Thursday, 22 September 2016

Recovery Revolution

I would like, if I may, to prattle on a bit about recovery. Or maybe Recovery? I recently went through a detox to end my many years of alcohol use and abuse, now, nearly 100 days dry it’s time to share a thought or two.

What is recovery? This is taken from the NCADD website.

Individuals who are “in recovery” know what it means to them and how important it is in their lives. They need no formal definition.
But for the general public and those who research, evaluate, and develop policies about addiction, recovery is a concept that can sometimes seem unclear. 
Essentially, recovery is a complex and dynamic process encompassing all the positive benefits to physical, mental and social health that can happen when people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or their family members, get the help they need.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition:
“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”
Expanding on this definition, SAMHSA articulates twelve “Guiding Principles of Recovery”: 

1.    There are many pathways to recovery.
2.    Recovery is self-directed and empowering.
3.    Recovery involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation.
4.    Recovery is holistic.
5.    Recovery has cultural dimensions.
6.    Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness.
7.    Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
8.    Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude.
9.    Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.
10.Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.
11.Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.
12. Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen.

This definition makes sense whether your addiction is to a substance or action.

I thought about my recovery for a long long time before taking the plunge, how could I tell my friends and family? How would it affect my day to day life?  Should I just let my inner circle of close allies know of my decision? After all, hardly anyone knew the demons I had been wrestling with for so long, why the hell should I involve them in my recovery? These and many other questions plagued me and held up my decision for quite a while.
Then I had a thought. If I was to achieve what I was setting out to achieve hiding behind a veil of lies would be counterproductive and, let’s face it, I would need all the help I could get. I decided to “go public”. Share my thoughts, trials and tribulations wherever possible. Luckily, it would seem, I made the right decision.
Recovery from any addiction be it substance or action is something to be shouted about. Don`t do it on your own, be proud of all you are achieving and let others know how you feel. Shout it from the rooftops, share it with your friends, like it, retweet it, photocopy it, fax it, add it to your LinkedIn network just stand up and be PROUD of what you are doing! Let others see just how AMAZING you are feeling, how you have so much more time to do stuff and feel so much better when doing it. Let them know you`ve been born again, your life has restarted and the real you is back with a vengeance.

We need a Recovery Revolution.

Recovery should be embraced as the amazing thing it is, not carry the stigma it can at the moment. Unsure about dealing with your addiction? Look around at all the happy gurning idiots who are ahead of you in the process, listen to them shout about it, look at how you could feel.

 Don’t get me wrong, I`m not saying the process is easy for all and should be entered into lightly, but if Recovery were to be accepted as the amazing life changing process it can be then surely the decision to enter into it would be a whole lot easier?

This post was written for "The Recovery Revolution" a brilliant site addressing the issues faced by people in recovery. Please take a look.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016



I passed.

Remember a while ago I mentioned how I was training to be a facilitator for the SMART groups that I attend? Well I only went and passed the course. I am now a SMART facilitator. I will hopefully soon be co-facilitating the group I attend with John from Turning Point. This is great on a couple of levels, it means I keep getting the support from the group that I need and also get the chance to share my experiences to help others on the road to being substance free. 
If you are not aware of the SMART recovery programme here is a rough outline of the ethos, lifted straight from the SMART website:

We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.We run a network of self help meetings and also partner with care professionals. OUR APPROACH

• Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance.

• Provides meetings that are educational, supportive and focussed on open discussions.

• Supports the use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments where appropriate

• Can be used to tackle any form of addictive behaviour, including drugs and alcohol, gambling

• Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves.

It’s a different approach to the traditional 12 step programmes, and one I have found to be incredibly helpful. You can read a bit more about it here 
Hopefully I can drive the group forwards and increase the numbers. Harborough may be a hard place to do this as it still has a very small town feel to it. People in need of a little help are still afraid to attend a meeting like ours for fear of others finding out about their “problems.” I must admit that initially I myself was very concerned about how people would react when I mentioned the fact that I had/have a problem and was considering detox as a way to deal with it, but found I got nothing but support, understanding and a genuine interest. The first step to dealing with addiction is to admit the addiction exists, if you feel comfortable to share this then the road is one much easier to travel.

In other news, Sarah and I did our first 5km Parkrun around the local park. Parkrun is an amazing thing. Staffed entirely by volunteers they are popping up in parks all around the world. Anything from 30 to 300 or more people getting together in a park to have a run. With the emphasis on “run” it’s not a race but a great way to get out, get fit and have a laugh. My sister came up from Norfolk to join us, missing her own parkrun`s birthday party. We waddled round at our own pace to the sound of applause and encouragement from runners and marshals alike. What a great feeling to finish. I never thought I`d see the day that 3 Pollards would cross the finish line of a 5km run together, still alive and in such great spirits.

With the combination of exercise, good diet, new job and alcohol free lifestyle I feel better physically and mentally than I have for years. I`m under no illusions that the war with Al is over but I`m constantly winning battles and campaigns, he is on the retreat and I fully intend to keep him going in that direction.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Big Events, Triggers and Words.


Several big events this week, passed 2 months dry, dropped below 15 stones and ran 5k in one go without dying. Big event tonight too, Sarah is in London visiting the kids so I`m home alone for the night. Previously this would have resulted in me buying a huge amount of beer and drinking myself unconscious, waking up on the couch feeling half dead and being out of action for a day or so. Today I came in from work, changed into my running gear and pushed myself to a 5k run. Came home, cooked a nice tea and am now trying to decide which flavour of water I should drink while writing this. Amazing how much things can change in such a short time. 

Due to my return to work my group visits are now down to once a fortnight. I missed my first meeting since I started this week. I was a little concerned about this, but the week has gone excellently. Once a fortnight should provide the level of support I need at the moment. My studies towards being a group facilitator have taken a back seat for a little while as I pick up the new job, but should be restarted with a vengeance next week. I`m looking forward to the chance to run my own group, both to help others and also as a support mechanism for myself. The more I read about recovery the more I realise that I`m still right at the beginning. Only 2 months in I`m still learning daily about the way my mind will react to certain situations and triggers and how best to deal with them when they arise. 

One particular trigger that is really getting my goat at the moment is supermarket displays. Most rack ends facing tills in most supermarkets are devoted to Al. Meal deals include an alcoholic drink with very rarely a soft drink option. Every where you go Al is thrust down your throat. It is incredibly tricky to visit a supermarket without having ridiculously cheap booze thrust down your throat. A few years ago supermarkets removed sweets from the checkouts to stop impulse buys, maybe its time to do the same with booze. keep it in one area and avoidable if you wish. Any thoughts on this? 

I don’t know if you read a previous blog where I shared the words of a twitter friend describing addiction from the point of view of someone who lived with an addict.? You can read it here if you like, but be warned it was very hard hitting stuff and quite a tricky read. I had a lovely message on twitter the other day from the author saying that she had shared the piece with her therapist who then shared it with a supervisor and it is now being used to help other people in similar situations. If anyone else would like to contribute something then you would be most welcome. I`d like to read and share words from people on both sides of the addiction tale. If you fancy it drop me a line in the comments below or email or tweet @hippy_jon and I`ll share it on here.

More soon.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Past, present and future


Blimey! Doesn’t time fly when things are going well? Over a week since my last instalment, so let’s bring you up to date. Started my job at the Market. A couple of half days training and a couple of full days too, soon be flying solo. I can`t believe just how right this job is for me. Great team, great workplace, an important part of the community and a chance to be part of events like the Food Festival and Farmers Markets. Not just saying this in case my bosses read this, it seems to be the perfect job for my time and place. All this and only a 10 minute walk to work too. Brilliant.

Had the family around for a barbeque at the weekend. Another possible trigger but no problems. All mucked in to prepare some ace food, huge assortment of soft drinks and several hours talking about not much. Great day had by all. Another big milestone passed there too, first meeting of the Pollard siblings and partners with no alcohol involved. Admittedly I was always the one to insist on the presence of big Al, but I sailed through the day with only having to escape a couple of times to gather my reserves.

The group progresses nicely as does my online training to be a meeting facilitator. It’s been a little slow lately with starting work and such, but back into it with a vengeance now. Had an interesting conversation at the barbecue about smoking. My sisters partner, like myself is struggling with quitting. I plan to try an online SMART group to try to help us. The SMART method is designed to work with any addiction so maybe I can use some of the tools I have learned to help us quit. Might as well try to clean up my act completely while I`m at it. A good group is a great self-help network and can only aid my recovery as long as I take it easy and don’t undo the good work done so far.  If anyone else would be interested in such a group, maybe via skype or facebook please let me know, it’s just a baby of an idea at the moment but you never know..

I`ve been thinking a lot about the future lately, never really paid it much heed before. Now my life has some sort of order and some of the demons have been laid to rest I finally feel comfortable to do this. The whole concept of going forward forever without Al in my life still seems a little alien. Every time plans are mentioned he raises his ugly head. Years of planning events, journeys and days out around Al have taken their toll on me. Never staying out too late visiting friends and family so I could get home and embrace him. I have a new found freedom to do things that hasn’t existed before but I still struggle to appreciate this. Time will be the healer here I suppose, I`m just a baby at this recovery business, it’s a huge learning curve and lifestyle change.

Lastly, Sarah and I are now over halfway through our couch to 5k training and its progressing very well. Running for up to 20 minutes at a time now. Good job really as my love affair with freshly baked cake and bread continues unabated. I`m managing to eat like a pig and still lose weight. The combination of losing the empty calories provided by Al and doing regular exercise really doing the trick. We are on target to do our first 5k Parkrun in Harborough on 10th of September. Next target Tokyo 2020. Look out Mo we`re coming for you.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Big week, all change.


Well what a week that has been. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much your life can change in such a short time. Where do I begin? I`ll approach it chronologically, because it suits me if things are in order.

Thursday saw me in Kettering for the first of three parts of a training course to help me get my driving license back a few months early. I lost it for 20 months due to being an idiot and taking my car for a spin whilst under the influence and ending up on a roundabout on the A6. First and definitely the last time I will ever do that. Luckily no one else was involved. More about this incident another time. The course was a full day talking about the effects of alcohol, how long it takes to leave your body, how many units are in each sort of drink and how it impairs your judgement. Talking about alcohol for such a period, and reflecting on my own stupidity very nearly had an adverse effect. On the way home I popped into the cafĂ© on Kettering station for a coffee where I noticed they sold cans of beer. I was within a gnat’s whisker of ordering one, maybe two. Had to bring in a few tools learnt in my group to help. A quick cost benefit analysis, looking at the short term gains against the long term price, seemed to do the trick. Reminded me just how easy it could be to have a lapse. I must not be complacent, it’s still very early days.

Saturday we were off to St. Neots to Sarah’s Mums place, she had very bravely agreed to host a party to celebrate daughter Jo`s 30th birthday. Sarah and I had prepared food for 30 odd people, relatives and friends alike and Gwen prepared the garden with a huge gazebo, cleared out the garage as a food area and set up the shed for kids to play in. It was the perfect party venue. This was a real test as there was to be alcohol present. My first outing to a large social event where everyone would be drinking, except for me. We had emergency escapes in place, and I did have to run off with the dog for a while to sit in a field but all in all I survived intact. Another huge milestone for me and a wonderful day had by all involved.

Whilst in the process of setting up the party I received a phone call. Good News.

Let me take you back a week or so. I applied for a job as Assistant Supervisor at the local Market. This caused a little quandary for me. Do I mention that I am in the process of drying out at the interview? I discussed this with the group. My main concern was that if I didn`t offer the facts they may well come back to haunt me at a later date. We acted out a few scenarios and I decided the best thing was to bring it up, which I did. Luckily the facts were well met and I was thanked for my honesty. I assured the interviewers that in no way would this affect my ability to carry out my duties and left feeling the interview had gone very well.

Back to the party. The phone call. “Could you pop in to the Market Tuesday afternoon for a quick chat please?” This I did, quick chat in the office and lo and behold I am now the Assistant Supervisor for Market Harborough Market! Really looking forward to getting back to full time work, in a job I will really enjoy and having a bit of structure in my week again.

So much in one week. So many milestones passed. Things are really looking good at the moment. I haven't been able to say that for a long while. It’s a rocky road and I`m nowhere near the destination, but my journey has started and small steps, mostly in the right direction will take me to where I need to be.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Farewell young man.


Had to say farewell to a friend today. Well, more of an acquaintance than a friend but someone who has played a huge part in my life just lately, and probably a huge part in my life going forward from now. I`ve hardly mentioned this young fellow in my story, a matter I intend to put right this evening.

Let’s go back a few months. I`m still drinking, things seem to be falling apart all around me, I`d been failing to get off the ale quite consistently for quite some time. Maybe through lack of trying, maybe I just wasn’t ready, who knows? I had seen addiction councillors on a couple of occasions to no avail…they didn’t know what I was going through…they had no idea what it was like to be an addict, who were they to judge and advise me I thought. After a long chat with my GP and several long chats with Sarah I decided to give it another go. Self-referred to “Swanswell” as it was then known or "Turning Point" as it has become and got my first appointment. Back of the chemist, little consulting room, Tuesday just after lunch. Perfect. Just in time for a couple on the way home before tea. Sitting in the room waiting for me was a young man by the name of Priyesh. I sat down and we chatted. We chatted about drink, about home, about moods, about my physical and mental health, about the health of those around me. We went through some official stuff and that was it, meeting over. Cool. Not too bad then.

Next meeting we started talking numbers, units, cravings, urges and all the stats surrounding my drinking. When did I start? When was I last dry? All that sort of stuff. He suggested I joined a “group” and I laughed. Never I said. Look how wrong that turned out to be. We agreed on a structured period where I would gradually decrease my intake over a few weeks. Seemed simple on paper. X number of cans this week, x-1 the following week and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. All through this Priyesh was very understanding and willing to listen, yes, I know that’s his job, but he had managed to get me to talk. No mean achievement.

Following an incident that I may talk about another time, Sarah and I decided things couldn’t go on as they were. She was at her wits end and I was slowly but surely drinking myself to death. Something would have to give. Priyesh and I had discussed the idea of a detox and it was at this point we decided that this was the way forward. Things happened very quickly after the initial decision and the story of the detox is told elsewhere. As part of the discussions Priyesh once again brought up the “group” and I agreed to attend. If you are a regular reader you will know how much of a positive affect the group has had on me. So positive in fact that this is where I come to say farewell to Priyesh. I am now over a month dry, I have a good support network in place in the group and my circle of friends. I also have an outlook on life that is more positive than at any time I can remember. 

So farewell Priyesh. Keep up the good work. Rest easy in the knowledge that you may well have played a part in saving my life, or at least given me some of the tools I need to save it myself.

Post Script
If you have tried counselling for whatever reason in the past and it hasn’t done you any good don’t give up on it. The problem may just be you haven’t found the right counsellor yet. It might be that the time is not quite right for you. Keep trying, it’s worth the effort.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Get Smart, fight the urge


I`d like to tell you a little more about SMART recovery, the providers of the group I attend, and the organisation I am training to be a meeting facilitator for.

Here’s a bit of stuff stolen directly from their website, outlining the approach and ethos of the company.

We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.
Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.
We run a network of self-help meetings and also partner with care professionals.

• Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance.
• Provides meetings that are educational, supportive and focussed on open discussions.
• Supports the use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments where appropriate.
• Can be used to tackle any form of addictive behaviour, including drugs and alcohol, gambling
• Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves.

SMART Recovery (SMART) is a science-based programme to help people manage their recovery from any type of addictive behaviour. This includes addictive behaviour with substances such as alcohol, nicotine or drugs, or compulsive behaviours such as gambling, sex, eating, shopping, self-harming and so on. SMART stands for ‘Self Management And Recovery Training’.
SMART began in 1994 in the United States. It has grown into a worldwide network of self-help meetings, both face-to-face and online, where participants can get help from others in recovery. SMART operates as a non-profit organisation in many countries including the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia.
There is no single approach to recovery that is right for everyone. Research into various recovery methods and therapies suggests that mutual aid can help recovery and so can treatment – a combination of the two is probably even better for many people.
SMART Recovery helps participants decide whether they have a problem, builds up their motivation to change and offers a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery. This is the SMART Recovery 4-point programme:
Building and maintaining motivation
Coping with urges
Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviours
Living a balanced life
People can stay with SMART as long as they wish. There is no requirement to make a lifetime commitment to the programme, just to their recovery and leading a healthier life.
Many people find that continuing to participate in SMART after they have recovered helps them avoid lapses or relapses. Some will volunteer to train as Facilitators and set up further meetings. Others simply continue to attend meetings and share their experiences with others.
Within SMART, labels are not thought to help with recovery and are avoided. People are not called ‘addicts’, ‘alcoholics’, ’druggies’, ’overeaters’, ’sex addicts’ or other disparaging labels within meetings.
SMART Recovery will not be able to help with every kind of problem, and participants are encouraged to seek professional help when needed.
There are degrees of addictive behaviour and almost everyone will experience this, to some degree, at some point in their life. For some, addictive behaviour will overwhelm their life and SMART Recovery can be an important and effective part of their recovery journey.

Just recently in the SMART group we have been discussing urges and how to deal with them. I still get plenty, varying intensities and triggered by varying things. I generally use a mixture of mindfulness and thoughts about what would happen if I gave in to the urge to keep me on the straight and narrow. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard but so far all manageable. Over the weekend I received a letter bearing bad news. The subject of the news doesn’t matter here, suffice to say it was quite a blow. Stopped me dead in my tracks it did. The first thing that came in to my head was “Christ I need a drink”. It actually took most of the tricks and skills I have been taught so far to fight the urge. Made me realise that I may be over a month dry but there’s still no room for complacency. That urge can turn into a lapse in no time at all. Without the skills I am acquiring from SMART who knows what could have happened. Luckily today I seem to back to “normal” whatever that may be.

In other news we completed week 3 of our couch to 5k today, every time we go out it seems a little easier. Week 4 sees a fairly big step up in running time but neither of us feel at all daunted by this. Bring it on!