Five and a half years ago, I made a decision that would change me and my life forever. Lying on my sofa, broken and wretched, I was almost wishing for death. I vowed I was never going to make myself feel this bad again. I had made this promise many times in the past.
But this time something was different. I meant it. I could see a future in which this was going to be true.
I had never experienced a hangover quite like it, not that I could remember anyway. And I have not had one since. Because that marked the last time I would wake up on ‘the morning after’. I have not drunk any alcohol since that day. Nor have I smoked a single cigarette or joint, Not for 2009 days!
And I don’t miss it. Not one little bit. I have never been tempted to slip back into old habits. Not through Brexit, Trump, and the current pandemic. These would have been excellent reasons to drink and smoke in the past. I have come through conflict in the family court. Processed old pain and emotions, often retraumatising myself in the process. I have come through injury and accident. Financial worries. I have been dumped and had my heart broken. Attended festivals and gigs where I would have wanted to drink in the past. Celebrated success. Commiserated failure. Had the lightbulb discovery that I have ADHD, and had my entire life explained in one diagnosis.
And a whole host of other life experiences that would have led me in the past to cry ‘I need a drink! I need a cigarette! I need a joint!
I am calmer, better able to sleep, happier, more confident, and enjoy life a lot more. I have deeper connections with the people I meet. I am far more comfortable in my skin than I ever was in my 20’s and 30’s. I look healthier and actually like the face I see looking back at me in the mirror. I am better able to handle stress. I learn and grow through challenges, becoming stronger with every obstacle I overcome.
Everything I thought alcohol gave me, I have found in sobriety.
Alcohol never gave me any of it. Alcohol made every problem I ever had worse. It compounded my poor self esteem, and poured petrol on the flames of my shame and self loathing.
I have no doubt that I am still alive now because of the decision I made back in 2014. The path I was on was leading me down a very dark road. I am sure that my path would have ended by now, for one reason or another, had I not managed to overcome these addictions.
Our breath gives us life.
The first thing we do as independent beings when we emerge from the womb is take a breath. Our breath not only gives us life, it can give so much more.
When we breathe well, we have more energy, vitality, and mental clarity. When you can control your breath, you can control your emotional response to life. You can calm and soothe your nervous system, and manage your stress levels from within.
Mental and physical wellbeing improve in every way by good breath. Every part of the body needs the oxygen that we get from the breath. When you breathe better, the body functions better.
Good breathing nourishes the mind and body the way good food does. We are what we eat and what we breathe.
Your body will breathe for you your entire life. But you will gain so much if you take the time and effort to learn to do it well. You breathed perfectly when you took that first breath. But over time, we develop poor breathing and posture, and the breath deteriorates.
The good news is that you can take this into your hands, and learn to breathe better. You can tone and strengthen any other muscles in your body. You can train your mind and learn a new skill. In the same way, you can learn to breathe better. You can take your breath under your control, and to own your sense of wellbeing and self.
Learning to breathe properly helped me overcome addiction. I discovered my inner strength and resilience through my breath. Now I don’t need to turn to booze to ‘get through’ challenges. That is not to say I don’t struggle with life. I do. I am a very emotional person, and I feel everything, the highs and lows, to extremes.
When I am happy, I am ecstatic. When I am sad I am heartbroken. But I sit with my feelings, experience them all in the moment and process them through my breath (and my words). Through this, I am able to learn and grow through life’s difficulties. I never did this when I was drowning my emotions in a bottle of red wine. It hurts like hell sometimes, but my breath gets me through the pain and through to healing.
You can have the gifts that are to be found in your breath as well.
Begin by noticing your breath. Make a point through the day to check in and see what is happening in your lungs. Notice how you are breathing. Notice if the breaths are long or short, shallow or deep. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? How do you breathe when you are happy? How do you breathe when you are stressed, sad, excited, angry etc?
The first step to changing anything is becoming aware of it. You can’t consciously change anything if you are not aware of it.
Make a point throughout your day, starting now, to check in with your breath. Reflect on how you feel about your breath, how it feels to stop and notice it. When you connect with your breath, you deepen your relationship with yourself. It really is a powerful, transformational relationship, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Find your Space to Breathe
You can take your breath awareness a little further with the ‘5 Minute Breath’ 10 day mini course. This simple course will help you develop a regular practice of checking in with your breath. To give yourself just 5 minutes ‘Space to Breathe’ each day.