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Lucky Number Thirteen

There seems to be an idea that 13 is an unlucky number and even after reading the history.com article "What's So Unlucky About the Number 13?" I am not really 100% sure why. But we all have our things, and I for one, have plenty of them. But that's a story for another day.


For me the 01-01-2021 marked 13 years of sobriety and abstinence from the recreational use of habit-forming substances. What that means is that I don't drink and I don't use drugs for fun anymore. But unlike individuals in some of the mutual aid support groups, I wouldn't be seen as being 100% clean or abstinent. And this is not me justifying using, I am just very very clear on what my recovery means to me.


And what that is is this... I do not consume alcohol and I do not use narcotics. I try to be mindful of dysfunctional addictive behaviours and patterns, and I have not misused or abused anything chemical since I stopped drinking sometime in the early hours of the first of January 2007. I have used habit-forming pharmaceuticals in my recovery, but I have never developed an unhealthy dependency on any of these, and I am under ongoing psychiatric and therapeutic care to manage my anxiety, depression and substance use disorders.


So that's where I am with that, and I am extremely open about this in the work that I do as a recovery coach whose clients are mostly in some form of recovery themselves. I don't believe that I can moderate my alcohol use - I tried that a few times. And to be honest I wasn't much of a fan of chemicals, so that was easy to be done with. But I did like to drink - a lot! Not every day necessarily, although there was a period where that did happen. It was more of a balls to the wall kind of approach to booze, take no prisoners and see you on the flip side, MO.


While I was running bars and restaurants in the mid- to late 90s it was more of a daily affair, but it did become more of a binge relationship when I left the industry. Once I started I couldn't get enough until I was too sick to raise my head for days. Curled around the base of a toilet with my check pressed to the cold floor tiles in a quest for some kind of physical, emotional and mental relief. And what I realised many years into recovery, was that I was incapable of practising anything resembling spiritual principles or values, which was the really debilitating part of being a person who drank and behaved the way that I did.


Honest - no! Courageous - hell no! Integrity - pass! Authentic - not! And on and on with the inability to show up and lean into the ideals and values that I thought were so important. Well as long as there wasn't drinking to be done. The truth is that I didn't quite get that until I had been in recovery about eight or nine years. Call me a little slow on the uptake on this one.


But here's the funny part of the story. I was stumbling down a pavement in Taiwan sometime after midnight on the morning of January 1st, and fell into a hole. Not just any hole mind you, but an uncovered (man)hole. And of course I fell straight into what could only have been a sewer. Because if nothing else, the stench of the contents did break through my drunken haze. Ripped dress + bruised body and ego + ungodly smell = spiritual awakening (or whatever you want to call it). I'd been sober before and gone through a treatment programme. Spent some time in the rooms battling with the notion of a higher power. And nothing had come close to the clarity I experienced as I was unceremoniously pulled from the depths of an Asian gutter.


It's a really funny story when I tell it in person. And I really don't want people to think shame poor you! A healthy dose of shit-based reality was exactly what I needed to see where I was heading. After years of trying to stop drinking, pulled back into my bad behaviour by the promise of fun and revelry, I was suddenly clear that I was done. Simply put; that was that for that part of it. A hot shower, a change of clothes, a bad night's sleep and when I got up later that day I was determined it was going to be New Year! New Me!


And it's been the one decision I have made that I have been committed to over the past 13 years. I have done the work and cried the tears. I have gritted my teeth, learned to pause, connected with my personal needs, wants and values, and learned how to put down a whole boatload of healthy, self-loving boundaries. I have embraced certain people, and walked away from others. I have been honest and authentic about my process, and I have had spectacular emotional and spiritual meltdowns along the way. I have missed the sparkle of champagne bubbles, but not the revolting self-hatred of hangovers. I remember the good times and the bad times. I certainly have a much lower tolerance for small talk and general bullshit. And I'd say on the whole I have way more authentic meaning and purpose than when I was running up bar tabs and hauling ass through my work days.


It hasn't all been happy, smiley days. There have been horrendous periods in my life and I have developed resources and resilience to help me cope (sometimes barely) in those times without going back to the three loves of my life; Jack, José and Johnny. I haven't handled everything well and sometimes I forget where my pause button is, but I keep on getting up and showing up as courageously as possible. I continue to have my challenges with food, family and finding myself, but I'm betting that I'm doing a whole lot better than if I hadn't listened to the universe when she got some unsuspecting troublemaker to slip that cover off the (man)hole on that particular stretch of pavement on that exact night when I was walking down it. I heard that message loud and clear, and have been deeply grateful for my experience, pretty much every time I stop to connect with the essence my recovery.


So now instead of drowning my sorrows, I have learned to respond (well mostly) to my emotions and decide what I want to do in the situations that present themselves to me on pretty much an hourly basis. I do the work! I push through the pain! I practice gratitude and self-love. I surround myself with incredible people and I do work that is extremely meaningful. And I try and practice all the tools I have learned and teach. Every one of these endeavours is a practice in courage, authenticity, integrity and love. And I have a really strong feeling that this particular 13 might be one of fortune, fulfilment and fun adventures.



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Leigh-Anne Brierley

leighannebrierley@gmail.com

Call/WhatsApp +27(67)903-0070

Be The Change Coaching is situated in Oaklands, Johannesburg, South Africa

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© 2020 Leigh-Anne Brierley for Be the Change Coaching

Coaching is not a replacement for medical, psychiatric or therapeutic services. Coaching is designed to support and empower individuals as part of their personal and professional growth and development. Before stopping or decreasing the use of habit-forming substances it is essential to seek medical advice and support. If you are under the care of a medical or mental-health professional please ensure that you seek their advice and consult around your substance-use disorder and mental health care.

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