How Helene Stopped Drinking & Started Living Her Best Life


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  77 comments   :  10,201 Views

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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    Such an encouraging share-thank you! - 2/21/2018   9:50:23 PM
  • 76
    Very inspirational! - 2/20/2018   9:38:26 PM
    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. - 2/20/2018   7:45:35 PM
  • 74
    WELL DONE - 2/20/2018   3:15:15 PM
  • 73
    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:


    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! - 2/20/2018   5:44:29 AM
  • 72
    Thanks for this info - 2/18/2018   1:15:40 PM
  • 71
    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! - 2/18/2018   1:10:23 PM
    I quit 17 years ago. It saved my life. Congratulations on facing the emotional issues that we mask with alcohol or food. - 2/18/2018   9:31:18 AM
  • 69
    Great job! Congrats! - 2/18/2018   6:39:03 AM
  • 68
    Good for you - 2/18/2018   1:04:54 AM
  • 67
    Nice - 2/17/2018   9:01:38 PM
  • 66
    Thanks for sharing. - 2/17/2018   8:43:06 PM
  • 65
    Great job! - 2/17/2018   5:46:33 PM
  • 64
    Thank you for sharing. - 2/17/2018   12:43:38 AM
  • 63
    Thank you for sharing - 2/17/2018   12:15:28 AM
  • 62
    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. - 2/16/2018   11:11:10 PM
  • 61
    Amen!! Bless your heart for sharing! - 2/16/2018   8:39:51 PM
    Congrats! - 2/16/2018   6:38:47 PM
  • 59
    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. - 2/16/2018   5:47:34 PM
  • 58
    Congrats! - 2/16/2018   3:35:24 PM
  • 57
    awesome... - 2/16/2018   3:01:51 PM
    this is awesome - 2/16/2018   12:45:53 PM
  • 55
    Way to go! - 2/16/2018   11:53:46 AM
  • 54
    Welcome to sobriety! - 2/16/2018   11:49:55 AM
  • 53
    Way to go, thanks for sharing your inspirational story - 2/16/2018   11:03:01 AM
  • 52
    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 - 2/16/2018   10:20:42 AM
  • 51
    Congratulations!!! Way to GO! - 2/16/2018   9:54:39 AM
  • 50
    Way to go, Helene... I’m happy for you. - 2/16/2018   9:31:37 AM
  • 49
    Thank you for sharing your inspiring life story. - 2/16/2018   9:07:22 AM
    Congratulations Helene did an amazing job - 2/16/2018   9:02:18 AM
  • 47
    I am very happy for you! - 2/16/2018   8:01:25 AM
  • 46
    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! - 2/16/2018   7:47:08 AM
    way to go good for you
    keep up the good work
    a true inspiration - 2/16/2018   7:16:42 AM
    Inspirational - 2/16/2018   6:50:29 AM
  • 43
    great - 2/16/2018   6:17:16 AM
  • 42
    Great job!! Your story sounds just like mine. I gave up alcohol in Sept. 2016 for the same reasons. I lost about 10 pounds just from doing that. It did take me a little while to fill in the night/weekends with other activities. Now I don't think about it at all. - 2/16/2018   5:31:27 AM
  • 41
    great job - 2/16/2018   2:58:33 AM
  • 40
    Well done, Hélène ... continued success to you on your AF (and weightloss) journey! - 2/15/2018   11:06:41 AM
  • SUNSET09
    It never ceases to amaze me on how we can give up one thing, can make so much of a difference. I was one that never drank and still to this day, can't understand how people put this poison in their bodies, just like tobacco however, this is just me. My thoughts are, it's enough "stuff" out there that may kill me without adding to my death sentence. Whoo, and way to overcome, SparkFriend. - 2/15/2018   3:14:07 AM
  • 38
    Great article. Very inspiring. - 2/14/2018   9:03:55 PM
    Thank you so much for sharing.... you are doing great... - 2/13/2018   8:42:17 PM
  • 36
    Congrats Helene!! I've been sober for years,,lollol I can't remember what year I did get sober!! I think it was 12 Yrs ago??? I ended up going into a 30 day rehab.

    You're doing well!! Amazing how much $$ we save, but way more impressive is once we conquer the WHY,,WHATs behind the feelings of the drink,,,we gain so much more. BEST to you!! - 2/12/2018   11:00:20 PM
  • 35
    Are you sure you aren't me? I stopped drinking in February last year (the 25th will be my year of sobriety!!!) and found SparkPeople to help me with losing weight that I gained due to the drinking and so that I wouldn't pile the pounds on when I quit. I'll be looking up the group! Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone with this fight. - 2/11/2018   11:26:30 PM
  • 34
    What an amazing story! - 2/11/2018   10:42:55 PM
    thanks - 2/11/2018   8:45:50 PM
  • 32
    I could relate to this story somewhat. In my early years alcohol was my go to when things went bad. When I gave up alcohol, I took up food. Now I know that I don't need the crutch. Thanks for sharing. - 2/11/2018   8:22:39 PM
    This mimics my own life story. I started drinking at age 10. Easy to sneak vodka from my parents liquor stash. They didn't drink much if any, so they never noticed the watered down vodka. After I left home, the legal drinking age in some states was 18, it wasn't hard to continue the habit. I was drinking every day when I just decided I didn't want to anymore. 50 years later, last December 23rd, I just quit. I have no desire to go back to that ever again. Since then I have lost 26 lbs. I can't wait to see what I look like next December. - 2/11/2018   3:47:32 PM
  • 30
    So glad - 2/11/2018   1:15:50 AM
  • ZRIE014
    nice article - 2/11/2018   12:12:38 AM
  • 28
    Works every time. - 2/10/2018   11:46:49 PM

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