Like Anne Hathaway, I ditched alcohol so I could be a better parent

Wine and children
 ‘Rather unbelievably to me now, my childhood experience did not put me off drinking.’ Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian

 

I’m a recovering alcoholic mother, and the child of an alcoholic mother. I won’t put my children through the same dark chaos

As a child, I used to lie to my mother about when parents’ evening at school was. Not because I had been underachieving, but because I was scared she would turn up, drunk, staggering around and slurring, again.

My childhood was mostly spent caring for myself and my mother as she took to her bed, wailing, with bottles of vodka. She went in and out of hospital, eventually ending up in a care home in her early 60s after years of absolute darkness and chaos, having wrecked her mind and body.

Rather unbelievably to me now, my childhood experience did not put me off drinking, and I went on to drink socially as an adult. I wasn’t going to be defined by my mother’s behaviour, I would tell myself firmly. My number one rule was that my drinking would never affect my children. I was determined to be a good example. I had asked my mum, sometimes sobbing at her hospital bed, terrified she would die, to please, please stop drinking.

She never did, and this caused me much anxiety: I was not important enough to her for her to stop drinking. I am an only child and it was an extremely lonely and frightening experience.

When I heard my own children say: “We want you to stop drinking, Mum,” it shocked me to my very core. Had my drinking problem become so obvious? I had been telling myself I was fine for years. Everyone drank socially. Then I told myself everyone had a bottle of wine, or two, or three, every evening. Then, everyone had a hangover that lasted for days. Then, everyone blacks out and loses their memory. How on earth had this happened?

I realised I could not stop drinking. Years of “social drinking” had caught up with me and I was now totally addicted, just like my mother. Addiction had crept up gradually, taking away everything that I loved and stood for. I had come to rely on alcohol for confidence, socialising, getting to sleep, and getting over my constant hangover. My life became a web of lies. I could not look after myself or my children. I had somehow graduated from swishing about with a glass of bubbly in a wine bar after work to drinking in my living room, in the daytime, with the curtains shut.

Two years ago, I ended up in rehab, after a police cell, then hospital. While that sounds awful, it saved my life and I consider myself lucky, as it was there I finally got sober. My mother never sought help for alcoholism and it ruined her life, resulting in alcoholic brain damage and needing 24-hour residential care. I knew that I couldn’t fight alcoholism alone any more, so from hospital I went straight to rehab, where I stayed for six weeks. In rehab I learned to say that “I am an alcoholic” and share this with people.

The mental and physical benefits of being free of alcohol quickly became apparent and it was a relief to gradually reclaim control of my life. My confidence and self-worth came back to me, bit by bit. I gave up my career in the law, retraining as a counsellor. While life isn’t easy for anyone, I feel I am capable of dealing with any problems that arise now. I believe I would lose all of this again if I picked up a drink again. It’s just not worth the risk.

I try to learn from the experiences of other alcoholics, and I believe that being brutally honest, sharing with each other and never, ever “sober-shaming” anyone for not drinking is the only way we will repair the damage alcohol does to our society.

The actor Anne Hathaway recently spoke about giving up alcohol until her child is at least 18. This has drawn a mixed response, with one Guardian columnist arguing that it isn’t “the end of the world” if a child notices her mother’s imperfections, even when it involves “drunk parenting”.

I am the best mother now that I have ever been. This doesn’t mean I am better than anyone else. It means I am better than I was, when I was drinking. Now, I get up and make my children a packed lunch, rather than wake up late, hungover, shouting at them. Now, I listen to their concerns and enjoy time in the evenings with them, rather than rushing them to bed as soon as possible so that I can crack open a bottle of “well-earned” wine and smoke in the garden “in peace”. I am present for them.

 

 

Like Anne Hathaway, I ditched alcohol so I could be a better parent

S W’s Blog

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Sarah came into my life when it was a total mess with alcohol and other drugs. She has helped me more than words can say. So, this may be short, but there is so much more to the work The Sanctuary does, it would take a book to explain it all!

After 6 weeks on the programme, and then follow up with maintenance, my head is now clear and have HOPE for what the future holds.

She believed in me when I didn’t have any belief in myself.

I shall always be grateful for her expertise, empathy, support and friendship.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart Sarah, you are truly amazing.

S W’s Blog

The Ten Year Plan…

Happy New Year to both clients and followers of the blog.

I am changing direction. As most know I was the founder of the Six Week Programme, but now feel there needs to be a long term solution, even the magical six weeks cannot fix everyone.

If we consider the old expression three score years and ten as a lifespan, that is a complete thing of the past. But many people who have have struggled with alcohol still live beyond 70, with a range of medical and often debilitating problems. The average age of my clients is 47.5 years. So with a a fair wind have the possibility of another good 30 years to look forward to, to live, not exist. There is so much publicity regarding obesity, smoking lack of exercise, but how many times do we hear about the consequences of alcohol?

I do think Adrian Chiles did a good job with his programme and made many think, but that’s it, we think, we don’t do. When you are concerned about the wine o’clock habit, that is exactly what happens. We think, from when we wake up probably at 3 in the morning, we think not today, I’ll make a promise to have a couple of days off. Feeling as the old boys expression goes, being a ‘little old fashioned’ in the morning, there is real determination until about 3pm. Sugar dips, up until then you have shown real fortitude that not tonight Josephine but the crumbling starts. So out of 24 hours of the day, in this position, we spend most of it, thinking shall I shan’t I, will I won’t I, will I, only will buy a small bottle, perhaps bypass the shop. The whole process of thinking is exhausting, combined potentially with a job, children, home, maybe a poorly parent, the excuses mount. There is never logic to over use of alcohol so pointless even trying to make it so, and once you have the habit, the feeling of release, oblivion often, at that time it makes sense.

If you start from a stance of none of this makes sense, as it wouldn’t if you were for example lactose intolerant and ignored that, you would know it would make you ill. Why is it that alcohol kids you that it won’t make you feel like an awfully poorly box of frogs, then of course you are not going to stop. It is time to not up the price, it is time to start with warnings on bottles, not shoving it in our faces each time we shop, make it completely not normal to drink, because unless you are having a ball with it, why do it??

All that know me know I am not an evangelist, the opposite, completely outrageous actually because I don’t drink now, I can dance on tables, and say what I feel, because I remember all of it. Argue with me, debate with me,agree with me, for the most part I will be gracious, but now I have got to a point where none of the old fashioned methods to conquer this don’t work, we need to get modern, we need to embrace our uniqueness, we need to stop comparing, we need to get into self preservation mode, might upset a few people, but you know what I don’t care, I never want to hurt anyone or myself, alcohol is the one biggie that will do that. I am errr, mature, but am determined to show that doesn’t mean we can be the best we can be, and free ourselves of guilt and shame.

So please start thinking forward. Where are you going to be in ten years time? Not tomorrow, not next week but in the future.

Time to start to think how these golden years are going to pan out, because if we don’t then Big Alcohol will scoop you up, spit you out and then you will rely on our overstretched but amazing NHS. We would all I am sure prefer not to do that!

 

Sarah

The Ten Year Plan…

Y B’s Blog – A Mothers Account of Empty Nest

empty nest

It’s the memories that arrive suddenly and squeeze at your heart that hurt the most. Recently watching my son organising his new home, his new chapter, he is 27, when I remembered taking him to school one cool autumn morning, many years ago.
I was holding his hand, as I always did both on the way and often to help him out of the car and chatting about important things like what would happen if one of the dogs morphed into an elephant in the night.
Then one day, he saw his friends in the school car park he immediately pulled his hand out of mine. The movement was so sudden and so overpowering that I could feel the emptiness in my hand where his had just been. As he got comfortable and the first feelings of Mum being a bit ‘embarrassing’.
The moment marked one of the many little steps on my son’s bittersweet journey to independence. October 2018 has presented me with the biggest step of all. He had of course, been away from home before, Uni, his first job down South, and the back up North, but my husband was still alive, he had the most wonderful attitude and positive outlook, I was the worry nag, the what if Mother.

I confess that I spent some of the week leading up to his move departure in tears. He has not moved far away, and because of his work commitments, has not entirely decamped, so there are reminders of him in his office, full of the most chaotic essentials he professes, which I would, if he were a lodger, put in several black bin bags, and tell them to get the room sorted, but my boy is organised in chaos, so I neither dare move them or really want to yet. Last week he was away on business, the house was silent, no 6-foot muscly body bounding down the stairs, no odd socks in the washing machine, fridge empty. I tried to see the positive, having the draughty old family home all to myself. It wasn’t a relief at all, it was a wrench, but one that had to be made.
I know it’s madness. I have no right to feel this crushing sense of grief. I’m proud that he’s going, and in awe of the lovely young man that he’s become, but I’m also terrified to the core of my being.
Watching your child start a new life is the best of times and the worst of times.
I’m sure it’s harder to watch a boy go off into the world than a girl because so much is expected of them.
Boys are incredibly soft and vulnerable, despite their gruff exteriors. Sure, they look big and strong, but inside the tough armour there’s a whole tangle of insecurities, love and confusion.
The girls his age look more fragile but they’re tougher. It’s as if girls toughen up from inside out and the boys from outside in.
In many ways I worry as much for my strapping young man as I did for the tiny baby handed to me 27 years ago.
As a mother, you always worry. From the moment a child is born, the whole world is a more terrifying place.

I’ll miss him not just because I love him but because I like him a lot – I enjoy his company.
I find him bright, challenging and overwhelmingly intelligent. He’s the best person I know.
I’m lucky and hugely blessed that he has worked hard enough to be incredibly successful, independent and to me now fearless, but it was a rough journey, especially through his teenage years, and as much as I despaired sometimes about the tenderness of this boy, it also made me feel useful, a pivot, that held the wheels on. Now the wheels are fine, and he is ready to drive solo. Am I? I will have to be, and he has taught me that, and if empty nesting terrifies the life out of you, but at the same time gives you back the choice of being the mistress of your own destiny which probably has not been the case for many years, please see that this is the time to be as strong and as capable as the children you successfully brought into the world.
So many empty nesters like me turn more and more to the ‘comfort’ of a drink or 4 to deaden the feelings, and sadly my drinking did ramp up dramatically. I knew I needed to stop, I was beginning not only to miss this child, but because of positive moves on his part, I began to self-harm, logically it was insanity. I was not by cutting my arms, not popping anti-depressants, but via the wine aisle. I needed help, the right help. By a friend being so open about her difficulties with drinking too much and having the courage to seek help via Sarah at the Sanctuary, I decided to take the plunge, or rather get out of this rut of what was ostensibly self-pity. I had never felt like a victim, but I did feel like a lost soul.
So I braced myself and met this woman, who has such a straightforward, often dogmatic attitude, but also a compassionate and often dark sense of humour on this subject. She is not at all mainstream and would be horrified if she was classified as such. Simply, she is a one off. Her methods probably would not suit those would want to fill in forms or box tick, but her intuition, knowledge of this subject is second to none.
The fear of stopping initially was immense. But as the six weeks passed by, I began to see that my freedom now was a joy, a blessing and that I could be whatever I wanted, and I never wanted to be a drunk old soak self-pitying alone at home. She inspired me, she was always there, even late in the evening, and so humble that it almost reduced me to tears, I wanted her to say that she was great, but only would ever tell me that I was the star, she was just the oily rag! I you have any doubts at all about chucking out this toxic substance from your life, get hold of her, it was the best lifestyle choice of change I have ever made.

It’s all good honestly, it only goes horribly wrong if you believe you are now surplus to requirements, you don’t love yourself, take care of yourself, and not be conned into thinking that wine time will be a salve, and make all the fear and worry go away, it doesn’t. It truly will make your next chapter a very dark and isolating place. Sarah taught me that, and thanks is just not enough.

Yvonne.

 

Y B’s Blog – A Mothers Account of Empty Nest

K H’s Blog

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I felt alone, desperate and exhausted when I made contact with Sarah, via her website. I had been drinking too much, daily, for approx. 18 years. I had tried to stop drinking on my own, but the call of wine o’clock always lured me back. Wine o’clock got earlier and earlier……

Sarah’s methodical, caring, no nonsense approach was amazing. She helped me explore my life and gave me strategies to deal with the issues / people that were causing me stress. Sarah’s approach is holistic and individual. I am sure each person’s encounter with Sarah is different and tailored to their circumstances.

Sarah helped me simplify my life and the loud chatter in my head! I feel calmer, in control and I don’t need alcohol as an emotional crutch any more. I am grateful to her for helping me feel more peaceful and positive and for giving my daughter a mother who can now spend quality time with her (and remember it!).

K H’s Blog

NORMALISE ALCOHOL FREE!

Years ago, I drank too much, I worried too much, I projected too much and now I don’t. I dealt with it all, and moved on.
For me, there is no room for self-flagellation, or what if’s, my time is concentrated on the here and now, and the exciting times ahead.
In my work, naturally confidentiality has always been key, but the more empowered The Sanctuary women become the more they are now beginning to start the BIG conversation in real time, about what was once a very toxic issue for them. Without stigma or tambourine bashing, they have overcome the fear around talking openly about their reasons for not drinking to excess anymore, and I hope as they do, that they will in turn encourage others who find themselves in the same concerned and worrying position to be able to do the same, casting aside any shame or guilt.
For after all, it was never a choice that we became so dependent on such a well marketed and dangerous, legal drug.
Wine is dressed up so adeptly as being very acceptable and glamorous.
It is also completely normalised, that for many of us, it was never considered ‘proper’ drinking until the wheels fall off, With the added easy edge, that it needs no prescription, just a grocery shop and a fridge.
Of course it is not the first time that we have been seduced. Gin was the craze in the first half of the 18th century, that particular version of this drug is back in vogue, the Absinthe movement in the latter part of the 19th Century, and more recently, Mother’s little helper Valium washed down with Gin and Dubonnet in the 60s was a favourite mix for middle class Mums. My Mother was a victim of this over prescribed prescriptive drug, trusting advice that it would make all the tragedy and angst in her life disappear, sadly the reverse was the case.
65% of my clients last year were prescribed Anti-depressants, Citralopram, Prozac, washed down with a cheeky little number, oblivious of the fact that their drinking totally negated the effects of the other legal drug they were taking. I am delighted to say that only 12% still take them, free of booze, a proper clinical diagnosis could be made. So in many ways history is repeating itself. But this is a modern problem, faced by modern women, who wanted it all, and for the most part got it, except for the indisputable fact, that biologically we just are not equipped to drink like men. In everything else of course, we beat them hands down!
This BIG conversation will only start with us. Like minded women, from different backgrounds, who have had enough of the self-destruct button. Without being preachy or evangelical, by playing our wellness and clarity forward, we can make a change. We do not have a rule book, or belong to a cult, but we are very obviously, savvy, intelligent, articulate women who have now got control and choice.
Methods at the Sanctuary are not mainstream, I have no time for the depressing thought that I will be burdened with a lifetime of regret. The gold standards of care that are in place today, are antiquated and inconvenient for many. What I would love all women who are concerned about their drinking, as I once was, is to campaign for at the very least gender specific care, and at best combine that with age specific care. To be told once you have decided to cork it, that there is a waiting list of many months is also totally unacceptable. If you broke your leg, would you allow a GP to fix it? Would you not feel safer with a specialist, most especially if there was a particular nuance to your break? There is a very lackadaisical approach to alcohol misuse, borne from the legality and acceptance of this drug. There is no value in poor and ineffective care, waste of time and money. Getting my flu jab today at the surgery, I watched the revolving TV screen with all the services that were available, massive push to stop smoking, but not ONE page on helping with alcohol consumption.

Because of the drip feed with drinking, rarely do we count the financial cost of it. We did the stats at the Sanctuary. Over the years the average saving per client, was £4674.00 per annum, and that did not include, any wild online shopping, guilt purchases or taxi fares. I have been doing a starfish impression for many years, and its now time, with right attitude to make a change. We have to be proactive, vocal and concise in the inappropriate way our once problem is handled. We need to speak with the powers that be, from GPs and upwards, we need to make bars and clubs give balance to the drinks on offer, and we need too to tackle our supermarkets and get them to address this balance also. We are the consumers!

We have to banish the taboo, there is none with sexuality or smoking, so why the hell are we still frightened of talking about once drinking too much? It’s insane, and the best definition of insanity provided by Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to change. We have all been there! We live in the 21st century not the dark ages.
Non drinking is attractive and glamorous, I cannot remember ever being dull and boring sober, kindly my beloved never took a picture of me at the end of my drinking career, needless to say it was far from pretty, witty or wise, which were the three things that I really thought drinking gave me. I became purely entertainment value, and then just an embarrassment. Shipwrecked on a sea of Chablis.
One of the only rules I have with my programme, is honesty, and it’s time in real life, we all got honest. No one will judge if delivery of your decision is short sharp and to the point. No more secrets and lies.
For me to be able to survive breast cancer and alcohol dependence was a fairly bleak prospect at one time, but not anymore. I needed logic and a deep understanding of women just like me, and studied hard to be as successful as I am today. I do know that there has never been a more rewarding time and if we can keep the conversation going and growing, I’m sure you will all feel the same as I do. Empowered and inspired. Everyone deserves to be the best they can be without ever feeling ever again an ounce of shame, guilt or remorse.

 

NORMALISE ALCOHOL FREE!

WCB’s Blog

Autumn

I used to believe I was a happy drinker and then life threw a series of hard knocks and the happy drinking turned to a coping mechanism, which eventually led to a growing dependency.

I knew my increasing consumption had to be doing damage, and the fact I functioned, really meant my tolerance levels were dangerously high.

I googled various sites, but I didn’t want to share my intimate life story in groups, and I did not want to go into rehab to return to the same situation and triggers. I then came across Sarah at the Sanctuary, and for me it has been a sanctuary. I walked through her door a physically and spiritually depleted human being. Sarah didn’t just listen, she comprehended how the complexities of alcohol can can weave their way into your life, and extracting yourself can be a difficult experience. She is empathetic, wise but tough. She has heard all the excuses before and the truth is every drinker knows the outcome of each and every one of those excuses.

It was not an easy journey, but with each hurdle Sarah would work through it with me, and the hurdles became manageable, until eventually the old habits faded and new ones emerged. This transition has been one of the most liberating. I like to think of it as; the joy of the new.

I have not had a drink for over five months and I am still dealing with some very emotional situations, but I am dealing with them with integrity, honesty and clarity.

When do I miss a drink? When I’m doing anything financial. The new reward is a carb fest, so thank goodness it’s only once a month! Yes, your humour returns.

I now believe I was rarely a happy drinker. Many drinkers come to crossroads, thank goodness when I did, I pressed the right site on Google.

WCB’s Blog

Melanie’s Blog

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 As a middle class, middle aged Physcologist there was no where to turn as far as I was concerned with a 15 year drinking career under my belt, one would have thought that I would been able to access appropriate care.
This was not the case, but eventually found the professional help that showed a different way. This was a positive approach, which left the negative and disease model of dependent drinking back in the last century. I was shown that there was no need to berate myself with hopelessness and the belief that I had an incurable disease.
Even though to the outsider looking in, I had everything, the fact of the matter was my drinking was a concern, and I knew, left to fester, that it would begin to take its toll, and I would suffer consequences.
What I have learned over the last two months of sobriety, is to above all else, to place value on myself, to not feel guilty about self-indulgence and not to self-harm with wine. That out of 24 hours in a day, there was only ever one hour where I affected a buzz or relief from a problem, that only lead to another 23 hours of abject misery and regret, and time wasted dwelling on the growing habitual drinking.
I have been able to unburden by writing my thoughts down, on a daily basis, for then they are out and are tangible rather than internalizing and then quite forgetting why I had self-medicated in the first place.
I will always have problems and issues to face, they will never go away, but I do not need to make them any worse with drinking, inevitably that is what used to happen, blowing them out of all proportion. Non-drinkers deal with ‘stuff’, and so shall I.
My thought process is clear and sharp, my precious intuition is restored.
I am no longer drinking on old painful memories. They are done, nothing will change that, I have no desire to keep hurting myself with them. Being able to off load, I have concentrated on wellness, have been given good advice on nutrition and how the alcohol had depleted my reserves, what to do if cravings surfaced, it all of course made sense once I had thrown away the cloak of denial and defensiveness. I got honest.
Now I know what it feel like to be totally AF, not an ex drinker or ex alcoholic just a woman who has dealt with a potentially life threatening illness and moved on, with no reason to ever re-visit the subject, my future is exciting and adventurous, with spontaneity restored, and life being lived, I have no time to waste!

Melanie’s Blog

Achieving Self Control

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Smashed it!

When your self-control leaves something to be desired, so does your productivity, there was a study in America some time ago when the question was asked, where does self-control come in your list of strengths? It took bottom slot.
When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on your failures that your successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid knocking back that cheeky bottle of Pinot on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, because you want to lose a few pounds or prove you have control, and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by doubling up on a binge, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back. Here, at the Sanctuary, we work on self-control because no one should have to be engaged in a life sentence of feeling first of all that not drinking is somehow missing out, or that they are weak and abnormal because they don’t use alcohol as some kind of cure all.
Since self-control is something we could all use a little help with, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people do to keep themselves productive and in control. They consciously apply these twelve behaviours because they know they work. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you minimize those awful failures to boost your productivity.
They Forgive Themselves
A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behaviour. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.
Don’t Say ‘Yes’ Unless You Really Want To
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying NO, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which erode self-control. Saying no is indeed a major self-control challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfil them. Just remind yourself that saying no is an act of self-control now that will increase your future self-control by preventing the negative effects of over commitment.
Don’t Seek Perfection
Emotionally stability which will come from passing on the vino will allow women/people not set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.
Focus On Solutions
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions which hinder self-control. When you focus on the actions you’ll take to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.
Avoid Asking “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to self-control. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend taking action and staying productive (staying productive also happens to calm you down and keep you focused). Productive people know that asking “what if? Will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective strategic planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking.
Stay Positive
Positive thoughts help you exercise self-control by focusing your brain’s attention onto the rewards you will receive for your effort. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, self-control is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, self-control is a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, or will happen, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the past and look to the future. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative, so that you don’t lose focus.
Eat
File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling you’re eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable to impulsive behaviour shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company sweetie tin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.
Sleep
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and maintaining your focus and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer. Being busy often makes you feel as if you must sacrifice sleep to stay productive, but sleep deprivation diminishes your productivity so much throughout the day that you’re better off sleeping.
When you’re tired, your brain’s ability to absorb glucose is greatly diminished. This makes it difficult to control the impulses that derail your focus. What’s more, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.
Exercise
Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.
Meditate
Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason. Give it a try.

Ride the Wave/Crave
Desire and distraction have the tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. When you feel as if you must give in, the rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.
Squash Negative Self-Talk
A big final step in exercising self-control involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labelling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
Putting These Strategies to Work
The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at these strategies and giving them a go before you give in.

 

Achieving Self Control

Glass of wine a day enough to damage brain and could increase Alzheimer’s risk

wine glasses

A glass of wine a day was linked with changes in the structure of the brain.
One glass of wine a day is enough to damage the brain and could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, study by Oxford University suggests.
The research found that those who are moderate drinkers – in line with recommended weekly limits – are three times more likely to suffer atrophy to the brain, with a steeper rate of cognitive decline.
The 30-year study tracked 550 civil servants, with brain imaging used to explore links between drinking and brain health.
Those drinking between 14 and 21 units of alcohol a week – six to nine medium glasses of wine – were three times more likely than teetotallers to suffer hippocampal atrophy.

Brain atrophy 1

A picture of a healthy brain of a non drinker.
The greatest risks were among the heaviest drinkers. Those consuming more than 30 units of alcohol saw an almost six-fold rise in their risk.
Researchers used data on weekly alcohol intake and cognitive performance measured repeatedly between 1985 and 2015 for 550 healthy men and women.

Brain atrophy 2

Participants had an average age of 43 at the start of the study and none were alcohol dependent. Brain function tests were carried out at regular intervals and at the end of the study participants underwent an MRI brain scan.
Last year, the Government changed its guidance on drinking and urged both men and women to drink no more than 14 units each week – the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer.
Previously it was recommended that men should consume no more than 21 units and women should not drink more than 14 units each week.
Researchers said their findings have “important” potential public health implications.
Doctor Anya Topiwala, clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at Oxford University, said: “Our findings support the recent reduction in UK safe limits and call into question the current US guidelines, which suggest that up to 24.5 units a week is safe for men.
“We found increased odds of hippocampal atrophy at just 14 to 21 units a week, and we found no support for a protective effect of light consumption on brain structure.
“Alcohol might represent a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, and primary prevention interventions targeted to later life could be too late.”
Doctor Killian Welch, consultant neuropsychiatrist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, said the findings “strengthen the argument that drinking habits many regard as normal have adverse consequences for health.”
“We all use rationalisations to justify persistence with behaviours not in our long-term interest.
“With publication of this paper, justification of ‘moderate’ drinking on the grounds of brain health becomes a little harder.”
Prof Tom Dening, Professor of Dementia Research at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is a most impressive study and I think it will cause us all to reconsider the advice that we give to patients about alcohol consumption… perhaps we should all drink a bit less.”
But he said the research relied on participants keeping accurate records of their drinking, when many are prone to under-estimate their intake.
Dr Elizabeth Coulthard, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Dementia Neurology at the University of Bristol, said: “An observational study cannot truly prove that alcohol causes dementia, but the findings are in keeping with my clinical experience.
“The toll of high alcohol consumption on cognitive health, often evident to those of us who run memory clinics, is not widely acknowledged publicly. Hopefully this research will contribute to a greater understanding of true safe limits for alcohol consumption.”

 

Glass of wine a day enough to damage brain and could increase Alzheimer’s risk