Monday, July 27, 2015

Three Life Changers

The only topknot in the race!

Yesterday I ran a half marathon, the day before I did nearly 4 hours of yoga, and this morning I published my new book! Woot!

Yesterday; Half Marathon

As I crossed the finish line after running non stop for 2 hours and 19 minutes, I felt an enormous relief that I had run my first half marathon - 21.1kilometres (13miles).
It was even more sweet because I said I wouldn't stop or walk at any point, I would keep running no matter what.  And I did.
So running was very satisfying even though I did dip into a few mental spots where I had to mentally rest, refocus and re-align what I was thinking.

Since I have completely embraced Sobriety, I have also grown to deeply engage with the process of switching my mind from one thing to another (almost) at will.  When I was a devout alcoholic, I would let my mind wander unfettered from exuberance to depression to anxiety to joy.  
Now, as I grow into sobriety, I am genuinely re-directing my mind when I want to.  It is a type of emotional mastery and I'm really big on it right now.

Anyway, I did feel sore after around 16km, or 75% into the race.  My knees were sore, my calves were tingling like they could cramp up, and my quads were burning.

I went through my seven intentions (from Wayne Dyer) on my fingers a few times, (creativity, kindness, love, beauty, openness, abundance and receiving) and thought of an example of each intention.  This chewed up some distance.  Then I repeated my focus, flexibility and discipline mantra a few times.  This chewed up some more.

But half an hour later, my legs were still sore, and as the pain grew vibrant again it took my focus.

So I dug around in the back of my mind and pulled out some nuggets from yoga.

The Day Before; 230 minutes of Yoga

Yep.  I did a 90 minute class at 6.45AM and then a 140 minute class from 4PM.  In the morning we did an active flow and I eased into deep twists and opened my hips.  In the afternoon we lingered for 6 and 8 minutes in each pose, exploring deep muscles.  As we finished the class, the yoga teacher said "I bet you guys could've stayed for another hour" and he was right, I think.  My ears were ringing.

During our long holds, your mind does wander - not wonder - (there is a difference).  And the yoga teacher shares his unique perspective on life as you invite blood to flush tight muscles and loosen your joints.

There is a delicate balance between a deep stretch and going beyond, into the pain zone - so you are ever mindful of staying just this side where it is warm, but not electric.  It makes for an intense, present in the moment experience where time evaporates as you concentrate on a muscle deep in your buttock on each exhale.

What if pain feedback - where your body is telling you 

"Hey, um, excuse me, it's PAIN over here - " 

Could be ignored, and instead you just observe it without making a drama or story around it?

"ANYBODY?  SOMEONE? I said PAIN!  I mean, what do I have to do to get some service around here?  Don't you know who I am?  PAIN for crying out loud - let me spell it out for you - hello - I need to see your supervisor - who's in charge here?" 

Could I run along, in silence, and not make up a story about the sensory feedback I was getting?

What if the feedback was wrong and you were getting that feedback but it wasn't pain - it was just, for example, fear, or my fear of success, or my fear of growing, or my fear of being the best I could be?"

That's where my head was at as I ran from 17km onwards.  Those last 5 km I was telling myself that it wasn't pain, it was just a warm, intense feeling.  
A feeling of my body reminding me it was fit and alive and glowing with rich red blood and that I was, step by step, breaking new personal territory.  
It's life and it's beautiful and you're welcome!

And Today! - I published a Book!
"THREE BOOKS," she said "Write three books and by the time you have finished the third book, you'll have found your voice and you'll be ready to publish."

"Publish and be damned!"I spat, "I'm not waiting for permission - my life starts now and I'll learn to fly as I flap my wings!"

So I went ahead and published and today, just quietly, an email alert blinked and my book went live on Amazon.

Just. Like. That.
It's book one in the three book series.  The second book is published on September 8, then third on October 8.

Here's the book published today - Live Alcohol Free and a call out for all you avid readers to dive right in and shell out about the price of a coffee and then write a review - it really makes a difference!

Here's the second in the series, in final draft for September 8 Publication - it has the clock image as a countdown reminder.

Here's the third - for October 8. This one has a waterlilly for peace and calm.  I'm so ready to share all this work with you and hope you'll be patient as I finalise the drafts.

In other news, I'm in pre-production talks for a top secret venture so I just won't release that just yet.  But definitely maybe will share soon.

It's thrilling and humbling and all that at once! The book is a genuine 60k word exploration into setting yourself up for a long and powerful sober recovery.  I'm exploring a new paradigm, where you learn and prepare before actually doing it, and I think it has real merit.

PS I'm still really keen to publish your writing on - won't you pop on over and bang something out?  It's a community service thing after all!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Busy Busy Busy

I'm calling out people who start every conversation with a sigh and then start listing how busy they are.  It's boring, it sucks, I don't really care and it's why I'm not on LinkedIn. I just feel a yawn coming on when you tell me how busy you are and by implication, how in demand and exciting your life is and how my life, by inference - just isn't stacking up. 

But, yeah, I have been busy, since we're talking about it.

Mrs D - the super sober blogger 

Got back in touch with Mrs D - She is a wonderful, inspirational writer and friend who has shared her drinking story over on Mrs D is Going Without.  Lotta has evolved into a smart blogger and online celebrity who I am sure you have encountered if you have been loitering around in the sober blogosphere.

She kindly published my Guest Blog Post on, of all things, eating bread.  You can read it on her side project - - being published on the site is a wonderful privilege and it would be amazing for you to pop on over and share a comment.

Also, there's a Green Smoothie recipe that helps power my recovery - you can see the recipe on LivingSober and make it yourself.  So a big thank you to Lotta - she continues to do amazing things for the sober community!

Sharing Chelsie and Wendy's Story

I connected with two bloggers who are making an impact with their blogs - Wendy, who writes Tipsy No More - and Chelsie, who writes The Life of a Recovering Addict.  I have been following their stories and their personal growth as they move through addiction and embrace sobriety.
Alcoholic Life
You get this cool button as a contributor

I'm completely thrilled they chose to be a part of my side project - - a space for sober bloggers to share an original post - but also for anonymous contributions by readers who are struggling with their drinking. 

I was motivated to build this site and encourage people to populate it with writing because of the success of my own Your Story, Your Turn Page.

You can read Wendy's Story Here, and Chelsie's contribution is here.

Final Preparation for Half Marathon 

I'm tapering right now - that's what athletes do in the days leading up to the event - you lessen your training and rest so your body is fresh and you are super keen to get out and compete.  (I just called myself an athlete).

I'm doing five 6AM yoga classes this week - as well as 8km slow runs in the afternoon. 

I am feeling really strong and focused and not making this out to be a "big thing." 

The actual doing the run is where I want to be expending my energy - not in the build up or in weaving some story around it.  So I am not telling anyone about it (except here) and just quietly doing my thing so come Sunday morning 7AM, I will be in a good calm place to run 21km.

My book is For Sale on Amazon!

I have published my 60,000 word book  Live Alcohol Free: Your Last 100 Days Alcoholic: You can stop drinking with a proven self-development and personal growth pre-quit plan to beat alcoholism from a sober blogger. (Last 100 Days Guides) on Amazon and you can buy it right now! It's over 200 pages, so it's definitely not one of those little ebooks.

I'm so proud of it - and at $3.99 it's less than a magazine.

It has been a lifelong goal of mine to publish my first book, and I can share that I am writing my second book right now!

It is very powerful to be publishing a book and running a half marathon within days - and maintaining my sobriety and yoga discipline.

The Stop Drinking Club

Finally - my super duper newest venture is The Stop Drinking Club - a seven day email course on getting those crucial first days of sober just right.  The website is still in testing, but I'm so fucking excited about this one - it's an awesome concept and my research suggests it will get traction.

You can sign up right now for the course - it's free - but remember it is in development.  Official launch date in days - I have a bit more to finish off.

OK, signing off, watch out for my next update, where I'll be introducing another superstar sobriety writer and sharing the interview.

Stay sober, keep focus and subscribe  to my author website


Monday, July 13, 2015


Alcoholic Life Invitation to Contribute
Alcoholic Life - Accepting Submissions
Friday night was a drinking night - I got to sit around with a bunch of people drinking beer whilst I wrote the answers for a Trivia Fundraiser.  It was a nervous thrill to walk right into the mouth of the monster and just observe, and not try to be myself - but just be.

But I showed up.  Like I'm showing up with other things - and learning the process.  Staying sober.  Running.  Yoga.  Not comparing.  Knowing my vision is different and by being different it might look frail or weak or just plain wrong.

But this morning I missed yoga - woke up at 555AM - the class is on the mat by then.  I have been trying not to set an alarm and be in tune with my body - and it has been working for a few weeks now - but not this morning.  This morning was different - I woke up thinking it was just before 5AM - my usual time - but it was just past 1AM.  Shit.

I just lay there and let my thoughts drift and it turned into an hour or more.  Today is nine years since my step brother hung himself.  The anniversary is a hook for me to spiral downward into dark places.  I don't over compensate and celebrate his life - don't actually do anything really - it's more a veering away from that stinking mess and a timely reminder how deadly alcoholism addiction is.

But lying there in the middle of the night, my thoughts scampered off and I was 19 again - waiting for permission for my life to begin.  I had wriggled out of my university studies and was languishing on benefits - set adrift for a few years to really feel the itching anxiety of not doing something meaningful.

And then I did it.  I caught myself as I started to unpack the whole "my early life as a victim and how emerging as an alcoholic was just something I couldn't manage" story - but this time I stopped.  I turned on the light, got out of bed, went and got a glass of water, and sat down to write in my journal.

That's what I'm learning now - emotional mastery.  Being able to let go and break a flow of thoughts when it has every reason to begin.  Anniversaries are especially powerful.  It's no use me expending all this energy and sinking into despair - it won't change what happened or anything.  But it will knock me off my routine and my new habits I have worked so hard to put in place.

So just like on Friday night - I'll acknowledge and participate and show up - but I won't invest myself in it.  I've got to stay in a good place.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reward Drinking


Celebrating "Nothing in particular, just that it was Friday, I suppose," you find yourself at the same old place with the same old faces, talking about the same old stuff.

Friday evening - Anytown could be anywhere in the world, and it's populated with anyone who has let reward drinking into her life.  Just like reward eating - reward drinking is an ancient custom, from our hunter gatherer days when we ate or drank to excess to mark a significant milestone or life event.

Industrial Sausage Making
But we couldn't search forever - we had work to do.
Bethany's thumb would make someone, somewhere in the city,
a cannibal that night.

Unsurprisingly, fast forward to 2015, and reward eating and reward drinking are still in our lives - just that there's unlimited food and drink.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Oops.

It's not like we stumble across a woolly mammoth or we're genuinely relieved to survive a freezing winter - but we still have big eating and big drinking as things to do when we get together for events.

So choosing to over-indulge - as a way of signposting an event or a celebration is a cultural habit - and as an alcoholic, it's just not helpful.

Reward Drinking

I practiced reward drinking as a way of life - it was a certain way to build my fondness into a raging dependence - and if I was drinking more, it simply meant I was obviously getting more successful!  So any goals I kicked at work or in business inevitably led along a winding, then staggering path to me literally speechless and fall down drunk.  Yay!  I made it!


Reward Eating

In the same way, it was a family custom for everyone to gather and eat from mountains of food and have seconds and extra helpings for hours - as though we had finally managed to cobble together enough food to be able to celebrate! 
Which was fine when my family were a bunch of shoeless serfs in the middle ages - a feast or three would be something to really look forward to as you declined into old age at 36.  But again, in 2015, eating vast bowls of steaming pelmeni or thick steaks that overhang the plate - it's just not really necessary.


Be MORE than you Feel

In Reinventing Yourself: How To Become The Person You've Always Wanted To Be  - Steve Chandler writes about banging your knee on the car door as you exit your vehicle. (I know, using the big life metaphors here, Steve) It hurts, you're frustrated and you may even want to lash out - but at what? - at who? - a car door?

Reinventing Yourself  - Buy it Now Clcik Here.

Chandler encourages you to see emotional pain the same way as temporary physical pain - as a passing sensation that does not define who you are.   Just because you are feeling all the pride, honour and satisfaction of seeing your child pass her karate grading does not transfer into a trigger for a feast or overeating and over-drinking.  Or even a reward eating episode of KFC.  It is a moment to be savoured - that's obvious - but we have to break bundling excess food or excess drinking with emotional highs (and lows).

Steve Chandler writes,

"When you bang your knee and it hurts, you do not immediately identify with your your knee.  You don't walk into the house and announce, "I am a sore knee!" You don't allow every cell in your body to take on the identity, as you do with your emotional pain."

"If you feel angry, notice it and don't deny it, but don't identify with it.  Don't let it win you over.  Don't confuse it with who you really are, because it's not who you really are."

Emotional Mastery

It's getting closer to emotional mastery - where we are able to live, feel and experience life in all it's beauty and pace - but still not be lost in the moment.  We have to be mindful of saying "I am angry!" when in fact we feel angry - we are not angry itself. 
The life skill is keeping our present awareness and actually choosing what to feel and how far we are going to let that emotion influence our behavior.  It becomes a choice and a decision.  Not who we are, or something that is fixed.  It is fluid and ours to decide.

Reward Drinking

I still get drawn to events and occasions and moments during the week where it would be almost plausible to open a bottle and drink.  Like running a half marathon (22 days to go!!), or climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (three days to go!!), or getting my book launched (just days to go!!), or seeing my daughters endlessly cartwheeling along the beach. 

Life's like that - it has really profound moments that suck you up and you can lose yourself in the whirlwind of emotion and power and  - for alcoholics like me - find yourself looking left and right and licking your lips, thinking "this might be time for a drink" - before you loosen your shoulders, breathe slowly and deeply, stand a little taller and remind yourself that that was the "old you."

Reward drinking and reward eating are examples of making feelings and emotions into things - and then letting those things get you drunk, or get you fat.  There are other rewards out there - grasshopper - and it's your challenge to go and find them....

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Monday, June 29, 2015


Hokusai the great wave
I have this image through my studio - on the walls
 - poster size - framed under glass - painted on
 fabric, postcards, coffee cups.  If I had a tattoo
it would probably be something like this - Hokusai - The Great Wave
I dropped out of university three times - four if you count the time I went back for two and a half years as a 26 year old studying English Teaching.

I failed, quit, didn't implement, couldn't stay the course, withdrew, resigned, ran away, escaped, fled - failed.

People still say it to me - my wife says it when her frustration bubbles over - I don't finish things - "you've always been a quitter!"

It's part of who I am - part of my chemistry - my core - my structure.  I can't go back and change it.

Wounded.  But running with the herd - despite my limp.  And carrying that silent shame of being a failure and drop out.  The understanding that I wasn't enough.


But I am enough.  You are enough.

There is a deep feeling of adequacy and completeness now.

I am enough.  You are enough.

We have been forged by the fire and by still being here - just by existing - we are enough.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Flow State

I'm writing here with sad cello 10 hours playing - it is a little bit Murder She Wrote and a little bit quirky writer.  Cello is just sad.

I went out with a girl who played cello -  for the winter of a year while I was at university.  She also played the full sized harp. She was privileged and intense and was fresh from boarding school in the mountains in New Zealand.

But I got drunk, blacked out and crashed her car and I remember her father looking at me and just shaking his head - "Don't worry about it, eh?" - me sheepish and totally humiliated with torn jeans and a deep hangover.

She last saw me, years later, I was crossing the road outside a pub - older, a dropout and lost to drinking - she was rosy cheeked, and all corporate and touched my arm near the elbow - "But Bren, is everything going OK?"


On the weekend I ran 20.3 kilometres without stopping.  Planned it for a week.  Dedicated to going.  Woke after 5am and even though it was light rain - I dressed and headed out.

Running is a new delicious activity for me.  Once I am over the first five or ten minutes, my body warms and relaxes into the rhythm and I can truly get into a flow moment.

I have a set path and I follow it along the coast - along beautiful tourist trail for 10.2 km and then, at the half way point, which is a rocky break wall separating the harbour from the beach, I turn and head back for home.  20.4km - half a marathon - non stop.

Focus, Flexibility and Discipline.

Three words that have helped me cover 40kms a week for the last 18 months.  The words chose me in a way.  They are my main character flaws - lack of focus, being inflexible, and lacking discipline.  So I exercise with those words and roll them in my mouth and meditate on their power and meaning as I breathe and pace along the path.

When my mind wanders, I snap back to Focus, Flexibility and Discipline, or - running up a hill, it might morph to Focus, Flexibility and Just-hold-on - there is something about that too.

Now I have done my first half marathon distance - I have entered an official race for next month.  I need photos and some bits of paper to verify it.

I wrote down at the beginning of the year that I would like to do some things for the next decade - like staying sober for 10 years, like doing yoga 4x a week for 10 years, and running a marathon each year for the next ten years.

I thought they were private, never-see-the-light-of-day goals, but here I am actually working on them in just six months.  Amazing.  But nowhere near ticked yet - plenty of miles to put into my legs and downward dogs before that happens...


A big part of my life these past months has been the idea of flow.  My attention was drawn to flow through my yoga teacher, who moves us through a series of poses in a flow fashion.  This way we get the body moving with the breath and experience the edge as we move through a range of postures.  But flow has other meanings too, I discovered.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a wonderful, sumptuous name for an author and his book - Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience - reveals how the flow state is key to understanding happiness and living meaningfully.  (Wow - that sentence has eight or so nine letter words - thank you mr morning coffee!)

He writes that being in the flow state is when people truly experience that sense of timelessness and deep engagement that comes form being connected and absorbed in what you are doing.

From playing a musical instrument, to doing yoga, to wood turning - people can arrive in a flow state through any number of paths - but it is the flow state itself that is of such power and value.

Being able to completely lose yourself and feel that deep attachment to what you are doing ins where your mind and body act as one and everything else seems to fall away.  A sort of timelessness ensues and you can literally keep going and lose all sense of time itself.

This is what I'm talking about!  Instead of the cheap fix of drugs, or alcohol or the nervous rush of gambling - how about that deep sense of meaning and feeling at one when you are crafting or writing or playing?  That feeling of satisfaction and of just being when you are doing your flow activity can be intensely revealing.

The author goes onto relate how intentions - which I touched on in an earlier blogpost about setting intentions - is an expression of meaning.   He writes "In this sense the answer to the old riddle "What is the meaning of life?" turns out to be astonishingly simple.  The meaning of life is meaning: whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life." p217

The best thing in life is where you can do an activity that is meaningful to you and transform it  into a flow state.  So finding your flow is the way to go.

I feel I approach the flow state, (although it is an elusive never-quite-there-feeling) when I practice yoga - or in the middle stages of a long run - or when I can write uninterrupted.

As an alcoholic, I confused the drunken torpor with a flow state, and just as ambitiously pursued drinking to the point of exhaustion.

Flow - easy to read, a classic - published in 1990 - and just brilliant.