SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

Sharing

Sharing running for recovery on the camel trail and training living alcohol free and after addiction blog My Not So Secret Diary

A few years ago, right back at the beginning of my recovery I read a poem. It’s only short, but resonates deeply with me and I want to share it with you all. It’s called Autobiography in Five Short Chapters and it is by Portia Nelson, I hope you like it.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost.... I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it’s a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.



I hope you liked it? Let me know what you think

Thanks for reading!

💖💖💖

Trying and Failing and Trying Again

Trying and Failing and Trying Again recovery blog after addiction living alcohol free family smiling mum and dad and toddler son little boy smiling selfie overcoming together My Not So Secret Diary
My husband and I with our littlest boy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but sobriety is hard. Especially for those of use who have had years and years of ingrained use of alcohol in our lives.

So much of our culture involves drinking. It is as normal to expect a drink of wine or beer as it is to expect a cup of tea. So when someone realises that alcohol has become a problem in their lives it isn’t just the drinking that has to stop, they also have to entirely relearn the way they live. I know because I did it. I didn’t do it on the first attempt either, it wasn’t that easy. It took me about six years, maybe more to really believe and understand that I had a problem. Coming from a family that always ‘enjoyed a drink’ I grew up expecting that that was the normal way to relax, that it was okay in the evening to always have a drink with your dinner and more after. It was so normal that I really didn’t think for a very long time that I had a problem, and even when I questioned it, I wondered how many people would believe me. I honestly thought they would think I was after attention. I wasn’t, trust me, no one in their right mind would put themselves through recovery unless they had to.

So, in the summer of 2015 I stopped drinking. I knew I had a problem, I relied on it too much. Tearfully I spoke to my husband about it. He agreed with me, he knew I liked to drink, he also enjoyed a beer in the evening, but the difference was, he could leave it, I couldn’t. He was supportive and helped me get through the first couple of days. It was a Wednesday and Thursday I remember because I had to take my daughter to a hospital appointment. It was immensely hard, but I did it, and two days in I felt better than I had in ages. My appetite began to come back, and the anxiety I always felt, the hyper-vigilance causing me to be constantly on edge eased off. I felt so good that I convinced myself that I didn’t really have a problem and by the weekend I was confident that I had over-reacted. So I had a few drinks. Moderation doesn’t work for me. Within a very short time I was right back where I had been again, except possibly worse, because now I really knew that it wasn’t possibly a problem, it was definitely one.

I couldn’t imagine life without wine. How would I relax? How would I reward myself after a day? How would I switch off in the evenings? There were so many questions. So many I couldn’t answer and so I did what I always did when I had a problem and drank.

In the spring of 2016 I tried again. Again I failed. And again I got worse because the thing is, one glass of wine is not enough for me, and that one glass that I couldn’t resist always made everything come tumbling back down.

That was my rock bottom. I knew I had to do something serious. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was. I didn’t like myself anymore. Every day was a battle. I grew to resent the wine I loved so much, I hated the hold it had over me, and yet I just couldn’t say no to it. More than once I smashed a glass, literally throwing it across the room in frustration because I didn’t want it and yet I needed it. I have never been so conflicted in all my life, and yet the times I had tried to stop drinking just resulted in making me like I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t strong enough to do without it. And that made me resent it more, but regardless, every night I still poured a glass or two, or three, or four. I was over the two bottles of wine I used to limit myself to now, and ashamed of the recycling I was putting out each fortnight. I would try to hide it, or take it in the car to the recycling bank, embarrassed that the neighbours would see. My excuse was that the kids enjoyed smashing the glass, and they did, but they wouldn’t have minded not doing it either.

That was where my love of drinking stopped, when I realised it controlled me, and although it was the scariest thing I have ever done, admitting my problem and learning to confront it saved my life. It changed me as a person, or maybe it didn’t, instead maybe it gave me back the person I was before all the drinking. It wasn’t easy, trying and slipping up and trying again, but each day is easier.

I have a lot of memories, a lot of regrets and wishes that I had stopped long before, but of course I couldn’t. I had to get to the point I did to finally make it through that time. I had to get to the bottom to be able to climb back up. However, it still surprises me that these memories spring up from time to time. Of course it knocks me, and I wish I could change things, but then I wouldn’t be here where I am now, surrounded by people that love me.

Life isn’t fluid. Nothing comes with a plan. I know that I wouldn’t have chosen to become addicted to alcohol, but if I didn’t I also wouldn’t be here writing to all of you, and that matters to me. I have rough days, but I actually like who I am now and so does my family. What they get now is an authentic, honest me. Not a wine-addled mess. They might not always agree with me, but they know what to expect most of the time. I am loved and I am cared about. I am lucky.

Recovery is a challenge, it is a journey, but it feels amazing to come out the other side. The wobbles get less wobbly, and everything gets clearer. Stick with it, be patient, be kind to yourself. Find new hobbies. Everything will be all right in the end. If it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end.

Much love to you all.

💖💖💖

Feeling Proud of My Running Son

Feeling Proud of My Running Son parkrun hands holding barcodes running mother and son saturday morning addiction and living alcohol free blog My Not So Secret Diary
Finishing in places 19 and 200 at Parkrun

I love my children more than anything and am proud of all four of them. I don’t have favourites, although they all know I tell them they each are, generally for different reasons. Each of them is very different and yet they are all kind and happy kids. As we have three teenagers and a toddler at the moment though, they do have their moments.

My third oldest, Barn is 14, and fell into running by mistake. He started coming out with me when I was doing Couch to 5k and to be honest got a bit frustrated with me. I was never fast or slow enough for him, as I was following the plan, and I refused to divert from it. I admit this might have been annoying but without it I would never have got to where I am with my running.

I booked a 5k for us both and we raised money for a new Air Ambulance in Cornwall. While it gave me the target I wanted to push myself, I got a bit concerned as Barn seemed to lose interest and for a while didn’t train with me at all. I wasn’t sure if he would even want to run. But then something clicked and he did start going out more often. He wasn’t a keen runner but he enjoyed it more, and with that first race, he realised he was quite good.

Last year he started upping his distances and began to run longer 10k races with me, until he realised he was faster than me, then he started waiting for me at the end. The more he tried, the faster he got, and it was exciting to see. He got very competitive, but mostly with himself. At the end of a race last year a gentleman stopped us to tell us we should get him into a running club to train properly, but due to his age, it was hard, most near us only take over 18’s due to child protection.

At the start of the school year he was picked to represent his college for Cross Country, and there after the race we met a coach keen for Barn to join his team. It was exciting, and although Barn was nervous, he went, and began to enjoy it. Training was very different, suddenly he was running shorter distances than he had been used to, and the others were naturally faster, but he had the stamina to keep going, and week by week he closed the gap.

Shortly after this he qualified for the Cornwall Team, and has the chance to travel with his team and represent the county at races all over the country. It’s very exciting for him, and a great opportunity. Pushing himself out of his comfort zone with running and marshalling at parkrun, as well as joining the club has been good for him, his confidence has grown and I am proud of the lovely young man he is becoming.

On Saturday we ran at Eden parkrun. It’s a three lap course, where we run down into the pit by the biomes and back up before repeating. He always beats me, but we have a bit of a challenge where he tries to lap me and I try to stop him. It’s good encouragement for both of us and so far I have managed to fend him off. Today he shot past me on my second loop, slapping me on the back as he went, finishing 19th, which isn’t bad for a 14 year old. I have never felt so proud, and although I have a cold, and wasn’t so fast as normal he shaved a whole minute off his personal best so would have probably beaten me anyway. He then joined me for my final lap, using it as his cool down.

It’s so nice to see a hobby that I love being enjoyed by my son, and to see him doing so well at it. Running has helped me so much and I hope I’ve helped to instil a coping mechanism that will be there for him in the future if and when he needs it.

Have you managed to encourage their children or partners into running or other hobbies? Do you find it encouraging or challenging to share something like a hobby with others?


Thank you as always for reading.

💖💖💖

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.


💖💖💖

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!
☕️

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!
💖💖

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!

💖💖💖

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!

💖💖💖

Yesterday I Told Someone

Yesterday I Told Someone My Not So Secret Diary

I don't tend to tell people about my alcohol addiction. People know, but generally it's close family or those of you who read my blog. For a long time I didn't tell anyone because I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt I'd let myself and everyone around me down. I really didn't like the way that made me feel.

I didn't go to AA and without having a group to talk to, I didn't really express how I felt, I guess it was hard to explain to people who hadn't experienced quite the same things as me. There’s also a fine line between working through things and feeling like you are just complaining. So I didn't share it with too many people, until I began to write this blog.

When you all started to read and talk to me it was like a weight had been lifted because so many people understood. So many of you had experienced something similar and connecting reminded me that I wasn’t the only one, that others had been there too. It helped a lot.

I still didn't tell anyone else though. I didn’t think there was a reason to and to be honest, it was just easier to avoid everyone from before. I think as well as feeling there would be judgment, I am afraid people won't understand, that they will think I'm attention seeking, or making it up, or that they will brush it off and not understand how hard it was to stop. Not that these things should matter really.

Yesterday I had meeting. There were a lot of people there, some new faces, some familiar and it was good. A year ago you couldn't have paid me to go into a room full of people like that and pitch. But I'm doing it and getting better at it. Even if it did involve a little mental preparation beforehand.

Afterwards people mingled and I got talking to someone I've met before a few times and chatted with. We spoke of work, Christmas, all sorts, and somehow got onto mental health. I may have said how much running helps me. Then we were talking about drinking, and without thinking I just said, 'I don't drink anymore.' I've said that before, but usually without the 'anymore' on the end, as it stops people asking any more questions. My colleague remarked how easy it could be to come to rely on it, how one drink turns into more, and I said I stopped over three years ago for that very reason. It was enough. I didn't have to explain, although later as we talked I did say how hard stopping had been. I felt accepted for being me, and not judged in the way I had been fearing. It was refreshing and a lovely way to start the day. It gives me hope to feel I am moving on. Even sitting here thinking about it now, I actually feel proud of myself for admitting it to someone.

Are any of you careful about what you say to others, or is it just me who is a little bit cagey?


Thanks for reading!

💖💖💖

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.


💖💖💖

Resolutions

Resolutions My Not So Secret Diary
My Cornwall Team runner.

On Saturday we went to Eden for parkrun. I’m pretty pleased with myself, I’ve managed four parkruns already this year, and on one I volunteered too, so that feels good. I’ve tried to make it my New Years Resolution to get out even when it’s hard, mind you I haven’t run yet today, and I don’t intend to. I am on the sofa at the moment watching the rain and there is a yellow weather warning in place for the wind, but I did run yesterday too, so I don’t feel too bad.

It was raining when I got up, I hadn’t felt like going, but my son is upping his training, as he recently qualified for our county team, and we’re trying to follow his coach’s schedule as closely as we can. On Friday night I suggested maybe just giving the one week a miss, I felt tired and it had been a long week. Barn suggested that he go anyway and ride his bike there, it’s ten miles or so, so he would have to be organised to go, but his reaction just meant that I didn’t feel I had to anymore. Immediately I felt like a weight was lifted from me, and then I actually felt like going. Isn’t it weird how the mind works? Or is it just mine?

It felt good to go, and although I didn’t run fast enough for a personal best, I did get a few records for fastest sections, so I couldn’t have been that slow. I always try to remind myself that whatever I do, it is more than I would have done if I stayed at home. Having the focus of making myself do something each day for RED January also makes me feel better. However much I don’t want to do something, I always feel better when I have made the effort.

Thanks for reading.

💖💖💖

Alcohol, Anxiety and Over Thinking

Alcohol, Anxiety and Over Thinking My Not So Secret Diary
I’m a worrier, I always have been. I think some people are more predisposed to worry than others, and yet, I also think it is influenced by our upbringing and experiences too. I can’t say what made me the way I am, because I don’t know. I just know that without wishing to, my mind sort of jumps to a worst case scenario before I’ve had time to think about the other options. It’s quite annoying, as I’d prefer to be more easy going and worry free, but it is something I am trying to work on.

Anxiety for me used to be worse, it was always there bubbling away under the surface. The only thing that helped keep a lid on it was drinking wine, but of course I stopped doing that when it became a bigger problem than the anxiety was. I didn’t realise that stopping would lift the lid and release all this anxiety that hadn’t been dealt with. It suddenly seemed so much worse. Probably because it was. A vicious circle can be created when you use alcohol to help mask the symptoms of anxiety. At first, it will give you a calm feeling as the alcohol affects the brain, but when it begins to wear off, you are often left feeling worse than you were before. Alcohol can even trigger panic attacks, something you don’t associate with something that is supposed to be fun or relaxing.

The fact is that alcohol affects neurotransmitters in the brain as well as the level of serotonin which can badly affect anxiety, and as the alcohol in your body wears off, it is likely you’ll feel more anxious than you did to start with. This ‘alcohol-induced anxiety’ can last up to a whole day after drinking, and it is this after affect, with long term drinking especially, that can lead to you reach for another drink to numb the feeling as it starts to build again.

There has been a lot of research into the links between those who suffer from anxiety and excessive alcohol consumption, I know, because I have read almost everything I could get my hands on. It is suggested that many people suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) actually turn to alcohol as a way of self medicating, but as mentioned above, in the long term, this only worsens their conditions. Reliance on alcohol as a means to cope with anxiety and other symptoms can mean you build a greater tolerance, therefore increasing the amount you drink. The cycle follows that the anxiety also increases and again, so does the amount you drink. Alcohol has a number of side effects that can cause panic attacks, including an increased heart rate, low blood sugar, dehydration and increased stress on your organs. It’s no wonder when you’re feeling over-whelmed and under pressure, that you might pour yourself another. The long term use of alcohol like this can be detrimental not only to your physical health but your mental health too. That calm feeling is harder to get and takes a larger quantity of drink to get you there. Overtime, you put more and more stress on your body and your mind.

Living without a buffer to your emotions and feelings is hard, stopping drinking is just the first part of the journey. Learning to sit with your emotions is the hard part. Learning not to be so reactive and sitting it out, waiting for the panic to pass, knowing you can come out the other side, that’s where the challenge comes in. It’s also where you begin to find yourself again. So stick with it, and I promise, it will get easier. Just give it time.

Much love and thanks for reading.


Thanks for reading!


💖💖💖

Alcohol Free Bars

“…we are starting 2020 with a celebration. A celebration of alcohol-free.” When an article starts like this, it’s definitely going to catch my attention! Brewdog, a craft beer company, are announcing their first Alcohol Free Bar, which opened this week in London.

Okay, so I know that alcohol removed beers and wines can be a point of controversy for lots of us that no longer drink alcohol, but isn’t it refreshing to see something where not drinking is for once being promoted. Although a pilot scheme, everything on offer in the bar is alcohol free, making sure there will be no room for error when ordering at the bar, and I have to say, I think it’s a great idea.

I’m not sure that I’ll be making a visit any time soon, because I don’t really know where I stand on drinking anything that resembles alcohol now, but the idea of being able to is nice. Knowing that if I did go there, I wouldn’t be the odd one out, or the only one not under the influence. Claiming that this is the world’s first alcohol free bar, I love the fact that there is a venue which isn’t focused on wine or beer sales, and yet is still providing a bit of a vibrant atmosphere.

This month, The Brewdog AF Bar are running “Drink All You Can Jan,” where they are providing free refills which makes a pleasant change to all the traditional Dry January campaigns. It feels like for once, we don’t have to feel like we might miss out by choosing not to drink, but instead we get to participate in something a little bit fun and quirky.

Finally something in the news that I approve of!
🙂

Here’s the link if you’d like to read more, and if any of you have been, let me know, I’d love to know what you think!

https://www.brewdog.com/blog/we-are-opening-the-worlds-first-alcohol-free-beer-bar


Thanks for reading!

💖💖💖

Do We Really Need More Excuses?

It might not be available locally, but I saw this advert before Christmas and it caught my eye, “Aldi are now selling $25 handbags you can pour wine from.” I know most of us have a local Aldi now, and after a quick internet search, I see this sort of thing is largely available online in most of the world.

I couldn’t believe it when I scanned through the article, not only is this being marketed as a stylish and desirable item, it is being regarded as clever for it’s hidden compartment allowing you to hide wine, and of course the writer suggests that, “It’s the handbag set to be on every mum’s Christmas wish list this year.” I can tell you now, it wasn’t on mine.

Do we really need to have items like this? If someone is going out for a picnic or similar, then surely they don’t need to hide the wine? What market is this really aiming for if it is targeted at mums and suggested that the wine needs to be secreted away to, “dispense whenever you fancy.”

Of course the article is supported by many claims from mums, illustrating the value and need for the bag in their lives. I wonder though, do you really need wine in your bag to take the kids out? One mum claimed it is a must for park play dates, and that seems really sad to me. Again, you know I don’t drink any more, but I get that many people do and can enjoy the odd one here and there. I’m just not sure that hiding a bottle in your bag seems like a good idea for anyone. I think one of the problems with addiction is the need to hide what we drink, and not face up to it. Surely this sort of item just encourages that along with the growing emphasis on ‘wine o’clock’?

I’d love to know what you all think.

Once again, thank you for reading, and the link to the article is below if you want a read.

💖💖💖

https://www.kidspot.com.au/lifestyle/home/home-solutions/aldi-are-now-selling-25-handbags-you-can-pour-wine-from/news-story/29daa39bb08952907c3e08bf0a1bee6a

Confrontation

Confrontation My Not So Secret Diary
Post run picture.

I used to be quite opinionated, not argumentative necessarily, but certainly I did like to make my opinions known. I wouldn’t have said I was rude, just vocal. I liked to know about a subject and stand up for it. I had a voice and I wanted it to be heard.

Of late, or at least since I stopped drinking, that voice disappeared a little. I still had opinions but the idea of any confrontation terrified me. Now, I know healthy discussions are good. I am all for people having opinions, and I don’t think everyone should agree on everything, but I’ve found it hard to voice my own thoughts. The idea of standing up for something frightens me. I’m afraid of conflict, afraid I’ll upset someone and afraid to be wrong. It’s hard to relearn things, especially things you’ve been good at in the past. It’s hard to put yourself out there again and take a risk.

I may have said before, but the three year mark of sobriety seemed to be a real turning point for me. It coincided with this blog becoming a bit more known and I felt some more of my old self returning. The old me mind you, not the wine me!

Anyway, as I said, I tend to avoid conflict out of habit. Then I was scrolling through my news feed and I saw a post that I felt was really unnecessary. If I'd read it in my early days, it would have made me think twice about posting for support for fear if being judged and it annoyed me. I could see others felt the same and so I reported the post to the group admins, not for them to do anything necessarily, just for them to be aware. Sometimes it seems like ‘fake’ accounts pop up in support groups just to unsettle things. It wasn’t long before I had a message from an admin asking why I’d reported it. She was quite abrupt in her tone and said the person had since left the group, which reinforced my thought of it being a fake account. I explained my reasons and said that if the person had left, then that was cool, problem solved. The admin didn’t feel the matter was resolved though and questioned me again, saying she didn’t understand my reasoning and saying the post created a healthy discussion. My point was that it did, but only for those brave enough to speak up and lots of people in recovery aren’t. It was strange having her question me. It annoyed me and stirred up a fire in my belly that had lain dormant for a long time. I wanted to defend the vulnerable. Now, maybe I trod on her toes, maybe I shouldn’t have reported it, and just left it to her, I just didn’t know whether it would be seen by an admin or not. I didn’t know how many people it might have affected before someone said something. Either way, the admin didn’t like my perspective and I didn’t like her aggressive tone and the implication that she was right, regardless of what others thought. There’s no need to be rude in a conversation like that.

But, it was good. It showed me I can voice my opinions. I can be brave. I don’t have to sit quietly by and watch from the sidelines. Oh, and I can remove myself from a group where I don’t like the ethos. So, all in all it was a good lesson to have, and nice to feel I am getting my voice back!

Thanks everyone, I love chatting to you all.


💖💖💖

Knocks and Bumps Along The Way

Knocks and Bumps Along The Way My Not So Secret Diary

I hate when things don’t go to plan. I told you recently that I was feeling braver… well that bravery has wobbled a bit. I guess it’ll be a bit up and down for a while? I can’t just go back to where I was can I? And like I’ve said before, I don’t want to really, as that involved drinking.

I was getting somewhere I thought, and then someone corrected me on something. I still think I’m right but that is besides the point. It was like my voice disappeared. I felt myself shrivelling up. I wanted to say, no actually, I value your opinion, but what I mean is… and explain it, but instead, I was like, “Oh okay, I’ll change it.” So I change it, and of course, everyone else thinks it’s okay, and that it isn’t a big deal, because really it isn’t. But I feel annoyed because I wasn’t heard, and it makes me stew on it, and I go over and over it, trying to work out if I am right about something no one else cares about anymore. It’s ridiculous and I’m driving my son to the running track later when I randomly say something to him about it, mid conversation. He looks at me, and is like, “What mum?” So I feel bad, because I should have left work at work, and not even be thinking about something so stupid when I’m at home, but it gets to me.

I think that is the biggest thing that affects me now, not being heard. Yet, I am not sure how to make myself heard sometimes. I just want an opinion, and yet I am scared to voice it, in case I upset someone, and then in feeling nervous, guarded and trying to bite my tongue, I inevitably seem to upset someone.

I told you I overthink. Who knew this sober life stuff would be so hard? I think I’m getting a handle on things, and then something else jumps up and gets me. So, I thought I’d tell you all, because I think you might understand.

Much love
💖💖💖

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.

💖💖💖

Yoga

Yoga
After run yoga!

A famous yoga teacher called Kino MacGregor once said, “Practice yoga and change your world.” It sounds a bit airy fairy doesn’t it, and yet it works. Yoga was always something I had wanted to do, but didn’t, a bit like running, because all of the stereotypes were these fit, skinny, bendy people, and I wasn’t like that.

I finally stumbled into a yoga class on the advice of my midwife, when pregnant with number four. She thought it would help my anxiety and also help as I had a lot of pain in my hips. Being part of a pregnancy yoga class took a lot of the pressure away, I wasn’t expected to be super bendy, and in fact was told that, ‘now is not the time to push yourself’. It was the gentle introduction I needed. I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my body, it was never thin or strong enough, and when I stopped drinking, with the increase of anxiety and recognition of other issues, I found I was actually disliking myself. It was almost like the wine had washed away everything I had ever thought good about myself. Slowly, slowly, I started to gain in confidence again. Slowly, I started to feel good about myself again.

As I said, I wasn’t particularly flexible, but yoga taught me to be strong in body and stronger than I had been in mind. With practice I got more flexible and learned to stand on my head, something I never thought I’d be able to do in my mid-thirties. I found it a calming way to reconnect with myself again. If I hadn’t started yoga, there would be no way I’d be a runner now, so I have more to thank it for than just the peace it gives me.

Like most things, I find it easy to put off even the things I love or benefit from, so I’ve signed up to a 30 day yoga challenge to jump start my practice into the New Year! I find challenges really help with my motivation, and often find one on Instagram if I need a bit if encouragement. Knowing I need to post a pose each day as part of the challenge helps keep me accountable! If it hadn’t been for yoga, I would never have started running, and the two of them together have been fantastic for me.

Do any of you practice? What helps motivate you?

As always, thank you for reading.

💖💖💖

Freedom of Opinion?

I was really surprised recently to read an article online about an advert trying to bring awareness to the fact that, ‘Drink is a Drug,’ was banned in Ireland as it was deemed too ‘political’. It seems that the campaign is being promoted to target teenagers, as opposition to the current adverts promoting the fun and social side of drinking, and instead, to educate them to the dangers of it.

Declan Bourke, the Campaign spokesman argues the point, saying, “Is it okay for our children to be exposed to messages glorifying drink and drawing positive associations with sport and aspirational living, but not to see an ad pointing out the dangers of underage drinking?” I have to say I agree with him.

While I can’t say that all advertising is fair as clearly it is all there for a purpose, paid for by the company wishing to profit, I do wonder if, especially when it is health related like this, there should be a more broad perspective provided, rather than just promoting one aspect which will ultimately lead to bigger sales. I feel like by showing the public the side effects and the negative elements, it gives them a chance to make an informed decision rather than base it on one side of the argument.

I think really there should be stricter rules around the advertising of alcohol, or at least on the promotion of it. I think some of the emphasis should be removed from the ‘fun’ it provides, fair play if people want to drink, I just don’t think we need to be conditioned to rely on it. If we can tighten up the advertising rules for cigarettes and junk food, surely we can include alcohol? What do you all think?

Thanks for reading.

💖💖💖

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/ad-stating-alcohol-is-a-drug-blocked-as-too-political-971955.html

Triggers

Triggers
Writing this blog is helping me work things through.

I know that people with addictions are all triggered by different things but recently I’ve noticed just how varied the range is. I’m a member of a couple of groups where certain things are banned as they could trigger a relapse, but then other things are posted which can affect the balance of the group. Rules are there to protect all members and so things like posting while under the influence aren’t allowed. It’s interesting how many different things can affect the way people think. For example, for me, I’m really affected by adverts portraying the ‘fun’ people have when drinking, it’s normally food adverts with family gathered around the table. They make me feel abnormal, because I can’t do the things the people in the adverts can. I can’t pour that glass to celebrate, and sometimes, I just wish I could. So that bothers me. Other things don’t, like adverts for non-alcoholic drinks and yet that really upset someone in one of the groups recently. They felt it supported a pro-alcohol movement, and I’m not sure that I agree, as for me, wine with the alcohol removed did play a part in my recovery. I know though, that it doesn’t work for everyone. Most things aren’t a one-size-fits-all.

So obviously we can’t all avoid everything that might be a possible trigger, I know I am not going to avoid the TV in case I see an advert or a portrayal of an addict that I don’t like. But how far should we push ourselves? Over Christmas although there was no wine in the house, I found a real trigger in having my in-laws come over, as we used to enjoy a few drinks together. I guess, although it is a trigger to me, and did make me wobble, I shouldn’t avoid it, as no one was actively drinking, it was just a situation that bothered me, and actually, although I do have a drink problem, not everything in the world should be about me and my problem. I wonder if I should have pushed myself more, if I should be going out more, and more able to be around other people drinking without thinking about it? I’m not sure, I don’t have the answer for that yet, but I’m hoping I will work it out soon.

Thanks for reading.

💖💖💖

The Effects of Alcohol on our Children

Just before Christmas I read an article called, “The Damaging Effect of Alcohol Culture on Our Kids.” Although it is written from an American perspective, I think the effects are the same here in the UK too.

It’s a sad fact that the more children see adults using alcohol as a way to manage stress or emotions, the more they will turn to it for the same reason as they get older. The author of the article points to an event where she was stressed and upset with her children and the youngest, only a toddler, brings her an empty wine glass, already seeing the link between the glass and a calm mummy. Is this what we want for our children? She states, “Children don’t copy what we say, they copy what we do. And what we are doing is drinking in almost every social situation and glorifying booze without a second thought.” Every advert they see and all our actions are modelling what we perceive is normal, and teaching our children that we need an external source to manage our behaviour and emotions, which is often found in a bottle.

The article goes on to discuss the messages we are bombarded with, regarding drinking, you know the ones, where you buy a glass reminding you that it’s prosecco time or something equally as bizarre. These bother me, but I always wondered if I was just being over-sensitive. It’s quite refreshing to read that I am clearly not the only one who hates the justification all these gifts provide.

I like the clarity of one of the final statements given by the author when she says, “Lastly, and most importantly, if you’re drinking daily in front of your kids, stop. It starts and ends with your example. If you cannot get through the day without a drink, if you use wine as the fix-all for your stress, and you’re showing your kids that alcohol is a required part of adulthood, you are sending them the message that substance = stress reliever.” When you read it like that, it’s quite clear of the example we send to our children by drinking regularly, and yet we are surprised when our youngsters grow up and begin to ‘experiment’. They are only replicating what they see, in the culture of our society, and reinforced by our behaviour at home.

I’m not trying to demonise alcohol for recreational purposes, I know many people out there can moderate and that drinking at home is only an occasional experience. There are however, a lot of people like me, who cannot moderate, and by drinking regularly around their children we are only encouraging them to do the same as they get older.

I hope that by gaining my sobriety, I have broken the circle for my children, and they won’t fall into the same traps that I have. On the other side, though, at least if they do, I’ll be there to understand and help them pick up the pieces.

Here’s the link if you want to have a read of the article by Emily Lynn Paulson,
https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/the-damaging-effect-of-alcohol-culture-on-our-kids

Thanks for reading.

💖💖💖

Connection

Connection
Feeling connected stops us from feeling alone.

A few years ago I was really struggling. I was at the point of realising, coming to terms with, and dealing with my alcohol addiction and it was wiping me out mentally. Everything I thought I knew about myself changed. The ‘fun’ me wasn’t there anymore, just this nervous wreck who was scared of her own shadow. I felt awful about everything I could remember doing, and worse about the things I had forgotten. I had a lot of time on my hands, but no concentration to focus on anything. I wanted to get better, but I didn’t know how. I thought by removing wine, everything would be okay. I guess what I hadn’t thought about was how long it took me to get there, how many nights and days, so it was of course not going to be a quick fix.

So I began to devour books. I’d always loved reading, but in the last few years, had neither the time or inclination to read like I had used to. Even when I enjoyed a book, I struggled to remember what I had read, so missed bits or had to re-read. There seemed little point.

With my new alcohol free mind, I re-found my love of reading and started to read anything and everything about alcohol addiction, anxiety, mental-health and loads of self-help books. I could probably open my own library. I began to understand that my addiction was only part of my problem and my mental health needed a fair bit of attention too. I felt pretty low, for letting myself get into such a state, and for not being able to fix it more easily. To be honest, I thought for a long time that if I admitted my problem, people wouldn’t believe me, and because of the way I presented myself to the world, they’d just think I was attention seeking.

Then one day, I found a blog. It wasn’t about addiction, it was just a woman, writing about her imperfect life. She was quite new back then but has gone on to release several books and do some amazing charity work. She wrote about the good, the bad and everything in between. She challenged women to rethink the way they thought about themselves and about others. Conversations followed her posts and I began to realise that other people out there struggled too, that no-one had a perfect life and that I didn’t need to hate myself for my imperfections. She called her readers ‘Queens’ and reminded us that it is okay for your crown to slip once in a while. You can always straighten it up again.

I think connecting with other people is vital to recovery or any sort of mental health difficulty. Actually I think connections are vital to life. I know there is a lot of negativity surrounding social media, but for me, I found myself isolating myself for a long time. I didn’t want to meet people, but talking in the safety of my own home, via my iPhone or computer made it easier. If it hadn’t been for being able to make connections with like minded people on platforms like this, I’m not sure I would be where I am now. Even my running club is an online group. I run alone, don’t go to club nights but when I want to chat, there are a whole herd of runners there for me.

Recently my hard work has started to pay off and I’ve noticed I’m not analysing all my conversations with ‘real’ people quite so much. Instead I walk away feeling quite chuffed with myself that I’ve managed to have a chat with someone. It’s such a small thing to many, but to me, it gives me a bit of a warm glow inside, how ever soppy that sounds!

Thanks for reading!


💖💖💖

Non-Alcoholic Wine

Non-Alcoholic Wine
After a Christmas parkrun with two of my lovely kiddies.

I had a great gaping hole in my life when I first stopped drinking, Part of that was the extra time and the chaotic mind I’d acquired but I also was used to having a glass in my hand for a large part of the evening. I’m a creature of habit and wanting to fix things as quickly as I could, I decided alcohol free wine would be a good replacement. I know there are very mixed feelings about this, it seems to be really good for some people, and a painful reminder for others. Bearing in mind I’d been drinking for a good few years, it was strange not to have a wine glass in my hand, other glasses didn’t cut it for me in the evening and a mug was certainly not okay. I had a friend in recovery that actually resorted to drinking milk in a wine glass for similar reasons.

Many people crave sugar when they stop drinking, it seems that both alcohol and sugar boost dopamine in our body, this gives us a feeling of pleasure. Obviously when we don’t get this from alcohol (and many drinkers are getting it in large quantities) we look elsewhere for it. Cutting alcohol and sugar from your lifestyle might be a contributing factor into why many drinkers lose weight when they stop drinking. For me it was the other way round, I put on quite a lot of weight because I started eating properly again.

I did crave sugar though, biscuits with my tea where my greatest weakness, as was chocolate in the evening. But none of it hit the same spot as a nice cold glass of wine. That was where the non-alcoholic wine came in. I spent many an hour googling how much alcohol was in these bottles that said they had the alcohol removed. I was pleased to find out that they were ‘safe’ and actually had health benefits! It seemed too good to be true. It wasn’t the same, but at least I could have it in the house. To start with it was fine, and to be honest, I drank it for a good year before the same panicky feelings started to come back. I had to make sure that there was some in the house at all times, especially on Sundays when the shops shut earlier. It began to remind me more and more of drinking real wine.

Then I had a melt down in our local supermarket. I’d been shopping with my biggest and littlest boys. I had a normal amount of shopping and in it was a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic wine. I was scanning it as normal when the baby started to cry and so I turned to him to check he was okay. My other lovely son carried on scanning… when I came to pay I was asked for ID. I gave it, and then my son was asked. The cashier was so rude, and told me that she needed Joe’s as he had ‘handled’ the alcohol. I told her 1) it was alcohol free and 2) it was mine, and may have said something like, “Look in the trolley, you can see it’s all mine. He isn’t partying with a box of cereal and toilet rolls is he?” I told her that I was paying, but had been distracted and was just comforting my baby and she accused me of lying, saying he hadn’t been crying at all. That escalated the situation somewhat to me in tears, reporting said cashier to her supervisor who upon being made aware of the situation apologised profusely and offered me the bottles anyway.

At this point I was so over it, I felt vulnerable, frustrated and stupid. I knew I was possibly over-reacting, but the challenge didn’t help me, as I was still just trying to get by, and at that point, it felt like they had cut off my life line, by refusing me my non-alcoholic wine. It just showed how confusing my relationship with wine was. It made me resentful of buying something like that and being put in that situation. I refused it then, and left, I wished I’d left the rest of the shopping too, I was that angry. And because I was so angry, even though that was our local supermarket, we didn’t use the shop in over a year and half. I refused, and my husband supported me. I know the cashier wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but having someone accuse me of lying hit a sensitive spot.

It was at this point I realised that the alcohol removed wine would have to go to. It had done it’s job, and it was time. I have about four bottles in the house, but haven’t drunk any in months. I even wondered whether to have a glass over Christmas and New Year, as I am of course ‘allowed’ to, but it’s strange, for the first time, it would seem like a real step backwards for me. Even using a wine glass would, and that was something that felt like an extension of my hand for a long time. So things change, and I guess, I am changing too.

Thanks for reading!

💖💖💖