What are the benefits of going alcohol free?

What are the benefits of going alcohol free?

  • Improve your health (lose weight and reduce risk of disease)
  • Improve your well being (happier / more positive outlook on life)
  • Improve your sleep (no more waking in the middle of the night!)
  • Improve your connection with others (your relationships with your partner, children, family and colleagues all improve)
  • Increased energy levels (more active and motivated)
  • Improved diet (replace the fatty stodgy ‘hangover’ foods for healthier options that detox and nourish your body)
  • Improved focus and clarity (life become so much richer, it is like a fog lifts, and you see more opportunity and happiness than before)
  • Save money (you’ll be amazed how much healthier your bank balance becomes!)

As some of you may already know it was when I stopped drinking that I discovered alcohol had been masking my super powers and it is this one change I made in my life which served as a catalyst to changing everything for the better.

A few highlights include:

  • Losing 15 Kg (2st 5lb) in weight (loss of 5 inches around my waist)
  • Reduced my blood pressure and lowered my resting heart rate
  • Becoming a more present and engaged partner and father
  • Becoming happier and fulfilled with my life
  • Reclaiming my self-confidence and self-worth
  • Running my first half-marathon less than 90 days after I stopped drinking
  • Training to become a life coach whilst still running my design business
  • Qualifying as an alcohol free coach

Above is a before and after picture showing the difference it had on me going alcohol free. What you can’t see is the difference it made inside to my emotional well being and happiness. That change was even more radical than the physical changes you can see in the photos! (You can drag the divider from side to side).

I kid you not, I don't believe any of the things listed above would have happened if I hadn't changed my relationship with alcohol.

I think we can all agree there is a lot of grey area between being a teetotal sober and an alcoholic. With so many factors in play including culture, gender, age and personal character traits, everyone’s relationship with alcohol varies.

One person may drink a glass of wine to accompany their meal, another may raise a glass of fizz to toast a special occasion. Someone else may have a drink at the end of the day to unwind. Someone else may drink to loosen up at a party. You get the picture, we’re all different and how we use alcohol is too.

The purpose of this blog post is simply to provide a summary of the various things I have learnt on my own journey whilst changing my relationship with alcohol.

If you are wondering whether your relationship with alcohol may be holding you back from living your best life and want to reduce your intake or remove it completely hopefully this blog will help highlight some of the benefits of going alcohol free.

So let’s take a look an in more depth at those benefits of going alcohol free.

Improve your health

This is a great one to start with, I was shocked to learn how much damage alcohol can have on our health. I guess though the clue is in the word for drinking too much alcohol. Intoxicated – do you think having the word toxic in their is just a coincidence?

Well it isn’t, alcohol however you dress it up with sugar, flavourings, colourings, fancy packaging and great marketing is at its purest form, a highly poisonous chemical. It’s a toxin that kills living things from human beings to single cell organisms.

If you sniff pure alcohol, it will make your eyes water, your nose run, and if you were to sip any you’ll retch and start vomiting. These reactions are our body’s way to stop us from poisoning ourselves.

Think back to the first time you tasted an alcoholic drink, did you like it? In most instances people don’t like the taste, but they persevere (usually under peer pressure) to become accustomed to the taste. That natural dislike of the taste is again our body doing its best to protect us. Even when the alcohol is diluted and masked with strong flavours, our first impression is usually urgh!

Once we start drinking alcohol, we run the risk of over indulging and risk our health from

  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falling over, drowning and burns.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide and assault.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency caused by high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Blackouts, periods of conciousness where you may behave out character and have no memories of your actions.

Over time, excessive alcohol use has been linked to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.
  • Weakening of the immune system, increasing the likelihood of getting sick.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Ask yourself how many of the above did you know were associated with alcohol consumption? For me cancer and weakening of the immune system never ever occurred to me.

I knew alcohol was a poison but I hadn’t realised the extent of damage it could do.

Improve your well being

Alcohol is a depressant and anaesthetic, it anaethetises certain feelings such as tiredness, stress, pain and discomfort. It is why we tend to feel more mentally relaxed after a drink. Of course the body is also anaethetised leaving us feeling uncoordinated and slow.

The effect alcohol has on our brain initially makes us think alcohol is relaxing and it is why a lot of people decide to drink. However a myth buster coming up, drinking alcohol also causes anxiety and a heightened level of stress. Have you ever woken up in the night feeling anxious, maybe suffering from palpatations? Well if you have it’s because you drank alcohol the evening before. Alcohol innitially relaxes you only to then have the stress and anxiety levels turned up higher than they were before you drank.

You may be wondering why this happens. In his book Alcohol Explained, author William Porter does a great job of explaining this.

Essentially, alcohol provides us with a feeling of relaxation. However, the brain and nervous system reacts to this by releasing stimulants and becoming more sensitive, with the result that when the alcohol wears off we are more anxious and unrelaxed than we were before we took the drink. So we are inclined to take another drink, and the relaxing effect of every drink we take registers on the subconcious, but the corresponding feeling of anxiety does not register on the subconcious to link the one with the other. So over time the subconcious mind comes to believe that alcohol will relieve anxiety and stress, so when we experience these feelings we experience a subconcious trigger to take a drink.

As well as reducing your stress and anxiety levels, taking a brake from the booze also improves your optimism, confidence in yourself and has also been linked to improving low self-esteem. You’ll likely feel calmer and less tetchy and aggressive too!

Improve your sleep

You’re likely thinking I’ve got this wrong, how can not drinking alcohol improve our sleep? I’m not debating alcohol’s ability to send off to sleep, but did you know it inhibits you from going into the deep restorative sleep (known as REM) your body and needs to repair and renergise itself.

Let’s be honest, have you ever bounced out of bed feeling full of vitality and raring to go after a night out. I certainly never have. Even if you end up laying in bed all day, you never get up feeling rested!

Alcohol ruins sleep, even if after a night out you are not suffering from ‘hangover’ symptoms, I’ll bet you’ll be ‘feeling a bit tired’.

Did you know that even having one drink will interrupt your natural sleeping pattern. And what’s more the effects of sleep deprivation are accumulative, so if you drink regularly the symptoms of sleep deprevation can get worse.

So as well as being constantly tired, you may find your physical and mental well-being effected. Perhaps feeling more short tempered, more susceptible to feeling overwhelmed, prone to over eating and less inclined to exercise.

When I was drinking I was always awake during the night, I never for one minute assumed it was the drinks before bed that were the problem. I was always running on low batteries and I never felt rejuvinated in the morning.

All that has changed, now I sleep solidly, never waking in the night and when I get up i am full of energy. I go for a run, I exercise, I do my meditation, I journal and study or do personal development work, usually all before anyone else has stirred.

One thing to point out here, some people who stop drinking may initially find they find it difficult to get off to sleep and may even suffer from insomnia. I had exactly that, and it is quite usual. Persevere, withing a couple of weeks you’ll be getting the best sleep you’ve had in years.

The reason we don’t all find it easy to get to sleep once we stop drinking is because our body has become used to having alcohol in our system. Our body will soon adapt and start making the necessary sleep hormones again.

Also if you have been a regular drinker your body will have been dealing with the booze you’ve been pouring into it on a regular basis and once this stops the body is able to start clearing the backlog of toxins and waste in your system that have built up over an extended time. Sometimes this ‘spring cleaning’ can interrupt your sleep temporarily.

If you find it hard to get off to sleep, try meditation, drinking a milky drink, taking a bath to unwind or perhaps read.

If decide to read two excellent books I recommend that really have helped me to appreciate my sleep and get my bedtime routine just right to squeeze the most out of my time in bed read Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson and Sleep by Nick Littlehales

For me, taking a break from alcohol was the best choice I ever made in my life and it is why I trained with one of the best, if not the best, alcohol free coach and mentors out there to become an Alcohol Free Coach.

Having seen first hand how much positive change has come from my own experience, it was an easy and natural natural decision to train to be able to give back and help others to change their own relationship with alcohol.

Why do we like to help others?

Why do we like to help others? This is a question I have asked myself over the years. When I was much younger and way before I learnt about psychology or trained to become a coach, I noticed that sometimes when I did something kind or thoughtful for a stranger, it had a tendency, to set off a chain reaction.

The list below (which is by no means definitive) may help shine a light on why we humans as a species seem compelled to help others in need, even to the point of risking our own lives.

Why do we want to help others?

  1. It’s part of the human experience. As a species we are social animals, our hunter gatherer ancestors knew the significance of their tribe and remaining part of it. If you were excluded from your tribe it was pretty much a guaranteed death sentence. A good way to ensure you don’t fall foul of the tribe is to ensure you are kind and useful to others. So it may well be that we have an instinctive interest to help others to improve your chances of survival.
  2. It activates your brain’s reward centres. Scientists have performed various experiments and scanned the brain’s activity. What they have discovered is when participants gave willingly rather than being forced into something, there were higher amounts of dopamine in the part of the brain associated with processing unexpected rewards. This activation could explain why people continue to give even when it can be perceived to come at a cost.
  3. It strengthens social bonds and connection. When you help another person, you get a positive feeling in return. Also for the person you’ve helped, they also get a feel good boost thanks to your action. This creates a strong sense of belonging and connection between people. In communities where kindness is valued, people are generally more likely to feel safe and happy.
  4. It boosts your self-esteem. The positive feelings you get from helping others has a direct correlation on how you see yourself. Research suggests that when people give, especially to people they don’t know, it increases their self-esteem. That help can include donating money, volunteering or simply spontaneous acts of kindness.
  5. It improves your relationships. We know that helping others brings with it a strong bond between people and groups of people. This strong bond is what could mean life or death for our hunter gatherer ancestors on the Savannahs. All relationships benefit when people approach them with a giving mindset rather than what they can get for themselves.
  6. It’s good for the community. It is said that living in close-knit communities offers individuals a sense of happiness and security as well as belonging. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective as well, with strong bonds and a sense of belonging, you are more likely to fight off any invading tribe or wild animal that could pose a threat.
  7. It gives meaning to life. Humans have always searched for the meaning in life. Research shows it may be connected to helping others. In a preliminary study from The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers asked 400 participants how often they engaged in kind deeds and how meaningful their life felt. Participants who reported more selfless actions found greater meaning in their lives.

The Kindness Ripple Effect

The first instance of what I call the kindness ripple effect, I can recall with clarity, was when I learnt to drive. Where I lived the roads were not really built for the amount fo traffic on them and this meant at certain times, traffic would slow down and crawl along at a snails pace. When I had the opportunity, I would let someone who was patiently waiting at a junction to pull out in front of me and join the queue of traffic. Nothing amazing in that act, however I noticed that person I had allowed to pass in front of me, nearly always would return the favour to a fellow motorist further along our crawling journey around town. Sometimes I saw this happen multiple times as each person passed the good deed on. That’s the kindness ripple effect in action.

I have also seen this happen with young people giving up their seats on public transport, inspiring others to do the same, kids sharing sweets in the playground and people offering to help strangers in need. A kindhearted gentlemen helped me out with a his act of kindness just the other day. We had been to the builder’s merchant to pick up some paving blocks. This meant we needed to take a trailer, I’ll admit, pulling a trailer is not one of my natural strengths, going forwards fine, but reversing the damn thing, well that’s a different story! I can not get the trailer to go anywhere in reverse!! So to simplify my life I usually just pull up and unhitch the trailer and manhandle it into the garage rather than trying to reverse it in.

Now usually, when I do this, the trailer it is empty and it is a simple enough process to manoeuvre it into place. However trying to do it full of concrete blocks is a whole different ball game. It is heavy, frickin’ heavy! I was working up a sweat. My other half was trying to help as well but she is recovering from an accident so wasn’t able to apply the strength needed to get it up the curb and into the garage. We spent a few minutes trying different approaches and I was even considering trying to reverse it into the garage myself (which is my nightmare).

When out of nowhere a gentleman comes wandering over and offers to help us. I have never seen him before, he was a complete stranger, but there was something in his nature, a willingness to help those in need, which meant as a result we were able to get the trailer in the garage! I can tell you I was so grateful.

His kindness, touched me and it stuck with me, so a few days later when I went past our local pétanque court and saw a band of locals shovelling gravel into wheelbarrows and raking it into place, I didn’t hesitate to offer them a helping hand. It was a great opportunity to help out others in the community and in the process I bumped into a good friend I haven’t seen for ages and got to know one of my neighbours a little better. It also gave me a nice little glow, knowing I had helped them in my own little way.

TNTs (Tiny Noticeable Things)

I remember attending a lecture with a wonderful character called Adrian Webster, I had never heard of him prior to the lecture, but his down to earth manner and wicked sense of humour was a hit. I was fully engaged and soaked up everything he had to say in his lecture. As part of his lecture he spoke about TNTs (Tiny Noticeable Things), which he has gone on to write a whole book about (as a side note, I totally recommend this book, it will restore your faith in humanity when you read about what people do for others).

Adrian defines a TNT as a Tiny Noticeable Thing that nobody needs to do, but when somebody does do it, it creates an explosive, highly impactful image that exceeds expectations and makes a very big difference. The shock-waves generated by such an act are both profound and long lasting. Thinking is reshaped and relationships transformed.

I thought that Adrian’s TNT idea was a wonderful thing, and it has inspired me to drop a TNT whenever I can nowadays. I have learnt over time that when you get the right action at the right time the impact can be enormous. No only do you get to help someone else and get your own fuzzy glow in return, it can actually create the biggest and long lasting impression in people’s minds which can last a lifetime.

These actions can have such impact, often inspiring the receiver to go out and drop their own TNTs as well. Which in turn can inspire others and so on, it literally becomes a chain reaction of explosive kind actions, that has the potential to keep on going. You remember the Kindness Ripple Effect I wrote about earlier?

So I invite you, the next time the opportunity presents itself, why not try dropping your own TNT and see what happens? I’d love to hear about it, if you would like to share how it went in the comments.

Donating trees for future generations

You can also include TNTs in business too, I donate 10% of my coaching fee direct to One Tree Planted every time I have a coaching session. When I tell a coachee that I have donated trees in their name for the very first time, it has always been a great experience to see their faces light up as I tell them about the difference we’ve made in the world by working together.

I now have clients who look forward to hearing about where in the world their trees were planted since we last met. They can even take away a little info sheet about the habitat and the benefits the trees will bring etc. One client has requested his trees are always planted in a specific reforestation project because they have a personal affinity with the country in question.

The idea of doing something for others and the greater good is something that sits firmly behind why I decided to donate to One Tree Planted. I love the concept that as we work together not only will the coachee begin to grow and flourish, so too will their trees. That symbolism is not why I decided to donate though, I have always found being outside in nature, relaxing, calming and good for my well-being. It is for this reason I took the decision to donate, it is my way of helping future generations to have the opportunity to share those same benefits I have been fortunate enough to experience. All the other numerous upsides these reforestation programmes bring with them, including helping other animals and insects and of course the earth itself are a wonderful bonus too! 😊

Random acts of kindness are good for you

When I was studying to become a coach, I was intrigued to learn that random acts of kindness has been identified as a way for people to improve their overall well-being and have a positive impact on others. In his book Flourish, Martin Seligman, the forefather of Positive Psychology writes about how one day he was in a queue which was moving at a snails pace waiting to buy some one-penny stamps. He remarked that people’s moods were low and tempers fraying owing to the amount of time it was taking. When he finally got to the front of the queue he asked for ten sheets of 100 stamps (costing him all of 10 dollars). He then turned to the queue and shouted “Who needs one-penny stamps? They’re free”. People burst into applause and clustered around him as he gave away his treasure. Within a couple of minutes everyone from that slow moving queue had dispersed, liberated to resume their days with their stamps in hand. He tells us that this was one of his most satisfying days of his life.

As Martin has gone on to work in the world of positive psychology and identified the different areas where people can improve their levels of happiness and well-being, the random act of kindness has become a well known and highly effective intervention to help lift people’s moods.

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

If this newsletter has inspired you, but you are unsure where to start, I highly recommend you head over to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website (randomactsofkindness.org). This website is filled with so many different resources where people can implement random acts of kindness at home, at school and at work.

It even has a free Kindness Calendar you can download. Each day of the year has an idea for an act of kindness you can implement. How cool is that?

I hope that by reading this blog you have learnt a little bit about why we like to be kind, how acts of kindness can have explosive impacts with ripples that can be far reaching and perhaps now you’ve got the resources to inspire you to go out and drop your own TNTs.

Memento Mori

Picture this, after a successful Roman triumph the army would return home and the crowds would gather to celebrate their victory. For the majority most of the public would have their gazes firmly fixed upon the victorious general and not necessarily give much attention to the aide directly behind the general, whispering into his ear “memento mori” which translates as remember your mortality.

At first glance this may seem like an odd and melancholic phrase for a general in the height of his glory to have someone whispering into his ear.

However for the Roman general it actually had a stabilising effect and would keep him grounded and focused. To remain humble even in the midst of such accolade. Remembering at all times, the fragility of life.

I dare-say to most, this sounds like an awful idea. Who wants to think about death? But what if instead of being scared and unwilling to acknowledge this truth we did the opposite? Simply by reflecting on that fact we discover it is the key to living life to the fullest?

I came across the words memento mori in the book The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday when I first started out on my own personal development journey and have written memento mori every day in my journal ever since.

These two words encapsulated the very thing I was awakened to at the time and it has served as a daily reminder for me ever since.

You see, the reason I started to look at implementing changes in my own life and really began self development was because I had a real awakening after my Dad’s death.

My Dad was in his sixties, he had worked hard all his life and was meant to be winding down into retirement. However his ‘part time’ consultancy work proved to be very popular and instead of slowing down he was working full tilt.

He adopted the philosophy to work hard for the time being and once he was ready, he could wind it all up and retire, enjoying a comfortable retirement. As such instead of taking it easier, he was working long days, travelling around the country for work and feeling pretty worn out.

Since he was so busy and tired after the full on week, he had to put things off, unable to take those little breaks away, or connect with family and friends, even indulging in his passion for motor racing got put on hold during his ‘final push’ before retirement.

Sadly life didn’t go according to plan, after a few months of not feeling quite right and numerous trips to the doctors he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer which had metastasised to his liver.

His diagnosis came out of the blue, I actually saw him the very day he was diagnosed and sat with him whilst he called my brothers and told them the awful news. It was such an awful time for us all as a family, and the following three and half months before his death, were an emotional roller coaster.

I remember when we went to the hospital one day and they told him his cancer was terminal and now it was the time to make the most of the time he had left.

I was inspired by his relentless bravery and how he did not dwell on his own misfortune and was only ever concerned about how is diagnosis was impacting those he loved, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him for all the things he was going to miss out on. All those things he had put off for his retirement, which we now knew was never going to come.

This feeling of regret for what my Dad missed out upon, didn’t leave me, in fact it sat very heavily with me. The realisation of how fragile life really is. It woke me up, looking at my own life, I too was living life in a way where I was putting things off to the future. I knew I had to learn from Dad’s death and to no longer put things off which could bring me more pleasure, joy and meaning to my life.

Please don’t think I am saying we should all live a hedonistic life where we should be only concerned with chasing pleasures in the here-and-now and not worry about tomorrow. This is far from the message I am trying pass on.

I am a huge advocate of visualising the future and working towards goals to enrich our journey through life. In my opinion, we should all have a life plan to ensure we live our lives in a way that is congruent to our true authentic selves, but in my opinion, this should not become our sole focus, as we can miss so much going on around us whilst we are striving towards that moment in the future.

I also acknowledge we all have numerous responsibilities and commitments in our lives and things have a tendency to take priority. However I assure you it is possible to design your life, where you can optimise your time to ensure you have the opportunity to meet your obligations and still be able to find and appreciate the moments in life which will bring you happiness and joy.

These things don’t need to be 5-star luxury holidays around the world or winning the lottery, it could simply be appreciating seeing a loved one’s smile, a heartfelt hug, spending a few more minutes really listening and engaging with a friend, or watching your little one’s sporting event or musical recital. It’s these kinds of experiences which bring a real lasting sense of joy to our lives and our brains will lock in as memories for us to recall whenever we desire. But at the same time, these moments are the easiest to miss, if we are all caught up about getting to that place somewhere in the future.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

My Dad’s experience is by no means isolated, in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, one of the most common regrets of those she spoke to whilst working in palliative care was “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Let’s just look at that, one of the top five regrets of people in the final moments, is that they did not allow themselves to experience as much happiness as they could have. How does that make you feel? Does it resonate with you at all? It certainly did with me.

I have to say, memento mori, came on the horizon just at the right moment for me in my own life, those wise words have unlocked so much in my life I could have potentially missed as I rushed through my life.

How coaching can help with loss

I hope that by sharing my experience around the loss of a loved one and highlighting a tendency at times to put things off to a time in the future may serve to bring awareness to you should you need it. So you too can start to live your life to the most every day going forwards, and, when that final day comes, as it will for all of us, you can say I lived a life where I took every opportunity to embrace happiness.

When you lose someone or something you love, it can feel like the world is ending. You lose the desire to do the things that used to make you happy, and you often can’t find the motivation to take on more challenging tasks. Dealing with grief can be a difficult experience for us all, however, you can’t hide away from the world. You have to face your fears and learn how to cope with this loss.

Although you can’t replace your loved one or whatever it is you have lost, such as a  pet, a job or a long-term relationship you can learn how to combat the suffering. It is possible to decide that you want to feel joyful each day, instead of living in pain.

Should you wish to know more about how coaching could assist you why not book a discovery call to find out more?

Action leads to change

Change is the bridge between the inner world and the outer world

Change for me used to be something I moved away from. Without realising it, I had constructed my own little prison where I lived in my comfort zone. When anything came on the horizon which required moving outside of my comfort zone, I would think long and hard about any action I should take, over analysing and procrastinating until either the opportunity passed or my survival brain convinced me it wasn’t a good idea. It kept me small and limited my chances to experience anything new.

I am so thankful I now know differently, if you want change to occur in your life, then you must take action and be different. Doing something new and unknown will stir up lots of different emotions. This is normal, the brain is naturally hardwired to want to keep us safe for survival.

However in today’s modern world, we can do more than just survive, we can thrive. Now when I am out of my comfort zone and there is survival based emotions like anxiety, fear, apprehension, I take these as a positive sign that I am on the right path and I push myself to take action.

I encourage you to keep this to mind next time you have an opportunity to take action in your own life and remember when you step out of you comfort zone enough times it becomes familiar and this is how you can grow as a person. 😊

Is love always good for you?

Have you ever asked yourself whether love is always good for you? As a life coach, I know all too well how, love, relationships and and meaningful connection are really super fuel for our happiness and wellbeing. As a species, one of our core human needs, is to be loved.

Love also comes with some solid health benefits, according to a growing body of scientific research.

  • Love makes you happy. When you first fall in love, dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical associated with reward, is especially active.
  • Love busts stress. After the honeymoon period, dopamine starts to share real estate with another brain chemical called oxytocin, or the bonding hormone. Thats the one which gives you that “warm and fuzzy” feelings for your partner. Oxytocin can also be good for your health.
  • Love eases anxiety. Being in love and feeling close to another person can mitigate anxiety. When we are alone cortisol and adrenaline levels rise when people feel insecure and threatened,” which triggers your body’s stress response.
  • Love helps you take better care of yourself. Sometimes, partners will notice signs of melanoma earlier, notice abnormal bruising, which can be a sign of serious conditions such as leukemia or signs of allergies and other persistent health problems before the sufferer does.
  • Love helps you live longer. Research has shown that married couples enjoy greater longevity than singles — making “’til death do us part” more poignant for our shared future together.

Love actually became problematic for my happiness and wellbeing.

Knowing the above, it may come as a surprise that the main topic of this blog is actually going to be about a time when love actually became problematic for my happiness and wellbeing.

The day I got married was the day I gave away something subconsciously that would become as debilitating for me as kryptonite is for Super Man.

Retrospectively perhaps I can say I fell in love too young, but at 18 years old, I was certain I had found my soul mate. We were really happy and life was great.

I believed I'd only get married if I was 100% convinced it was going to be forever.

The years rolled by and at 24 I got married. As a side note, marriage for me was a commitment I did not take lightly, I had come from a divorced family and had grown up not seeing my father for the ‘formative years’. I had grown up believing I would only get married if I was 100% convinced it was going to be forever. The reason being I would not want any child to grow up feeling abandoned and unloved by a parent.

On the day of my marriage, people were asking about my speech and I’ll not lie, I got a few raised eyebrows when I said I hadn’t written one! The thing is, that’s me, I never have written a speech in my life when it was for something important, I have only ever spoken from the heart in that moment. The words flow better and it feels more authentic than if I was reading it off a sheet of paper.

When I was giving my speech, in part of it, I told my new wife and all of our friends and family who were sharing the day with us, how I was grateful for having her in my life and how she filled a gap that was missing in me, with her in my life, she completed me.

I remember when I said this, it got a nice reaction from everyone. You could literally feel the love in the room as people knew I was talking from the heart.

Looking back, forgetting the rings and what not, my real wedding gift to my wife, was I gave her part of my heart and at the same time part of my identity. I was emotionally tied to her, this was nothing that was demanded of me nor coaxed out of me, I gave it willingly. It was however a gift that would in years to come become a source of sadness, unhappiness and lead to my self-worth sinking to the darkest depths.

The years rolled by, I was over the moon, life was great! We started a family and had a home that was full of love. Becoming a father was the best thing for me, it really gave me a sense of purpose and it was a role which I wanted to be the best I could be at. Having not always had my own father around in my life, it felt so beautiful to be able to share the magical moments with my kids growing up.

Of course we had our share of worries and concerns, but as a couple nothing felt unsurmountable. We even decided to move abroad and start a new life in the sun. This move was a bold one but it felt right and everything fell into place to make the transition between countries as seamless as possible.

With the move, looking back, I’d say even from early on, the family dynamics changed, life in general became more complicated in a foreign country and our relationship changed. Fundamentally as individuals we changed. As the years rolled by the marriage was clearly breaking down, we were no longer aligned. I could feel us moving further apart week on week, month by month for a couple of years.

It was in this two year period that the piece of my heart which was also intrinsically tied to my identity became a source of immense pain and sadness and lead to a low sense of self-worth.

In her book Know Your Worth, Anna Mathur describes perfectly how I felt.

‘When you give others the power to tell you who you are – you put your heart in their hands. They could massage it, or throw it against the wall. Displeasing others taps into feelings of shame and a sense of worthlessness.’

As the marriage started to unravel, the part of my identity which I believed at the time completed me as a person was under threat, my immediate reaction was to try and ‘fix’ the situation. I spent what felt like an eternity analysing every conversation, argument and harsh word trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

I would look for any opportunity to demonstrate my love.

This ranged from buying gifts, doing anything within my grasp to alleviate any pressure I perceived she had, staying at home with the kids so she could go out for lunch or girls nights out. It got the point I just said yes to anything that was asked of me to not rock the boat!

I was so desperate to cling on to some semblance of family life, we’d head out for a dinner party or get together at friend’s houses, in the hope that we could pass some quality time together. However these moments became increasingly painful, instead of spending time together as a couple or family, I would watch her get increasingly drunk and flirtatious with other guys. We would not spend any time together, she’d be off partying and I would count the hours down until it was time to drive us home at the end of the night.

As time moved on, I became a shell of the person I was, in fact, I no longer knew who I was, I just felt lost and so, so worthless. What’s more I was so ashamed that the marriage was going bad, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I just carried it all around inside trying to ‘put on a brave face’. It was so tiring and it certainly left its mark on me both physically and mentally.

That said, I remember the day where I got total clarity of the situation and reached the point of no return. I knew I had to stop the suffering. It was when I was sat on a sofa with two of my sons next to me and I was trying to keep it together as I was watching their mum flirt with another chap right in front of us.

I felt like such a looser! I was a complete wet lettuce, a sap, a mug, a fool and goodness knows what else I was calling myself. But then I looked at my kids and it hit me like a thunderbolt. They are going to grow up thinking that this is acceptable behaviour. They could believe it is ok for the person they love to disrespect them and hurt them. Or the flip side, be the one disrespecting and hurting their partner.

It was that thought which kickstarted the change. I had to show my children how important it is to have self respect and self worth.

To demonstrate it’s ok to have boundaries and have the confidence to enforce them should they require. More than anything I wanted to show them, everyone is beautiful as they are, there is no need to change who they are, to suit another person’s expectations. I had to show them how to LOVE themselves!

Since that day I have been on a new path, where I have gone from being my own worse enemy to my biggest friend. Not in a narcissistic way, I am by no means perfect, in fact I would say I am a perfectly imperfect human being. I accept myself, the good, the bad and the ugly. There is nothing within in my control, I can’t change if I decide to do so. I have learnt over the years that it is ok to treat myself with the same respect, compassion and love as I give to others, unconditionally. As I have learnt to do this, I no longer feel incomplete, I have come to realise, that I, and I alone, complete myself. I am enough.

A little caveat

Please note that I am in no way suggesting that anyone should not give themselves to another, love like that is special and should be honoured as long as it is coming from the right place and is not open to abuse. I had not just given myself metaphorically, I was emotionally involved, I believed that the other person actually formed part of who I was. I now know this not to be true, and it is this I am hoping to highlight for others.

If anything I have mentioned in this blog resonates with you, please know that you are not alone. There are experts who can help you. As a qualified life coach I have discovered a wealth of tools and techniques which you can use to help reframe how you see yourself and recognise your true value.

If you would like to learn a little more about my services you can book a free no commitment discovery call to see if maybe coaching could be a good fit for you.

Be impeccable with your word

The subject of this month’s blog is going to be the importance of our words and how their use can have a direct impact on those around us, our own feelings and beliefs and even how they reach wider afield and can literally ripple around the world.

Have you ever agreed to something knowing that you won’t follow through? Spoken critically to yourself? Said something harsh to someone you love? Or got caught up in gossip? I certainly have over the years and I always regretted it afterwards.

That regret became part of my story, I used to believe I was someone who was unreliable, unkind, untrustworthy, mean… and so it went on.

This all changed when I read The Four Agreements (view on Amazon), which is a wonderful book containing four practical rules to guide you to personal freedom which have been passed down the generations of the Toltec. If you haven’t heard of the Toltecs, they were a Mexican society who set out to explore and conserve the knowledge and practices of their elders.

The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. The idea is, we must acknowledge how important our choice of words can be. They are so powerful, we can literally create or destroy with them.

The word is not just a sound or a written symbol. The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life. The word is the most important tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.

Excerpt from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

With any kind of magic though we have good magic and bad magic. The good magic is where we use our words to encourage, be kind, honest. Literally speaking with integrity and using our words to create happiness and opportunity for ourselves and those around us.

Whereas we can also use our words as bad magic, to manipulate, deceive and cause hurt. We don’t need to look far to see how our words can be used to present misinformation or spread hate and fear. Hitler was able to convince others to go to war and commit acts of violence all around the world, taking the lives of millions using just his words. Today with the power of the internet and media (through newspapers, television, radio and social media etc) we can spread misinformation, fear and hate to divide society literally in seconds.

As such, perhaps more so than ever, it is so important we start to be impeccable with our word. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your words in the direction of truth and love.

The Ultimate Coach | Being your word

In the book The Ultimate Coach (view on Amazon), there is a chapter about Being your word. This really resonated with me as it illustrates the importance of the words we use today. Steve Hardison points out that people in society for the majority don’t do what they say. For example people will say “Let’s go to lunch on Tuesday”. Knowing it won’t happen. He also points out that today if someone does what they say and and holds others accountable for what they say, that person looks crazy, demanding and excessive. But if you can’t count on yourself, who can you count on?

Steve uses an analogy to distinguish being your word, which likens our use of words as either verbal inflation or a verbal gold standard. The gold standard is where in economic terms a country limits the amount of money printed to match the sum of the value of gold held in the vaults. This assures the person holding the money, it has a real, tangible value. Whereas when a country starts printing money to pay for its spending it causes inflation and reduces the purchasing power of the printed money.

He suggests we live in a society where verbal inflation is high, this means we can’t count on what people say, there is a chance it will or won’t happen. We have become used to this and often have a back up plan in place in case someone isn’t true to their word. He encourages everyone to only offer a verbal gold standard where people can trust in the value of your word. It is like when you speak, you are only spitting out gold bars. People can count on what you say as they know it is backed by your integrity and commitment to be your word.

In his book Steve writes

“What I speak matters – meaning my words materialise something. They literally matter – or create mass. No one is one hundred percent but if I say something, the odds are really high that I am going to do it. If I don’t, I clean it up. What I notice is that when people honour their word like it really means something, their lives work better.”

A gold standard coaching relationship

I agree with Steve’s statement, as a life coach I explain and train my clients about the importance of their word from the outset. I help them to understand that to really get the most out of our time together and the coaching relationship, we must offer a verbal gold standard. This means we can have from the beginning a solid foundation where we can have the utmost trust and faith in each other. If I say I am going to do something, they know in no uncertain terms it is going to happen. And if they identify a step towards a goal or habit change and commit to taking action, then we both know those words will lead to action, not just disappear into the atmosphere and mean nothing more. It is only with action towards our goals are we able to make lasting change. Without action nothing will change, that is why it is so important to be our word.

This kind of coaching relationship has lead to great changes, achievement and shifts in people’s own beliefs about themselves. It is also something that we can live by on a daily basis. At the start of this newsletter I wrote I used to believe I was someone who was unreliable, unkind, untrustworthy and mean all because I was not being careful with how I used my words. Now I try to live a life where every word I say offers a verbal gold standard and uses white magic to bring more goodness into the world.

It really has made a huge difference to how I feel about myself, now I am someone who is honest, trustworthy, kind, caring and my words are backed by my integrity, discipline and desire to make sure they mean something.

Once you start being impeccable with your word, the changes in how you see yourself and interact with those around you, really does have a paradigm shifting effect.

Let's use our words to create not destroy.

A letter to a friend I am yet to meet

To the friend I am yet to meet

Parenting in a fog!

Changing my relationship with alcohol over the past two years and being alcohol free for over a year, when I look back, I now see I was parenting in a fog. Alcohol quite simply was stopping me from being my best self and an engaged and present father for my kids.

My boys are my world and being the best dad I can be has always been a key value in life.

When I was drinking, I would have told you exactly the same thing and I genuinely believed it. I was however living a life where I was highly stressed, always worn out and grumpy. What’s more I could not see anything different on the horizon.

It was through a series of life events (a failed marriage, followed by divorce and the grief of loosing my own father) I became aware I had been using alcohol in an unhealthy way to numb the pain I was feeling in my heart.

I saw an ad for OYNB and read a few testimonials in which I identified with other people’s struggles. As I love a challenge, I signed up.

At that moment I actually opened the door to changing more than just my relationship with booze, it also made me a healthier, happier and more engaged dad.

By taking alcohol out of my life, within a short period of time I was sleeping better, no longer waking up in the night with palpitations with feelings of anxiety and stress. I felt refreshed and full of energy.

I became healthier and more active.

I had the energy to do more, playing football, cycling and rock climbing for example with the boys.

Along the way I learnt about mindfulness and positive psychology. I was no longer stressed and grumpy, on the contrary, I was calmer, happier, more focussed and present when we were together. As a direct result our relationships have flourished. Now we spend quality time together, full of fun, laughter and happiness.
By removing alcohol from my life, the fog has lifted and now I see every moment we spend together with perfect clarity!