SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

Making A Difference

Love and support

Some of you may already know that when I stopped drinking the last (and final) time, I replaced wine with non-alcoholic versions. I know it can be seen as a controversial subject, some say you’re replacing one addiction with another and others that you’re not really addressing the issue. Other people swear by them, so it’s a difficult subject to navigate.

I’d never liked non-alcoholic drinks. I didn’t see the point in wine without the kick, but when I gave up the last time I needed it to be for good, so I used whatever tactics helped.

I liked the ritual of having that special something in a glass still in the evening. One lady I met in recovery poured milk into a wine glass every evening for the same reason. It’s the little habits that seem to help the most. That ritual in itself gave me something to focus on, so while everything was different, pouring my glass each evening made it seem more normal.

Of course, me being me, it got to the point where it was never enough. Like with wine, I obsessed about it, I needed it in the house and couldn’t settle if I didn’t have some, ‘in case’, although I’m not really sure what I thought might happen without it. It wasn’t a physical dependency, but it became a mental one, as I relied on it to help me settle in the evening. If I wasn’t at home, and hadn’t poured myself a drink, I couldn’t relax.

Removing wine from my life only highlighted just how bad my anxieties were, and while I hoped they would go away in time, I didn’t really deal with them as I probably should have done. Time was certainly a healer, and for a lot of people, it is the end of the story. For me, giving up drink just uncovered my insecurities and made me see how much I’d relied on wine to help me numb everything.

I think, it just brings me back to the fact that in recovery there isn’t a one-size fits all remedy. If you’re in the same boat as I was, try new things. Just because it hasn’t worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. We’re all different, as are our addictions and recoveries. If it works for you, it isn’t wrong. And always remember to be kind to yourself.


Take care and thank you for reading.
Claire x

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Talking To Others

Talking to Others
As a family we’re quite self-sufficient, in that we don’t really rely on many people outside of our little bubble. And by bubble, I’m not referring to anything Covid related, we’ve always been like it.

I think of my husband as my best friend, but over the years we’ve fallen out of touch with a lot of other friends. I guess, because we were so young when we had our older kids, it was difficult socialising with friends who weren’t settled and spent their time differently to us. As our kids got older, our friends started having kids and so the balance was tipped the other way. By the time Stanley had come along we had lost touch with many of our close friends, not completely, but we just didn’t see them that often.

In many ways I suppose it made it easier not to see lots of people when I was in the early days of recovery, and even now. I don’t have to explain things to anyone else, unless I choose to. It’s tricky because I feel that I am on top of my problems to such an extent that they don’t worry me anymore, and yet, occasionally, I realise that there is something I haven’t really addressed and makes me struggle more. Like the idea of eating out in a restaurant. It’s those small things when I see that I haven’t pushed myself as much as I could have done. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. It’s not like I’m actively avoiding things. I’m not sitting at home wishing I was out. I’m quite happy at home, it’s just when an event is suggested, even something like a work party, I worry about how I will deal with it.

I felt like a bit of a fraud yesterday at work. I was finishing off some bits for my online shop. I’ve been really enjoying embracing my creativity a little, and designing and making some gifts for those in sobriety. So I waited until everyone was on lunch so I didn’t have to explain myself, not because I didn’t want to, it’s strange, I just find it a bit embarrassing, and I still assume that I’ll be judged or misunderstood. I work with the nicest team of people, and yet, I still worry what they think of me. It’s hard, because there is no rule book of how to explain an addiction to the people you work with. People that work full time spend a lot of time with those they work with, they become almost a second family, well at least it seems that way with our team, and I feel that I don’t want to let them down or have them think the worst of me.

Anyway, everyone was on their lunch break and it was quiet when one of the staff came in and asked what I was making. He was literally just interested and yet I just clammed right up, I felt so self-conscious. I know he saw the word ‘sober’, which isn’t a problem, but because he didn’t ask, I then felt like I couldn’t explain myself. It’s so difficult, because I am so proud of myself for how far I’ve come, and yet, on days like yesterday, I realise just how many avoidance or coping strategies I still have in place.

I’m not really sure what I should do. I know it isn’t anyone else’s business, and it no longer defines who I am, but it is still a part of me. I’m quite an open person in general, so having a ‘secret’ or something I don’t talk about with those close to me feels odd. It’s not even a secret, I just don’t want to be judged. I don’t want people to think the worst of me. I know my strength is in my sobriety, but I don’t know if other people who will understand that. In a culture that is so underpinned by drinking, it can be hard to understand those who don’t drink unless you’ve been affected personally by it. But, maybe I’m just blowing the whole thing out of proportion? I have been known to overthink things!

Thanks as always for reading.
Claire x

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Substitutes

Substitutes using other things instead of alcohol to get over an addiction. Claire Hatwell My Not So Secret Diary blog
Some of you may already know that when I stopped drinking the last (and final) time, I replaced wine with non-alcoholic versions. I know it can be seen as a controversial subject, some say you’re replacing one addiction with another and others that you’re not really addressing the issue. Other people swear by them, so it’s a difficult subject to navigate.

I’d never liked non-alcoholic drinks. I didn’t see the point in wine without the kick, but when I gave up the last time I needed it to be for good, so I used whatever tactics helped.

I liked the ritual of having that special something in a glass still in the evening. One lady I met in recovery poured milk into a wine glass every evening for the same reason. It’s the little habits that seem to help the most. That ritual in itself gave me something to focus on, so while everything was different, pouring my glass each evening made it seem more normal.

Of course, me being me, it got to the point where it was never enough. Like with wine, I obsessed about it, I needed it in the house and couldn’t settle if I didn’t have some, ‘in case’, although I’m not really sure what I thought might happen without it. It wasn’t a physical dependency, but it became a mental one, as I relied on it to help me settle in the evening. If I wasn’t at home, and hadn’t poured myself a drink, I couldn’t relax.

Removing wine from my life only highlighted just how bad my anxieties were, and while I hoped they would go away in time, I didn’t really deal with them as I probably should have done. Time was certainly a healer, and for a lot of people, it is the end of the story. For me, giving up drink just uncovered my insecurities and made me see how much I’d relied on wine to help me numb everything.

I think, it just brings me back to the fact that in recovery there isn’t a one-size fits all remedy. If you’re in the same boat as I was, try new things. Just because it hasn’t worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. We’re all different, as are our addictions and recoveries. If it works for you, it isn’t wrong. And always remember to be kind to yourself.


Take care and thank you for reading.
Claire x

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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

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Lollies

Lollies
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

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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

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Meetings

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

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Understanding The Thoughts Of Others

Understanding the thoughts of others addiction and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I’ve always worried what people think about me. I shouldn’t, I know, but I do. It’s funny, because it’s taken me until recently to see that what people see isn’t necessarily what I expect them to see.

So, a few weeks ago I was talking to one of the guys who works with us about how things can go wrong. It was a totally innocent conversation which started around the subject of machinery but ended up with him telling me how he had discovered an old coworker was drinking on the job. He clearly didn’t know about my history, because if he did, he wouldn’t have been speaking the way he was. He’s a lovely guy, so I know he didn’t mean anything against me. He told me how the other person’s behaviour changed every day after lunch and that it became more noticeable the more time he worked with them. The behaviour got worse and his attitude snappier. My colleague was increasingly worried and one day heard a noise like the clinking of glass from his rucksack. I believe at this point it was decided that a confrontation was needed and it turned out the person was drinking three bottles of wine over the course of the afternoon, two at lunchtime and one throughout the remainder of the day. My colleague was shocked at how much the other person was drinking. I on the other hand could relate, because although I’d never drank in the day, and certainly not at work, it was a similar amount to what I used to drink.

I’m so used to assuming people think the worst of me because of my drinking, so it was really lovely to see that it isn’t actually that obvious to people I haven’t told. I don’t generally tell people I work with. Well, one knows because he was there when I was struggling and I didn’t want him to think I was nuts. I felt it was fair to tell him, but I don’t like to broadcast it. Apparently though, and to my surprise, it isn’t actually something that everyone sees.

Another thing I used to be very self conscious about was my recycling. I hated the noise it made when the men tipped it into the van early on a Monday morning. In the end I used to take it to a recycling bank so it was quieter and more discreet. Recently, both Lee and I have spoken to one set of our neighbours separately. On both occasions we were invited to the pub with them. I told them I didn’t drink, but they didn’t really take me seriously. I think they thought I meant I didn’t drink a lot. I tried to convince them, but I didn’t want it to be weird and I didn’t want to say why, which in hindsight seems silly. When Lee was invited he said the same and although I wasn’t there, I was told they laughed and said we put out a lot of glass recycling for people who don’t drink. Now, they were probably joking but it touched a little nerve with me. It’s funny to think before when I put out a lot of recycling and was self conscious, no one noticed and now I don’t drink, and ironically, seldom put glass out, people think I do.

I know I tell all of you who read this about everything, but I don’t feel the need to advertise it to everyone else. A lot of people still don’t understand, and so this isn’t for them. My addiction took over and defined me for a long time. It’s nice to feel that it doesn’t anymore. It’s made me who I am, or at least contributed to it, and in some ways looking back I’m glad. It’s been a funny and difficult few years, but I’d rather be the person I am now than the person I was then any day!

Take care,
Claire x

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On Hard Days, Just Remember This!

stopping drinking

Fixing The Past

Fixing the Past for my family addiction and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
Years ago I lost contact with some of my family. It was at a time when I was particularly low. I’d fallen out with several members of the family and I was trying to work it out, but it was hard. I felt lost and misunderstood, but then it was probably hard for people to understand as I’d kept the full extent of both my drinking problem and my attempts at recovery fairly close to my chest. While opening up might have gained me a little more understanding, I was terrified of judgment, or of being told to pull myself together.

The majority of my family have always enjoyed a few drinks, I’m not saying that is a problem, it’s just hard to say that I was different as I felt a bit like the black sheep, a little bit odd. And it’s hard to make yourself heard when slowing down, or only drinking at special occasions just isn’t an option. Making the decision to get sober was the right one for me, but perhaps difficult to understand for those who hadn’t seen the whole, bigger picture.

I thought it was easier to bury my head in the sand. I’m quite good at that when it comes to problems. I’ll have a go at fixing something and then, if it’s too hard, or looks impossible, I just put it out of my mind, in a little box, and then for the most part, I can forget about it. I’ve always thought it’s odd I can do that, when I suffer from such bad anxiety most of the time, but I do seem to be able to partition certain things. Of course there’s always triggers that open the box and make me remember, and then I circle on memories for longer than I’d like, but I always seem able to repack that box and put it away again.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past five or six years, folding up thoughts and packing them away. The thing is, it doesn’t really work, and for people like me, even though there might not be an actual worry, there’s a kind of buzzing in my mind that I can’t put my finger on. It felt out of my power to sort it, and yet it was there fizzling away in the background making me feel uneasy. I had run out of ideas to fix it myself, and was scared of being shot down. So I stopped trying and things got worse. Or maybe not worse, but they didn’t get better, and that was sad, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Sometimes things come to a head and you can decide to leave them, or to do what you can. It would have been easier to avoid the situation again. It wouldn’t have caused me any worry, but it also wouldn’t have changed anything, so I tried, and it was reciprocated and I am glad. For something that wasn’t worrying me, it’s amazing how it can feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Families are funny old things, but they are often the closest people we have in the world. Times can be hard, and things challenging, but it’s probably worth trying to work through things where you can. Especially now, in the midst of a global pandemic. Things change on a daily basis, and it’s best, at least where we can, to live without regrets. So don’t put things off if you have a chance to do something, because putting yourself out there is always better than wishing you had.


Take care,
Claire x

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Moving On

Moving On
I was having a conversation recently with some people who know about my drinking problem. It’s funny how other people forget, now I’m through the worst of it. It’s likely though that I’ll never forget and that makes some conversations difficult.

I was told about an event in the news where several deaths had been linked to drinking hand sanitiser. One comment to me was that it was strange, but my reaction was why? If someone has an addiction and can’t drink, then it is likely that they might try to obtain the feeling elsewhere. When I said that, I was told yes, that perhaps they couldn’t get cheap cider. I was a bit shocked to hear that and again wonder if it was because I kept up such a charade that even those close to me didn’t see how bad I was? It is such a stereotype to assume alcoholics only drink a certain drink, although it reinforces the feelings we have that we are okay, because drinking wine (or whatever our personal choice is) is more normal and socially acceptable.

Stereotypes make it harder to seek help and to admit we have a problem. It’s hard enough to face anyway but when you don’t fit the so called expectation of an ‘alcoholic’ it’s even worse. I was so good at keeping up appearances that it took me a long time to admit and address my problem. I find it strange now though, that my struggles seems somewhat forgotten due to the fact that I’m now ‘fixed’. Others tell me to move on from it, but how can I when it is something that played such a big part in who I am? Not drinking may not be a daily battle anymore but I do have triggers and I have to be aware. Complacency could put me back right where I was before.

When I was at the worst point of my dependency I saw my doctor. She was non-judgemental and understanding, not because she had experienced what I had, but because she had worked on hospital wards specialising in addiction and recovery. She told me they’d had to remove the hand sanitisers back then due to people drinking them. I was surprised, even in the state I’d been in, I can’t imagine ever going that far, white wine (and lots of it), was my vice.

Due to it’s high alcohol content hand sanitiser can be used as a means to get intoxicated. It seems that in many prisons before the pandemic, hand sanitiser was banned due not only to the possibility of it being drunk, but also the fact that it could be used as a fire starter. In one case in New Mexico, three people died and one was permanently blinded from drinking something that is designed to protect us from disease. In India, ten people who suffered from a dependency died although many others were hospitalised. It seems that they made their own substance using hand sanitiser as the local shops selling alcohol were closed during lockdown. After a quick google search, I’ve found other cases too, including some in the USA.

I am so grateful for my sobriety right now. I couldn’t imagine going through lockdown and the stress of coronavirus with additional worry of a lack of alcohol. I can’t imagine how I would have been able to keep up with supplying my demand either with the limits on shopping, and it would have made everything so much worse.

It is very easy to look in from the outside and judge others, as I’ve said, I can’t imagine ever drinking hand sanitiser, but who knows what lengths any of us would go to if the need was that great? We can’t always do the ‘right’ thing. Especially when we are dependent on a substance.

It’s a sad old world when people are literally dying for a drink, but when those that need something for a physical or mental dependency can’t get it, I can see why they’d need to try other means to satisfy their need.

So, moving on… It is something I’m trying to do, but, I’m not going to forget, because sad as it is to hear about incidents like these, it reminds me how far I’ve come, and how lucky I am. As I’ve said before, if I can do it, anyone can.

Thanks for reading,
Claire x

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How Far I’ve Come

How Far I've Come addiction and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
It’s easy when you’re in the midst of a struggle not to be able to see the woods for the trees. I couldn’t. I was so fixated on my drinking problem and then getting rid of it that I couldn’t really see anything else. Despite making the decision not to drink, the actual not drinking was far harder than I thought it would be. I would have loved to have been able to turn a switch and never want to drink again, but as I had already discovered, I do not have an off switch when it comes to wine.

More than once I tried to moderate, because ‘everyone’ drinks. It’s the way our society conditions us to think, even if it isn’t really true. We are bombarded with images reinforcing how we need alcohol in our lives, how it’s there to help us on tough days and reward us on others. When you see something so often you begin to believe it, even if it isn’t true.

Looking back, nothing was better when I drank. I thought for a time it made me grown up, but I became an adult without it. I thought it made me cool, sophisticated, rewarded, so many things, but in reality, I wasn’t any of them. I didn’t realise I was becoming dependent until it was too late, because things like that don’t happen to people like me. Realising you have a problem and doing something about it are two very different things, even when you want to fix it and so for a long time, I avoided it. The need to drink doesn’t make it any easier, in fact suddenly it makes it all seem more real, and that sober life you hope for just seems further away.

I literally couldn’t imagine back then how a life without wine would look. I just didn’t get how it would be possible and what the point would be, if I didn’t have that full glass to look forward to. Every image in my head involved relaxing with wine so it was hard to relearn my thinking. I didn’t really know who I’d be without it because it had been a large part of my life for so long. It’s hard writing that now, but you know, it’s the truth of how I felt, so there’s no point in pretending it wasn’t.

Now, when I look back, it feels like I’m looking back on another person who inhabited my life for a few years. I know it was me, but I have so little in common with that version of myself that it seems very odd. I’m not going to say I never think about about wine, but honestly, I don’t want to drink anymore. Occasionally, and as time goes on, it’s less and less often, but occasionally I do associate certain things with drinking and it makes it harder for me. My son works at a lovely restaurant and has suggested it would be nice to go and eat there one evening. He has one table in mind, on the balcony overlooking the sea and while I want to go and enjoy it, on one hand my first thought was, ‘why am I the one to miss out on wine?’, closely followed by, ‘what will other people think?’ Logically, I know no one else even cares about what I drink and by not drinking, I am in no way missing out, but isn’t it funny how they are my first thoughts? Why do I assume eating out should include wine?

I wouldn’t change my sobriety for anything. It was hard earned and I am grateful. I love the clarity of mind I have now. I love remembering. I love being present. I love being a better, more patient and understanding person. There are still some ingrained habits and thoughts that need working on but it’s no surprise really, not when I spent so many years drinking my worries away. I want to get to a point where I can safely say I don’t even miss the romantic thought of drinking, but at least I understand that’s all it is, my reality is very different. Until then, I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come.

Much love,
Claire x

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Advice

Advice Claire Hatwell recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary - writing, addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health Cornwall
I’m seeing more and more blogs turn up online lately. It’s obvious to see that nowadays it’s easier to get your work out there for people to read. A few years ago, the only way of having work read by others was to submit and have it accepted by a publisher or magazine. Now it’s relatively easy to set up a website, blog, Facebook or Instagram account to share your thoughts, and like me, I expect a lot of people gain a lot of clarity through sorting through and sharing their thoughts. On the other hand, what worries me is that some of the ‘advisors’ out there are actually only just themselves beginning to explore their own sobriety. How can you advise someone else when you haven’t finished working on yourself? I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be out there or that I am better. That isn’t my intention at all. I suppose I just worry that someone might suggest something detrimental and I know from experience when I was at my lowest point that I was naive, impressionable and vulnerable.

I share my thoughts because I hope it helps. Reading the experiences of others certainly helped me, and still does. It unites us against a common enemy. It stops us from feeling alone. But, and this is quite a big but; I don’t advise. I can share what worked or didn’t work for me, but our lives and our experiences are very different. Those things might not be the same for anyone else.

I also felt I was doing something wrong when I repeatedly read (and still sometimes do read) comments about how cutting out the drink fixed things straight away. I thought I was doing sobriety wrong and I wondered if there was something wrong with me, because all cutting out wine did for me was expose how poor my mental health was. Suddenly, instead of just a drinking problem, I had to worry about my mind too. I just wanted to get better and reading about people who one week or a month into their sobriety were sleeping better with a huge improvement in their anxiety did nothing to make me feel better. It just made me feel worse.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t share our experiences. In fact, I feel very strongly that we should. I just shy away from the idea of dishing out advice. I hope my experiences help others, but truthfully, I have no idea. I can only hope for the best. I don’t profess to be an expert in addiction or recovery, but I have been there so I do understand. I’m wary of anyone or anything that makes a promise to help or fix a problem. Especially when they charge for the service, or offer advice and expertise when they haven’t been sober for that long. To me, a promise should only be made when you can guarantee it will be met, otherwise you’re in danger of building up hopes and letting people down.

If you’re in recovery, just remember, everyone’s personal experience is different. There is no right or wrong. Just do what feels right for you and remember to be kind to yourself. Things do get better.


Take care of yourselves.
Claire x

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Appreciation

Appreciation 2 at the beach Claire Hatwell recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary - writing, addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health Cornwall
I used to find it impossible to slow down. I felt like I was in a constant race. I rushed everything, the good and the bad, to get a sense of fulfilment and to feel like I had achieved something. The thing is, that for me, that feeling is a bit like the feeling you get with drinking. Once you’ve done it, you need more to get the same feeling. It’s not a good feeling when you never feel proud of yourself. It eats away at your self-confidence and I found that I measured my self-worth by the amount of things I could tick off a list. The problem was, it never felt like it was enough.

When I stopped drinking my mind suddenly felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do with myself at the best of times but now I had extra time on my hands it was even worse. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t even think straight. To me, that was all a shock. I thought that if I cut out wine, then I’d become settled and relaxed almost straight away. It wasn’t like that, and instead I was just a bit of a mess. It was hard to deal with.

Over time I’ve slowed down. I’ve got used to my new pace and I’ve come to enjoy the small things, possibly, this is helped by the fact that I actually see them now. I’m not rushing aimlessly about trying to achieve the next thing. It’s peaceful and calm and quiet. I like it.

Appreciation
On Sunday we had to take our son Barn to work. As he works right by the beach I promised our little one Stanley we’d go and play. The weather was forecast to be good so I packed up his bucket and spade with a towel and planned on spending the day there. Of course, when we woke up, it was raining, and not just a little bit, but properly torrential. I didn’t want to let Stanley down, so we went anyway. Rather than swimming shorts, he wore wellies and a coat, until he filled them up with water and ended up barefoot! I paddled and so did Lee. There was so much we could have been doing instead, so much work and things around the house, that could have taken a prioriy, but just then for a few hours we slowed down and enjoyed it just being the three of us, spotting fish and digging holes. It was lovely and the rain didn’t spoil a thing.

Take a breath and stop for a second. Life is good. Enjoy it!

Claire x
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Comparisons

Comparisons running practice at Part Track with my sons Claire Hatwell recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary - writing, addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health Cornwall
I’ve never really been one to compete with others (myself maybe, but not others). I’ve always felt a bit separate. I don’t want to have the newest car or biggest house. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things, I just like them for me, rather than because someone says I should.

I’ve also never pushed my kids to compete. All four are very different, they each have their own strengths and I don’t ever want them to feel that they are compared to each other or to anyone else. I remember often being the odd one out because I didn’t want to compare the grades my kids were getting with my friends kids. The thing was that they were five or six then, too little to know what they should or shouldn’t be achieving. The same thing applies now though, whether they’re doing their GCSEs, learning to walk or learning to drive, they are all individuals, capable of so much, but sometimes hindered when they hear throw away comments.

I remember being told I’d need to toughen up because I was so sensitive. I don’t think that’s always true though. I think it’s more the case that adults should think about their words and actions. It’’s all too easy to snap and say something, but we are shaping the lives of our young people, and what they see and hear is what they will model back to us.

Growing up, I never felt like I fitted into the right box. I’m a bit messy you see, not in the way I clean my house, but in the way I approach life. I’ve never ticked the right boxes. It’s taken me until now to realise that the way I am doesn’t make me wrong, it makes me interesting.

I’m at the running track as I write this. It’s a beautiful sunny evening and the club are training in front of me. It’s interesting to see the different perceptions of the parents here. Clearly they all want their children to do the best they can, but equally I’d hope they’d want them to enjoy themselves too. At least that’s what I want. As much as Barn enjoys competing I don’t think there would be any point if he didn’t also enjoy his time with the team, and running itself of course.

As I watched, one parent approached the railing to tell their two children that they weren’t putting enough effort in, and were chatting too much. This comment was followed up by a correction on their foot placement. It seemed so negative, and I understand the feeling to want your kids to do well, but this was during the warm-ups, and if they can’t chat to their team then, well when can they? They’re so young. Meanwhile Barn was stretching while chatting to his mates that are in his pod. (They’re in small pods for Covid reasons). There’s six of them and while they’re taking it seriously it’s nice to see them enjoying themselves too.

One child in particular is rather over-confident and it’s a bit painful to watch them try to compare themselves to others, to tear them down in order to build themselves up. While in some ways I don’t blame them, they obviously need the constant reassurance to make themselves feel good, it’s interesting to see that while they have the support of the coaches, this one child is always alone. That bravado hasn’t gained any extra friends and in fact possibly just pushed the team further away. It’s a shame the individual doesn’t see that.

So, I’m not sure what the right thing is exactly, but I’ll continue to do what I’m doing. I’ll be myself, and encourage my kids to do the same, but in the same way, I’ll remind them to be patient and understated with others as much as possible, to be themselves while remembering that we are all different, and that in itself is okay.

Take care,
Claire x

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Doing Something Different

helicopter 2
I did something I had never done before today. It was amazing… I flew in a helicopter!

Last Christmas we decided that rather than buying a lot of gifts that might be unwanted, we would buy experiences for both sets of our parents, and some of our gifts to each other were also things we thought the others would like to do. Funnily enough, my Mum and Dad also bought us experiences, so all in all we had a lot of things lined up for the year. Then of course came Corona Virus! The dates we had booked got closer and I thought we might miss out.

Barn was hoping to do the Hangloose Adventure Experience at Eden, which consists of huge zip wires and giant swings, but unfortunately, that has been postponed. Lee and I have a break away booked later on in the year, so I hope we can get to that, and Joe hasn’t even booked his experience driving a Mustang yet!

Katie and I had a helicopter flight. It was booked for the 1st August, which was so far in the future that I didn’t worry. I didn’t even think about it until last week, when I had a confirmation email, that it was going ahead, dependent on the weather. That was when I started to worry. Not so much about the flight itself, but more about the logistics, getting there, the roads, whether I’d get up in time, whether there would be toilets nearby! The list of things I can find to worry about can go on some time! In fact, mid-week, I almost hoped it would be cancelled, as that would stop me worrying. I hate feeling like that, because I don’t want to miss out, it’s just a bit of a safety mechanism for me. It’s always easier not to.

I tried to put the worries to one side and focus on the fact that I didn’t have to do it, and that what will be will be, so to speak and for once it seemed to work. I can’t say I wasn’t a little nervous in the car, but I didn’t have a panic attack, so I am definitely better than I was a few months ago. That’s one thing about my anxiety, I feel so much better, but in reality, I don’t challenge myself too much at the moment either, and haven’t done really since lockdown. So I guess, as I start to do things more often, it’s going to be a bit more difficult, but I now see, just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean I don’t have to do it.

The organisers had put lots of safety measures in place, and there were only four of us in the helicopter, along with the pilot. Although we weren’t socially distanced, everyone had masks on, and everything was cleaned down in between flights. They even checked our temperatures before we were allowed to board.

Helicopter helicopter 2 St Ives flying Claire Hatwell recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary - writing, addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health Cornwall
Although it was a small helicopter, it was very windy standing so close, but again, it was something that added to the experience. We buckled in, and then we were off. I’d chosen St Ives because it was the closest place to us, but also a very beautiful one. The coast looked almost mediterranean as we flew over, the sea so blue and the sand so white. It was much smoother than I expected too, and although it was too noisy to talk, and hard to see what the other was thinking due to the masks, we had a really lovely time.

It’s too easy not to do something because it is hard. I find it much harder to push myself to do something out of my comfort zone, but especially in this instance, I am very glad I did.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Much love,
Claire x

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