Gut Health and Fermented Foods Course: 31st March 2019 #ad

**Disclaimer: I am co-hosting this gut health and fermented foods course, which is why I am declaring it an ad. For my full disclosure policy, click here.**

Do you have a plan to keep healthy, especially over the colder months? If the answer is no, and you know deep down your diet could do with a bit of a kick up the bum, then I think you need my top three tips.

gut health and fermented foods

Eat mostly real food

Real foods are ingredients in their natural state – fruit, veggies, meat, fish, eggs, unprocessed dairy and plenty of probiotic rich fermented food and drink (more on that in point three). A real food diet essentially means making your own meals from scratch. I understand how daunting this sounds to many, but if you want to eat your way to better health, it’s absolutely non-negotiable.

Mark Sisson, author of the Primal Blueprint and phenomenally successful website Mark’s Daily Apple, advocates eating like a saint for 80% of the time and allowing ourselves 20% leeway. I started coming away from processed food and refined sugar in 2007, went paleo in 2012, and followed the gut healing GAPS diet in 2014. Nowadays I run at around 90% awesome diet, 10% leeway. As I’m insulin resistant, because of my PCOS, this works really well for my body. Everyone is different of course, and for many people 80/20 is optimum.

Be honest about your relationship with sugar

gut health and fermented foods

I don’t have all the answers, just my own personal experience. It took me going through the GAPS Intro Diet to properly ditch my sugar cravings, and I can now go an entire week without having anything sweet. No fruit, no chocolate, no naturally sweetened puddings, nothing. If we’re entertaining, or going to friends for lunch, I’ll make dessert (such as these brownies, or this caramel slice), but I don’t feel the need to eat sweet things every day like I did prior to 2014.

None of us are able to, or are going to want to, eat perfectly, which is fine, because none of us are perfect. We do, however, have a massive problem with the way society views food in the main. We were duped, and sold the idea that fat was bad. We were told for many years that we should be eating low fat foods because they were healthy. In actual fact, they are full of sugar and sweeteners, because when you remove the fat from food you also take away most of the flavour.

Of course, now we know that sugar consumption contributes to a whole host of health problems, but largely society is addicted to the stuff. So what is the solution?

Bombard your gut with fermented foods to help the good bacteria flourish 

The only way to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies, is by getting in the kitchen and making our own food. There is no quick fix, but the good news is we can wholeheartedly reverse the damage caused by a poor diet with a great one. The way to make it enjoyable is to get into the right frame of mind.

gut health and fermented foods

Even when we are as time poor as most of us are, there are plenty of ways to incorporate healthy food into our busy schedules. They don’t get better than home made probiotics in the form of fermented veggies, kefir and kombucha.

In her fascinating book Cultured Food for Health, Donna Schwenk talks about the incredible health benefits to be gained by adding these three fermented food and drinks to our daily diets. Working in harmony with each other, they create billions of beneficial bacteria, and help with a multitude of ailments. These include: constipation, diarrhoea, acne, acid reflux, sleep issues, liver cleansing, adrenal support, candida, inflammation and food intolerance.

Knowing where to start when it comes to gut health and fermented foods can be overwhelming. Which is why myself and my very good friend Trish have created our comprehensive one day course. By the end of the day with us you’ll have learnt how to make kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, sour cream and a sourdough bread starter. We’ll feed you a nourishing, home cooked lunch, and there will even be the chance to sample home made cider from foraged apples.

Check out the flyer below for all the info, and email us to secure your place on the course. Spaces are limited and getting booked up fast! 

gut health and fermented foods

On Authenticity: How to be Authentic in a Shallow World

how to be authentic It’s a bit of an oxymoron writing the words ‘how to be authentic’ when my personal feeling is authenticity can’t be taught. If you naturally veer towards materialism and shallowness, then you’ll have to brace yourself before reading. And most definitely be prepared to do some work on yourself afterwards. This blog contains lots of links to other blogs I have written, which you might find useful. They are not affiliated links, and this is not a sponsored post. 

It’s easy to write the phrase ‘how to be authentic’ but what does being authentic mean?

The dictionary defines the word authentic as not false or copied; genuine; real. An authentic person isn’t trying to emulate anyone else. They don’t jump on every faddy bandwagon there is. They most certainly practice what they preach. Authentic people don’t say things, then behave in ways which indicate they’re not adhering to their own words. In a nutshell, authentic people are comfortable with their own opinions and values to always mean what they say.

Here’s the thing though. Even the most authentic people have to sometimes tone themselves down in certain work-related environments. Yes of course they shouldn’t have to, but when bills need to be paid, jobs need to be kept. The difference is that authentic people do not mask their true selves in front of their close friends and family. I’ve learnt quite a lot from observing my autistic daughter mask. For fear of not being liked, she presents the very best of herself to a group. This usually comes at the detriment of her family afterwards, because she knows she is 100% safe with us. Masking is exhausting and frustrating and leads to her being miserable.

If we get to full blown adulthood, and feel we have to mask to absolutely everyone we know, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate our inner circle. One of my big bugbears is when someone says something because they think it’s what I want to hear. Firstly they usually get it wrong, and secondly I’d rather they spoke the truth, come what may. Life is too short to waste time on the pointless minutiae.

how to be authenticAuthentic people don’t feel the need to share everything

Here’s a novel idea: minor difficulties can often be overcome quickly. There I said it. Society’s obsession with sharing every-single-thing-247365 means people are becoming incapable of dealing with normal challenges. I’m not talking about the big things. The bone crushing, soul destroying things. Death, divorce, serious illness, etc. It should go without saying that in these instances we need all the love and support we can get.

Do we really need to make such a big deal out of every teeny tiny inconvenience? Does everyone really need to know that your waitress was a bit shit at lunch? Or that you missed the bus and had to wait for the next one? Or that the man in the post office was really grumpy?

No good comes from holding onto anger and annoyance. It takes up too much headspace, which could be spent on being useful. Ask yourself: will these small details be remembered in five, ten years? Save your big emotions for the important stuff, otherwise you might find your reserves are empty when you need them the most.

The sad fact is, not everyone you’ll meet is authentic

I like to give everyone a chance and take them at face value. It’s really important to make our own minds up about other people. Whether or not we enjoy their company should determine our relationship with them. Allowing ourselves to be influenced by what other people think of them is nothing more than school playground behaviour.

Unfortunately social media has a way of making things blurry, and the fakery can be overwhelming and draining. Especially when a lot of the so-called celebs and high profile accounts do not even write their own content. Or have a personality to back up their witty words (which they didn’t write). Makes you think, doesn’t it?

how to be authenticSame with faddy bandwagons. Now, I am all up for people changing their ill health with good, clean food. This is a subject I have a lot to say about, and hugely advocate. I reversed my own infertility diagnosis in 2007, by cutting out refined sugar and processed carbs. I then went onto start eating the paleo way in 2012, years before it was mainstream. I also did the gut healing GAPS Intro Diet in 2014, and had brilliant results.

Now, almost twelve years after first cutting out refined sugar, guess what? I still don’t eat the stuff. How could I possibly know as much as I do about the damage it causes, and the way it makes me feel, then go ahead and eat it? That would be pure hypocrisy.

One thing I absolutely cannot stomach is when people claim to live a certain way but actually don’t. Scratch the surface and you realise that the all-natural enthusiast is as hopelessly addicted to junk (food, clothes, tv, etc) as everyone else.

So many people advocate a certain way of life but don’t actually live it. They’re desperate to, they want to so badly, but they just can’t. They don’t have the inner resources, and the strength it takes. Unfortunately these same people are easy targets for con artists to take advantage of. I think faddy bandwagons can be a very dangerous thing to jump onboard. Have a read of this if you’d like some help breaking out of bad habits, and forming some good ones.

I asked my Instagram followers if they considered themselves to be authentic

I found it astonishing that so many correlated authenticity with how much they were comfortable with sharing. Lots of people commented along the lines of “I am definitely authentic, but I don’t share everything online…” I genuinely do not agree with sharing every last detail online. Even during my earliest days of anonymous blogging, I didn’t. There might be plenty you all know about me, but there is a crap tonne you don’t. Especially over the last few years.

It would be all too easy for me to chase after the potential viral posts, by writing about autism. I just can’t bring myself to do it though. Every now and then I will, if I feel I have something useful and unique to say. Writing about it day after day basically meant reliving the hardest parts of my motherhood experience, and not moving forwards. Plus my daughter became hype aware of my online presence, and it didn’t feel fair to share such personal details about her.

how to be authenticChoosing to share certain elements of our lives does not make us inauthentic. Providing we aren’t misleading our readers with a false version of ourselves. The absolute best part of my job as a writer is when a reader gets in touch and tells me that my words have had an impact. I for one wouldn’t be able to live with myself if it was all a pack of lies.

The reason bloggers are getting such a bad rap at the moment is because this is so rife. Especially on Instagram. Surely if we have a public profile, the least we can give our readers is our integrity?

How to be authentic? I have come to this conclusion

Authenticity cannot be packaged up and sold. It can’t be copied or taught overnight. Values such as kindness, compassion and honesty cost nothing, yet they are so lacking in today’s society.

We are all a work in progress, living authentically simply means being true to our core beliefs. Not selling out for five minutes of fame or a few ££. Saying what we mean, and meaning what we say. Knowing not everyone will like us, and that being okay.

Authenticity is looking in the mirror, and genuinely being comfortable with what we see. It’s about owning our story. War wounds, warts and wobbly bits included. If you don’t, then it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee/tea/kombucha, my friends.

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I’m writing a piece on authenticity, and would like to pose the question to you all, my dear readers. Do you consider yourself to be an authentic person? 💖 Now, I am certain everyone would be inclined to immediately answer with a yes. In case you didn’t know, the dictionary defines the word authentic as: “not false or copied; genuine; real” 💖 Now ask yourself again. Am I authentic? Or am I just another wannabe in a sea of shallowness? I’m not asking this to start a fight, or be mean. I really do welcome interesting debate on here, and I love knowing that I often spark thoughts in people’s minds that most definitely weren’t there prior to reading my words. I’m hoping to spark one this evening…please discuss in the comments, and don’t forget to be kind! Can’t wait to see who replies!

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Review: Domaine du Pignoulet Pilates Retreat | The Ultimate Bonding Experience and Self-Care #ad

Pignoulet**In the interest of transparency, I’d like to state that I was asked to review the Domaine du Pignoulet Pilates Retreat in exchange for this blog post. (I paid for flights and transfers.) If you would like to read my full disclosure policy, you can do so by clicking here.**

Pignoulet was a pinch me experience! 

When I was invited to review the pilates retreat offered by the owners of Domaine du Pignoulet – a stunning restored farmhouse in the French Pyrenees – I thought I might be dreaming. Thankfully I wasn’t, and it was the most amazing weekend I’ve had in a very long time.

You can read about my incredible bonding experience with the other nine bloggers I went away with here. Our three days together were full of delicious food, interesting discussions and debates, pilates classes (obvs) and as corny as it might sound, soul searching. It’s hard not to end up reflective after an experience like this.

We laughed, cried and stayed up way past bedtime drinking local wine putting the world to rights. I mean seriously, what more could a group of tired mums, with twenty five children between them, possibly want out of a retreat?

A little bit about Pignoulet and it’s owners

Susie and James Wetton are a husband and wife team with big hearts and wonderful ideas. I like to approach things like this without too many expectations, but to say I was blown away by every element would be an understatement. From the second we started approaching the entrance to the house I was mesmerised. Driving through the wrought iron gates, past the barn and onto the sweeping driveway, the brightly painted shutters and masonry meant the house felt warm and grand at the same time.

James’ parents bought the house in 2000 and fully restored it, and he and Susie bought it from them in 2016. They are now living out their dream semi-retirement, which has been many years in the making. I found listening to their story of ditching the rat race and living life on their own terms incredibly inspiring.

PignouletThe rooms were spacious and clean with comfy beds and powerful showers. We didn’t spend very much time in our rooms, but had lovely views when we did. The night sky was absolutely stunning with all the stars on display twinkling brightly. Really does make you think about the awful air pollution in London.

We had brilliant weather for September, and were able to spend a few hours by the pool each day, which was amazing considering it had started getting chilly back home in the UK.

What the food was like at Pignoulet

Susie and James were up against it to cater for our lot. Between us we covered paleo, vegan, celiacs, and almost every other allergy/food intolerance you can imagine. Not only did our fabulous hosts feed us well, but the incredible food was served in an inclusive way. No-one was made to feel like they were an inconvenience and nothing was too much trouble. We ate every meal together, and there was plenty of choice.

Far from dishing up underwhelming free from processed nonsense, serious effort went into ensuring our party was suitably looked after. This is really important for people like us, who often feel excluded when we eat out. The local wines were delectable, and completely natural which meant no hangover the next day!

PignouletBreakfast and lunch were served on huge help yourself plates, and dinner was a three course affair. Breakfast included grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, home made granola, fresh fruit and lots of (herbal and caffeinated) tea and coffee. Lunch was salads, fresh bread, cured meats and local cheeses.

Dinners were carefully crafted morsels of deliciousness – stuffed chicken, huge stuffed roasted peppers, baked sweet potatoes, to name but a few components. One of the desserts was low sugar vegan chocolate mousse, which was out of this world. I really have to hand it to them for pulling this off so impressively.

What the pilates was like at Pignoulet

You’re in safe hands with Susie, who has been self-employed for the last 15 years as a personal trainer, sports massage therapist, pilates teacher and Nordic walking instructor.

We did two classes on the Sunday, and one on Saturday and Monday. By lunchtime on the Monday I was feeling it. Pilates is all about working the core muscles, strengthening and stretching. For some the classes will be the main reason for going to Pignoulet, but for me they were like the cherry on top of a delicious cake. Although I’ve not done pilates for many years (getting on for twenty), I really enjoyed it.

Susie’s teaching skills are phenomenal, and it’s made me want to continue practising at home, as well as finding a local teacher. I came back from the retreat with sore abs, which felt like a rite of passage. Sitting by a pool without children is lovely, but most people find it boring after a couple of hours, so it was brilliant to have a fitness element to the trip, and something other than eating to plan the day around.

 

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(#AD) When I was asked to review the pilates retreat offered by the owners of @pignoulet – a stunning restored farmhouse in the French Pyrenees – I thought I might be dreaming. Thankfully I wasn’t, and it was the most amazing weekend I’ve had in a very long time. Susie and James Wetton are a husband and wife team with big hearts and wonderful ideas, who have quit the rat race to live their dream semi-retirement. I like to approach things like this without too many expectations, but to say I was blown away by every element would be an understatement. Pignoulet was a pinch me experience! 🧘‍♂️ It was incredible having the time and space to bond with the other nine bloggers I went away with (see previous post). Our three days together were full of delicious food, interesting discussions, lovely pilates classes, and as corny as it might sound, soul searching. It’s hard not to end up reflective after an experience like this. 🧘‍♂️ We laughed, cried and stayed up way past bedtime drinking local wine putting the world to rights. I mean seriously, what more could a group of tired mums, with twenty five children between them, possibly want out of a retreat? I highly recommend checking out Pignoulet if you’re in the market for some R&R! Head over to the blog for my full review. . . . #freefromgang #freefromgangontour #pilatespignoulet #pilatesparadise #pilateslovers #Pilates #retreat #pilatesretreat #france #gascony #mindfulness #relaxation #meditation #frenchcuisine #specialdiet #bloggers #bloggerretreat #getaway #yoga #weekend #retreatyourself #dailycalm #france4dreams #allergytravels #mummytries @lecoindemel @glutarama @freefromfairy @freefromfarm @glutenfreealchemist @sneakyvegblog @peachicksbakery @dairyfreekids @_just_eilidh 💖

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A few tips for getting the most from your Pignoulet pilates retreat

A three day and night retreat will set you back £450, excluding flights and transfers (check out this page for more details). Although excellent value for money, given once you’re there everything is included, it’s vital to ensure you get the absolute most from your trip.

– avoid the temptation to capture each moment by tuning out to your phone as much as possible.
– don’t stay up too late, don’t drink too much. I could have definitely gone to bed earlier both nights, but I love to chat, so…
– just enjoy the classes, even if you’re a novice. Switch off the “is everyone looking at me?” monster. No-one is watching you because they’re too busy with their own practise.
Pignoulet– expect tears, time out from everything is bound to stir up repressed emotions and bring them to the surface.
– do a little extra each day, but don’t over exert yourself so you’re exhausted coming home. We went to a quaint French market on the Sunday, and had a nice hilly walk on the Monday. Combined with the pilates, these two activities were perfect.
– nothing is too much trouble for Susie and James, they can cater for anything as long as they have plenty of advance warning.

I think a retreat like this is the ultimate self-care, and worth every single penny. I’m going to pay for next years’ stay in monthly instalments, which will make it manageable.

Especially if you have small kids like I do, I’d advise putting together a little plan for the thud back to earth. Inevitably it will hurt more than you’re expecting it to. Allowing myself to take it easy for a few days after meant my zen experience didn’t go to waste. I arrived home around 2am on the Tuesday morning, and got very little sleep that night. I was prepared for Tuesday to be difficult, but Wednesday was worse.

Here are a few things I did to ease myself gently back into normality:  
– asked my in-laws for Polly to go and stay with them for a few days, which she did Tues-Fri. I still had two kids to look after during those days, so it wasn’t exactly another holiday, but it definitely helped.
– prior to leaving I organised a food shop to be delivered the day after getting home.
– didn’t put too much pressure on myself work wise and took the day off social media and emails on the Thursday.

PignouletWill I do anything differently next time

We opted for Easy Jet flights from Luton to Toulouse, which were at awful times both ways, but such a bargain they were difficult to resist. Coming from South London, and being a non-driver meant it was a massive journey for me.

I’m very grateful to the lovely Mandy (her blogs are Sneaky Veg and Cook Veggielicious, you really should check them out!) for driving me to and from both airports, but it involved two late nights and one very early start out of the four days.

There are other flight options (both airport and time wise) which would lighten the load in this aspect, so I’ll be aiming for something a bit friendlier next year.

Pignoulet

Photo Credit: Le Coin de Mel

Full address and social media links

Domaine du Pignoulet,
Chemin de la Maoube,
Ladevèze-Rivière, 32230, France
Email: info@pignoulet.com

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Reviews from my fellow retreaters

Eilidh | Emma | Kate | Laura | Vicki | Mandy | Midge | Mel | Rebecca

I honestly cannot thank Susie and James enough for their hospitality. I’m feeling chilled out, inspired and shall be recommending Pignoulet to every single person I know. If you’re in the market for a retreat, or just a bit of R&R, you know where to head.

Until next time, Pignoulet! 

How to Help Yourself When Times are Hard

Do you know how to help yourself when the going gets tough?

I don’t hide the fact that I’m having a hard time while I’m having it. Sharing my downs (as well as my ups) helps me get through them. I also get the odd piece of stellar advice that I might not have come across otherwise, because chances are I’m not the first or only person to be experiencing whatever it is that is causing me problems.

A very lovely lady commented on my Instagram recently that she found my openness really inspiring, because generally people are only comfortable with being so vulnerable after the hard time has passed. During the event we’re usually consumed by the trauma itself, along with the added complexity of wearing a mask so we can pretend that we’re okay. It adds up to overwhelm and burn out pretty damn quickly.

Just in case you need to hear these words today, here are some very effective ways to help yourself through life’s obstacle course…

Can we talk about the R word please? No not respite, although my fabulous husband took all three kids out today, so I did get some of that. The other r… Resilience! ♥️ People like to bandy the term around like it’s a good thing. Ooooh look at her they say, she’s so strong! So resilient! Always got a smile no matter what. I listened to a brilliant Ted talk the other day, about how putting on a brave face can actually do us more harm than good. I’m all for looking for the silver linings and being grateful but in the midst of a truly hard time it can be exceptionally difficult. ♥️ When life is relentlessly piling more shit on to your plate of steaming hot shit, the last thing you need is to be made to feel bad for not being as resilient as you once were. ♥️ The notion that anything can be solved by thinking positively and pretending we’re ok (when the opposite is true) is toxic and needs to change. If someone has honoured you with the title friend, earn it. Listen to them when they’re down. Offer your ear in an unconditional, unjudgemental way. Just be there, because it could make all the difference to them. ♥️ I’ve just spent the afternoon with one of my oldest friends. We ate delicious food, had a glass of vino and a damn good catch up. She said she didn’t know what to say to me, but the fact that she was there and she was listening says it all!

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on In the wise words of Oscar Wilde: “be yourself, everyone else is taken”

I made the decision long ago not to wear a mask. I am unapologetically me, and I absolutely refuse to be anyone else for anyone else. It means I’m 100% authentic, 100% of the time, which in theory is a great thing. It does have its downside though, and at points can feel like I’m a lone voice swimming against the tide. On my winning days, when I’ve had at least four hours sleep and am firing on all cylinders, I’m awesome at putting minor issues into perspective and not taking the knocks too personally. Dramas and drama llamas are water off this ducks back, and there is little that can beat me down.

On my darker days, where I feel lonely in a crowded room, it takes every ounce of my strength not to end up in the depths of despair. I start stewing on past failures and disagreements, and my thoughts can spiral downwards scarily fast. During these moments, alcohol and social media are not my friends. Both have the capacity to make my mood a hundred times worse, and I’ve learnt that it’s best to avoid them as much as I can. Yoga (if possible), deep breathing (if not) and video calls with a loved one are my medicine. Writing has also helped me massively. Getting raw emotions on paper/screen is a wonderful way of channeling the feelings and turning negatives into positives.

how to help yourselfKnow who your true friends are and do not doubt them. Ever.

They say that good friends are hard to find, tough to leave and impossible to forget. I feel beyond blessed to have had so many utterly incredible humans cross my path over the years. These days, with the children to consider, I’m exceptionally fussy about the people I allow into our lives. It would be madness to be estranged from my entire family yet fill our days with toxic influences. As blood isn’t always thicker than water, I consider my good friends to be my family. It pains me when I see my people in pain – I feel it deeply on their behalf. I might not be in a position to loan money, or look after more children (it’s good to acknowledge when our own hands are already full) but I can most definitely lend my ear.

I don’t judge, and I always try as best I can to remain open minded with what I’m being told. Practically I probably can’t do much more than pop over with a nice treat or be on the end of the phone, but I take pride in always being emotionally available for the people I love. Once I consider a person to be a good friend, they have to do something pretty awful for me to change my mind about them.

When the chips are properly down, it can be so tempting to completely shut the world out, but it’s rarely the right thing to do. (We all know what happened to Elsa when she followed this path.) Life is full of bumps and no-one ‘s journey is smooth running. It’s good to remember this.

It’s also vital to allow your friends to help you if they are in a position to do so. Last year, one of my neighbours knocked and said she’d been reading my blog and was concerned about me. She asked if she could take Polly with her on her school run once a week to give me a few hours breathing space. It might not seem like much, but it meant an awful lot and I hope to be able to return the favour to her in some way one day.

Steer as clear as you possibly can from other people’s squabbles  

Social media can be a wonderful tool. On a personal level it’s great for keeping in touch with faraway friends and family. On a business level it’s wonderful for spreading the word about worthy causes, fantastic products and fab services. On the not so bright side it can be a hot bed for petty arguments and vocalising ignorant opinions that folk might have just kept to themselves before the invention of Twitter.

It can be really easy to forget that everything on the internet is traceable and there forever. I am blown away by some of the dumb ass things people say, and share, and honestly don’t think they would be so free and easy with these beliefs if they were sitting in the pub having a chat with a group of mates. It feels like our world is becoming polarized, and how can it not when we live so much of our lives in online echo chambers? If there is something truly worth speaking up against then do it, otherwise help yourself by steering clear. You’ll thank yourself for it in the years to come.

Eat well, it really does make a difference  

I have been a huge advocate for eating to enhance wellness for over a decade now. My real food journey began with a PCOS diagnosis along with the news that I was (apparently) infertile. Eighteen months after coming away from refined sugars and processed carbs, and my eldest daughter was conceived by accident, then two more pregnancies within four years. I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I do believe that eating the right food has changed my life. I would urge anyone who is struggling to take a look at their diet to see where it can be cleaned up.

There’s No Easy Way to Say this, We Need a Divorce 

Dear A, 

We need a divorce. Our relationship has been showing signs of being toxic for a long time now. According to all the self-help books I’ve ever read, including the one I wrote myself, this is always the beginning of the end. I used to think I could rely on you, but lately you’ve let me down. In fact scrap that, you’ve been letting me down for years.

It needs to change, which is why I’m asking for this divorce

I don’t expect you to understand at this point. In fact I’m fully prepared for wanting to run back into your tempting embrace. Especially over the weekend, and more so on the weekends that we see friends. I’ve always been a sucker for your lure, since our very first encounter when I was just eleven years old.

Eleven, FFS!

divorceWe were living in Australia, and I drank half a bottle of neat Bundaberg Rum. I was ill, tried to vomit for hours, but can’t because of medical reasons. I was a state, and I’m sure it would have been the sort of classic story that goes on to put kids off you for life.

Not me though, nope siree. Our bond was too special, and wasn’t going to be broken that easily. There were other occasions prior to leaving home at fifteen, but once I was fending for myself, you became my trusted bestie.

You acted like my armour during those tough years, while I was discovering who I was and what direction I wanted to go in. Sometimes people tried to use you against me, and take advantage. Sometimes they got away with it too, but my memories are muddled, which I count as a blessing. You found me and lost me my first boyfriend at sixteen, and at eighteen I ended my second relationship because he loved you more than he loved me.

There were the nightclubs that I used to go to. Dancing to cheesy 90’s music and snogging random boys. Alcopops were my favourite back then, I used to love Hooch and Mad Dog 20/20. Oh the fun we had, until I overdid it, which I did frequently. I’d either pass out or end up lying on the filthy club toilet floor waiting for the waves of nausea to pass. I have too many memories like this, which is making me question whether you were ever my friend.

It solidifies my gut feeling that this divorce is going to be a great thing

Even when I went through my hard core, up all weekend, clubbing phase, you were always a feature. When everyone else was drinking water and gurning, I’d have a glass of something stronger in my hand. I used to think I was clever, playing silly games and often winning against the boys. Drinking Tequila shots watching the sun rise, or making healthy juices laced with you for my flatmates. I said that I would write a book one day called The Vodka Smoothie Diaries, and maybe I still will.

Going to work on a few hours sleep would be nothing for me, and even on a Monday night my rubber arm could be twisted to go out for a few sherbets. As long as you were with me, I could get through anything. The toughest of times were never that bad after drowning my sorrows.

You were a huge part of my persona – I was the Renster – bringer of fun!

divorceThen all of a sudden, it wasn’t just fun fun fun anymore. The darkness started featuring, and at twenty two it all came on top. My counsellor, Nina, tried to make me see that you were a bad influence, but I wasn’t ready to listen.

Four more years of hard core partying followed. Including meeting my husband, and living in one of the most rule free places on earth. Rather fitting really, to end up being drawn to Cambodia. With it’s shocking history and deep sadness at its core.

It’s fair to say that along with the back-then readily available pharmaceuticals, you almost killed me. Several times. You would have thought the night I fell off an actual bed and onto a bed of broken glass bottles would have been enough of a wake up call. But even the cut fingers, steri stripped and tightly bandaged hands that weren’t able to wipe my own arse couldn’t come between us.

A horrendous year followed. My personal annus horribilis. Too many things that I’m not proud of happened in 2006, and you were by my side every single time.

Rock bottom occurred in Reykjavík, eleven years ago to the day

I was on a work jolly, and overdid it as per. The mini bar bottle of white wine whilst having a shower is the thing I remember most vividly. I can’t really recall fighting with my then boss, falling off my bar stool, or taking a taxi by myself to the hotel on the other side of town in a strange country. I do know those things happened though, and I also know that I woke up the next day and felt truly ashamed.

For the first time ever, I could clearly see that you’re no good for me. I should have filed for divorce back then, but instead, after three months of abstinence, I vowed to learn self-control around you. I did well, but I was in a different zone. I was going to rule the world, one jar of chutney at a time. Even business failure and bankruptcy couldn’t break me. We had holidays and weddings in 2008, and although you featured, I was in control. Or maybe I was just kidding myself? I honestly don’t know anymore.

A new chapter started at the end of 2008

divorceBabies. During pregnancy number one I didn’t touch caffeine, let alone you! You’d been well and truly kicked to the curb. Pregnancies two and three were different. Your lure was a lot more tempting, and most Friday nights involved a glass of red.

I’m pretty sure guidelines have changed recently, and they are now advising pregnant ladies to steer completely clear of you, and I think that’s sensible advice.

Us parents are bombarded with the idea that we need to drink all the booze to survive the horrors that our little darlings throw our way. Whilst it’s definitely true that you are able to take the edge off the witching hour, or a birthday party, I’ve come to see that I’m not like most people.

Most people can have a glass of prosecco and get on with their day, but me?

Once I’ve fallen for your charms, I find it hard to let you go. One or two drinks is never enough, and all I can think about is having more. Which is not fair on my children, because when I’m under your spell my attention is no longer being given to them.

My kids need me much more than you do. Which is why I need you to agree to this divorce and not try and tempt me back. I can’t carry on like this. Things needs to change, and that change is not going to happen while you’re still hanging around.

It’s early days, and I’m not so naive that I don’t expect tough times. I am fully expecting them, but already without you, I’m feeling strong enough to tackle them. I’ve even set up a new Instagram account solely to help me stay on the wagon.

I wish you well in life, I really do, but please don’t knock on my door again.

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