16 February 2020
21 February. 2020 • Category: Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Sobriety
20 February. 2020 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
Like a lot of people I was shocked to hear of the sudden passing of Caroline Flack a few days ago. You don’t have to be a fan or even have liked her to be taken aback at what happened, and regardless of the issues she has had in the press, it has to be acknowledged that she was a young woman, with a family who cared about her and a life in front of her. It’s deeply saddening to think for her it was all too much.
Whenever I saw Caroline on TV I often thought she looked a bit fragile. She had a very good exterior, don’t get me wrong, but there was something there that made me feel like she was similar to me. For a long time I was also good at projecting what I thought people wanted to see, and how I wanted to be perceived when I was shaking on the inside. I was a firm believer of the saying, “Fake it until you make it.” I felt that if you could push through it would make it easier to do it next time, and the time after, until eventually it became second nature and you just did it without worrying. I wonder if Caroline was like that? I’m not sure, I don’t know, and it isn’t my place to know, but I do know that there was more there than met the eye. But then there often is with many people.
I think it is frustrating and saddening in the day and age we live in that there isn’t more help for people that need it. Actually it makes me angry that there isn’t. We are all super connected by the internet and social media and yet many of us are actually lonely. It makes no sense. Mental health is discussed and we are told to open up and talk about things, yet who is really there to listen? Our friends and family aren’t qualified and can only do the best they can with the knowledge they have. I for one have asked for professional help over the years several times and been brushed off. Waiting lists are often too long, and if you’re like me, once you’ve been turned away one too many times, you take matters into your own hands and refuse to ask for help anymore. My approach doesn’t help matters, in fact it probably just contributed to the isolation I felt. I just wonder, if I had proper help with my mental health when I had asked for it, if I might have got better sooner, rather than still be dealing with it now after years of self-medicating with alcohol. It takes a lot to ask for help though, and to be turned away knocks you at the very least, possibly making you feel like you’re a time waster. I know I felt like that.
Addiction is not the same thing as suicide, but people aren’t the same either. They each have their own experiences and their own ways of dealing with things. People adapt to their circumstances, and sometimes they stop adapting because they can’t do it anymore. It seems like people are talking more now in the wake of Caroline’s death about being kind, which I admire, and it would be amazing if something good could come from something so sad. I wonder though really, how much will change. It sounds cynical, but what difference will it really make? For real change, we need to educate our children more, to be kind and accepting, but at the very least to tolerate difference. Teenagers can be particularly unkind if someone doesn’t fit in, and often it is just due to a lack of understanding, rather than an innate unkindness or need to be hurtful. Nothing will change overnight, and the problem is, no one thinks it will happen to them, or to their friend, until it does. And then it is often too late.
So I hope that the hashtag of the moment will encourage more kindness, and that everyone will in general #bekind to each other. No one knows what is going on behind closed doors, or behind a carefully constructed mask. Often the most vulnerable people are the ones most likely to put up a convincing act. It doesn’t mean they are strong, it just means they are good at hiding their weakness. But because of this, it is often these people that are missed, because they look okay to the outside world.
Maybe we can just try to remember that when we go about our daily lives. Just to look a bit closer sometimes and not assume. Maybe we can stop for a second and ask if someone is okay, and actually listen to them when they tell us? Maybe I’m hoping for too much? It’s just my thoughts after all.
Thanks for reading!
18 February. 2020 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
Looking forward to evenings at the beach again in the summer!
I try really hard to be honest in my writing, I am not on a mission to convert everyone in the world to sobriety, but I am trying to prove that life without alcohol is good. For those of us who choose it anyway. I struggled for a long time to admit I had a problem and to do anything about it because I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to cope without it. The fear of missing out was huge, and as I have said before, our society does nothing to help that, everywhere you look alcohol is used as a remedy to fix just about every emotion or situation. So since I’ve worked out that wine is not a prerequisite to a good life, I want to shout it out to anyone who will listen, because there might be one person out there that reads it and thinks, “Okay, maybe I could do it.”
I’ve had a couple of comments recently that have upset me in all honesty. They haven’t come from any of you who read, but from people I’d expect more from really. I know I can be over-sensitive, I know I over think, but sometimes comments that seem flippant to one person can really hurt another person.
Someone close to me asked about my blog. It was the first time in a few months, and while I am proud of it, and of talking to you all, I don’t want to bore everyone in the ‘real world’ so I don’t tend to say too much unless I am asked. Well, I answered honestly, and said that my following is growing and I really enjoy the conversations I have with everyone. The person I was talking to kind of brushed it off, told me it didn’t matter how many followers I had, as what really mattered was family. I know my family is important, I think I’ve told you all that often enough, but actually my writing is important too. At least it is to me. My blog is the first thing in a long time that I have done just for me, with no-one else’s input. Sometimes I worry that I say too much, but I pride myself that what I write is honest and true if nothing else.
So that was one, and the following day I was talking with someone even closer to me who shall remain nameless. We were chatting about nothing in particular when the other person said that what I had achieved was great but I shouldn’t ‘harp on’ about it. I was stunned. I didn’t realise I did, especially to this person. It was followed with another comment about what a shame it was that I couldn’t enjoy one drink. I replied by saying that no, I couldn’t because it would turn into many more than that, but I was laughed off as if it was a joke. It really hurt my feelings. I don’t tell people not to drink, or that they are spoiling their lives by drinking, so why should I be told that I should have a drink or that I am missing out by not doing it? I would have thought this person would be proud of me getting over my problem. I’m alive and to be honest if I had carried on the way I was, I’m not sure how much time I would have had left. I have a good quality of life now, and I’ve worked hard for that. Forgive me if I don’t want a drink to celebrate that.
I’d expected negativity from out there, you know, from people I don’t know, who don’t get me, but from people I know it makes me question what I am doing and if it’s wrong. But I just about shook it off. I’m trying to be strong, writing makes me feel good. It helps me work through how I feel, and actually helps me deal with the things I’ve been through. So for now I’m going to keep going. I hope you all keep reading, but if you don’t want to, I totally understand that too.
One glass for me would never be enough, and I don’t want to go back there. I don’t miss it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out either and it’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I can say that. I don’t need it to relax anymore and saying that feels fantastic. So if you can go ahead and ‘enjoy’ one or two drinks and you don’t have a problem then go ahead, but please don’t judge those of us who can’t and no longer want to. Especially when we are learning to be happy just the way we are.
Thanks for reading!
17 February. 2020 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
At around mile 11… it was so wet!
Many of you will know that I had a bit of a wobble of Saturday night, I was feeling unprepared for my race on Sunday. It was so lovely to read all your comments of support and encouragement and reminded me that I could do it. At the very least I could give it a good go.
As it was so local didn’t have to be up too early which was a nice bonus, although parking could be interesting so we gave ourselves a few extra minutes. I wasn’t sure that I’d be much use driving home afterwards as my legs tend to get a bit stiff, so my husband drove me down. But registration was fine, and done quickly so we then had about 45 minutes before the start.
There was a lot of bustling about, a sports hall full of runners and I only recognised a few faces. The organisers had been very clear about the inability to do any last minute transfers, but I think given the weather and Storm Dennis, quite a few people had been unable to travel to the race, so they were able to make a few last minute changes to the entries. The race had filled up very quickly so it was lovely to see some of those that had been unable to get a place being able to run at the last minute.
The weather was shocking, but I guess, with all the weather warnings, at least we were expecting it, and it didn’t just come out of no-where. We were running through Storm Dennis after all! I was most impressed with the man running in only a vest, shorts and sandals. I would have been freezing! To be fair, I was pretty cold anyway! I suppose, it’s probably better to run in less, at least your skin doesn’t hold weight like wet clothes!
The race itself was lovely. Running through some cycle paths from the start to our local National Trust property was nice in itself but quite protected. Once we got down to the forest, it was apparent how wet and rainy it was, the river looked ready to burst it’s banks, but it was great to have a reason to be out in the elements, rather than staying indoors and looking out at it. It was two laps which was hard, and unexpected, especially as when I was coming to the end of my first lap I was passed by the front runners coming to the end of their race. That was a bit disheartening, and I think that because of the weather, quite a few runners hadn’t arrived. It was quite noticeable that there were a lot of elite fast runners, but not many of the gently paced runners or plodders. Without the mix of runners, being near the rear of the pack was unusual, but none of us were going particularly slowly. It was quite strange.
The other unexpected thing was that at the end of that lap I found my running son waiting for me on his bike. He was soaked but it was good to see him. He rode alongside me for a lot of the rest of the race, it’s one of those things I always feel a little bit envious about, other people having company when I don’t. It can be quite lonely running for over 13 miles without anyone to chat to. Not that I have the breath spare to chat a lot! I guess this is the advantage of joining a local running club where you can run with friends.
Normally I have this little voice of doubt in my mind, it certainly was there beforehand, but strangely as I ran I seemed to leave it behind. I think the wildness of the weather helped distract me, as did the hills and the mud that was terribly slippery. But it was good fun. In the last mile I struggled, my legs were cold and I wondered if I could finish, but I did, maybe it was a second wind, or maybe I just ran through the doubt? Either way, I got to the finish line and I wasn’t last. It wasn’t my best time, but given the conditions, I was pretty happy with it.
I never thought I’d be the sort of person to run half marathons but apparently I am. If that doesn’t prove you can do anything if you put your mind to it, then I’m not sure what will.
Thanks for reading!
16 February. 2020 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
Me and my daughter, proving you can still have a lot of fun without drinking!
When you find out a friend or loved one decides to give up or no longer drinks alcohol it can be a tricky time. Do you talk to them about it or ignore it? If not dealt with, it can become the elephant in the room. I avoided people for a long time in my early months of sobriety. I found everything challenging. People didn’t get how hard it was for me, and although I’m not expecting them to, sometimes a little understanding goes a long way. However, if you’re the one giving up you do need to remember if they aren’t going through the same thing, how can they really get it?
I remember taking the kids ice skating in the town centre before Christmas one year. I’d wanted to keep it just us and the kids but then we thought of inviting my in-laws. That was fine, they might not have completely understood, but they were trying so I didn’t mind too much. Unfortunately that then changed as someone we knew overheard us talking and rather than brushing it off, they were then invited too (and not by me). That upset me, it wasn’t what I wanted and suddenly it became a bigger thing than I had anticipated. It was just meant to be quiet. It was enough to make me want to stay at home, but I was worried I would have looked rude. I should have followed my instincts or at least told the other people that it was meant to be family only. Nowadays, I have learned that on occasion my feelings need to come first but I generally don’t like to cause upset, at least not to others, so I just went along with it. The problem was, the other people that came were totally insensitive to my situation, and while we were getting hot chocolate, they went to the beer tent. It was really early days for me and although I never had a problem with beer that really made me wobble. My husband and I just went into Costa, as it was the only place you couldn’t see the beet tent and people weren’t drinking. Actually we didn’t just go, I practically ran there to hide. We still had a lovely time with the kids, but it was much harder than I had envisaged it.
That evening I just went home and cried. My husband held me and said all the right things, but I just didn’t know what to do with myself. It wasn’t just unexpectedly being faced with alcohol on an evening out, it was more that it was a Saturday, a day of the week when I didn’t need an excuse to drink. The day of the week that wherever you were it was meant to be okay to drink, and I couldn’t. Being out and coming home to not drinking was strange and hard to deal with. Being confronted with other people drinking just reminded me that I couldn’t, and at that point, it felt very much that I was losing something rather than gaining my life back. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t watch the TV, without that wine, I felt like I’d lost my purpose. What was the point, if I couldn’t get through the day and have the reward I was looking for.
It’s taken far more hard work that I would have liked to reinvent myself without alcohol in my life, but do you know what, it is so worth it and I am glad I won the battle in the end.
Other people’s attitudes and actions have been one of the hardest things to cope with, one of the biggest things to rock the boat so to speak. It’s not just when people say the wrong thing, it’s actually probably worse when they don’t say anything at all.
Here’s my little list of pointers for dealing with friends who are alcohol free.
• Please offer me a drink. Just because I don’t drink alcohol anymore, doesn’t mean I am no longer thirsty.
• Don’t assume what I want to do. Ask me.
• Don’t assume what I can do or can’t do. Ask me.
• Don’t talk about me with other friends. I already feel like I’m the object of everyone’s interests so please don’t make it worse.
• If I’ve told you about my problem, respect that, and keep my trust.
• Invite me out, and let me make the decision of whether I want to go or not.
• Put up with me changing my mind too. Sometimes what I want to do will seem like a good idea and then I’ll realise that I’m not ready. Or that I just don’t want to do it anymore.
• Don’t try to offer me advice unless you’ve been there.
• Don’t make judgements for me.
This list is by no means definitive, and only based on my personal circumstances, but I think they might be transferable. So let me know what you think and if there’s anything else you’d add to it.
Thanks for reading!