Tuesday, 29 December 2015

What's Missing?

The end of a year is a good time to ask yourself some big questions.

I was listening to an interview recently with the astrologer Russell Grant. He was talking about the years he spent with debilitating depression. He weighed 27 stone, and had become a virtual recluse.

He says that he woke up on January 5th, 2009, and knew he had to get his life back. He asked himself "What's missing in my life?" He realised that 'joy' was missing, and that it was musical theatre that gave him joy.

He went back into theatre, regained joy, lost the weight and got his life back.

He says that everyone suffering from depression should ask the question what's missing in my life?

I think the same is true for anyone struggling with alcohol addiction, because often we use alcohol to plug a gap.

Looking back, what was missing in my life - seemingly so perfect - was self respect.

I'd always been incredibly lucky. I did really well at school and University. I had lots of friends. A loving family. My luck continued, and I found a career I loved and was very good at.

I was made a Board Director at the age of thirty, and by 33 was a Managing Partner, running a huge team of people.

But by the time #3 was born, trying to 'have it all' was driving me crazy. And I didn't want to miss seeing my kids grow up. So I quit.

I thought I'd be the perfect full time Mum. Endlessly patient, fun, creative. I'd be constantly baking cakes and making models out of sticky back plastic and empty cereal boxes.

But I wasn't very good at it. Not bad, but not great. And I wasn't used to not being great at my life.

I'd been used to constant accolades - prizes, promotions, pay rises. And you don't get any of that as a full time Mum.

The most you can hope for is that you get to the end of the day and the children still have thirty fingers and thirty toes between them (presuming you have three children. If you only have two that would be kind of weird), and no-one's currently throwing a tantrum or beating up a sibling.

Slowly, so slowly I barely noticed, I lost my self respect.

And the hole that was left behind I topped up with vino.

You know the problem with that, don't you?

Alcohol has a terrible way of taking that very thing you're trying to fix and making it worse. Drinking a bottle of wine a day doesn't give you self respect, does it? Instead it strips away any you had left and makes you really hate yourself.

The more I drank, the more I disliked myself. And the more I disliked myself, the more I drank.

People mail me telling me that they starting drinking following divorce or bereavement, because they were lonely. Totally understandable!

What was 'missing' was companionship. But drinking doesn't give you that, at least not once it's out of control. Instead you end up drinking at home alone - holding a pity party for one.

Many of us drink to cope with anxiety, stress or fear. We're missing courage. But alcohol takes all that courage away. It makes us unable to cope with anything much at all when we're sober, and dealing with problems drunk is never a good idea!

I stopped drinking nearly ten months ago, and - slowly, slowly, I've found my self respect returning.

I'm a better Mum. In quitting the booze I've done something incredible that took real courage and perseverance. I've been writing every day (which I've always wanted to do). And I've faced up to (and, hopefully, beaten) cancer.

I really, really like myself.

So, ask yourself 'what's missing?' And you know what? You won't find whatever it is at the bottom of a bottle, but if you put the bottle down I bet you'll find it comes back, in spades.

Just do it.

Love SM x


  1. So very true! 40 days off the source and it's coming back little by little - the hard bit has been done, maintenance is now the key. thanks for your posts x

  2. Speaking volumes to me. Not the being career successful bit, as I never managed that really. But I'd like to be really bloody good at just one aspect of my life, that'd do!!! Food for thought, thanks SM! Red xx

  3. A lump in my throat, as how I wish to "just do it". This weekend is my start for an AF life. Pain makes people change...

  4. This post speaks volumes to me. Still making my way through the archives and you've given me so much to think about, so much I relate to, so much inspiration. Thank you. xo