How Helene Stopped Drinking & Started Living Her Best Life

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For most people, losing weight and embracing a healthier lifestyle is all about the right combination of food and fitness: more leans and greens, fewer chips and cookies; more sweating, less sitting. But for others, getting healthy means more than mastering the right calories in/calories out equation. For Hélène, it meant breaking a dependence on a substance she had come to rely on emotionally but wasn’t doing her any favors physically.
 
Based in Ottawa, Canada, 51-year-old Hélène (BEFITSPIRITED) joined SparkPeople for the first time 10 years ago, drawn to the site for the same reason as most members: to lose weight. Over the last decade, she lost and gained 100 pounds, and found herself stuck in a frustrating cycle of yo-yo dieting. Ultimately, Hélène came to the realization that behind the extra weight were deeper issues that she had to work through before worrying about what the scale had to say.
 

Facing a Dependence on Drinking

 
Hélène was just 12 years old when she snuck her first drink of alcohol from her mother’s liquor bottle. After that, she continued with what she described as “regular drinking” through high school and college, including some binge drinking.
 
The issue became more prominent when her then-husband was working out of town for weeks at a time, and Hélène was at home suffering from postpartum depression. As she eventually divorced, filed for bankruptcy and struggled with depression and anxiety, the drinking became even more of an emotional crutch.
 
“I found solace in daily drinking,” Hélène recalls. “As I watched my health go downhill and my weight and blood pressure go up, I knew I had to make some changes.”
 
In a way, she feels the extra weight—199.5 pounds, at her highest—also masked the pain. “I believe I used the weight kind of as a cushion to numb myself through so much pain and heartache,” Hélène says.
 
Hélène began to recognize that alcohol was the barrier standing in her way of reaching her health goals. “I would do great during the week, and then on weekends I would let things slide and would regain all the weight I had lost,” she says. After seeing her own sister’s health decline, leading to her death at the young age of 50, Hélène knew it was time to banish the bottle for good.
 
She sought help through regular therapy. “While my drinking levels were not considered moderate, I did not have to be medically supervised or have to taper in any way,” she says. “I just had to make the decision to stop the habit.”
 
After Hélène’s own 50th birthday, she challenged herself to cut out alcohol completely. It originally started as a 50-day challenge, then extended to 100 days. “After the 100 days, I felt so much better,” she says. “I had more peace, clarity and freedom.”
 
But then, after having a few drinks during a Hawaii vacation, Hélène had a relapse, continuing to drink until she’d regained all of the weight she had lost.
 
This year, for her 51st birthday, Hélène wanted more of those positive feelings that came with her alcohol-free stretch and committed to a full year of sobriety. Now, nearing the halfway mark, she recognizes it as the best decision she could have made for her well-being.
 

This Is Hélène Off Alcohol

 
Although she knew giving up drinking would be good for her health, Hélène was pleasantly surprised by the long list of additional benefits that came with abandoning alcohol.
 
The most obvious and desirable result was the weight loss: Hélène has shed 22-1/2 pounds and 21 inches. A big reason for this is that she has more time and energy to work out: "Without the booze, there’s space for me to do so much more," she says.
 
She’s also seen a spike in her productivity and a renewed interest in activities. “Instead of being a couch potato, watching other people’s stories or drama on TV, I am investing my time in much healthier activities, and even re-visiting things I used to love to do—like crafts, painting and reading,” she says. “I’m no longer procrastinating doing tasks. I’m clearing out the clutter, making space for the new stuff to come in—more joy and more peace.”
 
Hélène is also enjoying a clearer mind and a sharper focus. “I have more clarity about everything—there’s no brain fog, no hangovers or wasted days,” she says.
 
Her emotional health has also improved. Without drinking to contend with, Hélène has no more lingering guilt, is better able to deal with stress and feels more confident in her decisions. “I’m no longer trying to hide from myself, my emotions or my problems,” she says. “Instead of numbing myself, I’m giving myself permission to recognize what I was feeling and working to find solutions.”
 
As an added perk, Hélène finds herself with some spare cash. During her challenge, she used an app called Sober Time, which helped her monitor her progress and results. According to the app, she’s saved around $1,000 on what she would have been spending on alcohol.
 
Plus, she has more freedom to do what she wants to do. “When you are having drinks, your plans seem to revolve around ‘if I do this, then I can’t do that,’” she remembers. “Now, I have freedom! I can spontaneously pick up and drive off anywhere.”
 

Sparking Her Way to Success

 
Throughout her journey, Hélène found support and motivation on SparkPeople, where she blogged regularly and also led a SparkTeam called Cutting Down the Booze. The team is comprised of others like Hélène, who are trying to either cut out or cut back their alcohol consumption to ensure they are drinking safely at levels that encourage progress toward their health goals.
 
“It's a place for people who understand the struggles that can come with trying to lose weight while allowing this widely acceptable—and sometimes even expected—social activity,” Hélène says. “Many don't like to speak about their alcohol use in a public way, so the group is a great way to share among others who really 'get it.'"
 
Hélène has also found SparkBlogs to be a helpful resource. “Blogging is a great tool to journal your thoughts and progress through the journey, and helps you see how far you have come when you might be feeling discouraged.”
 
At first, Hélène’s focus was on cutting out alcohol, but now that she’s learned to function well—thrive, even—without it, she’s shifting her focus to correcting her emotional eating. “Often when you cut out alcohol, if it's been a regular part of your [routine], you will initially start to crave sugar badly,” she says. “For the first part of the alcohol-free challenge, I allowed myself some treats because my main goal was to not drink. Now that I'm nearing the five-month mark, I’ve been working on cutting out the treats and sugar fixes.”
 
That means being more mindful of her food and snack choices, and using SparkPeople’s food tracker to monitor her habits and become more aware of what changes are needed.

“SparkPeople has so many great tools that you can tap into,” Hélène says. “Depending on your goals or challenges, seek out help from the community and join a team. The tracking tools and reports are amazing, and I also love many of their articles. I would advise anyone starting out to log in daily. The most successful tools for greater health are accountability and community support. You don't have to do this alone—SparkPeople can help you get there!”

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Comments

CECELW 10/5/2018
Wow!! That is wonderful. Any addiction is hard to overcome, but, you did it!! I so happy for you. Proud too!! Report
LEANJEAN6 8/9/2018
very strong woman!--- Report
ICUC2ONWARD 4/24/2018
Inspired!!! Report
CATSNCOFFEENY7 4/4/2018
Way to go! Report
NANCYPAT1 4/3/2018
Nice article Report
ANHELIC 4/1/2018
Thanks Report
JIBBIE49 3/25/2018
Hugs Report
JAMER123 3/17/2018
Great Job!! You are awesome for sure!! Report
4CONNIESHEALTH 3/17/2018
Great job! Report
SHOAPIE 3/17/2018
Awesome. Report
PLCHAPPELL 3/17/2018
Great story Report
JANISMKW 3/16/2018
Wonderful story, a power of example. I too drank from my teens until I was 50 and couldn’t imagine a life without booze. Thankfully in my case AA helped me and 13 years later is still a wonderful thing in my life. Two other SparkTeams are "12 Steps to Freedom & Healthy Lifestyles" and "Friends in Recovery". Best wishes to anyone dealing with a chemical dependency... there is help and freedom. Report
BELLAMEMAW 3/16/2018
I am currently fighting the fight as well. I'm 58 years old and, while I drank in the past, it was little to none. In 2012 my exhusband was arrested (turns out he's a pedophile) and I let that set me on the roller coaster ride. I'm figuring things out and slowly but surely healing. This article is SO very inspirational; thank you for being brave and sharing. I can relate to your story on many levels. God Bless! Bella Report
NELLJONES 3/16/2018
With 41 years of sobriety, I can attest to the fact that life gets better in ways you can never imagine! Report
FUZZYHAPPYKITTY 3/16/2018
I know as alcohol ran my life. I lost job after job. I lied to everybody and I didn't give a sh** about anybody all I cared about was getting that next bottle. I hit the wall and like you after years and years I knew I was going to die I too got clean and the battle never ends. Report
BILLTHOMSON 3/15/2018
Almost 27 years since I had a drink Report
KATHYJO56 3/9/2018
I hope everybody with a drinking problem reads this. What an inspirational story. Report
MNABOY 3/2/2018
Thanks for sharing Report
AKROXIE 2/21/2018
Such an encouraging share-thank you! Report
LESSOFMOORE 2/20/2018
Very inspirational! Report
HARRIETT14 2/20/2018
What a wonderful and truthful account of having had a hurtful habit. I have known several people who had the same habit and have kicked it too. I'm very happy for you Helene. Report
ARTJAC 2/20/2018
WELL DONE Report
FERRARIFITNESS 2/20/2018
Wow - I am so proud of you and I will pray for you to stay with this new direction in your life. You are so right about healing the emotions underlying the behavior.This is the best place to start and the reason so many fail at the weight loss game; we tend to think it's just a matter of shedding the extra pounds and we'll find the happiness that we tend to think will 'automatically' appear when we reach goal weight. If this were true, that would be the end of the story, and we'd all live happily ever after! But, the truth is that even when we reach goal weight, life really doesn't change and this causes the problem. We must address the issues that are creating the problem in the first place.

I completely relate to your experience - after struggling with bulimia for over 35 years, I finally worked it out and it has now been 28 months of food sobriety. It was a challenge - at times. But tuning in to the issues and realizing that food will never be the answer, staying the course through the difficult moments and forging ahead saved my life. While life will always come with ups and downs, how you view those definitely changes when you deal directly with them instead of masking with food/alcohol etc.

I devoted an entire blog to chronicling the process I went through to work through bulimia. I am also here to help anyone who may be in need. I finally got to a place where I was able to pursue my dream of entering a figure competition (at 57 yrs. old and I won a first and 2 second place awards!). The only thing that ever held me back was me! I am so glad I stayed the course because there is nothing as precious as your mental and physical health. Without these, we cannot function at our best and be the people we are meant to be. If you are in need of help, please reach out. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! There are people out there that want to help you become your best also and those that know the difficulty that comes in trying to change behaviors but try to realize that it is really about changing habits. You CAN DO THIS!!!!

If you are interested in a short, motivational post from my blog, here is a sample:

https:// www.fiftyfierce.com/single-post/201
6/04/13/Pain-Responsibly-My-Friend


You can contact me through my web site if you need a friend to cheer you on or just someone to talk to who understands, doesn't judge and will be there for you through the ups and downs, always believing in you, even when you don't. Best wishes to all! Report
BIKE4HEALTH 2/18/2018
Thanks for this info Report
CKOUDSI617 2/18/2018
I just joined Helene's "Cutting down the Booze (Calories)" team and I'm so glad I did! This is a very active and supportive group. Today is Day 8 for me without alcohol. I feel very positive and focused and I know this team will help! Maybe I can help too! Best to all! Report
READTEACH1 2/18/2018
I quit 17 years ago. It saved my life. Congratulations on facing the emotional issues that we mask with alcohol or food. Report
SPARKLED146 2/18/2018
Great job! Congrats! Report
NANCYPAT1 2/18/2018
Good for you Report
AJB121299 2/17/2018
Nice Report
JAMER123 2/17/2018
Thanks for sharing. Report
TRAMORE22 2/17/2018
Great job! Report
MIYAMO 2/17/2018
Thank you for sharing. Report
GRANDMASUSAN13 2/17/2018
Thank you for sharing Report
LJKEIRL1 2/16/2018
Wow Helene. This is my story! I have always been a bit on the heavier side and drank everyday. My health was slowly going downhill mentally and physically. 403 days ago I started the AA program. I am much healthier now mentally and spiritually. Now to get physically healthier! Lover hearing about people getting sober and healthier. Cheers keep up the good work. Report
-SHOREIDO- 2/16/2018
Amen!! Bless your heart for sharing! Report
RAPUNZEL53 2/16/2018
Congrats! Report
COYOTESPIRIT2 2/16/2018
Healing body, mind and soul. I totally get what you are saying. I used substances for many years to lose weight and to keep it off. Well, it quit working for me, and I then had two out of control problems. I felt broken. Now I realize I am just human. I have been sober 26 years now.I was 194 20 years ago. I was a yo-yo. Now I am down to 215. I am really glad that you are sober and on your new journey. Success for Helene. You go girl. Report
AALLEY2 2/16/2018
Congrats! Report
SISTERPRETTY 2/16/2018
awesome... Report
ROBBIEY 2/16/2018
this is awesome Report
LIS193 2/16/2018
Way to go! Report
NELLJONES 2/16/2018
Welcome to sobriety! Report
97MONTY 2/16/2018
Way to go, thanks for sharing your inspirational story Report
JUSTJU 2/16/2018
OMG....I could've written this article!! I, too, started drinking when I was a pre-teen. After several traumatic life events my drinking took on a life of it's own. After trying to lose weight (even allowing extra calories for my alcohol) and failing over and over again. I stopped drinking and have started to see a difference in all aspects of my life! I'm now 9 days sober Report
GOULDSGRANITE 2/16/2018
Congratulations!!! Way to GO! Report
MARITIMER3 2/16/2018
Way to go, Helene... I’m happy for you. Report
JULIENSMITH 2/16/2018
Thank you for sharing your inspiring life story. Report
NASFKAB 2/16/2018
Congratulations Helene did an amazing job Report
QUIETWARRIOR 2/16/2018
I am very happy for you! Report
PICKIE98 2/16/2018
Alcoholics have three options:Sobriety, insanity, or death. Helene had the courage to change. Despite her disease, she overcame obstacles and made the necessary changes! Bravo! Report