My Not So Secret Diary

Welcome to my December Entries. For the current month, please click on 'My Diary'

Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020
We've had a wonderful Christmas. It's been quiet of course, but sometimes that's what we need. It’s also the first Christmas I can safely say I haven't worried about drinking or even wanted to drink at all. It’s the first time in my four years of sobriety that I haven't felt like I've been missing out.

Life of course goes on. My family’s lives don’t revolve around my sobriety and even though they are supportive, I wouldn't want it to affect them any more than necessary.

Obviously like many others, my three teenagers have been affected by our Covid lockdowns and the restrictions that we've been placed under. We’ve all tried to keep things normal, but that's hard when the world isn't normal anymore. Recently our daughter went out for drinks with some friends as it was one of their 19th birthdays. Over the years she's struggled at times with friendship groups but at a time when things could be harder and almost more isolating, she seems to have come into her own, and found a lovely group of friends. It’s so good to see her coming out of herself and growing into a lovely young woman. That night her younger brother was working and also needed a lift so we asked her older brother to take her to the pub to meet her friends. They went to a Wetherspoons in a neighbouring town. I didn't realise having not been in that now all orders are done by an app and then brought to you. It makes sense in this crazy Covid world, but it also means that when your big brother finds out your table number he can order several rounds of drinks to the table unbeknown to you and your friends. He dropped her off later and she told me about her “Wonderful” evening. She was funny as she was a little tipsy, something that we haven’t seen before, but she had a really nice time and it was lovely to see her enjoy herself.

I've never aimed to stop anyone from drinking. All I ask is that they don't try to encourage me to, or to make me feel bad about my choice. However, it was really nice to be able to share in Katie's enjoyment of her evening and know that her brother was looking after her. I've warned them of the dangers of drinking every night like I did and creating habits that are hard to break, but other than that I want them all to go out and have fun; it's only what I did when I was younger.

The best thing nowadays is finally having reached a place where I can relax about others drinking. I don't need to, I don't want to, but that doesn't mean I'm boring or missing out. It means that I'm making the best choice I can for myself. Meanwhile, I can still enjoy seeing my kids having fun. My choice doesn't have to affect them.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas?

Thank you as always for reading, and take care.
Claire x


New Habits

New Habits
This year is my fourth sober Christmas and New Year. I approached it prepared to have a moment at some point, because knowing me, and past years, I thought I probably would, but this year is the first time in a long time that I really looked forward to the simplicity of a family Christmas without any preoccupation or worry about drinking. Or not drinking, come to think about it.

We’re busy as a family with three teenagers and a three year old. My husband works hard and so it’s nice to look forward to the down time of Christmas or holidays. Sadly though, I also used to associate those times with wine and drinking. It wasn’t exclusive, most ‘good times’ were associated with wine. With the older three having jobs and working a fair bit too now, it’s hard to schedule time where we can do things together. Wednesday nights are the only evening that my daughter doesn’t work, and on the last week before Christmas I offered to take her late night shopping so we could get into the Christmas spirit and enjoy seeing the lights. It seemed like a good idea, but as often happens with me, once things start to get closer, I start to think of reasons why it isn’t such a good idea. For instance, because my husband was working away, I knew I’d have to drive. It isn’t a problem, but it’s about a forty minute drive, and that’s after taking my son to work which is twenty five minutes in the other direction. So I often worry I’ll be tired, but most of all I used to worry about not drinking. Of whether I’d want to. I’m quite happy at home so it’s always a bit of a challenge to get me out in the evening. That morning the weather was atrocious, we had loads of weather warnings in place and even the dual carriageways were flooded. There was even a landslide on the main road. I would normally have used it as an excuse and although it crossed my mind, I didn’t. All day at work I watched and waited to see what the weather would do, and then we went anyway.

In honesty, it wasn’t exactly what I would have hoped for, it was so busy and with Covid I was cautious, but, it was lovely to wander the streets and enjoy the atmosphere. We only went in a couple of shops, but my little one Stanley enjoyed going on a swinging chair ride and seeing the delight on his face was magical.

Sometimes, I still have to push myself to do things the old me wouldn’t have done. I still have a lot of safety mechanisms in place to protect myself, and it’s interesting realising that I don’t need them all any more. I can do things that are out of the ordinary for me, I can cope with it and more importantly, I can enjoy it.

It’s often assumed that recovery is hard and then over. I don’t think that’s quite right. I think it’s much longer term than I used to. But that’s okay, most of us have spent quite a few years getting into our habits, so it’s going to take a while to come out the other side. My motto is to remember to be kind, not just to others but to yourselves. Sometimes the wobbles come out of nowhere. They’re the worst, because they knock you unexpectedly. But it’s okay because you can just keep going, and with each day, you’ll be a little bit stronger. I know. I’ve been there.

So embrace the new things, enjoy the old things that you still want to keep, and let go of those you don’t. Most of all, take care of yourselves.

Much love,
Claire xx


The Culture We Live In

The Culture We Live In
I saw an article recently about "Mom wine culture”. It's something I for one really struggle with. Here's why
• It teaches us to drown our problems, rather than deal with them.
• It makes light of alcoholism. By that I mean that it gives people like me an excuse to drink because 'everyone' does and it encourages others to doubt whether we are 'really that bad' because again, everyone else does it!
• It teaches us, and by default the people we live with, that alcohol is the answer, and the way to deal with our problems.
• It's a form of self-medication and we can come to rely on it, but by doing so it can stop us identifying that we might actually need other help.
• It can make us feel we have no other choices, that we have little hope.

I know a lot of it is intended as fun, but for me at least, it feels hard to go against the normality of posts that encourage and make light of drinking.
I actually had a bit of a disagreement with someone fairly close to me about this subject. She felt there was no harm in ‘fun’ posts like that and people should be able to think responsibly. They were her actual words to my someone who can’t drink responsibly, whatever the hell that stupid term actually means! She even went on to explain how one of her parents had been an alcoholic and had an illness, implying that I was somehow different.

It’s strange how drinking to excess can be seen as different when different lifestyles are taken into account. For example as a working parent, I ‘deserved' a glass of wine at the end of the day. It was a socially acceptable thing to do. Perfectly normal you might say, to down a bottle or more of wine at home by yourself, but if I was outside, maybe on a park bench it's frowned upon. I get that the circumstances are different to a certain extent and yet they're not. I was probably doing more harm to my body than a lot of heavy drinkers but somehow society approved of my perceived actions because I'd earned it? It's a funny old thing to get your head around!

So when I see memes pop up in my news feed it makes me feel uncomfortable. That’s not because it makes me want to drink, or makes me feel I’m missing out, because honestly I don't feel that way. Rather, it makes me feel for the people who are where I was. I hate that these jokes and comments make it hard for some, because I know what a struggle it is. Although as I've said before its a very worthwhile challenge. One I will never regret!

Thank you as always for reading!
Claire x


Filling The Gap

Filling The Gap
Sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective on your thoughts and feelings when you’re in the middle of something. It can be hard to see the wood for the trees so to speak. Personally, I didn’t realise I didn’t realise how much I was trying to prove myself over the years, and then it wasn’t necessarily to others but to myself. I couldn’t see how other people saw me, but then, no one can really can they? Instead I assumed what they might think, and tried to live up to the expectations they may or may not have had of me. It’s a hard way to live, because when you’re judging yourself so harshly, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever measure up.

I remember going to visit a friend. They invited me over, but then for some reason the visit didn’t last long. I felt awkward and left feeling a little hurt and like I’d outstayed my welcome, even though I’d done nothing wrong. Feeling like that threw me and I ended up stopping at a shop on the way home, spending a lot of money on a lot of clothes that I didn’t really need. At the time it felt good but afterwards I felt a bit empty. There were lots of things like that though. Those moments when I felt like, when I have this, it’ll make me feel better and I’ll be happy, but they never worked like I thought they would. They never quite hit the mark. Over the years drinking was a bit like that for me too. I longed for that first glass, I looked forward to the release of anxiety and tension, and yet it never quite hit the spot, it was like a thirst that I couldn’t quench. I always seemed to be reaching for something, but when I had it, it wasn’t quite enough.

Recovery is a tricky thing to navigate. There is no right and no wrong. Different things work for different people and that’s okay. Trying to find what works and moving on when it doesn’t takes time. Recovery on the whole has taken a lot longer than I thought it would, but that’s because it took more unpicking than I thought and I’m not saying that would be the same for everyone. Alcohol helps to mask a lot of problems and so you don’t always notice how severe they are until you set them free. I found the release of my emotions hard. The freedom from wine meant my mind was busier than I was used to. I had more hours in the day too which added to my uncertainty.

Without alcohol I’ve found I’m different now in many ways. Not fundamentally because I am of course the same person, but underneath I learned to let down my armour and embrace who I am. I’ve found I don’t like drama or confrontation. Anything on TV that is too dramatic or too near to real life experiences stresses me out. I like something a bit more removed, a bit of escapism. I’ve rediscovered my love of reading and devour books. It’s wonderful to actually remember what I’ve read. I’m quite a sensitive soul, but where I used to hide it, I don’t anymore. I let people know within reason how I feel without giving too much away that it becomes embarrassing. It’s refreshing, and I have to say, I certainly prefer myself the way I am now.

Searching for some external source to make you happy is never the answer. It can be hard to obtain, or hard to keep, and once you get used to it, it often feels like it isn’t enough. Without wine in my life, I feel more whole than I did before. I’m not perfect, but I’m me, not a diluted version, and it feels pretty good to be honest.

Take care of yourselves and thanks as always for reading.
Claire x


Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts
Although it might sound strange as you are reading my blog, it actually takes a lot for me to share my feelings, but I think that’s perhaps because I over analyse them a lot. I try to work out where the thoughts come from and answer my questions myself, probably because in the past other people have asked me why I feel a certain way and I’ve been unable to answer. For example, why I panic so much (anxiety), why I worry so much (self esteem) and why I drank so much (alcoholism). It’s easier to work things out for myself than ask for help, but also, I don’t feel I always need a sounding board for my wonderings.

As I know I’ve said before, writing is my therapy. Getting my muddles out of my head happens far more fluently and coherently via a pen and paper than by chatting, at least for me. I know that won’t be the case for everyone though. It also always makes me feel better to think that someone, somewhere might read my thoughts and find it helps them.

One of my favourite quotes is “Connection is the opposite of addiction.” (Johann Hari). It’s true. Connecting with those that get you, usually through shared experiences of some kind, is valuable. It’s probably one of the reasons AA works so well for many people. It’s possible you’re able to be understood with less need for explanation.

Sharing is scary. Being vulnerable is scary because it takes a lot to admit things you may not be proud of. Some of us struggle to share things we are proud of anyway, so it’s even harder when we’re embarrassed or ashamed, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. During a conversation recently I was told that there are two perspectives on honesty, one from each side of the experience. It’s strange to think about it, but really, it’s quite right. We all see things in different ways and just because I feel a particular way about something, doesn’t mean necessarily mean either of us are wrong if you don’t agree.

I think the most important thing to remember, whatever our point of view, is to be kind to ourselves and those around us. Who knows what challenges others might be facing, even if they don’t choose to share.

Thank you as always for reading

Claire xx



RelianceIt’s scary to come to realise you've become reliant on something. It's often the way that once you realise or at least begin to wonder if you're dependent, that it's almost a bit late. I don't mean that in a doom and gloom way, just in a it's hard to unpick and sort yourself out sort of way.

Any form of dependency is hard to overcome but it can be even harder when your reliance is a socially acceptable one like drinking wine. Then, rather than just overcoming something you feel like you're swimming upstream against the tide. It can make you feel you're wrong for wanting to try to change. It can make you feel different and undermine your resolve and self confidence.

I see a lot of jokes online about drinking. I get it, it can be a funny subject, but sometimes for a lot of us, it can also be a little bit too close for comfort. It can feel like we're being laughed at, or worse that we're wrong for being the way we are. It can make us feel we’re maybe over-reacting about our problems. Worst of all, it can perhaps make us feel we're missing out by not drinking.

God knows, I didn't need or want any help in having a reason to drink, but it's almost impossible to miss those triggers when they're everywhere we look. Please don’t think I’m saying people that drink should temper their behaviour for me, because I’m not. However, I do feel something needs to change. I don't like the fact that drinking is advertised as a prime way to relax or to enjoy yourself. It makes it harder for people like me with no off switch to feel like we're part of things. I don't like the whole ‘Mum’ culture of wine either. Again, I know a lot of people, mothers included, enjoy a drink in the evening, but it shouldn't be pushed as a way to soothe the troubles of the day. Otherwise, before long we're drinking more than is good for us, too often and perhaps are beginning to lose touch with our thoughts and emotions and that’s a slippery slope. I know, because I speak from experience.

Once wine, or any other form of alcohol has infiltrated your life and planted it's feet firmly under the table it can be hard to learn to live without it, to cope without it. We begin to rely on the glass of something to help us take the edge off. That's where the trouble really begins. It doesn't happen over­night, it’s slower and cleverer than that. It creeps up on you, one sip at a time so you don't see it coming. Until of course one day you do, and when you do, you have much harder work to find your way back to that peaceful state of equilibrium. But you can. You can learn to live alcohol free without the reliance or something external to keep you calm. I know because I did. Not on the first go or the second and it was hard, don’t get me wrong, but now I can safely say I'm not missing out. I have a clear mind and I know tomorrow I'll remember the things I've said. I won't have to check my phone in a panic to see if I've posted anything that might be embarrassing. I won't wake up with a hangover either. I won't need to make an excuse to go to the shops to buy more wine even though what I had already bought should have lasted me days.

There are so many positives that it can be hard to remember them all at once, I suppose for me the biggest thing is that once I looked on a life without wine as dull and boring. Instead now I see it for what it really is. Freedom.

Take care and thank you as always for reading.
Claire xx



Stories a blog about alcoholism and recovery called My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell who lives in Cornwall
Stories are made to be told. It doesn't matter if they're told by word of mouth, in books, if they’re new or old, each has a reason, a lesson to teach us or something for us to gain.

Even the simplest stories have a reason, a purpose if you will. Seldom is a story told for simple enjoyment, although of course that features too.

They're a way of passing our knowledge, experiences and understanding down to others
and connecting.

While we can't learn from the experiences of others or expect people to learn from ours, we can try to take on board this additional information and use it to our advantage.

I share my stories with you for the same reason. I learn about myself through writing.
I unpick and work out things I hadn't considered before and by sharing it, I hope it helps others.

I’ve learned a lot from the experiences of others too. Of course they couldn't fix things for me, but they made me feel less alone and more understood. Of course, at the end of it all, it showed me that there was hope.

Stories connect us, they help us find like minded people, in my case, a sober tribe of warriors who have challenged not only their own demons but also the expectations of society. Not only that but they're found a better happier way to live too.

It’s tricky trying something new, working yourself out and finding out where you fit in the world when it hasn't changed, but you have. Connecting helps. It doesn't always have to be in person, the written word can be powerful and is a great tool for recovery.

So share your stories. Listen to others and learn. Who knows what you might find out?

Take care,
Claire xxx