Sober and Smoke-Free | Six Months

Diary of a Scuba Instructor in Glasgow, Scotland.

Alright guys – so it’s time for another milestone post!

I’m finding peace in the waters of my mind.
I know it won’t always be smooth sailing, but I bathe in the waves of calm that wash over me now, for the first time in many moons of my life.

A short poem I wrote at the 3 month milestone

Six months ago I left Glasgow to pursue my dream life as a professional scuba diver. I flew to Koh Tao in Thailand with the ambition to complete my training to become a qualified dive instructor. I also had a secondary mission: to stop smoking and drinking.

Less than a week after arriving in Thailand, I got started on that secondary mission.

People told me it would be hard to do on a paradise island, where everyone’s enjoying cocktails in the sun and cigarettes are as cheap as chips. They weren’t wrong!

I will tell you though, if you really want something, you’ll do anything to make it happen.

I knew I had to remove myself from the regular catalysts in my life. Unfortunately, that meant my social life, my good friends who drink and smoke. It meant leaving my work-places of a pub and a call-centre, where the cigarette break is a right of passage.

Perhaps, most importantly, it involved me moving away from the people who contribute to my feelings of guilt, inferiority and worthlessness. It can be hard to recognise these patterns while you’re in them, but once the cycle is broken, these triggers become astoundingly obvious.

By moving away, I removed some of the behavioural & psychological triggers in my addictions, and broke those parts of the cycle.


People ask me now that I’m back in Glasgow, if I’ll break this new habit of abstinence. They wonder if this is a life-long choice – will I ever have a drink again?

The answer is: I desperately hope not.

For those of you who are in recovery from addiction, I commend you on your journey! For others who are taking the psychological steps to do so, I encourage you to look deep within yourself, listen closely and honour your mind and body. The first steps are the hardest.

Stopping a habit long enough to clear the physical desire is one thing, but the psychological crutch is another ball-game, entirely. Just 2 days into my time in Scotland and I’ve already been reminded of challenges & traumas, along with the negative effects that this cold, dark climate has on my mental state. I’ve also experienced self-loathing and judgement that I’d been set free from for the last 6 months. It’s been a difficult few days, and it’s okay to admit that. It’s important to recognise when the journey gets tough.

However, instead of dwelling on the people and places that bring me down, I thought I would write a list of the things that I have achieved in the last 6 months, to remind me that I am strong, and this is absolutely worth it:

  • I single-handedly created Dive Into Travelling – Website, Instagram & Facebook.
  • I became a PADI Rescue Diver and Emergency First Responder
  • I completed a 400metre swim unaided in the sea in under 6 minutes and 20 seconds, earning the top grade for that skill
  • I climbed the first ladder of professional diving and qualified as a PADI Divemaster
  • I completed the PADI Instructor Development Course
  • I sat the 2-day PADI Instructor Exam, and received 5 out of 5 for every, single unit.
  • I became an Emergency First Response Instructor
  • I paid my fees and became an active PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor!
  • I taught and certified my first students
  • I completed a TEFL certification course
  • I set and maintain a Daily Writing Challenge for this blog
  • I’ve created Travel Playlists from my songs of the day
  • I’ve participated in numerous beach, reef and land cleans
  • I started the @beachcleandaily Instagram to promote our efforts as individuals – if you’re on the beach, lets work together and clean it to truly enjoy it!
  • I’ve been solo travelling and can’t wait to continue the adventure
  • I have not touched a drop of alcohol or smoked anything for 6 months!

That’s everything I can think of at the moment which has made me proud in the last 6 months. It feels good to write this down and acknowledge them because, honestly, I believe the route of addiction starts in a lack of self-worth. Sometimes you have to take a moment to reflect on the minor, or major achievements of your life to remind yourself that you are the one who gets you through.

See you at the 1 year mark!

Jen

Whilst the above story is a relatively happy one, I know what it feels like when the challenge seems too great.

Please use the below links to get access to a huge list of UK and US helplines. Call 116 123 in Europe for emotional support, and specific contact numbers.

LIST OF UK HELPLINES

LIST OF USA HELPLINES

LIST OF SOUTHEAST ASIA HELPLINES

If you know of any other country-specific helplines please add them to the comments on this post. Thank you.


Here’s what I wrote on my last milestone:

Today marks 3 months since I last had an alcoholic drink or a smoke of any kind.

I have a million and one fond memories of the nights out I’ve had with many of you. From my McChuills family, to my own family and lots friends from all my walks of life, a large number of pints were consumed (and so much more).

Though following the great nights were some very long and very hard days. The great times I’d had the night before were marred by my crippling anxieties, my chest heavy and pained from the chain smoking, my head clouded and weighed down by the hangover.

It became easier for me to avoid dealing with the hangover by following it with another few beers that night – just a couple, of course. Then maybe a few more the next night. And a few shots of patron cos why not. Then after a week or so I might take a day or two off, just to give my body a wee rest.

Though, within a few days I would find another good reason to be back on it. And what was the point in just one or two pints, after all?

I began to resent myself and loathe the choices I would made on a daily basis. In the throws of agonising headaches at 7.15am after being out til the wee small hours, to the hacking coughs, I would vow to myself never to do it again. How could I put my body through all this turmoil on such a regular basis? It simply wasn’t sustainable and I knew it, but I just couldn’t find the will in myself to stop, to make the change. I’d beg my body to hold up for me now, and more importantly down the line in, hopefully, many years to come.

In all honesty, I had bribed myself for many months that by leaving Scotland, by coming out to Thailand, by pursuing my dream of becoming a scuba dive professional, I would finally make the change.

I didn’t even make 2 days on the island before I cracked!

But that was it. Just two days. It was the morning after that, I made the decision. And I really made it.

I had bought a packet of rolling tobacco that night from the 7-11 outside BND on Sairee Beach, but I never actually had a cigarette out of it.

I kept the packet sitting on my fridge in my hotel room, taunting me everyday as I walked in and out the door for weeks. My good friend Adam was travelling from Scotland through Thailand and came to hang out with me for a week or so, and he was enjoying all the bounties of cheap beer and 70thb packs of cigarettes (£2.20) and rightly so!
But I didn’t crack.

I had the support of a good friend Chris, who had been forced (through allergies) to quit alcohol almost a decade prior. It was good to bounce my feelings off someone who would understand the social implications I anticipated of being a non-drinker.

It was hard at first – no doubt about it. Wondering if there would be a ‘when’ or looking for a good enough reason to drink again. Wondering if I would be accepted at the pub by my friends, and what about back home? I’m from Scotland for fuck sake, it’s our version of water. How will I hold up when I come back at some point?

Alas. 3 months have gone by since those first-week’s woes.

My skin is clearer. My eyes are whiter. My wallet is fuller (lol kidding on I’m skint as ever). My relationships are smoother. My confidence has grown. My ambitions are bigger. My drive is more powerful. My mornings are brighter and I no longer wake up with the feeling of exceptional dread that I had grown accustomed to as my norm.

As for anxiety? There is no doubt it has been reduced – significantly. I still experience it on a regular basis, the odd panic attack every couple of months, a few bursts of catastrophisation throughout the week, but it’s seriously moderated now.

This has all stemmed from finally listening to my mind and my body, and honouring their calls for respect.


DJ Shadow – Six Days
Hamish Imlach – Goodbye Booze
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