Blog#100 – For Crying Out Loud

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Dear Readers,

I can’t quite believe that this day has come. Not only am I publishing my 100th blog, but more importantly, I am celebrating five years since I stopped drinking. If you’d like to listen to this instead of reading (it is a long one today!), then please follow this link. One thousand, eight hundred and twenty-seven days of abstaining from a toxic substance has moved me forward in ways I never could have imagined. From that first blog I wrote when I had 140 days of sobriety under my belt, to now, it’s been a roller-coaster ride. I’ve had plenty of ups and lots of downs but what’s important is the progress that I’ve made. And there is a third reason to celebrate as tomorrow is my 20th wedding anniversary!

Thank you

Before I share with you what five years of sobriety looks like for me and how it feels to have come this far, I want to thank you for the incredible emails I received following Blog#99. I was blown away by the many stories you shared so openly with me. I was equally saddened to know that you too have experienced that sense of rejection and isolation from family, especially in Ireland. I take comfort from the knowledge that my blog helps you to come to terms with your experiences and inspires you to move forward in a more joyful way.

Their shame

Apart from the hugely positive response that I had from readers, I received just one negative email and that was from one of my in-laws. He wrote to tell me that my blog is hurtful and makes my family angry. I reflected long enough on his words and gave them honest consideration. He was speaking on behalf of my siblings who have not made their feelings known to me directly. It felt like an attempt to silence me. The conclusion I came to in the end was this: Asking me to stop writing my truth is like asking a person who is crying out loud in pain to stop crying because the sound of the tears is a vexation to their ears. It would seem that my pain has never been of concern to them. What troubles them is their shame. They carry shame inside of them and attribute this to my behaviour. It’s a real problem for people, particularly in Ireland, because of the horrible hold the Catholic Church has had. I feel sorry for people who haven’t learnt to free themselves of shame. If only they could be more honest and less judgmental. In Ireland to this day there are families who hide away the truth when a member has a drug or alcohol problem, or when another gets divorced or even worse, when a girl has a baby out of wedlock. There is a deep fear of not being seen to be perfect. Families keep dark secrets, try to silence anyone who speaks the truth, and judge those who have made mistakes. Dr Brené Brown has this to say about shame: ‘If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. The good news is that shame cannot survive openness, compassion, and empathy.’ The sooner we can all admit that we are not perfect, the quicker we can heal. As humans, we were born to make mistakes. A secret to happiness is being able to admit to our mistakes and learn from them. This is only possible if we are honest and compassionate.

So, here’s what five years of sober living looks like for me – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The Physical Gifts

In the 12 months or so leading up to my decision to stop drinking for good, apart from being very depressed, I had been diagnosed with advanced gum disease and skin cancer. I was also having the most almighty hot flushes brought on by the hormonal changes of early menopause that started when I was 44 years old. The more I drank, the worse they got. I was paranoid about the damage I was doing to my liver with each gulp of wine. I felt sluggish every morning which made my exercise regime harder to stick to. But I could not unhear what the periodontist had said about alcohol being linked to gum disease. I could not deny that I approached the deadly Australian sun with reckless abandon because the general care towards my overall health was seriously lacking. I kept hearing about the strong link between breast cancer and alcohol. Deep inside me was a worrying mess.

Five years on and the physical gifts of sobriety fill me with gratitude. I no longer have gum disease, skin cancer, or experience excessive hot flushes. My blood results are looking good in terms of liver health. So far, all the breast screenings show no evidence of cancer. And I should mention sleep. It was only once I’d been alcohol-free for about six months that I discovered how badly I’d been sleeping for my entire drinking life. It is common knowledge that alcohol disrupts our natural sleep patterns and can wreak havoc on it. Now I sleep deep, except for my post-menopausal bladder which gets me up in the night. Sigh. But I’m lucky that I can get straight back into sleep once I’ve been to the bathroom.

The Mental Freedom

While physical health is fundamental to a full life, mental health has the greater impact on my ability to feel joy. When I look back over my life, I can see that full it certainly was. I have lived in many countries, learnt to speak three languages, held jobs in exciting companies, interviewed Hollywood stars, travelled the world, bought my own home, married an awesome man, gave birth to two amazing kids, and had the privilege of interacting with some truly inspirational and kind people. But here’s the sad thing: while most of that was happening to me, I was not in a state of joy or gratitude. I was caught up in a cycle of anger and self-loathing. This made me depressed. People used to say to me how lucky I was to have the life that I had. I would beat myself up for not being able to agree with them. I would go home and cry into my wine. If you read my first ever blog (Coming Out), you might remember me saying that wine was my only friend for a very long time. I found it impossible to trust people. I never stopped for long enough to give this any thought, yet I was completely dictated by this feeling of distrust in the world. When you can’t trust people, you are effectively alone.

It was only when I sobered up and became more honest with myself that I found the space to give this very critical issue some badly needed attention. It has taken me some years to pick it apart. It’s not straightforward. With the help of counselling, I had my experiences validated and was given the space to better understand how I had let things fall apart. I soon learnt that to move forward I had to look back. That was a painful experience for two reasons: one, I had to relive my childhood traumas and two, I had to face up to the bad choices I’d made, some of which were shaped by those traumas. In the first years I was filled with remorse. I wrote apologies. I showed up as a reformed person, with love and kindness towards my family. But over time, I have learnt that my suffering wasn’t all my responsibility. I have accepted the part I played but I have also had to face the truth about how others failed me. My siblings are ashamed of me. They demonstrate this by not wanting me around them. They don’t like when I talk about my struggles and how they relate to my childhood and our shared experience. They are unwilling to be open about our struggles. They just tell me to shut up and move on. One of my siblings wrote, in a critique of my earlier blogs, that ‘not everyone is as strong as you, Gill’. I used to think that being strong was code for bad. But now I know that being strong is not bad; it is the better way to be and is a choice. I was not born strong; I became strong because of my experiences. When I talk openly about my struggles, it is not because I want to point the finger of blame or shame anyone. The opposite is true. It is because I want to promote a more open, honest way of dealing with our issues. Brushing things under the carpet and leaving them to fester away in the dark will not make them go away. Unfortunately, we live in a world of judgment, with people who find it all too easy to throw stones at those of us who have openly failed, yet they are unwilling to admit to and own their own failings. Thanks to my mental freedom I can experience real joy now. I have counselling to thank for that! This is why I went on to train as a counsellor myself. I want everyone to have the chance to experience that joy. If you would like to get professional counselling support, my contact details are at the end of this blog.

The Spiritual Side

For thousands of years people have been searching for the truth, seeking the true meaning of life. Much of what has been written appears too simple to be true. Well, that’s what I used to think. But the more I learn, the less I know. With a clear head, an honest curiosity, and an open heart, I delve into the writings of the great wise ones and glean from them some important lessons in how to live a more meaningful life. What comes through in much of what I read is the value of being grounded in the present moment. It is what allows us to savour whatever we have now. I know that could not have happened if I hadn’t untangled the gnarly knots of my painful past. We live our lives forward, but we understand them backwards. What has made a significant difference to my life in general is the gentle practice of daily meditation. It has been hugely beneficial to my spiritual life but equally so to my mental and physical well-being.  Daily meditation calms the nervous system, gives us the space to listen to what’s happening inside of us and a much-needed chance to reconnect with our deeper selves. This in turn helps us to find connection with others. I am constantly amazed at how much crap pops into my head from moment to moment, and if I’m not careful, it is too easy to react to it rather than choose how I respond to it. I’ve shared this quote with you before, but it never gets old, and its meaning should not be forgotten. The renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, wrote, ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ The stimuli can trigger different parts of us and it’s important for our recovery that we can tune into what exactly is being triggered. Until I started meditating, I was not aware of the visceral responses I was having around certain people. When I tuned into it, with the help of my counsellor, I discovered that it was in fact the unhealed trauma of my childhood that was stored away in my body. If you find this subject of interest and would like to explore it further, then I recommend the best-selling book by Dutch psychiatrist, Bessel Van der Kolk, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ which focuses on the central role of the attachment system and social environment to protect against developing trauma related disorders and explores a large variety of interventions to recover from the impact of traumatic experiences.

Sobriety and sincerity go hand-in-hand

The first step in anyone’s recovery is always to declare with sincerity that we have a problem, and that we wish to do something about it. Sobriety and sincerity go hand-in-hand. Being honest with ourselves isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is the only way to move towards a healthier, more joyful existence. My drinking was a learnt behaviour. It was how others around me coped with the stresses of their lives. To this day, our culture normalises excessive drinking and stigmatises people who cannot handle it. How could we have let this happen? It makes it very difficult for people to get the help they need and is why, sadly, that many don’t bother.


This subject requires an entire blog of its own but it deserves a mention here to help illustrate how choosing sobriety is just the second step in recovery. If, like me, you were never taught about boundaries and the important role they play in setting the stage for how our lives play out, then it’s not too late to learn now. It has taken me years, but I am finally putting boundaries in place and no longer am I willing to accept less than. I am committed to being better than I have been and deserve to be treated with the same love and respect that I extend to others. Sometimes our shared history continues to colour the way some people see us, especially the people we grew up with. If they are unwilling to look inwards to face the truth of their own behaviour, then that’s when strong boundaries must be put in place. I have suffered for my failures. I have done the work required to take responsibility for them. I have learnt to forgive myself and others. I cannot keep on living in hope that others will embrace me as I am now rather than as I was before. The continuous rejection hurts too much and that’s where boundaries come in. No more expectations. No more opportunity for disappointment.

On a happier note

I dedicate my 100th blog to my husband, Damien. Tomorrow we will celebrate 20 years of what has been, so far, an adventure of a lifetime. From the moment we crossed the finishing line of the London marathon on April 13th, 2003, I knew he was the man for me which is why I did not hesitate in asking him to marry me, even though neither of us had managed to catch our breath yet!!  I could write an entire book about our relationship. It is something else. We have done much growing together, along with the divine gift of our children who are proving to be quite the personalities with the kindest hearts. The four of us are blessed to have an honest relationship in which open dialogue is valued. We talk about every.single.thing. Nothing is off the table. I have had to ask forgiveness for my anger issues that have not made life easy for them. I have admitted to not always being the mother I’d like to have been. And they appreciate my honesty. Through our collective compassion, we heal together. Damien took the sober road with me on May 13th, 2019, and has been by my side ever since. Being sober has enriched our lives, made us more joyful and better role models for our children. Sober love is deeper and more rewarding than anything we experienced during our drinking days. I think it’s the fact that neither of us carry shame inside of us anymore which has given us the sense of freedom that we longed for. We are not afraid to be our authentic selves now because we know that, even though we are not perfect, we are loving, caring people. It’s amazing how that can change everything in a relationship. And just in case you’re wondering, sober sex is the best. That’s all I need to say about that. 😉

For crying out loud, listen to your heart, tune into your busy mind, feel what’s happening in your body, and don’t be afraid to speak your truth. And please remember, I am here to help. Get in touch if you want to have private & confidential one-on-one counselling with me. Judging by my client feedback, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it.

Before I finish up, I just want to thank my loving children, Alfie & Matilda, for the stunning flowers they gave me yesterday (see photo), it was Mother’s Day here in Australia.

Thanks for being here. Love, Gill 💚



Gill Kenny - the Writer & Blogger

About the author – Gill Kenny

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Through my blog, I aim to provide you with a place where you can feel valued by inviting you to share your journey too.  I will regularly have guest writers who wish to share their views or experiences on each topic. I am open to ideas and happy to cover any topics that interest you, so please feel free to share yours with me.

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Love, Gill x