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Feeling the Fear & Doing it Anyway | A decade into Sobriety

I’m not usually one to sit and ponder a whole year or a whole decade – possibly because it feels too overwhelming, possibly because I often have a sense that I haven’t achieved ‘enough’, possibly because I practise self-reflection Every. Single. Day as part of my daily routine so I don’t feel the necessity.

It’s also very easy for me to focus on where I think I ‘should’ be, instead of looking at how far I’ve come, so with the intention of redirecting my focus, here’s a little reflection on what I’ve learned, and relearned, this year.

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🌈I can handle it 

Despite my experience of achieving what I thought was impossible (a decade of sobriety and abstinence from self-harm, one day at a time) my old thought patterns can still persist. My default whispers of ‘I can’t handle this/ It’s too hard/ I want to give up’ have limited me immeasurably over the years and I am again relearning that I can handle it/ I can do it/ and that perseverance yields results.

The messages we tell ourselves have an unfathomably enormous effect on our lives and so by transforming our inner dialogue, we transform our outer lives. Telling myself ‘I can handle it’ (when I’ve often convinced myself I can’t) has truly been life-changing.

🌈 My feelings, my choices, my actions are MY responsibility

I was introduced to this truth when I first entered recovery and it was probably the most difficult lesson for me to accept. I’d spent my life blaming others for the way I was and the way I reacted; it was always somebody else’s fault, never my own. If I was miserable and suffering, it was your fault. To therefore be asked to digest the unpalatable truth that I was in fact responsible for all these things… I was horrified.

It has taken me years of oscillating between acceptance and resistance of this notion, consistently feeling the pull back into blaming, but this year, having read some incredible books (eg. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway) and working with an incredible breathwork practitioner (Olga Circles) I have felt a truly pivotal shift in my understanding of self-responsibility.

🌈 To reconnect to the spiritual path after heart ache and disappointment

Throughout the last decade my morning practise has proved to be an integral piece in my healing. (By morning practise I mean my *almost* daily routine of reading spiritual literature, journaling, affirmations, gratitude lists, yoga and meditation – *almost* every day I utilise a combination of these tools.) Despite knowing the profound impact this has had on my life, I have frequently experienced resistance to it and over time had become complacent and even negligent – possibly because it can feel counter-intuitive (my ego doesn’t want to be silenced), possibly because it’s hard, possibly because growth can be slow and I allowed my impatience to win.

This year however, after quite an extended period of ‘slackness’, my life circumstances shifted and I was left feeling bereft and desperate. Instead of reacting emotionally and destructively, I miraculously felt the pull to reconnect to my spiritual path and began a gentle but regimented daily practise (incorporating all of the above tools). Within weeks I felt transformed and was reminded that ‘doing the work’ really really does work!

🌈 Resistance (for me) is inevitable, and that’s ok!

Some people seem to heal effortlessly – they seem to grasp new concepts and new ideas with fervour and embrace growth & change whole-heartedly. I on the other hand seem to need my claws prizing away from old ideas and old beliefs. I judge myself for being this way, often wishing I could just let go of my resistance, but have recently been reminded (through exploring Buddhism) that this is NORMAL.

Growing can be uncomfortable. Facing yourself can be uncomfortable. Sitting through pain and discomfort is definitely uncomfortable. It’s not surprising I experience resistance. Knowing this and introducing self-compassion to my daily practise has been hugely helpful.

🌈 Humour is everything

When faced with what we label as ‘awful’, laughter can be transformative. It lessens the pain, it takes away the shame, it connects us. In the midst of my old life I don’t remember having a sense of humour. Now, the ability to laugh at myself and inject humour into a situation full of pathos is one of the greatest gifts I have.

🌈 I can walk through fear

Despite consistent evidence in my life that walking through fear is possible, my thinking can still default to old patterns. I have been reminded again this year that pushing through fear is far less frightening and far less painful than sitting in inaction (thank you Susan Jeffers!) Walking through the discomfort and asking for support has led me to achieving things I never imagined I could.

🌈 To live with uncertainty

To lean into it with an open heart and ride the wave in the direction it’s going, wide eyed to possibility. It is only through practise and willingness that I have been able to do this, as for me, uncertainty gives me itchy blood. To sit in ambiguity, to let go of expectations and mental scripting, to dissolve all the ‘shoulds’ – this is where the work lies. It’s hard. It can be disorienting. But it’s oh so freeing and I have deep wells of gratitude for the gift of this practice.

🌈 My ‘tribe’ is everything

Without connection I would simply wither away. I am fortunate enough to be deeply nourished by two tribes: my recovery group and my ‘home alone’ group. The women in recovery who walk this path with me are my life line. To share our lives together, our experiences, our struggles and our successes keeps me afloat. No one gets me like they do. We have a wordless connection, our hearts are interwoven and our stories save each other. My heart surges with gratitude when I think about them. I owe them my life. And the women who comprise our ‘home alone’ group – our incredible network of sole business owners/ warriors – support and inspire me everyday. They are awe-inspiring, resilient and brilliant women and I am privileged to call them my closest friends. I learn and re-learn all the time how important these GODDESSES are to me.💖🙏🏻

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Celebrating 10 Years Sober | Sobriety Birthday Cards

On 26th July 2019, aged 39 yrs young, I turned 10 years sober (and abstinent from self-harm for the same amount of time). 10 fucking years! A whole decade. This felt like an enormous milestone for me and one I often thought I’d never reach. When I was ‘new’ and struggling I would frequently say that if I ever reached 10 years sober and still felt like shit I would drink again. And I meant it. Lucky for me, I no longer feel like shit and here I am, a whole decade later, still sober and self-harm clean. Which really is a fucking miracle. Getting sober was 100% the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ever.

Until now I haven’t really spoken publicly about my past. It felt very private and sometimes precarious and I didn’t want to disclose my vulnerabilities. I’d worked hard at creating a very colourful, super cheery persona (my other job is a children’s face painter FFS!) and so to reveal my debauched history of drinking and self-harm felt in direct conflict to the character I’d created. I silenced my history and I hid my scars. I successfully compartmentalised the old me from the new me.

Now at 10 years it feels like the right time to open up. Art has been an immensely powerful tool in my healing journey and I’m discovering more and more ways to marry my art and my recovery. Designing a range of sobriety celebration cards is just one of them.

Happy Sobriety Birthday card – Click to buy

These sobriety birthday cards have absolutely been made with love. I wanted to create gloriously vibrant keepsake cards, not only to commemorate AA birthdays and encourage those still struggling, but also as little pieces of art in themselves – cards that people want to keep, not only because of the messages inside, but because they look beautiful on the wall too!

Celebrating sober milestones is SO important and showing your sober friends/ loved ones that you understand where they’ve come from, to get where they are today, is never to be underestimated.

Each card has a little message with a lot of significance. Some of my sobriety cards simply say ‘Happy Sobriety Birthday’ – three small words with so much power. Getting sober is a big fucking deal. People who do it, against all the odds, deserve all the congratulations.

Happy Sobriety Birthday card – Click to buy
Happy Sobriety Birthday card – Click to buy

Probably my favourite card, directed at every sober warrior out there, declares that ‘You’re a fucking Miracle’ ❤ Very few people who aren’t addicts understand addiction. Putting down the drink/ drugs/ self-harming is the ‘easy’ part. Staying stopped is what’s hard. Addiction is an illness, not a choice. Rebuilding your life without your ‘coping mechanism’ is fucking hard work, one day at a time. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Everyone I know on this journey is a MIRACLE.

You’re a fucking Miracle card – Click to buy

‘Don’t quit before the miracle happens’ still echoes in my mind today. These words were repeated to me endlessly when I was new and struggling and I clung onto them for dear life. I longed for the ‘miracle’ to happen and found some degree of comfort in ‘sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly’ because for me it was slooooow. The suffering felt relentless and unending and I wanted to give up so many times. These simple words kept me clinging on, one day at a time, and those days accumulated into weeks, months and eventually years.

Don’t quit before the miracle happens – Click to buy

‘One day at a time’ was also a fundamental tool in my early recovery and one I still utilise today when I’m navigating a painful situation. In the beginning it quite literally kept me sober. All those time I wanted to drink (and for 18 months it was every day!) I repeated this like a mantra. I only had to stay sober for that one day. Just one day. And even though that felt impossible and excruciating, it made it manageable. Now, it keeps me focused on the present day, reminding me to keep my head where my feet are and grateful for all the beauty in today, instead of projecting and worrying about the worst case scenario in the future. What I’ve learned is that most of the time, my fear is actually greater than the reality of a situation.

One Day at a Time card – Click to buy
Keep Going card – Click to buy

The last 10 years have hardly been a smooth ride. I harboured the illusion for a long time that the longer I stayed sober and abstinent from self-harm, the happier I would get. I held the utterly erroneous belief that working the 12 steps would result in a permanent state of euphoria, a plateau of fluffy feelings and a permanent jettison of all negative feelings. Oh how wrong I was! I would propose though that it was my expectations that were faulty, not any program of recovery. Like the Calvin & Hobbs cartoon so simply and eloquently puts it, I may as well have been holding a big fucking neon sign exclaiming “Happiness is not enough. I demand euphoria!” I wanted nirvana. I wanted enlightenment. I wanted complete and utter freedom from my demons. Realistic I think not.

Happy Joyous and Free card – Click to buy

What I’m still learning is that this isn’t possible and THAT’S OK! Happiness is just ONE of many many human emotions and somehow I (and countless others) have made it the sole (or soul!) destination. In sobriety I have experienced real happiness, joy and intense gratitude, full belly laughter and utter hilarity, and I have experienced deep sadness, pain, longing, depression, fear, loneliness and more. I have experienced profound peace and serenity, and I have experienced mood swings, irritability, anger and despair. With this in mind, my ‘Clean and Serene’ card should definitely say ‘Clean and Sometimes Serene’ instead! Next batch I promise!

Clean & Serene card – Click to buy

All my sobriety celebration cards/ AA birthday cards are available to buy in my Etsy shop. Click each photo to be taken to the listing, or click here for multi-card discounts ❤