Category: Addiction

Sobriety and Christmas

The UK is a nation that celebrates with alcohol through the year: weddings, birthdays, new jobs, promotions, you name it and we can find a reason to raise a glass or 3 to it. Christmas, of course, is way up there on the list of reasons for celebration. Some will be looking forward to it and some will be dreading it, but it will happen, and so let’s focus on making the most of it.

More than at any other time of year we are shown the happy, smiley image of Alcohol with constant TV adverts and bill boards 20 feet high. We buy far too much food and drink believing that showing good will to all involves force feeding ourselves and others as if eating and drinking were going out of fashion. For many people overindulging is temporary for those few days, but for others, there is no ‘off’ switch, there is an addiction to alcohol, and the drinking continues, unless you are in Recovery.

If you are in Recovery then the pressures are obvious and also hidden. As you know the source of your addiction is all around you with ‘jingle’ bells on and it’s not just alcohol in glasses to avoid: mince pies, Christmas puddings, Christmas cake, trifles, chocolate liqueurs, sauces and so it goes on. Unless you buy your own or see the wrapper you just don’t know what is OK to eat and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by asking. It’s obvious that being abstinent from alcohol during Christmas and the New Year, to avoid relapse, takes living in a state of high alert. And all this focus and strength and grit and determination has to be sustained during and through and after the holidays because there is a real danger that when the guard is down, when the rest of the world has gone back to everyday life, relapse can occur. Even those that have a long term sobriety can crumble if not sharply focussed as the urge to drink can still be strong in these situations.

Christmas and New Year can be such lonely periods too. People on the fringes feeling that everyone else is happy and contented, everyone else’s life is better. But this is far from the truth. If you think about it we are all of us alone really so we are all together in that. It’s hard to motivate yourself when you are feeling like this but try and seek out groups that understand and share your emotions and meet or message to help each other. Look online for support and friendship, there are many such groups. Volunteer for a good cause maybe? The best way of feeling valued is to help others by being useful in some way.  There are also Recovery Apps to use when you feel you need to.  Stay in touch with people that empathise and can offer you advice.  Try and keep to your routines, the ones that keep you well and strong. Make the time, you deserve good health and wellness.

If you are going to be with others over the holidays then, whenever you can, take yourself out of situations where temptation is strongest. Have a rehearsed line or two ready for persistent people offering you drinks. I’m driving. I’ve got an early start in the morning. What ever you decide works best for you, use it confidently, and then don’t give them any gap to fill by asking them something else. Lean on sober friends when you need to, they will help you without questions. If being around people more than usual starts to get to you then take a break. A free and freeing thing to do is to go for a walk. Get out in Nature, our greatest healer (Read my Nature blog to learn how it does). Create new Christmas traditions that don’t involve alcohol. Make them as enjoyable as you can so that you feel happier each time you are involved in them. If you have a sponsor obviously they will be there for you. Talk to people that you trust, including professionals, share your thoughts and fears, explain how you feel and let them support you.

Understand that you are not weird or odd for choosing not to drink just as a Sikh person is not weird for following their religion and abstinence from alcohol too. There are millions of Sikhs in the world and millions of other people that don’t drink. It’s a choice and it’s your choice for all good reasons. Most of all believe that you can enjoy yourself despite this challenge. You can choose to have a more positive outlook, more positive thoughts, a more positive image when you look in the mirror. Decide that you will be fine through this Christmas period and know that it doesn’t take alcohol to do that. You can live your life and feel good, better, great. You can. You are in control of everything you do, say and think, so choose wisely. Know that you’re amazing, you’re being your own best friend, you are doing this, you ARE making those changes that create a much healthier and more fulfilling life for yourself and all who love you. So enjoy Christmas your way, your new way.

Gambling Today

As I write this the government review that was expected to reduce stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2 will now take effect in October 2019 not 2018. In that extra year £1.8bn will be lost on these machines and at least two more people, every single day, will commit suicide because of gambling-related problems.

So FOBTs create vast profits for the Gambling industry and it doesn’t take Einstein to see why they do not want this money machine to end. Yet the gamblers are real people, flesh and blood, that can be losing thousands of pounds a time playing on the ‘crack cocaine’ of betting machines. Terrifyingly it is possible to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.

These Fixed Odds Betting machines were clearly designed to create addiction and reap huge rewards for the betting industry without a second thought for the consequences to those that become addicted. The lives for the addict, their loved ones, colleagues, families, all affected in the most devastating ways. Debt, Fear, relationship breakdowns, antisocial behaviour and suicide are often products of this industrial greed and disregard for human life.

Online gambling is now how most people gamble. Bombarded with adverts all day on the TV. Laptops, tablets and phones. Supposedly harmless Bingo through to Roulette and ‘exclusive’ sites that want your money just like the others. As soon as you look at anything that is Gambling related on line you will receive regular adverts, flashing lights and images trying to seduce you into the next site often with free stake money incentives included.

This is not a battle that is easily won. Addiction is not breakable through logic alone. As an example of this there are still doctors and nurses working on cancer wards that smoke cigarettes even though they are surrounded by the heartbreaking consequences of others doing just that. We cannot logic ourselves out of addiction we must retrain our subconscious mind to think differently and being tempted daily at every turn by the very thing that is causing you such pain is not making any of this easier.

I am often told that on days where the will to stop gambling is strongest a person will contact the sites that they are members of and explain why they want to be locked out / barred, only for more to jump up to tempt them in yet again. This can be a constant process and takes strength and courage and resolve to persevere, exactly what people with addictions don’t have at the start of their journeys to break free of them.

This is all cold, calm and calculated marketing, playing on the vulnerabilities of people that need support and a way out of their gambling issues. This is highly manipulative tactics by the companies and organisations that gain from this pitiful situation. To deal drugs is illegal, to deal Fixed Odds Betting Machines and advertise Gambling sites boldly everywhere is not.

Working with one of my clients a few years ago we discovered together the root of his addiction to gambling. As a very young teen his mother and father had brought him along to the pub every Saturday and Sunday lunchtime and way into each afternoon. He was bored stiff and out would come money for the Fruit Machines to keep him busy and amused while they sat with their friends drinking and smoking. He learnt to see the machine as his friend, the only one he had in that situation. He learnt to win by understanding how it functioned and felt clever and proud of himself for his financial reward and flashing lights and victory sounds. When he lost he just got more money from his parents. By the time I started working with him he was losing his wife and son and his home through gambling. He was hugely in debt and I was his ‘last resort’. Together we worked on his perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and myths around gambling and he stopped. He stopped just in time to start to rebuild his family and his life.

There is always hope of a better future. You CAN stop gambling and you CAN live a better, brighter life. First you have to see the pain that it has caused you and others, start to wake up to where you are and want to make the changes to how you think, dropping the old and unwanted myths of your mind that have kept you addicted.

Alcohol the Fake Friend

We are living in times where drinking to excess is acceptable to many. It’s almost the norm. Party people right through to one solitary person drinking at home alone. How sad it is when getting drunk is worn as a badge of honour. How deeply distressing to see this happening everywhere. A harmless few drinks with friends and the odd tipple now blown up into a full scale relationship; you and alcohol. Ultimately it’s a poison, it’s a depressant. ‘I’m fine, I’m used to it, it doesn’t affect me because I’ve built up a tolerance’. Well look again, are you really fine?

So many of us are seeing alcohol as a treat for a hard day, a long week, a tough contract to complete, a nightmare boss, dealing with the children’s tantrums etc etc etc. Wine opened, glass poured, sometime later (that time getting shorter) another glass poured. To start with you just had one or two glasses a night; a ‘reward’ for the day. Then you finished the bottle each night. Then you had two bottles. Maybe it’s Whiskey or Gin or Bourbon. Then you discovered you couldn’t stop, caught in a net you didn’t see coming.

Perhaps you hide the empties? Perhaps you hide the full bottles? Maybe you react badly to anyone pointing out your ‘problem’, your ‘over drinking’. Have you lost touch with a caring friend or relative that had the balls to talk to you straight about your self destructive drinking? Is everything falling apart as you continue to drink, unable to stop or even think about stopping? Is the fear of stopping just too much to cope with on top of the actual drinking itself?

You don’t feel ill yet so; ‘I’m fine, what’s the fuss’?

You can’t see the damage that is going on below the surface. You are not getting away with it so stop believing that you are. Your body is full of toxins, you are literally destroying yourself mind, body and spirit as these toxins do what toxins do unchecked, how fast is up to you. You’re looking older, your skin has lost it’s glow. Your eyes have stopped shining. And no one is buying the fresh smell of mints on your breath any more.

You have a 1000 reasons why you don’t want to, or need to stop, but they are all myths. You say that you can’t stop but this is a myth too. There are so many people out there to help you. Help you to find a place of freedom from alcohol, a place of freedom and peace, away from the emotion of fear. A place where you can be you again and make changes in your life to create a happier life, a happier you than before. It takes courage and the knowing that there is a better life possible…and there is.

Awareness is your first wake up call, getting your attention to see that you are not where you want to be and that numbing your pain is no longer more important than living a brighter life and allowing happiness to creep back in. If you do wake up you will begin to understand that where you are is so painful that you are willing to make changes to help yourself. There is no blame or shame, many have been where you are now and walked out of it. Your past is not your full story and you are 100% capable of ending the separation from your true self and turning fear into self love and self trust.  You can have feelings, dreams and hopes for a better day, week, year, lifetime.

You know that you will not find freedom or compassion in a bottle, how long will it be until you take control once more and start that journey home to you? Reach out. Take baby steps if you must, but start to walk out of the darkness you have found yourself in, out towards the light.

Energy Drinks Addiction

Energy DrinkA lot of us would hear the word ‘Addict’ and imagine a down and out, the great unwashed, a person with wild eyes that would never be anywhere we would go. We may imagine an ‘Addict ‘ to be dangerous or untrustworthy, violent or aggressive. We may perceive them as people that are hidden away out of sight only emerging at night.  Think again. The World Health Authority is warning that energy drinks “may pose a danger to public health” and that is through habitually drinking these spiky drinks.

Their high sugar content can obviously lead to weight gain. Sugar is in the news so much now as we are discovering the links between excessive sugar consumption and ill health; cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes and others. The high caffeine content takes us from feeling tired and lethargic to feeling alert and ready for anything. There is danger attached because large amounts of caffeine are extremely addictive and can cause serious changes in heart rhythms, the flow of blood through the body, and also blood pressure. This excessive amount of Caffeine can create Caffeine toxicity which can bring you excessive urination and headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, depression, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, restlessness, stomach irritation and tremors.

As well as the caffeine content we have Ginseng, but unlike a lot of the hype by the manufacturers that says it contributes to wellness, research has shown that the amounts in the energy drinks is too low to offer any real health benefit.  The ginseng element to these drinks has been linked to restlessness, irritability and nausea, not quite what you had in mind when you bought the drink.

Drinking these drinks can create a circle of dependency; as when we feel lacking in energy these drinks work to spike our energy levels as we drink them, but then as time passes our energy levels crash down which often leads to another being drunk, and another, and another. A spike, crash, spike, crash cycle is created. I was recently at an event and the woman sitting next to me had a can of energy drink and a huge bag of sweets for breakfast. ‘I need this as I’m always exhausted’ she told me. I spoke to her at the break time and explained to her why she was always exhausted. I told her about what she was actually doing to her body. I hope she took it on board.

I have worked with clients that have got into the habit of 10 cans of energy drink a day, sometimes more. Putting aside the financial cost of this habit, you see the health problems clearly in each person. Often they hardly eat and they certainly don’t eat a healthy balanced diet that would benefit them enormously and level out their energy and moods. Missing out good calories, missing out times to eat and relax and de-stress during the day, missing out on down time. Too busy for breakfast. Too busy for lunch. Too busy. Not loving yourself enough to nurture yourself and boost your health in a natural way. Being blind to the real damage you may be doing to your well-being and your long-term health just like the lady who sat next to me.

Another way they are used is being drunk with alcohol. Drinking alcohol and energy drinks to “party harder” has become extremely popular. One massive side effect of this is that you could be very drunk but you won’t feel very drunk…and that’s a dangerous situation to be in. In these times when binge drinking is so ‘normal’ to so many we are getting ourselves into habits that are without doubt detrimental to our health and well-being on so many levels.

Take a look at your habits, are you addicted to energy drinks?

Smoking Cannabis

Smoking CannabisWe know that Cannabis oil is looking like a miracle cure for all sorts of terrible diseases but what about smoking it long term?

Smoking Cannabis is often described to me by my clients as something that helps them to chill-out and relax, a way of calming any nerves or anxiety they may have, or alleviating boredom, ‘just like having a few pints with friends’, helping them to laugh more and be ‘themselves’, socialise without shyness without self consciousness, helping them to unleash their creativity.

That all sounds great yet they have come to me to stop and for them that is due to less desirable effects from abusive long term smoking:

  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia
  • Confusion, delusions, hallucinations, psychosis
  • Short term memory loss
  • Sudden increase in heart rate and heart health implications from that
  • Dizziness, a lack of coordination and muscle strength
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased concentration and loss of interest in life
  • A form of senility which can be extremely frightening

All this and the well known health effects from tobacco too, not the best of combinations.

About 18 years ago, I had a friend staying with me for a week, as he waited for his house purchase to go through. He was a well respected businessman and, at that time, had smoked Cannabis a lot at home for many years. I had no idea how this had affected him. His fear at night was overwhelming. He panicked in the dark, he sweated with fear. We had to leave all the lights on in communal areas in case he had to move around the house. His room was lit up as if it were daytime. He was depressed, he couldn’t settle, he had a terrible cough that never went away and his paranoia, kept hidden from me before, became evident as I spent more time with him. When he moved in to his new home I lost touch with him.  My experience of his suffering was long before I trained as a Hypnotherapist and Counsellor, long before I started working with addictions. I regret that I wasn’t able to help him then. But I can help you now.

I know that after long term smoking of Cannabis people can find that when stopping smoking ‘Cannabis withdrawal’ can kick in.  Depression, anger, irritability, lack of motivation and a real inability to focus on tasks and work. Insomnia is extremely common, after being able to sleep when smoking Cannabis suddenly sleep is disrupted when they are abstaining. This can last a few days or a couple of weeks. Often they tell me they have nightmares and vivid dreams. These frequent, vivid dreams typically begin about a week after quitting and can last for about a month after stopping using Cannabis.

It is, therefore, understandable how people try and give up only to start again when they are faced with some or all of these harrowing side effects. They start to feel more helpless, more depressed, more isolated and fear kicks in. ‘How am I going to stop? How am I going to get through this dark and painful time?’ and the motivation to stop, which has taken everything they have, starts to fade away.  So I want you to ask yourself one question: Is your desire to give up stronger than your desire to stay where you are? And if the answer is yes then there is always help at hand. Reach out and ask for help. Ask and receive. You are never alone. You can choose a better thought, choose a better feeling. You can give up Cannabis abuse just like many have done before you. It is 100% possible. You CAN do this.

We are a Cocaine Nation.

Sadly, as one of the most dangerous drugs known to man, Cocaine is common place and ‘normal’ in many walks of life here now. For some it is as habitual as having a coffee break, for others it is the stuff of nightmares as they try to stop alone.

Cocaine creates a huge psychological dependence as it stimulates key pleasure centers within the brain resulting in euphoria but a tolerance to it starts quickly resulting in needing more to achieve the same result. Once an addiction has started it has proven almost impossible to become free of it without help.

It’s hard to break free of that world. It’s hard to break free of the suppliers as you block their number and they call you from different ones just as your resolve is crumbling and it’s hard to break free from being surrounded by others doing the same. But just because everyone else is doing it does that make it right for you? I have worked successfully many times with men and women that are addicted to Cocaine and combinations with other drugs. I know it’s entirely possible to learn to love the life you have in a natural way and see how powerful you are, what you can achieve, and enjoy the buzz of life without drugs.

We are not sheep. We are all amazing individuals that, when we are our own authentic selves, are connected to who we are and how we fit into this beautiful planet we all share. If you take drugs then you are separated from yourself. You are conforming to a culture that includes death and despair. You are losing your uniqueness and you are searching for the very thing that you are destroying: You. You are literally filling your self; mind body and spirit with deadly toxins, and watching the amount escalate, as you lose your way. Moving from one drama to the next until the day you lose yourself completely or you decide to be you, be you, be you.

The people that come to me to give up Cocaine have reached a stage where they hate the way its ruined them, their lives, their jobs and relationships. They hate the way it makes them let people down and let themselves down. They hate the side effects and depression. They hate the way they desperately want to stop but can’t. They tell me that they don’t get any positives from being on it but they still cant stop no matter how much they want to. They are losing so much and gaining nothing.

On my programme we work together to break the links to Cocaine addiction. I use all of my skills and expertise to change the mindset that started it, to break the addiction. I build self love, self trust and self belief, I build confidence to be authentic, I illuminate the harm; mentally, emotionally and physically and I illuminate the good that can come out of leaving Cocaine in the past. Over the duration of the programme profound changes occur and the light, that was once just a tiny spark in the darkness, starts to spread through every part of their lives. Breaking the Links to addiction is 100% possible if we work together to bring you home to you and a bigger, better, balanced way of life. I walk with you all the way.

So if you feel that your use of Cocaine and maybe other substances is now an addiction then I’m right here on the end of the phone to help you to find a richness in life free from addiction. If you don’t think you have a problem then listen to the people that love you the most….what are they saying? Denial isn’t helping you to get well and turn your life around. Denial will only hold you down.



Can I be Me now?

Recently I watched the Whitney Houston documentary ‘Can I be me?’, which was written and directed by Nick Broomfield telling the story of Whitney’s extraordinary life and tragic death.

During the programme some of her long term friends and family recalled that she used to regularly say ‘Can I be me’?  I immediately recognised that wish within my own addiction clients, sometimes so deep that they don’t even know that it’s within them; to be themselves, to recognise themselves, to be their true and full selves without anxiety, confusion or co-dependancy. The dream to be AUTHENTIC and understand what it’s like to be ourselves is within us all.

Whitney was kept away from recording her favourite types of music; Rhythm and Blues and Gospel, because it was ‘deemed to be too black’ for the general American audiences. She toured and toured and toured and due to exhaustion and her addiction to Cocaine and other drugs her voice suffered, her physical health suffered and her emotional health was on it’s knees.

‘Can I be me’ she would say but sadly people didn’t want her to be herself. She was loved and lorded by millions of fans around the world but she was a meal ticket for so many around her. She paid a lot of people’s wages and she was praised and cajoled and manipulated to keep going by people all around her. Her body guard from that time said ‘ When you are making money for people they don’t want you to stop and go to rehab’.

In a filmed interview she said ‘Fame doesn’t make you happy, you have to find the happiness within yourself’. But she never really did. She spent her whole life doubting herself and never found the acceptance she needed to truly be herself and find freedom. So she became everything everyone else wanted her to be, her mother, father, husband, management…the list goes on.

Smoking weed from being a teenager upscaled to the monster that is Cocaine and, as with all users of Cocaine, she found the highs became short-lived followed by intense depression, edginess and a craving for more. Typically she didn’t eat or sleep properly. She lost a great deal of weight and became gaunt and unreliable and suffered severely from anxiety.

When asked, in an interview towards the end of her life, to name the biggest devil from: Cocaine, pills and Marijuana she responded ‘That would be me’. And later in the same interview:  ‘I knew the light was there. I was just trying to get back to it.’

It is a great sadness that in the later years of her life Whitney Houston did not have the support she needed to break the link to her addictions. She didn’t have the opportunity to work through her emotional issues, her childhood long held issues that tainted her adult life and career. Whitney never found the people that could truly help her and empower her to become herself, in all of her beauty and glory. She was never the person she wanted to be because she knew that would not be accepted by those that were around her. She never really got to be herself. To her question ‘Can I be me’? The answer was ‘NO’.

So many people that are sensitive to this world and the Creatives amongst us turn to an addiction to help mask the separation they feel from themselves and  their own spirits. Ironically they are actually seeking that which they are ultimately destroying.

Nature is Medicine

In 1982 Japan launched a national programme called Shinrin-yoku (time around trees). It had been scientifically proven that ‘Forest Bathing’ , as it became known, and breathing in clean fresh air, away from technology and work and modern life improves people’s health.

Research had identified that trees emit oils (phytoncides) as protection from germs and insects. It was discovered that these oils also help our human immune systems.  Nature and forests have also been proven to lower our blood pressure and reduce stress hormones, reducing depression and boosting our energy.

Trees and Nature help us feel calmer, more positive and improve our overall well-being. We can clear our minds and drink in the energy that Nature offers, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the light, the shade, the beauty of it all. All of our senses are used when we are out in ‘the Green’, as I call it. We cannot help but feel better, calmer, more relaxed yet more energised by our time in the fresh air.

Further studies confirmed this phenomenon 2 years later during an experiment in a small hospital in Pennsylvania. Scientist Roger Ulrich noticed some surgery patients recovered in a room with a view of leafy trees, while others recovered in an identical room, except its windows faced a brick wall. Ulrich decided to test whether the view made any difference in the outcome for patients. He looked back at records of surgery over a period of 10 years and the results proved enlightening.

The results showed that patients with the tree view were able to leave the hospital earlier than those with a wall view, the study revealed. Patients with trees in sight also requested significantly less pain medication and reported fewer problems to nurses than wall-view patients. Contact with nature, even as limited as a view through a window, enhanced recovery from illness.

Many more researchers have learned about the restorative effects of nature since Ulrich’s landmark study appeared in 1984. Studies repeatedly have shown that contact with nature can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, relieve stress and bring mental clarity and sharpness.

“We know that exposure to natural environments has clearly beneficial physiological effects,” says Portland psychologist Thomas Joseph Doherty.

“By losing that connection, we lose some of our ability to restore ourselves,” Doherty says.

As an Addiction Specialist Hypnotherapist and Counsellor I saw that this is powerful information. To optimise the healing that takes place during my ‘Break The Links’, Addiction programme, I have built in walking and talking therapy out in Nature. I use all of my skills as a therapist to address any issues outstanding but out in ‘the green’ where the buzz is gained in a natural way. It’s powerful therapy but it doesn’t feel like therapy, it feels like freedom and offers a real energy and mood boost while we work to get to a place of strength and self belief to succeed in dropping that addiction.

A beautiful short film about the powers of Nature to heal us:

Forest Bathing from Joseph fletcher on Vimeo.