How to Recognise an Addiction & Recover From It

casino games

I am no therapist but I want to cover this sensitive topic because I’ve been through it myself in a past relationship. One of my ex boyfriends was addicted to gambling and it took me a year to find out. No one knew about it. I remember the shame and guilt associated with his addiction, the multiple lies that led to trust issues, but also how helpless I felt… At his worst, he was able to lose the equivalent of a month’s salary in a few days, simply by gambling it online. I had to involve his family and he never really forgave me for that.

After a year of struggle, I was still clueless what to do to break the cycle so I eventually ended the relationship. Gamblers tend to think they can always earn back what they lost, “hope” is what causes their downfall. It was not an easy break-up but I figured the best way to help him was to “lose” me for good. Today I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. But you can’t break up with everyone… What if he was my brother, my dad or a close friend?

Are some people more inclined to become addicted than others? Maybe it’s in our genes. Or are we all addicted to something in the end? I don’t know for certain but I’m hoping I can at least shed some light on the matter.

Types of addiction

Some things are famous to easily create dependence:

  • Drugs (illicit or not)
  • Some medication (prescribed or not)
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling

But you can also be addicted to pretty common things… For example:

  • Junk food
  • Your mobile phone
  • Internet or social media
  • Computer games

Whether it’s an addiction to a substance or a specific behaviour, it can be very dangerous and/or unhealthy. If it’s not identified rapidly, it can lead to serious consequences.

What are the signs to look after

Below are some questions you need to ask yourself if you’re in doubt. Are they:

  • Suddenly lacking interest for a hobby that used to be important?
  • Neglecting relationships?
  • Ignoring the negative consequences of their actions?
  • Noticing any distinct change in their sleeping patterns, causing chronic fatigue?
  • Becoming secretive, lying about the amount of substance used or time spent?
  • Going through an abrupt change of weight?
  • Changing moods and showing signs of irritability?
  • Depressed with suicidal thoughts?
  • Lacking concerns over their physical appearance?

Just remember that someone with an addiction will almost always understate the seriousness of their condition. When confronted, they may make excuses and try to justify their behaviour to you. So unless there are any potential medical reasons for someone’s health decline, there’s an increased chance of an underlying addiction problem.

How to help them recover from it

freedom remove handcuffs

If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, keep in mind they don’t always want to acknowledge they’re addicted. Approaching and helping an addict could be a long, challenging, and painful process. Start with a one-on-one conversation, free of distractions or interruptions. If they’re willing to seek professional help, then great. But in some cases, they won’t. If they become defensive instead, let it go for the time being and start involving family members to plan an intervention. And even when they accept to enrol in a recovery program, stay involved with the process and keep giving support. If they’re still reluctant to change, the most difficult part is to strike a balance and set boundaries in the relationship. Unfortunately, sometimes you may need to cut off contact in order to maintain your own emotional well-being, like I did.

Below are some ways you can attempt to help them:

  • Learn more about their addiction (substance or behavioural), document yourself and read about testimonies, successful recovery stories, etc
  • Stay involved but not in a patronising way, show compassion
  • Provide an environment free of possible triggers
  • Speak up and freely express your concerns
  • Look for a rehab facility or organisations that will be able to help manage the addiction

But at the end of the day, recovering from it has to be their decision, not yours. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you didn’t manage to convince them. Have you ever been in this situation? Did you manage to find the light at the end of the tunnel?

“I’m Not Telling You It Is Going To Be Easy, I’m Telling You It’s Going To Be Worth It.” (Anonymous).

Big Girl x

Declutter Your Home to Free Your Mind

couple packing boxes

In less than 3 months from now, we will have to move out because our rental contract is coming to an end and the landlord would like to sell the flat. It’s a situation that could be stressful for some, but this is routine to me. I would need more than 2 hands to count how many times I moved to a different place in my life… I just like a regular change of scenery! Now I can tell you that: it doesn’t matter how many times you did it before, the packing part is always the most painful. In between moves, I always seem to find a way to accumulate too many things.

Letting things go is not an easy task

I have so many clothes that I need 2 big wardrobes to fit everything in. Not because I buy too much but because I never get rid of anything. T-shirts I used to wear 10 years ago (it’s almost sentimental), dresses I never wear (but I might some day, we never know), the list is long. My desk is full of “stuff”, drawers and cupboards are overflowing. A lot of free space represents danger: I will find a way to fill up the space somehow, it’s like a pattern that keeps repeating itself. I now realise it’s very similar to how my mind works: I’m constantly overthinking.

Everything happens for a reason so I’ll use my next move to declutter properly. There’s no better motivation to make a start than when you have a countdown hanging over your head. There is only so much I can procrastinate this time, I have no choice but to do it! And the last thing I want is to fill the emptied space with more things again. My new objective is to keep a more minimalist approach to life. Because at the end of the day, you don’t own things, they own you.

Why should you declutter and learn how to live with less?

Below are some good reasons why:

  • It’s an excellent exercise to learn how to let things go (physically but also mentally) – You will get more space to move around.
  • A home with less stuff will make you feel more calm, peaceful and relaxed – Your energy levels will rise.
  • It’s easier to clean and tidy up when there is less stuff – You will have more time for yourself.
  • Choosing to own less means choosing to buy less – it will also save you money!
decluttering: less is more

In so many ways, decluttering your space will help free your mind and have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Not only you’ll clear up the mess but it will force you to come to terms with things you subconsciously link with the past. And who knows, maybe you will find some hidden gems in the process too: things you forgot you even had under that pile of clutter!

Tips to make a good start

From my own experience, this is what I would suggest:

  1. Break down your home into smaller areas
    • List what requires decluttering: closet, desk, bookshelves, etc
  2. Start with small and easy things you can get rid of easily
    • What doesn’t have any value and is utterly useless, contributes to the mess and doesn’t make you smile when you look at it
    • No difficult decisions at this point
  3. Prepare 2 boxes: one for unwanted things you want to sell, one for unwanted things you want to give away
    • Does it have monetary value? Put it in the “to sell” box
    • Do you have someone in mind who could use it? Any charity who could benefit from it? Put it in the “to give away” box (to prioritise if you don’t need the money)
  4. Ask yourself the right questions
    • When was the last time you used the item? What are the odds you’re ever going to need it again? What do you feel when you touch the item?
    • Remember you need much less than you think you need
  5. Don’t stop until your space looks spacious and harmonious
    • Organise what’s left to keep the space clean

How to do it in a sustainable way

Going through a big decluttering will help you realise how much you own but have never used, and will prevent you from doing the same thing again. By consuming less, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener world. Not buying things that are unnecessary helps improve the environment!

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

Emma Watson

Before you make a purchase, you should commit to using what you have first. Do you really need to buy this new jumper? Does your kid really need this new extra toy? Some things are obviously reusable, but some others would need a bit more imagination. Look at them with a creative eye: maybe that old piece of linen can be used to wrap up a gift?

Some things you own might not be of any use to you, but someone else will definitely use it. Whether it’s a family member, a friend or someone you don’t know via charities, it’s definitely a good thing to do. What’s a better feeling than supporting local non-profits in your community? This is also probably the best chance to give your unwanted items a second life.

If there’s no better option than discarding it, do it the right way. Recycling stuff will reduce the amount sent to landfill, and make use of resources already available. Remember to keep your cardboard and other recyclables clean and read your local recycling guide.

If you are thinking of decluttering too (whether you’re moving out or not), I know it can seem daunting but you can do it!

Big Girl x

Poll Results: Your Favourite Topics on the Blog

[Poll Results] Your Favourite Topics on the Blog

Last month, I asked you to vote for your favourite topic(s) on the blog, multiple answers were allowed. First of all, thank you to everyone who voted! It showed me that all categories and topics I love writing about are relevant to you and that matters a lot to me. It’s also interesting to see that no specific theme really stands out: the 5 of them received more or less 20% of the 134 total votes. Today’s post is the perfect opportunity for me to recommend my own top 3 articles for each category. Let’s go through the poll results below!

1. Mental Health wins with 21.64% of votes

I think this year has put a strain on mental health, which at least has had the positive consequence to make it less taboo – it has become a very important topic in our every day life! I have so much to talk about on the matter, how mental health changes our behaviour and how to prioritise wellbeing before anything else. Self-preservation is not selfish, it’s absolutely necessary to be happy and let go of what we can’t control. Within this category, I would recommend reading the 3 posts below:

2. Weight Loss is a close second with 20.90% of votes

According to the posts that received the most likes so far (featured on the sidebar as your favourite posts), this is the most popular category by far… It surprised me it didn’t have the majority of votes on the poll but it was very close! After reviewing the blog, I decided to put weight loss and mental health categories under a more generic one: health & wellbeing. It makes more sense as they can be very intertwined, one can influence the other and vice versa. The 3 posts below are my personal favourites:

3. Environment is just behind with 20.15% of votes

This is a huge topic for me as it’s probably the one which made me want to create this blog in the first place: how to help save the planet. I think 2020 has been the year many people started to open their eyes about how quickly we’re destroying our environment and how it’s still time to act before it’s too late. Good news is we have a lot more control than we think on all this, starting with our diet. It turns out both our own health and the planet are strongly impacted by our food choices. If you haven’t already, see these 3 posts for example:

4. Travel is next with 19.40% of votes

You could argue this category is less related to self-improvement compared to other topics but to me, it is strongly linked. My most recent travelling experience had a big impact on the way I see things now. I believe travelling unlocks new parts of our brain that remain closed if we never get to see the world with our own eyes. Being on the road for several months on the other side of the globe was an experience that changed my mindset forever. Throwback to my 2019-2020 adventure with my own top 3 below:

5. Relationships is last with 17.91% of votes

The fact that this category is slightly less popular didn’t surprise me as it could be a bit more niche, especially wedding-related topics. I fully appreciate that my followers are not all (if any) currently planning to get married so it’s more difficult to relate. But this is also about other sort of relationships: family, friends, the rest of the world… Below 3 posts that are personal but yet very relatable:

Are you surprised by the results? Is there a post (or several posts) you particularly enjoyed reading? Let me know in the comments!

Big Girl x

Stuck in Paradise? Not Really…

Stuck in paradise

Let me go back to the most traumatic experience of my life. It was something that on paper most people would probably dream of… Which makes it even worse. Let me explain.

Earlier this year my fiancé and I were travelling. We were in New Zealand when the pandemic was officially becoming a worldwide problem. Our next destination was Fiji and they had no case at the time. We thought we would be much safer there, perfect occasion to rest a bit before our last destination (Japan). But things didn’t go as planned and everything escalated so quickly… We didn’t see it coming. Maybe we underestimated the danger at that time. Maybe we didn’t feel anxious enough to make a better decision (the right dose of anxiety can be useful sometimes!). But most importantly, we refused to let go so easily on our once-in-a-lifetime travelling experience. We paid the price for it though, we got stranded for 3 weeks in Fiji.

Our first days in Fiji

For the first few days we were in a rather empty holiday resort. Their first case of coronavirus was diagnosed a day after we arrived. Day after day, everything closed down: the gym, most of the restaurants, even the swimming pool. Of course no activity was available and the number of employees at the resort was decreasing quickly. It was pretty scary and we started to feel like we shouldn’t be here. 3 days later, our flight to Japan was cancelled. We had to accept the fact that we had no choice but to go back home earlier than planned… Although it was not so simple.

How we tried to leave

We booked ourselves a last minute flight to London via Brisbane and Singapore. But once at the airport and ready to leave, we found out Singapore has closed its borders, even for people transiting only. We were also informed we needed an authorisation from Australia to stop there too, which contradicted what the British embassy told us the day before when we called them for reassurance. So we couldn’t board on that plane and there was no other flight available for us. Breathe… The next day, we came back to the airport and talked to the embassy again. They were clearly overwhelmed by the situation. A handful of trapped tourists was doing the same thing but no one had any idea what to do.

stranded in Fiji

How we got stranded

A couple of days later, the Fijian Government made the decision to close the airport completely. No planes were authorised to fly off abroad. That’s how we got trapped in a tiny island far far away from home. It was not pleasant at all, we didn’t know how long the situation was going to last… The uncertainty was difficult to cope with. It wasn’t like we could ignore the situation and enjoy our holiday no matter what, everything was closed and the atmosphere not so good.

So we rented an apartment near the airport and stayed inside all day, only going out for necessary food shops around the corner (our diet was mainly based on rice, tuna and sweetcorn). We were using our free time to reflect on things we were grateful for, things we wished we could do (so we could appreciate them more once back home) and what changed in our mindset. The list is long but the main thing we took out of this experience is that when everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear. I’ll come back more in detail to the entire list in another post.

How we finally escaped

It’s actually a tropical cyclone that saved us. The Fijian Government wanted to protect their brand new planes and agreed to let them fly abroad, using desperate tourists to absorb the costs at the same occasion of course. That day was 6 months ago today, the day we finally escaped that nightmare. I feel like I can relate to people who have been released from a foreign prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

This experience taught me many things. Sometimes you just don’t know what people are really going through. I heard so many times: “Well I would love to be stuck in Fiji, it doesn’t seem so bad!”. Although I can understand why some people would say that, I think it’s also particularly inappropriate and shows a lack of empathy. It made me become less judgemental and more understanding of others. I don’t make the mistake anymore to underestimate the impact that words can have on people. We need kindness now more than ever. Stay safe all!

Big Girl x