Welcome back to my blog. Listen here if you prefer. Thanks to those of you who took the time to share your feedback on my last blog. It’s always uplifting to know that my insights are of value to others.
State of anxiety
This week I’m in a state of hypervigilance as my son has succumbed to the dreaded COVID virus and is quite unwell. I really don’t want to get it myself but I’m having to accept that it’s probably just a question of time before I do. I have had it once before and it wasn’t pleasant hence why I’m feeling a bit anxious, to say the least.
My priority for now, though, is to ensure that my son has all the support he needs to make a speedy recovery. He graduated from high school over a week ago and, with his friends, travelled the two hundred or so kilometres to the annual ‘leavers’ festival with thousands of other school leavers to celebrate the end of an era. Upon his return, he admitted that he had burnt the candle at both ends for the duration so ‘tis no wonder his immune system took a hammering. Burning the candle at both ends is, of course, code for getting hammered from alcohol and not getting enough sleep. I knew this was inevitable, no matter how much I’ve pontificated over the past three and a half years about the dangers of alcohol. It was inevitable because our society normalises excessive drinking and it’s as if kids feel it’s their rite of passage to follow in our footsteps.
My biggest fear was that, as a 17-year-old boy whose brain is still developing, he might do something really stupid while under the toxic influence of too much booze. I was on edge the whole time that he was away. So, imagine my relief when he returned home in one piece!
Decline in youth drinking
Even though my son and his friends consumed who knows how many cases of beer last week, there is some convincing evidence to show that youth drinking is actually in decline. Now isn’t that good news! I attended a webinar last week to hear the latest findings of a study carried out by the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University here in Australia. I was intrigued to hear what Associate Professor Dr Michael Livingston had to say about how teen drinking has fallen in many countries across the world by up to 40% from its peak. You can find out more about that on the Positive Choices website, here’s a link. From my perspective, the most interesting detail emerged from the researchers’ conclusions about the possible reasons for this decline. They include:
- Improved relationships with parents
- Increased awareness of the dangers of alcohol consumption so that many young people believe that nobody associates alcohol with good health
- Changing patterns of socialising where more is now done online
- Concerns among young people about the embarrassing distribution of photos on social media hence the need to be more careful by self-regulating
- Young people believe it is easier to forge genuine intimacies with people who are not under the influence
- Non-drinking friends are seen as ‘real’ and more supportive
Your authentic self
The last reason on that list is the one that speaks to me the most. When I heard it mentioned I felt a rush of hope flow up from my gut. There is definitely a shift happening in the world today thanks to social media and the power it has to shape our perspectives. We hear an awful lot about the downside of the internet, but I believe that we have to be willing to take the bad if we are to reap the benefits, and benefits there are, for sure. I often overhear stuff my kids are watching on their phones, and it is sometimes deeply inspiring. Messages about not being afraid to be your true self are common and are delivered in ways that resonate with the younger generation because they are created by a generation that doesn’t want to be like their parents! This gives me great hope. A person who is not afraid to be their true self is someone who accepts everything about themselves – their strengths and their weaknesses. The more we are able to accept about ourselves, the less we are likely to beat ourselves up. The gentler we are with ourselves, the more likely we are to treat ourselves with the respect we deserve.
The library of my unconscious mind
Everything I have ever experienced in my 56 years of living is stored on the dusty shelves of my messy mind. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t erase those memories. For a long time, I nearly busted my brain, liver, and lungs trying. Alcohol and marijuana did the trick from moment to moment, but you know the story…. there really is only one healthy way to tackle the painful memories of the past and that is to accept them as part of who we are. I can’t deny the sadness I feel now, as a I look back at my 17-year-old self, for how I ran from my true self. By that age, I was already altering who I was with alcohol and marijuana on a very regular basis because I wanted to be somebody else. What the hell was so bad about me back then that I felt I had to do this! What makes me sad today is knowing that I lived a lie. And because I wasn’t being my true self, I attracted people to me who were not the kind of people my true self would have wanted to be with. In fact, I rejected the very people who would have been the ideal friends for my true self. I sat with that sadness for a few days recently and felt a cloud of depression descending around me. And like all other feelings, as I watched, it started to dissipate. Today I feel a bit more balanced – not too sad, not too happy. Just somewhere in the middle, in a state of acceptance about my life.
The walls came tumbling down
I guess it’s easier to be in a state of acceptance when you know in your heart that you are choosing to be better than you were. My sobriety is a superpower. It fuels my drive to move forward with a warmer heart, a healthier body and mind, and a desire to make the most of the life that I’ve got left. I am coming to terms with the rubble of my past, stepping over it while acknowledging that without it I wouldn’t be who I am today. My past doesn’t define me, but it does make me see how I can do better, how I can be true to my values and how I can say no to the things that no longer serve me. The rubble of my past consists of the walls that I had built around my heart and my true self which came tumbling down when I decided to stop altering myself with alcohol and marijuana.
This is me
Every time I write a blog, I further expose my true self to the world, and I do it because I am no longer afraid. I might not be a brilliant writer, I might not have a million views on my Youtube channel, or 100,000 likes on social media, but with my hand on my heart I can honestly say that I am better than I used to be. This is me – my raw, unadulterated self.
Before I finish up, I want to impart one piece of advice if I may. Many of us have heard it said before that addiction is the opposite of connection. I get this. You might remember a recent blog of mine where I shared the sad tale of the dark days in London when my addiction became more important to me than friendships and relationships with family. Then, after quitting booze here in Australia, I quickly found myself without friends again because my friendships were founded on drinking together. So, after a decent period of counselling, self-reflection and healing, I joined a choir. I have found a tribe to sing with, a tribe that accepts me for who I am and a tribe that is as colourful and inspiring as a rainbow. I have been singing with the Perth Pride Choir since May and this weekend we will be putting on our annual concert at the Dolphin Theatre in the University of Western Australia, Perth. The theme for this year’s concert is This is Me, named for the song in The Greatest Showman which is one of the many songs we will sing as one voice and one heart. Thanks to Perth Pride Choir for the use of their beautiful artwork as part of this week’s post. I will leave you with a little extract from the song, This is Me and hope the words inspire you to be your authentic self, maybe even find a choir to sing with. Whatever you do, find your authentic song and sing it! Keep your fingers crossed for me that I make it to the concert on Saturday. ☘️ Thanks for reading this far. Love, Gill x
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me