SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

Opinions

Regardless of my history with wine, I’ve heard more than once that alcohol is more damaging and more addictive than some class A drugs. It’s hard to find proof of these types of claims though, I assume things that might be detrimental to sales are somewhat swept under the carpet so to speak. The other day, I shared my thoughts about an article which suggested a campaign to depict the dangerous side of drinking was removed from the public domain as it would be damaging for sales of alcohol. Of course, I really think if we are going to live in a society that promotes alcohol sales, then we should make the side effects really well known to everyone too. Some of course suggest that everyone knows alcohol is damaging, but I would argue that most adverts only paint the rosy side of the picture. Does everyone out there really know it is more addictive than heroin, and yet more readily available? Even when alcoholism is touched on on TV, perhaps in a soap opera it is overcome very easily, and while I don’t want to see dramatic warnings and scare stories everywhere, I do think a certain amount of realistic forewarning would help.

My 14 year old son has already spoken to me about his intentions to drink for fun when he is older, and never to have a problem. Strangely, that actually worries me more, because it is often that feeling of control that allows addictions to creep up on you. I know as an intelligent woman, with a good life, I certainly never, ever intended to have a problem with alcohol. But then again, I am not sure that anyone would plan to. I always felt I could control it, until one day, when I couldn’t anymore. Of course, by then it is too late, and that is what I think we should be helping others to avoid where possible.

I found it interesting to read this article recently,
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/16/share-a-pint-or-glass-of-wine-to-drink-safely-says-expert It’s a little controversial, as the claims are made by Professor David Nutt, who was dismissed from his post as an advisor on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for his challenging, although perhaps correct, views. Now working independently he and his team have been researching the damage alcohol causes, above that of heroin, crack cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and tobacco in the UK, Europe and Australia.

So in this article, it is suggested that, in order to reduce consumption to a ‘safe level’ that, “…[T]he only safe way to drink is to take three straws to the pub and share a glass of wine with friends.” An admirable idea, but I for one would not have been able to share a glass with anyone when I used to drink. Moderation is not something that is accessible to everyone. I think by the time moderation becomes an interest, there may for a lot of people, already be a problem.

Professor Nutt goes on to say that he feels, as I do, that there is a constant attempt to undermine any difficulties associated with drinking, instead focusing on any possible health benefit. I’m not sure what can be done to raise more awareness about the dangers of drinking, when we live in a society that promotes its use for so much. I also don’t want to sound like a bore for going on, and unfortunately a lot of people will take my attitude to alcohol negatively.

I just hope that by more and more people being open and about their experiences, talking about sobriety and it’s benefits, others will realise you don’t have to rely on drinking for fun, enjoyment or anything else.

There is life without wine.

Thank you as always for reading.


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Little things

Little Things family holiday in spain mum dad and teenagers together family photo living alcohol free after recovery blog addiction My Not So Secret Diary
It's rare I have a family photo now, this one is missing our littlest one.

My kids are growing up. They are 18, 16, 14 and 2. I know I have a few more years with them, but realistically, them moving out might not be too far away as Lee and I were already married and we had Joe when I was 19. I try to give them their freedom, I don’t want them to feel like I’m clingy and that they have to stay at home with me all the time but it is nice when they want to. The things we do together are special.

I think that (smallest person aside) having the three of them so close in age, meant I was always physically and mentally tied up, and now that they are largely self-sufficient I have to adapt, and it’s strange. I like the bustle of a busy house, I like them being about. I know my little man will be around for a lot longer and I am grateful for that, he is such a little bundle of fun, but it is strange knowing the others not needing me so much.

I notice the little things much more now, and I have more patience now, than I did before when I was drinking, to see the small things and let other things go. It was lovely over Christmas as I’d been bought a jigsaw puzzle, and Joe sat down with me for a minute to help me. It was so hard, double sided pigs in blankets that all look the same! I know his main reason for doing it was because he wanted to go out again and was probably hoping that by giving me five minutes I’d let him go, but it was nice anyway. It was nice to think he cares enough to do something like that with me, even if only for a few minutes, and instead of wasting time thinking about him going out, I just enjoyed the time we had.

That patience is something I am so grateful for, I feel him growing up and away and it is frustrating to think I can’t really keep him here, that I don’t see him very much and when I do, his head is often in his phone, but I try to be grateful for what I can get. I’m grateful that I have the time I do with them, and I’m grateful for the relationship I have with each of them. I’m working on being patient more, but I do find it hard sometimes. There is so much going on in my head that it makes me anxious before I’ve thought about anything else. Hearing the kids all chattering away at once just makes it harder to focus. I don’t think I can be the only one, but it can be hard. So I’m reminding myself to relax, and be grateful. They grow up too fast.

As always, thank you for reading.


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Tuesday Night Training

Tuesday Night Training My Not So Secret Diary

I’m trying to make the most of taking my running son to his training every week... so, instead of waiting in the car, watching him on the track and reading something on my kindle, I have been getting out and running. 🏃🏼‍♀️💖🏃🏼‍♀️

It’a a bit weird for me, because I am not a great one for running where other people look like professionals, and I don’t like running in the dark on my own. I normally try to go in the opposite direction from any crowds! There are loads of people training both on and off the track, but once I realise they aren’t interested in what I am doing I remember it is okay. I am okay.

I didn’t want to run last night, it would have been much warmer not to, but I did almost 4 miles which was certainly better than sitting in the car, and then I had time for a cup of tea in the cafe before training finished. It is a lovely little cafe and run by volunteers, so it is great to have an excuse to support it!
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It’s nice to do things like that. Not long ago, there is no way I would have sat in a cafe by myself, so that in itself is proof I am getting somewhere!

Thanks for reading!
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Running and Addiction

Running and Addiction sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running again.

There are a lot of people who run, and they all have different reasons. Some run for their mental health, and a lot who run to escape from addictions. The question is, why does it help?

  • A sense of achievement. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you run. Every single step is further than most addicts did before, and bettering yourself, regardless of everyone else, is an amazing feeling. I went from non-runner to doing four half marathons in a year. It felt bloody good to be able to achieve something that I had no hope of doing before.

  • It gives you something to focus on, if you’re giving up an addiction, it is likely that you’ll have a lot of time on your hands, having something to do, where you see genuine results based on what you put in can be a game changer.

  • Running channels your energy and your mind. Many addicts use their substance of choice to calm a chaotic mind. Running does the same thing, but without a hangover. Although you might ache sometimes.

  • Running regularly reduces stress, anxiety and depression as well as improving self-esteem and sleep. You aren’t running away from anything, but instead dulling the feelings of worry and panic, and developing a healthy coping strategy.

  • I’ve been told that as running hard affects your body in the same way as a panic attack can, and so can help you learn to cope better with the symptoms, for example, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, feeling hot or sweaty, etc. It won’t take the panic attacks away necessarily, but it might like me, help you stop panicking about having one.

  • It’s as social as you want it to be, join a club and meet some people, or don’t and do it by yourself. It’s so flexible and doesn’t cost a lot, besides a good pair of trainers.

  • It’s great thinking time, and enables you to process a lot of what is going on in your mind.


Running boosts feel good chemicals in your body dopamine in the body called endorphins, which help reduce the perception you have of pain, so instead of self-medicating with alcohol for example, your body can instead relieve some pain on it’s own.
Endorphins also trigger a non-substance related positive feeling in the body, which has become known as a ‘runner's high’.

Some argue that it is merely swapping one addiction for another, and maybe that is true, especially when we think about ultramarathoners who need more than a bit of grit to run the distances they do. I know if I had to to pick one addiction, I’d prefer to pick running over drinking!


Thanks for reading!

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Thinking

Thinking alcohol free sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
It was cold and frosty on Sunday morning, but so great to be out!

Sometimes it surprises me just how much time wine spends in my head. The thought of it at least, you all know I don’t drink the stuff anymore. It used to be so much worse of course. For a long time, it was the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing before bed. I would plan how not to drink, put reasons in the way, and then as the day worse on it used to change to how I could fit a few drinks in. It drove me mad.

I thought after I stopped drinking it would go away. It didn’t. I thought it would go once I replaced it with other things. It didn’t go then either. I was sure it would go when I broke the habit and finally stopped wanting to drink. It certainly got easier then, but it was still there.

After about three years things changed. Not everything revolves around alcohol now. It’s not the be all and end all of everything, and yet, it is still there.

I can avoid the alcohol aisle at the supermarket, it doesn’t bother me at all, but a display in the wrong place can catch my eye. It makes me remember. It wouldn’t take much to push me. I wouldn’t need much persuasion, and to know that is so frustrating when I look at how far I’ve come. I know, and it’s quite scary to know, that one glass would not be enough. It would lead to another as it always did. It was like an unquenchable thirst. Moderation does not work for me, whether I wanted it to or not. I can’t risk it, because however much I still for some reason romanticise the idea of drinking, in the end that wasn’t how it was for me.

However tempting it is at times, I won’t go back to that.

Thanks for reading!

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P.A.W.S

PAWS sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running has really helped me.

You may or may not have heard of P.A.W.S. and if you haven’t, you might not have been able to identify your feelings or know that this is a condition that affects between 70% and 90% of us in recovery to some degree or other, both emotionally and psychologically.

So what is it?
P.A.W.S stands for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. It's symptoms affect those of us who were addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it doesn't happen so quickly as you might think, actually occurring after the initial withdrawal is over. In fact, P.A.W.S can occur two months or more after the substance has been removed from the system, and the affects can be felt for weeks, months or years, depending on the individual.

There has been much research into P.A.W.S in association with alcohol addiction, with medical reports being published since the 1990's so it isn't a new thing, but it isn't hugely common knowledge either. In fact, I think it is one of the most important factors of recovery, one that you should be prepared for, and I for one certainly didn't know anything about it beforehand.

The symptoms.
As a sedative, alcohol decreases brain activity, and of course, the brain comes to see that as normal. Once you remove that inhibitor your nervous system can go into overdrive. There are a lot of symptoms associated with P.A.W.S, and each of them individually are quite normal and common. The accumulation and severity of them is down to physical differences in people, the type of substance that is causing the addiction and the amount that is taken. The effects come and go, lasting for a few days before easing up again, which can be a bit of a rollercoaster, but if you are prepared from them, it can make your recovery more successful.

Here’s a list of the main symptoms:
• Stress - The effects of P.A.W.S. can leave you with a low tolerance to cope with stress. Even the smallest thing to other people can seem like a really big deal, and considering you've probably given up your biggest coping tool, it is easy to understand why things are more difficult. New coping strategies are the way forward here, but believe me when I say, it takes time.
• Concentration difficulties - yep, I had problems stringing coherent sentences together at times, it seemed like I was losing my mind. I also used to forget what I was saying, mid-sentence. (I still do that sometimes!) It seems some of the neurotransmitters in the brain have to fight back and repair themselves in order for us to regain our ability to think clearly. The good news is, it is usually only temporary.
• Mood swings - I don't know about you, but I had them when I drank too. When I stopped they just got much more tearful.
• Cravings - Although the physical addiction might have worn off, there might (for some time) be psychological cravings which might try to tempt you back. Don’t give in to them, they get weaker with time.
• Anxiety - so not only is our brain learning to be without something that helped to keep it calm, but it is also having to adapt to function without it going forward. This can make you feel terribly anxious.
• Depression - these addictive substances have a lot to answer for! Your brain needs to readjust to learn to be without whatever it is you used to take. When you stop it is a shock to the system, however prepared you are. Again, it is normally just a temporary set-back.
• Insomnia and sleep disturbances - I was told I would sleep better when I stopped drinking. I do now, but it took a long time to get there. Not only do many addictive substances affect our sleep patterns, but our subconscious thoughts, like wanting a drink, can affect our dreams when we finally do drift off. It can be a bit of a nightmare. Sorry!
• Anhedonia - (the ability to find pleasure in normally pleasurable activities). Most addictive drugs affect neural pathways. When we stop taking them, it takes a while for the brain to balance out again and start to make normal levels of chemicals that make us feel good again. Until then things can be tough.

What can you do to help?
• Knowing that these symptoms are possible, and that they may be long term can help, if you aren’t expecting them, it can be easier to relapse.
• By gradually reducing the amount of alcohol consumed before stopping altogether, the intensity of the withdrawal may be lessened, although long term symptoms still seem to be quite strong. Try to remember that these symptoms may come and go, and although not pleasant, it is a normal part of recovery.
• Exercise can help, not only as it helps your body and brain recover, but as a bare minimum, it can work as a distraction to the way you are feeling.

It might seem a bit doom and gloom, but after I got to about two years of sobriety, I really began to wonder if my anxiety would ever get better. It got me down. I was meant to be healing and I still felt like a nervous wreck, in many ways, I actually felt at times worse than I did when I was drinking, which made me sad, because I was doing all the right things. Learning about P.A.W.S. helped. Having a reason, a cause, meant that I wasn't going mad and it wasn't my fault. It meant that my brain was healing. Other people might not understand, but I do and that helps. I would say after three years, I began to feel different and a lot better than I had in a long time. But everyone is different and not everyone will experience this for the same time I did. I think I am a minority in that!

If you are in recovery or experiencing any of this, then good luck, my thoughts are with you.

Once again, thank you for reading.

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