21 April. 2020
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.
21 April. 2020
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?
19 April. 2020
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.
17 April. 2020
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.
16 April. 2020
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.
14 April. 2020
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.
12 April. 2020
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.
10 April. 2020
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.
Here’s the link to the article.
09 April. 2020
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!
08 April. 2020
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.
07 April. 2020
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.
06 April. 2020
05 April. 2020
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.
05 April. 2020
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?
Maybe in this case, every little doesn't help?
04 April. 2020
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.
03 April. 2020
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.
03 April. 2020
02 April. 2020
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.
02 April. 2020
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!)
01 April. 2020
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.