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


Not Going to Spain

Not Going To Spain view from my airplane window on the way to Spain last year. Sobriety and recovery blog and mental health, called My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
A view from last year. I don't think we'll be seeing one like it again for a bit.

The kids are missing out on so much this year, and I don’t just mean my kids, all of them are. No matter what their ages, they are all a little bit stuck.

I’ve always promised mine that if I did something for one of them, that we’d do it for all of them. As they were so close in age, I’m talking about the older ones, it only seemed fair. There are only four years between the eldest and youngest of the three of them. None of them had music lessons as we couldn’t commit to so much on a termly basis for all of them. For the same reason none of had the opportunity to go on school ski trips. We did, however, make sure they all went on the year 8 Paris trip when they were twelve with their college and had anticipated the year 10 Spain trip too.

It was hard letting Katie go to France. Her trip was a very short time after the terrorist attacks in Paris. We thought about it long and hard and a lot of her friends pulled out, but we decided she should still go, especially as the trip hadn’t been cancelled. You can’t predict these things and without taking undue risks, if we all worried about everything, we’d never go anywhere. There are more and more acts of terrorism nowadays and many of them happen here in the UK, so unless we aren’t going to go out, we must take calculated risks occasionally.

I find it hard to let the kids go, but I’ve got more used to it as they’ve got older. It’s probably easier as they’ve got older to be honest as they’ve been able to stay in phone contact. When they were younger, probably around ten, they all went to London with their primary schools, and they weren’t allowed any contact home unless it was an emergency. So that made it harder. Mind you, I had several texts from Barney when he was in Paris two years ago, panicking because he had accidentally smashed his iPhone. He was so worried I’d be cross with him! I’m still not sure quite what happened to it though.

It’s been good, but coincidentally, because the kids are two years apart, they’ve always been offered the same residential trips. The school alternates them, so if they were in the year inbetween they would have been offered Italy instead of Spain. That would have opened another can of worms I am sure! I do like to keep things fair for them!

This year is different. Barn has been looking forward to going to Spain. They moved it forward slightly so he’d be back for his fifteenth birthday which is at the start of the summer. Joe and Katie both missed the end of school to go away which was a bit strange for them. Of course though, with everything that is going on at the moment, I can’t see it going ahead. It hasn’t been officially cancelled, nor have we had any word of whether we will get our money back for it. But school isn’t on at the moment, so I don’t see them taking a whole year group abroad even if everything is back to normal in a few months. It’s sad that he is missing out and I do feel disappointed for him, but to be honest, realistically I think even if it was to go ahead, I wouldn’t want him to go. It’s a shame there is so much to miss out on, but I do want to keep everyone safe, and for me, that means keeping us all at home as much as we can at the moment. The year seems to be on hold, at least for now. I hope that we’ll get the chance to do some nice things next year, but as long as we stay safe, at least we should have the opportunity to.

Take care everyone and thank you for reading.
Claire x


There’s Always Someone…

Theres Always Someone walking with my family during the coronavirus exercise out of doors and getting some fresh air in Cornwall. My sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
Lee and Stanley walking with our dog Miley.

We all know things are different at the moment. I don’t really go out much to be honest, I’d prefer to be at home, safely in the garden where we hopefully can’t catch anything. At times though it’s nice to stretch our legs and go out for a walk, or brave the supermarket if we have to. I don’t enjoy that at all though!

Walking is an interesting one. The lockdown seems to have encouraged so many people out. It can only be a good thing really, but I swear I’m seeing people that I didn’t know lived near us. I didn’t know we had so many neighbours! When we walk along the road I notice things that I haven’t before. The strange thing is that people often park awkwardly and obstruct our driveway and at the moment we don’t have that problem. There aren’t many cars at all on our road. The question is, where have they all gone? Or more to the point, maybe they didn’t belong to anyone who lived here anyway. Maybe these missing cars belong to people who park near my house and walk to work? I don’t know, it’s just a bit bizarre.

When we do walk there seems to be so many other people out there. Just yesterday I had to drop a form off to college for one of the kids so I thought I’d walk to give my exercise a reason. It’s awkward though out on the paths. At one point a lady with a dog came towards me and we both stopped because the path was narrow. We were both so considerate that we wouldn’t pass each other and instead one of us had to reverse to pull in to a passing place. It was worse than being in a car on a narrow lane! Some people avoid your gaze, barely anyone smiles or even says hello. It is like people are afraid that by connecting, even from a distance, that they will somehow contract this virus.

The difficulty is, that for everyone that follows the rules, there are so many that don’t. So many that bend them to suit their needs and that is sad. Barn loves to walk our dog, and also loves to run. He could do both, but he doesn’t and chooses to run on the treadmill at home, so he can still take Miley out for a walk. The sad thing was that a few days ago when he was walking, they were approached several times by a dog that was off it’s lead, and without it’s owner. Barn tried to shoo it away but it kept coming back and actually ended by biting our dog. It’s not fair when things like that happen and Barn didn’t know what to do. At the moment, we always keep her on the lead, not because we don’t trust her, because she is very good, it’s more that we don’t want to encourage other dogs or people over. Yet there are so many people that don’t have quite the same consideration and walk too closely or don’t control their dogs.

Would you believe that there was a family having a picnic on the nature reserve near our home the other day? It’s not so much the picnic I have the problem with, despite it being against the rules, but more that they did it on the edge of a pathway and gate, making it almost impossible for others to walk past. Maybe if they’d wanted to do it, they could have found a quiet corner of a field where they would have been unnoticed and not affected anyone else?

Consideration is important at the moment really isn’t it? Well it’s important all the time, but right now, when we are all supposed to be distancing and yet looking out for each other we just need to be aware of how what we do affects everyone else.

Take care and thank you.
Claire x


Simple Things

Simple Things 1 My boys outdoors in sunshine running quarantine and writing for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
My littlest boys Stanley and Barney.

Simple Things 2  outdoors in sunshine headstands and yoga quarantine and writing for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
Fun in the sunshine.

We are lucky with the weather at the moment. Despite me not really feeling like going out much, and certainly not running like I have been, it has been lovely to spend so much of our time at home out of doors. Even at home we are in the garden a lot. My little man loves den building and looking for bugs so there is always plenty to do with him at home.

I don’t really like taking him out much right now. It’s hard to control where a two year olds hands go, and despite washing them as soon as we get home, he is into everything, so I haven’t taken him out at all to the shops or anything. We do go out on the occasional walk though, and he is loving the freedom to run in a field that is empty of animals (and people) near our house.

Yesterday, Barn was going for a run, and I decided to walk up with him and to take Stanley. Barn often runs to the same field and then does laps of it. He’s taken to running a bit barefoot too, as it’s supposed to be quite good for your posture, so he often goes for a run which ends up in the field where he takes his trainers off for a bit and does a few more barefoot laps before coming home.

Stanley complained his legs hurt on the way up the hill, but got a second wind once we’d climbed the stile into the field. As predicted, it was empty and several paths have been cut into the grass while the rest is left to grow long to be cut for hay. It makes interesting paths for a small person to run along, and I could watch him safely while I did a bit of outdoor yoga. It was beautifully sunny and warm but with a wind that stopped it getting too hot.

After an explore, Stanley came back to me and we tried to make daisy chains while we watched Barney do a few laps of the field. I’m sure it was easier to do when I was younger! We had a lovely time in the fresh air with a bit of space to ourselves before other walkers began to come through and we decided to walk back home.

I even managed to bring a bit of sunshine home with me, as I managed to stain my leggings from the yellow dandelions I knelt on!

Keep noticing the little things, even when things are difficult, it doesn’t have to be the big things that keep us going or make us happy.

Take care everyone and thank you for reading.
Claire x


Going into Town

Going into Town Bodmin Moor with my daughter Katie Hatwell. Claire Hatwell My Not So Secret Diary blog about sobriety and sober living with good mental health
Me and my lovely purple haired girl.

Recently I realised that I needed to get hold of a repeat prescription of my medication. I can’t believe it has been a month already, I’m not sure where the time is going to be honest. We should have so much time on our hands due to the lack of normality for so many of us and yet, time just seems to whizz by. I don’t do much of the things I would normally do, and yet, I also don’t seem to have the spare time I thought I’d have! Time is spent differently now.

Last month it was a real pain to get hold of my tablets. It was tricky to get the repeat prescription from the Doctor, and once it was done it was sent to a pharmacy I don’t normally use. I didn’t realise they had changed their opening hours, and so couldn’t get in to collect. They hadn’t opened on my way to work, and so my daughter popped in for me. She was turned away despite having waited as they shut their doors for lunch, and rather than come home and possibly miss them again, she waited for two hours to be one of the first in the queue when they reopened. I was so touched. It means a lot to know that Katie understands me, she knows that I worry and panic, and that she’ll go above and beyond to help me.

As I didn’t know how long it would take to get my repeat prescription this month I thought I’d phone the pharmacy first thing on Monday, leaving me almost a week to get the order fulfilled. Before when I’ve asked too far in advance they’ve been cautious of giving it to me because of it’s deemed ‘acute’ so there is a balance of giving enough notice, without too much, but allowing for things to go wrong. I heard back from my email to the surgery almost immediately to my surprise though, to be told the pharmacy had requested it already for me two weeks ago. I’m not used to people organising things for me like that so it was a bit strange, and I wasn’t sure that they were right. I half expected to get there and find they hadn’t got it at all!

Katie said she’d come with me, and we walked to town passing all the closed shops. It was quite eerie to be honest, and not many people were about at all. We were there before the pharmacy reopened, but there was already a large queue forming outside. It took us over forty five minutes to get in, but once we were there, we were done and dusted very quickly and back out in the fresh air. I did feel sorry for one of the members of staff bringing items out to the lady in front of me. She got an earful for the fact a delivery had not reached someone’s home in the time in which it had been promised. I know things are frustrating when they don’t happen as expected, but anyone could see that this poor lady had nothing to do with it once it had left the shop. She dealt with it very well, but it was uncomfortable to listen to.

Walking home was strange. It is the first time in weeks I’ve walked that way, and it was bizarre to see it so quiet, except for the odd policeman. I’m not sure why, but they always make me feel like I’ve done something wrong, despite the fact I was only going to the pharmacy and back home again!

Isn’t it funny how things have changed over the last few weeks? Even the familiarity of the shops isn’t there at the moment. Hopefully it won’t be for too much longer now, but who knows?

Stay safe everyone!
Claire x


Soberistas Article

Soberistas - Recovering soberistas article written by Claire Hatwell sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary

I wrote an article recently for the fab sobriety website Soberistas about the way running helped me on my way to recovery.

If you'd like to read the whole article, please follow the link, you need to sign in to access the whole piece, but they do have a free trial. It's such a good website, full of great advice and above all, a place for like-minded people to share experiences.

I'm feeling pretty proud to see something I've written published.


Changing Times

Changing Times covid-19 lockdown breakfast in the garden family mental health and sobriety blog
Breakfast with my dog.

Today I had breakfast outside on our patio. It was warm and Lee made us hot crossed buns and jam with a cup of tea and we watched while the world went by. Except it didn’t. One car passed by the whole time we were out there. No one walked by, no children played and all was quiet. It’s very different to the normal bustle we have on our road. Sometimes we even avoid going out the front, as so many of our neighbours are out. Despite the fact that we have a little hidden nook, sometimes it’s nice to be in the privacy of the back garden. At the moment we don’t have to worry at all. It’s easy to forget we live in close proximity to other people when we don’t see anyone.

Here in the UK we’ve just entered our fourth week of lockdown. For something that I never thought would actually happen, it’s going on a surprisingly long time! I honestly thought that this Covid business would all blow over, much as everything else that is sent to panic us does. But on this occasion it appears it is real.

Things are changing. Our company has been closed for several weeks, our employees are at home and nothing is normal. We’ve all got to adapt. Our kids are doing okay but our little man is clingier than normal. He’s okay too, but everything has changed for him as well, he isn’t able to see his ‘Smiley’ friends as his nursery is closed, and it’s the longest time he has had away from them since he started there. On the good side however, we seem to have taken on and beaten the challenge of potty training. I didn’t want to make things stressful for him, for a long time he just wasn’t interested in using a potty and I was in no rush either. Mind you all our others were done and dusted by the same age, so I began to get a bit twitchy as his birthday approached. I shouldn’t have worried. Something clicked and he has got it just like that. He’s properly proud of himself too, and tells anyone who will listen to him about it!

I still do all the normal things I do everyday, except go to work. I mean the things around the house, like hoovering. It still doesn’t need to be done every day, but I just can’t relax without doing it. Sometimes several times. I tell myself normally that people would think I was lazy if they were to come in and see my house less than tidy. Now the chances of that are virtually zero as no one besides the postman and the odd delivery man are going to come to my door. They definitely won’t be coming in! But still, I guess it gives me a bit of normality.

I think it took me a good three weeks to really get my head around this whole lockdown thing. To see that it doesn’t matter if I don’t put any makeup on, because no one will see me besides my family. It’s silly these little routines I have, but I feel so self conscious without makeup, that I seldom go out without it. I don’t wear loads, but I do wear eyeliner and mascara, and I wear it so often that I feel a bit weird without it. Yesterday, I decided I wouldn’t bother anymore. I’m a little surprised when I catch my reflection, but it’s okay, I’m getting used to it, the same as I’m getting used to not going out.

I’m sure soon we’ll be looking back at this and remembering it like it was just a bad dream. At least, I hope so!

I hope you are all doing okay?
Claire x


Sobriety and Medication

Sobriety and Medication running and walking with my daughter during the lockdown sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
My daughter and I.

I’m loving the peace and quiet in my head since I’ve been taking my anti-anxiety medicine. For the first time in a very long time I’ve not got a constant chatter in my head… but… I worry that I’ve lost my inspiration. It seems harder to write. Well it did at least for the first couple of weeks. Maybe that has something to do with lockdown too, there isn’t so much to write about if I can’t go out is there? In the last couple of weeks things are slowly coming back to normal which is a relief. I wondered whether my ability to write was just down to my crazy mind, and now I’m getting a handle on the crazy, I wondered if I’d lost the creative side. It worried me.

I was concerned about taking medication. I thought it might change me. I spent so long drinking wine, and changing my character in that way, that now I am as keen as possible to not do anything that affects my mood or feelings. It’s nice to just be me without worrying if something is making me different, but I can’t deny, this time it makes a welcome change. I still feel like me, just calmer, quieter, and considering how I was, that is only a good thing.

I was supposed to be seeing the doctor a few weeks ago for a review. The medication I’m on is ‘acute’ so they need to check it’s okay and agreeing with me. Luckily it seems to be, because I haven’t got a hope of getting in there at the moment! I phoned before the lockdown and asked if they would like to give my appointment to someone else that needs it and just give me a repeat prescription, under the circumstances. To my surprise, I was told that they had already cancelled my appointment, although no-one had told me! This was right back before the lockdown, but when things were beginning to get worse. I managed, eventually to get a repeat prescription, and then tried to get into our pharmacy, which I hadn’t appreciated had reduced it’s hours to 10-12 and then 2-4pm. So I couldn’t get in, as I was on my way to work and began to stress out that I would run out. It isn’t ideal when your anti-anxiety medication begins to make you anxious! My daughter offered to go for me and was there with plenty of time before the 12pm closure, but obviously ended up in a queue outside. She waited and told me at 12pm they closed the doors and turned the three people in the queue away. Bless her, would you believe she stood there and waited for two hours for them to open again rather than leave and come back later? She didn’t want the queue to get too big again and she didn’t complain once, but did tell me she wished she had taken her earphones!

I was reading on one of my online groups recently about a comment from another member who was devastated by the comments of someone from her AA group. In a similar situation to my own, she had attended the group and told the others that she was feeling better, now that her medication was working, she went on to tell them that she had been sober for the longest time, and was expecting support and encouragement from the group. Instead someone stood up, and retorted that she wasn’t sober if she was relying on medication. It hit her in a weak spot and she said that she almost immediately relapsed, wondering what the point was. Although from the outside I don’t agree that she can blame this other person for her relapse, I do know how it feels to be judged or criticised, and to feel like you aren’t understood. I felt so sorry for this person, that she had got so far, and was unable to ignore the comments of this person, who really shouldn’t have felt the need to comment on her progress in such a way. It made me feel terrible for her, but I’m not sure that I agree that, he made her drink again, like she claimed. Ultimately the only person that has the responsibility for our drinking is ourselves.

I guess for anyone with a bit of an addictive personality, there is always going to be a worry that one dependence will turn into another. No-one wants to rely on anything really, and I know from experience that having relied on alcohol, and overcome it, I don’t want to ever be back in that place again.

In hindsight I don’t think medication affects my sobriety, but I also think it is a slippery slope for anyone, especially those who have had a dependency. I think, I, like anyone else, need to be aware, but ultimately, I think we need to do whatever it is that we need to help us overcome our individual problems. Those looking in from the outside will never quite understand, because they don’t experience things as we do. We are all different and so, we all need different things to help us through, but we need to do it without the judgement of others, like the man from the AA group. His opinions weren’t helpful or needed, and it makes me wonder what his insecurities are for him to speak to someone else that way.

I hope you are staying safe. Take care.
Claire x


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


Dry Covid

Dry Covid The Independent News Article Blog Sobriety Sober Living My Not So Secret Diary
An interesting read from The Independent

I read this interesting article from The Independent this week, called “Let’s try ‘Dry Covid’ – lockdown is the time to kick our national alcohol habit for good.”

I’ve often struggled with the advertising and easy availability of alcohol in our country. It’s one of the many reasons I struggled both to identify my drinking problem, but also to do anything about it. Seeing so many other people enjoy a drink and use alcohol for such a variety of reasons, like socialising or relaxing, it is easy to think it is a normal thing to do. Once you’re on the slippery slope you can struggle to see the blurry line between what a ‘normal’ drinker is and what a ‘problem’ drinker is. If you’re like I was, you’ll also look for any excuse to make yourself feel normal.

Once you’ve identified that problem and you choose to do something about it, you find your perspective changing. While you might not change yourself, your outlook certainly will. For someone who relied on alcohol on a daily basis for many years, once I removed it from my life, I had this great big gap that needed filling. I needed to relearn a lot of things, from talking to people to how I behaved in certain situations. It was much harder than I thought it would be.

In the background is the little voice that tells you that you are missing out if you don’t drink, that everyone else drinks, that it is normal to drink and so much fun, and to be honest, what else will you do with your time? I really struggled with that. I felt abnormal from the minute I stopped drinking. I felt like people would notice, like I had a neon sign above my head making me stand out from the crowd. I didn’t know how to ‘be’ anymore and I didn’t like not fitting in. I didn’t know how to socialise, and didn’t want to, but more importantly because most of the drinking I had done had been at home, I didn’t know how to be at home either. I couldn’t relax and I couldn’t focus for a long time. If I had gone through this lockdown when I was drinking I would have been unbearable. There is no way I could have bought enough wine to have lasted me, even for one week I would have needed over 14 bottles. I would have been visiting the shops everyday, and it would have been essential travel for me to do that. I am so thankful that I am not like that anymore.

Hamilton, the author of this article states that sales of alcohol during this crisis have already risen by 50%, a figure I had previously heard on the news. While I suppose some of it can be justified, for example, if we are unable to go to restaurants, it is likely that some of the expense is due to food and drink being purchased at home to replace what would have been eaten out. It is also possible that some has been bought in bulk in order to stock pile for the future, and therefore sales will even out as people are able to get back to normal. However, as Hamilton also says, the World Health Organisation also advises that drinking should not be used as a coping mechanism throughout this time. I would argue that we shouldn’t be using it as a coping mechanism at any time, but that is probably the benefit of hindsight talking.

Perhaps now would be a good time to try going without, to slow down and take the time to abstain? I’ve read other articles that suggest lockdown isn’t so different from the early days of recovery so it might be a good time to start. For me I always found that despite my good thoughts and efforts, it was near impossible to not stop at a shop on the way home for a few bottles if I didn’t have much at home. Not being able to shop removes one argument, although I know it would have been very difficult for me, and probably made me quite bad tempered. On the good side, I did go into social hibernation for much of the first three years of my sobriety. I didn’t want to go out and look different, or feel different, or be questioned, the list was endless really, so it was easier to stay at home. Our lockdown provides much the same basis, but without the need to make excuses. It’s just a chance to batten down the hatches and see how things are when we come out the other side.

Of course, like I did, many people will probably question whether they even have a problem. I’d say this. If you can’t do lockdown without drinking then maybe, just maybe you should have a closer look. Maybe this is the opportunity to stop something before it runs away with you.

Take care everyone, thank you for reading.
Claire x


Here’s the link to the article.

Sugary Treats

Sugary Treats running with my teenage son from the Cornwall team. My running son. Eating healthy. clean living and sobriety and writing about it for my blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running with Barn.

When I used to drink my eating habits weren’t great. I often joked that I’d prefer to drink wine than eat given the choice, but it was more than a joke, it was the truth. I hate admitting that, but it’s the truth and my blog is about the truth, so there it is. As my anxiety and my drinking increased I found eating harder and harder and over time lost a lot of weight. Most people say they lose weight when they stop, but that wasn’t the case for me. I guess all in all I’ve put on about three stone, but the difference is, when I look back at photos of me before, I don’t look well and now, while honestly I do weigh more than I’d like, I know I am healthier on the inside and the outside.

I made excuses when I first stopped drinking, I let myself eat anything and everything I wanted to, because I was replacing wine, and it was fine in my book. I was allowed to have treats, because nothing could be as bad for me as wine was. I was also meant to be being kind to myself, and I thought extra treats were part of that. A little while passed and soon I was expecting our little man Stanley. I didn’t use that as an excuse, I ate well, but not excessively.

I think now though, that I’ve let it get a little bit out of hand. I wouldn’t say that I’ve replaced one addiction with another, although I think my personality is very much like that. I’ve always been a little bit ‘all or nothing’ with things. I am a little bit concerned about my sugar intake now though, I certainly craved it in the early days, but while I hoped it would wear off over time, I think I have just become accustomed to it. The thing I struggle with is sugary treats. Mostly biscuits. If I make a cup of tea in the afternoon and I’m tired I can quite easily demolish a whole packet of bourbons or similar. The problem is, that happens a fair bit. After a day at work, I’ll come home and if Stanley is tired, we’ll sit down for a bit together. He sometimes falls asleep, and that is fatal if I have a packet of biscuits nearby, because I just pick. One after the other and before I know it, a fair few have gone. I always regret it afterwards. I know it isn’t good for me. I know I’d be a faster runner if I didn’t eat biscuits like I do, but it’s hard. Just like with the wine, I tell myself, “Just the one”, but it seldom is. It’s frustrating because I eat pretty well otherwise. All day long I’ll snack very little, maybe on fruit, and I’ll have a salad everyday for lunch, but then I let myself down in the afternoon.

Oh and then there’s the Coke. I’ve replaced my evening wines with Diet Coke. That’s the thing I’ll panic buy now instead of the wine. I get anxious if there isn’t some in the house, because, “What else will I drink?!” I drink water and tea all day, but in the evening, with dinner I have to have something different. So now it’s a couple of cans of coke. Bottles don’t work for me, I quite like the ritual of popping a can open. I guess it’s replace filling my glass up. Just like the wine, I tell myself I’ll cut down, but the thing is, I’ve learned, I’m not very good at the whole moderation thing. It’s not so bad I guess, I know from experience that there is a lot worse I could be doing, but it just feels like I’m letting myself down a bit. Of course there are those out there that say not to worry about it, but the more I think about it, the more I think I should tackle it now, before I get older and it all gets harder to change my ways.

I’m seriously thinking about trying to cut out sugar. But… it seems like it will be a lot of hard work, and I’m not sure that I’ve got the energy for that at the moment. But maybe I’m just making excuses? God knows I did that for long enough when I was trying to stop drinking. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and see if I can do it? It can’t be harder than giving up alcohol can it?

Thanks as always for reading!

Claire x



Homeschooling isn't that important to life right now, freedom on the moor with my two year old son in Cornwall My Not So Secret Diary
Looking forward to more freedom again soon!

I’m seeing a lot about homeschooling right now. I know that times are difficult and that children are mostly all at home for the foreseeable future, but am I the only one who thinks that homeschooling them right now is not vital? I’ve been invited to loads of Facebook groups trying to provide ideas of resources I can use to educate the kids during their time in confinement, but to be honest, I’m not really sure that I agree.

For me, it seems more important to talk to the kids, to spend time with them, and to let them know what is going on, even if my little Stanley has got a bit confused and thinks that the ‘nasty bug’ outside is actually a ladybird. He even showed it to me in a book the other day! But seriously, I think that time spent together is perhaps more valuable. Our kids are going to remember how we dealt with this crisis when they look back in on it in the future. I’m not sure that they are going to remember English and Maths lessons in the same way. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing things with our kids, that isn’t what I mean at all. I just think that actually, sharing books, playing outside in the garden, doing board games or puzzles and cooking together are more valuable at the moment.

Education is so important, but all the children out there are in a similar boat, so it’s not like it’s just a few who are getting behind at the moment. Schools are setting homework or tasks, and that in some ways gives the children a focus, and something to give some structure to the day. However, as parents, we are generally not our children’s teachers, even those qualified as teachers, and sometimes by trying to create that sort of relationship we can instead create stress and confusion. For me, I don’t think we need to put much more on our young people right now. Even the brightest of children aren’t going to understand the full potential of this sort of crisis and I feel we need to give them stability in whatever way we can.

Our two year old has experienced so much change recently, on the outside he looks fine, but he isn’t quite himself. How can he be though? He has gone from regularly attending nursery, seeing his friends and staff, coming to work with me in the afternoons and seeing his grandparents most days to being stuck in the house day after day, without even taking his brother to running practice. Not only that but his brothers and sister aren’t going to school, college or work and neither is his Dad. All our routines have gone out the window so it must be weird for him, and hard to make sense of. He’s okay, don’t get me wrong, but he knows something is different and it has been unsettling for him. He isn’t even allowed to go shopping if his Dad or I go. I wanted to make the most of us all being at home and give him the final push he needed with potty training, but in reflection, it isn’t so important. It stresses him out, and I don’t want our time together to be like that. There is always another day for all those things, so it can wait.

Joe popped out to work on his car for a few minutes today. He wasn’t anywhere public, but on our drive, before anyone thinks we might be breaking the rules. What is nice was Barn stopping on the way back from his daily run to talk to him, and getting roped into helping. As brothers they are four years apart. Four years isn’t a lot, except when you are 14 and 18. They’ve grown in different ways as they have got older and don’t share so many interests, or so much time as they did when they were younger. Looking out the window, their Dad caught them laughing together, for me, that is more valuable than any academic lesson if you know what I mean.

Life can be too short. The news is showing us that every day, wherever you live. Things are hard enough right now - our kids need love and to know they are safe. As safe as they can be at least when we are facing something like this. Lessons will occupy them, but so will spending time with them and fun and games, even if we can’t go out as much as we’d like.

Take care and stay safe everyone.
Claire x



Fresh Air and Moorland Walking

Moorland Walking fresh air March walking with my family sobriety and sober living for my blog and mental health in Cornwall My Not So Secret Diary
Fun in the sunshine on Bodmin Moor a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago when we were still allowed to drive to places for exercise we went up to Bodmin Moor for a walk. It was a Sunday, and the sun was shining, despite the March weather not being very warm. It was Mother’s Day and one of the few days that we had all the kids together in one place. From memory, Joe was supposed to be staying out with some friends but it had been cancelled at the last minute due to all the Covid problems although it was before everyone was taking it as seriously as they are now. It almost seems like another world looking back on it!

We drove up to a quiet place, somewhere we could walk without coming across too many other people. It’s not that we’re anti-social, we just like our own space, and we were lucky that we were only sharing our space with the cows that wandered freely.

Miley our black Labrador had a lovely stretch, smelling all the smells that were different to home, and trying to trip us all over as she ran laps on her extender lead. In the distance we could see a farmer feeding some sheep and there were also a couple of riders with their horses making their way across the moor too. Other than that, we were alone. We made our way to some rocks, it wasn’t meant to be a hike, just a nice walk together, making the most of one of the first weekends in a long time where we were together without other demands on our time.

Coming to a natural rock formation Lee and I sat, the rock warm from the sun and fortunately sheltered from the wind. It was such a simple thing to do, but it just felt amazing, feeling the sun charging up my Vitamin D as the sun shone down on my face. It was very peaceful.

The kids all played hide and seek, enjoying the freedom and space they had in the sunshine. Watching them play with Stanley and hearing him giggle was wonderful. Katie is an art student at college, and had managed to sign out one of the specialist cameras to use over the weekend, so she wandered off to take some photos. For a long time she stood, taking photos of an inquisitive cow. It wasn’t until Katie moved, quite some time later, when from a bush at Katie’s feet moved and a calf sprang up and ran to it’s mother. It was such a funny sight to see, and crazy to think Katie had been so close, and she hadn’t even not noticed it there!

Trying to look on the bright side, it’s nice to be forced into time together, but I am really looking forward to the time when we can get outside and enjoy our time with the freedom to spend it where we want to. We’re lucky to have a garden to enjoy, it isn’t the biggest, but I know it is more than a lot of people have. I’m certainly looking forward to days at the beach again, and I know for one I won’t take it for granted, regardless of the weather.

This lockdown is hard, it’s strange for us all, but keep going everyone. With any luck, soon it’ll be a distant memory and everything should be going back to normal.

Take care, and thank you for reading.
Claire x


Wise words indeed! πŸ’–

My Not So Secret Diary

The Next Generation

The Next Generation outdoors with our family, enjoying the sunshine on Bodmin moor. Writing about sobriety for my blog about living sober and mental health. My Not So Secret Diary
Enjoying the Cornish sun a few weeks ago.

As you may know my husband and I have four kids, Joe is 18, Katie 16, Barn 14 and Stanley is 2. Much as I’d like to say they don’t know about my drinking problem, it would be silly to say that. Of course they know, three of the four of them lived here with me right through it. In recent years I’ve spoken to them honestly and openly about it. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it was certainly a good thing to do. As a mum I want to be loved and cared about, I don’t want to seem less than perfect in their eyes, but it was important that I spoke to them as I don’t like secrets either. I wasn’t sure how to go about it to be honest, I didn’t know if I should bring it up, and because I didn’t know how to, I didn’t. One by one they came to me though, and we talked about everything. I’ve always had a policy that if they are mature enough to be able to ask me something, then I will do my best to answer. I have never wanted to brush them off with any subject, but of course, as this was about me it was a bit harder. Barn was the first one to bring it up one day were out on our own in the car, Katie the second and in the end I had to approach Joe. It wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do, as I didn’t want to blow the topic out of proportion, but I also didn’t want him to be the one out of the loop so to speak. Whereas the others asked questions, Joe was more dismissive, and it made me sad to think how much he probably remembered that I hadn’t realised. I’d been blinkered to it, and thought the kids had been protected, and of course, although I never put them at any harm, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t see me begin to rely on drinking.

I’ve tried to remain as honest as I can be with the kids. I want them to know that they can talk to me if they need to, and not just about this, but anything. I also want them to be aware, because it is thought that addictions can be genetic, I don’t want them to begin to rely on something and end up in a situation like I did.

I don’t preach to my kids. I’ve never told them not to drink. I have however told them to be careful. Joe goes out clubbing with his friends, he sees our neighbours in the local pub, which is something I have not done in a long time, and sometimes he does wake up with a sore head. But, he doesn’t drink every week. We don’t have alcohol in the house any more, well, actually somewhere there are a couple of bottles of beer that we won in a raffle. It seemed wasteful to throw it away, so I brought it home and gave it to Joe. That was last summer and I think it is still in a cupboard. He doesn’t drink at home and has the attitude to drinking that I wish I had had, able to enjoy it when he is with friends, and able to leave it when there is something better to do. I think I was always chasing that high, that good feeling or good time, and when it was over, I felt I could achieve it with another glass. Over time, that good feeling was long forgotten but the drink wasn’t. I hope none of the kids ever drink like I did, but if I stop them or ask them not to, I’m afraid they will rebel against me. So I don’t. I just talk to them, and let them know I’m here, and that their Dad is if they don’t want to talk to me. I’m lucky that they all feel able to talk to both of us.

For a lot of people drinking can be a fun release, but for people like me it isn’t. When that word ‘moderation’ pops up, alarm bells should ring. Anyone who feels they should moderate is probably beginning to lose control, and I know for one, moderation certainly didn’t work for me. It made me grumpy and reinforced the fact I felt like I was missing out. Nowadays, I don’t rush home (if I could go out) for a drink. It isn’t the first thing on my mind in the evening. I don’t worry about how much is in the fridge. Plans aren’t made around whether I can drink or not. I don’t have to think about what conversations I have had, and if I remember them all. I’m not hiding behind a glass or a bottle, I’m just me, and I’m doing the best I can. I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out at the moment.

Take care, and thanks for reading.
Claire x


Out of the Mouths of Babes

We were watching TV last night when my phone pinged with a message from my 14 year old son. He'd sent me these Instagram stories from Tesco, advertising their 'food' but instead showing beer and wine. His comment did make me laugh, but also, I feel proud of him for not being drawn into the glamour of drinking. He's only young, but I hope he continues to make well-educated choices.

Maybe in this case, every little doesn't help?


Out of the mouths of babes Tesco food and alcohol advertising at time of lockdown for the coronavirus and covid-19 writing for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary

Instant Gratification

Instant Gratification walking on the beach with my two sons in Cornwall before the lockdown for coronavirus in the covid_19 pandemic and writing about it on my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
Beach day before the lockdown.

I didn’t think lock down or quarantine would bother me. I didn’t think it would happen for one thing, because I didn’t think the virus would be as bad as it is, but I also thought that it would be a threat that wouldn’t be carried out, to try and encourage us to stay at home more than we were. Pandemics like the one we are experiencing at the moment are the sort of thing that happens to other people, or on TV, it’s unlikely that they’ll affect us. Until they do.

As I said, I didn’t really worry. Which is strange for me, but I looked at it like as long as we have enough food, and we can work from home if needed, then what is there to worry about? My main concern is that we were all together. We can go out for a bit of exercise so really, it felt like it might be similar to an extended Christmas holiday. Normally that’s the only time we get off work and school together at the same time to be at home. You might remember that I work with my husband and our eldest son, so work is a bit more ingrained in our lives that just a job where we work for others. It’s hard to leave it alone. Christmas is the only time we shut down and for a week it’s peace. Nothing is happening without our knowledge so my husband doesn’t have to worry. Of course though, it isn’t really like that at the moment.

I’ve tried to be positive, I think it’s important, and like I’ve said before, I think a lot of us need this break, just a chance to get off the treadmill of life so to speak and slow down. Occasionally though I panic a little, mainly when I remember we don’t know how long this is for, and that worries me. A summer without going to the beach scares me. It’s just the simple things really, like taking the kids to the beach, swimming in the sea, or surfing, walking more than just near my home, taking the family up on to the moor. We don’t know when we can do any of these things again. But, we have to remember, this is all worthwhile, and by staying in we are protecting our communities and further afield. It’s not like we are all being asked to contribute in any other way, the majority of us are literally being told to stay at home and other than that we can do as we please.

It’s strange for most of us to live under these circumstances though. Unless you live off the grid, which I actually quite like the sound of, most people have a fair bit of human interaction outside their home. Largely, we are able to get what we want, when we want it. The shops showed us that with their lack of stocks when a lot of people tried to bulk buy in the days before the lockdown. People wanted, so they bought. We aren’t used to not having the things we feel we need, and don’t feel comfortable going without. I’m guilty of it too though. Years ago, I used to love shopping. I don’t so much now, I go more when I need something rather than for an aimless wander around the shops, but I still manage to have the things I need. With mail order we don’t even need to leave our homes anymore. Except even the majority of those have closed now. My eldest son has been taking the opportunity of the down time to work on his car, he was spray painting a panel, but has run out of paint and is struggling to get any more. He, like the rest of us isn’t used to not being able to get what he wants as and when he wants it. I don’t even have to go to the book shop any more, since I’ve had my Kindle, if I want a book I just look for it and less than a minute later, I have it.

I think we take for granted what we have, and how little we have to do normally to get the things we do. Of course it costs money, but the majority of us don’t have to put much effort into growing our food, it’s just there, and now we have to think a little bit more. When you have to queue to get into a supermarket, and queue to pay when leaving, after walking around a one-way system in the store, it becomes a little more important to plan what you have and when to go out, rather than just ‘popping to the shop’ as we are used to doing.

I don’t think this crisis will change us all in such a way that we will revert to living off the land, but I do hope it makes us appreciate what we have access to, and what we are able to do a lot of the time without even thinking about it. I hope it will help to change us for the better.

Take care, and thank you for reading.

Claire x



Compassion running with my son in his phil and ted running buggy in Cornwall during coronavirus and covid-19 lockdown and writing about it on my sobriety blog. My Not So Secret Diary
Smiley Stanley mid-run with me.

If you look closely at the moment, we are surrounded by doom and gloom. There is a horrible virus that we have no cure for. Many people have died or are dying and due to the contagious nature of the disease, people can’t even be with their loved ones at the end. It really brought it home to me a few days ago when I saw on the news that a 13 year old had died. He had been alone as his family weren’t allowed in. I can’t imagine the pain that family are in. I totally understand the need for everyone to protect themselves, but as a mother with a child of a similar age, I cannot imagine not being there if he was in pain. Not being able to say goodbye. It is heartbreaking.

Everything seems different at the moment, from the way our social lives have been limited to the way we are restricted in our distance from each other when outdoors. I’ve noticed a wariness in people, and to be honest, I don’t go out much. I tend to spend more time in the garden, but when I am out running people give me a wide berth, and I do the same for them. On one hand it is lovely to see everyone being so respectful and considerate, but on the other hand, I wonder whether we are actually creating more division? It seems that as well as the distance between bodies, that it is less likely for people to make eye contact and wave, and that makes me sad. Out of habit I smile and say, “Hello” or “Morning!” to other people when I see them out and about, but I seem to be getting less and less back, as if catching my gaze might be infectious.

Yesterday I was feeling stressed and over-anxious. My medication is helping a great deal but sometimes I still get twitchy. Running calms me, but I don’t necessarily see the benefit when I run regularly, it’s more that I notice the effect it has when I don’t run. My husband has taken over our conservatory, and is working at home at the moment, so he saw me circling and very quickly suggested I go out for a run. I must be easy to read! I didn’t feel like running on my own and all the teenagers were still in bed, so I strapped Stanley into the running buggy and off we went. I thought he could do with a change of scene as he hadn’t been out in a week, other than in the garden. Even though we are able to go out for our daily exercise, to be honest, I’m not that keen to go out and fairly happy to stay in a lot more than I would do normally. Of course, I told you that Stanley is worried that the ‘nasty bug’ is actually a lady bird that is going to get him, but being in the buggy I thought he would be fairly safe, and unable to touch anything. I had forgotten how loud he is! (And heavy!) We got to the end of our road and ran down the hill, passing some assisted living flats where a gentleman was looking out of his balcony. Stanley just shouted out, “Hello!” and waved. I’m normally a bit embarrassed about him shouting, but it was so lovely to see the man’s face light up, and we had a quick chat from a distance before carrying on. There weren’t many people out, but to everyone we saw or passed Stanley shouted and waved. It was sweet to see the reactions and smiles, even if it was from a way off.

The world is a funny old place at the moment, for everyone, regardless of their situation. On the whole the British are known for their stiff upper lip and their keep calm and carry on attitude. I get it, we need to do it, but we don’t have to limit our interactions totally either, do we? We’re still people, and even for those of us that have people at home the world has changed considerably. Our interactions are suddenly limited to those we live with, however many or few that may be. Days merge into the next, even when we keep ourselves busy, and we still don’t know how long this will go on for. People are lonely, and a little bit adrift without their daily routines. We’re asked to think about our older relatives, but what about those who aren’t older, or don’t have anyone to check on them? What about the people who just want to see a smiling face as they go about their business? Even popping to the shops isn’t the social activity it used to be. It’s hard work, or at least it is in my local supermarket, with one way systems and floor spacing marks set out.

We need to protect ourselves but we need to remember that we are part of a wider community and not isolate ourselves beyond all reach. Ultimately, we are all humans, so let’s try to remember to spread some kindness where we can.

Take care, and thank you for reading.
Claire x




My Not So Secret Diary


Remembering proud of my sobriety and living a sober life and writing about it on my blog outside in cornwall on Bodmin Moor My Not So Secret Diary
On the moor - before the lockdown.

This quarantine has been a bit strange so far. As I’ve said before, I am very glad at this time, during all this chaos, that I don’t drink anymore. It wouldn’t be my friend and it wouldn’t make things better. Instead it would have given me another thing to worry about, another thing to try and go out to buy and of course the worry that I’d not be myself as I should be. That my mind would be numbed and elsewhere.

I suppose what surprised me was how that feeling of remembering a ‘nice’ drink is still there, even after all this time, and even when I don’t actually want to drink. It catches me out. I’m not writing this because I’m worried or concerned I’ll drink again, I honestly don’t think I would. However, I do think it’s good to address that those feelings are there still. I want to talk about it to let anyone reading this know that they aren’t alone in those thoughts, and it’s okay. Just because you remember, does not mean you have to relapse. It doesn’t mean you have to give in to your demons, whatever they may be and it doesn’t mean you are weak.

For me sunny relaxed late afternoons and evenings in the garden often used to mean having a glass or two of wine. (I’m being modest, we all know it never stopped there.) We have a nice barbecue outside and we like to cook and eat outdoors whenever the weather is nice enough. (By we I mean I like to watch my husband cook). We were fortunate enough to have some lovely sunny and warm weather at the beginning of our Covid-19 lockdown, and wanting to make these strange times as good as we could, we spent a lot of time outside with the kids. I built dens with Stanley, and he rode his bike around. Barn played with the dog and Katie moved from the sofa to the grass with her phone. It was lovely to make the most of it, and enjoy it, especially as it’s got colder now, but at the same time, I was surprised at how many old feelings it brought up. It was only later as we spoke about dinner that I had that feeling of wanting a glass of wine. I suddenly felt like that would be the thing to complete the evening and as normal, as soon as I’d shifted that thought it was followed by a bit of sadness that I wouldn’t be able to experience that again. The sadness never lasts for long now, it’s just a fleeting thing, but it is annoying.

I don’t worry now about drinking again. I never thought I would say that, but I can. Even saying that though, I am surprised how there are still little things that set me off. I don’t miss drinking, but sometimes, I miss that feeling of being the same as other people. I have a lovely time without it though. It doesn’t change anything really, it certainly doesn’t make me any more fun, or make an evening any better. In fact I know now, without a shadow of a doubt that I am a better person without it, so I guess that is why I’m so surprised when I get that little bit of glass envy. Your mind is a funny old thing isn’t it? I mean to remain wired so strongly for something for such a long time.

My message in this is the same though to all of you, just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll get there.

Stay strong everyone and thank you.
Claire x


Public Service Announcement

A little reminder that we are only allowed out for one form of exercise per day! Is it just me who hears the music from the advert playing when they read it?! (Sorry to the runners out there for the use of the word jog!)

You wouldn't go for a second run My Not So Secret Diary

A Slower Pace of Life

A Slower Pace of Life, making the most of the covid-19 lockdown to spend time with my family outside and at home in Cornwall, writing about it for my blog My Not So Secret Diary
Den building in the garden with my little man Stanley.

I feel a bit naughty saying this, but I’m going to because it’s true. Although it’s weird and it’s taking some getting used to, I don’t think I can be the only person who is actually enjoying the change at the moment? The daily hustle and bustle has gone. The reasons I had to be up and rushing around, making sure things were done before aren’t there right now. Even work is closed for us at the moment, and while it is worrying to be unsure about the future, it does enable us to slow down a little bit.

Nothing can be rushed, because there is very little to do, and because it isn’t, I feel like I am able to slow down and appreciate things a bit more. I spend a lot of times with our kids anyway, but at the moment, I feel like we’re spending even more together. Two of the kids have online lessons and work for school and college, but it’s flexible and not taking a priority and at the moment they are officially on their Easter holidays so they even have a break from that. The big one doesn’t have work and the little one doesn’t have nursery, so we are all at home.

It helps that the weather is nice at the moment, the sun always makes me feel better, but I feel like I can just take things steadier. I’m getting up and going for a run, doing yoga, enjoying time with the kids in the garden and reading. I read a whole book yesterday! Now I don’t plan on doing that everyday, but it was nice to get sucked in by a good book and be able to enjoy it! The house work is done, but it doesn’t feel like the most important thing to do besides work at the moment. It may sound a bit daft, but I am especially enjoying the time I have to do the simple things like pegging the washing out on the line and watch it dry, rather than bunging it all in the tumble drier.

It’s so easy to spend our time rushing from one thing to another. We are always trying to achieve, and complete things, our modern lives are just so busy. It’s lovely not to feel like there is something else I should be doing and so I’m taking advantage and making the most of it. I’m writing this at the moment from my sofa, sat with my two of my boys, Barn next to me and Stanley under my arm, watching the TV. They grow so fast, it’s nice to slow down and enjoy them.

I think we all need it, just the chance to stop. I’m not saying it’s easy, it certainly wasn’t for us. We all are hard wired to be part of the world we live in and it’s weird not to have things when we want them, not to be able to go out to the shops, or out where and when we choose, but I think this enforced slowing down will make us all appreciate the things we have when things go back to normal in the future. Maybe it won’t be back to normal for all of us, it’s sad to think, but it’s likely things will change drastically for some of us and our families.

No one quite knows what we are dealing with, and how long this will go on. So for now I’ll just continue living like this, and enjoying being at home with my family while I can and building dens in the garden with my little one. I’m sure before long everything will be back as it was before and this strange time will all be a distant memory.

Take care and thank you for reading.