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Listen Twice, Act Authentically

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

I was in my early 20’s when I first read the novel Rachel’s Holiday. The Irish author, Marian Keyes was particularly popular in the early 2000’s when I was at the height of my party persona. I thought it was hilarious that I identified with someone who was admitted to a rehab facility. Interestingly, no matter how bad my drinking got I was certain of one thing, I could never do drugs, I knew from an early age that I have an addictive personality and drugs would be bad, the silent undertone being that alcohol was not a drug, something I now know to be categorically untrue.

Marian had released the sequel to Rachel’s Holiday a few months before I started my freedom push in April 2022 (AKA alcohol free stint). I was more than excited to read it, but I thought, that as it was 20 years since my first reading of Rachel’s Holiday, I might reread it before I indulged in “Again, Rachel”. On the eve of my 100 days alcohol free and taping the last page through the kindle I felt I was saying goodbye to a good friend, symbolic of saying goodbye to alcohol perhaps?

I have NEVER reread a book…..something I took a lot of pride in for some reason. Like I was able to pick up all the lessons in the first read, which by the way certainly was NOT the case for Rachel’s Holiday. Had I picked up the lessons that Rachel had to impart in 2001 I would not have ended up over 20 years later with a 2 bottle a day wine habit, crimpling anxiety and desperate for a way out of the claustrophobic future that stretch out before me. My many attempts at alcohol free taught me a lot. For me, listening, acknowledging, learning and implementing those lessons is what has made this attempt so much easier than previous ones. I would like to share a couple of lessons that Rachel’s Holiday and the first 100 days had to teach me:

Freedom from alcohol drives awareness

Rachel’s Holiday conveyed to the reader, that time, contemplation and being drug free changed Rachels perspective on certain events and relationships. Awareness turned around her victim mentality and she was able to see events for what they truly were rather than what the “sneaky bitch” (the inner voice controlled by alcohol and drugs) would have her believe.

Be kind to yourself

Reflecting on when I have been successful in living joyously alcohol free I noticed there was an element of nurturing in those times. Rachel had to learn to be gentle with herself – love herself and look back on her childhood with lovingness rather than contempt for the person she was. For me the connection of my body and mind is what will ensure success of my alcohol-free lifestyle. My yoga practise has become an essential part of my day, I have turned walking the dog from a chore to a mindful, soothing experience and the result is, I have the beginnings of a toned and strong body achieve through love not loathing.

Taking a drink is easier than falling off a bike

Less than a week out of rehab and Rachel had a monumental relapse. I have learnt that although I feel more freedom than I could ever hope living an alcohol-free lifestyle I still cannot be complacent. For me, if I have one drink, I know (from countless experiences) that I will end up having 2 bottles of yucky savvy B (it actually doesn’t taste nice to me after 100 days) and will drink again the following day in a vain attempt to obstruct the inevitable slide into unease at 4.00pm when my body is expecting the next dopamine hit. I DO NOT need to prove to myself anymore that this will be the outcome. I have more than enough data points to convince even the harshest critic that this will eventuate.

Awareness leads to action

Once you have gained the awareness and learnt the lessons you feel compelled to act on the knowledge. Believe me, I know that many people do not but there is a natural human tendency to start implementing change. The universe conspires to make it easy for you to do this, however you have to be open to it. People appear in Rachel’s life that help her navigate the first-year drug free, they have also appeared in my life, and they will appear in yours. They will help you create the alcohol-free life that you desire.

You can’t unknow what the journey teaches you

Rachel learnt so much about addiction through her time in rehab. By the end of the book she had a goal to become an addiction counsellor. That learning will never leave her, she may need to apply it to different circumstances or emotions, but the fundamentals will carry her through her journey. For me, leaning so much means that I do not enjoy drinking alcohol anymore. I continued to drink when I was not really enjoying it. It is the knowledge of what alcohol really is and its insidious nature that has led me to the point that I can happily say no to a glass of vino.

Sometime between the first and second reading of Rachel’s holiday I would learn that that Marian Keyes identifies as an addict and after attempting suicide in her early 30’s was checked into a rehab for alcoholism. She has so many lessons to teach but I needed to be ready to hear them. Upon first reading it was a funny, entertaining story I related to, this time it was a blueprint for creating freedom, unpacking emotions, mending old wounds, and learning to love yourself.

Thanks Marian this book is truly a gift.....I can't wait to hear what Rachel gets up to next!

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