Reclaiming our spirit – some thoughts on alcohol and self-love

I've been pondering humanity's troubled relationship with alcohol more deeply than ever, this last 18 months, since I stopped consuming it myself. Partly because the clarity of hindsight has allowed me to newly appreciate, and own, how alcohol was the bane of my life for just so many years; really, its consumption underlay some of the very worst experiences (and behaviours) of my life. In fact all of my biggest traumas except those relating to loss of a loved one had their foundations on a rock bed of alcohol-induced behaviours including some monumentally poor decisions and mindsets that had very far-reaching effects. The most pervasive of these was as a result of how alcohol imparted a subtle yet deadly sense of self-loathing that became deeper, more innocuous, year-on-year; only to be remembered like a faintly ringing Pavlov's bell each time I took another drink and thus snowballed into even more self-denigration with each occasion. I know these things for sure - the path to recovery requires that you take back your personal power, your responsiblity for your own health and that you unconditionally love (and respect) yourself; none of which are consistent with what alcohol, voluntarily, does to the body each time we consume it....

Super-sensitive abroad

Travelling away from home can be an extra-challenge for those of us with health challenges and sensitivities of any kind because it takes us out of our routine. It's not so much the distance but the upheaval that can be difficult to cope with (on top of the extra tiredness that comes with travel) when you probably have well-established survival tactics in place at home that enable you to cope pretty well with your health most of the time. Booking a holiday can feel a bit like planning to blow all that carefully created homeostasis to pieces in the name of having fun and there have been times when I wonder why I do it; is it even worth it (the answer, by the way, is yes). Changes in sleep arrangements and diet can throw health into disarray when maintaining that balance has become a finely tuned thing.

Crowning glory

If you are a mature woman, perhaps especally if you have (or are going through) health challenges, what is your relationship with your hair? Women who have been through serious trials and tribulations...such as a trauma that turns hair suddenly white, stress-induced hair loss and cancer...can use a renewed relationship with their hair to reclaim themselves most powerfully in the aftermath; like saying "look at me, I'm altered inside and out but its all good, I embrace and offer forth the new me". An assumption that making the most of our hair so we can take on our lives means having to make ourselves look younger than we really are feels like making a declaration of power and intention which lacks heart and substance, like we are putting on a brave front...which stops abruptly where the roots meet the ground. If this happened in Nature, the tree would fall down. When we allow our deeply embedded roots to grow up from our core and to show themselves as they are...including if they are grey or white... declaring (not hiding) the story of all our lives, we claim the source-power that we are already generating from lifetimes worth of experience; and we bring that up and outwards to help fuel whatever projects we happen to be taking on now and going forwards, facing the world as our most authentic selves. This feels like an often un-tapped source of power for the mature woman (that is, being who you really are, the whole amalgam of your life's experiences to date, and being prepared to show that to the world, operating from that place of grounded strength) and it heartens me every time I hear about yet another woman tapping into that by revealing her most natural self. This may only be hair we are talking about...but are we, really? From experience, it feels like there is so much more to it than that.

The oestrogen effect

By virtue of its key role - preparing for an egg - oestrogen has come to stand for and embody a protective urge. It dominates the process by which we prepare for and protect that egg before its release into the world; it safeguards the hoped-for pregnancy yet only travels as far as the threshold of that potential being realised, stepping no further forward with it, like a mother stood waving at the door. It knows only "hold" and "protect" as its inner mantra - and this is oestrogen in a nutshell, without frills and, yes, generalised down to its very essence as we all know that not every egg leads to the realisation of a new beginning, nor do we want it do. Yet there is a very real truism in this stereotype of oestrogen as the egg-holder, the homemaker, coddling her creation tightly to her bosom because, when a women is in her oestrogen phase, this is what a woman tends to do and there is very real evidence that she becomes single-minded, withdrawn and less independent during that phase. To quote Leslie Kenton (Passage to Power: Natural Menopause revolution) "She is more willing to adjust herself to the needs of others. When oestrogens are running, women like to attract a mate not so much to draw him into her body as to comfort, admire and care for her. Her ovaries seem to be smiling - 'whatever you want, I'm happy to give' they seem to say". She continues: "A few women who by nature are high oestrogen producers feel quite dependent on others for approval, and for the definition of their being". Any wonder that so many doctors, even some husbands, have been so keen on advocating oestrogen hormone replacement in order to maintain this personality type in favour of its alternative, the independent, outward-thinking woman...