The Paradox of Mourning Saving Your Life and How to Find Joy Again

It’s Ok Not to Want to Give up an Unhealthy Lifestyle – as Long as You Do It Anyway.

You Can Do Anything, but Not Everything. David Allen

The weirdest thing with addiction is that although it’s ruining your entire life, you still feel pissed off about giving it up.

I quit drinking almost ten years ago when I was 21. At that point, I’d already been fighting a three-year-long schizophrenic battle with myself about whether I should or shouldn’t quit. Drinking was fun for a few minutes here and there, but I was also risking my life every time I picked up a drink. Tough choice!

I ended up quitting not to save my life, but because I didn’t seem to die anytime soon and I couldn’t live with mortifying myself anymore. The last time I drank, I was kicked out from a club during a work event. It wasn’t even “that bad” compared with other drunken episodes, but now it hit home to me that it would never get any better, only worse.

In my mind, I fast-forwarded my life. I saw that it wouldn’t matter how hard I worked to create something of value because I would just screw it up anyway. Unless I gave up drinking – so that’s what I did.

I couldn’t have done it on my own, though. It was all thanks to an incredible support group in Sydney, where I was studying at the time. The group saved my life, and I still think of them as my home and family.

In the group, there was this scary woman named Doreen. I say scary because she was hardcore. One of her favorite sayings was “Get down from the cross; we need the wood!” Another gem from Doreen went something like “Shut up, sit down, and listen. If your ass is on fire, find another way to sit!”

I found these sayings extremely provocative – couldn’t the world just feel as sorry for me as I did?! Because even though it was my choice to quit drinking and my choice to get myself to our 7 AM meetings several times a week, I couldn’t stop complaining about it. I was 21 years old, and everyone else was having the time of their lives partying, while I was going to die a nun listening to lame mottos!

I’m grateful for the patience of the group. We laughed together at my complaints (“Will I ever be able to pick up a guy again if I’m not going clubbing?!”) and by being healthy and happy, they showed me that a good life was possible for me too. They led by example and inspired me to keep going even when the last thing I wanted was to get out of bed in the crack of dawn to hear Doreen’s aggressive mantras (which I now absolutely love).

There is an emptiness when giving up an unhealthy lifestyle, and I think it’s crucial to replace it with a healthy lifestyle as soon as possible. Otherwise, it will be too tempting to fill that void with the old behavior. 

My support group in Sydney was my alternative lifestyle for several years until I left Australia and moved to London for a while. At that point, I was ready to try different things.

I did stand-up comedy (still the funniest thing I’ve ever done), started a book club (where I found some of my now closest friends), did a yoga course (which made me want to fall asleep but at least I got a laugh when someone once farted). I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself anymore because I was too busy exploring my new life – and actually enjoying it.

I’ve now moved to Dubai, where I’m once again embracing a healthy lifestyle to stay on track (a day at a time – that’s all I’ll ever have). I’ve picked up playing beach volleyball, which I love. Nothing really compares to the rush of getting drunk, but the adrenalin I get from playing is amazing (and I don’t have to hide from shame afterward).

My toxic behavior didn’t end completely when I put down the drink ten years ago. Years of destructive behavior followed. I especially struggled with giving up overeating, which had an awful impact on my health. The turning point came when I discovered the ketogenic diet, which relieved me from food cravings – the first step to stop obsessing about food.

It’s been a painful journey with many challenges, but little by little, life has become better. Nothing would want me to go back to my old life of drinking and eating junk food!

How to Mourn An Unhealthy Lifestyle:

1. Allow yourself to be angry. Get it out! Do a boxing class, scream or whatever works for you. Just set yourself a time limit: don’t let it fester into resentment.
2. Vent with a friend. Choose a good listener who is ok with madness. Don’t hold back!
3. Get closure. One example is to write a farewell letter to your old life, describing what you will miss and also what you’re happy to end.

How to Create A New, Healthy Lifestyle:

1. List what you liked to do as a child to get ideas for new hobbies. Childhood activities are often ones that we enjoy as grownups too.
2. Join a MeetUp or Facebook group with a topic of interest.
3. Try a fun sport. You’ll connect with others who are health-oriented and get to build your skillset.

Today, I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities that I have simply because I’ve got a healthy body and mind. I wish I’d known that ten years ago – it would have gotten me down from that cross straight away.

Alexia Bjarkan

Alexia Bjarkan

Keto Coach at The Benefactory.

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