By Katy Vernon
Editor’s Note: Katy started this a day before departing Minnesota for an exciting and emotional trip to her hometown of London. Check back for updates during her six-week tour of the United Kingdom.
(April 30, 2017) -- A year ago today, I woke up with my last hangover. As usual, I replayed the previous night in my mind, feeling foolish about some of my conversations and a bit frightened by the parts I couldn’t remember.
All the years of minimizing and joking about whether I needed to cut back and control my drinking were suddenly inadequate. I needed to wake the hell up and get in control of my life.
Knowing how obsessive I can be, I didn't want to become a crazed bore about getting sober. But I didn’t want to deal with drinking anymore either. I think it’s probably true that you need to seek recovery in order to find it, and I was ready to look.
Early on in my journey (and trust me, I know I'm still early on), I was introduced to the acronym H.A.L.T. - Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. These are feelings that can trigger unhealthy coping strategies like substance use. I realized that as a busy working parent -- with a history of mental health issues, grief and unbridled ambition -- I was experiencing those feelings every day! Clearly I needed to change.
I needed to stop making excuses and find new ways to be in the world. Reaching out to people whom I knew had walked this path was key. Thankfully, I learned about Dissonance. I also told my family I was going to make healthier choices, and several months in, sought additional group support.
With that as my foundation, I have managed to build a routine of recognizing and checking in with people whenever I feel “H,” “A,” “L” or “T.”
“H” is pretty easy to control -- snacks, family meals and little chocolate treats to replace my evening wine.
“A” has, for the most part, subsided, thanks to a lot of reading, talking and most importantly, listening to others. I realize now that my anger usually springs from resentments, which are tough to crack. But for me, moving beyond resentment starts with finding gratitude for what I have, every day. Some days, I am grateful to simply hug my dog! Other days, there is so much more, and I try to recognize it.
“L” was mostly self-inflicted. When you are ashamed of your behavior, you keep secrets. I didn't know I was shutting people out until I started to let them in again.
“T” is the reason I have embraced the weekend nap!
A year ago, I wanted desperately to change my life. Today, thanks to the love and support of others -- and practical tools like H.A.L.T. -- I can see the progress.
Tomorrow, I fly to the U.K. (my birthplace) for my first-ever solo tour. I'm going all-in with more than a dozen gigs, including two large ukulele festivals.
I would have been too scared to do this in the past, and even now it's daunting. It means a lot to me that I have mustered the moxie to embrace this opportunity to meet new people and play music in new places.
I have thought ahead and planned for the support I will need when traveling, and almost joked that it should be called The HALT Tour! I see challenges and potential triggers ahead, but knowledge is power.
I'm not the first person to follow this path, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
Katy Vernon is a Minneapolis/St. Paul-based singer-songwriter. She grew up in London, England, and has been writing and singing as long as she can remember.