The Drink Directory : Cawston Press : Sparkling

I love a good 'grown-up' soft drink, and I've definitely found one with Cawston Press. Their sparkling range offers a refreshing take on some classics, while also offering a more unique option too!


I found Sparkling Ginger Beer and Sparkling Cloudy Apple in Tesco, amongst the long-life juices and sparkling water. These 330ml bottles are £1.49 each, so we're still saving a vast amount of money against, for example, alcoholic ginger beer. 



 I love ginger beer. It's an absolute classic and for someone with perpetual nausea, having a really good ginger drink can make the world a much nicer place! I don't recall having the alcoholic version of ginger beer prior to becoming teetotal, but I can certainly imagine the flavour being very overpowering!

Another huge plus is the natural method by which this is made. There are no artificial nasty things lurking, and it's absolutely not made from concentrate. You really have to watch out for that one with this area of the drinks market! Ginger beer made from concentrate tastes like acid and fire, which makes for quite an unpleasant experience!

This ginger beer is an absolute delight. Serve it ice cold and sip at your leisure. It smells fresh, light and clean. The drink is slightly cloudy and there was a little bit of content sitting at the bottom of the bottle, but that's nothing a quick tip upside down didn't sort out. Just be careful when you open it after doing that.... We all know what I did.

To drink this ginger beer is a real treat. It takes me back to summer and all the happiness that season brought. It's smooth, with no flames from Hades waiting to kick you in the throat. 

"Our award-winning Sparkling Apple & Ginger is made with pressed apple juice, ginger extract and a hint of chilli for a powerful flavour. This is our tribute to the timeless classic that is ginger beer. Using a traditional recipe we’ve blended in 40% pressed apple juice for the fruitiest ginger beer in town."  

A 330ml bottle is only 112 calories and contains over 150% of your RDA for Vitamin C!
Also a winner of the Great Taste Awards 2013, scoring a GOLD! 

I really love this drink and I know you will too! :)



Who doesn't love apple juice? It's so sweet and refreshing. Imagine the combination of apple juice with cloudy lemonade. So much yes. 

"Our award-winning Sparkling Cloudy Apple drink is made with 75% pressed apple juice and just the right amount of fizz. We’ve blended the best-tasting varieties like Cox’s Orange Pippin, Braeburn and Bramley and added some sparkle – nothing else."

This drink is a work of art. There's no two-ways about it, and it's no surprise that this drink also won the Gold in the Great Taste Awards 2013! 
I absolutely love the combination of apples used to make this drink. When you open the bottle you are greeted with the gorgeous aroma of an orchard, and although there is a little bit of sediment in the bottle it's nothing to worry about. 

The bubbles are at the perfect level of carbonation to give the same effect on your tongue that biting into a sharp granny smith apple would give you. 

A 330ml bottle is 109 calories and again provides 150% of your RDA of Vitamin C. 

Simply perfect. I highly recommend Cawston Press and their Sparkling range!!

 
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How to cook : Homemade Sausage Rolls

The party season is almost at it's end, and I don't know about you but I'm relieved! It's exhausting.

With that being said, I would like to share with you one of my most popular recipes for hosting or just for your household to pick at. 

The vast majority of us like sausage rolls, but the ones available in the supermarkets are utterly disgusting. Inspired by Jamie Oliver, here is a super-simple recipe to wow your friends and family. 


  • 6 sausages, whatever flavour you like
  • pre-made puff pastry, 250g per 6 sausages 
  • 1 large egg, for coating
  • plain flour, for rolling
  • a rolling pin

First job: pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees and place a large baking tray in to heat it. Clean down your surfaces thoroughly, and get your ingredients together. Get your puff-pastry out of the fridge approximately 20 minutes before cooking to allow it to get to room temperature. It'll be much easier to roll this way!

It is cheaper to buy sausages than the sausage-meat from the shops. Don't ask me why, but it is. This means that we have to remove the sausages from their casings. Use a small paring knife or scissors to cut the sausages in half, then peel back the casings. Now we have 12 mini sausages. 


Now we have to roll out our pastry. If you bought a 500g block like me, then just cut it in half and put the spare back in the fridge. Cover your work surface fairly liberally with plain flour, and dust your rolling pin and hands. With a purposeful level of pressure, roll out your pastry until it is the length of the rolling pin, a comfortable double-width of your sausages and no more than 5mm thick.



Once you have your pastry ready, place your sausages along the right hand side while leaving an inch or so at the edge. This is to allow the opposite side of the pastry to stick and be crimped. Leave a fingertips gap between each sausage to allow for easier cutting. 

Take your beaten egg and brush generously along the perimeter of the pastry and at the edges of the sausages. I also dusted with salt, pepper and dried mixed herbs. I sliced some tomatoes, removed the seeds and sat them on the sausages to allow for a cooling element and different texture. 


When you are ready to seal your pastry, in one quick and confident movement, place the pastry over your rolling pin before flipping it over. 



Use a fork to crimp the edges together before covering with more egg wash.

Season with salt, pepper and a little bit of flour to catch any liquid released during cooking.

Now take a large, sharp knife to portion out your individual sausage rolls. Pierce the top of each one to allow heat to escape. 


Melt some butter on your baking tray - ensuring it is entirely covered - before placing your sausage rolls on. Allow each piece room to expand. This is puff pastry after all! 


 I cooked these sausage rolls at 220 degrees for 20 minutes; but I would advise you keep an eye on them so the pastry does not burn. You want them to be nice and golden. There is nothing worse than burnt pastry! Take them from the baking tray straight away and place them on a plate to cool down. 

Enjoy! :)



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The Drink Directory : Sainsburys : Low Alcohol English Cider

If you are a cider fan, I have something for you! 


This was another find that happened purely by chance as I was scanning the shelves for interesting things. If anyone saw me in there they would probably have wondered what my problem was, but little do they know I'm a blogger on a mission!

Much to my surprise, Sainsburys have produced their very own non-alcoholic cider. I must confess I was not expecting greatness from this product, but at £1.05 a bottle it was worth a shot.

As you can see, there's plenty of bubbles going on, and it definitely fits the 'medium dry' description. I'm not a huge fan of this type of drink, and it took most of the bottle for me to decide whether or not I liked it. I also couldn't figure out what the taste reminded me of until I asked the boyfriend to sample it; low and behold, it's Aspalls!

It has such a strong flavour and an after-taste that is almost woody. You can't drink this quickly. It's vastly too intense for that nonsense. The aroma is not like anything I recognised; it was just very potent!

If you're a recovering alcoholic, and cider was your drink of choice, I would advise you not to drink this until you are firmly settled into your sobriety. It's very, very similar to the stronger alcoholic ciders on the market and it could set off all sorts of triggers.

With that being said, I have to say how impressed I am with the similarity. This drink really did grow on me, and by the end of the bottle I really liked the flavour. It certainly is a light drink, but I couldn't really pick up on the fruity side of the product description. Everyone is different and my sense of taste has been dramatically altered due to my medications, so someone else is much more likely to find the fruit flavour in this bottle.

I don't know if I could drink more than a couple of bottles, but that makes for a very cheap night and where's the downside to that? Exactly! 

 I would certainly recommend you give this one a go and see how you get on with it; but just be mindful of it's similarity to 'the real thing' and whether you are able to cope with it. 

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How to cook : Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup

Hi!

It's winter and that means we can indulge in one of the best comfort foods - homemade soup! I won't buy soup from the shops anymore. It's laced with so much sodium it makes my heart stop just looking at the numbers. Even so-called 'healthy' soups are loaded with salt and sodium.

Making soup is so, so easy and rewarding. You can make up a batch and put some in the freezer for emergencies. Due to the amount of chopping, and using a food processor and/or a hand blender I wouldn't deem this method children safe, but I think this is a great way to encourage children to try new vegetables.

What you'll need:

  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • ground black pepper
  • fresh thyme
  • vegetable or chicken stock
 Ready, set, cook! 

Chop up your carrots into 1cm size pieces, so they will cook at the same speed and also be the right consistency to go into the food processor later on.

In the name of all that is holy, please be careful when preparing your squash!!!!

I find the best approach is to remove the top, then divide the squash into three parts. I rock my knife around the circumference by inserting the tip, pushing down vertically ever so slightly then bringing the handle down. I then take out the knife and place it at the end of where the previous slice was and do the same action again. It takes a little bit of time but I have yet to cut my fingers off with this method so I stick with it.

We don't want the seeds so scoop them out and either bin them or roast them later on. I'm not a seed fan and I don't know anyone that is either...

When you're ready to make your slices, make sure you use the 'bridge' to keep your fingers safe! If you need to push down on the top of your knife then use the palm of your hand and keep your fingers extended and well clear of anything sharp.

Sorry to nag and be a safety queen, but I care! :)

We're after 2cm pieces here, or there abouts. The flesh of the squash is a lot softer than a carrot so it needs to be bigger to hold it's shape during cooking. 






Place into a large roasting tray, cover with olive oil - but don't go nuts with it, we're still trying to watch our calories here! The tray should be big enough to allow room between each piece of squash. If they're all crammed together they won't cook evenly. Season with salt and pepper and put in the oven - 220 degrees for 25 minutes then turn down to 190/200 for the final 15 minutes.

Repeat the process with your carrots, but add a generous amount of fresh thyme along with the seasoning.


Wait 40 minutes, checking them once to turn them over and assess how much extra cooking time you'll need at the 25/30 minute mark.






et Voila!


It is very important to let the vegetables cool down completely before blending them down. It will damage your equipment and you'll probably end up burning yourself in the process too. 

So. Once we're safe to continue! 

Before I got my food processor - It's a Cooks Professional, if you're wondering - I used a hand blender with no problems. The only difference is with a hand blender most will only tolerate small amounts so you have to make portions which can be a pain in the backside. I love my food processor. 

We're using the blade attachment. Make up 1 pint of stock, using half a pint of boiling water and half a pint of cold water. Add two spatulas full of vegetables, cover and pulse 6-8 times.


Add two more spatulas and pulse again. Add a small amount of stock and pulse.


Keep repeating this process until you run out of vegetables; add 1/4 pint stock then switch to a continuous mix for 30 seconds. Give the mixture a stir, being sure to grab everything from the sides of the mixer. Add another 1/4 pint and mix for another minute or so. Once you notice that the consistency isn't thinning out any more it's time to stop and switch to a pan.







This is where you can make the soup your own. If you prefer a thicker soup then you will only need to add the remaining 1/2 pint and blend with a hand mixer until all the lumps are gone. You can adjust the seasoning to taste and add chilli flakes or more herbs if you like! To thin the soup out you will need to add an extra quarter to half a pint of water on top of the remaining stock, depending on your preference.

Be sure to pay attention when using your hand blender!! During the making of this soup I managed to paint my kitchen with soup because the blender got too close to the top of the soup. Fail. 






Souper-simple supply of warming and comforting goodness. 

If you have any questions please ask! 
I hope you enjoy this recipe.

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The Drink Directory : Juice Brewery : WP Hopper

If you like fruity flavours, or drinks that are really light and refreshing, then this is the one for you!


"The first adult looking, adult tasting soft drink.

We are Juice Brewery. We're only small, but we have BIG ambitions. We’re bringing you a new and exciting drink that not only looks grown up, but tastes grown up, without containing a single drop of alcohol. 

We’d like to introduce you to ‘WP Hopper’, the ORIGINAL Soft Brew. It’s an infusion of English malted barley and hops, with added fruit juice and sparkling water. With no additives and no preservatives, WP Hopper is entirely natural and completely non-alcoholic."
http://www.juicebrewery.com/


I found this little gem in Sainsburys when I was scanning each item in the alcohol aisle looking for any sign of low to no alcohol content drinks. There are three flavours available but the citrus flavour was the only variety in this particular shop. I honestly had no idea what to expect from this drink, but for £1.19 it wasn't exactly an expensive gamble!

"WP Hopper is a Soft Brew. In fact it’s the ORIGINAL Soft Brew. It’s made with an infusion of English malted barley, hops from Kent, fruit juice and natural spring water. 

All the ingredients we use are entirely natural, and it has no additives or preservatives. 

WP Hopper is also less than 100 calories per bottle, and has a truly adult taste and flavour. 

When poured into a glass, Soft Brews have the appearance of a beer with a real frothy head – the taste is smooth and mature, with hoppy undertones and a punchy hit of fruit. 

It’s the sort of drink you can live with all night. And, since it’s completely alcohol free you don’t get a fuzzy head in the morning!"

http://www.juicebrewery.com/Drinks/Soft-Brew.php

This really is a truly gorgeous drink, and I'm so happy to have discovered it! The smell reminded me of a shandy mixed with bitter lemon, and it made my mouth water! When I poured it out into a glass the colour was exactly like that of a typical light beer but without the carbonation. The citrus brew is made with apple and lemon juice, both from concentrate, making for a very sharp and slightly dry flavour. 

The soft brew range would make a perfect all-round drink for your non-drinking friends, but perhaps is better suited to summer because of it's citrus elements. I felt like I was taken back to Nerja when I closed my eyes! If you know your friend is a fan of citrus flavours, then definitely introduce them to Soft Brew! 

The 275ml bottle seems like a small 'portion', but trust me when I say it is not easy to drink this one quickly. There is such a big flavour going on that there will be no more than sipping and savoring going on. The after-taste is predominantly apple and thankfully doesn't leave that weird dry/fluffy tongue sensation on your tongue like beer does!

I would absolutely recommend that you serve this drink really cold for the best flavour. 


 You can buy Soft Brew at Sainsburys and from the following wholesalers.

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ThatRedheadSaid presents: The Drink Directory

Welcome to The Drink Directory! 

As you might expect, this isn't going to be a directory filled to the brim with booze. No, no! 

This is the sober girls (and boys) survival guide to the best alcohol-free drinks on the market today. You might be a recovering addict, like me, or you drew the short-straw and are the DD for the evening. Or you're pregnant and are bored to the back teeth with juices and coke. 

Whatever your reason for staying away from alcohol, I hope this will be the place you will come to find out what hidden gems are out there so you don't feel isolated. Looking after drunk friends is always easier if you're drinking something yummy yourself! 

Of course, it's going to take a while to build up this directory, but over the coming months I hope to have covered the major brands available in the supermarkets.

If you have any suggestions for reviews or particular products you want me to try and find then please come to this page and leave me a comment, and I'll do my very best to find it for you. I'm no drinks expert, but like my food reviews and recipes, I know what tastes nice to me. I also use my boyfriend as a test subject for different opinions and a guys perspective!

I really believe in this project, and can't wait to show how many alternatives out there to alcohol-laden drinks. It's not just good for your mental health, but your liver will also thank you just as much as every other major organ in your body. 

I have come to realise that it is not always just a lack of options, but a lack of promotion for these drinks which leaves us feeling lost. You really do have to keep your eyes peeled for some non-alcoholic drinks amongst the mixers and other alcoholic drinks, which isn't always the ideal product placement. 


So, once again, welcome to the sober-side of life. 
It's not as bad as you're probably thinking it is! ;)




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The Drink Directory : Shloer : Celebration Fizz *


Celebrate in style with Shloer’s spectacular new bubbly

Shloer has just got even bubblier and is putting the fizz into even more festivities nationwide.  Two brand new bottles of alcohol-free bubbly are now available to add extra sparkle and theatre to your special occasions. Served for the very first time in a celebratory-style bottle with a popping cork, Shloer Celebration is the perfect party starter. 
 
Shloer has long been the alcohol-free drink of choice for those looking to indulge in a glass of something special, but now with the launch of Celebration, Shloer will top the shopping lists of those hosting the most sophisticated of soirées. So even if you are not drinking, you can still enjoy a sense of occasion and sip on a tall glass of chilled bubbles.

The new range comes in two delicious flavours made from sparkling grape juice; so whether you are a glamorous white-grape girl or more of a blushing rosé lady, you can celebrate in style. Keep chilled with plenty of ice, then simply pop the cork and pour.
Shloer Celebration White Bubbly has a crisp and full bodied flavour, using the very best in white grape juices to create the perfect glass of fizz - no alcohol required! Best served chilled.
Shloer Celebration Pink Fizz is a fresh and fruity combination with the vibrant flavours of red and white grape juices fused together to create a beautiful sparkling rosé juice drink. Best serve chilled.
Making your occasions sparkle
With Christmas and New Year just around the corner, Shloer Celebration is the perfect alcohol-free bubbly to get the party started. Or whether you’re catching up with the girls, toasting a new engagement or sharing a special family announcement, such as a baby shower or wedding, add a touch of novel sophistication and keep the bubbles flowing with Shloer Celebration

The sparkling alcohol alternative
Shloer uses only the finest ingredients to create a delicious range of non-alcoholic sparkling juice drinks. All varieties make a tasty grape-based alternative to alcohol, suitable for all the family. Shloer contains no preservatives, artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings.

A flavour for everyone
Shloer is available in nine refreshing flavors including White Grape, Red Grape, Rosé; Apple & White Grape, White Grape Raspberry & Cranberry, White Grape & Elderflower, Raspberry & Rhubarb Punch limited edition and now Celebration Pink Fizz and Celebration White Bubbly. 

RRP £2.99 / 75cl bottles
Available in supermarkets nationwide

For more information, go to www.shloer.com

Join Shloer on Facebook and tell us your favourite flavour


I was very kindly sent this gorgeous looking celebration pink fizz to try! In true celebration style, we have a popping cork to get the party started with a BANG! I struggle with corks, and more often that not end up breaking them, but the design makes it very easy to get a solid grip and control everything!

No alcohol, plenty of bubbles and low on calories; this really should be the drink of choice for those who don't drink or are watching the calories. Pink Fizz is made with grape juice had is 46kcals per 100ml, so even if you were to have the whole bottle to yourself you'd only have 'spent' 345kcals! That is roughly two glasses of booze-laden wine, so you're really onto a winner here!

The aroma of the pink fizz is very light and fruity, which I absolutely love. To drink it is a delight. It reminds me of a very intense sparkling wine I used to partake in during a different time in my life! The bubbles are just fantastic and leave a slightly dry finish on your tongue, making your next sip just that little more intense.

I really recommend this to drinkers and non-drinkers alike. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about Celebration Fizz! You're in safe hands with Shloer and this product is a testament to that fact.

YUM!!!! :)


I will review the White Bubbly on this page very soon!!


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The Drink Directory : Eisberg : Alcohol Free Wine *


 
ENJOY DRINKING THE ALCOHOL-FREE WAY

Fancy a chilled glass of Rosé, a fresh aromatic Riesling or a smooth Chardonnay but want to cut back on the alcoholic units?

Simply switch your usual bottle of wine for Eisberg non alcoholic wine and experience the real taste of wine, without the alcohol and with only a third of the calories.

Eisberg alcohol-free wine is made in exactly the same way as your favourite wine, but with one difference.  At the end of the process the alcohol is gently removed using one of the world’s most advanced processes, leaving all of the flavours of the wine, but none of the alcohol.

There are four varietals in the range: A refreshingly aromatic Riesling, a crisp Chardonnay, a juicy succulent Rosé and a fruity red Cabernet Sauvignon.

Suitable as an accompaniment dining with friends, or enjoying on its own, Eisberg contains 0.05% alcohol and only 34 calories per 125 ml glass, making it a great alternative to calorie laden booze.

The full range is available in Morrisons and selected varieties in Asda, Waitrose, Booths and Bargain Booze, RRP £3.50.


Girls - and boys! - I am going to present to you a truly gorgeous product that will make your teetotal life just that much better during this holiday season! If you're a wine lover, this is the one for you.

Personally, I was always more of a spirit drinker much to the dismay of my stomach. If I did opt for wine, more often than not it was a rose with an absurd alcohol content. I also preferred sparking over the drier varieties.

When I got an email offering me the chance to give Eisberg a try, I was very excited. No alcohol, and barely there calories! SOLD!!!! 

Prior to opening the bottle, which has a screw top rather than those nightmare-ish corks I can never manage to get out in one piece, I found myself checking over and over again that this was 'safe' for me to drink. My brain was stuck on "Is there definitely no alcohol in this bottle?!" and it got to a point where I just had to laugh at myself. Apparently my subconscious is scared of 'lucid' me making a careless mistake and destroying everything.  

I can confirm there is no alcohol in this bottle. Haha!!

My first taste was quite overwhelming on my senses! It really does taste exactly like normal wine would, however there was a much sweeter note which took me a while to figure out. It's jam! More specifically, strawberry and cherry. The overall flavour is quite rich, or at least for my palette, so a small glass of 125ml would be enough for me if I were to drink it with dinner. 

Eisberg  recommends the Rose be served with spicy foods. 

I also tried this wine as a 'spritzer' by mixing two thirds of a glass of Rose with sparkling water. Not only does this cut down your calories even more but it becomes a very light and refreshing drink that could be served at parties, for example. 

I much preferred the fizz, but everyone has their own preferences. The only recommendation I would make for everyone is that this wine be served very cold, so leave it in the fridge for a good few hours before cracking it open. 

Eisberg also offer white wines, Reisling and Chardonnay; and also a red Cabernet Sauvingon. 
I will review these wines on this page in the next week or so!

Eisberg are on Facebook too!

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Christmas 2013 : Sober

Well. Here we are again. I wrote about Christmas last year, and looking back at that post makes me feel sad. I HATED this time of year and was absolutely frantic, trying to keep myself as busy as I could. This time of year will always be filled with bad memories, tears and pain. I accepted that many years ago. I held onto those feelings as some sort of badge I could wave to distance myself from, basically everything and act like a total asshole.

Just one year on, and following way too many deaths, I have come to realise that this is not exactly a helpful approach to be taking and in no way mirrors what I am like as a person. Why should I continue to make myself miserable, and repeat the patterns of so many years before?! I'm not a sadist. I'm not selfish. I don't enjoy being seen as 'ill' and behaving like some sort of martyr. Some do, but I would much rather make progress towards the positive than continue to engage in those behaviours.

A few years from now, we hope to have children and I absolutely refuse to inflict the pain of my past on them. These are practice runs, with Lily and hopefully next year we will have a doggy friend, or kitty cat, in our little family. We're still not terribly sure which would be better for Lily, and given her interactions with the neighborhood ginger tom that comes by every day we are more hopeful that we can introduce another cat into the house. Time will tell!

Alex has come from such a loving and normal family, and Christmas is always a time for the family to gather and enjoy being together. That in itself is still a long way off being something I will understand, but I guess I can be thankful that on a social level I know how to behave and staying sober is a huge part of that. As a child, I learned very early on that mirroring others can be literally life-saving, so I guess on some level I am still using those 'skills' to not stick out or make other people feel awkward.

2013 has been a year of change, so it's only right that I continue to follow that path. I have no doubt that those friends that I have lost are guiding me in the right direction, towards normality and happiness. I have come to realise that I need to continue to make changes, and no amount of external support is going to make me do that. I can talk it out with therapists, nurses, social workers, doctors, whoever, but talking the talk is absolutely nothing if you're not doing it.

So this Christmas, I took my first step. We got a Christmas tree, and decorated our house. Tiny steps to some, but this is a pretty big one for me. It's acknowledging the time of year, and almost celebrating it by hanging decorations up and such. The truth is, I love decorating. I love the colours, the chance to be creative and express some sort of wordless emotion(s) if that makes any sort of sense!?

Last year I focused on baking and food in general to keep myself 'safe', and this year is more of the same; only this time I am hoping to show that having a sober Christmas and/or New Year celebration isn't impossible, or boring, or an exercise in futility. Of course, I'm still going to be baking and all that good stuff, not because it's a distraction, but because I really do enjoy it and I love feeding people! Perhaps if my education falls on it's arse I could be a chef...

I have been working on making a product directory of the best low or non-alcoholic drinks out there today, so my fellow non-drinkers can feel like they're enjoying the same 'luxury' as their drinking counterparts. I will release my initial reviews on Monday, in time for you to go get those last-minute bits and pieces you forgot in the main shop.

Last year, it was really hard to stay away from alcohol. The cravings were vicious and emotions were raw. This year, I have so much to lose. I still crave Jack Daniels. I still want that escape. However, you can't run forever. At some point, you have to man up and deal. I have started to deal with my past. It happened and I can't change that. As an addict, all it takes is one drop of that magical chemical compound to hit your brain before all hell breaks loose once again.

I've said this time and time again. Never underestimate the power of addiction and how your brain has been hard-wired to scream MORE at the first sniff of whatever hits that dompanergic button. Dopamine tells your brain to remember and want more and more and more. Once an addict gets sober, their body has recovered but the mind is frozen. All it takes is one drink, or a single hit, and it will be awoken and be in the exact same stage as you were prior to detoxing. This is when overdose and death occurs. Your brain is telling you that you can instantly go back to your 'usual' intake, whereas your body has not got the tolerance anymore, so you will OD very easily.

Addiction doesn't happen overnight. It takes months upon months of consistent use to end up with a physical dependency. It takes years to change your thoughts, and you will never be able to process that substance in the same way again. Once you get sober, stay sober. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can handle it, and a few won't do any harm. Trust me when I say, it will spiral before you even know what's happened.

If you need to stay away from people or places to keep yourself on the straight and narrow, then so be it. For me, I can't go to my mothers house or really speak to her much at all. It's a glaring trigger and although she knows I find it hard to be there, she probably doesn't know exactly why. So, if you need to 'avoid' certain situations to keep yourself safe during these early stages of sobriety, then so be it. It doesn't make you a bad mum, dad, brother, sister, etc.... Your family - hopefully! - want what is best for you and will respect your decisions and feelings.

Addicts spend a lot of time making everyone else in their lives happy. It is absolutely not selfish or bad to take some time for yourself, to look after your mental health. I really do still struggle with this one, but as this is only my second sober Christmas it's still very early days in the grand scheme of things. I'm 26 and only just starting to live my life, but I am an adult and have the right, and ability, to say no and use my voice. If people don't like my opinion, that's not my fault. Of course, I'm not being overtly rude and horrible to people, god no, that's not my nature at all. I'm far too empathic for my own good. But don't be in a situation that triggers you. Not all avoidance is bad. If I hadn't kept myself away from social events, noise, family, any sort of stress in that first crucial year, I'm almost certain I wouldn't be in this position today.

Another vital factor is to not put so much emphasis on 'Christmas'. It's just another day in the calender. It's a day when people gather and eat too much, exchange gifts and try to be social. You can't choose your family. We all know this. It's a very socially awkward occasion, because the chances are you're mixing with people you wouldn't choose to in everyday life. Personality clashes are probably exploding in every house. Alcohol will fuel that fire to the nth degree. Don't make a difficult situation worse by using alcohol. Those inner monologues you have about those annoying relatives will become external statements and then the shit really will hit the fan!

Look after yourself. Be kind to your loved ones, whoever they are. Make sure the children have a Christmas that leaves them going to bed happy and exhausted! Little ones are such a good deflection from drama. I spent many a Boxing Day gathering playing babysitter to children at my Grandparents house - and loving it, I do have to say. 

Enlist in the support of a trusted friend if you're really serious about keeping yourself off the drink. If you find yourself alone, don't be scared. It's perfectly ok to be on your own, if that's what feels safest for you. I still don't know at this stage what I will be doing Christmas Day. There are so many charities open and there to talk to. If things are in a really dark place, take yourself to hospital. At this time of year, all the doctors and nurses are expecting mental health presentations to increase so they won't be caught off-guard and unprepared to manage the situation.

I am also going to offer up my own email as a line of support to anyone that needs it during this holiday period; more for sobriety support but if you find yourself needing someone you 'know' to talk to about anything that's causing you distress, I will be here to help. There isn't much I haven't experienced on some level at this stage in my life - sad as it is. But again, turning negatives into positives, it's given me some sort of ability to help others. 

I hope this Christmas is a peaceful one for you all.

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