My Not So Secret Diary

We Are Sailing

We Are Sailing 1
Three years ago, in the summer that Stanley was born, we decided that taking the kids away on holiday might be a bit much. We’d camped with the others from a young age, but just weren’t sure whether a tiny baby waking up in the night was a fair thing to inflict on a campsite. Stanley was only six weeks old and it was before we’d taken the kids on a plane, so all our holidays involved at least a long drive, and possibly a ferry ride too. It seemed a bit much, so instead we bought a yacht.

We’ve been known to be impulsive, but also normally check out our options quite well before jumping in. We couldn’t sail, well Katie and Barn could as they’d learned with their primary school, but the rest of us had no experience. My parents had speed boats as I was growing up, so I had a bit of experience of that, but sailing was another matter entirely. Our boat was not new by any means but she was lovely, with enough room for all six of us and the dog. She came with a mooring that was a huge selling point for us really, it was out on it’s own, midway up the River Dart. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, and quiet and peaceful which was particularly helpful back then.

The day we went to look at the boat was an experience that happened by chance. We were meant to look at others, but one by one realised they weren’t quite right. The owners of ours lived in Bristol, but by chance happened to be in Devon on the day we hoped to look. We agreed to meet them on the boat and having no idea of the area, didn’t quite realise what we had let ourselves in for. We ended up driving our rather large VW Transporter along a tiny lane, down the steepest hill to a quay with a distinct lack of parking. There was a festival that day, making it even busier than usual, which added to the atmosphere, but also to the schedule of the water taxi who was pushed to even take us out to the mooring. To be honest, later we wondered if he had forgotten us as it took him so long to return for us! Of course, Stanley was tiny and carrying him, we had to climb from the water taxi and onto the sailing boat. Looking back I smile, but I wonder how I managed it. I expect it was helped that I didn’t know what to expect. If I had, I might not have pushed myself.

We fell in love with the boat that day. It needed some TLC, but was ours, a home away from home. It made a lovely weekend getaway at around 90 minutes from home and as the internet wasn’t 100% reliable out there, phones didn’t get too much use. Many of our neighbours were serious sailors and although it was a close knit community we were welcomed. Gradually we learned the ropes and explored, first up the river and then downstream and out to sea. Popping down to Dartford for lunch was a favourite as was popping over to a local village in the evening to let the kids and dog stretch their legs at a lovely little park.

We Are Sailing 2
Over time we extended our water sports activities and alongside our tender boat which we used to get to and from the quay, we bought kayaks and a paddle board. I spent more time in the water than on the paddle board but it was fun, and something I’d never tried before.

We saw so much wildlife too, from the seal that used to come up to investigate when Barn was reading in the evenings on the front of the boat, to the fish Joe spent time catching and the group of seals that followed us several miles upstream one afternoon. It was magical and the perfect escape for us, both from work and to be honest, also for me to have a break from the normal routines at home. Having been sober for a year then was great, but I’d been pregnant for some of it and was finding changing routines and habits almost harder. I still felt compelled to get home, although I wasn’t sure why anymore. I worried when we stayed on the boat, even though I enjoyed it. The sound and movement of the water at night lulled me to sleep but it didn’t remove my worries. It didn’t, like most things fix me, and that was frustrating.

It wasn’t always easy though. There were storms and rough days and having to drive a long way to check the boat was a pain, especially in the winter. We were lucky though, a neighbours boat broke it’s mooring and ran aground, eventually sinking. I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been to deal with that.

Eventually after two years we realised we had almost outgrown her. The kids were bigger and we were often tripping over each other and sharing one tiny bathroom was tricky! We decided we needed something smaller for days out or something bigger but closer. There were times when we just wanted to pop up for an hour, but it was difficult when it was so far away. So, with heavy hearts, we sold her.

I think that time, and freedom, and having that space were other important factors in my recovery, although that wasn’t a reason for buying the boat at all, and I’m not recommending that everyone in recovery needs a boat to succeed! I think for me, it helped break our routines and start to find a different way, which was something I really needed. I learned I could do things that I never thought I’d be able to do, and most of them were great fun!

We haven’t yet bought another boat. Lee often shows me pictures, but at the moment they far exceed our price range. We miss it though, so I hope one day we’ll be able to adventure on the high sea once more!

Thanks for reading.
Claire x



You know that moment when you see something and it just really annoys you…? Well I saw this the other day in a magazine. I totally understand that some people ‘enjoy a nice drink’ and that others can ‘drink responsibly’. I hate that term, I don’t see why we should label people as responsible or not when it comes to drinking. Sometimes, we can’t be as responsible as we’d like because we are suffering from addictions. But, I’m getting off the point.

I don’t read many magazines, but I like this one. I like the articles, I like reading it, but I was so disappointed while reading it last month. It was intended innocently enough I believe, only an article about home made lollies. It’s been hot, so who doesn’t love a lolly? I was skimming through when I saw next to the photo, “If you want to make them even more grown-up, you could add a cheeky shot of gin.”

I’m not sure what to think? Are they telling me I am not a grown up because I don’t drink? That I should drink to be a grown up? Or that I can’t enjoy a lolly as an adult without it having alcohol in it? Why is this magazine, which is supposed to be about enjoying a simpler life just reinforcing the idea our society has that we need alcohol? Because we don’t. Like I said before, I do understand that a lot of people enjoy a drink, and that’s fine, but as I know, there is a fine line between enjoying and becoming reliant. I don’t think magazines which ultimately are in a position of power to influence the public should be reinforcing a need to drink. They wouldn’t condone smoking, and really the two aren’t so dissimilar, are they? Both are addictive, and both are linked to a lot of health conditions, so why does alcohol get the seal of approval?

It’s frustrating for me to see things like this after all this time, but it doesn’t make me want to drink. It just makes me cross. However, I do know how it would have affected me a while back, and I really feel for those of us who pick up an innocent magazine, and are once more bombarded with reminders of how they are missing out.

I hope things change and others begin to cotton on to the fact that we aren’t missing out, that it’s okay to live without alcohol. Actually it’s more than okay. I just wish everyone else saw that.

Thanks for reading.
Claire xx


Things I'd Rather Forget

Things I'd Rather Forget addiction and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
Waking up and not knowing is awful. Even when you are safe in your own home, although actually maybe that’s worse, because then you know the people you’ve affected are those closest to you.

Especially towards the end of my drinking ‘career’, after one or two failed attempts at recovery, many of my mornings were spent worrying about the night before. I kidded myself that each night would be different, that I wouldn’t drink so much, but I couldn’t help myself. I stressed out before I had a drink, especially if there was a delay of some kind, but once I’d had that magical first one, I lost all inhibitions and reserves. It went downhill from there, and every night was the same.

First, it was the small things, like falling asleep in the evening. Then the fuzziness. Then came blackouts. I still can’t get my head around the concept of a blackout, that you can be somewhere appearing to function, but have no recollection of it. Basically, though, when there is a certain level of alcohol in your system, your brain fails to make memories. Scary when you think of it like that isn’t it?

I hated to admit I didn’t remember, or couldn’t remember. I was ashamed that I was losing control, and I was scared to do anything about it, so I just tried to hide it instead. It’s easier to hide the fact that you’ve forgotten a bit of your book and need to read it again than it is to admit that you don’t remember how a film ended. Especially when you’re there talking about it while it’s on. It’s worse when you ask how a phone call went, only to be told that you’ve already asked and been told, maybe more than once, but forgotten. Or you don’t want to ask, in case you already have, but forgot the answer. Although it was possibly quite obvious, I still couldn’t admit it, I was so afraid of letting people down. Of course, problems don’t go away when you bury your head in the sand. They just get worse.

One morning I woke up with a sore head, and had to be told that I’d banged it on the bathroom tap when I over enthusiastically went to wash my face before bed. Then there was the conversation about a potential employee I’d been asked to look into. When I was questioned about it at work, I couldn’t even remember looking them up, let alone what I was meant to have found out. But of course, rather than admit it, I tried to blag it again. Conversations were forgotten. Arguments were forgotten. Reality became quite a blur as my memories, worries and dreams all muddled together. But still, I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was experiencing.

It’s crazy when I look back to think that I tried to hide things so much. I was so sure that I was more fun when I had been drinking, which made me feel afraid that I might be boring without it (I’m not, but I am a lot more balanced). Life has changed a lot for me in the past three to four years. I had to hit my rock bottom to realise I was really so bad and while my lowest point might not look like someone else’s might, it was pretty tough. I still had my family and my home where many people in my position don’t, but inside, I was broken. I thought I had it all together with my armour up, but looking back now I see that I just didn’t get things as I thought I did. I thought I was there, but really I was just going through the motions.

I can’t change my past, no one can, but we can all learn from our experiences and use them to make us the best versions we can of ourselves. There’s no point in being ashamed. It doesn’t fix anything, and to be honest, if I had lived a different life I wouldn’t be me, and I quite like being me. I have a wonderful husband and we have four amazing kids, I wouldn’t want anything different now.

Take care and thanks as always for reading.
Claire x



Meetings addiction and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I’m not the most social creature at the best of times. It’s not that I don’t like people, I’m just a bit wary I guess. I often misinterpret intentions or worry that people will misinterpret mine. I often assume that people think the worst of me. So when I was invited by my sobriety counsellor to go to meetings with other people ‘like’ me, I wasn’t sure whether it would be the best idea.

I hadn’t yet stopped drinking, which is a weird thing when you’re trying to get sober, but I’d been told to slowly cut down, rather than stop completely. The amount I was drinking could have caused a lot of problems if I’d just stopped. I was told that cutting down made it more achievable, although it made me feel a bit of a fraud in all honesty, and it added to my confusion about the way I felt. It was a strange old time. I didn’t really get on that well with my counsellor, I just didn’t feel properly understood and I think that’s a really important thing to feel when you’re opening up so much of yourself and asking for help. So although I was nervous and unsure I decided to go to the meetings and see what came of it. It couldn’t harm, I thought.

The first thing was that the meetings were really local to where we lived, which made me cautious, as I worried people I would know would see me, and ‘know’. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so on the first meeting I was early. Two ladies met me and were pretty wary about saying who they were. Of course, I didn’t really want to tell strangers why I was there either, but we eventually worked out that we were there for the same reason. They led the group and seemed so far from where I was. I couldn’t believe that they’d ever had dependencies on alcohol. But they had, and once we spoke about their journeys it gave me hope.

The group was an interesting one. It wasn’t full of any stereo-typical alcoholics, rather individuals, who all had separate reasons for being there. At first, my appearance of having it together made me feel a bit of an outsider, but once we had introduced ourselves we began to understood each other more. No one was like me, and yet they all were. There were people who drank less, some who drank all day, and there were those who did drugs too. Some of their stories were far darker than mine, some weren’t, but we all understood why we were there. Suddenly I had a support group.

Going to meetings didn’t magically fix things for me. At first, I still went home and had a drink, because ironically my counsellor had told me to. But what it did was get me talking, it opened my mind to other possibilities. I remember one conversation, when I told the group I was angry about not drinking because I felt I deserved to. Especially in the evenings. But I was asked why I deserved wine, why I couldn’t deserve something else instead. It didn’t cure me, but it made me think, it made me realise I did have other choices and it opened my eyes to other people having the same sort of battles.

Different things work for different people, I suppose it’s just important to keep an open mind, and try different options, because otherwise, sobriety is a much harder battle.

Next month will be four years. I never believed for a moment that I would be able to say that. I have no intention of ever going back to where I was.

Good luck if you are on a sober journey. Take care all, and thanks as always for reading.

Claire x