My Not So Secret Diary

Wine O’Clock

Wine O'clock is a terrible thing that facilitates drinking Blog - My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell addiction and recovery
“I’m not going to drink tonight,” was always one of the first things on my mind in the morning. I’ve said before that I didn’t drink in the day, but the fact that it was often at the forefront of my mind should have given me warning bells.

I didn’t see my addiction creep up on me you see. Many people don’t. It’s just a habit we get into. It’s so ingrained in our culture, in our society, that we often seem more strange for not drinking, than for drinking. It’s a sad state of affairs and it’s one of the reasons that so many people with addictions struggle to get help. I’ve read that alcohol is more addictive than heroin. I’ve also heard that if alcohol was invented now, it would be illegal. Who knows? We can’t change these things, but we do have to face up to the way it’s used in our lives and that it actually doesn’t have to be.

In so many houses across the country there is a certain time of day when if you listen carefully, you could possibly hear the sound of bottles opening and glasses being filled. This witching hour was certainly the hardest time for me both when I was trying to cut down and when I had cut wine completely out of my life. If I could distract myself to get through the early evening, things were often a little easier for me. Not easy, but easier.

It’s funny, but after three years and nine months of sobriety wine o’clock still catches me out sometimes. It isn’t there so often, but every once in a while I might be driving home from work and I think, “Ah, that’ll be nice”, and then I remember that it won’t be. I don’t miss drinking at all now and that is the honest truth. It wasn’t like that at the beginning but it is certainly true now. However, that habit, it’s still there as a memory in the back of my mind, and sometimes it pops out. It’s always innocent, like maybe my husband telling me he’ll be late home which causes me to think I’ll sit down with a glass of wine and watch a film. Except, I don’t want to drink now, so that memory is more annoying than anything else.

I hate that I was stuck in that rut, of thinking I needed to reward myself at the end of a day. I also hate that so many other people are still stuck in it, although that shouldn’t be for me to worry about really! I just know what a hard place it is to be and it makes me cross that it is reinforced in so many different places. It doesn’t matter whether you are online or in a shop, there are so many gifts available to remind us that it’s time for ‘Mummy’s Wine’ or something similar. I hope one day this changes and that we are all able to see alcohol for what it is, something that can be enjoyed, but that shouldn’t be relied on. Life without alcohol is too good to continue drowning ourselves in it.

I suppose what I’d like to say is that it’s hard in our culture to begin a life of sobriety as we are almost expected to drink to be accepted. It shouldn’t be that way and it doesn’t have to be. So remember that, especially if you’re beginning a sober journey. There will always be reminders, but that is all they need to be. Drinking was a big part of my life for a long time, but now it’s a part of my history. It helped make me who I am, but I don’t need or want it anymore. Good luck to you if you are struggling, and remember it really does get easier. It really is worth it.

Much love,
Claire x


Overthinking Things

Overthinking Things sitting on the beach watching my son at running training Blog - My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I work myself up a lot about the smallest thing. This week for instance when I was at work, I asked my daughter to walk to the farm shop to refill our milk bottles. She did it and it was no problem, paying with my debit card so we didn’t have to worry about cash. Later, I asked how much it was and she said about £5. Now, I know it isn’t a lot, and to be honest, it wasn’t the money that worried me, more that I’d made a mistake about the cost of the milk in the long term. I tried to work it out several times, and assumed they had made a mistake. Not having a receipt meant I couldn’t do anything about it, but annoyingly, I also couldn’t let it go. All I’d wanted was two milk refills and some bananas, and I couldn’t see how that could cost a fiver.

The things I worry about sometimes seem daft, but they always seem to boil down to a lack of control with me. I tried to let it go, to tell myself it didn’t matter, and even if it did, I couldn’t change it, but try as I might, I couldn’t forget about it and I had to eventually check my online banking to see how much the pending transaction was. It turned out, after all my fretting, that Katie had made a mistake and it wasn’t nearly so much as she thought it was. So I was just worrying over nothing. Again.

I’m writing this as I’m sat on the beach. It’s not warm, but it’s dry. My son Barn’s training has started up again, in a very careful, socially distanced manner. The team have been split into training pods and they don’t cross over so it keeps a risk to a minimum. We aren’t allowed to train on the track just yet, which I understand, so at the moment they are running on the beach. It’s not a bad place to be and nice to have a reason to get out and enjoy some fresh air a few evenings a week.

Mind you, it’s another thing I struggle with a little bit. It’s taken me a few sessions to work up the courage to get out of the car. I’m afraid I think, that I’ll be shunned by the other parents or embarrass myself, so I find it easier not to put myself out there. Everyone else seems to know each other and try as I might, I always feel like an outsider.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy sitting here by myself, maybe that’s half my problem? Watching Barn and his team and listening to the waves is lovely, but I do wonder if maybe I seem anti-social and I wonder what the other parents think of me? There’s three other parents over to my left, one of them always seems to be a little off-hand and it makes me want to avoid all of them. It could well be their problem, but I always feel it’s mine, or something I have done.

Last week Barn had a little bit of a melt down pre-training. He’s so like me. I got out of the car in the end, to give him a few minutes and to warn his coach. In my hurry and being concerned that I didn’t want the rest of the team to know Barn was wobbling, I may have completely forgotten about social distancing. Now I wasn’t too close, but I wasn’t two metres away either and as the coach stepped back, it dawned on me and I felt like such an idiot. I hate things like that. Even innocent mistakes make me feel like a proper fool.

Lockdown has been nice for me in so many ways, it has been safe at home and I haven’t had to push myself, but as things go back to normal, I’m going to try to do more. I’m going to try to be a little more confident and worry a little less when talking to people. Who knows, maybe it will work?!

Thank you for reading and take care.
Claire x


Does Drinking Make You Speak The Truth?

Does Drinking Make You Tell The Truth writing for my sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I’ve heard it said more than once that drinking takes away your inhibitions and allows people to say what they really mean in an unfiltered way, but I’ve wondered too, if that is really true.

Alcohol affects not only our reasoning, but also our thoughts about the effects of our actions. This means that although it might be true that we speak our truth and our minds when under the influence, instead of it being measured and aware of the feelings of others, we might say things we wouldn’t normally dream of saying, especially when we have the ‘Dutch courage’ that alcohol provides.

The thing is that although it may have an element of truth behind it, it will often be taken out of context or blown out of proportion, or both. The fact that a conversation or argument is alcohol fuelled means that the truth becomes muddled amongst other thoughts and feelings and that tact is unlikely. It is more likely that instead of telling the truth, and baring your soul, that it becomes a rant, and perhaps an illogical one at that. Of course, even if you remember what has been said afterwards, you can’t change it, or take it back. That slate can never be wiped 100% clean.

We know that alcohol lowers or removes our inhibitions, as well as often affecting coordination and motor skills, making us clumsier even though we might feel suddenly compelled to dance, sing or act the fool. The neurotransmitters and electrical signals in our brains slow down or stop which causing an effect called ‘evaluative cognitive control’, which is what causes our sudden belief that we are better dancers or singers than we actually are. Lowered inhibitions caused by drinking also result in a reduction in the ‘Negative Affect’ which means that actions aren’t associated with the negative affect that they might have. This can mean when under the influence, that people say or do things which would likely cause embarrassment or pain under normal circumstances. In cases like this it means that someone is literally saying or doing something without being able to see the impact it will have.

Studies have shown that alcohol affects the signals within the brain, especially for those who drink heavily on a frequent basis. This means that it affects both social and emotional responses and processing which affects the perception of different emotions and social cues. This explains why people are often more emotional or suffer from mood swings when they are under the influence. The fact that social behaviour is affected means people not only fail to see the socially acceptable limits on what they are saying, but also that because their inhibitions are lowered, that they will talk more often. I guess this is where the saying, “Life and Soul of the Party,” comes from, as people tend to talk, dance and sing more when under the influence, however, there is also a lack of boundaries.

So drinking removes your filter and your inhibitions, and although you might know what you are doing, you will be less likely to stop yourself, emotional responses are more likely due to the intake of alcohol, which means situations can escalate out of no-where, as you lack the rationalisation to stop before you put your foot in it or make a fool out of yourself. When the alcohol is out of your system you are more than likely going to be left with regret and remorse. I know because I was there often enough in the past, and I often hated myself when I looked back on what I had said or done. At the time it felt logical and I felt justified. Sometimes I couldn’t even work out why a situation had escalated into an argument, and other times I could and I wished I hadn’t let it.

So, yes drinking might make you speak the truth, but it’s likely a truth that others won’t want to hear. I wonder too, if we need alcohol to help us say it, if it’s better not to be said?

Much love,
Claire x


Being Creative

Being Creative outdoors exploring in nature with my family. Blog - My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
Once upon a time in another life it seems now, I ran a business making fused glass. I designed and made all kinds of things from small trinkets to custom awards. I attended trade and craft shows and supplied shops. When I stopped drinking, I stopped making glass. It was something I’d enjoyed for so long, and then because as it served as a reminder, it was gone. I have a lovely workshop at the bottom of our garden, I used to spend many evenings in there with a glass of wine while I worked, but it’s just collecting dust now.

I wasn’t always creative, so it’s seems funny almost, to think that I ran a creative business. But then, that’s wrong really, I was just scared. At school because I didn’t achieve what the art teachers set out, I felt like I wasn’t artistic. Our lessons were very prescribed and there was little room for freedom of expression. I didn’t feel like I could draw so I didn’t.

Years later, and purely by accident I fell into making glass. I enjoyed it and experimented, trying new things. I was told my work was good, I couldn’t really see it because it came to me fairly easily, but I enjoyed doing it, and people paid to buy it, so I carried on. Doing the bigger pieces stressed me out a little, because I was no longer doing what I wanted to do, but instead fulfilling a brief and it meant there was the possibility I could get it wrong. Again though, people seemed happy, so I kept going.

Then it stopped. I didn’t have the patience, concentration or time and like I said, it’s surprising what a reminder it is. So being creative almost dried up completely for me. I was down there the other day just looking. It’s like a museum with all my boxes, supplies, signs and what not. It’s all been frozen. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it.

I find crafting without a purpose tricky. I admire people that do it, but I always feel that I need to justify it with a reason. My mother-in-law sews, she uses it as her time to unwind, but I feel that I need to have a reason and so for me, knowing I was making to sell, or to supply shops helped. It meant I was doing it for someone else.

Needing to justify your creativity is a funny thing. I don’t feel I need a reason to enjoy reading a book but to express myself feels different somehow. I could never have imagined being able to write so people could read my thoughts, but that’s what I do now. For a long time I wanted to, but I didn’t have the courage. Over time I got braver and I find that now writing really helps me work through things and unmuddle myself.

Being able to express myself helps me retain my calm and my composure. Creativity is a wonderful thing, regardless of what form it takes. The best thing is that there are so many different ways to be creative and so if the first thing doesn’t suit, there are plenty more options to try. I’m working on a couple of new things right now, and it’s exciting. I’m giving myself permission to try different things, for no other reason than to explore what I can do. If something more comes of it then that’s great, and if it doesn’t then maybe I’ll have learned something, and enjoyed myself while I’m doing it!

Take care of yourselves and thank you for reading.
Claire x


Competing With Myself

Competing With Myself outdoors with my two littles boys, writing for my blog about sobriety and mental health My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
For someone who was totally and I mean totally, not sporty for a long time, for about two years, I got really sucked in to running and races. If it hadn’t been for corona virus and lockdown, I probably still would be. Instead, I took the opportunity to slow down and I lost my momentum.

It’s funny, because when I look at it and try to analyse it, I see that I use running as another marker of how worthy I am. It seems everything, even the things I enjoy are twisted by my ability to use them as a measure. It’s annoying, and I don’t always see it, but looking in from the outside, I can.

With running, it crept up slowly. First I could just run for one minute, but then as I improved, the goal posts changed. Soon, two miles wasn’t enough for an evening run, and then it had to be three, but that had to be fast, and I was disappointed in myself anytime I took over thirty minutes for it, even if it was hilly. I compared myself against people who were younger, faster or had been running for longer than me and I felt so annoyed when I couldn’t keep up. Soon the 5k became 10k and then half marathons. While I was proud of my efforts, I’d never thought I could run over 13 miles, instead I was annoyed I couldn’t do it faster, so I did more and more.

Running almost became a chore, something I had to do to maintain, rather than enjoy and over lockdown I took the opportunity for a rest. The thing is, as I went out less and less it became harder and I couldn’t measure up to where I had been.

I’m almost afraid to run now because I know it won’t be pretty. I know it won’t be fast and when my watch uploads my data to Strava I know I’ll be disappointed. I’m also feeling embarrassed about my time and worried that I won’t measure up to other runners I know. I know I shouldn’t be, that I should be proud I’ve got out, but it’s so hard and so much easier not to. It seems like such an effort and I don’t know if I can be bothered.

The cancellation of most of my races this year has been good. It means I have no pressure, but it also means my incentive is not currently there. Rather than seeing it as motivation that I have another half marathon in October, I’m just seeing it as a mountain I can’t and don’t particularly want to climb. It’s quite annoying as I was enjoying it.

I’m beginning to wonder if running was just a passing phase? Maybe it’s done it’s job. It certainly created a runner in my son Barn, and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t started running, and dragged him into it kicking and screaming. So maybe that’s the reason for it all? I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’m going to push myself either. I don’t want to end up resenting something that I loved. It’s hard isn’t it?

Take care and thanks as always for reading.
Claire x


Missed Experiences

Missed Experiences outdoors blowing bubbles with my son and writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
We were watching the Glastonbury Experience the other night, the shows they put on because the event itself was cancelled. I don’t know if you saw it, but it was nice to see the Pyramid Stage set up in the background but with some acoustic music playing and a couple of socially distanced presenters sitting on hay bales while they talked about it. It was a lovely atmosphere and watching the sun set while the music played was beautiful. It made me reminisce a little about the past and I imagined one day going to something like that again.

Talking to my daughter Katie while we watched, she mentioned some friends had been to a local festival and was excited to tell me about it. It got me thinking and I remembered that years before we had tickets to go ourselves. They weren’t just any tickets either, but the full VIP works. My husband had done a favour for the organisers and received them as a thank you. There were enough for us and the kids to go too. I didn’t know much about the festival then and I didn’t realise it was as big an event as it was. I just remember being scared because it was out of my routine and comfort zone. I didn’t want to camp because I was nervous, but in all honesty I was more nervous about not being able to drink at home like I did every other night, and being limited to what we could take in or buy there.

Would you believe that my worries and trepidation stopped us going? I can’t remember what excuse I made, but I got out of it and we wasted those tickets because I would have rather be at home with a drink. Not that I told anyone that. It was selfish of me and I am ashamed of it, of my behaviour, not that it makes a difference to anything now.

The only time I remember being comfortable staying out was when a friend of ours threw a mini-festival on their property. They did it in the summer every year and it was a relaxed free for all. Everyone took tents and alcohol, kids and dogs ran free, bands played and people drank. It was fun and I felt at home, so it didn’t worry me. It was one of the few occasions where I could relax when I was out.

I hate the fact that I prioritised wine to experiences back then. It wasn’t a conscious decision, more an underlying worry, a need to get a drink and a resolve to get it by any means possible, even if that meant not doing things. But I kick myself now, at all the things I missed, or rushed, or wasn’t present for, because I couldn’t face up to my problem.

I can’t get the time I lost back, I can’t fix it, but I can move forward with more awareness and make sure that I don’t do it again. Now when I find things hard, I push myself to try to do them. It isn’t always easy, but I hope that the more I push myself, the easier it will become. I want to enjoy things, and I want to do it without worry, but for now I’m just going to focus on the doing. I wasted enough time, and I don’t want to look back with any more regret.

Take care and thanks as always for reading.
Claire x