I invited author, Lisa Boucher, to share this Q and A about her new book, Raising the Bottom: Making Mindful Choices in a Drinking Culture, because of its focus on women. As she explains, and as I’ve observed in the work I do with individuals and families, women have a complicated relationship with alcohol, both individually and societally, for a number of reasons. Additionally, their families go to great lengths to “help,” because a wife, mother or grandmother “can’t possibly be an alcoholic,” which exacerbates the myriad of problems for all concerned that arise when a loved one drinks too much. To raise this awareness and what can be done to change it, Lisa invited mothers, daughters, health professionals, and young women to share their stories of why they drank, how they stopped, and the joys and rewards of being present in their lives once they changed if or how much they drank.
Lisa Boucher’s personal experiences make her especially qualified to write this book. She is nearly 30 years into her own recovery, the daughter of an alcoholic mother, and a registered nurse with extensive professional experience witnessing the effects and misdiagnoses of alcoholism. Lisa explains that she was prompted to write, Raising the Bottom: Making Mindful Choices in a Drinking Culture, published in June 2017, when she realized after 24 years of working in hospitals, that doctors and traditional health care offer few solutions to women with alcohol use disorders. Over the past 28 years, Lisa has worked with hundreds of women to overcome alcoholism, live better lives and become better parents. Learn more at www.RaisingtheBottom.com and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, @LBoucherAuthor.
Q & A with Lisa Boucher, Author of Raising the Bottom: Making Mindful Choices in a Drinking Culture
You’ve been sober a long time. Can you start off by telling us a little about yourself and what your biggest challenge was in early sobriety?
Early sobriety is challenging, and my biggest hurdle was accepting the fact that I was an alcoholic. They say the longest 18 inches is the distance from our head to our heart. I believe that. It’s one thing to intellectually know that you have a problem and need to quit drinking; it’s another thing to have total acceptance of that concept to where you give up trying to outsmart the disease and try drinking again with the thought that this time I’ll do it right.
I quit early in my drinking career when I didn’t have any consequences. Most all of my consequences were at my core; I was disintegrating internal. Nothing in my life was working. I grew up with an alcoholic mom and she hit a low bottom. I knew if I didn’t stop drinking when I did, I too would’ve hit a low bottom and ruined my life. I didn’t want to go there. It took me almost a full year in recovery to finally gain the acceptance that I was an alcoholic. That is the hardest idea to grasp and is what keeps too many people out of recovery. They find not drinking unacceptable to them.
It’s one thing to quit drinking for a few months, but can you stop forever? I had to constantly remind myself that I felt better not drinking. My decisions were better when I didn’t drink, and I was learning to set boundaries and have healthier relationships. So many positive things began to happen in my life and all I had to do was work a program and not drink. It’s a great deal—but finding the acceptance along the way was a bit of a struggle. I hope people who are new in sobriety will commit to doing the work and in time, that psychic change will come.
The holidays are inching closer, so that means there will be lots of family gatherings and parties. What tips do you have for women who are trying to abstain from drinking?
Deciding whether or not to take part in all of the holiday festivities depends on where we are in our recovery journey, and whether we feel strong enough to attend a function without drinking. I had to get honest with myself about what I could and couldn’t do during the early days of my recovery. There is nothing wrong with declining an invitation. I learned in sobriety that I could go anywhere I wanted if my motives were good. Did I want to go to the party to see people and visit with friends, or did I want to go to prove to myself I could go and not drink? Motives matter.
Don’t go to a party if you already feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). Have an escape plan. If I started to feel uncomfortable around all the festive looking drinks. I knew I had to be willing to remove myself from the situation.
Before the party go to a meeting. Talk to people in recovery and ask them how they handle those party situations. If you surround yourself with sober people, they will have endless experiences and suggestions to share. You then can pick out the tips that resonate with you and here’s the key—be willing to use them!
What are some healthy ways to cope with stress during and even after the busy holiday season that don’t involve alcohol?
Exercise, eating right, all the things we know we should do help alleviate or deal with stress, applies even more so during the holidays. I know that too much sugar is like poison for me. It causes inflammation in the body and a general feeling of malaise. I know many other alcoholics in recovery who agree there seems to be a connection between their love of sugar and their love for alcohol. In early sobriety, sugar may be important though. Those alcohol cravings can be lessened with orange juice and honey, or go ahead and eat that brownie or candy bar.
Lastly, for me, I had to work on getting a real spiritual connection with God. The whole purpose of the 12 steps is to allow the person to clear away all the emotional baggage so God has a clear channel to reach us. Meditation is another useful tool. No matter what a person’s beliefs, meditation has proven benefits and it absolutely calms the mind.
Do you have some words of encouragement for women who are new to living the sober life?
The most useful phrase I’ve ever heard in sobriety was to take it one day at a time. As trite as it may sound to some, it’s a wise way for anyone to live. Things that seem impossible to do, like not drink if you’re an alcoholic, can become manageable when we break things down into small bites: one hour at a time, one day at a time. It’s magic!
We can’t do this alone. When I accepted that I needed a tribe of sorts to help me though sobriety, my recovery took off. Whether it’s a peer support group or a 12 step support group, we all need people to talk to, ideas to bounce off one another, and just knowing that someone understands how we feel and has been there before makes all the difference. There were many days that the only reason I didn’t go back out and drink is I’d look around the room and see dozens of smiling faces. I remember thinking, if they can do it so can I. If you’re not connected to others—get connected!
A sober life has opened up a whole new world for me, and it has for most of us who chose to keep doing the drill. Hang in there. If things suck today, give it time and things will change for the better!
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