My journey from not so elegantly wasted to taking positive control of my body image and self esteem was, looking back now I realise, a journey in two parts:
Part one my mental journey. The full stop on the destructive drinking, which was assisted physically by running
Part two, my physical one where, conversely, I am having to progress my mental state in order to motivate myself and rise to the new physical challenges. I am currently doing a course on Olympic lifting which requires "positive aggression"... neither word has ever appeared in the vocabulary in my head before and I'm realising just how important the mind/body connection is.
In rehab I realised I was not special. We all have a cross to bear. Some are heavier, more painful or a little more awkward to carry; some come and go; some are a constant burden... but its up to you, whether you use it as your excuse to define and hide behind, or just accept it and try to progress.
It was there in sober reflection I had the lightbulb moment. It sounds daft now. A simple thing I didn't see, or more likely, as a stubborn Northern Taurean, refused to see. It was choice.
I had always felt obliged to drink, that was who I was, what I felt was expected of me... wasn't it? It was only rock n roll but I didn't like it. I no longer wanted to be "Sarah, ooh she likes a drink". A revelation. I could actually choose not to drink... and the self sabotage could be addressed in a positive way with exercise.
I had always been a member of a gym, even if I was usually too hung over to make full use of anything more than the steam room and I didn't stop doing ballet until I was 16... (being the wrong shape for a ballerina probably didn't help my over-sensitive teenage state). I always wanted the long elegant limbs of a prima ballerina but I had me instead. Nonetheless I decided to embrace the chance to make the best of myself, emotionally and physically, instead of avoiding and blacking out. The power to change was within me. It was liberating and just about outweighed the craving for drink.
I started running most mornings. That I coudn't run with a hangover kept me going. I started with 15 minutes, working up to 75. Loving the catharsis of pushing my body, rediscovering the joy of physically connecting to music, the runners high, the clean feeling after sweating so profusely. I felt if I ran, I had control over my life and if I could run, I could do and cope with anything.
Unfortunately I didn't have the muscle strength to cope with the miles I was putting in and after a particularly painful tour of Germany, sat in the van on a spiky massage ball and annoying everyone with leg contortions in a confined space, I went to see Stephen Sacks, an amazing osteopath and he in turn referred me to two guys running a gym at the back of his clinic. They scrutinized my movement patterns, assessed my posture and Vishal, with endless patience, taught me to squat and to lunge. He demonstrated the importance of stretching the hip flexors. He showed me what my "core" was, how my pelvis worked, even how to stand straight. I felt with every session, he was prescribing another exercise so I could discover another muscle, relevant to improving my running and becoming pain free.
Twelve weeks of rehab with Vishal then it was time for me to progress to performance training and he unleashed Tony. Terrifying in his "Your workout is my warm up" T shirt, with his 6% body fat and relentless discipline suddenly squats were a warm up... he was making me do things I never realised my body was supposed to do; jumping squats, weighted squats, squats breaking parallel and learning a whole new world of unpleasant ways to make me stronger, faster.
Weights I couldn't lift, kettlebells I couldn't swing three weeks previously, getting measurably stronger was unbelievably satisfying and having to keep practicing and training so I wouldn't lose it in my next session with him felt and still feels like I am chasing my tail. It's a lifestyle. If anyone would have told me in the bad old days, lying in bed thinking I was going to die from my hangover, that a few years in the future I would be teetotal and learning to Olympic lift, I probably would have died of shock.
The boys had a sign over the door as you walked (rather staggered!) out after a session saying "You just got better". I really felt I was and still am... a continuing work in progress.
They threw a lifeline suggesting a premier training PT course, at a time when I was depressed and scared about the condition of my voice. Singing had become a struggle and I was seeing specialists about nodules on my vocal chords and wondering if I would ever be able to sing again without pain and strain. Exercise has helped enormously. It has improved my posture and made me feel I have more "space" to breathe and support my voice and the realisation that it is a muscle that can be trained and controlled, like just about everything else in the body has been a big comfort.
So here I am. A health and fitness conscious singer and DJ, training others to feel the positive benefits of physical exercise and enjoying the feeling of being able to play a little part in their journeys too.
Stay tuned, I will be writing about my discoveries, in fitness and in music, both mental and physical, as I try to find my own way...