How to talk about your emotions

A guide for men

We interview Mr. Perfect about the generational shift around male communication and why having a society that’s open to emotional freedom for men is so important. 

You’re told to suck it up, to be strong, to not cry because crying is for wimps.

Men don’t often open up about how they are really feeling to friends and family. Showing emotion and vulnerability has long been stigmatised as a sign of weakness. It is the stereotype of the heroic male represented in popular culture as fearless, resourceful, stoic and usually facing adversity alone. These characters tell us a lot about what is considered to be ideal male behaviour within our society.

Men should be allowed to be whoever they want to be.

Daphne Rose Kingma, author of The Men We Never Knew, has said:

“We’ve dismissed men as the feelingless gender — we’ve given up on them. Because of the way boys are socialised, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.”

Men are more than likely to express emotions in places where they feel safe and it is deemed acceptable by society, like a sports event. You’ll see hugging, passionate shouting, even tears of joy after a win. But you may not see other men hugging or tearing up in another circumstance, because they don’t feel as comfortable or as open to do so. It is often the same case when alcohol is involved. Men seem to open up after (many) drinks, they can speak honestly from their heart and it’s okay because they ‘were drunk and have an excuse’.

But men shouldn’t have to have an excuse to lean back on for speaking their truth.

As Psychology Today says, “men who deviate from the traditional masculine norm by being emotionally expressive and talking about their fears are often judged as being poorly adjusted.”

When upset, women are more likely to express their feelings directly, and to seek the support of friends and family, whereas men might hide their emotions or withdraw. The problem is that withdrawing is very dangerous and can lead to serious mental health repercussions.

The restriction of emotional expression in many men’s lives can lead to:

  • A greater sense of isolation;
  • Less support being available from loved ones;
  • Health issues, due to carrying chronic tension in the body and other bad coping strategies;
  • Relationship difficulties due to an inability to resolve emotional conflicts and/or a perceived lack of ability to be intimate;
  • Psychological problems such as depression, insomnia and anxiety.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australian men aged 14–44 years old.

Yet, as a young woman in 2017, I think the toughest of all men are those who stand up for what they believe is right, even in the face of other men. Men who show their emotions and ask for help when they need it, and who open their heart to vulnerability.

I’m not the only one.

Mr. Perfect, founded by Terry Cornick, is a grassroots mental health support network with a vision to transform men’s mental health by making it a comfortable discussion for all. It is a sarcastic nod to the male approach to mental health.

Mr. Perfect is a metaphor for what the world expects us to be. It is the mask we wear.

Mr. Perfect started as an non-profit organisation to try and start these conversations that were lacking in male societies. As well as corporate talks, a blog and a few other projects, Terry also runs a monthly Meet Up in Sydney where anyone can come for an informal social barbecue, have a chance to speak to other people in the same boat, and listen to talks from doctors, psychologists and other organisations. The Meet Ups are inclusive to anyone whether it be successful men, fathers to be, students or older guys.

“I often speak to doctors who say they feel very hopeless and do not know what to do when men come in with mental health concerns. They either give you a pamphlet for an organisation or a prescription for medication.”

“If it’s not clinical, you’re not told about it.”

Terry says there is such a stigma around getting help because we have been conditioned to believe that seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a ‘shrink’ means you’re ‘damaged’.

“Not only that, but there’s also the age-old thing of being masculine and being a man, and we all propagate that: both men and women. We assume this is what we need to be and people think,

“Your wife’s allowed to show that emotion so that’s fine, but a guy just cant do it.”

“Whether it be tiny set backs or big set backs, you were expected to come home after being a robot for eight hours at work and not talk about anything and just get on with it. You would also excuse traits and behaviours in your mates and just brush it off as, ‘Oh, that’s just [Jimmy] acting out,’ and you laugh about it and that’s the end of it. There was never scratching below that surface.”

Mr. Perfect aims to normalise that conversation.

“Once guys start and open up just a little bit, there’s no stopping them. Often times they won’t stop and they will talk so much they will apologise to me for telling their story because they have probably not told anyone that for five years, or only their doctor.”

So, for someone to just say, “I know what you’re talking about mate,” or, “you’re not alone,” that’s the first step.

“My dad was alcohol dependent, and my perception of that growing up was thinking he was just an asshole. He was told he would die if he kept drinking 20 years ago, and when he kept drinking, that was it for me. I was never once told or ever thought, until I started getting help myself, that maybe something was going on in his head that caused him to drink. I can’t really put my finger on it and I’ll probably never know why, but alcohol is the best way for people to do that, to block it out temporarily.”

Terry says he has friends who will use alcohol as their crutch, so if they have a really bad day at work or they’re in a bad mood, their first reaction is to go have a pint. Then that leads to four pints, which leads to staying out until midnight and then onto a club, and before you know it, the next day they’re in a world of pain physically and mentally.

“When I used to not talk about things, I would have a big night and end up in an argument with my wife. That was painful to wake up the next day and go, ‘I think we argued, I don’t know what about but I know there was shouting’.

“So, where did that come from? That doesn’t come from me being a bad person. It probably comes from me being insecure and not being able to talk about my anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, whatever it was, while I was sober. It was just easier to do it while I was drunk and blame someone else.”

A generational movement is brewing

With Mr. Perfect, One Wave Fluro Fridays, Livin’, and many more small, start-up mental health organisations, people are starting to break down the stigma around talking about mental health issues.

Terry says there’s a real need for all these ideas and these contemporary initiatives are the best starting point.

“There are big government groups advocating ‘awareness’, but it’s hard to know what the money is really going to. There are a lot of smaller groups, starting from very low funds who are personally trying to change things. It’s positive but it’s so difficult with no backing and we now need support from those types of authorities and the government.”

How can you help?

Terry says that the most important thing is to have a good support network of friends.

“It’s just about listening and saying, ‘I went through that as well and I’m still here, so you’re doing well just by talking about it’. If you don’t have anyone to bounce these ideas off, it can very quickly go from a very small problem in your head to the biggest problem possible.

“When I’m going though a tough time, I text some of my mates and say, ‘Just letting you know mate, if I don’t get back to you tonight it’s because I’m just having a bit of a cloudy spell’. I’ve completely normalised it and instead of shying away they will text me and say ‘here if you need, give me a buzz now, reach out, I’m here, I’ll drop everything’.”

If I see someone suffering, I’ll just send them a text and say, ‘Mate, I’ve noticed you weren’t yourself tonight. Is everything okay?’ And sometimes that can open a can of worms but at least you’ve started that.

Being an alcoholic made me a better mother

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Before you get defensive about how awful that sounds, let me explain a few things. If you have followed my previous stories you will know that my drinking career didn’t start until I was divorced and about 25 years old. I spent my high school years as an outspoken, probably annoying, high school Jesus freak. That passion followed me to college, and naturally reflected Evangel University. I loved my four years at Evangel and still maintain incredible friendships. You have to sign a covenant to attend a faith-based school, which I did — no sex, alcohol or dancing, and I stayed true to that. Though I wish I tested the waters a little bit; but don’t tell anybody, I could get fined (Evangel joke).

I digress.

I think Tenley was maybe two or three when I decided I would start drinking. I drank Moscato , the sweetest kind you could find. I never felt odd, or buzzed and in hindsight that should have been an indication of tolerance, but if you are surrounded by drinkers, active drinkers , everyone’s truth is a little distorted.

Tenley at two years old.

The last three years have been a whirlwind. I hit the lowest of lows. Imagine seeing a grown woman clinging to her pillow in a nightgown, with fuzzy socks on and a missing tooth. That is who I was, walking through the doors as an inpatient. Luckily I have been able to have a pretty kick-ass, stellar recovery process that has been tiresome but so worthy.

You’re probably asking how being an alcoholic made me a better mother. There are few key reasons that all sort of tie in with the theory of ‘desirable disadvantages’.

I was a very loving and kind mother. Most women naturally fill that role. But then I began to fill my nights with drinking and the nights turned into days which turned into months and, before I knew it, everything was unraveling.

Tenley has always been a child of bright curiosity and she radiates joy wherever she flutters. I was tired, irritable, half-assing my way through a job I loved but couldn’t find any additional strength for. I was disengaged, always planning my next stop for alcohol and/or planning to have care on the weekends I did have her, because ‘it’s normal to drink with friends’. Her joyful mother became sad, tired and uninterested.

That is one of the hardest truths I will ever have to swallow. To admit that when it came down to Tenley or alcohol, I would have chosen alcohol. It took me years to figure out why and what that meant and I accept that it isn’t a choice. Once you are at that point, you are a passenger on the train.

The last year and a half of sobriety have been the hardest moments in my life. I was broken, poor, unhealthy, starting my career over again. But I got creative. I saved everything I could, learned to budget correctly, attended night classes and rode the bus two hours every morning (a consequence of an OWI/DUI).

The first year of my change, I white-knuckled it all — I was happy to be alive, but did not yet appreciate what that entailed. I found myself jealous of my old life prior to sobriety but when I really put forth the effort that this deserved , my whole life shifted.

I believe the statement above with every fibre in my being. One of the hardest things for any parent to do is admit they failed their children.

And I did it. I failed Tenley. I wasn’t the mother she deserved or needed or asked for. I scared and worried my daughter and the shame kept me spiralling out of control. I didn’t want to accept that I had done this to her as I love Tenley more than anything. When I am drinking I am not choosing to not be the best mother, I cannot choose. I see so many excellent parents weighted with defeat. I see the stress, the sagging shoulders and bloodshot eyes.

YOU CAN GET BETTER. YOU CAN BE BETTER. YOUR CHILD WILL RESPECT YOUR FIGHT, AND LOVE YOU FIERCELY FOR IT.

Tenley at age eight.

Tenley and I are closer than ever, we talk openly about my past and my choices. She isn’t walking forward with a mum that hides or shames horrible behaviour or consequences or alcoholism, she is walking forward with my recovery, hand in hand with me. She is learning to overcome the worst case scenario and be the best version of herself she can.

Your children are your biggest fans, they love unconditionally and will forgive you in a heartbeat (but do not take advantage of a soft heart, they become adults who remember). They want you to be YOU and if that means taking time to go to rehab, DO IT, if that means changing jobs, DO IT, if that means getting medication to help curb chemical imbalances, DO IT. Your children are watching you fall, but more importantly, watching you stand back up and dust your knees and shoulders off, before grabbing them too, brushing the dirt from their knees, walking forward together because you are worth it and it is never too late. Ever.

I now have better relationships. It took me a long time to understand the ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’ concept. I need someone who loves me as is and can share that love with a smaller version of me. Tenley is watching me in a relationship with a recovering drinker who put sobriety first. Thankfully, my partner emits so many qualities that I would want for her to experience. She sees love practiced and given without condition, she sees a disagreement become a solution and finally she sees me valuing myself first and knowing that I can’t be a partner or mother if I am drinking.

Tenley at six — the week I was able to see her after 57 days of treatment, meetings and rehab.

I am financially stable. Drinking took a LOT of money from me, but also taught me how to plan a budget when my one source of debt was rejected. She watches me budget, and I now think about where my money is going.

I have a supportive job. I was able to be candid about my drinking past, and that makes me better prepared if I begin to feel stressed or anxious. In the past, drinking on the job became very easy and it usually does for most addicts. It’s not purposeful, it’s to survive at that point. When you stop drinking you shake, you crave, your body does everything it can to get you temporary relief. I shared my past openly with my boss in the first interview, because for me, it’s life or death. I don’t suggest that you share intimate details of your life if they aren’t necessary but for this position I needed to be candid and was respected for it.

Here is the takeaway. I am a better mother now because I have fought hard to be one again. My moments with Tenley are an adventure that strayed off track for a few years. I am a better mother because I value the little moments, even the bad moments, because when you are accepting of death, you become very much alive if you are given a second chance. Joy is more joyful, silence is more warming, love is bigger and louder.

This isn’t to say I live without pain. Fifty percent of my time is spent without my little radiant pixie and it’s in those times that I find myself sinking into that dark hole of loneliness and hurt, wondering how I made it through the past few years. It’s simple, I made it because I wasn’t feeling anything: my goal was to not feel. But my god, does the joy feel joyful.

Parents , if anything sticks with you , please let it be this: continue to fight for what is good and true. You are giving your children an incredible gift and that is showing them when you fail, there is a chance to do it right.

If you find yourself in a similar situation and are feeling alone, you are not. Tenley and I are rooting for you, hand in hand.

The five best ways to talk to mum about her drinking

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We spoke to Talitha Cummins about stigma and the best approaches to opening up a conversation

“Such is the strength of denial when it comes to drinking … that a child talking to their parent may not even hit home.” — Talitha Cummins

Generally, mums are known to talk a lot. They call for a chat about anything: to tell you a trivial incident that happened at the shops; to remind you to pay your health insurance bill; or pester you to take back a stored box of clothes in your old room. But because mums are so used to helping others and putting themselves last, it can be hard to turn it around and open up a conversation with mum about how she may be drinking.

At Hello Sunday Morning, we refer to the mums in the Daybreak communityas ‘supermums’; they’re superheroes in our eyes. But the thing is, that’s a pretty high standard to live up to, and it can come with a lot of pressure. So far, Hello Sunday Morning has supported 80,000 women on their journey to change their relationship with alcohol. Our statistics show 56 per cent of female members on Daybreak have children, and of those mothers, 7.4 per cent have over six drinks daily or almost daily.

We spoke with mother, Australian journalist and Hello Sunday Morning ambassador, Talitha Cummins, about why there is a stigma attached to mums who drink and why it’s so hard for mothers to accept that they may need help to change their relationship with alcohol:

“We’re very good at drinking but we’re not very good at acknowledging the problems that come with it. There’s a tendency for people to sweep this issue under the mat because it’s a little bit too confronting. Research shows that women in their late 30s and early 40s have caught up to men on the drinking front for a number of reasons, like women entering the workforce and equality. I also think there’s an extra layer of stress on women who do a lot of the work looking after the children as well as working full time and that adds another layer of pressure. Alcohol is used to relieve that pressure. Too much of relying on that to relieve the pressure creates a problem.”

Talitha described herself as the definition of a high-functioning drinker, a category that we find often gets overlooked by GPs and social groups because they break the traditional stereotypes of alcohol dependency: a bedraggled man carrying a paper bag with hard liquor around the street.

“I would get up in the morning and go for a run no matter how much I’d had the night before. If I could get up and go for that run and turn up to my hair and makeup and present well, than I thought the alcohol wasn’t having an effect on me. I’d still be able to work all day and it wasn’t until I got home that night that I’d start drinking again. So on the face of it, I was still doing my job, perhaps not to the best of my ability, but it wasn’t a problem until it was. Things became unmanageable for me.”

Talitha thought she was the only one who knew that her drinking was getting out of hand. It took an intervention from her Chief Of Staff at work who sat her down and asked her if she was okay, for her to allow herself to accept the situation.

“I think I was just at the right point and I said ‘no’ and I just crumbled. I was ready for someone to reach out and say anything to me because I was just so sick and tired of going through this whole thing of drinking, feeling shame and guilt and drinking to make myself feel better.”

Talitha says it is so difficult to talk to a parent about their drinking because in a lot of instances, they won’t accept they have an issue themselves.

“I spoke to a parent this week whose daughter won’t speak to them because of their drinking. But this person is still in complete denial about the problem and wants to stop drinking, but not even being told by their child that there’s an issue makes them see that they need help.”

So, how do you begin the conversation with your mum about her relationship with alcohol?

There are many ways you could approach the topic, and the best for you may vary depending on your relationship with your mum. Talitha recommends a loving approach.

“I know there can be a lot of fall out from things that may have happened with the parents drinking, but approaching lovingly from a good place and making sure they understand that you’re there to support them is a good start to then let them know that you also think they need to seek help.”

You could also try opening up yourself and sharing something about your experience, such as:

“I have been thinking a lot about my relationship to alcohol lately. I have realised that it has been really valuable for me to reflect on it.”

Saying something personal demonstrates to the other person that you are comfortable (or maybe uncomfortable, but open to) being vulnerable around them.

In her TED talk, Dr. Brene Brown discusses the power of vulnerability. It is exceptionally difficult to let yourself be vulnerable in front of others.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen,” says Dr. Brown. Letting ourselves be vulnerable.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” Which, many have argued, is sort of the point of everything. We are wired to connect to other people, it’s one of the things that has enabled humans to be so successful as a species and it is a powerful tool for the healing process.

But what if mum doesn’t see an issue and gets defensive?

It may be a good idea to be prepared for this reaction, as drinking carries with it a lot of negative stigma from our society and is linked with feelings such as shame and guilt. Which is ironic, as the social pressure and expectation to drink alcohol is massive.

Talitha points out that confrontation is often avoided because of the expectations that you should be able to handle your drinking.

“None of my friends actually confronted me about it, despite them seeing some of the things that I was doing. It’s awkward not only for the person who is drinking, but for the friends as well; they don’t know what to say, so there’s this embarrassment around it on both sides.”

People can become enraged at a suggestion that they may be drinking too much and deny that they need help. You may find a breakthrough and the person will acknowledge their drinking, but they may deny addressing it, saying something like: “I can stop anytime I want to” or, “Everyone drinks to unwind sometimes.”

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Washington Post article written by Sara Amato, shares her story of struggle when confronting her mum about her relationship with alcohol and the positive opportunity she got out of the experience.

“Over the years, I tried to talk with her about her alcoholism, but she never wanted to hear it. It forced me to come to terms with the fact I couldn’t change her and that it didn’t need to weigh me down. She refused to recognise she had a problem and actively denied it whenever I brought it up. I could pour her wine out, but she’d still find ways to drink. If she wasn’t willing to change then it couldn’t be my problem anymore.

Her drinking forced me to be more cautious. It wasn’t until after college that I started drinking socially. I thought that if I drank anything, I would turn into her. But the more she denied she had a problem, the more it dawned on me that I wasn’t her. I had developed more self-awareness and control than she had ever shown me. But that realisation didn’t happen overnight. There was never any therapy sessions or group programs, there was only time. Most importantly, I realised that talking about these issues and getting help isn’t shameful, because [drinking] isn’t a one-person [issue]: It affects everyone. I know that now at 27, but when I was 16? No, I was really stubborn. It took me a long time to realise that letting people in doesn’t make you weak. And you should never feel alone when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Because you’re not.”

Here are a few tips to help you take the blame off yourself

Firstly, you need to acknowledge the issue. You may be in denial to protect your parent or hide the issue. Admitting that your parent needs support, even if they won’t, is the first step in taking control.

Don’t blame yourself and be aware of your emotions. Accepting and acknowledging helps you put things in perspective. Remind yourself that you are not responsible for your parents drinking too much and that you cannot cause it or stop it, only they can. Recognising how a parent’s drinking makes you feel can help you from burying your feelings and pretending that everything’s fine.

Learn healthy coping strategies. When we grow up around people who turn to alcohol or other unhealthy ways of dealing with problems, they become our example. It may be a good idea to find some role models who can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms and ways of making good decisions.

Find support. Talk to people that may have gone through a similar thing and find support through Hello Sunday Morning or other support programs.


“To people out there who are in the midst of a drinking issue, life can get better. I was in such a low place too and I never thought that I would find the allusive happiness. But with a lot of hard work, you can get there. There is hope.” — Talitha Cummins

Hello Sunday Morning is a movement towards a better drinking culture. Our vision is a world where drinking is an individual choice, not a cultural expectation.
How do you feel about your relationship with alcohol?Download Daybreak, for iOS or Android to change your drinking habits today. Alternatively, join our online community of over 100,000 like-minded individuals.

Hello Sunday Morning’s relationship with alcohol

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We often get asked whether we are against drinking at Hello Sunday Morning, as some people assume we are anti-alcohol.

So just to clear the air … we’re not.  

Hello Sunday Morning helps people think about their own relationship with alcohol and whether the way they drink enhances their lifestyle, or maybe holds them back.

If people are not happy with that relationship, we offer support to those who want to change. That change may be cutting back to a moderate level of drinking or quitting drinking completely. Our vision is to change Australia’s drinking culture through social campaigning as well as supporting individuals on their journey to change their own relationship with alcohol through our online community platform and through our latest app, Daybreak.

We all have different relationships with drinking and we all drink for different reasons. But most importantly, we are all human. And that means we’re not perfect. Working at Hello Sunday Morning doesn’t mean we all have a perfect relationship with alcohol. If we did, we wouldn’t be able to relate to you guys and we probably wouldn’t be here doing the work we do.

So, I spoke with some of the team about their diverse relationships with alcohol …

 

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Chris Raine, Founder and CEO

“People assume that I don’t drink at all. Hello Sunday Morning’s mission is to support people change their own relationship with alcohol, without being prescriptive of how a person should drink. Our mission isn’t to get people to quit alcohol – it is simply to help people get to wherever they want their relationship with alcohol to be. Everyone has their own relationship with alcohol. For some people, it is better that there isn’t one at all. We respect that. For others, it is, and should always be, a continual work in progress.

“I do sometimes drink. Is my relationship with alcohol perfect? 90% of the time I’m really happy with my relationship with alcohol. 10% of the time, I know that it could be better. For me, it isn’t really about how much I drink but about why I am drinking. When I get stressed or feel lonely, I know I want to drink more. This is what I love about working at Hello Sunday Morning, we have so many great people in our team that I can learn from in how to change the way I approach this stress or loneliness so that I can get that 10% lower and lower with every experiment.”

 

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Jamie Moore, General Manager

“As the GM of Hello Sunday Morning, one of the guiltiest moments is when you wake up with a hangover. It makes you feel like a fraud. But I’ve realised over the years that I only feel that way if I drank for the wrong reasons. Was I tired, stressed, anxious? If I drank for one of these reasons the guilt would build. But if I drank for another reason, spending time with an old mate, trying out some new beers, an event I was really looking forward to … the guilt wasn’t there. It made me realise there’s nothing wrong with drinking, what’s important is making sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s making sure that drinking was a conscious decision, not an unconscious reaction.”

 

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Ron Sandoval, Product Developer

When asking Ron what his relationship with alcohol is like, he replies,

“Great, I have a beer right now.”

I check his desk and it turns out he really does have an open Coopers.

“And it’s Monday, so there is no problem …”

 

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Lauren Waddell, Executive Assistant

“My relationship with alcohol is very boring. I enjoy a drink at dinner maybe once a fortnight, whether that’s a spiced rum or a margarita, my limit would be two max. I don’t think I’ve had more than two drinks for over four years.

“When I was 19 or 20 I’d go out every few weeks and have a max of five drinks over the night, but I’d always get alcohol poisoning and severe hangovers regardless. I would have two UDL’s at pre-drinks and I was good for the night.

“To be honest, I only like the taste of spiced rum. So at functions and weddings where they only have wine, beer, and champagne, they don’t offer what I enjoy drinking so I’ll just drink water.”

 

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Grace Enright Burns, Marketing Officer

“Alcohol and I were pretty tight. We had a passionate love/hate relationship. A toxic one that consisted of a cycle that went something like this: me waking up wanting to spew on myself, shutting out the world around me and wishing the day would just end so I could wake up the next morning and be my usual, bubbly self, and then going out the next weekend, downing a few bottles of whatever cost under $7.50 and doing it all over again.

“I just kind of got over it. I loved getting up for an early surf in the morning, hanging with my family and friends, practicing yoga, being silly and feeling good, so I didn’t want to miss out on that.

“The process of cutting back on my drinking didn’t just happen overnight. I came up with a rule with my dad who also often gets carried away on the booze. It’s called the ‘two or four rule’. I aim to have two drinks if I’m just having a quiet night or a dinner with friends, and four drinks when I’m going out for a late one, at a festival, a party or a celebration. So far I’ve been great sticking to it, but I am a sucker for a nice cocktail and the way alcohol makes me feel tingly, so I can over do it sometimes. Alcohol and I are now pretty good friends, not best friends but a friend who you’ll hang out with now and again and it will be a nice time for both of you. And if it’s not, you might not message them for a while until you happen to bump into them again.”

 

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Ashley Boyd, Brand Designer  

“I was never a big drinker, but obviously when you turn 18 it’s all exciting and new and I would still drink at lots of parties but never enough to black out. I just didn’t like feeling like shit, but I had a few hungover days and when I went through breakups and hard times I would definitely drink more.

“Since working for Hello Sunday Morning and discovering the reasons why I drink, I started to think to myself, ‘What am I doing tomorrow? Do I really want to be hungover?’ Usually, the answer is no. I’ll definitely have a drink with the girls after work but I’m never really drinking multiple drinks in one session. I’m quite happy with that.”

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Zane Pocock, Head of Marketing

Reminiscing on his uni days, Zane sits back and mentions that he used to lead from the front, even winning the occasional competition.

“I now don’t drink. When I first moved to Sydney with my wife, we needed to save money. We decided one of the easiest ways to cut back on how much we spent was by stopping drinking for a bit while we got settled. But we ended up realising that it was a really positive experience and now it’s a couple of years later and I haven’t had a drink again.

“It’s strange because it becomes some sort of identity thing. I definitely identify at the moment as a ‘non-drinker’. My relationship with alcohol previously was pretty full on, but I didn’t feel like I had to change it, I just decided that I get zero value from it and don’t want it in my life anymore.”

How to meditate for a clear mind

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Meditation has been around for thousands of years and has proven psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits. It’s a difficult task to master, but if you can somehow introduce a regular meditative practice into your daily life, you will soon begin to notice positive changes.

Who’s not up for some positive change once in a while?

Historically, meditation was practised by saints and sages to bring about the joyful state of self-realisation; a state of consciousness where a person is free from worries and anxieties and is completely present in the moment. Meditation can lead you to become more mindful and clear-headed, gaining a greater understanding of life and purpose.

If your mood (anxious, stressed, tired) tends to be the trigger for drinking, try swapping the habit of pouring a drink with sitting down and meditating for just five minutes. Meditation resets your mind so you can move through the triggers, feelings and thoughts and get onto a more productive and healthy action like cooking dinner or getting organised for the next day.

We explore some of these techniques in our app, Daybreak, for iOS and Android.

Try this simple practice of controlled breathing from our in-house clinical psychologists to help set you up for your meditation.  Read through steps 1-5 and then give it a try.

  1. Get comfortable
    Sit in a comfortable position, as comfortable as you can get. Sit up straight and relax your shoulders and muscles.
  2. Deep breath in
    Take a deep breath in through your nose. Count “one, two”.
  3. Slow breath out
    Breathe out through your mouth, pucker your lips (as though you are about to whistle) and breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in. Count “one, two, three, four”. Don’t hold your breath between breathing in and out, aim to keep your breath flowing smoothly.
  4. Deep breathing
    Check you are using your diaphragm by placing your hand on your stomach. If you are using your diaphragm you should feel your stomach move out as you breathe in and move in as you breathe out. This helps to ensure you aren’t taking shallow breaths. Remember to keep your breaths deep, not shallow or big.
  5. Eyes Closed

Now close your eye and continue breathing this way until you feel relaxed.

What are the benefits of meditating?

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Stress: When stress overwhelms you, it can have serious health implications including anxiety, depression and even cardiovascular disease. Meditation activates the body’s natural relaxation response and not only calms the mind, allowing you to relax and the stress to gently leave the mind and body, it also it provides a deeper knowledge and understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.

Anxiety:  The purpose of meditation isn’t to get rid of your anxiety, but to help you become more present in the moment. We often experience anxiety because we fixate on the past or on the future. However, meditation quiets an overactive brain so you’re intentionally focused on the here and now. 

Sleep: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials for insomnia found that eight weeks of in-person meditation training significantly improved total waking time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia.

Relationships: Mindfulness enhances couples’ levels of relationship satisfaction, autonomy, closeness and acceptance of each other while reducing relationship distress.

Cognition: Meditating for just four days is enough to improve memory, executive functions and their ability to process visual information. Meditation leads to activation in brain regions involved in self-regulation, problem-solving, adaptive behaviour and introspection. A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal ageing.

Research also suggests that practising meditation may reduce blood pressure and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

So where do I begin?

Try the tips below to start on your journey to a clearer mind. You can even try a movement meditation if that suits you, rather than sitting still. Sometimes this is just walking slowly and focusing on your footsteps, the sounds and your surrounds. Or a gentle, slow yoga practice moving with the breath.

Meditation Tips

Resources to help you start

  • Youtube videos like this Six Phase Meditation
  • Apps like Smiling Mind – a completely free set of guided meditations developed by a fellow Australian charity.
  • Meditation group Meet-ups
  • Meditation schools and classes in your area. Many yoga schools also offer group meditation

The Hello Sunday Morning reading list

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19 books to read about alcohol

A few weeks ago we asked members of the Hello Sunday Morning community to share with us any books that have inspired, empowered or informed them to change their relationship with alcohol. The response was incredible and wide-reaching. Because we believe it’s so important to acknowledge that individuals define their own relationships with alcohol, we’ve collated here the vast majority of recommendations we received. These traverse a wide range of tactics and ideologies, so we encourage you to read what sounds good to you.

So without further ado and in no particular order (except for the first one, which is our team’s go-to), here we give you the Hello Sunday Morning reading list to help you on your journey to change your relationship with alcohol.

The Biology of Desire

Marc Lewis, PHD, convincingly explores here the theory that addiction is not a disease. It’s a game-changer.

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From the blurb:

Through the vivid, true stories of five people who journeyed into and out of addiction, a renowned neuroscientist explains why the “disease model” of addiction is wrong and illuminates the path to recovery.

The psychiatric establishment and rehab industry in the Western world have branded addiction a brain disease, based on evidence that brains change with drug use. But in The Biology of Desire, cognitive neuroscientist and former addict Marc Lewis makes a convincing case that addiction is not a disease, and shows why the disease model has become an obstacle to healing.

Lewis reveals addiction as an unintended consequence of the brain doing what it’s supposed to do-seek pleasure and relief-in a world that’s not cooperating. Brains are designed to restructure themselves with normal learning and development, but this process is accelerated in addiction when highly attractive rewards are pursued repeatedly. Lewis shows why treatment based on the disease model so often fails, and how treatment can be retooled to achieve lasting recovery, given the realities of brain plasticity. Combining intimate human stories with clearly rendered scientific explanation, The Biology of Desire is enlightening and optimistic reading for anyone who has wrestled with addiction either personally or professionally.

High Sobriety

We’re unsurprising fans of this one: the chronicles of Jill Stark’s 12-month Hello Sunday Morning experience.

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From the blurb:

‘I’m the binge-drinking health reporter. During the week, I write about Australia’s booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off.’Booze had dominated Jill Stark’s social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze?

Booze had dominated Jill Stark’s social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze?

This lively memoir charts Jill’s tumultuous year on the wagon, as she copes with the stress of the newsroom sober, tackles the dating scene on soda water, learns to watch the footy minus beer, and deals with censure from friends and colleagues, who tell her that a year without booze is ‘a year with no mates’.

In re-examining her habits, Jill also explores Australia’s love affair with alcohol, meeting alcopop-swigging teens who drink to fit in, beer-swilling blokes in a sporting culture backed by booze, and marketing bigwigs blamed for turning binge drinking into a way of life. And she tracks the history of this national obsession: from the idea that Australia’s new colonies were drowning in drink to the Anzac ethos that a beer builds mateship, and from the six o’clock swill that encouraged bingeing to the tangled weave of advertising, social pressure, and tradition that confronts drinkers today.Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap.

Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap.

SOBER – Son Of a Bitch Everything’s Real

Sober is a fictional story written by Pam R. about her experience with the program Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life.

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From the blurb:

Some people can drink socially, some people cannot. Lena Harod belongs to the latter group. An active alcoholic, Lena has reached a pivotal point in her drinking career. Racked with guilt, shame and self loathing she is driven to despair beyond comprehension. Lena’s story begins on an ill fated evening where her options look bleak. A chance meeting with a stranger sets her fate and her journey towards sobriety begins. As Lena slowly returns to the world of unaltered reality, she begins to see herself, other people and the wider world with a clarity she’s never experienced. SOBER is a fictional story of one woman’s experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. It explores the trials and joys of finding a life without addiction with honesty and

SOBER is a fictional story of one woman’s experience with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and her struggles to rebuild her life. It explores the trials and joys of finding a life without addiction with honesty and humor. Lena could be any of us and this illuminating story will show the reader, that with a little courage and help, it’s never too late for redemption and recovery.

Okay I Quit, Now What? Becoming a Reinvented Alcoholic 

Mark Tuschel doesn’t care if you drink or don’t drink, he simply declares how he made the changes he did. The book’s 12 chapters correspond to his method of change.

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From the blurb:

Quitting destructive drinking is the easy part – staying quit is the hard part.What do you do tonight, tomorrow, next weekend, when you go on vacation, for the rest of your life?

Okay, I quit. Now what? is filled with practical strategies and concepts to make the most out of living sober.

Many people expect too much out of life just because they quit drinking. This is an honest and raw view of life after liquor. Living sober can be the greatest thing you ever do – but you must be an active participant in your own Re-Invention to get the most out of sobriety.

This thought provoking book will get you thinking and planning your new sober lifestyle. Personal responsibility and pride are the foundation of the principles.

This is NOT a 12-step book or religious based. It is nontraditional and sometimes controversial. Adult language and situations are used in this book. NOT for the timid or bashful. It is written for those of us who want to control our destructive drinking and live a fully engaged, normal life.

Mark lives what he writes. He is a former drunk himself. He brings “real life” strategies to this book. Okay, I quit. Now what? is helpful to steppers and non-steppers alike.

“I have discovered that there is a very large subculture of non-steppers who want to succeed at sobriety, enjoy their life and be proud of accomplishing it on their own. Okay, I quit. Now what? is an alternative to traditional step systems. It is not religious based; it is personal responsibility based. Sobriety is an evolutionary process. Don’t just recover… Re-Invent yourself.”

This book has 12 chapters that will give you ideas on how to handle sobriety and make the most out of living sober. It is practical and real. The purpose is to get you thinking and get you involved in maintaining your sobriety. Take control of your sobriety and get the most out of your life. I believe this book will help you go in the right direction, or at least get YOU to think on your own.

Drunkard 

Neil Steinberg is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who had a very public battle with the bottle. He openly describes his drinking habits, routines, obsessions and secret behaviours before and during his change.

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From the blurb:

An extraordinarily honest memoir about the life of a functioning alcoholic and the realities of recovery from a veteran columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times

Neil Steinberg loves his wife. He loves his two young sons. He loves his job and his ramshackle old farmhouse in the suburbs. But he also loves to drink, a passion that rolls merrily along for twenty-five years until one terrible night when his two worlds collide and shatter.

Drunkard is the story of one man’s fall down the rabbit hole of alcoholism, and his slow crawl back out. Sentenced to an outpatient rehab program, Steinberg discovers that twenty-eight days of therapy cannot reverse the toll decades of vigorous drinking take on one’s soul. In clear, distinctive, honest, and funny prose, Steinberg comes to grips with his actions, rebuilds his marriage, and reclaims his life.

Unlike outlandish tales of addiction’s extremes, Steinberg’s story is a regular person’s account of the stark-yet-common realities of a problem faced by millions around the world. Drunkard is an important addition to the pantheon of critically acclaimed, bestselling memoirs such as The Tender Bar, Drinking: A Love Story, and Smashed.

The Easy Way to Stop Drinking 

Allen Carr has a reputation for helping millions of people across the world control their drinking, eating and smoking habits. His method makes you think about the reasons behind your drinking.

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From the blurb:

Carr offers a startling new view of why we drink and how we can escape the addiction. Step by step, with devastating clarity and simplicity, he applies the Easyway™ method, dispelling all the illusions that surround the subject of drinking and that can make it almost impossible to imagine a life without alcohol. Only when we step away from all these supposed pleasures and understand how we are being duped to believe we are receiving real benefits can we begin to live our lives free from any desire or need for drinking.The Easyway™ method centers on removing the psychological need to drink—while the drinker is still drinking. Following the Easyway™:• You will not need willpower• You will not feel deprived• You will lose your fear of withdrawal pangs• You will enjoy social occasions more• You will be better equipped to handle stress.

The Easy Way to Stop Drinking is a landmark work that offers a simple and painless solution to anyone who wants to escape from dependency on alcohol without feeling deprived.

How To Tell Them You Don’t Drink 

Rachel Black provides some real-life experiences with practical tips on how to share the news of cutting back or going drink-free with your family and friends.

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From the blurb:

Giving up alcohol is hard enough without the additional anxiety of how to break the news to family and friends. What will they say? What will they ask? What will they think? Whether you choose to tell them the truth or make an excuse this guide provides examples of how you can make it easier and how to respond to the questions they will ask.

This book, like its predecessor ‘How to Party Sober’, is a little gem for those who choose to remain sober in a World soaked with alcohol and where drinking is the norm. Again, full of real life experience with many practical tips to guide you through tricky conversations. A must read.

The Sober Revolution-Calling Time on Wine O’Clock

Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca look specifically at women and their relationships with alcohol, exploring the myths behind society’s acceptance of the habit.

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From the blurb:

Do you count down the minutes to wine o’clock on a daily basis? Is a bottle of Pinot Grigio your friend at the end of a long hard day? If you want to give up being controlled and defined by alcohol then now is the time to join The Sober Revolution…

Fed up of living in a fog of hangovers, lethargy and guilt from too much wine? Have you tried to cut down without success?

You are not alone. When it comes to alcohol, millions of people around the world find it hard to exercise moderation and become stuck in a vicious cycle of blame, guilt and using more alcohol as a way of coping.

The Sober Revolution looks at women and their relationships with alcohol, exploring the myths behind this socially acceptable yet often destructive habit. Rather than continuing the sad spiral into addiction it helps women regain control of their drinking and live happier, healthier lives.

Sarah Turner, cognitive behavioural therapist and addictions counsellor, and Lucy Rocca, founder of Soberistas.com, the popular social networking site for women who have successfully kicked the booze or would like to, give an insight into ways to find a route out of the world of wine.

The Sober Revolution will open your eyes to the dangers of social drinking and give you the tools you need to have a happy life without the wine. Read it now and call time on wine o’clock forever.

Glass Half Full

Lucy Rocca retells the story of her journey from devoted wine lover to becoming sober and truly happy for the first time in her adult life.

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From the blurb:

In April 2011, Lucy Rocca woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of how she had ended up there. After accepting that her drinking had spiralled out of control, she made the decision there and then to never touch alcohol again. However, the early days were a challenge, and Lucy began recording her journey in a blog as a way of helping herself move forward to a happy and sober future.

For someone who defined herself by her love of drinking for over twenty years, letting go of the booze crutch was initially a challenge, but over time, Lucy began to realise how much happier she was living alcohol-free. Glass Half Full is the story of her journey from hopelessly devoted wine fiend to sober and truly happy for the first time in her adult life.

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol

Millions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the misery and stigma associated with recovery.

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From the blurb:

Millions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the misery and stigma associated with alcoholism and recovery. They fear drinking less will be boring, involving deprivation, difficulty and significant lifestyle changes.

This Naked Mind offers a new solution. Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, it will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture. Annie Grace brilliantly weaves psychological, neurological, cultural, social and industry factors with her extraordinarily candid journey resulting in a must read for anyone who drinks.

This book, without scare tactics, pain or rules, gives you freedom from alcohol. By addressing causes rather than symptoms it is a permanent solution rather than lifetime struggle. It removes the psychological dependence allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking). Annie’s clarity, humor and unique ability to blend original research with riveting storytelling ensures you will thoroughly enjoy the process.

In a world defined by ‘never enough’ Annie takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of alcohol and specifically the connection between alcohol and pleasure. She dispels the cultural myth that alcohol is a vital part of life and demonstrates how regaining control over alcohol is not only essential to personal happiness and fulfillment but also to ending the heartache experienced by millions as a result of secondhand drinking.

Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to the life you have been waiting for.

Wasted

Elspeth Muir explores a personal story of loss and grief and recognises a society that not only permits but encourages the damaging drinking habits of young Australians.

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From the blurb:

In 2009 Elspeth Muir’s youngest brother, Alexander, finished his last university exam and went out with some mates on the town. Later that night he wandered to the Story Bridge. He put his phone, wallet, T-shirt and thongs on the walkway, climbed over the railing, and jumped thirty metres into the Brisbane River below.

Three days passed before police divers pulled his body out of the water. When Alexander had drowned, his blood-alcohol reading was almost five times the legal limit for driving.

Why do some of us drink so much, and what happens when we do? Fewer young Australians are drinking heavily, but the rates of alcohol abuse and associated problems—from blackouts to sexual assaults and one-punch killings—are undiminished.

Intimate and beautifully told, Wasted illuminates the sorrows, and the joys, of drinking.

Drinking, A Love Story

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From the blurb:

Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as “liquid armor,” a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.

Mindful Recovery

Thomas Bien explores a spiritual path to beating addiction and guides you step by step through ten powerful “doorways” to mindful change.

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From the blurb:

In Mindful Recovery, you’ll discover a fresh and effective method for healing from addiction that can help you handle important challenges, from managing anxiety and resisting cravings to dealing with emotional and physical imbalance.

Drawing on both ancient spiritual wisdom and the authors’ extensive clinical psychological work with their patients over many years, Mindful Recovery shows you how to use the simple Buddhist practice of mindfulness to be aware of– and enjoy– life in the present moment without the need to enhance or avoid experience with addictive behaviors. Mindful Recovery guides you step by step through ten powerful “doorways” to mindful recovery, giving you specific strategies that can help you cultivate a sense of calm awareness and balance in your life.

Filled with personal stories of recovery, practical exercises, instructions for meditation, and more, Mindful Recovery accompanies you on a journey of exploration and healing that will help you find the strength and the tools to change, leading you to a fresh new experience of everyday living.

Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Control Alcohol

Alan Carr shows us that once we step away from all the imagined pleasures of alcohol and understand how we are duped into believing that we receive real benefits from it, we can lead our lives free from any desire or need for a drink.

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From the blurb:

Allen Carr established himself as the world’s greatest authority on helping people stop smoking and his internationally best-selling Easy Way to Stop Smoking has been published in over 40 languages and sold more than 10 million copies.

In his Easy Way to Control Alcohol Allen applies his revolutionary method to drinking. With startling insight into why we drink and clear, simple, step-by-step instructions, he shows you the way to escape from the “alcohol trap” in the time it takes to read this book.

His unique method removes the feeling of deprivation and works without using willpower. Allen dispels our illusions about alcohol, removes the psychological dependence and sets you free to enjoy life to the full.

Kick the Drink … Easily

Jason Vale argues that there is no such thing as an alcoholic and that we have been conditioned to accept alcohol as a “normal substance in today’s society,” despite the fact that it is the major cause of many of today’s social problems and a wide range of health issues.

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From the blurb:

There is no such thing as an alcoholic and there is no such disease as alcoholism! (as society understands it). Whether you agree with this statement or not, one thing is for sure, you will never see alcohol in the same light ever again after reading this book. Jason Vale takes an honest and hard hitting look at people’s conceptions of our most widely consumed drug. Jason’s major argument is there is no such thing as an ‘alcoholic’ and that we are conditioned to accept alcohol as a ‘normal’ substance in today’s society despite the fact that it is the major cause of many of today’s social problems and a wide range of health issues. This book is much more than a simple eye opener, it will: change the way you see alcohol forever; show you how to stop drinking; help you enjoy the process and enjoy your life so much more than you do now without having to drink alcohol. So open your mind and take a journey with Jason to explore the myths about the most used and accepted drug addiction in the world!

Mrs D is Going Without

Lotta Dann stopped drinking and secretly started a blog that charted the highs and lows of learning to live without alcohol.

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From the blurb:

Mrs. D is an alcoholic, albeit a very nice, respectable, articulate, and groomed alcoholic. This is an honest, upfront, relatable account of one suburban housewife’s journey from miserable wine-soaked boozer to self-respecting sober lady. This book is an inspirational tale of self-transformation, addiction, and domesticity. This book lays out the entirely unexpected solo journey Mrs. D took in the first year of her sobriety, and reveals the incredible online support that came through on her confessional blog, a blog intended to be a private online diary but which turned into something else quite remarkable.

In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts

Based on Gabor Maté’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach.

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From the blurb:

He would probably dispute it, but Gabor Maté is something of a compassion machine. Diligently treating the drug addicts of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside with sympathy in his heart and legislative reform in mind can’t be easy. But Maté never judges. His book is a powerful call-to-arms, both for the decriminalization of drugs and for a more sympathetic and informed view of addiction. As Maté observes, “Those whom we dismiss as ‘junkies’ are not creatures from a different world, only men and women mired at the extreme end of a continuum on which, here or there, all of us might well locate ourselves.” In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts begins by introducing us to many of Dr. Maté’s most dire patients who steal, cheat, sell sex, and otherwise harm themselves for their next hit. Maté looks to the root causes of addiction, applying a clinical and psychological view to the physical manifestation and offering some enlightening answers for why people inflict such catastrophe on themselves.

Finally, he takes aim at the hugely ineffectual, largely U.S.-led War on Drugs (and its worldwide followers), challenging the wisdom of fighting drugs instead of aiding the addicts, and showing how controversial measures such as safe injection sites are measurably more successful at reducing drug-related crime and the spread of disease than anything most major governments have going. It’s not easy reading, but we ignore his arguments at our peril. When it comes to combating the drug trade and the ravages of addiction, society can use all the help it can get. –Kim Hughes

Alcohol Lied to Me

Craig Beck tried all the willpower-based attempts to stop drinking and failed. Slowly he discovered his truth about alcohol and one by one all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart.

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From the blurb:

Craig Beck is a well-regarded family man with two children, a nice home and a successful media career. A director of several companies & at one time the trustee of a large children’s charity. Craig was a successful & functioning professional man in spite of a ‘2 bottles of wine a night’ drinking habit. For 20 years he struggled with problem drinking, all the time refusing to label himself an alcoholic because he didn’t believe he met the stereotypical image that the word portrayed.
He tried countless ways to cut down; attempting ‘dry months’, banning himself from drinking spirits, only drinking at the weekend & special occasions (and found that it is amazing how even the smallest of event can suddenly become ‘special’).
All these ‘will power’ based attempts to stop drinking failed (exactly as they were destined to do). Slowly he discovered the truth about alcohol addiction & one by one all the lies he had previously believed started to fall apart. For the first time he noticed that he genuinely didn’t want to drink anymore. In this book he will lead you though the same amazing process.
The Craig Beck method is unique…
 – No need to declare yourself an alcoholic.
 – A permanent cure, not a lifetime struggle.
 – No group meetings or expensive rehab.
 – No humiliation, no pain and 100% no ‘will power’ required.
 – Treats the source of the problem not the symptoms.

Under the Volcano

Malcolm Lowry’s novel tells the story of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcohol-dependent British consul in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac, on the Day of the Dead, 2 November 1938.

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From the blurb:

Geoffrey Firmin, a former British consul, has come to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. Here the consul’s debilitating malaise is drinking, and activity that has overshadowed his life. Under the Volcano is set during the most fateful day of the consul’s life–the Day of the Dead, 1938. His wife, Yvonne, arrives in Quauhnahuac to rescue him and their failing marriage, inspired by a vision of life together away from Mexico and the circumstances that have driven their relationship to the brink of collapse. Yvonne’s mission is to save the consul is further complicated by the presence of Hugh, the consul’s half-brother, and Jacques, a childhood friend. The events of this one day unfold against a backdrop unforgettable for its evocation of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical.

Under the Volcano remains one of the most powerful and lyrical statements on the human condition and one man’s constant struggle against the elemental forces that threaten to destroy him.

How to plan the best Valentine’s date

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Whether your Valentine is your high school sweetheart or you met them on Tinder a few days earlier, here are some Valentine’s Day date ideas to spice up your love life.

The key to a great Valentine’s Day

Have no expectations. It’s usually appreciated when you have planned and put effort into creating the perfect date,  but spontaneity can also work wonders in the romantic world. Try not to become too attached to an idea or a reaction from your date, as sometimes things don’t always turn out as you have imagined.

There is no positive outcome from comparing. So what if you’re friend got flowers sent to her work, was picked up in a limousine and taken to an exclusive day spa followed by a candle lit dinner on top of a tower? Maybe that kind of extravagance doesn’t suit you or your date and something a little more low-key is just right.

Nerves are a good thing for a great date

Although people tend to drink before a date to calm their nerves when they meet a potential Mr. or Mrs. Right, not all dates need to involve drinks at a bar. A lot of the time being nervous means you’re excited!  Go with an open mind,  dress comfortably and just be you. Make the most of those butterflies in your belly: they don’t often stick around after the honeymoon phase.

Date Ideas ♥♥♥

Cook dinner together

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What’s more delicious and comforting than homemade pizzas? Nothing. Tie your hair up and get a little messy. Cooking is a great way to learn about people and it gives you an activity to do for those awkward lulls in conversation.

Try to include ingredients out of the list of aphrodisiac foods that are proven to spark romance, such as:

  • Chilli
  • Cherries
  • Chocolate
  • Figs
  • Oysters
  • Artichokes

Check out what’s on

Check out if there is anything interesting or new happening in your area, like a film festival or outdoor cinema, an art exhibition or a pop-up food truck.

Keep it simple

Find a scenic spot such as a headland, rooftop or beach. Pack a blanket and pick up some takeaway goodies like fresh prawns and ginger beer. Don’t forget a portable speaker to play smooth tunes in the background.

Our favourite love songs:

Moondance ♥ Van Morrison

Let’s Stay Together ♥ Al Green

Your Song ♥ Elton John

Just The Two Of Us ♥ Bill Withers

Let’s Get It On ♥ Marvin Gaye

Go on an adventure

Take a walk and explore the city, hike in the bush, swim in the ocean, find a waterfall, or search for a secret spot where you can be alone.

Try something new

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Sign up for a class like dancing, pottery or photography: you never know what may spike a shared passion.

See a gig

Share a taste in music? Head along to a live gig and let the music serenade your ears and the feeling of love satisfy your heart.

Drive somewhere

Road trip! There’s nothing like heading down the highway with the wind in your hair and a lover beside you. Head out of town for a day or night, park up somewhere beautiful and bring some delicious snacks.

Need to reignite an old spark?

Take this specific time of year to really appreciate your loved one and your relationship. Reflect together on the start of your love, or on memories that make you smile and make your heart feel full. Try something new if you have been doing the same thing together for a while; maybe it’s time to mix it up with an adventure or an outing to somewhere different. It’s remarkable what a little change can do.

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