Doing the Inner Work
On this early Wednesday morning, I was writing in my journal. That is something I try to do every day. Correction: It is something I should do every day. It is called “doing the inner work”. It means taking a moment to yourself to turn inside and write down what is keeping you busy and to describe in detail how you want your life to be. We are all the architects of our own lives, but most people don’t realize that. Most of us believe that life is something that is happening TO us instead of FOR us. But that is a topic for another blogpost.
Whenever I write in the morning, I am doing so on the basis of six questions that I am asking myself. First question: What is the overall feeling I want to feel today? And mind you; we are talking only about positive feelings. There is no point in writing yourself into a downward spiral, is there? The whole idea of journaling is to start the day in a refreshed and reinforced state of mind. And believe me… it helps.
So, this morning, I was reflecting on yesterday. Because yesterday, something really cool happened. I got up very early and started writing at 05:44 am. There is some kind of magic to it if you get up that early. There is the promise of the very long day that lies ahead of you and I like that feeling very much. Well, whenever I am feeling happy and fine (really fine, not the bitchy “fine” (Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional).
Once I start writing, I have no idea what will be written on the paper after I finished. I just start and pour all my thoughts into my journal. It can be anything and all of it is triggered by the six simple questions that I am trying to answer. Sometimes I talk about things that happened the day before, how that made me feel, what I learned from it, etc.
The day before yesterday, I had an open conversation with my accountability partner Susanne. We met each other as fellow clients of a company that helps us with our online businesses. Susanne has a program called VivaVitaal and she helps women with their eating disorders. Within that network, there are a whole bunch of entrepreneurs like us, who all have a special mission, based on their own experiences. In fact, we are all experience experts. Susanne and I were discussing how strange it is that we keep doing certain things, knowing that they are not good for us.
We want to lose weight, but we still take that snack. We want to stay sober, but we still take that glass of wine. We want to get fit, but we still stay in bed too long and miss our morning walk. Human behavior.
Susanne and I spontaneously made a pact yesterday; we decided not to drink any alcohol this week. Even though I have a BBQ coming up in Belgium tomorrow; I promised not to take a drink. Holding somebody accountable is really helpful. Knowing that somebody else is holding YOU accountable even more. It means you are in this together and if you cannot be honest to yourself, at least you have to be honest to the other person. And it gets even better when you have to be honest to someone or something bigger. This is the cool thing that happened…
While I was writing about this pact with Susanne, my thoughts wandered off and I wrote: “Gosh, I just wish that the Universe would speak directly to me, like it did to Gabrielle Bernstein”. While Gabby was in active addiction, a voice spoke to her and said: Get your act together, girl, and you will live a life beyond your wildest dreams”. And she got sober right then and there. And she indeed started to live a life beyond her wildest dreams. Wow. I was really impressed when I first read this. It is pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Moving on to the next questions of my journaling
What do you want to see in your reality short term? What do you want to see in your reality long term? What are you going to do about mindfulness today?…
“STOP! Wait a minute! Mindfulness today? Well, I am journaling right now, I meditated before I got out of bed, and oh… I forgot to draw my Oracle card from my deck this morning. I decided to do it immediately before moving on to the next questions (What are you grateful for? I am affirmations) of my journaling.
And that is when this really cool thing occurred …
I drew card number 4: Higher Power. The guidebook reads: At this moment you should be aware of your contact with Spirit (Your Higher Power) and cherish this through prayer and meditation. Ask: What is the higher good for everybody. How can I serve? Leave the beaten path and trust that THERE IS A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE THAT IS BIGGER THAN YOU COULD EVER HAVE IMAGINED!
To me, that sounds as if the Universe has spoken to me through the cards. So, in less than one hour, I received what I had asked for! Thank you, Universe, for this wonderful message.
You can believe in this “woo woo” stuff or not, but for me it has been so freaking helpful! Journaling has become a life saver. And not only that. I am looking forward to it. It brings me fun, joy, and insights.
And this morning I was thinking about my whole transformational story that started now almost 3,5 years ago… I was reasonably happy, before that. Or at least I was oblivious of the fact that I was actually unhappy. Then a whole range of events happened, and I got really depressed (not a chance of being oblivious at that point!). I lost my joie de vivre, I lost my passion, and I lost myself.
What I did not lose, was my taste for wine
I have always liked wine. It had actually become a daily habit. As soon as I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine and I never thought twice about it. Wine was part of my life, part of my routine.
I never blacked out, I never had accidents, I never fell from the stairs and I never really misbehaved because I was drunk. In all these years, it happened maybe once or twice that I drank too much and got sick, and when that happened it was when I was caught off guard. Too hot, or people keep filling my glass without me paying attention. I remember it happened one time on New Year’s Eve and I was in bed before midnight.
But when I was depressed, I started drinking way too much! It went on for months until I took a drastic decision. This was not the person I wanted to be! I went looking for help. Not so much for my drinking, but for my depression. In many different places. I finally even went into rehab in South Africa. And that is where I learned that rehab is very good for some people, but not for everybody. It was not good for me. I hated every minute of it. The humiliation, the imprisonment, the lack of privacy, the rules, the bootcamp lifestyle, the drama, the dealing with all kinds of situations that were light years away from my world… I couldn’t wait to get out. When I finally got out of rehab after two months, I was more convinced than ever that I was NOT an addict.
The first weekend after I got back from Cape Town, I ordered a cool glass of sauvignon blanc on a terrace by the ocean. I remember who much I enjoyed it. It was the taste of freedom. I even took a picture of it.
I decided again to take my life into my own hands. Nobody was ever going to tell me again what I could and what I couldn’t do. And surely nobody was ever going to tell me again to my face that I had been a bad mom to my son. Because it just isn’t true. Out of guilt and shame and defeat, I allowed other people to make me believe that I was an addict. A bad person, an outcast.
Make no mistake: alcohol is a dangerous thing. I learned to recognize the pitfall. Be aware of what you are doing. I broke free from the yoke of addiction care which is always pointing fingers. If success is not reached, you are on your own. You are welcome at AA but only if you play by the rules.
My binge drinking days are over. My depression is in the past. Rehab was scary enough for me to make sure that I never go back there again. I decide myself when and if I will take a glass of wine or not. I am aware of what I am doing. Maybe someday I will decide never to drink again, but it will be my decision. Not my husband’s, not my psychologist’s, not AA’s, not my friends’. Mine. Or the Universe’s.
For women out there, who recognize my story, do not panic. If you feel like you need help from someone who has been there, give me a call, send me an email, buy my online program Reclaim the Star Position in Your Own Fabulous Life. Take back control. You are a lovely lady and you should be treated as such.
As I am doing a lot of research these days on women and alcohol, I learn more and more about this topic and as I go along, it scares the hell out of me. I wonder if all of this silent judging, shock, and worry is adding to the solution or to the overarching problem.
I was looking for a list of the ten most controversial topics and much to my surprise, I found several lists and this topic was not even in the top 10! According to The Quad, gun control, abortion, religious freedom, animal rights, vaccines, privacy rights, free market capitalism, global climate changes, evolution, marijuana legalization, capital punishment, and marriage rights are the top 10 controversial topics. This probably applies to the USA. Which makes it even more surprising, as research shows that AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) amongst women is dramatically on the rise in America. As in other parts of the world…
But what does controversial actually mean? A controversial topic provokes emotions because usually people have very strong opposing opinions that conflict with their values and norms. Hence, most of these topics are sensitive. When entering a discussion on a controversial topic, you are challenging yourself to formulate sound opinions and you have to support your ideas with valid evidence. You might find yourself in the position of the devil’s advocate and you become familiar with the arguments of the other side. Which is very useful for your own critical thinking and for understanding all points of view.
And let’s face it…
Women and alcohol is a very controversial topic. Especially these days, when alcohol is totally accepted and available for everyone. Everywhere we look, we are overwhelmed by advertisements of beautiful attractive women, sipping from a cocktail, an elegant glass of champagne, or a ruby red French wine.
And there is nothing wrong with having a drink on occasion with friends or family or at a party. The problem is: there is always an occasion. Every day we can find a valid reason to drink. Luncheons with lady friends, drinks at the tennis club, gym, or golf club after the game or the workout (because it is so important to stay in shape and treat your body right, right?), visiting a vernissage, opening of a new shop, birthday party, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Valentine’s Day, break during and after shopping, etc. Fun, fun, fun.
One glass becomes two. And then three. If you don’t stop or switch to a non-alcoholic drink, then… you could be a binger. Binge drinking is defined as men consuming five or more drinks within about two hours. For women, it’s defined as consuming four or more drinks within about two hours.
I used to think that this was ridiculous. Sure, we all know the danger of drinking excessively. We KNOW that it is damaging to our brain and our body. The question is: then why do we drink that much? Why can’t we stop after one or two glasses? Why do we start drinking every day? Or several times a week?
When I look back, nothing could scare me enough to stay away from wine. That is my favorite drink. I was never interested in beer, cocktails, or stronger stuff such as whisky or brandy, or mixtures. Wine is my drink of choice. And when there is no wine, I just do not drink alcohol. Simple.
When I knew it was getting out of hand, I took drastic measures and went looking for help and checked myself into a rehabilitation center in Cape Town. Because I knew I could not do it on my own. It was an experience of a life time but it did not stop me from drinking wine. However, I learned how to handle it and to cut back to a “normal” level. I became aware of when, why and how much I drank. And yes… it is absolutely better not to drink alcohol at all… But somehow it became a very big part of our society, worldwide. I really admire people who stopped at some point and never touched a drink again. For some people, this is the only option. Because if they go on a binge, they might drink themselves to death. For these people, alcohol is absolute poison.
And for people who work in addiction care, it is this simple too. Black or white. Once you are an addict, you can never drink again.
But – and here is where the controversy kicks in – I belief that there is a very large grey area between having experienced a period in your life where you were drinking too much and then brought it back to drinking socially, and being an addict. And in some way, shape, or form, everybody who drinks alcohol, is more or less addicted. Why else do we not stop when we realize how damaging it is to our health?
Again, I do agree that not drinking at all is by far the best thing you can do for your health. But banning alcohol completely is close to impossible in our society. And impossible is a word I usually don’t use. The only thing we can do is create as much awareness as possible among people.
Rehab did not really work for me because to me, the cure was worse than the disease. I ordered the book by Gabrielle Glaser which is called: Her Best-Kept Secret. In her book, Gabrielle also says that AA is not the solution for women. In a way I have to agree with her. Because, alcoholism or addiction is like cancer; every case is different. In rehab, we all were treated in the same way. And every day I asked myself… how did I end up here and what am I doing here? Instead of convincing me that I was an addict, they convinced me about the opposite. Another controversial statement, I know. But this is how I really feel after my experiences.
The Solution Lies Within
Luckily for me, I kept looking for solutions and I have found them. I found my happiness and my drive back and I am building a completely new life for myself. My perfect life. And when I write in my journal, describing a perfect day in my perfect life, it includes one (yes, only one) glass of my favorite champagne, that I drink right before going to bed, while writing down my gratitude list.
Happiness and solutions can be found in small things. If you want to read some examples, I invite you to download my E-Book Change Your World by Loving Yourself for free.
Let’s be gentle, loving, and kind… always. Especially to ourselves.
Most people have the all-too-common belief that in order to make a change in the right direction, people struggling with bad habits have to hit the proverbial rock bottom first. I admit it… I was no different. And perhaps that is even true… People usually don’t make changes unless they are forced to in some way, shape or form. But what does hitting rock bottom actually mean? That is different for different people. Addiction is baffling and cunning. Very tempting too… And it goes hand in hand with denial.
This afternoon I was doing research on the internet about why women drink more and more and I was stunned. After all these years that I have been drinking wine without even realizing how bad it was for my health, I am truly amazed by the power of alcohol.
I want to keep you out of rehab
Even now, when I started this blog and this whole idea about FabAfterRehab, it was never my intention to ban alcohol completely. I just wanted to make women aware of their drinking habits, so I could keep them out of rehab, which has been such a traumatic experience to me.
Is it still funny?
What I suspected, seems to be the case. Not only in Europe, but definitely also in the US; alcohol (ab)use among women has become a huge problem. The group of women of 40+-50+ and older drink more than their younger sisters! That really means something! We are damaging our older bodies more than we actually realize and all the while we are making jokes about it. Is it already wine o’clock? Five past three – okay, let’s go: that is a five in the hour! There are actually Facebook groups such as “Moms Who Need Wine”, and “OMG I so need a glass of wine or I’m gonna sell my kids”. This may seem funny, but it is not that funny anymore when you read the statistics. And when you read that every glass of wine that you drink above the maximum recommended weekly alcohol intake for women shortens your life by a half hour… Jesus. Not much to laugh about now, is there? I don’t know about you, but I hope to live a long and happy life in good health. And I have taken out a good shunk of that time, if what I read is true.
A lot of us even drink in isolation and are still very functional. And that is the danger. We think nobody will notice. We start with a drink after work, or during lunch with a friend, and find ourselves continuing at home, ditching the empty bottles in the glass container the next morning.
Why do women drink?
There are plenty of reasons why women drink. What started once as a ritual after work, or during social events, becomes a habit to respond to stress, to beat loneliness, to deal with frustration and emotional deprivation in daily life. Let’s face it; we have an awful lot of balls that we’re trying to keep up in the air.
Other reasons can be loss of parents, divorce, children moving out, guilt, shame, humiliation, taking on more roles or losing roles, which is even more stressful.
What is wrong with us? What happened to our self-value, self-worth, self-esteem and self-discovery?
Instead of drinking for any plausible reason, why don’t we work on our emotional and spiritual growth?
My very own rock bottom
I have been in denial for a very long time. Even after spending two months in rehab in Cape Town, I still told myself that I was not an addict. After all… I had not hit rock bottom. Until I was faced with my own version of it.
I had gained a lot of weight in the two years that I had not taken care of myself and wanted to work on that to get back in shape. A friend of mine, who has a program based on orthomolecular treatment (Natural2Byou), was going to help me out. When the results of my blood tests came back, I was in shock. I was developing diabetes, my immune system was damaged, and my liver was in really bad shape. My level of vitamin D was so low that it was a miracle that I could even produce a smile, my friend said.
So there it finally was… my rock bottom.
The start of my permanent abstinence
That was the last time I touched alcohol. From that moment on I promised myself to be nice to my body and to take care of it. That was a good decision. My friend put me on a strict diet and gave me wonderful supplements of the very best quality. I had to drink a lot of water, eat green vegetables and some fish and small portions of meat. Carbs, dairy products and sugar were absolutely forbidden. After a week I already felt better. And grateful. Grateful for this eye-opener and a second chance.
You know… we all have a free will. That is the prerogative of being a human being. The Universe offers us choices and can show us the way, but it is still up to us which way we want to go. And I say: Thank you, Universe, for your guidance. I hear you.
Okay… There it goes…
For months I have been preparing. I wanted to write a blog about my experiences. Because… o boy… I do have a story to tell…
My first idea was to just go back a long way and write down my life story. I was born in May 1962 so I thought…. Hmmm… maybe not. Too far back… I don’t want to bore my readers to death. Although… not much chance for that. I have been living quite an exciting life so far…
But the past 3 years were really transformational. And even then, I don’t really know where to begin. I have recorded a video with my story. I takes about 12 minutes and it is on YouTube. (Right now I am thinking… seriously???). But yes… I have been told that the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. I am in full confidence that things are developing in the right direction.
So, what am I going to talk about today? Perhaps just start from where I am now. I read that tip somewhere in the past days… I don’t remember where.
That is one of these things… I am like a sponge that absorbs everything these days. I have not been watching tv for like 3 years now… Sure, on occasion I will watch a movie on Netflix, but most of the time that are documentaries.
I am totally into personal development. I listen to podcasts, watch video’s, take courses, read books, talk to like-minded people. I meditate, I visualize, I manifest, I journal… And I am loving it so much.
I can truly say that I am in the process of changing my life. It is an amazing journey. I love every minute of it, although it is not always easy. It gets lonely at times but that is okay. Because I need a lot of time to turn inside. Because you create your perfect and happy life from within.
My whole life I have been looking at people who lived in abundance, who were rich, and never seemed to have trouble paying the bills and lived a beautiful life, with designer cloths, vacations, travel, great houses, great cars… And I always imagined that I was one of them.
Unfortunately, I was not. Not that I have reasons to complain a lot. I also wear designer cloths, I have traveled the world, I live in a beautiful house, there is food on the table, I have friends and family who love me, I have a beautiful son… I worked hard for that. But there was always something missing. I now know that it had to do with my mindset. Because I was born poor, I always believed that I was never going to be rich. I had a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset.
Will you join me?
So, I am going to write about the steps I am taking day by day to create my new fantastic life and as we go along, I will share my history and tell my readers about the events in my life that brought me here. Will you join me?
And get this: we all have a story to tell. And we also all need other people in our lives to help us when we get stuck, for whatever reason.
Broken relationships and broken hearts, health issues, addiction, etc. I have experienced it all. And guess what? I overcame it and I am still happy. Because that is the true secret in life… happiness is a choice and there is always, always something to smile about.
Let’s be gentle, loving, and kind… always. To ourselves, to each other and to the planet. But especially to ourselves. Without self-love, nothing else is possible. Remember that, lovely lady.