Finding Hope with This Naked Mind – Catrina’s Naked Life

Catrina is finding hope with This Naked Mind. Read about her journey and what the future holds for her.

finding hope with This Naked Mind

Where it all began

I guess my story and experience (like many I am learning from This Naked Mind podcasts and groups) started in my teens.  I’d had the occasional splash of wine watered down with a full cup of lemonade at Christmas during childhood. I very much preferred the fizzy grape juice served in a wine glass that made me feel much more grown-up. 

Anyway, my earliest memories of alcohol involve my best friend and I raiding her parent’s drinks cabinet. Us mixing a variety of neat unidentifiable spirits brought back from foreign holidays as souvenirs never intended for human consumption. We would mix these into a water bottle and sneak this out of her house unbeknown to the adults of the household.  Whilst I can vividly remember how awful this concoction tasted (it was really, really bad and made us gag, our eyes water, and throats burn) I can also remember those first rushes of alcohol coursing through my veins. The buzz, the slightly zoned-out feeling where all my nerves, insecurities, and shyness melted away replaced by newfound confidence.

Alcohol becomes legal

Alcohol then became legal. Rather than drinking almost neat ethanol, we progressed onto sickly sweet spirits and alco-pops that tasted much more palatable. They still provided that buzz of confidence (what I now know was actually numbing my senses, feelings, and emotions. Alcohol doesn’t give. It just takes away a part of who we are.).  Alcohol played a big part in my socializing throughout my late teens and twenties. I was going to bars and clubs several nights a week. 

I actually met my husband on my first night out in the city in the nightclub everyone used to go to when I was 17 years old.  Going out drinking was, and remains, the main way the majority of my friends, my husband, and his friends and their partners socialize, have fun, and let our hair down.  This is now despite us all being mid-thirties to early forties with careers, children, and homes to juggle.

Why am I different?

If my only experience with alcohol was the socializing that I describe above I guess it wouldn’t be too bad.  When I say it’s how my friendship group gets together it isn’t the as same as in our early twenties. Back then weekends spanned from Thursday to Sunday (and sometimes Mondays on the £10 all you can drink student nights). Whereas now it’s more often once every few months. Only when we can all arrange babysitters or for celebrations at one of our houses.  For me, however, my relationship with alcohol is not isolated to these social gatherings.  I don’t know when exactly my unhealthy relationship started but I became a secret drinker. Hiding my consumption from the world and those closest to me.  I can no longer take it or leave it and I haven’t been able to for a long time.

Why do I drink?

I have always been an overthinker. In fact, I have regularly wondered how I have ended up where I am with such an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.  I accessed a few sessions of counseling recently and reflected on my upbringing.  I suffered from ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) in that my dad has significant mental health issues. He was regularly in and out of the hospital. On several occasions threatened and attempted to take his own life.  This affected my parent’s relationship and led to quite an unhappy household growing up.  From a young age, I have been painfully shy and lacked confidence and self-esteem in my appearance, who I am, and my self-worth, all of which I have carried forward into adulthood.  Over the years I have questioned whether this is why I can’t take or leave alcohol.

Rocked by tragedy

As I entered adulthood I lost my mum suddenly and unexpectedly. This was utterly devastating losing my rock and safety net.  I had to grow up overnight and learn to stand on my own two feet.  I remember that night a glass of wine was placed in front of me, alongside the bottle, and being told “this will make you feel better”. Again alcohol became a crutch to overcome adverse experiences. 

Alongside this, I was studying at University and in my early 20s after graduating I began my career.  I work in a highly pressured and highly emotive field where I see and hear firsthand harrowing experiences of children and their families. Experiences that would break the most hardened of hearts.  Switching off over alcohol was the norm for many of my colleagues. Weeknight drinking soon started as a form of camaraderie to deal with the experiences of the working day. 

I am now a busy mum of two young children, juggling a career, running a home, school runs, homework, and hobbies. Mummy wine time became my time to shut off, shut down and be numb.  Every night, every day over many years.

My descent into the pitcher plant

As I have alluded to, I am now in my mid-thirties.  I am lucky to be married to my first love; a man who I am still madly in love with, find as attractive as the day I met him and who has grown into my best friend.  I have two happy and healthy little boys who give me the gift of unconditional love every day. They bring so much fulfillment to my life.  I have excelled in my career to the point I have reached a senior position in my profession at what is considered a young age.  I have a beautiful home in a lovely area and can comfortably provide for my family.  My family and friends are an amazing support network. 

I don’t know why, when I have so much to be thankful for in my life, I started on this slippery slope.  I’ve questioned was it some of my adverse life experiences, whether I have an addictive personality, or perhaps a combination of both.  All I know is that I have been drinking heavily for as long as I can remember.  My only real breaks were during pregnancy with my children and whilst they were tiny babies.  Alcohol soon crept back in once they began to sleep through and I had a few hours to myself in the evening. 

A secret drinker

I am what you would call a secret drinker – a closet drinker – who bottles around the home and snook away to drink whilst my husband was distracted.  It initially started with a glass in the evening in front of my husband ‘to relax’ but he didn’t approve of mid-week drinking, it then soon became hidden drinking in soft drinks cups in front of him progressing to secretly drinking and downing wine in secret directly from the bottle as quickly as possible to avoid being caught.  I progressed from a glass or two several times a week to a few bottles of wine a night. 

Suspicions

My husband had his suspicions for a long time. My falling into a deep sleep on the sofa and him being unable to wake me. Leaving me alone until I woke in the early hours. The change in my personality and light going out in my eyes. Forgetting the conversations we had the previous evening. Repeating the same story for the umpteenth time. I’ve lost count of the number of ailments that I blamed these behaviors on. Low iron, exhaustion from work, juggling work/home, etc. 

I actually believed these excuses for a long time but deep down I knew there was another cause.  So did my husband. His suspicions were confirmed when he found empty hidden bottles.  It wasn’t as easy to keep the secret and dispose of the empty bottles during the pandemic when we were both working from home.  He confronted me. Told me to stop over and over.  He demanded I get help discussing AA and rehab over and over. 

Suffering

I gradually with increasing speed slid down the slippery slope into the depths of the pitcher plant.  After ending counseling I was prescribed anti-depressants that I no longer need. I was never honest in respect of my drinking. As such my counselor was never able to help me address one of the main causes of my anxiety. I suffered both emotional and physical adverse symptoms including consistent crying, significant shaking, sickness, and muscle weakness that left me unsteady on my feet. 

To counteract some of these symptoms, I began to drink earlier in the day to block out how I was feeling.  This led to me sleeping increasingly during the day and being a pretty bad mum and wife.  It was during this time that my husband gave me an ultimatum to sort myself out or leave.  Leave my children, my home, my husband; my life as I knew it.

I’m stuck

So there I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Consciously I wanted to stop to save my life as I knew it; to live with my children and see them grow up, save my marriage, keep my career and ultimately save myself physically and mentally.  Yet in my unconscious (and coming to the surface of my conscious) feeling a deep sadness that my husband wanted me to never drink again – ever – to be that AA person who leads a life of constantly counting days and feeling they are missing a part of living.  Not to mention if I failed/slipped up it was game over in his eyes. 

Don’t get me wrong, I also wanted to gain a healthier relationship with alcohol but I didn’t know how to get from where I was to either being able to moderate or cease drinking altogether whilst also being happy.  In my mind, the two couldn’t be interlinked when I was so far into the pitcher plant.  What a life I thought living with a feeling of constant loss, I can’t possibly do it I thought, my life as I know it is over a thought either I lose the friend that is alcohol or I lose my family and health.

Finding Hope with This Naked Mind

And so this led me one night in the early hours, when my husband and children were sound asleep and I was yet again suffering from insomnia, that I stumbled across a This Naked Mind post on Facebook.  I avidly watched Annie’s videos on the Alcohol Experiment and the PATH programs.  For the first time in as long as I can remember I felt hope – hope that there was a different way that didn’t involve guilt, shame, or deprivation.  Immediately, the science and psychology enthralled me. I loved Annie, Scott, and the other coach’s non-judgemental approach.  They had been in my shoes and replaced the worn-out old trainers with shiny new ones. Finding hope with This Naked Mind was life-changing!

The PATH

The PATH program really resonated with me. It provided all the theory and science to understand how the mind works before providing tools.  Also, if I was going to do this I wanted to do it properly and give myself every chance of success. Not just in the immediate short term but to completely reframe my relationship with alcohol in the long term.  After all, I’ve years of conditioning in my subconscious to ‘rewire’ the programming.

I wrote my husband an honest and open letter that night – presenting all my vulnerabilities and asking him to support me in my journey.  I told him about my fears that I may slip up and asked him to embrace the concepts of TNM with me.  The following day he sat with me and watched the TNM videos whilst I cried.  It felt like he finally understood and we were on the same page for the first time in a long time where I had laid every part of myself bare.  I signed up to the PATH that day and decided in the interim, until the program started, that I was going to embrace all things TNM.

The beginning

In this short time, I have read Annie’s book This Naked Mind, attended the 3-day online workshop, and listened to numerous podcasts.  I’ve listened to them getting ready, out walking, and whilst completing my supermarket shop.  I read TNM over my morning coffee, at lunch, and at bedtime before I went to sleep.  Whilst I didn’t get to attend the 3-day workshop live I did catch up each day and fully engaged as if it were live. 

All of these resources have completely changed my mindset in a short space of time.  I don’t fear not drinking – in fact walking past the alcohol aisles in shops over the past few weeks I haven’t batted an eye.  I NEVER thought I could feel this way let alone in such a short space of time (even when I was pregnant I would look at the wine and prosecco in the supermarket with longing).

Start Reading

Are you curious about finding hope with This Naked Mind? You can start reading the book right now!

Hopeful

It’s now 1 April 2022 and I am about to start my first session of the PATH.  I feel genuinely optimistic.  I don’t know what the future holds but I am hopeful that I can, with the ongoing support of the program, achieve my goal of leading a happy and fulfilled life where alcohol is insignificant and doesn’t enter my thoughts unless I consciously chose to.  Will I ever drink again?  I don’t know.  TNM has helped me to understand that I don’t need to define myself by my behaviors or data points that may or may not occur in the future. 

Paying it forward

If you are reading this my ‘pass forward’ to you is to say that there really is hope for each and every one of us.  Open your mind to the concepts of TNM and the possibilities for a more positive outlook.  I just wish that I had found Annie and her team sooner and not wasted so much time and energy on alcohol and heartache.  But then I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason.  I am leaving my past where it belongs and looking forward to the future and where my journey will take me.

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