Should I Choose Moderation or Abstinence?

Can I ever drink again?

One big question that comes up when people are making changes to their relationship with alcohol, is whether to stop drinking altogether or try to stick to moderation. This is a good question, and it is a good idea to consider this carefully. Some questions that can help guide your decision are:

Have I been able to drink in moderation in the past?
Is it possible for me to stop after one or two drinks?
Are there certain situations where I am likely to want to drink more?
How am I impacted by alcohol and what effect does it have on my body?

For some people, once they have looked at their relationship with alcohol, and made some changes to it, they may find that moderation is a good option. They may have made changes so that their consumption of alcohol is only in certain situations (like a glass of wine at dinner) and that there are some safeguards to prevent it from going further like asking their partner to support them in sticking to just the one drink.

For some people drinking mindfully will be effective in helping them to notice and enjoy the pleasant effects of alcohol, and understand when they have had enough.

When we are considering moderation, however, one really important thing to remember is that alcohol has a strong effect on the inhibitory parts of our brains, the parts that affect decision making and self-regulation. This is one of the reasons it can be really hard to stop after just one drink as our reward centres are buzzing with dopamine from that first drink, and at the same time, our ‘self-control’ centres are being taken offline by the effects of the alcohol. This is why we can sometimes have that war with our future and past selves, that part of us that was committed to going for a walk after the glass of wine might suddenly decide that it is a better idea to finish the whole bottle and watch a movie instead.

When we are considering moderation, remember this:

If we are trying to moderate our alcohol use, it can be really good to have some backup plans that can act as surrogate self-regulators. These could include having only a small amount of alcohol in the house, having a commitment where we need to be sober, having some replacement behaviours such as drinking sparkling water between drinks or having supportive people around us to gently remind us of our intentions. Checking into Daybreak is a good option as well since it can be an instant reminder of why we are wanting to make changes in the first place.

When might moderation not be a good option?

If you have never been able to drink in moderation, and have found that drinking generally results in losing control, then perhaps you are part of that population of people for whom alcohol just is not a good idea. We know that for some people, a combination of genetic and environmental factors result in them being really vulnerable to alcohol and their lives are a lot better when they are alcohol free. Attempting moderation can sometimes be stressful for these people, as it can be a huge challenge to stop at one drink and might lead to a person feeling discouraged and helpless.

Other times that moderation might not be a good idea might be when you are simply looking to take a break, to see what things are like without alcohol. It can be really refreshing to take a break from alcohol for a few weeks or months, even if you have no intention of stopping permanently.

The take home message from all of this is that, whether you choose moderation or alcohol free, the really important thing is to be realistic and guided by past behaviour.

Often when we first make the decision to change our relationship with alcohol, we will experiment with what works for us. Perhaps there are certain situations that we can drink in moderation, and others where we might find we drink more than we had planned most of the time. The key is to remain open and curious about these situations, and certain triggers. Considering what you would like your relationship with alcohol to be, in an ideal world, is a great place to start.

How your friends help you change

On the road to a better relationship with alcohol, we lean on the people closest to us; our spouses, our mates and our families. When friends help, they get us through the difficult nights, help us move on from our mistakes, and push us not to give up on ourselves. However, if we’re not careful, our support network can also help us make excuses. Having a friend or a family member who is a sort of “partner in crime” can turn defaulting on resolutions into a shared experience, one that somehow feels more permissible than if you did it alone.

The essential takeaway: our support networks have a measurable effect on how we behave. Pursuing relationships with people who have similar goals, helps us achieve our milestones, while other relationships will need work to make sure they function as support and not as obstacles.

Humans are social animals. It’s how we were made. We form close connections because having these relationships make our lives better. Unconsciously, we mirror behaviours practised by the people in our social circle. We base some of our internal definitions of what is okay by looking at how people around us behave. What this means for someone who is trying to change their drinking habits is that the people in your social circle are capable of both helping you or slowing your progress. Communicating effectively about what you need, and how they can best support you, can make the difference between the two.

You can get closer to your goals when your friends help

How can your friends help?

Listen: Sit down with you and have a conversation about what kind of situations can trigger your need to drink. If they know about your triggers, they can back you up and help you cope with them when they occur.

Socialise: Encourage you as you expand your social life with new activities like exercise and events where drinking isn’t the main focus. You can even sweet talk them into accompanying you if you’re nervous to go alone.

Connect: Pursue new people and new experiences, but don’t feel like you have to leave your old mates behind. Ask them to be there for you even if you can’t drink with them.

Three ways your friends help at social events

  1. Understand that sticking to your goals is important to you, and they should not ask you to drink with them if you’re trying not to.

  2. Help you find a non-alcoholic drink to have in your hand to avoid awkward questions.

  3. A good way to hold yourself accountable is to volunteer to be the designated driver for the group. You’ll have additional motivation to stick to your goals, and you will be everyone’s favourite person for getting them home.

We are who we are around


In this day and age, we have a newfound ability to really reflect on who we want to spend our time with. We have access to more communities than we could ever possibly reach out to. What this means for us is that if we want to change who we are and what we do each day, we have the ability to reach out and find people who are doing the same thing. To make connections with people is to be human, and to fear losing these connections is more human still.

Changing what you do with your Saturday nights is scary, because you may lose people who expect you to drink as heavily as they do. The liberating aspect of modern society is that while you may lose some friends who can’t accept your changes, the number of people and communities for you to reach out to is limitless. Your potential to find new people, and new things to do with your Sunday mornings is limitless.

What can you do with this information? Talk to your friends, talk to your spouse. Telling them about your goals with alcohol is good, but telling them about how they can help is better.

Click on this link for more ideas on support https://www.hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak/family-and-friends/

How to survive the holidays

For someone trying to change the way they drink, how to survive the holidays can be a challenging question. Most events like Christmas parties and family get-togethers come part and parcel with drinking. We take leave from work and connect with others; it feels natural to relax and have a few extra drinks. For many Daybreak members, this can result in slipping back into a lifestyle they are wanting to move away from.

Reflecting on past holidays can be a valuable tool

Some good questions to ask yourself might be:
“When my holidays are over, what would I have liked to have done?,” or, “In previous years, what did I wish I had spent more/less time doing?”

Now, looking towards the near future, take a moment to ask, “What would I like to spend my time on?” The holidays are a precious, limited time to be close to the people we love the best. It’s worth taking a few minutes to think about how you want to spend it.

Have a plan to survive the holidays

Having a plan in place before you get to these situations is much easier than trying to make something up on the spot. When speaking to people at Christmas parties and end of year celebrations, you can say something like, “I’m focusing on my health at the moment and have noticed that alcohol is really setting me back in terms of fitness,” or, “I’m not drinking this year, as I want to feel refreshed after the holidays, but please don’t let that stop you.”

Another good strategy to survive the holidays is to have a plan in place for triggers or situations that might compromise your goals. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do if I have an argument with my siblings and feel overwhelmed?” or, “What am I going to tell my parents when they offer me a drink at lunch?”

Sometimes our loved ones are worried that if we aren’t drinking, we might judge them or behave differently. It will be good to emphasise that you don’t expect them not to drink. You are just not drinking at the moment. Not drinking doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Ideas to make the transition easier:

  • Have a non-alcoholic drink in hand. The varieties of non-alcoholic beers are increasing and the potential for mocktails is limitless.

  • Not drinking doesn’t have to be a subtraction. Explore all the amazing things you can do when you’re not sprawled on the couch. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, start a game of backyard cricket, head down to the beach or pool for a swim or kick around a footy. If you’re in a cold place, organise a day on the slopes or a family talent show inside.

  • Or, you could be everyone’s new favourite person by offering to be the designated driver.

Be kind to yourself

Understand that holidays and family get-togethers can be very challenging, particularly if there has been a conflict in the family. Sometimes we can feel anxious or exhausted by being back in the family dynamic, and also without the numbing effects of alcohol. The good news is that often it is alcohol that triggers arguments and disagreements within families, and not drinking will allow you to step away from that and look at things differently. Sometimes alcohol can feel like it is necessary to deal with family, but when we take it away or reduce it, often we find family gatherings are less tedious.

A good way to survive the holidays is to acknowledge that they are a bit of a mixed bag. There will be stressful situations and perhaps a tense conversation or two, but the holidays also come with these bright moments, those moments of connection and celebration that make all the stress worth it. Sticking to your goals on changing your relationship with alcohol drinking might not stop your mum from asking you pointed questions about your love life, or your crazy uncle from airing his political views over dinner, but you may find that you come away with more of those brights moments, because you made choices about how you wanted to spend your time.

To find out more and to download Daybreak, a program by Hello Sunday Morning, visit hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak.

A story about finding self-love

Returning home after a trip around the world has taught me something valuable about self-love. It’s a busy world, and you’ll feel overwhelmed if you don’t know how to communicate with yourself and listen to your needs. Culture means to be connected, but sometimes we lose contact with ourselves when we search for a connection with others. Sometimes you realise that you have never been connected to yourself.

My teenage and young adult years were extremely fun and extremely horrible at the same time. I needed alcohol to feel okay with who I was. Without being drunk I didn’t really allow myself to have fun, and I always wanted to have fun. For me, it wasn’t like I felt great and thought a drink or two could make me feel even better. I felt out of place, lost, unwanted, stiff, and stressed-out unless I was drunk. I couldn’t see the fun in doing things without drinking, and anything was fun if I could only be drunk doing it.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t like I felt great drinking, either. Once I started I only felt content if I had a new drink in my hand or knew that I had access to more. I rarely enjoyed the moment; I only chased getting drunker. And drunker I got, but not happier.

It felt like someone had sucked the soul out of me whenever I woke up from my drunkenness. Days after drinking I still felt like I would never be able to experience joy again.

Why did I allow myself to drink every week if I knew I would feel so rotten for so many days after?

Alcohol was a part of who I believed I was. I didn’t know who I could be without it. I didn’t know how to have fun without alcohol. Honestly, I thought that a life without alcohol wasn’t worth living. Partying was all that kept me searching for more. I didn’t even care what party I went to, as long as it meant that I could get drunk.

As a 27-year-old woman who has been through a lot of psychologists, self-help books, podcasts, and treatments, I know that I have a lot of knowledge and inspiration to share with the world. Sharing is good for those who are struggling themselves and also for parents, teachers and other people related to someone who is struggling. It opens up a gateway through which people can relate, understand and then offer help.

This is why I wrote the book, Free The Girl – A story about (finding) self-love, and share my experiences with feeling like shit. Our minds are scared of change–that’s why it is hard to break habits–but change is just one decision away.

Hot tips for self-love

If alcohol affects you negatively, here are my tips on self-love and how to work with yourself.

To get a grasp of your own relationship with alcohol, ask yourself, ‘Why do I drink?’. If you answer ‘because it tastes good’ then ask yourself if you would choose a non-alcoholic drink if it tasted exactly the same. If not, then why do you drink?

The point of answering this question is to be truthful with yourself. Our brains love to make up excuses for why we do things, but if you ask yourself and really listen in, you often feel the real truth inside.

If you would like to take a break from drinking but it feels like a long stretch, set a reasonable goal. Start with one month if two feels overwhelming. Put the month into a bigger perspective: what is 30 days of your life without alcohol, really? Isn’t it worth giving your body, liver and head a little rest? A month just to check in and see if you feel different, maybe even better than you currently do. Aren’t you curious about how much energy you might get? Wouldn’t it be great to look back and celebrate that you could do it? At the end of the day, it is just a test to see if your life can improve.

Prepare for your time off alcohol and make a list of things to do instead:

  • Write a list of positive outcomes. What will you get out of taking a break? Put your list on your fridge and read it every time things get hard.
  • Check if someone wants to do it with you. In that case, you can hang out together if all your other friends are out clubbing. Or you can both go out with your friends if you feel like you’ll be okay not drinking.
  • What did you use to do when you were younger, before you started drinking? Is there a hobby you have benched?
  • Visit your grandparents or other relatives that you don’t see often
  • Catch up on your reading
  • Use this time to really pamper yourself. Eat healthy food, get outdoors for some natural sunlight, go to bed on time – view it as a spring clean-out!

If you need more inspiration to get this list going, try to put on a seven-minute timer and write down anything that comes to mind that makes you lose track of time or that you simply enjoy doing.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself.

Speak to yourself like you would speak to your child or best friend. Cut yourself some slack! Keep in mind that it is okay to not always feel amazing. Allow your mind and body to just be, and say to yourself that it is okay. Right now, what I feel is what I feel, how I am is how I am – and right now, that is okay. Life is so much more than we can describe it in words. Follow your interests, follow your happiness and don’t limit yourself to what you know!

Maya Kiusalaas | www.mymondaylove.com

Life with alcohol dependence

‘Rachierach’, a member of Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak program, shares her story about how she struggled for years to change her relationship with alcohol, until a big wake up call.

I started binge drinking at 14 years old. I was sneaking out and drinking every night, spending my nights at the skate park or a friend’s house.

My drinking didn’t continue steadily from there. I really only drank heavily for a year and then would only drink on social occasions and weekends, but always drank A LOT when I did drink. Back then I thought drinking competitions were so much fun; silly, looking back!

My first son was born when I had not long turned 18, and my second son was born 22 months later. I didn’t drink through pregnancy except for a couple of occasions; even then, it was only a couple of glasses. Life was pretty cruisy. I lost contact with my entire family when my first son was born. It was a drama-free life for myself and my young family when we moved from country Victoria to Queensland.

When I look back, I was drinking every night from when my second-born was a baby. The boys’ dad worked nights and I was home alone often. But I didn’t look at myself then as having an alcohol dependence.

I was dealing with many emotions from my childhood, like the lack of contact and interest from my own family. It wasn’t until 2006 when my marriage went down the tube that I really amped up the drinking. My boys were nine and 11 and I felt like I had failed them. I never wanted them to go through the things I had to. My Dad left when I was six and I didn’t see him again until I was 16. We don’t talk now; the relationship was never a good one.

So in the year of 2006, thanks to the stresses of a pending divorce and the feeling of failing my boys, I had a full-blown mental breakdown. It lasted 12 months. I was drinking more than a bottle of vodka a day and was also on anti-depressants as well as anti-anxiety and sleeping pills. I was suicidal and an outright mess.

There were so many events that year I have zero memory of. I was blackout drunk every single day. I was lucky to have an extremely understanding boss that allowed me a lot of time off. So from there, with a new partner that enjoyed drinking, I just kept on going, not blacking out every night but drinking every night.

It was about five years ago that I knew I had a problem. I was desperate to get home from work each day so I could drink, and often stopped at the pub on my way. Sometimes, I even stopped in for the odd beer during my lunch break just to take the edge off. I tried giving up but found it all too hard. With my now-husband working nights, my drinking increased again, to a point where I would black out regularly.

My life turned around



In October of 2015, I had some routine blood tests done because I was lacking energy. My liver results were not good, but I chose to ignore it for more than a year. I kept telling myself that I was only 39, I was too young to have liver issues. And there was no way I was giving up before my 40th party; the one I had waited my whole life for.

As it happens, it was at that very party in November 2016 that I knew the time had come for me to quit. I had repeated my liver test from the year before and my results were actually 10 times worse than just 12 months earlier. Eventually, I was barely getting through each waking day without needing to take a rest to stop fainting, which I soon learned was my liver saying ‘no more’.

I started my journey on my own, without telling a soul except for my husband. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. My initial goal was to have a dry spell and then drink moderately on social occasions. I went 47 days and then had the odd glass here and there on five occasions. Australia Day was fast approaching and I was dreading going through that without drinking but knew that it had to be all or nothing for me.

That’s when I joined Daybreak, when I was most desperate for some support. My husband was far from supportive; he wasn’t ready to lose his drinking buddy.

Joining Daybreak was my saving grace. I will be forever grateful for the wonderful community that has supported me through some really tough times and cheered me on through some victories. It has been more than nine months and I am still on Daybreak almost every single day because I get great joy in encouraging others to live a better life. Some of the friends I have made through Daybreak are friends I will have for life. They get it like no-one else can.

I can truthfully say that there are ups and downs on this road and the first few months were an unbelievable roller coaster of emotions including shame, guilt, sadness; you name it.

But all those things don’t last forever. Once you get past them and accept that the past is the past, and that’s not the person you are anymore, there is an overwhelming feeling of freedom.

So even though I have a really tough personal event to get through coming up, I’m feeling confident that this day will be a whole lot different to what it has been my entire life. I have confidence in myself that I have never had before and life feels good. Damn good!

To find out more and to download Daybreak, a program by Hello Sunday Morning, visit hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak.

Men and alcohol

A man’s relationship with alcohol can take many different forms. Men and alcohol can be the best mates or the worst mates. Alcohol can be something you enjoy quietly by yourself and it can be something you enjoying wildly with others. Rarely, though, is it something us men talk about. But I’d be lying if I said it was something we didn’t think about.

As a 20-year-old, I knew that my relationship with alcohol was poor and I needed to get away from it for a while. The problem was that when I felt this way, I had mates who were in the midst of a love affair with booze and wanted me to join them for the weekend. I, too, was guilty of persuading (forcefully, mind you) friends who wanted to take a break from the beers, to forget about how they were feeling and have five or 10 too many with me.

Us men know that too much booze isn’t good for our health, but we love our mates and we’d do anything for them.

Herein lies the problem: for many men, seeing mates and having a drink go hand in hand

I have a good group of mates. We talk to each about how we’re feeling and what is going on in our lives. We share in each other’s successes and support one another when we’re struggling.

But alcohol has this interesting effect on us. In pairs or smaller groups, it’s not a big deal if booze isn’t around. But as the group swells, so does the expectation that alcohol will come along with it. We never even consider a gathering of 5-10 of us without a few beers to go along with it.

A Harvard study on men’s health found surprising results about men and alcohol

In 1938, Harvard University began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores and continued to do so for nearly 80 years, expanding the study to include the original men’s children, who today are in their 50s and 60s. The study found two things that I find incredibly interesting about men and alcohol.

First it found that loneliness kills, and its effects are as powerful as smoking or alcohol dependence. According to the study, those with strong social support experience fewer mental health difficulties as they age. Second, it found that those who avoided drinking alcohol to excess tended to live longer, enjoy better health and were happier.

Here it was, a proven fact that maintaining close friendships is one of the most important influences on your health. This becomes a problem because so many Australian friendships are formed and maintained with alcohol. Most of the time this isn’t a problem; men can drink and not have it affect their lives. But often, as is the case for nearly half a million men in Australia, alcohol destroys their careers, their health and those very relationships that keep them mentally well.

Enter Movember, when the great moustache army swarmed the nation

Men and alcohol: Hello Sunday Morning does Movember

This month is the perfect opportunity to bring the issue of men and alcohol to light. On Daybreak, Hello Sunday Morning’s award-winning program that supports people to change their relationship with alcohol, 70% of members are women. But it’s not because women are more likely to have a complicated relationship with alcohol. It’s because women are more likely to reach out for support to change it.

Us blokes are getting better at talking about our feelings and our families. But often we’ll do this over a drink, even if we don’t feel like one.

The official Movember website lists prostate cancer, mental health, suicide and testicular cancer as the key areas of men’s health they support. All of these are significant issues that affect thousands of men across the country and prevent them from living the happier, healthier and longer lives that Movember Foundation wants for them.

The scale of the issue

Many don’t realise that alcohol kills more men across Australia than our suicide rate and road toll combined.

And with prostate cancer the second leading cause of cancer death, research has shown that blokes who have more than five drinks a day increase their risk of prostate cancer by 18%.

The challenge is to find ways to connect with our mates, or develop friendships with new ones, without relying on alcohol to do so. It’s not an easy challenge and one that I still don’t have a great answer too. I’m one of the lucky men who have a sport I love to play and have time to play it. That helps. I’ve also got close mates who I’ve known since I was 12 years old (I’m 30 now). But not all men are lucky enough to have this. Many men struggle to find a place they fit or struggle to reach out for help when they need it.

Join the conversation at Hello Sunday Morning or visit Movember Foundation and help a mate today.


Written by Jamie Moore, Hello Sunday Morning General Manager.

Surprising results from three months without alcohol

Brad Hopkins KPMG on three months without alcohol

Brad Hopkins, Director at KPMG’s Infrastructure & Projects Group, reflects on the corporate culture of drinking and his three months without alcohol.


Personal drinking habits are an unusual topic to kick around with colleagues. The magic little liquid holds a cherished position in corporate Australia – its ubiquity and impact on our work environment is rarely spoken of.

I have never been regarded as a big drinker and I never thought of myself as having a ‘drinking problem’. Despite this, I was challenged by a friend to tackle three months without alcohol and I finished this stint in May 2017. Now I’ve decided to do another three months, and I’d like to encourage others to have a go. My motivation is old fashioned curiosity – the original stint was so surprising that I’d like to see what might happen next.

So, what can you expect if you join the experiment? I am sure it will vary dramatically by person but I have described a few of my own surprises below.

One month is a good start, but longer is better

I had quit alcohol for a month once before but was persuaded to try a longer three-month stint this time around. The longer break was recommended by a friend, Chris Raine, of Hello Sunday Morning. Hello Sunday Morning’s mission is to provide tools and support to help people assess their relationship with alcohol. The thing I like about this organisation is that they don’t tell you how much you should drink. Instead, they help you learn something about yourself and your habits.

For me the first month was largely occupied with self-congratulations and predictable outcomes. I lost some weight and saved some money. Far more interesting things happened in months two and three. With time my concentration began to improve, my stress levels declined and my sleep improved.

Why did these changes take so long to materialise? Research on the impact of long-term, low-level drinking is patchy at best. Some theorise that alcohol, even a small amount of alcohol, has a neurological impact which alters our brain long after any hangover abates. Recent studies show that drinking small amounts of alcohol (e.g. 14 units per week) over extended periods is linked to changes in the brain and poorer long-term cognitive function.

Although the research is scant, I find it hard to imagine something that has such a significant impact on our brain in the short term (drunkenness) not having some cumulative impact (concentration, sleep, mood) in the longer term. These longer-term impacts could take time to abate once we stop drinking.

Successful people drink less than you think

For the first two weeks of my sobriety it felt like corporate Australia was awash with booze. I counted no less than twelve work-related drinking opportunities across fourteen days. Friday afternoon drinks, lunches celebrating arrivals, departures and successes, boozy nights out with clients or colleagues. In the corporate world, all of these events provide shared experiences that strengthen our relationships. Alcohol helps people bond at a fairly low cost compared to more thoughtful alternatives.

As I talked more about my sobriety, people shared stories about their own drinking habits and I discovered a lot of non-drinkers and highly disciplined drinkers lurking in the shadows of corporate Australia. Many of these “well considered” drinkers were highly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs who had turned away from alcohol for a variety of reasons.

Some of these people had well-evolved strategies for avoiding alcohol without being conspicuous about their abstinence. They would accept a drink and hold it as a prop, do the rounds at functions and exit early or restrict themselves to half a glass of wine nursed through an evening. These are the tips they do not teach you at graduate training.

Concentration is king

In the second month my concentration began to improve dramatically and the modern curse called “distraction” finally departed. Despite digging through the research, I haven’t been able to uncover why my concentration levels jumped. The cause is probably multi-faceted and I suspect that sleep is a big part of it. Alcohol is a notorious disrupter of sleep – although it helps us drift into sleep, the sleep is less restorative and more prone to interruption. My sleep gradually improved until I was getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in the second month.

Frankly, the reasons didn’t concern me as much as the outcome – I was delighted with my new cognitive superpowers. I had one of the most productive and successful periods of my career.

Moods matter

The modern workplace revolves around our ability to think and interact with other human beings. Our reality as modern workers is that our mood directs much of our approach to people and problems. Mood can skew how you approach somebody, or indeed whether you bother approaching them at all. Whether you are calling on your emotional intelligence or solving a problem, having some control over your mood seems important today.

Any level of hangover, even from one or two drinks, makes me a little bit grumpy. For me, alcohol was a handbrake and encouraged a mindset that was muted and homogenous. As the experiment continued my moods shifted to a place which allowed me to engage more fully with the people and circumstances around me.

Stress less

Like many of us, my job is stressful and it probably always will be. As my dry spell wore on I realised that the glass or two of wine shared with my wife over dinner was actually a way of dealing with a stressful day.

It turns out that alcohol is a terrible antidote for stress and anxiety. Recent research shows that, for some people, being stressed reduces the impact of alcohol resulting in more drinking to achieve the desired result. Drinking causes short-term relaxation but reduces our ability to manage stress. For me, abstinence made me better at dealing with and responding to stress at work and at home. I was harder to rattle and recovered more quickly.

What comes after three months without alcohol?

I am going to dive into a further dry spell for another few months without alcohol. It is not easy, particularly when habits have been entrenched over many years. Whether your own challenge is work stress or Friday night socialising, there are good strategies for dealing with this.


Check out our blog on the link between stress and anxiety or chat to a Health Coach on Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak program to help you find the best strategies for you.

Where does sensitivity fit into drinking?

Are you someone who has heightened sensitivity to your environment? Do you react instantly to a change in temperature, a certain food, or even smell? Is it painful to be around people who are loud, or in the same room as people who are giving each other the silent treatment?

We all exist somewhere along a spectrum of sensitivity, from those who are highly reactive to their environment, to those who seem bulletproof to the goings-on around them. There are so many things that determine this, but, like most other things, we know that it is a combination of genetics and environment; the epigenetics that switch on sensitivity. Having a sensitive temperament can be a wonderful gift. Just ask the people around you. But it can also mean that you are much more vulnerable to the things that life throws your way.

The research into this area is slowly coming together to form an understanding of a ‘spectrum’ of sensitivity. This covers how our brains process information, and whether we perceive things as threatening, beautiful, exciting, or boring.

We all know someone with an artistic temperament and can talk for hours about their love of music. We also know the more solid, engineer types who would like nothing more than to sit in front of a computer screen and code for hours on end.

Sensitivity is aligned a lot with empathy. These are not necessarily the same thing, but it is understandable that if someone is quite sensitive to their environment, they may also be more conscious of the inner states of people around them.

Sensitivity is also associated with anxiety. Receiving a lot of signals from your environment means that you are often in a state of high alert. Sensitive people are also more likely to be affected by life events. This increases the likelihood of trauma and traumatic memories, which contribute to challenges in your daily life.

An analogy that researchers use is the orchid and the daisy. If you are an orchid, you will need a very stable environment when growing. You need to be in a climate-controlled greenhouse, watered daily, and protected from storms and wind. If you are a daisy, you can grow anywhere from the cracks of a pavement to a garden. If a storm comes along, you are likely to remain intact and undamaged afterwards. Meanwhile, an orchid will be damaged and need a bit of time to recover, and might have lasting effects.

We generally exist along a spectrum from the orchid to the daisy. From very sensitive, to very hardy. It is not about which is better, as both of these flowers were this way from birth. Nor is it a matter of choosing whether to be an orchid or daisy. This is something that is pre-determined from the moment of fertilisation.

So how does sensitivity relate to drinking?

A lot of research indicates that those with a sensitive temperament are more vulnerable to developing issues with alcohol. This is simply because alcohol sometimes makes the world easier to deal with. If you have a lot of emotions close to the surface, experiences of rejection, sadness, criticism, loneliness or anxiety can feel incredibly intense. When we think about alcohol, it can have the effect of taking away some of the intensity of these experiences.

Dulling the feelings

The numbing effect of alcohol, while not necessarily pleasant, can feel like a welcome escape from sesnsitivity. Switching off from feeling overwhelmed is important; unfortunately, alcohol is among the fastest ways to do this.

One of the ways that alcohol works is by causing our brains to release GABA. GABA is a chemical that causes us to relax and lower our inhibitions. This allows a sensitive person to switch off from a lot of the information that is coming in. They can be slightly more affected by alcohol as well, meaning that the dopamine rush is more significant and pronounced.

Some members of the Hello Sunday Morning program, Daybreak, admit that they are feeling overwhelmed by life. Alcohol is one of those things that makes it better in the moment when it feels as if things are getting to be too much. Life can be a heartbreaking, sad, and overwhelming experience. If you are highly sensitive to your environment, it is likely that when things are bad, they will feel really bad. The plus side is that when things are good, it will feel really good. But that isn’t much help during times of stress, loss, poor health and conflict.

What is a solution to this?

If you have identified that you fall somewhere on the sensitive side of the spectrum and your drinking is a part of this, there are some things that might be helpful for you:

  • Take care of the basics. Sleep, diet and exercise are important to maintain your emotional health and to have a sense of balance and calm. Even if we can’t control parts of our life, we know that the building blocks are critical to staying well.
  • Understand what role alcohol plays in managing some of these issues. Is it numbing? Is it lifting your mood? Consider other ways to calm your system or wind down. There are other ways to zone out: listen to relaxing music or take a day in bed to read and watch movies.
  • Be aware of your environment. If there are things that are impacting you, make some efforts to change it. Whether it is a cold office at work or an aggressive neighbour, these things can have a significant impact on mood and coping ability, and things are easier when we address them.
  • Seek support. Have a look at the Daybreak program for some ideas and advice about how to deal with things differently, or speak to a coach for additional support and information. A lot of Daybreak members have great advice and ideas for self-care in times of stress, and would appreciate your ideas too.

Remember, it’s a positive thing if you are on the sensitive side. This is particularly true in terms of having good relationships with those around you and as a part of society. Many highly successful and happy people describe themselves as having sensitive and empathic temperaments. It is a case of finding what works for you.

Retaining the capacity to reflect, wonder, express joy and support those around you, without being overwhelmed by them, is often a work in progress. We know that drinking can be part of managing this sensitivity, and often it is about finding ways to change that relationship. Move from numbing towards something more deliberate and mindful.

How to feel content

Daybreak’s health coach talks us through the 10 core needs that we need to meet to feel content.

Can you remember a time in your life when things felt ‘just right’? Perhaps it was a time when you felt you were really getting to where you wanted to be; you felt unstoppable. Or, it was a time when there were a lot of new things happening, and you felt like the world was opening up to you.

It could be that, at that time, you were meeting most of your core needs.

A lot of research into wellbeing and life satisfaction indicates that ‘happiness’ – or, at the very least, to feel content, depends on us having most of our needs met in the different areas of our lives.

What are the 10 core needs to feel content?*

  • Health
  • Home
  • Money
  • Social
  • Partner
  • Close friends
  • Group belonging
  • Self-care
  • Personal growth
  • Meaning and purpose

If we invest too much in one area, we risk falling short in others. Spending too much time earning money and working means our social and relational needs are unmet. On the other hand, spending too much time socialising might mean that we fall behind in our personal growth or looking after our health. It is a delicate balance. Importantly, you don’t need all 10 needs met to feel content. We generally aim to meet six or seven of the needs, fully or partially.

When people present to me with symptoms of depression, I often run through an inventory of their unmet needs. Chronically unmet needs can often result in feeling discontent. This, in turn, can cause us to feel empty, lonely, frustrated, anxious, and generally out of sorts. When we feel discontented, we are much more likely to drink more, eat more, and do more ‘self-soothing’ pursuits. These can include online shopping, social media trawling, gambling, or other things which may temporarily lift our moods.

Ironically, these are things that generally cause us to have even less of a chance to meet our needs. They are avoidance behaviours and keep us stuck in the same place.

In my experience, it is often the relational needs that are important. We can sometimes feel lonely if we are not part of something bigger than ourselves, like a social circle. Similarly, if we feel we are not learning and growing, or have a purpose in our lives, we can be left with an unsettling sense of frustration and anxiety. Different needs are also more important at different times in our lives.

Finding ways to resolve your unmet needs is likely to result in a big shift in your mood and outlook. It could be that your alcohol use is a way of managing feelings of discontentment stemming from these unmet needs. In the other direction, your alcohol use might be contributing to unmet needs, since our drinking might be impacting our relationships, energy levels, health, and finances.

How do you start to feel content?

Look back at that time in your life when things felt really good. If you can’t think of a time when that was happening, then think of the closest time to that; a time that you remember as a pretty good period of your life. Then go through the core needs (health, home, money, social, partner, close friends, group belonging, self-care, personal growth, and meaning and purpose).

What were you doing then that was different to what you are doing now?

Often we find that in those really good times, we were either investing our time differently (eg. in our friendships and relationship, rather than work or video games), doing things for our health (eg. involved in regular exercise or sports), or in a period of growth or personal development (eg. studying or learning a new skill or hobby).

The next step is to take an inventory of where you are now and which of these core needs is unmet. How might you be able to bump up that need from unmet to at least partially met?

Examples to feel content

If your health needs are currently unmet, you could take a couple of hours to research some exercise plans, look up healthy recipes online, or go for a long walk to start the process of getting back into shape.

When social needs are unmet, you could send off some texts to old friends, or perhaps search on meetup.com for groups of people who you might have something in common with.

Finally, if your personal growth needs are unmet, you could search online for a short course you can do in your spare time, or look at taking up some hobbies or setting goals for yourself. Do anything that might challenge you or provide you with intellectual stimulation.

Addressing our unmet needs is something that we know works. Remember that time in your life when things felt really good? Often it is a constant work in progress and our circumstances can change, friends can move, life can get on top of us and we can find that our previously met needs are now unmet. All that we need to do is to be aware of this, and notice when that familiar feeling of discontentment comes up. When we can recognise it, then we can start to take action towards addressing those unmet needs and moving back towards contentment.

*10 Core needs based on workshop materials presented by Matthew Berry, a Melbourne psychologist

How to replace habits with healthier choices

For someone wanting to cut back on their drinking, getting into healthier lifestyle habits can be an effective way to replace habits and change their relationship with alcohol.

People often have the tendency to replace one bad habit with another, like giving up smoking and binge eating sugary food. Whether it be exercise, art and creative therapies, picking up a new hobby or practising meditation, the replacement suggestions below are an important step in changing old habits and replacing your drink with something better for your mental and physical state.

When you start to develop new habits, passions and hobbies, you start to create new goals for yourself and the determination to improve in these areas can be a great distraction from drinking. You won’t want to drink on a Saturday night if you have an art course with a highly regarded teacher, or the waves are forecast to be clean and offshore the next day!

Replace habits by getting active

Get active to replace habits

Alcohol releases a chemical in our brains called dopamine, the reason why you feel pretty good when you first start drinking. The great news is that exercise also releases these feel-good chemicals and endorphins into your body, so you don’t have to drink to get this effect! Plus, you can’t get a hangover from a jog or boot camp. As well as helping to replace habits, exercise works as a great stress relief, boosts your mood and helps you sleep better.

Getting active does not have to be all about spending a day in a stuffy, sweaty and uninspiring gym. There are so many activities you can try to see what you enjoy the most, whether that be:

  • Cycling
  • Personal training
  • Group fitness classes
  • Outdoor meetups, like sailing or kayaking
  • Running/ running groups
  • F45, aerobics, spin classes, or cross fit
  • Boxing or martial arts
  • Triathlons or marathons
  • Ocean swimming

As long as your chosen activity gets the blood pumping and the mind present, you’re on the right track!

Try meditation

While sitting in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting recently, I heard people talk about their progress or their relapses and what really struck me was that over 50% of the people in the meeting spoke about how they deal with their anxiety or frustration by meditating.

 

Meditation does not have to be bound by any ‘right’ way or technique. Sometimes just sitting still and breathing can actually increase the feeling of heaviness and depression, or sitting still is not physically possible because of anxiety. Luckily, there are different techniques of moving meditation that helps move these negative energies around the body instead of sitting still. If you’re in this frame of mind, moving that energy around and out of the body can be the most effective. Some of these techniques include ancient mindfulness practices like Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga Asana, Kundalini, and Aikido. There are also group meditations, guided meditations, apps, books, workshops and endless resources to help get you started and replace habits.

“It’s helped me find my centre, helped me tone down and control my reactiveness, rebuilt the part of my brain that was affected by alcohol and pot and food addiction, given me control over my negative mind, pulled me out of depression again and again, allowed me to connect to that greater thing outside of me (or inside of me — however you want to look at it), and more than anything, become the number one coping mechanism in my life — for stress, anxiety, anger, blues, bitchiness — it fixes everything.”— Hip Sobriety

Be creative

Be creative to replace habits

Art therapy is a type of treatment that guides people to use the creative part of their brain and express their emotions through creation to replace habits. Art therapy has been proven to boost self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate different experiences and feelings by encouraging people to use their hands, paint and other mediums.

The Professional Association for Arts Therapy Australia says art can be an outlet for some and can encourage people to:

  • Express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
  • Explore their imagination and creativity
  • Develop healthy coping skills and focus
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Identify and clarify issues and concerns
  • Increase communication skills
  • Share in a safe, nurturing environment
  • Improve motor skills and physical coordination
  • Identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth.


Gardening and horticulture therapy

Gardening and horticulture therapy are often promoted as a tool to help people get outside and boost general wellbeing. Horticulture therapy is now practised in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, mental health programs and addiction rehab to replace habits. As it is also a caregiving type of role, gardening can often provide a sense of purpose and structure.

Research has shown that gardening can reduce aggression, anxiety, depression and improve concentration and even self-esteem. Getting into projects like creating a vegetable garden can be a great way to feel motivated to work outside, and often you will find that time just flows by when you stop to smell (and plant), the flowers.

Hobbies

Despite what people may think, you’re never too old to take up a new hobby. The best part about taking up a hobby is that it is something you are choosing to do because you enjoy doing it, and you don’t need anyone else to be involved, or even like it! To list all potential hobbies that you can explore would take up pages and pages of this blog, so here are just a few hobbies the team at Hello Sunday Morning are into:

 
  • Surfing
  • Hiking
  • Dragon boating
  • Collecting art
  • Dancing- salsa, ballroom, No Lights No Lycra
  • Computer games
  • Drawing
  • Cooking

For a heavy drinker to replace habits, these alternative therapies should be used in conjunction with talking to your GP, psychologist, and a consistent support platform such as the Daybreak program and community.

How stress and anxiety link to drinking

As a health coach for Hello Sunday Morning’s app, Daybreak, I have noticed that anxiety is a really common issue for our members. For some people, it is a chicken or egg scenario – is my drinking a way that I am managing my anxiety, or is my anxiety partly a result of my drinking and all the things that come with it? And, where does stress fit into all of this? Is it the same, or separate to anxiety?

One thing I have noticed is that stress in our lives greatly increases our vulnerability to high-risk drinking, as well as being overwhelmed with strong emotions.

I wondered why that was, and what kind of relationship there was between these three factors. My sense was that if I, as a health coach, had these questions, our members might as well – so I have put together some pointers that my coaching clients have found helpful in exploring the relationship between anxiety, drinking, and stress.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a tricky thing to define but is generally our brain’s way of responding to some kind of threat – whether that is a threat to our safety, our reputation, our relationships or our sense of self. It can be affected by our genetics, our environment, and our personality. Stress is often a precursor to anxiety – stressful situations put us into ‘fight or flight’ mode that helps us to protect ourselves from various types of threat.

Can you be predisposed to anxiety?

There is a lot of evidence that links stressful life events (SLEs) in our early life with issues later in life, including anxiety, depression and, sometimes, substance use. SLEs don’t have to be life or death situations – they can be things like witnessing parental divorce, economic adversity or mental illness. The evidence indicates that experiencing two or more SLEs in early life significantly increased a person’s chances of developing an issue with their mood, such as anxiety or depression.

Of course, if you are a child who is vulnerable to stress, you are probably going to be affected more by something like a divorce or economic hardship– which is where individual factors come in. An anxious or sensitive temperament and stress early on in life can create a ‘perfect storm’ for some issues later on down the track. Not everyone who feels anxious as an adult has been exposed to SLEs, but there is a really strong relationship between SLEs and anxiety or depression. It is good to remember that the active component here is the ‘stress’ – when kids are exposed to ongoing stress in their lives, it impacts how their brains develop and respond to threats in their environment. But more on that later on.

A good thing to remember is that SLEs in adulthood can also create issues with our moods – if we have a number of stressful events with little opportunity for respite, we can find that it is much harder to keep positive. Perhaps we start to feel really anxious after a bad breakup that just keeps going on, or very down and helpless after some chronic stress at work. Our brains don’t deal with ongoing stress well, particularly the kind of stress that we feel we can’t do much about.

Remember – stress often comes first, and if it keeps going, that is when problems can develop. Often when we look back to difficult times in our lives, we can see that a number of different stressors led up to it. What is the science behind this? It sounds too ‘tell me about your childhood’!

Emotions and stress levels

There is a lot of research into SLEs, as well as the actual mechanism that creates this relationship between our exposure to stress, our moods, and our relationships with alcohol. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of heavy duty neuroscience, but essentially:

We know that SLEs can change how our brains develop and even which genes are expressed; in particular, in the dopamine reward pathway which is a major player in high-risk drinking.

Research has found major disruptions in our dopamine signalling (for motivated behaviour and reward seeking) associated with SLEs. The part of our brain that controls this system also affects our stress and anxiety levels. Throughout our lifetime, stress causes us to produce cortisol which helps us to survive and stay alert. However, when these stress responses are activated over and over again, a person can become vulnerable to later problems with anxiety and depression.

One way to think about it is like a button that gets pressed over and over again. At first, it works well, but over time it wears out. Sometimes it will get stuck in the ‘on’ position, and other times it won’t work at all and we’ll need to keep pressing it until it does.

People who have some problems with regulating their emotions as adults will often have had lots of stressful experiences as children, which have caused them to become ‘dysregulated’. The button in their brain that controls anxiety, mood, and even motivation, has been pressed too much and is now worn out. They might need to drink lots of coffee to get going, or they might need to drink a lot of alcohol to calm themselves down.

If there have been many disruptive, challenging or stressful events in your childhood, this may have contributed to you experiencing some issues with anxiety as an adult. If you were an anxious child who experienced a lot of things as stressful, that may also be impacting you now. If you’ve just come through a number of stressors and are finding that your emotions are all over the place, this may also be something to consider.

How does this button fit in with my drinking?

It becomes even trickier as the way that alcohol works is by taking advantage of this ‘worn out’ stress button. People who fit this description may be more susceptible to the ‘pleasure’ pathway that occurs with alcohol.

Exposure to ongoing stress means that our brains produce less dopamine over time, and so we can feel flat and empty – which can cause us to seek out the ‘high’ of alcohol or drugs. Having a sip of alcohol sends excitatory projections to our nucleus accumbens, part of our reward pathway. A complex set of interactions occur which result in that ‘good’ feeling we can get from drinking, and in people who are vulnerable, it can be a really intense and rewarding experience.

In particular, if you are an anxious person who is under stress, you may be existing in a state of mild discomfort. It is not a comfortable feeling to be on edge or tense, and alcohol is something that significantly shifts that, really quickly. We become conditioned to believe that this is perhaps the only way to take away the discomfort, or relive the stress we are feeling – and so drinking becomes more and more of a coping strategy, particularly when we are having a difficult time in our lives and are stressed, burnt out or unhappy.

Perhaps at the beginning it is about having pleasure and getting enjoyment, and later on it may become about taking away unpleasant emotions and discomfort from not having the alcohol – which is a good indicator that a problem is starting to develop, and some support is needed.

But where does this leave me?

This may sound really bleak, but don’t worry! The good news is that being aware of this relationship is a big part of the solution. Daybreak members who have identified this link between stress, anxiety, and drinking, have found some of the following strategies really helpful:

• Talk to a counsellor or coach about what kinds of things are generally stressful for you like relationship problems, criticism, failure or rejection. Understanding your triggers means that they are no longer triggers, but rather situations which can be handled with care and understanding.

• Finding other ways to ‘self-soothe’. Things like relaxation and exercise are effective ways of lowering physiological arousal and increasing your production of dopamine. Importantly, they also give us a sense of control over our mood state, which is really important for our wellbeing.

• Find ways to reduce stress in your life. If your stress button has been ‘worn out’ by life events, it may be necessary to find ways to deal with stress differently, whether that involves a change in your self-care, seeking support from friends and family to help lighten the load, or problem solving ways to address sources of ongoing stress.

• Make a list of trigger situations and a plan to deal with each of these. For example, if you know that you are likely to feel depleted and exhausted after work, make a plan to go for a walk with a friend, or schedule some other self-soothing activity that will be effective in lowering your arousal.

During these times that we are under stress in our adult lives, we need to be even more careful with things like alcohol and ensure that we are looking after ourselves and keeping stress to a minimum. This might involve getting some counselling to help deal with the source of strong emotions, or even to help to resolve current stresses in our relationships, work life or friendships.

Download Daybreak

Alcohol support program and community

Daybreak by Hello Sunday Morning

Why I chose to go dry in the music industry – Nathan Cavaleri



Jeff Beck – “Playing in front of an audience is total lunacy. Walking out in front of everyone is just terrifying, yet I have to do it. There’s a frozen moment when you set foot on the stage, when you don’t know if you’re going to fall over, or if someone’s going to give you a hard time in the front row. It feels like I’m facing death every single day I go on.”

Whether you’re in Red Hot Chili Peppers or a local cover band, you are the crowd’s reason to let go and get off.

Work environments for the nine-to-fiver range from mud and bricks to LCD screens; but as a musician, yours will be security guards, bar tenders and punters intoxicated on liquid amber, mary-jane and – if you’re doing your job correctly – great music.

As a musician, you will always be around alcohol and drugs, and for me celebratory vibes are contagious. I always want in. When I first cut out alcohol (after smashing apart yet another stage) I could only enviously watch my friends and fans laugh and drink the rest of the night away. Unfulfilled and feeling left out, I’d have to remind myself of why I chose to go dry.

My relationship with alcohol wasn’t an emotional one. I didn’t drink to numb anxiety or boost confidence. I didn’t even drink to relax. Alcohol was my ticket to the loosest circus in town.

Throughout my 20s, I’d poke bears and prod lions until the birds would sing the sun up, and laugh my fatigued body through the following day in the studio. But when hangovers became a mental and emotional rollercoaster, I thought twice before pouring my third rum. Soon, anxiety claimed alcohol altogether. I couldn’t touch a drop without feeling the fingers of fear slither up the back of my neck. It was no fun anymore, so I went dry for three years. Unlike many, this was a decision I was happy to make, but challenges surfaced – or, should I say, indicators began flashing. The void that alcohol abstinence left showed me things about myself I never knew existed.

The night I decided to quit drinking. I can laugh at it now, but my reaction to alcohol was an indicator of physical and emotional debts that needed to be paid.


Fortunately, booze made me play like shit, so it was never a problem around show time. But many musicians drink and use to dampen nerves or general emotional heat, others to keep the dying flames of passion alight. Networking, industry and crowd perception can also anchor many to the bottle. Being a substance of surrender, it can be a solution to dissolving stresses that block the creative highways when trying to write. Naturally, going dry will effect what alcohol depends on. For me, socialising became boring, and relationships shifted. It was as if the contrast on my social life had been turned down. I knew that as long as there were parts of my personality left unexpressed, I’d continue mourning the “fun times” and thus alcohol (now I understand yoyo sobriety). Thanks to the knowledge I had acquired dealing with anxiety, I was able to fully shift my relationship with alcohol.

I’m lying on my back in a sweaty state of blissful exhaustion and completely comfortable with mortality after one of the most amazing sex sessions I’ve ever had. As I’m enjoying the mental replays, I start laughing. I can’t believe I said that. I can’t believe she did that. It seemed natural at the time but from the ground up, it was almost embarrassing. With no substances in our systems, we rose above the day’s fatiguing stressors beyond boundaries and judgement. It was a ride of unfiltered connections much like the ones I chased socially with a bottle. Then it hits me. Alcohol is not the state itself, but a catalyst for bringing out something in me that already exists. I begin questioning every belief between alcohol and social fun.

Mood state change, night life stamina, psychological guard dropping, confidence, boldness, unfiltered connections, creativity, light-hearted shit talking, deep and meaningful conversations, laughing, dancing, climbing street poles, straddling street poles, networking, industry perception, crowd perception, relaxation, fear, presence and letting go of stressors were all qualities I learnt how to trigger substance-free through challenging the beliefs that inhibited them, and applying different internal strategies. Not only was the void filled, but a mental discipline was created in me that I apply to other areas in life. It took time, but some of the biggest, cosmic fearless nights I’ve had have been dry. And I remember them! Now I enjoy a glass of red for different reasons. There’s no void. I’m not chasing or dampening anything. There’s no clinging. It’s a take it or leave it situation.

An afterthought for the artist that is worried about perception – I reflect on my hangs with Slash, the guys from Deep Purple, B.B. King, Jimmy Barnes, whoever. Artists whose images are stained with drugs and alcohol, are loved because of what they do and who they are when they’re on it, not because they’re on it in the first place. When Courtney Love urinated on stage at The Big Day Out, nobody asked, “What was she drinking?”



Read more about Nathan and his incredible story here

One year on – reflections from a Daybreak member

I am a married mother of two children. I live in a beautiful house in a nice neighbourhood. To anyone outside, I seemed to have it all.

Nine years ago, I held my father’s hand while he took his last breaths as he passed away from alcoholic cirrhosis. I never thought it was possible for people to die from alcohol abuse and, honestly, I was angry that he let it get to that point. I never thought I would be headed down the same road.

Of course, it didn’t happen overnight. I started drinking on weekends, progressed to weekdays and then it became a regular daily occurrence. Some days were worse than others, where I drank so much I would completely black out and not remember what I had said or done the day before. Some mornings after I had too much to drink the night before, I’d vow to myself I’d never drink again. That lasted for a day or two and then I would promise myself that the next time I would just have a few glasses instead of a few bottles of wine. I kept this going for a few years. If I didn’t drink the night before, I’d make up for lost time the day after.

I got to a point where one bottle of wine per day was normal and I would have two other bottles on standby. Then two bottles became my new normal and I started drinking earlier in the day, hiding my bottles so that my husband couldn’t see that I had started drinking before noon. I used any and every excuse to drink. Good day, bad day, weekend, celebrations, you name it, I’d have come up with a reason why drinking was acceptable on any given day.

My entire life was starting to crumble. My relationships with friends and family were suffering. I wasn’t truly present for my two children, and my marriage was on the verge of divorce. I said and did hurtful things, some of which I didn’t even remember doing. I was ashamed of myself but the more I tried to control myself and try to moderate my drinking, the more I failed and eventually got to a point where I considered ending my life. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I had a drinking problem. I knew I had a problem because drinking at 8:30 am is not normal, but I couldn’t say it out loud and the thought of never drinking again scared the hell out of me.

My choice

I went online and found Hello Sunday Morning and an online app called Daybreak. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t want to go to AA meetings or any other type of support group because it terrified me. As clichéd as it sounds, admitting you have a problem is the first step. I logged onto Daybreak and for a while just lurked on the app, reading posts from other people who were having the same problems that I was having. I tried and failed a few more times but on 25 September 2016 I finally decided to get onto the app and stick to my commitment to stop.

Judz share in Daybreak

What I found on this app was support and understanding like I didn’t know existed, from strangers all over the world. Strangers who encouraged and held each other up and who were all suffering in the same battle. Some had been there longer than I was and it gave me hope to stick to it. People on Daybreak gave me tricks and tips on how to get through the toughest battle I had ever had to fight in my life. It was absolutely mind-blowing to witness the pure honesty and goodness of these people. It is truly like a gathering of the best humans in the world all in the same place, and support was there any time of day or night.

I chose not to go to AA and similar meetings because they did not resonate with me at all. I personally find AA to be outdated and somewhat religious, so it just wasn’t for me. Daybreak and the people who supported me have saved my life. I don’t know where I would be had I not had their support.

Sobriety has changed my entire life. My relationships with family and friends, my marriage, all of it changed for the better. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight, but incrementally every aspect of my life got better and old wounds started to heal.

I am and will forever be grateful for Daybreak and all the wonderful people that are on the app for their support. If anyone is questioning themselves about their drinking or realises that they have a problem, Daybreak is such a great place to start. Support, understanding and compassion and most of all, no judgement. People that are going through the same journey understand how difficult this can be.

From the bottom of my heart to all of you at Daybreak and Hello Sunday Morning, thank you for saving my life.

Love and strength,

Judz01

To find out more and to download Daybreak, an app by Hello Sunday Morning, visit hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak

How to surround yourself with positive people

The best advice I have heard about living the most fulfilling and optimistic life was given to me by a man I hold in the highest regard. A man who is a father to eight kids, plus half the neighbourhood. A man who makes the most of every situation and even if something really shitty happens, like bankruptcy or a terminal illness, focuses on the good stuff and making the most of the present moment, constantly asking, “don’t you love it?” A man who opens his door (literally) to anyone of any status or background. A man with the biggest smile and an even bigger heart.

Surround yourself with positive people,” were his words of advice when I graduated high school with one of his step daughters, and it has stuck with me to this day.

Spring is upon us here in the southern hemisphere, bringing with it a season of transformation. Trees that shed their leaves and flowers in winter are now starting to bud and the weather is warming up, bringing clearer days with it. We feel rejuvenated from hibernating through winter and there is a sense of growth and new beginnings in the air.

Spring tends to be the season during which we feel inspired to make some changes to our lives.

We often say that a person is exhausting or drains our energy. They may be someone who takes from you in ways that you understand, or in a subtle way that you can’t put your finger on. This could be your partner, a friend, a colleague or anyone that you interact with often.

I’m not encouraging you to ditch a friend who is going through a hard time and seems to be in a negative place. That friend needs your support now more than ever. But you have to think of yourself first because if you feel drained and uninspired, you won’t be able to support anybody. Just be aware of these people and the place where they find themselves. To keep your spirits high, you may want to think about saying ‘no’ when you just don’t feel strong enough to take them on that day, or if you’re no energised enough to meet up with them. You can always reschedule for a time when you are feeling better and not so vulnerable.

On the other hand, there are some people who leave you feeling lighter and good about yourself. They lift your mood with a simple laugh or joke, or some great advice. These people are easy to be around and they make you love yourself more, too.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel awesome and you may be able to be that person to someone who needs it. It will make you happier, more inspired and optimistic. So, how do you do this?

Be thankful

Finding contentment is a real challenge for people in the western world. We are constantly searching for something more, whether that be through material possessions like houses, cars and tech, or shifting environments in our travels, careers and relationships. But when we focus on the good in our lives, we are likely to attract more of it.

Be passionate

We become passionate when we really love what we are doing or feel strongly about something. Being passionate means you are inspired, motivated and full of purpose. We enjoy being around people who are enthusiastic about what they are doing and their passion can sometimes even ignite our own.

Visualise it

Visualisation can be a powerful tool. Have you ever seen yourself in a situation, like receiving an award or getting a promotion, and felt it is so real that you just knew it would happen? To practice visualisation, it’s important not only to see and watch the event unfold but to also feel it in your body and notice what you can smell and see around you. For example, if you’re visualising a holiday, try to feel the breeze on your skin, the smile on your face and the joy as you splash around in the water. Realise how good it makes you feel.

Meditate, or try yoga and Tai Chi

These mindful practices allow us to tune into a state of peace and calm, decreasing the stress levels in our bodies. Yoga and Tai Chi are great practices that enable moving meditation. They can help you slow down and reset.

Strive for a nutritious diet

Food plays a huge role in how we feel. If our bowels aren’t working properly and we are not digesting our food, we can feel bloated, tired and drained of energy. It is hard to feel optimistic when you just feel like slouching on the couch.

Adopting some of the tools above in your day-to-day life, as well as limiting your time with people who aren’t bringing out the best in you and surrounding yourself with passionate, inspired and optimistic people, can really start to change the way you think and feel, for the better.

How to drink mindfully

Mindfulness is a trend that has really taken off recently. This may be because everyone is just so busy, stressed and anxious that we have forgotten what it means to savour something or how to actually be present in a moment. Every second article you read on a Facebook feed or popular blog is about being more mindful in your day to day life; eating more mindfully, socialising mindfully or practising mindfulness, yoga or meditation. But how to drink mindfully is fast becoming an important part of the conscious movement and we are all aboard that train!

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is when the mind is fully tuned into what’s happening, the space you occupy, and the activity you’re engaged in. Living mindfully means that you are completely present in that moment, aware of everything that is going on around you, and not tempting yourself into reacting or being overwhelmed by these things. When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being.

What does it mean to drink mindfully?

Can you recall a time when you arrived at a party or an event and went straight to the bar?

This may be because you were nervous, excited, or socially anxious, or you just bee-lined to the bar out of habit. Another thing to consider is that we constantly want to do something with our hands, so holding a glass and drinking is a way to keep our hands occupied while we are in a conversation and socialising. The result is that we find ourselves drinking and not even thinking about it, not to mention whether we really wanted that drink in the first place. Or the second drink. And especially not the seventh drink; by that point, the ability to drink mindfully is very hard to get a grip on, as may be the rest of your evening.

If we drink mindfully, it means we are experiencing the drink and deciding whether we like it, considering whether we would like another one, and maybe even tossing up whether it would be worth the headache tomorrow if we had too many. When we drink mindfully we are able to decide whether or not we will be drinking that night and it will be our decision. Not our friends’ decision. Not a cultural decision. Our decision.

It is common to turn to alcohol as a way to cope or deal with certain situations, whether that be stress at work, anxiety, relationship issues or a range of different emotional strains that we think drinking will help with. Sometimes it may relieve these difficult emotions in the short term. But if these issues are not resolved, a dependence on drinking may be added the list. So if we are mindful of how we are feeling or why we drink, we can understand that no matter what Homer Simpson says, drinking will not solve any problems. In turn, learning to drink mindfully helps us develop a healthier relationship with alcohol.

Homer Simpson doesn't drink mindfully

How can I drink mindfully?

Mindfulness is a practice and it requires you to be fully present. For example, if you want to drink mindfully, you need to first pause and ask yourself whether you want the alcohol or not. You may be going out to dinner with some friends and they are all planning on having a ‘big night’. But you have an early morning activity lined up the next day. So, you would check in with yourself to see if you feel like a drink that may lead to more drinks. Alternatively, you may just feel like a delicious meal and treating yourself with dessert instead.

Maybe you’re invited out to drinks with friends. In this case, to drink mindfully you wouldn’t order four of the cheapest house wines. Rather, you could order one delicious and expensive cocktail to enjoy for the duration of the night.

A third way to drink mindfully at parties and events is to just be present when you arrive for the first ten minutes, without heading to the bar. Suss out the crowd and the vibe of the place, greet your friends and then decide whether you feel like a drink. You may surprise yourself by realising you actually don’t need to drink to enjoy yourself. Remember that this takes time, so allow yourself the time and maybe a few practice attempts!

How can you incorporate mindfulness into other areas of your life?

Try this mindfulness technique from our ‘experiments’ list on Hello Sunday Morning’s app, Daybreak.

When experiencing an urge, it may be easy to feel overwhelmed by the internal experience. Mindfulness reduces the likelihood of getting caught up in the urge. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment and aware of our surroundings; noticing our thoughts and emotions as elements of our present experience and not the entire experience itself.

Five steps to live mindfully:

1. Practice

Set aside time each day to practice mindfulness. Practicing daily means that you will be in a better position to practice mindfulness when you need it. For example, when experiencing an urge or distressing thoughts and feelings.

2. Observe

Sit or stand still and observe your surroundings. Where are you? What can you see, hear and feel? Also, notice your thoughts and feelings in the present moment.

3. Let go

You will experience distracting thoughts and feelings. For example, you may notice yourself making a judgement or you may remember something you need to do. Do not engage the thoughts or feelings, but simply notice them and let them roll by.

4. Re-focus

Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and then return to what you were doing, which is noticing the present moment.

5. Show compassion

Don’t judge yourself or your thoughts and feelings as good or bad; just gently bring your mind back to the present. This skill takes practice, so go easy on yourself.

It is natural to have many thoughts going through our minds at any time. Remember, thoughts come and go and you are not your thoughts; you are much more than your thoughts.

Mr. Perfect on booze

Terry Cornick, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Perfect‘, talks about his dad, being a dad and how drinking and mental health tie into the whole story.

That sweet amber nectar. It can taste like “liquid gold,” I tell my wife after my first sip of a cold ale. I chime in with trademark sarcasm, such as, “I don’t normally drink, but go on, then.” The perfect accompaniment to a celebration, a new birth, birthday, marriage, religious celebration (some), promotion, divorce (?!) and sporting victory.

On the flip side, it is also seen as the perfect tonic for tragic news and disappointments, deaths and funerals, divorces (again), losing your job and many more hard knocks that somehow send us directly to its clasp. I can remember my first sip. It was on one rare weekend visit to my dad’s house for his “access,” which went from weekly to yearly to twice in one decade very quickly. But that’s another story.

We usually went to the pub, but on this occasion he must have been struggling for cash (as it was conveniently located 50 metres from his house), so we headed to the Off-Licence (Bottle Shop, for my Australian brethren). Trudging back with a case of Fosters–a terrible drop, by the way–I sat in his lounge on the floor watching television. While laughing he passed me a can and encouraged me to sip it. I winced as I gulped. How could adults ever enjoy this stuff? I would rather drink soap.

Alcohol was present in the early years of my life. At one stage my mum worked in the pub and my dad drank there. I can even remember as a toddler (pre-divorce) wandering around the pub with a pint glass as all my dad’s friends put their change coins in. I had this rotund belly on a skinny frame so they would call me “PB” (pot-belly), poke my tummy then chuck their money in. As strange as that sounds the glass filled up quickly, not a bad racket for a four-year-old.

These fun times were tempered by memories of dad coming home hammered from work and the carnage that followed. Another, far deeper story for my book.

But the reminders of the damage were never far from the surface. At around six years old he came to watch a football tournament I was playing in. He was pushing my baby brother in a pushchair and I never forget seeing half his face covered with a bandage. It turned out he was glassed in a pub after picking a fight with someone. As always, and as an almost silent child, I never questioned it. There were other frightening, dangerous alcohol-fuelled post-divorce events that I experienced watching on as a child. Their impact on my mental health at the time and now, are still deep and processing that can be difficult. I leave that for my Doctor visits.

Back at my mum’s house post-divorce we rarely had alcohol in the house. My mum barely drank anyway and after my sister’s birth in 1995, I would go as far as to say she was allergic. One bottle of Bacardi Breezer and migraines followed for days. So when I finally got to experience alcohol “properly” I was around 13 years old. A few of my friends’ parents were out for New Year’s Eve nearby. None of my close friends were huge tearaways, by the way, but some could be described as troublemakers.

After watching a film and playing PlayStation, one friend suggested we have some alcohol. Eventually I relented and we searched out every kitchen cupboard. We found a bottle of vodka. It’s clear in colour, we thought, like water; what damage could this possibly do? In the lounge ten minutes later we devised a simple game. The loser had to drink “some” of the vodka. Having no knowledge of measures we used a pint glass and poured two-thirds of a glass and downed it when we lost. The burn was deep. Fifteen minutes later the world turned into a wonderful fluffy marshmallow and we all danced around the room, wrestled, laughed and eventually passed out asleep with no real damage.

A couple of years later I witnessed my brother going “out on the town” dressed up and somehow getting into pubs and clubs at sixteen. It must have been the pin-striped pants, shiny black shoes, Ben Sherman shirt and black mafia-style overcoat that did the trick. The look of the day. When it was my turn to try my luck it came about by accident. My friends on the estate we lived suggested we go to a house party near our town centre. On route we realised it had been cancelled and before I knew it, fuelled by two sickly orange vodka alcopops, I was paired with a mate and his two girlfriends that looked far older and confident than we.

Five hours later my mum picks me up from the town centre clearly angry as I try and feign sobriety. My shin the next morning bearing testament to falling up the nightclub stairs and smashing it on the metal step. But a hangover? Anxiety? Depression? None of that. Come midday we all met up to play football for hours.

The university days of life saw darkness creep in concurrently with alcohol. Fresher’s Week, student nights and boredom meant substantial, encouraged drinking. But I never drank for taste. As a shy, introverted guy it was just an attempt to fit in. I figured I would be less visible that way. £3 three-litre bottles of cider before we went out were our poison.

Hangovers at this stage meant anxiety-filled days of barely leaving my bed: heart pounding, heavy chest, curtains were drawn and pleading, hopefully, that I would not have to face anyone that day. The escape of intoxication provided 12 hours previously had long gone. I was quiet and moody by nature, or so I thought at the time, so no correlation with mental health was considered. I did, however, crave Cherry Coca-Cola, a regular saviour post-booze. Post-university, friends and I discovered “Snakebite” (a horrific concoction of beer, cider and blackcurrant juice). Ironically we went to an Australian-themed bar called Walkabout on Friday and Saturday nights and post-football on Sunday. Severe dehydration meant waking up in the middle of the night after a session, usually panicking.

Curiously, I never drank during the week at home. Ever. I always wanted to function well at work, probably more than most. It was rarely in my own culture or those around me to drink at home. You went to the pub for that, the heart of the community. And on an English street, there are more hearts than Hallmark on Valentine’s Day.

Then Australia came calling. “The Great Escape,” as I call it. Unable to come to terms with, or get help for my mental health and sheer pain I was feeling, I somehow ended up on the other side of the world. A shift in my drinking culture followed.

At work I could not believe that we actually got to have a beer at 4 pm on a Friday, while still working! Mind Blowing! That gradually became a Friday lunch, then as I started to do particularly well I realised that in the sector I was working in, it was commonplace to go out on a Thursday night or meet a client for a beer mid-week. We worked alongside Sydney Harbour, after all, everyone reasoned.

As my income increased and my tastes in parallel, I developed a love for red wine or pale ale and cases of $70 craft beers. Spirits or shorts have never been appealing. But with this love has come an increased casual approach to drinking, on the whole a better approach, I think. But that shift has its own challenges.

To add to this, my mother-in-law works for a wine company. Their Hungarian background revolves around family dinners and a glass of wine or schnapps. A responsible yet enjoyable approach to drinking. Temptation is increased further as my wife, Carolina, works for an events and marketing company. Her biggest clients and accounts? Alcohol brands. That means events and freebies.

Some weeks I can drink one or two beers with dinner most nights, then have a few on a Friday or Saturday watching a movie at home. Taste is now more important than quantity. Once a month on average I let my hair down at a wedding or birthday, but by midnight I am in bed.

When stressful times appear and my cloudy spells increase, there is no denying I am thinking, “When I get home I am going to have a beer.” Thankfully, I do not have the urge to go on an all-night bender. Occasionally when this casual intake creeps up I have ways of dampening it for the good of my head. I managed to do a dry January, a huge feat for me. But some other useful strategies have emerged, some by accident.

Carolina barely drinks anymore. Motherhood has certainly affected that. And with this has become a tradition of hers. At 8:45 pm every night I make her a camomile tea. It has become so ingrained in our routine, and on most nights this influences me to not have a beer. With a few Best Man appearances and bucks parties on the horizon to organise this year, these will test my currently strong resolve.

By far the biggest influencer has been fatherhood. The seismic shift I have previously spoke of means I consider my 14-month-old boy first. They need to be fed, looked after, changed, dressed and played with. You are at their mercy. There are no chances to feel sorry for yourself with a hangover. It is non-stop all day until bed, and by getting outside when feeling a little dusty, it helps no end for my head. By no means am I suggesting having a child to regress drinking, but man, it helps.

My work with Mr. Perfect has increased my determination to develop an even healthier relationship with alcohol. I play sport and exercise regularly, so the balance is there but I have also met some incredible guys at our Monthly Meetups that on the face of it are ‘Mr. Perfects’. They have jobs, family and may be in great physical shape. But you never know from a surface understanding of a person what they may be going through. Some have confided they have been trying to change their relationship with alcohol for years. It fascinates me.

Ultimately I want to understand what my dad went through with his drinking. I used to just hate him for it and his lack of care or presence for his sons. But as I came to terms with my own mental health struggles I conceded he himself had something going on inside. A silent sufferer, as I used to be. He was killing himself slowly with the booze. It pains me to think I will never truly know why. Some family comments have suggested his long hours in his (for some time successful) London job from the age of 16 and the pub lunches that came with it, slowly turned into his addiction. He worked with his dad and he was known to “love a beer” (insert emoji for understatement).

What truly keeps me responsible is the final sight of my dad, just two days before he passed away. He sat silent and trembling, somehow making it out of bed to his couch to sit in the lounge as his wife and I chatted around him. The conversation was interrupted when my dad grunted. I had no idea what it meant but his wife did. She jumped up and returned seconds later with a tumbler of what I assumed was Coca-Cola. The pungent smell of rum soon told me otherwise.

12715623_1760283524200284_3324625724972745688_n.jpg

Starting out as a hobby, Terry created a grassroots men’s mental health support network named Mr. Perfect that is growing by the minute. Although it does not pay a cent, it pays handsomely in purpose. You can check it out at www.mrperfect.org.au

Terry from Mr Perfect with his son

Want to help support our charity and spread our message further? You can represent us in your very own Hello Sunday Morning shirt, singlet or hoodie! Purchase our apparel from hellosundaymorning.org/store

My first AA meeting – the value of sharing

 

I sat in on an open AA meeting one Wednesday afternoon.

I work in health promotion and wanted to experience for myself what an AA meeting is really like. I wanted to question my assumptions from popular culture and stigma.

It was one of those beautiful blue days where you cannot spot a cloud in the sky. A day where the last place you want to be is in the middle of a big city. The air was filled with humidity and my clothes were sticking to me, almost in an irritating way.

The sliding doors to the community meeting room were open. The fans were on, gently blowing the posters scattered about the walls. Posters for the 12 Steps, yoga and meditation retreats, domestic violence support services and homeless shelters. These were pinned up like offerings of hope to those who previously saw themselves as hopeless. A large notice board in the middle of the sliding doors offered privacy from the street.

There were about twenty people at the meeting. Everyone seated facing the front where the person who ran the meeting and a few sponsors sat. What struck me at first was the diversity of the group. A young woman with her toddler sat opposite me. The child spluttered throughout the meeting with a chesty cough and wriggled around on her big plastic chair.

An elderly lady sat next to me and smiled warmly when we caught a glance. There was a mix of male and female, young and old. Some had been coming to AA meetings for years, others just a few months. The people in the room where just like you and I. Some with great families and careers, others with no family left and a life that has not been so kind to them.

AA meetings are not just about remaining anonymous

They are also about being present for those in the group and the community around you.

aa meeting

The first man to share was sitting across from me. He was wearing a colourful Hawaiian shirt. But the expression on his face did not suggest that his life had been a holiday. The man opened his reflections by introducing himself. “Hi, my name is Dave* and I am an alcoholic”. The first step of the 12 Steps at an AA meeting involves admitting to yourself that you have no power over your ‘disease’. You hand over your vulnerability to a higher power and admit defeat.

The meeting was on a chapter in the book that everyone was to discuss, around the theme of not being too hard on yourself. Dave began by explaining his daily struggle with crippling anxiety. He shared with us how he hates himself for getting into this state of mind. How he panics when he cannot see a solution or an out to how he is feeling. This destructive cycle means Dave cannot hold down a stable job and ends up screwing up every job interview he has had, as he talks himself down and focuses on everything that is wrong with him and the company and the people holding the job interview.


“A community that cares”

Rachel

Austin, Texas

“I suffered from feelings of guilt and loneliness as a result of my alcoholism. Drinking was causing a serious problem when my children came home to find me unconscious. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous to learn how to control my drinking and restore balance to my life. Whilst the program was enlightening, it wasn’t as effective as I had hoped for.

Diego

Sydney, Australia

“I was stuck in a vicious cycle of binge drinking, blacking out, and losing my memory. One of my biggest fears was that I would fail, but it’s not a test. It’s just about getting you to think about drinking. Meeting other members and getting support has been invaluable.

FIND OUT MORE



Sharing is caring

When Dave started to choke up while telling his story with tears running down his cheeks. I looked around the room. The compassion on the face of each and every person in that room was obvious. It was as if invisible hands was reaching out to hold onto Dave. To squeeze his hand and tell him that that they are there for him. When others began to share their reflections on the reading listeners would often nod their head to themselves or clap in a gesture of agreement and understanding. The speaker could take as long as they wanted and there was no judgment from anywhere in this space. This unfortunately is a special treat for many people going through recovery from an alcohol or drug dependency.

Every person who shared their triumphs and their rock bottoms on that day were open and vulnerable. But I didn’t leave the meeting feeling hopeless for the members. Everyone finished their ‘sharing’ on a positive thought. Such as:

 
“But I know I’ll be okay, because I didn’t reach for the bottle this time.”
Or, “I’m slowly seeing that I need to deal with this struggle with meditation and these meetings and staying away from those who are making this hard for me.”
 

You are probably wondering what I shared at my first AA meeting

When it came time for my turn to speak I simply said that I wouldn’t be sharing today and that was more than okay. There was no pressure to tell your story. There was no discrimination from the group because you weren’t comfortable opening up. For this I felt truly honored to be able to listen to these incredible stories of strength.

It’s so easy to brush off a comment about how people who are alcohol dependant should just “stop” drinking or using drugs, and their lives will turn around. The men and women in this meeting drank as a therapy and an escape from other underlying issues. Many stories were complex and emotionally scarring that we can only begin to comprehend. They turned to alcohol because for some reason they were not able to get the help they needed early enough. That is what saddened me the most as I stepped out of the room that afternoon.

Support is imperative for recovery, and support comes from community. Unfortunately with the stigma present in our society and our current healthcare system around people who abuse these substances, we do not provide the people who need it most with a community that they deserve.

What other support is available for people?

For those who feel that something like an AA meeting is too confronting to share their deepest fears and darkest experiences with complete strangers, or people who live in remote areas, or have kids and responsibilities that keep them from finding the time to attending these meetings as often as they need, a physical meeting may not be suitable.

Daybreak is an alcohol support group app created from years of experience by the Hello Sunday Morning team. It is a great alternative that provides an anonymous space, with a supportive community of people going through different stages of their own journey to recovery.

Download Daybreak
– Sober support group

Daybreak by Hello Sunday Morning

I saw more of Sydney in the last few months than I did in my first year living here

I told myself to visit somewhere I’d never been before, once every week.

It was pretty clichéd of me: the twenty-something-year-old Kiwi girl who spontaneously moved to Australia for six months to gain work experience and explore a new city, only to end up discovering how great the pay was, finding a full-time job, meeting an Aussie boy to settle down with, and, boom! A year and a half goes by.

It’s funny, when you’re halfway between a tourist and a resident in a new country, it becomes very easy to postpone adventuring and getting out to explore new places. “Ooh, I HAVE to visit that place! Maybe next weekend after I hand out all these resumes…,” or, “Wow, that place looks stunning! I’d love to go when I make a couple of new friends here to go with.”

After my first year in Sydney, it would seem I had it all figured out. I had a car, a handful of new friends, a boyfriend, a full time job in the industry I had actually studied for, and a nice place to live. What more could you want?! It wasn’t until my friends from back home started to visit and ask me where to go that I realised I really hadn’t seen all that much of Sydney. I could show you the Opera House or my local cafe? Where did the time go? I thought I came here for an adventure! I found that my local friends weren’t as interested in adventures, since they grew up here, and when I did manage to tie down some plan, people had to cancel for one reason or another.

That’s when I decided to make a deal with myself to visit somewhere I’d never seen before, once every week. I continued to invite friends but, ultimately, it became important for me to learn to love my own company, and make sure I had no excuse to get me out of it. 

Before I knew it, I could draw a map of interesting places and walks around Sydney’s hidden gems of nature. Every week I felt excited for what my next adventure might be, and I eliminated any stress or worries around organising friends because I knew I’d be doing it, no matter what.

The great thing about this goal was that it didn’t matter if I had a whole day to spare for a trip to the Blue Mountains, or if I was so busy that I only had time to sit under a tree and do some work at a park I had never been to before by the harbour. To me, everything counted – as long as I hadn’t seen it before. Instead of going to places I felt comfortable in, I enjoyed the aspect of consciously choosing somewhere new.

I have had so many people comment on how great this idea sounds, and even claim to ‘want to be more like me’ with my approach to seeing new things. So, why do people find it so hard to commit to such a goal? From my personal experience, getting into the routine of a new goal or habit is 80% making the first move, and 20% continuing it. Once you get over that first hump, the rest of the ride is easy. You can start by skipping your usual coffee stop and going around the corner to a new place, plan your weekends ahead by looking up some local walks, or ask friends for recommendations.

If you’re suddenly feeling like you’re stuck in a bit of a week-to-week routine I can wholeheartedly suggest you give this a go, even if it’s just simple at first. Because, for me, I gained so much more than I thought I would. This experiment slowly became less about making sure I finally saw Sydney for what it was, and more about learning to appreciate the simple things, enjoy time by myself, and see the beauty in what was surrounding me the entire time.

Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to info@hellosundaymorning.org

Reverse your thinking – focus on what you want​

 

An excerpt from A Happier Hour, written by Sexy Sobriety‘s Rebecca Weller. Sexy Sobriety is an online life-coaching program designed for women who are ready to take control of their lives and unleash their authentic selves onto the world.

Back when I was in my corporate ​job, we were encouraged to take a ‘Defensive Driving’ course that involved performing a variety of manoeuvres on a race track. In one of the exercises, we were instructed to speed up and then slam on the brakes and avoid hitting a particular safety cone. Despite our best efforts, we all hit that cone.

We tried the activity again, but this time, rather than focusing on the cone, we were instructed to look for a safe place to steer the car. Same distance, same speed, same brakes; just a different intention and focus.

​We were stunned. Every single one of us avoided the cone.

Our instructor explained that if something or someone jumps out in front of you, the worst thing you can do is look straight at it as you’re trying to avoid it. You need to focus on where you want to go, rather than where you don’t want to go.The lesson was powerful and I often found myself telling clients about it. Time and again, I noticed that when we focus on our fears, we often smash into them. And if we’re not focusing on where we really want to go, how can we expect to get there?

When it came to drinking, how many times had I given myself a lecture about not making a fool of myself, or letting the night get too messy, only to find that’s exactly where I’d ended up? Too many to count.

I thought about the next three months and everything I wanted to do, see, hear, taste, and experience in that time. Above all, I thought about how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel playful, with confidence that was authentically me, not poured from a bottle. I wanted deeper connections, less anxiety, more space, more love, more potential. I wanted transformation, dammit!

I didn’t want to undertake a challenge that would make me miserable, and I was determined to make this experience a positive one. Sensing that overwhelm was not my friend, I decided to start with just two words of intention that inspired me most. I opened my journal to a fresh page, and wrote, My Sobriety Experiment.

My biggest fear around sobriety was that I’d never have fun again, so I decided to start with the big one. On the next line, I wrote, Playful. I thought about what playful meant to me. Creativity, fun, spontaneity, mischief, joy. I tapped my pen against the page, thinking about what I could do to feel that way without booze. I brainstormed on the page:

Choose love over fear. Trust. Believe. Tell jokes. Send funny messages to friends. Create fun, easy recipes. Schedule time off-line. Watch comedies. View each day as an adventure. Try new things. Take beautiful photos. Invite friends to lunch. Paint my toe nails. Create. Share. Skip. Giggle. Dance.

I took a deep breath as I reviewed my list. See? I told my inner critic. That doesn’t sound so bad. I turned the page and chose my next word, Radiant. I thought about what that word meant to me. Sparkly, healthy, glowing, connected, blissful. Obviously, just skipping the alcohol would guarantee that I felt infinitely more radiant, but what else could I do? I jotted down everything that came to mind:

Go to bed earlier. Stretch at sunrise. Juice. Run. Go to yoga class. Offer help. Eat fresh, whole foods. Feel sunshine on my skin. Splash around at the beach. Picnic in the park. Keep a gratitude journal. Meditate. Write. Create. Eat dinner by candlelight. Choose quality over quantity. Phone friends and family. Listen. Practice random acts of kindness.

I reviewed my lists, and started to feel tingles of excitement about this little adventure. Inspired, I switched on my laptop and created a secret Mood Board on Pinterest. I wanted something pretty I could look at on my phone whenever I felt wobbly; images to remind me how I wanted to feel, and why I was doing this. Why I wanted to change; what life might be like without this unhealthy habit; the kind of person I could become if I were free of its clutches.

Like a woman possessed, I spent hours clicking around the internet. Nutritious food, women doing yoga, women running on the beach, women splashing around in the ocean, click click click. Job done, and feeling marginally better about the whole endeavour, I decided to go one step further. I had a feeling this challenge would be one of the biggest of my life and I’d need all the safety nets I could possibly create.

For my birthday the previous year, Dom bought me the large vision board I’d been swooning over for months. It was gorgeous, with a huge expanse of white space to pin pictures, and a beautiful wooden frame, painted white. He’d kept it a surprise, filling the board with photos from our travels and other meaningful souvenirs. He snuck it into our study before coming in to meet me and a huge group of friends at a bar in the city. Naturally, because it was my birthday, I got rather silly indeed, downing cocktail after cocktail like it was the eve of Prohibition.

Dom had planned to surprise me with his thoughtful gift when we got home that night, but my actions robbed him, and myself, of the chance. I was a drunken mess and didn’t even remember the cab ride home. The next morning, when he took me into our study and showed it to me, I felt wretched with guilt and stupidity.

Now, I took a deep breath and lifted the board off the wall. It was time for an update: to the board, and to my life.

I took salsa lessons and realised it was a better way to meet people than nightclubs

We have turned July into our dancing month, where we will explore different forms of creative expression to music and encourage you to do the same. Salsa and other forms of dance can provide an outlet for a lot of baggage. Hello Sunday Morning is inviting you to come along on our journey to experiment with the boogie and increase your groove.


If I were to think of an environment that was purpose-built to be the most difficult to build new relationships, a nightclub be close to perfect.

When you are single, developing a relationship with alcohol that you are happy with is arguably the hardest of all the stages of life. So much of dating life involves drinking. It takes a lot of courage to ask someone out on a date, moreover to go on said date without getting hammered to cope with the first date jitters.

Whenever someone asks me, ‘how the hell do you meet new people if you don’t drink?’, my answer is one word: Salsaaaaa!



I use the word ‘Salsa’ as a synecdoche to represent a much larger group of activities outside the usual nightclub dance floor. Activities that provide a safe space for play and connection within new people, without expectation. This could be joining a sporting team or Meetup, or any number of activities that encourage people to introduce themselves to one another and build new relationships with people. Romantic or otherwise.

The business models of nightclubs are incentivised directly towards the overconsumption of alcohol. Going to one to build good new relationships is like going to a casino to make money. The house is stacked against you.

The best thing about these alternate ways to meet people is that the rules of engagement are quite clear and for someone who doesn’t want to pursue anything, it is fine to say no, and arguably much easier than saying no to a drunk person in a nightclub. In a nightclub, the loud music, the dim lights and the abject lack of rules of engagement or protocol make it hard to ask someone out without taking a complete chance on their personality and in many ways treating them as a two-dimensional character. Alcohol makes it easier to overcome these reservations – but doing this sober is really hard.

So, my friends, if you find yourself sober and single and keen to mingle – get yourself some salsa lessons or join a Meetup you are passionate about. Don’t bother trying to pick up at a nightclub – go out to enjoy the music, dance, and laugh with friends, but don’t waste your time otherwise.

If you are unconvinced, put the few hundred dollars you would spend going out in a month into dancing lessons and attend a dancing social. Try it for one month and just see what happens. If it doesn’t work – you will always have the casino.


“Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story (with photos if you have them) to info@hellosundaymorning.org”