My Not So Secret Diary

Out of Routine

Out of Routine walking with my sons during coronavirus lockdown exercise in Cornwall and writing for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
Walking with my sons.

When we first heard about coronavirus I wasn’t sure how much it would really affect us. I half thought it would be one of those worries that disappeared quite quickly after the initial concern. Of course, I was wrong and for everyone, regardless of where we are, things have changed a lot. I tried to look on the lockdown positively, in some ways, being forced to stay at home is quite nice, if you put all the work and wellness issues to one side. I thought it would give me time to focus on things I want to do, and without distractions, I thought I would be able to go out for a run everyday. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I actually feel a little bit like hibernating. The weather has been unseasonably warm, so we’ve been in the garden a lot, but I don’t really feel that comfortable being outside in public too much, despite the daily exercise rule. Even in the fresh air I almost feel contaminated if I go outside, and that is without facing the gauntlet at the supermarket. The problem is, it seems so busy outside, there are so many people out and about it isn’t pleasant trying to venture out. It used to be easy to go for a walk, but I assume that many people can no longer visit their friends or go for a walk around the shops, and so they have no choice but to go outdoors if they want a change of scenery. I don’t think I have ever seen the neighbourhood so busy!

I can’t imagine how hard things will be when we start to get back to normal. The kids are slowly becoming nocturnal, and despite my best efforts, even I am getting up later in the mornings, but our neighbours seem to be doing the same thing, so I guess I’m not alone. Of course that has a knock on effect, of making it harder to get to sleep in the evenings. But I am enjoying the time to read, and having my kindle means I won’t run out of books in a rush. It’s quite nice to take the time to enjoy a few good books!

I had a lot of good intentions, thinking we would do jobs around the house that we haven’t had the time to do up until now, but it seems almost like we have less time, without the structure from before. Maybe it’s just me. Is anyone else finding the same thing?

Take care and stay safe.
Claire x



Hindsight walking with my husband Lee Hatwell in Cornwall during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Writing for my blog about mental health and sobriety. My Not So Secret Diary.
Me and Lee.

Out of the blue sometimes memories catch me and make me feel sad. I know I am stronger now than I ever was before, but I wish I could make the bad memories go away. Of course, I can’t and if I did I wouldn’t be who I am now.

It upsets me to think of the times I put wine first and chose that over other things that would have been better in hindsight, and would probably remember more now. At the time, wine seemed to be the only thing that hit the spot.

Looking back, I hate the reliance I had on drinking. I didn’t realise it was building until it was too late and then it was well and truly a part of my life. It was the only way I relaxed, the only down time I had and I was proud to say the only vice I had. I didn’t smoke, I ate little, but not badly. I mistook the fact that I wasn’t overweight with being healthy. I didn’t eat enough and so there was no chance of me being overweight. Looking back, I looked ill, but I didn’t see that, I just saw the label on my clothes, and thought no more about it. I read in a book once that it is the skinny drunks that have to worry. At the time, reading that made me worry, because you always hear how people lose weight when they stop drinking. I didn’t. I had no more to lose, but of course, I was drinking plenty before that, so I am lucky my body still works, and has bounced back to good health.

I’ve said before, I wish I had stopped drinking sooner, but in reality, I don’t think I could have done. I think I needed to hit rock bottom to feel angry enough to stop. It gave me the fight I needed, and boy, was it a fight! Everything changes when you go from drinking to alcohol free. I glamourised alcohol, my hand felt ‘normal’ with a glass of white wine in my hand. I couldn’t see how I would ever be calm or relaxed without it. I hated the way quitting made me feel like I had lost something, but for a long time I did.

I felt lost and adrift for a long time. But I was one of the lucky ones. I had my family to anchor me. To put up with my moods and sadness and unpredictability, and pull me back to normality. I know many people don’t have that, and I am so grateful that Lee especially put up with me and helped me get to where I am now.

I guess I’m always going to have memories of time I wasted, of things I would rather have not said or done, but much as I hate those memories, they are a part of me. They made me who I am now. Sitting here writing this, while my little one plays next to me and my husband works at the other end of the table, makes me certain that I wouldn’t change who I am now. It took me a long time to get here, and I am still a work in progress, but I know for sure, that I’d rather be me the way I am now without wine. I never thought I’d be able to say that.

Take care, and thank you for reading.
Claire x


Doubting Reality?

Doubting Reality? running in cornwall for my sobriety blog and mental health My Not So Secret Diary
Out for a sunny run.

I’ve told you before I am not very good at asking for help. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that I doubt myself and my feelings a bit. It’s hard to to explain, but in the same way it took me a long time to admit I had a problem with alcohol, long before I admitted I was an alcoholic, I also struggled to admit I have anxiety, or any other mental health issues. It’s like I’m afraid that if I admit it, I’ll be proven wrong and laughed at, or that people might think I’m faking it.

Looking back now, I sometimes even doubt I was ever really that bad. It’s funny how your memory can fade and trick you, but then out of the blue I’ll remember that I was. It might be when I have a little bit of wine glass envy that I forget. But I have to remind myself that my nights out didn’t end up looking glamorous and fun anymore, and that I probably wouldn’t have remembered much of what had happened. It’s sad really.

I’m the same with feelings. A little while back, I got myself really low again. I’ve been fighting my mind since I stopped drinking and I guess I’d got to a point where it had levelled out and there was no more improvement. I wanted to feel better, and yet I was anxious and down. It was possibly one of the lowest points since I’d stopped drinking and it was frustrating, because on the face of it, I was doing everything I could right. So I crumbled eventually, and saw the doctor. Being prescribed medication is not something I wanted, but actually, for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel worried all the time, which is a huge bonus with this lockdown and coronavirus craziness! My mind is much quieter, it’s sort of peaceful and my emotions are levelled out more than they have been in a long time. It’s quiet nice.

I’m enjoying feeling the novelty of this calm, with the added benefit that because it isn’t alcohol induced, it actually remains and I also remember. It isn’t the up and down rollercoaster of calm and stress that I experienced when I was drink. So it’s weird that my mind is already questioning whether I was ever bad enough for medication, in the same way I questioned when I was that bad when I was drinking. That doubt is annoying. I feel more able to listen to myself this time though, I sort of trust that actually I was that low, and actually, it’s nice to be on a bit more of a level playing field for a change. I wasn’t expecting wonders, and yet I can’t remember the last time I felt this continually calm. I’ve had a few headaches, but if that is the only side effect, then it’s fine by me. But it’s been over a month now and even those seem to be levelling off now. It’s nice to feel in control again. It’s nice not to have my mind and my emotions run away with me. Even in more stressful situations, and by that I mean the things that a lot of people would take in their stride, I just feel able to stay on top, and that feels so good right now.

Take care everyone, thank you for reading.
Claire x


Celebrity Honesty

Celebrity Honesty moorland walking on Bodmin moor before the lockdown for Coronavirus and Covid-19 family outdoor days, sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
Before the lockdown.

I’m not sure if I’ve been more aware over the last couple of years, or if people are generally being a little bit more honest, but I seem to see more and more celebrities owning up to their struggles with addictions.

Addiction is only made stronger when people feel shame and don’t want or are unable to ask for help. In honesty, like I’ve said before, when talking about normal people rather than celebrities, it always made me feel like I wasn’t alone to read about someone else confronting their demons and moving on. I do feel that the more we talk, and the more open we are that problems like addiction won’t be quite so challenging. That doesn’t mean it is easy to ask for help though, I know I struggled for years, mainly because of the shame I felt and feeling that I had made a huge mistake that was going to affect me for life. Three and a half years on, I don’t feel like that anymore, but it has been a challenging road.

In some ways I think interviews with celebrities add to the honesty and scope of talking about addiction. It helps us to see that it really can affect anyone, regardless of their lifestyle, their income or their success, but I do worry sometimes about their intentions. It is almost too easy to create a ‘comeback’ story to help promote success when in reality their may be little truth to it. In some ways it can glamourise addiction, when in reality, there is nothing glamorous about it.

I suppose the biggest sticking point for me is wondering why many people seem to afford celebrities a lot more encouragement and praise for their success in overcoming an addiction when it is no different to anyone else’s achievement in overcoming their own addiction. I wonder why we put them on a pedestal? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they haven’t achieved something amazing, I just think that those of us that do it quietly behind closed doors, rather than on the front of newspapers are also amazing.

There also seems to be a common theme for all of us who experience an addiction of any kind. It is likely that we use a substance to help us through as a coping strategy, whether it is intentional or not. Most people with addictions appear to have a lot going on, and I know that is a generalisation, but it is just what I have seen when I look at the many cases around us. Whether it is a high pressure career, an illness, a mental health difficulty like anxiety or depression, there always seems to be more to it than first meets the eye. For most people, it just starts with a little relaxation, but at the end it becomes a need.

Doing a little bit of research recently I found that in the 1970’s an American psychologist, Dr Bruce Alexander, carried out an experiment which has become known as ‘Rat Park’. I’m quite anti-animal testing and don’t like the idea of experiments including animals, but these are experiments carried out historically and it’s results are quite interesting. Some rats were given a bare cage with no other company, and a choice of plain water, or water with heroin in it. The same choice of water was given to other rats which had company in the form of other rats and more freedom in their ‘rat park’. The results showed that rats that were happy chose the water, while those that were lacking in their living conditions more often chose the heroin option. Even the ‘happy’ rats that did occasionally did choose the heroin did so sparingly and never overdosed. Isn’t it interesting to think that even rats self-medicate when they aren’t satisfied with life?

So it seems that it doesn’t matter if you are a person or a rat, you can be at risk of addiction from a substance if it affects your outlook in a way that makes you feel you are improving things. I was always afraid of being too honest about my addiction, thinking it would make people look down on me, while those who are famous seem to be able to reveal all and move on, being rewarded for their honesty. Rather than seeing us as different maybe we should be rewarding everyone for their efforts. Celebrities aren’t working any harder at sobriety than the rest of us. Yes, they have voices and platforms where they are able to reach a wider range of people than most of us can, but we should welcome this as a way to be more open and honest for the benefit of everyone. Being honest and upfront is quite possibly one of the best ways to counter addiction and rather than hide in the shadows it allows us to tackle our problems head on. As the Rat Park experiment showed us, rats need community to thrive as do we, and while is is more tricky at the moment, in this lockdown, we have the benefit of social media and technology to stay connected. Let’s take advantage of that.

Take care and stay safe.
Claire x