The story of Chris Raine, CEO Hello Sunday Morning
Did you know many Epilepsy sufferers are non-drinkers? I didn’t. I fact, I didn’t know anybody who suffered from epilepsy until I met Malinda. And in my mind, I’m not sure what an epilepsy suffered ‘looked like’ but this chick is glam, gorge and super confident. She is totally ok with her diagnosis, she is vocal about bringing attention to her condition, to help anyone in her health predicament feel good about themselves despite a diagnosis. She uses #knowepilepsynofear on Instagram where she BLOGs about her adventures and helps to educate people. So when it comes to epilepsy, apparently there are some people who are allowed to drink in moderation, all approved by the Dr of course! And the Neurologist and the other health care professionals with the authority to tell you so. However, it didn’t appear to work in Malinda’s favour.
Malinda Hayward was 21 years old when she was diagnosed with epilepsy and then spent the next ten years in denial about her condition. Not wanting to accept the diagnosis, she continued to drink as most 21 year olds do. ‘I drank alcohol and not just to enjoy the taste, I guess I didn’t want to miss out on anything that a regular healthy 20-something year olds would be able to try or do’ and on reflection she admits, ‘at times I also used it to self-medicate.’
Suffering from chronic depression and severe anxiety since the age of 15, ‘sometimes it was nice to feel good from the ‘high’ that being drunk provided,’ Malinda shares, and other times it was comforting for her to be able to forget about her impending health conditions or the latest break-up that was nursing a broken heart from.
It took her health to decline further for Malinda to understand that drinking was no helping. That feeling that so called ‘high’ was taking a huge toll on her mental health, her longevity, her daily life and her physical body. It just wasn’t working for her anymore.
So, what is Malinda doing?
She’s taking a cheeky three months alcohol-free from June 1st, 2018 and using The Social Rebellion as her guide to navigate this new territory. Malinda admits, ‘I know that I feel 1000 times better when I’ve abstained from alcohol for an extended period,’ and she is ready to find a more sustainably sober life. One that will see her health continually improve, and one you can read about as she shares her journey on Instagram @malindahayward When she is healthy in her mind and body, Malinda understands herself better and makes better choices.
During her three months alcohol-free, let’s call it a three-month social rebellion, Malinda is encouraging her friends and family to live alcohol-free her for one of the three months, she is also raising money during her journey for Epilepsy Action Australia.
Go girl! We are so proud of you and can’t wait to see how your life will transform in three months.
When I was a kid, some of my fave memories were when Mum, Dad and I, sometimes accompanied by my older brother, would take our family dog for a walk 'around the block'. The block is now full of townhouses, like the movie Pleasantville but with less Reese Witherspoon. The block used to be farm land and old run down drive in. The only buildings you'd pass once you veered off the main road was the General Store run by Deirdre, where we'd buy our milk and stamps, and the nursery which, for a teenager, I was quite fond of walking around. I've been told I'm an old soul. Which I think is code for liking old people stuff like walking around nursery's. I'm okay with it though, so don't feel bad for thinking that.
Walking was a family past time. We'd walk 'around the block' with the dog, our gorgeous Rottweiler Keesha (RIP), or stack our weekend full of bush-walks in the Blue Mountains, I didn't realise it at the time, but it's been ingrained into my being and it's been my default for years. If things are too much, I just go for a walk! If I'm in a confrontation and I want to stop myself exploding with rage, I just tap out, press pause and walk it off. If I feel lost, I go for a walk. I always have. I always will. But never so much than when I stopped drinking.
One thing you notice when you stop drinking is you have a lot more time on your hands. Funny how I used to think I was too busy to look after myself, yet the answer was to stop wasting time getting wasted. In fact, when I first stopped drinking I was terrified of being bored! Ha, I have to laugh at that now, there is no boredom when you are present in your truth. And at first, I thought about drinking all the time, so to distract myself for the mild FOMO I went for a walk. At first it was 20 minutes, and then it was hours because I found my love for it again. It helped me process my thoughts, it made me feel better, it made me not want to go back to drinking. It gave me clarity, it birthed ideas and it helped with my happiness.
When you stop drinking, whether it's for a little or a long time, you will have more time on your hands, so I took it to the streets. Kind of like in the dance movie, Step Up To The Streets. I walked. I got up earlier because I went to bed earlier (and I wasn't hungover or dehydrated). Sure, some mornings I was half asleep half around the new block I walked but I felt good and other mornings I just didn't want to go but you now what? Sometimes you have to tap into your character instead of your comfort. And once you start feeling good, it's addictive. Like alcohol, but way better for your brain health. No-one made a regrettable choice after an hour of walking!
Walking became my 'thing' again, so did F45 but that's another story. And no matter how much I lift bro or sweat it out in a gym session, making time for my 'thing' is what brings me clarity and calm. When I am calm, I can do the work. When I can do the work I get the results and I'm not talking about losing weight or building lean muscle mass. I mean life results. You know like publishing books, or renovating houses. Or just being an awesome wife and a pleasant human to be around.
I'd read walking has great physical health benefits, and that's kinfd of I discovered it had amazing mental health benefits. My brain is so loud, it really doesn't stop. I have creative ideas that wake me up, I am in an almost constant state of mild anxiety about how to not let anyone down, I want to achieve and change the world, my world. When you have an active brain, it's hard to be quiet. It's tough to stop the thoughts and arrest them to being in the present. I think I have lived most of life 5 seconds in the future having a panic attack right now about a hypothetical that usually wouldn't play out as the horror I imagined. This also why I used to drink alcohol. Just to stop. Just to numb. Just to quieten the mind and be able to finally for a few moments relax. And as much as yes, having a drink can take the edge off, the damage it does to your internal system is insane. It stops your brain functioning properly, it shuts down your neural pathways and sends your central nervous system into overdrive. That's usually why you wake up at 3am after a few too many drinks with a dry throat, a pounding headache and a racing heart. Then the panic rises and you feel awful, so, really not a great solution in the end. It took me a while to figure this out.
The relax that I thought the bottle used to give me, I found in nature. What also strikes me as concerning is how much we think alcohol does for us. We think it relaxes us, but it doesn't. We think it'll somehow change our situation but it doesn't. We think it our companion but it's not.
I much prefer the mind being quiet. The thoughts coming and then just going and it all began with walking. As you do a thing more you get better at it, I've replaced my gold medal winning drinking performance, with a walking habit. But not just walking to let off steam. Walking and being here, now, present. Seeing what I am seeing. Feeling what I am feeling. Smelling the air. Stopping to take it in. When you surround yourself with nature, it's hard to feel anything less than a small miracle.
Why willpower won’t work.
I think Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame summed it up perfectly in his side hustle Fort Minor song ‘Remember the Name.’ In fact it’s been my anthem for many years, my inspo song, my mantra.
This is ten percent luck
Twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure
Fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name
It’s a total combo deal, navigating this life stuff and will power has its place, yes, but there’s no point trying to increase your will power until you know what your problem is. And when it comes to drinking, alcohol isn’t the problem, really, it’s your relationship with it.
Willpower is a word that I associate with quitting things and the 90s. I feel like it was a buzz word when Tony Robbins was unleashing power, Oprah was making the connection, hyper colour tee-shirts were in and I was suffering through a terrible perm. (Although it’s called a perm, thankfully this wasn’t permanent, just most of my Year 9 in high school experience).
When I think about what willpower is, it’s wrapped up in the world of motivation and being better, focussing on doing something or not doing something with all your might, strength, will and power. And that to me, sounds exhausting. I’m not suggesting will power doesn’t have a place and should be cast aside with other trends from the 90s like the side pony and Gameboys but when it comes to managing your relationship with alcohol, will power just won’t cut it. And here’s why. And don’t worry, I have something to share with you, that will empower, in fact that’s the term we should use instead.
According to the dictionary, willpower is to control exerted to something or restrain impulses or the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave. And while there are a hundred thousand books about increasing, developing, training, harnessing and implementing willpower this also sounds very much like just being a well-mannered non-pain in the ass human.
If you are ‘using your willpower’ to overcome something, it’s best to first know and try to understand why the hell it’s a thing for you in the first place, right? I mean it’s common sense to know thyself. If your choices are confusing you, like mine were, then a good self-talk in the mirror will establish within you a dialogue about why you are doing what you are doing that requires all your willpower to stop.
Start at awareness.
Without the awareness of why you are doing a thing, there isn’t a chance you’ll be able to ‘control’ it. I’m not a fan of the world control either. ‘In control’ or ‘out of control’ to me feel restrictive, I like the word freedom. To have freedom around your choices, you need to understand that they are your choices to make.
The endless cycle I had of ‘I don’t want to drink today’ and then, ‘oh shoot I’m at the bar again’ I battled with for ages and no matter how much ‘willpower’ I asserted I ended up at the bar because I hadn’t realized why I was drinking. Until you have awareness, you can’t even comprehend being able to overcome an urge. In this case, drinking. A little too much or a little too often. Or perhaps a lot. It’s really that simple. Figure out the reason behind the behaviour, then you can use logic to make a new choice.
My dilemma was this. Why was it that when it came to my career, I was a willpower ninja, I was so in control, getting promoted at work, rising to the top, yet in my personal alone time, I was a hot mess, unable to get through the week without a drink. Sound familiar? Surely this isn’t about willpower. Surely willpower isn’t discriminatory. Surely if you have it, you just have it, like the X factor or period pain.
The self-talk in the mirror allowed me to identify the reason behind the choice to drink alcohol, as much and as often as I was, and I was then able to start to deal with the pain I was masking. Without getting too deep, I was drinking to cope with the pressure I was under. Most of it self-inflicted, and some past trauma I had failed to deal with in a productive way. I was your classic high-functioning, I woke up like this, kick-ass woman with a serious case of trying to hold it all together. And you just can’t. All the self-help manuals and Tony Robbins walk-across-burning-hot-coals motivation seminars in the world won’t be of any use to you, until you knuckle down and figure out the reason for the behaviour.
When it comes to changing a behaviour that has become ‘normal’ for you, the first thing to do is to figure out the why. Why? Without understanding why, you drink, you won’t be able to deal with the underlying problem that you’re using alcohol to ignore, numb or run away from. And even if it’s as simple as, ‘well, I just feel more comfortable in social situations after a few drinks,’ I would argue that you are a wonderfully complex person and we were designed to sit in the uncomfortable to let shape us. You are capable of being in a social situation without being half-cut. We were designed to be! The only way you can grow, is to be in that place, without that drink, and be ok with you, first.