My Not So Secret Diary

No Cap

No Cap
I’d always seen alcohol as a reward - you know the sort of thing, where you get home from work and chill out with a nice cold glass of wine. All the adverts and TV programmes show it like that. A welcome relief to a hard day. I do, and always did work hard you know - I’ve got four kids and a job, a house to keep running and all kinds of other things going on. The problem for me is that one glass was never, ever enough.

I had a conversation with one of my younger sons recently and he told me that he never intended to have a ‘problem’ with drinking or drugs or anything like that, he and his friends just wanted to enjoy but not get carried away. I laughed. His innocence surprised me and I told him so. Once I’d stopped laughing, I even asked him, “Who on earth would choose to have a drinking problem?” I certainly didn’t go looking for one. It wasn’t like something I decided so went shopping to fulfil my need. It crept up slowly and infiltrated every area of my life before I even knew it was there. There was no choosing and no real awareness. Once I was a ‘normal’ drinker, and then I wasn’t. It could happen to anyone.

My husband describes my drinking as not having a cap. I think it’s quite a good way of describing it. I loved the idea of having a drink, whether it was in the evening at home or on a night out. I looked forward to it, almost idolising it. It’s just I couldn’t stop once I got started. One glass was never enough. Well, it might have been in the very early years, before I worked my tolerance up. After that it took a few glasses to even begin to feel something. So I had to drink more, although I will admit, that once I had poured that first glass, and could see it on the side in the kitchen, I relaxed, just a little bit. It wasn’t as good as drinking it, but it was good knowing it was there.

The problem with having no cap is that it ruins things. You don’t realise, or at least, I didn’t realise how drunk I was until it was too late. There were times I prided myself on being able to carry on regardless, especially when we were out. I always found a way to keep going and I have far more stories than I’d like about the many occasions I drank too much. There’s probably far more stories about the times I don’t remember.

I thought I hid it so well. I didn’t. It’s embarrassing now to think of how many people probably knew of my problem, or at least knew I drank too much, before I did. I thought drinking made me the life and soul of the party, I was fun, I was uninhibited. I talked and chatted to people I couldn’t have done before I had a drink, and yet, it wasn’t really me was it? If it was I would have been able to do it without the drink. I came to rely on it to get by in social situations, only in the evening mind you, but of course, the more I drank, the more I needed to drink and the situation got worse. At a Christmas works party, years ago now, I thought I was entertaining, I thought I was doing a great job talking to the guests and making them feel welcome. It wasn’t until I’d spilled a glass of red wine down my (thankfully black) dress, that I cottoned on to the fact people weren’t laughing with me so much as at me.

More often that I would like, perfectly good nights out (or in) were ruined by my inability to know when I had had too much to drink. I never knew it was coming until it was too late, and I would probably have told you that you were wrong if you tried to warn me. I always knew best, and I did like my wine. Most people learn from their experiences, I struggled to do that. Often after a heavy night out, waking up with a sore head would have been reason enough to take a break for a day or two at least, but not me. I saw slowing down as a weakness, as a reason to admit I was drinking too much. So I didn’t. I got up, brushed myself down and carried on where I had left off. It wasn’t so much ‘hair of the dog’ as I didn’t drink in the day, except for Sunday lunchtimes occasionally when we were out for lunch, but taking a day off was not something I did.

As you may know, stopping for me didn’t happen quickly. I didn’t wake up one day and realise. I woke up on a lot of days and realised, and then I had a lot more days after that where a I needed to convince myself. But I did get there eventually. I stopped relying on something that I never thought I could live without. I still have fun, I still relax and do nice things, only now, I am less likely to make a fool of myself, and more likely to remember. Ah, who am I kidding? I do still make a fool of myself sometimes, but the difference is, I’m never drunk when I do it anymore!

I can safely say it is a huge relief to me right now not to need or want a drink. I’d be finding lock down so much harder if I had the wine witch on my shoulder too. It’s a funny old time, so taking the stress out of it where we can is good.

But enough about me, how are you all coping at the moment?

Take care, and thanks for reading.
Claire x


Relationships in Lockdown

Relationships in Lockdown article from Sky News about coronavirus lockdown and relationships writing about it for my sobriety blog, My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I read an interesting article this week from Sky News called, “Coronavirus: The psychology of why lockdown is making our relationships stronger.”

Obviously things are different for us all at the moment, whether we are in lockdown, or self-isolating too. Regardless of whether we are alone at home or with our families, and even if we are still working, we are all limited in who we see and how much contact we have with others. Whether we want it to or not, and however positive we try to be, it is affecting us all.

I was concerned that at a time like this, it would isolate us all more. I am not saying it is easy for anyone, even those who live with other people, because no-one is used to living so closely. I live and work with my husband and yet spending twenty-four hours a day with each other is more than either us of are used to, except for holidays and at Christmas. Of course we also have the four children and the dog at home with us too. It’s a full house, and we are just lucky that we have space, otherwise I think we’d be finding it harder. I thought we’d have more arguments, and to be honest things are okay, although I do get a bit ratty when I end up doing ‘my washing’ or other jobs around the house and everyone else mysteriously disappears!

The lockdown itself has managed to push the fast forward button on many people’s relationships. At least two couples that we know have gone from being fairly serious to living together in this situation and I can’t say I blame them. It must be hard to be distanced from those you care about for an unforeseen length of time. But, we must also remember how lucky we are to have the technology we have available nowadays. Although we might not be able to see others, we can invite them into our homes using our phones and iPads. My eldest son is very social, and was seldom home before the lockdown in the evenings. To start with I think he thought his Dad and I were overreacting by asking him not to go out, and so for us the lockdown actually helped. He suddenly saw it was real and although unfortunate, it was necessary. If it wasn’t for social media he and his friends would be totally disconnected, but instead they are with him all the time, via his phone in his pocket. He goes up to his room in the early evening to chat with them too, and I think it’s nice that those connections haven’t been lost. It would be horrible for him otherwise.

Adding on to the change in lifestyle at the moment, we also have the differences with visiting the shops and the fact that many people, like us, are shopping for others too. I thought I’d have more free hours in the day, but once we have queued up, waited to get in, trailed up and down and then queued to get out again, a trip to the supermarket can take me more than two and a half hours. I’m glad I only do it once a week!

The thing is, that beyond the other things, I do seem to have more time to talk than before. This morning for instance, instead of rushing about like I would normally, I found the time to FaceTime my Mum and Dad, which I don’t often do. This morning they watched Stanley cycling in circles around my house and then took me on a tour around their garden to show me what they’d been planting and their new chicken run. It was rather nice. Stanley even wanted to show them how he uses his potty! They’d certainly have missed out on that experience otherwise! Speaking to a friend yesterday, she echoed my thoughts, telling me that she is finding time to do different things and see people that she wouldn’t normally, although again, it’s from a distance when she drops items off. I think it’s nice to have an excuse to connect with people. A lot of us lead quite isolated lives nowadays and this lockdown has affected us in ways I hadn’t expected. The article says, and I tend to agree, that, “Being increasingly interdependent and uniting together against the invisible enemy outside our doors may well make us appreciate one another more than ever.” I actually like being asked to help, although I’m not very good at asking for it myself! I like being able to do things to help. It makes me feel useful, and while I know there are a lot of people out there on the front line doing more than me, it’s nice to think I am doing my part at least.

Take care, and thank you for reading.
Claire x


Here’s the link to the article if you’d like to read it.


Yesterday boys and dog walking in coronavirus quarantine sobriety and life blog about mental health and family by Claire Hatwell called My Not So Secret Diary
I love this photo of Barn and Stanley with Miley. My daughter Katie took it.

It was a funny sort of a day…. I promised my little man that he would come to work with me yesterday. One of the lovely things about working with my family is that I can take him in when it suits me. The lockdown has it’s benefits too, as we are closed to the public our main gates are shut and he is able to ride his bike around in the compound fairly freely. I can see him from the window by my desk so he is quite safe and he has found a pile of sand that he loves to ride through.

I ended up having to let him down though. On reflection it didn’t seem such a good idea to take him in as my in-laws were also coming in, and it’s the first time in about six weeks that we were all going to be in the building together, albeit distanced. Although I had no intention of getting any closer than we’ve been when we’ve dropped shopping off to them or my parents it worried me that it would be hard for Stanley. At two years old, although he understands that there is a ‘nasty bug’ and that nursery is closed, he doesn’t understand why he cannot see and hug his grandparents. He is so used to freedom at work and potters about by himself, I didn’t want to confuse him by restricting him.

Katie said she’d watch Stanley for me, despite having an online college class (he joined her and apparently thought it was hilarious), so I said I was going to the shop and snuck out. I didn’t want to have to do two trips and make it obvious to him that I was doing more than shop so I struggled out the front door and up to the car with my hands full. My remote wouldn’t open the car which was odd, but having had a couple of goes I decided the battery must have gone flat. I put everything down and snuck back into the house for the spare key, getting back out before Stanley saw me. That seemed to be flat too, which is when I realised it was more than the remotes that were flat. Five weeks of lockdown and not moving my car had killed my battery. Such a pain! I ended up having to phone my husband to come back from work and get me.

On top of that, Stanley keeps coming up in a strange rash. It looks like he’s rolled in nettles, but only on his cheeks and only when he’s been out in the sun. It isn’t sun burn though, and I’ve tried various brands of sun cream, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference either. I made an online appointment with the doctor, sending photos and a description of the rash, but missed the call back from the doctor. The voicemail told me that it looked like an allergic rash and that we would have a prescription for some anti-histamines but didn’t tell me where the prescription would be. It took some chasing down to find it, because the surgery phone line is always busy and we have so many pharmacies so close to the surgery but eventually I got it. I’m hoping it will help, but without knowing what he is allergic to, I’m not holding out much hope.

I came home from work to find Stanley in a wonderful mood. I guess the break from me did him good! He has been getting awfully clingy recently, which is hard, although I know it is a confusing time for him. He had a lovely time with his brother and sister, riding his bike as they walked the dog, although he did manage to crash into a bramble bush. He fell asleep not long after I got back so clearly they wore him out!

The best bit of the day was having a visit from a friend who dropped me off some lovely loose leaf tea which I am currently drinking right now. She owns a cafe which of course isn’t open at the moment. It’s not quite the same as going out for a cup of tea, but almost as good! It was quite strange to talk to someone else, even from a distance, and really perked me up. I’ve been surrounded by family and the TV so to see another real life person and have a different conversation was quite nice!

Doing such ‘normal’ but simple things at the moment really makes me appreciate the normality of life that we took for granted not that long ago. Stay safe everyone!

Take care, and thank you for reading.
Claire x

Coming Out (as an alcoholic)

Coming Out (As an alcoholic) walking and recovering from alcohol addiction and writing for my blog on sobriety and mental health called My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
Feeling better about myself than I have in a long time!

It’s hard to admit you’re not quite who people think you are. At least I found it hard. For years I had constructed an outer shell that looked strong. It did it’s job well. It hid my low self esteem and my lack of confidence. To all that knew me, including many of my family I looked like I had things under control. I think that is one of the reasons I struggled for so long to admit things to myself, but especially to others. I didn’t want to let people down or have them change their perception of me.

I didn’t tell anyone to start with that I had a drinking problem, besides my husband Lee that is. Anyone I had tried to speak to hadn’t really understood. I felt like they might think I was making something out of nothing and blowing it out of proportion. I wasn’t, but unless you spend time in someone’s head, you really have no idea of what’s going on in there.

Many of my friends and acquaintances knew I ‘liked a drink’ so I didn’t want to talk about it with them. It felt like I was failing somehow or letting myself down, although in reality, facing up to my problem was one of the strongest things I have done. I felt scared to admit the truth, and unsure of what reaction I would get if I did. For a long time I felt like I was missing out by not drinking, and so I didn’t want to do anything that gave me any reminders. Instead, I hibernated. I stayed at home as often as I could and rediscovered myself, however soppy that sounds.

When you spend many years drinking, it’s hard just to ‘be’ without that thing you rely on. So slowly I relearned. I found new things I liked that replaced the alcohol and slowly I found I liked myself more than I’d done in a long time.

I still didn’t advertise my non-drinking lifestyle, it’s not that I wasn’t proud of it, but I was apprehensive of what others might thing of me. That they’d look down on me or stay away. I didn’t want to feel any worse about myself and I was afraid that well meaning comments or otherwise could affect me negatively.

I’ve found since I started writing this blog and being more open with my thoughts and feelings that I can relax and be myself more than I had done in a long time. It makes me see that if I didn’t go through the hard times, I wouldn’t be who I am now. It’s a relief to be able to accept myself honestly and authentically, the good bits and the bad bits. Although like everyone, some days are harder than others.

I love the freedom I have now, the fact that I don’t have a constant need for a drink regardless of whether I’m thirsty or not. I don’t ever wake up with a hangover, I never have to try to remember things from the night before. It’s a weight off my shoulders. For a long time I couldn’t imagine a life without wine. I wondered what it would be like, but now I know. It’s great, and that isn’t something I ever thought I’d be able to say!

Take care and thank you for reading.
Claire x


When Not Drinking is Wonderful

When Not Drinking Is Wonderful the view from my garden in Cornwall during the quarantine and lockdown, not-drinking sobriety blog by Claire Hatwell My Not So Secret Diary
The view of the sky from my garden.

I no longer have the need inside me longing for for a glass of wine. It used to be there constantly, a little feeling that wouldn’t go away, a voice that made me feel uneasy until I’d had a glass. It was really the only way I could relax, not in the beginning when it was still fun, but definitely towards the end when I’d been steadily drinking for years.

I’m sitting in the garden now as I’m writing this. The sun is shining and it’s warm. I can here some kids playing a few houses down, but there isn’t much noise because of the quarantine. My little man Stanley is playing in a water tray with some boats, he says his boat, “is very happy”. My big boys Joe and Barn are helping their Dad barbecue. I like to advise from a distance, but I don’t tend to get too involved! Katie is creating artwork somewhere, but she’ll be down soon to join us. It’s a very different picture to the one it would have been a few years ago.

I would never have been this content. I would have had an insatiable thirst for wine. I would have made countless trips to the house for wine refills. Lee may have had a few beers but he wouldn’t have had many. Towards the end, it wouldn’t have quite hit the spot for me in the same way. It as like an itch that couldn’t be scratched. I would have told myself, “one more glass”, but it would have always been more. I couldn’t have felt content and I wouldn’t have been able to relax until I’d had my fill.

I didn’t have an off switch when I drank and I drank often. I couldn’t stop when I should have. It was never enough until it was too much, and then I would have struggled with my concentration, my memory and my patience. Nothing would have been the same. I struggle now when I remember or when I think of how much time I’ve wasted. Of times that should have been good and were spoiled. I can’t get any of the time I lost back and worrying about it or beating myself up about it won’t change anything except for perhaps making me feel worse.

All I can concentrate on is what I do going forward. That’s all anyone can do really isn’t it? So I’ll enjoy this sunny moment in the garden, hearing the birds and listening to the kids and Lee chatting as they cook. I can honestly say, I don’t need wine to make this moment any better.

Thank you as always for reading.
Claire x