Do You Like Who You Are Now?

How often you take time out to really reflect on the type of person you have developed into? Do you constantly measure up to the personal values you would ‘like’ to uphold?

Self-assessment is essential for success

Woman's self-reflection on alcohol dependence

If you are not your own #1 fan then you have some work to do. If you are not very comfortable in your own skin, others pick up on this (at least at a subconscious level), and won’t experience a natural magnetic attraction to you. No, this isn’t an ad for a dating website 🙂 … it’s a natural instinct to admire and want to be associated with people that are happy, confident and have an easy-going, relaxed sense of self-assuredness about them. People that have that quality attract the attention, camaraderie and cooperation of others, both personally and in business.

So how do they get to be that way? What makes them so damned relaxed and content? Don’t they have the same dramas in their lives the rest of us mere mortals do? Well yes they do. It’s just that (to a large extent), no matter what happens around them, or to them, they still like who they are. They are more driven by what type of person they are, that they adhere to the values they treasure, and they are more influenced by their own opinion of themselves and their environment, then they are of external commentary. They accept that opinions will differ, challenges will come and go (as will friends and acquaintances); that they will never be able to please everyone, so they don’t fret if others reject them or their ideas. They know that there is only one person that will be with them for their entire life, so they had better make sure they have the respect and admiration of that person… it’s themself. If you can’t respect and be a good friend to yourself, then how can you expect others to.

Confident, relaxed people understand if they get their own ‘inner’ house in order and make it comfortable and inviting, people that like it will want to visit. Those that don’t like the carpet or curtains can keep going down the street… they aren’t offended, because they love their house the way it is. This doesn’t mean their house is perfect either. They continually strive to improve the décor to suit their own taste and do regular housecleaning and maintenance. It is likely they do an annual ‘spring clean’ to discard what is not serving them well and check if an attitude or two needs adjusting. This is an ongoing process of assessing and remodelling to ensure they are happy and living with things they value the most.

“Enough about houses already!” I hear you say. Though I believe the analogy works very well for how they live in their own skin and how their minds work. Living to your own cherished personal values and moral principles will give you far greater peace of mind and inner contentment than trying to live up to other’s expectations, or worrying what they do or think.

How to feel good about who you are

Man's self-reflection on alcohol dependence width=In my book (Alcohemy), I frequently talk about a term I coined ‘Lifeometer’ (pronounced like ‘thermometer’). In fact it is like a thermometer, except it measures whether we are living our lives according to our true personal values and desires. It is our inner being’s guidance system and is hard-wired to, and expressed by our emotions, every waking moment. Our inner emotions (lifeometer), are an instant feedback mechanism that lets us know if what we have experienced, done, said or even thought, is aligned to what we desire, and if that desire is also aligned to our inner core values. If we say, do, or think things that are not in line with our core values, we will feel an emotion on the negative side of the scale. Conversely if we do, say, or think things that do align to our core personal values we feel good emotions. People that feel good about themselves are content they are living their life based on their good values and opinions, rather than letting others dictate what is appropriate. If someone else’s comment or suggestion positively aligns to their own internal value system, then they happily accept it. If it doesn’t align and feels negative, then they are as equally content to politely reject it, without confrontation. In doing so, their inner harmony remains calm and content and they remain happy knowing they are living to their personal values. As I state frequently in my book, they are the “Master of their fate, Captain of their soul”.

Women's good self-esteem after stop drinkingPeople like this have a natural sense of good self-worth and confidence about themselves. To them, their sense of status in the world is more driven by internal criteria, rather than external trappings such as titles, wealth, formal recognition or acclaim. If you are seeking true and lasting inner contentment you can’t base its source on something outside of you. You must create your wealth inside yourself… in who you are, not on things around you and that you have.

Good self-image verses alcohol dependence

So how does this tie into people who have an alcohol dependence? From my experience it is quite closely related. I know from experience that having an alcohol dependence/addiction, personal values and integrity are often discarded (or at the very least set aside), when the mind is affected by acute or chronic alcohol abuse. One of the first brain functions to go when effected by drinking alcohol is the ability to think rationally and make sound judgements. Any solid values and life principles you hold dear when sober, can become less consciously imperative, as the logic and rational prefrontal cortex is effected and we resort to the more primal emotions and urges of the amygdala, mid- and hind-brain. Basically, people who are usually considered honourable, when drunk can do or say things completely out of character, as they lose the ability to think rationally and instead act on very primal instincts. They are often racked with remorse and guilt when sober, as the realisation sets in that they contravened their prized personal values.

If you repeatedly find yourself in this position because of alcohol abuse, you have very little chance of establishing and maintaining the good sense of self-respect that is required for inner peace. Instead you will be trapped in a cycle of inner conflict and turmoil. As I stated earlier, if you don’t like and respect yourself for who you are, why should other people. They will be able to tell from your body language and the unconscious signals you give off, that you are not comfortable in your own skin and your natural attraction will be decreased.

Be Your BestIf your alcohol dependence has grown to the stage where you can’t take a good look at yourself in the mirror and be extremely happy at the person looking back at you, it’s time to take affirmative action. Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse is a choice. What is your honest appraisal of yourself? Be the Master of your fate; the Captain of your soul.

The Truth Will Set You Free

If there’s one big lesson I learned from my years of battling alcohol dependence and the consequences of regular binge drinking it is… living with and continually concealing the poor actions you have done while intoxicated, is a psychological stress that eats away at your very soul.

I can still clearly remember alcohol-related incidents from my teenage years that I still feel uncomfortable about, though it is not only these type of memories that can cause emotional and physical stress. Even waking up the next morning after a night of binge drinking, suspecting that you have had that much to drink that you probably did or said something that you should feel embarrassed about, can be just as big of a stress. For many years I would wake up after a night of binge drinking and start trying to piece together the previous night’s events, to see if I could recall anything I would be ashamed of. Oh, and just because I couldn’t actually recall any, didn’t mean there weren’t some. That is the real nature of binge drinking alcohol… you can’t be sure how bad you were… unless someone is honest enough to tell you the truth.

Be truthful about your alcohol dependence.

People who live in this alcohol-fuelled reality, have a tendency to protect their already fragile self-esteem by consciously denying the truth about how serious their alcohol dependence is, or the real effect the consequences are for themselves, or the people around them. However, at an inner subconscious level, they know that how they are living and the consequences of their alcohol abuse, is slowly destroying their very happiness… especially their own internal peace and harmony.

Living with that kind of consistent stress is very harmful both psychologically and physically. It is known that many forms of cancer and other life threatening illnesses, like heart disease, originate from persistent stress. It can also perpetuate the conditioned ‘alcohol desire’ response, for those that believe that drinking alcohol relieves stress. Therefore the cycle continues and the problem of alcohol dependence gets worse.

Conversely, people that live in a state of truth, as much as possible, are more at peace with themselves and are living life the closest to reality. They don’t have the same stress levels as people who are living a lie, or constantly kidding themselves about what the reality of their life is actually like.

So what do I mean by ‘living a state of truth’? It is basically being as totally honest with yourself and others as much as possible. We all tell what we affectionately call ‘little white lies’ occasionally in an attempt to protect someone else’s feelings; and this isn’t catastrophic as long as it isn’t avoiding a deeper, serious issue. Living truthfully means being congruent with your inner values and what you ‘know’ to be the right thing to do. This just doesn’t mean being truthful with what you say; also with what you think and the actions that you take. They all need to align with your values and inner spirit. If they all aren’t harmonious the inner conflict will manifest itself both psychologically and physically in different negative forms… dis-ease being the most common.

The truth about your alcohol addiction is bestIf you are always truthful in what you think, say and do, there is no stress in trying to make up a ‘convenient’ lie to suit your purpose, or trying to remember which lie you have told before so you don’t get caught out. When you think, speak and act from a place of truth, you are simply telling it how it is. There is no fabrication, no concealing and no having to remember a ‘convenient story’.

When I was addicted to alcohol I was forever concealing my alcohol abuse and resulting intoxicated behaviour, that contravened what I and others considered a breach of our values. This was just a horrible core feeling that I lived with over many years. It wasn’t until I had reached my tipping point and had enough of the constant stress I was feeling, that I made a resolute decision to live my life from a position of truth. I had to admit my alcohol addiction, all the serious consequences from the past and present, and the truthful reality of my alcohol abuse. This doesn’t mean you have to go back and make amends with every person you have ever upset. Though you do have to be totally honest with yourself and those who matter in your life. By doing this I freed my conscience and spirit and was able to start living from a fresh truthful position.

Your heart will know the truth about your alcohol addictionThough I don’t live a perfect life now and I have my ‘human’ moments like everyone else, I can honestly tell you being as truthful as possible has increased my feeling of peace and harmony 100% from when I was when I was a binge drinking alcoholic. The truth sometimes can be temporarily painful, as you learn and grow from it, though in the long-term the truth will certainly set the real you free. Your health and happiness will depend on it!

Do You Practice What You Preach?

What Do You Say?

Yesterday morning I received some disturbing news to which I had an initial bad reaction, before I stopped myself and thought, “Hey! Stop ‘reacting’ to this situation, and start ‘responding’ to it… wake up to yourself and start practicing what you preach.” So this is what happened.

The Disturbing News

One of the early participants in my Alcohemy Video and Community Support & Forum Program, sent me a message saying she was not continuing with the treatment program as she said it now suddenly “doesn’t work for her”. Now this was a major shock, as it was coming from one of my most motivated participants, who had read the book (twice), watched all the videos (most more than once), completed all the workbook tasks, had successfully not been drinking alcohol for a few weeks… and up until now had been a very staunch and vocal supporter of the program. I was blown away by how she was regularly leaving public and private rave reviews and comments about how great the alcohol program was for her. In fact, her praise for how the program had dramatically changed the way she thought about her alcohol use, I considered her a ‘golden child’ of my relatively new alcohol treatment program, and used her as a shining example to inspire others. I could really tell by her frequent comments she really ‘got’ the deep meaning behind everything I had explained in the book and videos, and she was really loving the program! You can imagine my disappointment to suddenly get this one-liner message to say she wasn’t continuing (without any further explanation). I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean if you’ve also had some bad news that came at you like a bolt from out of the blue.

My Reaction

The very moment I read that one line, my initial ‘reaction’ was to fall intovictimhood mode and think, “Oh no! What has happened? My longest serving online member now doesn’t like my program. What has gone wrong or what have ‘I‘ done wrong? Now everyone else will think my program doesn’t produce great results. Me using her as a shining example to others is gone. Woe is me! My whole Alcohemy program is in jeopardy!” In general, I experienced an initial gut-wrenching feeling of doom and gloom about the program I am so passionate about. Also, I am not proud to say the initial ‘reaction’ was more about ‘poor me’ and how negatively this may affect my ability to help others stop drinking alcohol. Self-preservation is an extremely common ‘reaction’ to most undesirable situations and I’m sure you have experienced this.

action speaks louderMy Response

For those that have read/listened to my book, or have even watched my program’s ‘Introduction’ video, you will know I specifically discuss the topic of ‘reacting’ versus ‘responding’. So fortunately (after a few minutes of horror ‘reaction’, I stopped myself from being in the reactive ‘dismay mode’ and switched my thinking to ‘response mode’. Only after I did that (by pausing and taking a step back), was I able to look at it from all sides and start looking for the positives. (Again, in much of my written, audio and video material, I promote that there is a positive side to everything in life if we look hard enough, though most aren’t conditioned to do that.)

The first thing I did was to switch my focus to the troubled participant and how I may possibly help her. To do this I had to know the details of her reasons for wanting to leave, so I sent her a compassionate, private message seeking greater understanding of why she felt that way and offering whatever support was required. My suspicions were that she had such a difficult challenge come her way that she resorted back to seeking comfort from drinking alcohol again and in doing so blamed the Alcohemy program for ‘not working’. And in a technical sense she is right… the program doesn’t ‘work’. Technically no alcohol treatment program does. What my program does is it provides great information, experience, a proven process, support and a forum for people come together to share and support each other to stop drinking alcohol. It has and is facilitating success… though the participants have to embrace the process and do the actual ‘work’. Printed words, videos, a step-by-step process and good intentions won’t achieve anything, unlesssomeone turns that information into committed action. I have yet to see instructions on how to assemble something, hop up and actually do it, without anyone lifting a finger.

As of this post, I am yet to receive this participant’s answer to my return message (and I’m sure we can successfully work through it, as she has been very dedicated and hard-working). Though by pausing to contemplate the possibilities for her comment, it also raised another point I make in my program; you can’t control what others do, nor are you responsible for what others do, nor how they think. In that moment I remembered I can’t control how participants accept or use the experience and information I give them within my program. My responsibility is to share it as best as I can at the time and to continue to offer compassionate support and advice, in the best way I know how.

Lead by ExampleThough I do provide a great process and motivation to stop drinking alcohol, I have no control over how much commitment and sincere effort participants will put in… that is their responsibility and it will determine their particular path on the way to success. Some will really want to be free from the consequences of their alcohol abuse, though not prepared to fully commit to the process and work involved, until it’s done. I cannot take ownership of participants’ failures, nor claim glory for their successes. By me ‘walking this talk’, I may empathise with someone struggling to quit drinking alcohol, though not drown with despair in the responsibility if it doesn’t come easily for them. I’m convinced this is just a temporary setback this particular participant will learn from, on her way to success. In fact, there is a concerning statistic I reference in my book about the globally accepted Alcoholics Anonymous program, that states: ‘nearly one-third (31.5 percent) left the program after one month, and by the end of the third month, almost half (47.4 percent) left. Of those who stay for three months, half (50.0 percent) will attain one year of sobriety’. I expect my Alcohemy process will prove better than that, though this is a take-away lesson for us all when we are trying to assist someone struggling with an issue. As much as I want success for this person and others (with all my heart and soul), I realise you can’t be responsible for others’ success or failure. We can only control our own destiny.

Another key thing I teach in my program is using natural, healthy ways to feel good when challenges get us down. I talk about a term I coined, the ‘Lifeometer’ and how it lets us know if we are on the right path or not. If we are feeling a bit down or upset we need to have a group of healthy natural ways to boost our brain’s dopamine, endorphins and serotonin levels. This is the best and quickest way to get back to a positive state of mind, which in turn generates better health, creativity and productivity.

This is another ‘practice what I preach’ lesson I got from this morning’s situation. Here I was feeling troubled by an event and my Lifeometer was letting me know my thinking was out of whack from where it should be. Once I started ‘walking my talk’ and looked for the positive actions that could come from it, I started to feel better.

After sending my personal message to the participant, I looked for other ways to feel positive. Writing this blog article about the experience and lessons was another. This in turn, led to me scheduling other blog articles I had planned to write, as well as develop a ‘face-to-face’ presentation (called The Human Face of Alcohol Dependence), to deliver nationally to companies interested in educating their employees. And further to that, I’ve committed to start recording my blog articles in video format, so people also have the choice to see my charming face :) , with emotions and sincerity along with the information. You see, helping others and being creative is something that makes me feel good, naturally. It bumps up my ‘feel good’ brain neurotransmitters, leaving me feeling very satisfied afterwards.

IntegrityThe next time you are feeling out of sorts, check for the positive actions that you can do right then, or at least start making a list of things to do as soon as you can. You’ll be surprised at how it will turn your mood around.

It’s one thing to ‘talk the good talk’, though if you want to be respected, admired and ‘feel good’ to boot… you had better practice what you preach and ‘walk the good walk’.

Alcohol’s Effect on Intimacy & Sex

Girl embarrassed after binge drinkingContrary to a popular myth that drinking alcohol makes people feel more intimate or ‘horny’, it actually doesn’t. The fact is alcohol is a nervous system depressant that gradually ‘dumbs down’ the brain and deadens all our senses, leaving us less likely to fully enjoy sexual intimacy. Though for some, drinking alcohol (especially binge drinking), may result in the likelihood of having sex, purely because the ability to make sound, rational decisions becomes one of the first brain functions to become impaired when drinking alcohol. The more this ‘reasoning’ part of the brain becomes dysfunctional, the more our other ‘animal instinct’ primal part of the brain takes over (and it’s not big on sound thinking or consequences). It’s more about just satisfying needs… don’t think, just do!

Alcohol just acts to remove the mental barriers that we have in place that prevent us from doing things we would (when sober) normally consider morally questionable, personally risky, or likely to cause us social embarrassment. Often high standards that we have set ourselves, or been raised to hold dear (the ones that reside in the part of the brain responsible for logic and cognitive control), become over-ridden by the primal urges of “I want it, so I’ll have it” and “if it feels good, do it”.

Guy embarrassed after binge drinkingThis might all seem like harmless fun when you find yourself up singing karaoke, albeit way off-key. However, much more serious and life-changing decisions also get made when alcohol abuse stealthily switches off our ‘morality and sensibility’ guardian system. When my book ‘Alcohemy’ was being edited, I was told I had to edit out several hundred pages from the original manuscript to shorten it into a more ‘reader friendly’ length. Some of the material selected to be removed was concerning how alcohol abuse effected relationships, especially if the relationship was already struggling in some way. I was told by my editor that I had gone into too much detail in that area considering the objective of my book. I begged to differ, because after all, having a healthy and loving relationship is one of the big reasons most people desire to cease an alcohol dependence and regular alcohol abuse.

One of the alcohol facts that wasn’t removed, reported that in the USA alone (with a population of over 310 million), up to 50-70% of relationships experience infidelity with approx. 30-50% of these involving alcohol use. It is also reported that 99% hide their infidelity and will deny it when questioned. Some alcohol facts that were removed during editing are: Wikipedia (the online encyclopaedia) states ‘Studies suggest around 30–40% of unmarried relationships and 18–20% of marriages are marked by at least one incident of sexual infidelity. Men are more likely than women to have a sexual affair, regardless of whether or not they are in a married or unmarried relationship.’ On the website it states ‘It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage’. Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002 – Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy).

Couple caught having sex after drinking alcoholEveryone reads stories in magazines, or sees in movies people having too much alcohol at a work Christmas party, or a function and end up having a sexual encounter they desperately regret. However, we all think it would never happen to us. Well I’m telling you, if your personal relationship is already strained, and if you pour enough alcohol down your throat that your rational judgement is completely shot, and your very primal urges to ‘feel good’ and ‘feel desired’ are just about the only circuits functioning in your brain; it can and doeshappen. I believe there are literally many millions of people around the world that this type of alcohol-induced sexual transgression has happened to (including some of you reading this). These aren’t intrinsically immoral or bad people. They are generally everyday people like you and me who, due to an alignment of circumstances like; existing relationship problems, excessive alcohol consumption and opportunity, made an alcohol-affected, foolish and regrettable decision.

During my deeper research I read studies and reports that revealed the deeper primal urges like, acquiring food, water, shelter, safety, and yes… sex, were more intrinsic and powerful than our ‘intellectual’ desires to be morally appropriate, liked or fair. It is only our conditioned values and human reasoning that governs the behaviours which we are prepared to do, in order to obtain those basic urges, and prevents us from acting more ‘animalistic’. For most (when sober), it would take a particularly serious event for them to over-ride their moral values and to act in a way that is contrary to them. Others are more easily swayed to sacrifice their values to get what they want.

Regardless of what category you are in, the decision can and does get short-circuited, if you disable your brain’s capacity to reason and think rationally by drinking alcohol or taking other mind-altering substances. As stated above, once this ‘reasoning function’ is switched off, you are operating at a lower primal level of thinking (or more appropriately put, ‘not thinking’).

This doesn’t make the decision of having ‘inappropriate’ sex with someone ‘right’ or even ‘OK’, though it is a reason of why it does commonly happen. The majority of people that consume alcohol are mature and smart enough to understand, that a side effect of drinking alcohol is that it does affect our ability to ‘think straight’. If we drink alcohol knowing this, then we have to take full responsibilities for our actions (and their consequences) whilst intoxicated, even if those actions were irrational. It is a known hazard of drinking alcohol and by choosing to drink it you must accept that risk and responsibility.

Intimate couple after quitting alcoholThe second part of alcohol’s effect on intimacy involves two people connecting on an intimate level (and let’s remember that being intimate with someone doesn’t necessarily involve having sex). Loving intimacy is usually best when bothpeople involved are in the same frame of mind and are ‘in the moment’ and in-tune with each other. Drawing on research and personal experience over my lifetime, it is not likely this level of mutual intimacy will be obtained if one of the pair is intoxicated. Even if both are intoxicated, it is more likely they are operating at a primal lust level, than a thoughtful and caring level of intimacy. Not that there is anything wrong with mutually lustful sex… it’s just not the same as the awareness and consideration that goes into deliberate intimate moments.

Intimate couple after quitting alcoholIf you or your partner are regularly intoxicated from binge drinking, it is highly likely the number of mutually intimate occasions will be low and more than likely so will any occasions of mutually satisfying sex. My advice is that unless you are occasionally using alcohol to assist in lowering inhibitions for some raunchy, down-n-dirty, primal sex, drinking alcohol has no benefits to your relationship’s intimacy or sex life. Of course, those of you that are using my Alcohemy program to live alcohol-free, forget alcohol and try the old fashioned, tried and true way of mutually satisfying intimacy and sex… lovingly talk to each other with open minds about what turns you on, then experiment :) . That is best done without drinking alcohol.