tough when you are a mom, it is not easy to find the time to take a bubble bath, or have a nap. There is also the element of mom guilt that comes in, that perhaps you should be doing the dishes, cleaning the house, playing with your kids or any of the other hundreds of things that pile up on our to do lists.
Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. So put yourself first and stop feeling guilty, because looking after yourself is looking after everyone else.
Another aspect of self-care is to be kind to yourself in the way that you talk to yourself. Take note of how you currently talk to yourself and start to change that. If you do something wrong do you call yourself stupid? Do you look at yourself in the mirror and call yourself ugly or fat? You do not deserve treatment from anyone, including yourself.
Start replacing this negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Positive affirmations are a fantastic way to change this and start being kind to yourself.
Removing Your Desire To Drink
In order to enjoy sobriety it is so important to learn how to proactively remove the desire to drink, use drugs or engage in any other addictive behaviour.
You can work on actively deconditioning your subconscious mind from all the untrue subconscious beliefs that you hold about alcohol, drugs or the addictive behaviour. You only desire something that you believe is beneficial to you. So you only crave something if you desire it and you only desire it if you think it is beneficial.
For example, from a young age we are conditioned by society, the media, our peers, our family and others that there are many benefits to drinking alcohol, including to relax and to be sociable.
A fantastic book to read is This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. It takes all the common untruths of our beliefs about alcohol, it gives us awareness of our beliefs around alcohol and it gives us clarity around what the truth is about those beliefs so that we can turn those untrue beliefs around.
The next thing you can do to remove the desire to drink is to give your body what it needs.
Most people that are addicted have depleted brain chemistry. When you have these imbalances in your brain chemistry you are more susceptible to addictive behaviour and cravings. When we don’t restore that depleted brain chemistry we are at risk of white knuckling and at addiction transference because we are going to look elsewhere to get dopamine hits and correct the imbalances in our brain.
By taking supplements to support replenishing these neurotransmitters we can squash cravings.
It is important to take note that every person is different so it is important to find out what your body needs. You can do this by seeing an integrative doctor or a functional doctor and get tests done to find out what depleted brain chemistry you may be suffering from.
Another amazing resource you can make use of is The Diet Cure by Julia Ross. It has a self diagnostic questionnaire in it which helps you to figure out what depleted brain chemistry you have and it has chapters in the book the help you to put together your own supplemental plan.
Spirituality is a very important aspect of staying clean. Spirituality does not necessarily mean religion but it can religion if that works well for you.
For people that are not religious the topic of spirituality can be a challenge. Being spiritual is simply being a better person and the ability to make better decisions.
Find a higher power that can help you in your recovery. It can be mother nature, it can be your support group or anything that is more powerful than you.
Spirituality is very personal and will be different for everyone.
Behaviour Change Through Habits
It is not easy to change your behaviour or the way that you think, but through changing your habits you can make some big changes over time. Take the mind and the body will follow.
The Power Pose is a great tool to use. Choose a pose that makes you feel powerful and stay in that pose for 2 minutes when you start your day. You can also make use of it when you are in a stressful situation to help you cope better.
Another fantastic resource is Atomic Habits by by James Clear. It is all about behaviour change through habits. Small sustainable habits over time build lasting changes. James Clear talks about adopting identity based habits. So think about the person you want to be and then make a list of habits that this type of person would do and then start going these things. You can change who you are by what you repeatedly do.
Active Voice Recognition Technique
This technique involves separating your true self from your addiction. Your addiction has a voice and those are all the thoughts and the words that you speak that support using.
You can name your addictive voice and give it an identity. You can then start to challenge this addictive voice.
Your addictive voice does not care about your dreams, your health or your future – the only goal of your addictive voice is to get you to use. Before recognizing, naming and identifying your addictive voice it is easy to think that you are having an argument with yourself in your head and then making a decision. After putting your addictive voice in a box you are able to challenge your addictive voice with your true self.
Having your addictive voice with it’s own name and identity, and being able to challenge anything it says and not falling for what it says is really powerful.
You can also tell on your addictive voice, by talking to a friend or family member that supports you. By exposing your addictive voice you are weakening it and making your true self stronger.
The more you challenge your addictive voice and not give into it the more disempowered it becomes.
It is important to note that while the addictive voice may be weak, it is still sitting there saying things every now and then. If you relapse and start drinking or using again it will come roaring back to life.
Gratitude is essential to long term recovery. In active addiction we are self-entitled and everything is about us. When we get into recovery we realize how resentful, angry and self-entitled we have been and we need to bring gratitude into our lives.
Focusing on what we have instead of what we don’t have will lift us up immediately. Writing a daily gratitude list is a fantastic way to start the day and keep our focus in the right place.
What Are You Really Craving?
Beneath every craving there is an unmet need. It is important to figure out what you are craving because it is never truly the alcohol or drug, it is never going to solve the problem.
If we are feeling good it means that our needs are being met, but if we are feeling bad our needs are not being met. We need to assess our feelings and find out what need we have that is not being met. Once we know which need is not being met we can come up with a healthy way to meet that need.
Connection – The Opposite Of Addiction
The opposite of addiction is connection. During active addiction we become disconnected and isolated from our family, our loved ones and everyone else. As our addiction spirals out of control we feel more and more shame. Chances are good that we are shunned from society for being weak, pathetic and useless.
It is essential as we recover and work on ourselves that we focus on connecting with others and work on our relationships with our loved ones.
This video below by Johann Hari is fantastic and inspiring to watch.
Making A Rock Solid Decision To Quit And Not Questioning That Decision
Making a rock solid decision to quit is essential to any recovery program that you are going to work. It is also vitally important not to question that decision to quit.
When you leave the option on the table you are leaving yourself open to relapse. The start of a relapse always happens long before you pick up a drink or drugs. It happens when you start questioning your decision to quit and when you start listening to your addictive voice.
Part of reaching this decision means coming to understand and accept that you are unable to moderate your drinking and you never will. Once you have crossed the line into being a problem drinker or a raging alcoholic there is no going back over that line.
Another excellent tool in making this decision rock solid and sticking to it is to hold a sacred quitting ceremony. You you are needing to undergo a big identity change from a drinker to a non-drinker. For any huge life change you hold a ceremony, such as a wedding to go from single to married.
Jen shares in the video what she did for her quitting ceremony and it sounds amazing. The most important thing is that your quitting ceremony needs to resonate with you.
Once that ceremony has been done then you need to remember, not one drink, no matter what.
Watch Out For Your Recovery Milestones
All recovery milestones are something to celebrate, but it is so important to always be careful and pay attention heading up to and after your milestones.
My milestones are always a time of intense emotion for me, even now with 12 years sobriety it is tough. I feel intense feelings of sadness For the life that I had, for the things that I lost, for friends that are still in active addiction, for friend that have died due to addiction… I also have feelings of intense happiness and gratitude.
For example my sponsor died a few years ago. This is the person that helped me get clean and held my hand, guiding me through the early years of my sobriety. She was stronger than me and so amazing. Then 2 years ago she relapsed and died. I was devastated, I still am. All of these feelings come up for me again when I have my milestones.
As an addict I struggle with my feelings, so this makes my milestones hard to handle.
I have also seen many addicts relapse around milestones, it is so common and often catches people unaware. So take note of your milestones and prepare yourself mentally for them.
Even though you may get clean through one type of program there are many different modalities that you can make use of. Perhaps you have tried one way to get clean and stay sober and it has not worked, don’t give up. There are many ways to get clean so keep on looking and researching until you find something that works for you.
Freddie and I both got clean through the 12 Step Program but Jen never managed to stay clean that way and found a different route to get clean through coaching and trying a lot of different things that she researched.
For myself personally, although I got clean through the 12 Step Program I don’t always follow it 100%. There are things that I implement in my daily life from the 12 steps but I don’t attend many meetings or have a sponsor anymore. However I do have a fantastic group of friends both in recovery and out that are very supportive that I can lean on when things get tough.
A huge part of my recovery process is sharing my experiences to help others, which is ultimately the twelfth step but done in my own way.
Along with all the books mentioned in this post there are many more resources for addiction, recovery and mental health that you can make use of.
Dr Gabor Maté
Dr Gabor Maté is fantastic and I have just been introduced to his work by Jen in the live video. He focuses on the pain behind the addiction, so instead of asking why the addiction, he asks why the pain. Read his blog post Beyond Drugs: The Universal Experience Of Addiction.
He also offers courses and he has some amazing blog posts on his website.
Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Quit Smoking
A huge focus of this video turned to quitting smoking through questions during the live video. Nicotine is an incredibly hard addiction to quit. I know from personal experience quitting smoking close on 5 years ago.
I made use of my 12 step program and all of the recovery tools I had up until that point, in addition to reading Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Quit Smoking. It is a superb book that I found so interesting and useful in helping me to get rid of all my untrue beliefs about smoking.
I highly recommend that you read it if you are serious about wanting to quit smoking. It was a game changer for me. He also offers seminars and my sister took part in one. She said it was superb.
SMART recovery teaches scientifically validated methods which are designed to empower you to change and to develop a more positive lifestyle. I’ve never attended a SMART recovery meeting before but I have checked out there website and it looks so interesting and something I would love to do at some stage.
Alanon is the 12 step program for people that are trying to help (and cope with) a loved one that is an alcoholic.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the 12 step program for alcoholics.