Lisa's Year of Fear

Lisa Erlandsen | June 2019 | 9 minutes

In the first of an ongoing blog series, Lisa explains her Year of Fear and why she's decided to challenge herself not once, but twelve times in twelve months!

This year, I am doing a year-long charity fundraiser! Two of the three charities I’ve selected (one being Alcohol Change UK) are working on some level to help people struggling with alcohol misuse. I’ve called this year-long event my ‘Year of Fear’ (or perhaps it should be my ‘Year of NO Fear!’), because every month for the whole 12 months I’m going to do one thing that challenges me, pushes me out of my comfort zone, or darned well terrifies the life out of me!

So, why am I doing it, why THESE charities, and what things am I actually going to be doing? Well, in this, the first of three blog posts, I wanted to explain, share my own story and to tell you about the challenges I’ve done so far!

Five or six years ago, I probably didn’t realise quite how much I was losing my zest for life. The only way I could describe myself was as a bit of an anxious wreck. I’d been such a happy-go-lucky social butterfly at University and I’d loved it. But underneath, I had a lot of insecurities and anxieties that I was covering up, and now they were increasingly starting to become a problem. Before long, I started using alcohol to try to cope. What started as a way to calm my anxiety, sleep better, and an attempt to remain the life and soul of the party, soon turned into my emotional crutch for everything. I started hiding away from people, drinking more and more, being miserable and hard on myself, and even self-medicating with mixes of alcohol and occasionally prescription medication. I’d essentially just given up on myself and on life.

I could tell the whole sorry story about how bad my drinking got and where it took me, but the way I see it, there’s no point. That’s my past; it’s not my now! It certainly shaped who I am as a person, but I prefer not to remember those darker times.

I had a lot of insecurities and anxieties that I was covering up, and now they were increasingly starting to become a problem. Before long, I started using alcohol to try to cope.

Well before I put my last drink down, I’d been slowly changing my thinking around alcohol, each time getting sober for a little longer and dealing a bit better with anxiety. I’d have a little wobble, give myself a talking to, get back on track and get myself sober again. I got help for my mental health, and once I’d sorted all the things I was trying to self-medicate with booze, I was able - even happy! - to stop drinking completely.

Ever since then, it’s been about building the absolute best mindset and life for myself. I’m using my newfound zest for life – sometimes it feels like a second chance - to give something back to others who may be where I was all those years ago. Because getting out of that awful alcohol-reliant place was the best and biggest achievement of my life - and also the hardest. I want to show people that no matter how bad it is, it CAN change with the right determination, attitude, and (in my case anyway) professional support. I’m now just over two years completely alcohol-free and loving it!

That’s where my Year of Fear comes in.

I’m using my newfound zest for life – sometimes it feels like a second chance - to give something back to others who may be where I was all those years ago.

My Year of Fear is about pushing myself beyond my limits, testing my mindset and getting that buzz of actually enjoying and living life again. And I wanted to use it to raise money for charities that mean something to me personally, that are truly at the forefront of issues I care about deeply, which is why two of them are alcohol-related. The Alcohol Change UK team are a phenomenal bunch, truly committed to changing the way we view alcohol misuse and helping people to moderate or stop entirely without missing out on life (which, let’s face it, the media so often tell us requires alcohol to be even slightly ‘fun’). I feel honoured to be raising money for them and hope that anyone who feels the same will donate even a little.

I’ve already done four challenges, which were about facing past fears. In January, I released a podcast talking about my drinking story, and then shared it on social media! I did that podcast to challenge myself to be honest and take whatever people thought of my story on the chin. The fears of judgement from others were nothing like I imagined them - quite the opposite actually!

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Lisa's February challenge was to stay calm while holding creepy crawlies

In February I spent a day holding snakes, a tarantula, and even cockroaches, to teach myself to cope with uncomfortable situations and to stay (relatively!) calm. March was climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris with my best friend for my two-year sobriety anniversary. I’d had a huge panic attack trying to climb it aged 14 as I had a fear of heights and I never went back, so this was my chance to take back control. I absolutely loved it!

I am writing this blog after doing my fourth Year of Fear challenge - riding a horse! I’ve been thrown off two horses in my life and never rode after that, convinced that I couldn’t handle it. Today showed me that there is nothing I can’t conquer when I put my mind to it, even if my heart was racing a little at the start!

The rest of the year is going to feature some even crazier challenges, including abseiling and climbing in a cave, scuba diving (to test my calm breathing whilst deep underwater!), trying stand-up comedy in public and so many more, including a few high-adrenaline ones I’ve recently added in to up the ante! One thing’s for sure - this year I’m going to kick some serious a$$ and put some long-standing fears to rest, all in the name of some fantastic good causes! So buckle up, and get ready to watch the challenges get bigger and bigger! You can read about all the challenges in future blogs, but also here on my fundraising page.

Want to take on your own challenge to raise money for us?

Find out more here!