I find the thought of addiction fascinating, and by that I don’t mean the addiction itself, because we all know, that is no fun at all, but rather the reason behind why some of us get addicted. I know the easy answer would be to say because we drink or use a substance too much, but that isn’t always the case. For a lot of us it is far more complicated than having a few drinks too many.
Some suggest that the predisposition to an addiction is innate, maybe inherited genetically, as there often does seem to be a link in families. Others seem to think it is more learned than that, perhaps as a coping strategy for the things that life throws our way. Then there is the school of thought that suggests it is an illness that addicts have no control over, and are helpless to overcome. I don’t think it is as simple as one of these though, I think it’s more a combination and that although some people may be more at risk, it really is down to life experiences and how we cope with them that determines how we behave and how we recover.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to addiction, in fact so many that it is almost impossible to predict whether someone will develop and suffer from an addiction or not.
The most suggested factors influencing alcohol addiction are:
- Family history of addiction.
- Seeing excessive use as you’re growing up.
- Drinking as a youngster.
- Excessive drinking as you get older.
- Peer pressure from friends, partners and those close to you.
- A high stress career, with a need to find a release.
- Frequent use of alcohol over a long period of time.
- Personal mental health difficulties, with anxiety and depression being common causes.
- Past traumas.
It’s worth being aware of these factors, as they might influence behaviour and alcohol use, but they are by no means definitive. You’ll generally see the factors grouped into internal and external factors, the first including genetics, mental health conditions, personality traits and the history each person has with drinking. The external factors are more down to family and environment, religion and social expectations as well as age, education and job status. I don’t always agree with the last few there, as if we take them into account, it means I’m not as at risk as some people. I have always had a job and a degree and yet as we know, I also had a severe drinking problem. It just proves, well I think it does, that there isn’t one single factor or reason that determines whether someone might develop a drinking problem, and just because someone is well-educated doesn’t mean they are immune.
Of course, if someone is to grow up in a family or environment where heavy drinking is frequent, then it will influence the individual, as it becomes normal or expected. That’s one of the reasons why I struggle with many alcohol based adverts, because they normalise drinking in a way that cigarette adverts once normalised smoking. I don’t feel there is any need to make it more normal. Those who want to drink are I am sure quite able to choose to drink without the reassurance and encouragement from an advert illustrating a life enhanced by alcohol.
There seems to be an increasing rise in recent years of women developing problems with alcohol. It seems that in our busy lives, combining many things like families, homes and jobs, more and more of us are looking for that way to relax in the evening, with many of us reaching for a bottle to do it.
Coming from someone who has recovered from an alcohol dependency, I’d like to say that sometimes you don’t see an addiction coming until it’s too late, and then it’s easy to deny it. Even to yourself. It’s easy to look on paper and think you are safe, and while risk factors are interesting, in truth I feel anyone can be at risk. What’s important to remember is that although alcohol or any other addictive substance can provide a relief, there are so many other things out there that can also provide a relief, and many of them are far better for you than an addictive substance.
I don’t think anyone can understand someone with an addiction unless they’ve been there. It doesn’t matter how kind their intentions or how helpful and supportive they want to be, unless they’ve experienced the feeling you get when you need something to that extent, then I’m not sure how they can be expected to understand.
I found it very difficult to voice my feelings about my relationship with alcohol both before I gave up drinking and also after. It was hard, because I didn’t really know how I felt and how I was going to deal with things. That is something I’m still working on to some extent even now. It’s hard when you’re doing that to listen to other opinions trying to persuade you or encourage you, especially when they haven’t experienced the same things that you have. It’s harder still to have well meaning voices tell you that you are okay, that it isn’t much of a problem, or that you just need to cut down a bit. It’s lovely, but in all honesty, no one else knows how much you drink unless you tell them, and if you’re anything like I was, you may well hide it from even the people you live with. Of course this means most people think you’re okay, because how can they possibly know the truth when you’re so good at covering your tracks? I know I became a wine ninja at home, choosing the moments when my husband had left the room to run to the kitchen to top up my glass and be back before (I hoped) he knew I had left. It meant I could have a couple of extras on the nights when I was pretending I wasn’t. Hiding the recycling was a common thing for me too.
No one else sees it unless you let them, so how can they understand?
I lost touch with some people over the course of my drinking ‘career’. Those closest to me now know that I wasn’t myself then, and those that mean the most are still here. The problem is that some don’t understand, I don’t think they even try. Maybe they think they are better than me? They didn’t ask if I was okay, and had no idea of what was going on for me at the time. How was I supposed to ask for help from them when I was breaking down inside? Arguments that should have been overcome were left to stew and I couldn’t deal with things like that when I was trying to put myself back together. Over time I tried to make amends, but for some it is never enough. For a long time I felt angry about that. I felt like I was wrong because it was ‘my fault’, but I wasn’t well, and to be honest, losing touch with judgemental people who have no understanding of me isn’t such a great loss. They say blood is stronger than water, but I can’t say I always agree. I’m only going to go so far, and if that isn’t good enough, maybe they aren’t good enough for me? It’s taken me a long time to begin to let the hurt go, but gradually I am.
I know I’ve said before about posts online that are meant to be funny, but they really do nothing to help us, instead reinforcing the fact that we are different. Some justify it by saying that we should scroll on by, but why should we? Every one is so keen to make their point but do they really listen to how some things affect others? There are so many of us out there, maybe we should be wondering why others need to prove that they only drink to relax or have fun, maybe they are in a situation similar to the one I was in and just aren’t ready to admit it to themselves yet? It’s just a thought. I know a lot of people are fine with the amount they drink, but I know a lot of others are so sensitive about it, that their need to justify it makes me wonder sometimes.
I’ve found, or at least am finding my place now. I am so lucky to have a wonderful family. My husband and my kids know that I lose the plot sometimes, and rather than judge me, they support me. I have my sober tribe online, that I can chat with when I need to and that includes all the wonderful people who follow and read this blog. It means so much to have your support and to be able to talk to those of you who message me too. Thank you for being here on this journey with me.
It’s been the most bizarre year, and while I count myself lucky that I haven’t been personally affected by Covid-19 or know anyone that has, the situation has still affected us all.
Things are beginning to go back to normal, and in a lot of ways, I’m not sure that I want it to. I quite like the slightly slower pace of life. I used to shop a lot, and now I have one supermarket delivery a week. In between, I walk to our local farm shop for the odd fresh bits I need, normally with one or two of my kids which is nice. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I do not miss the high street at all, although my daughter will be disappointed to hear that as she is looking forward to clothes shopping again!
I’m enjoying the simple things and at weekends our time is our own. We don’t have to ‘do’ anything much, because there is very little that can be done, besides going for a walk and spending time together. The freedom we have outdoors is lovely. Last week, I took the kids for what is becoming our weekly walk at our local National Trust property. We have to book the car in so we knew it wouldn’t be too busy, and we took a picnic. It was the hottest day of the year so far, so we walked down into the parkland and found a tree to base ourselves under. It is so lovely to be able to let the kids be free, Stanley rode his bike and other than helping him cross the road from the car park to the main entrance, he could explore without worry. I didn’t have to watch our bags or worry about where he was when he was out of sight behind a tree. We laid our blankets down and kicked a ball about, ate our picnic and climbed trees. It was lovely. Of course, as things are coming back to life, the days won’t always be so quiet, and I do like my space.
The world seems fresher somehow. The skies are bluer, the grass is greener. It’s like the world is blooming after having a little rest, although maybe it isn’t, maybe I’m just noticing it because I’m taking the time to slow down and see it. I hope the magic isn’t lost as our beaches and countrysides get filled with more people. We need venues to open for our country to thrive. We need to get things back to ‘normal’ to save our economy. I just worry that out normal is a little bit too much sometimes, a little bit too busy and sometimes a bit unnecessary.
I hope we can all take away some of the simple things from our strange time in lockdown and not lose it all as we fall back into old patterns.
Stay safe and take care,
It’s a fair question and one I was asked more than a few times, back when I used to drink. I always laughed it off, and more importantly, I always had a good reason. Here’s a few of some of the many reasons I used to use, there were more, but these are the first ones that came to mind.
- The sun is shining.
- I want to relax.
- It’s been a hard day.
- It’s the weekend.
- It’s a holiday.
- We’re going out.
- We are out.
- We’ve been out.
- We’ve got friends coming round.
- It’s nice to have a few drinks with dinner.
- It’s nice to have a few drinks after dinner/with a film/in the garden.
- I want a glass of wine to ‘relax’ with in my bath.
You see, no matter what, I had a reason. The thing is, that these reasons merged together and rolled into one, so it became more about getting a drink in the end, rather than needing a reason to have one. Everything began to revolve around wine, so slowly at first that I didn’t see the addiction creeping up on me. Not until it was too late. Fun times meant a drink, but so did sad times, or busy times, or relaxing times, in fact, it became that there wasn’t a time without a drink in the evening. It was then that I realised I was relying on it, that I no longer wanted it, but needed it, but by then, I didn’t know how I was going to live without it.
When I think back to why I even started drinking in the first place, I think there an element in the beginning, or when I was younger, that I wanted to fit in, and to be cool. I don’t know any of those people now that I wanted to fit in with then, so that was a waste of time!
The thought of trying to live life without wine was a strange concept to me. It seemed like something impossible. I just couldn’t imagine a life completely without it, but cutting down just didn’t work, however many times I tried. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to have fun or relax, and I’d lost touch in a lot of ways with myself. I remember watching an episode of Grand Designs when I was on one of my attempts at giving up, and I was astounded by the house. It was beautiful, and I for a moment dreamed of living somewhere like it. The problem was, when I envisaged a life in a home like that, cooking dinner involved having wine in my hand, and the moment I couldn’t see that, the dream fizzled away.
Replacing something that has such a hold on you and plays such a leading role in your life is difficult and I found the easiest way to quit was to do it one day at a time. I didn’t want to think about the bigger picture, because I just couldn’t see it. So instead, I just took it slowly and tried not to rush and gradually I got there. But it was like reinventing myself.
I like being responsible for my actions now. I mean, I know I was before, but now, I can’t blame alcohol for a comment I’ve made, and neither can anyone else. I’m more measured in my actions and my reactions and a lot more laid back. Little things don’t escalate in the same way they did before, and I can take a step back and evaluate before rushing in head first and then regretting it. It’s not been an easy road by any means, but it is amazing to think I am coming out the other side of it now, and that things finally are becoming easier.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect, I still get anxious and I still get a little bit of wine glass envy from time to time, but that is all it is now. Soon I remember the need for more, the fuzziness, the headaches, the pretending I was okay when I wasn’t, and all the rest of it and I know that I am in a far better place now.
If you’re on the same path, good luck to you and take care. Remember, things do get easier in the end.
🤷🏼♀️ (I’m not sure about the photo either!)
Anyway, that aside, here’s an article I wrote for Elephant Journal recently. Every word (except the title) is my own, I’d love to know what you think!
Here's the link if you'd like to have a read - https://elejrnl.com?p=2544653
Anyway, that aside, here’s an article I wrote for Elephant Journal recently. Every word (except the title) is my own, I’d love to know what you think!
Here's the link if you'd like to have a read - https://elejrnl.com?p=2544653
I’ve always thought adulting is a bit of a stupid term, but at the same time I feel it exactly describes what I’m trying to do at the moment. I wish there was a rule book or a guide or a how to explanation of what I’m supposed to do and when. It would make things so much easier!
Being a parent is hard. I try so hard to get the balance right. I want to be interested without being pushy, a friend but still the parent. I want them to be able to talk to me about anything and everything, and sometimes, I think I am nailing it. Other times, not so much. I hate getting things wrong and yet so much of the time I seem to put my foot in it, even when I try my best. Take last week for example. I’ve been banging on for weeks both before and after lockdown was eased about the amount my eldest was going out. I know he’s a teenager with a social life, but sometimes it feels like he just comes home for the food, a shower and to sleep. He’s not home much more than that. I try to balance it out and remind myself that at his age I was married and he was nearly with us, and that he works hard so should go out when he wants to, but recently it’s just wound me up a little bit. Given that he isn’t even making it home by his curfew on weeknights, it’s making me a little shorter of patience.
We’ve tried to talk, I’ve hoped he will make a better decision occasionally if I try to encourage him, but he hasn’t and it makes me feel worse. Even last weekend he said he’d go out on Sunday in the day and come home for the evening. I was really touched that he was making the effort, but by the evening his plans had changed and off out he went again. I was surprised at how disappointed I was.
Eventually something sunk in and one evening he decided to stay in. Even after he got back from work, I expected him to ask to go out but for a change, he didn’t. You’d think I’d be pleased, as I had finally got what I wanted and yet, instead of being happy it just made me feel grumpy. I felt like I was stopping him from going out. It seemed that there wasn’t a good enough reason for him to be home, because we weren’t doing anything special and his Dad was working late. It is so hard to get things right, and then I just seem to upset my son, rather than just accept that what he is doing. Even my daughter told me to be careful I didn’t upset him, and when you hear it from one of the other kids, you know you’re making a mistake.
I don’t want to push him away but I feel like I seem to do it all the time. I just want to get things right, to encourage him, and to remind him, rather than letting things slide, but instead, it’s like I just seem to make him feel bad, and then of course he wants to go out rather than listen to me. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t want to put up with me sometimes either. He is such a lovely kid, I want to spend time with him, and I miss him when he isn’t here. It’s just he is growing up, and an adult now, I want him to be with his friends, I just don’t want to lose him either. Does that make sense?
I knew one day they’d grow up. I know that they’ll all move out. I want them to be happy, and I know that if they all achieve the things they are doing and are successful and settled that I will have done a good job. I just didn’t think it would be so hard to let them go. I’m not quite ready to yet, but I’ll try, and I’ll hope they’ll all come back to me one day too.
I’ve never felt quite like I’ve fitted in right. I always felt like I was a bit of a square peg in a round hole. I always used to try my best, but I don’t anymore, well I do, but without trying to change myself if that makes sense? I’m a bit more of the feeling that you’ll have to take me or leave me now, although that doesn’t stop me worrying!
It doesn’t matter quite what it is, I’ve just always felt I didn’t quite measure up. I hated feeling like that, but I also know now that it was my insecurity talking. I don’t know why I was or am so insecure. There’s nothing that triggered it, at least that I remember. It’s hard, because I know I am sensitive so sometimes that makes things a little worse. I don’t see how others can brush things off when I take them to heart, even without wanting to. I feel like I should toughen up, or get a thicker skin, but for me at least, that just isn’t possible.
I’m not delicate or fragile so to speak. I’d do things a lot of people wouldn’t. I’d have a difficult conversation or fix a stressful situation when it might be easier to ask someone else to do it. So it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that when I’ve done it I over worry that I’ve done it right. I worry about whether my intentions will come across right or whether I’ve been misunderstood. I always think I’ve made a fool of myself. Even when I haven’t. I take failing very personally and I hate getting things wrong. It knocks me, and I take a lot to bounce back. It’s hard work putting myself out into situations that I find hard and sometimes I just want to go to sleep when I get home. It’s exhausting over analysing everything!
I read a beautiful analogy recently by someone in a similar boat to me. They said that some days are like walking a road paved with shards of glass. Some days you forget your shoes and it’s harder and so you remind yourself not to forget them the next day.
My bubble at home is my safe place. I know my mind distorts things and I am trying to work on it. I’m not hiding anymore and so now you all see the real me. I’m genuine and authentic and if that isn’t enough for anyone then I’m telling myself that it isn’t my problem. But I do find that negative self talk can bring me down. That voice is always there ready to jump in when it sees a chink in the armour and it gets me good. No matter how hard I work on positivity, when that voice starts it can bring me crashing right back down again.
It must be hard for those who live with me (Thank you Lee) because I need a lot of reassurance and validation. It’s not attention so much as just a reminder that whatever it us, was okay, or not so bad or what someone else would have done in the same situation. Rather than feeling wrong for needing the validation, I feel more confused that others don’t need it. I struggle to see how others can go through life without worrying about whether they are doing it right.
Things come out of the blue for me and knock me back which is frustrating. It might be a comment I made years ago, or something I did, but it’s like it springs up and makes me feel bad all over again. I’m trying to let the past go, it’s just hard sometimes.
But, I know I am loved. I know I am valued. As for the rest of it, I’m working on it.
My motivation has gone in recent weeks. Not for everything, just for the exercise side of things. I had so many plans for this year, I was going to be fitter and faster than I was last year, and until March, I was kind of on schedule.
When lockdown started I thought I’d give myself a little break. I’d just run two half marathons, one particularly hilly one in an awful storm and one in London, and so I didn’t mind enforcing a little rest. I’m not great at doing things out of the ordinary, so once I have a routine, I feel like I’m cheating myself if I don’t complete it. I feel a little bit like I’m skiving off if you know what I mean. But the times were strange and I thought it wouldn’t harm.
With the lockdown, it was a little bit easier than normal to push myself out of my routine. I didn’t like going out to run by myself when we were allowed only one form of exercise. Instead, I preferred to take the kids for a walk, especially my little one Stanley, and get some much needed fresh air, so it was easy not to have the ability to run as well. But the weeks have gone on, and my intentions to get back into it, you know, maybe next week, just haven’t quite materialised.
It’s quite nice not going to the effort of running, although I think I’m noticing it in my mind. I’m also noticing it in the fit of my clothes, but that is another story! I’m envious of the people who have been able to motivate themselves to go out everyday, but unfortunately I am not one of them. It’s inspiring to see my son Barn get up and run everyday, even though his races have been cancelled and he isn’t able to train with his team as he was doing three times a week before the lockdown.
My next half marathon is in October, if it does ahead, and I worked out that as long as I was running by the 1st of June, it would be okay… that hasn’t happened yet. The thing is as I haven’t gone out, on the odd occasion when I have, it’s much harder than it was and it puts me off. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever found running ‘easy’ but now, it certainly seemed a lot easier then, than it did then.
Throughout the summer Barn and I like to join the Summer Sessions, which are races on scenic coastal paths in the evenings. They’ve obviously been postponed, and I thought that was a good thing, but now the date they were pushed back to is getting closer, and I can’t help but hope they are put off again. The thing is, even if they go ahead they won’t be as normal. Part of the thing I like about trail running is feeling like you’re part of a pack. There’s something quite primal about it, and it’s wonderful being out in the elements with a crowd of other people. If they go ahead, they’re going to be staggered starts, there won’t be water stations along the way and there won’t be medals. It will be very different to anything we’re used to, and while I totally understand why the organisers need to put measures into place to keep everyone safe, I do wonder if I even want to be part of a small group event like that. I guess I’ll leave it until closer to the time and then decide.
It’s hard when I find myself competing with myself, and I know I’ve got into lazy habits lately, so for now, I’m going to try and motivate myself to get out and run this week. It won’t be fast and it may not be pretty, and I’m going to have to let go of my perfectionist traits to accept that, but at least I will have got out and done something.
If you’ve got any spare motivation can you send some my way?
We went for a walk last week at our local National Trust property. We are lucky to have such a large amount of open space so close to home. I had to pre-book the car, but actually it was reassuring to know that it wasn’t going to be packed with visitors, although it was sad to see so many people ignoring the rules and parking on the lanes to gain access. It was a beautiful day to be out in nature, sunny, warm, with a nice breeze, and lovely to be somewhere different after being confined for so long.
I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. I love being in the woods or on the beach. There is something about nature that soothes me. I think that’s why I got into trail running, the ability to see new places and to have a reason to be outdoors, regardless of the weather.
Our kids have always enjoyed being outdoors too. I’ve always encouraged them to get out and enjoy it, whenever they can. We actually moved the middle two, Katie and Barn to a primary school in the middle of nowhere because I fell in love with the school’s outdoor ethos. There were only 50 or so kids in the school and only about 6 in Katie’s year at the time, so they had a little more freedom than your average school. It was another thing that appealed to me so much about it, it was almost like stepping back in time a little when you went there, to a time when school was a little bit less rigid, and a little less security oriented. The school opened onto a village playing field and they’d been donated acres of woodland on the other side of it. The entire school would be out there more often than not, building dens, climbing trees and making ‘jungle juice’ over open fires that they’d made themselves. They’d always come home filthy but happy. Then there were the times when you couldn’t find your child at the end of the day because two friends had gone for a long walk along the lanes into the country walking the headteacher’s dog and had lost track of time. It was a magical time, not always without injuries, but the children learned how to safely take risks and gained valuable skills for life outside of the classroom. It’s too far to drive my little man now, so I hope I can find somewhere similar for him when the time comes.
There’s a generation of kids out there who didn’t learn how to take risks safely. I saw it through my own eyes working with troubled youngsters in my old job. There are children who don’t understand boundaries because they’ve never had them laid out, and don’t understand the consequences of their actions. There are also the children that grow up too quickly, with too much responsibility or without adequate protection and aren’t able to safely enjoy and explore their childhoods. So many youngsters see the world through screens and games without having to relate to different people in the real world. It’s a skill for life, as you aren’t always going to get on with people you don’t see eye to eye with and the sooner you learn that, the easier it makes the rest of life. I’m not necessarily one for letting the kids play out, near our home, but I love them being outdoors building dens, playing in the water and walking. It’s instilled my love of nature in them and I hope that continues as they get older.
For me freedom outdoors is one of the best lessons we can give our little ones. It can be safe and still fun. I think sometimes it does them a bit of good to have a little bit of measured risk if that makes sense? It helps them grow into well rounded young people. Wellies and waterproofs come in handy in this wet weather, for my little one at least, although due to his puddle jumping yesterday his boots are still full of water! At least he had fun, even if he does create a lot of washing!
Thanks for reading!
Many societies have a long history of using alcohol. In a lot of communities it was cheaper and cleaner than water at one time, so you can see why it had it’s place. That is not the case today. Today, drinking alcohol is seen as a past-time. It is a ‘normal’ way to relax and unwind, and you are often more likely to be seen as odd or unusual if you don’t drink, rather than if you do. In my opinion this is rather strange, especially if you look at the fact that it is actually an addictive drug.
I think for me at least, the way our country deals with alcohol, and the way it is such a ingrained part of day to day life, made it much harder to address my drinking problem. I told myself it was okay, because everyone else was doing it. When you see alcohol everywhere it reinforces the idea that it is normal or that we need it. When we form an addiction we aren’t only fighting the physical need for the substance, but also the images around us. It can make us feel like we’re swimming against the tide and failing by being different. It makes it so much harder than it needs to be.
It is so easy to drink nowadays, prices are lower and availability is higher, and we are reminded time and time again that it is what we need to have fun and enjoy ourselves. When I was younger I remember supermarket aisles selling alcohol being shut on Sundays, or at least for some hours on a Sunday, and that was well before 24 hour opening came into force. My parents often frequented the local off license, but there isn’t so much need for shops like that now, when alcohol is so readily available in so many other places, and licensing laws have been relaxed over the years. It is so easy to throw some alcohol into the basket or trolley when you pop into the shops, even in many petrol stations, which I always find bizarre! I am glad that supermarkets have stopped some of the offers that used to draw me in. Three bottles for a tenner was always a catch for me, and as three wouldn’t last me two days I was often tempted to double up to make the most of the offer. I wouldn’t think anything of it, and that is a mark of how ‘normal’ it is to drink in our society. Even in some restaurants the meal deals involve an alcoholic drink, and it’s sometimes cheaper to get an alcoholic drink than a soft one. There often isn’t the same choice of non-alcoholic drinks, which is a shame, as I think sober people can be forgotten but just because I don’t drink alcohol, it doesn’t mean I no longer want to taste something interesting!
Self-medicating for stress or anxiety is becoming a normal thing, with a relaxed attitude to the fact that many people are drinking every day, coming home to their reward of a drink or two in the evening. The problem with this is that it builds a reliance, it encourages a dependency, and before long, you are relying on it much more than you ever thought you would be. Of course, this is without taking into account any thoughts of the physical harm that long term drinking can cause. Children as well are seeing alcohol as a normal way to relax, and that’s sad. It’s one thing doing something to yourself, but it’s tricky when it begins to influence others.
The statistics from The World Health Organisation are frightening. They suggest that 3.3 million deaths each year are attributed to harmful use of alcohol which is more than results from HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis. They also estimate that an average of 6.2 litres of pure alcohol are consumed by every person over the age of 15 per year. As about half of the population don’t actually drink alcohol it means that those who do, drink approximately 17 litres of pure alcohol each year. According to Alcohol Change, there are approximately 586,780 dependent drinkers in England with around a quarter of adults in England and Scotland drinking more than the recommended low-risk guidelines. Although it was refreshing to see recently that the American Institute for Cancer Research are recommending that we should limit alcohol consumption. They actually go on to state that, “For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”
I hope eventually something changes regarding advertising in the UK. While I am not against people drinking, I am against adverts which overly glamourise alcohol. I hate that it is promoted as something desirable, when it is really just an addictive drug. It does a lot of damage to a lot of people, as I have experienced first hand and I wish that were recognised more than it is right now, and perhaps it could be seen as less of a day to day normality than it is for a lot of people currently.
When we look at children, we can see how we were meant to be. They don’t need alcohol to have fun, or to relax. My three year old Stanley doesn’t crack open a beer on a sunny afternoon in the garden, but as adults we often feel we should. Come to think of it, my three teenagers wouldn’t either, so maybe I’m doing something right!
Take care of yourselves.
Do you think if I tell myself often enough, one day I will believe it? 😊
I’ve had my ‘I am enough’ thumb ring for ages, and thought I’d add these lovely bracelets to it. They say, I am grateful, I am loved and I am brave and are from Soul Analyse.
I have my eye on an ankle bracelet next!
Another article for Elephant Journal, this one is about the risks of addiction. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/06/risk-factors-of-addiction-im-okay-arent-i/
When I was younger I had a games console like most of my friends and would think nothing of saving up for a new game every now and then. It seemed to be something that was almost part of the furniture, most people had one of some sort and the paraphernalia that went with it, like the boxes of games. We used to trade them in and there was a large second hand market for them. It’s interesting how things change, and a lot of that seems to be different now, because in recent years a lot of games seem to have become digital downloads, and games shops on the high street have lessened. But then, when I think about it, it really isn’t so different to how I’ve moved over to a Kindle, not only because of the convenience, but because I feel better not stacking up books that I probably won’t read again, except for the odd few special ones.
My middle son has a PC and is quite into gaming and coding, he always has been. For him a lot of the interest of computers is what he can make them do. He likes nothing more than to wire something unusual up, we have various weather stations and radio aerials all over the house that lead back to his bedroom. It’s a hobby that has grown with him, and in the lockdown he’s added to his interest by studying for various licenses to enhance his hobbies.
My daughter on the other hand only uses a computer for photography or design work, as she’s an art student. Instead she plays a lot of online games on her phone. At first it worried me a bit, because she spends a lot of time on her phone anyway, and it’s not that I don’t trust her, or think she’s talking to people she shouldn’t be, it’s just easy to forget she is doing something different from time to time. You see her phone is everything to her, she even reads books on it, so it’s not all bad! Sometimes she spends money on her game, it’s a role play game, rather than a pay to win game so I don’t mind too much. She also chats with other players and has made a lot of connections this way. I found it hard at first because I wondered who she was befriending, but she assures me that she and the people she talks to, don’t even share their real names. They have an idea of the region in which they each live, and although they only communicate via the game, it seems that they are making quite genuine friendships.
It’s funny to see the ways in which our communication with each other evolves, but Katie enjoys her game and the associations she has with others. It doesn’t matter where they live, or how old they are. It doesn’t matter their background or lifestyle. While they are playing their game and chatting they can be who they want to be, without harm to others. There have been times when comments from others that are unnecessary get removed, and players can report anything they feel to the moderators who also patrol the game.
I guess it just shows the way the world is changing and in this day and age it’s nice to know that we have different ways to build connections with others, especially when we still can’t go out or meet others in the same way that we used to. Over lockdown the hashtag for this particular game has been #playaparttogether - I like message it reinforces, that while we can’t be with other people in the same way we are used to, we can still communicate, we can still talk, we can still play.
Take care everyone.
Adjusting to life without alcohol can be very difficult when you’ve spent a long time living with an addiction. Suddenly you have much more time to fill, and it can be confusing and also frustrating to work through it. In some instances it can seem easier to give in and have a drink, and yet, in reality if you can keep on going, each day will get easier. That’s something I learned the hard way!
Learning to live in a way that leaves behind your old lifestyle can feel impossible, so it’s important to put the right strategies in place in order to make it successful. Addiction is insidious, and before you know it, it has crept into every area of your life, with everything seeming to revolve around having that drink. Just hoping a change will work probably won’t be enough, so here’s some pointers that might help.
1. Connection. Get out with people. Or, stay in with people. Find new people, or reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. You might find some relationships are damaged, if you have put your addiction in the way. Some might be salvageable, but not every one of them, and in all honesty, you might not want to salvage them all. As you evolve, you might find yourself wanting to put distance between you and some of your old ‘friends’. That isn’t always a bad thing.
2. Hobbies. There are so many things to try, and everyone is good at something different. I took up drawing when I first stopped drinking. I found I had much more patience than I had before, and would sit and practice for ages. It really helped me find a bit of quiet and time for myself. As time has gone on my hobbies have evolved, but just having time to find new things that I enjoy has been really wonderful.
3. Exercise. It doesn’t matter what, you can go to the gym, you can run or you can start a fitness class like yoga. After spending so much time treating your body harshly, it can feel good to respect it and treat it well again. Everyone responds and enjoys different things, so don’t worry if the first thing you try doesn’t suit you, equally, be open-minded enough to try something new. I never thought I’d enjoy running, but I do, that was a huge surprise for me. Team sports might be something fun to try, and you might end up making new friends too.
4. Volunteering. Giving something back to the community is a great way to help you feel good about yourself, do something for others and keep yourself busy all at once. It’s good to have a purpose as it makes you feel valued. I personally like to volunteer quite frequently at parkrun, but there are so many different ways you can give your time to help out others.
5. Travel. Okay, so maybe not right now, but when the world starts running again properly again, it might be nice to explore and see new places. They don’t have to be far, but they can be if you have the time and money, but you can do a fair bit of travelling on a shoestring. For now, maybe you can start planning things, and have a list of places to go when travelling is easier again. A change in environment is a great way to help you change your habits, there is nothing so triggering as being stuck in your same rut all the time. Change things up a little and it might make a huge difference to you.
There is no limit to the things you can try, so don’t limit yourself. Make the most of your time and energy and try to enjoy exploring new things. I think the most important thing to remember is that you need to change everything you can to make sobriety easier and more successful. If you just hope to stop drinking and carry on everything else in your life in the same way, not only are you making things really super hard for yourself, but you’re also going to find it likely that there are a lot of temptations and triggering situations right there in front of you. Changing things gives you a fresh perspective, and you might find out things you didn’t know about yourself too!
I have been having the weirdest dreams since the start of this whole Corona Virus business. None of them are virus related, but they are all strange!
So, the other night I was climbing Everest with my husband and three of our employees. Our son who also works for us wasn’t there, but I’m not sure if that has any relevance. It was very deep snow, but I was preoccupied with paperwork and was trying to work out pay while we were there. Weirdly we had to collect American looking number plates from cars, to send home so that people knew where we were. I was frustrated because I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me, and there was some debate about whether we should send the number plates home as we passed other mountaineers, or save them all until the end. It was decided that we could talk about it when we stopped for a break at a restaurant. We descended a few steps to find one that sold Scotch Eggs and not a lot else, but it was very warm, like an outdoor space in Spain.
If anyone feels able to unpick that and tell me what it means, that would be great!
Apparently many of us are dreaming a lot more at the moment, with the lockdown having a direct influence on us. It’s not just that our sleep patterns are probably different due to the affect it has had on home and work life, but also what we are actually dreaming about.
A survey carried out by King’s College in London suggests that we are getting the same, if not more sleep since the introduction of lockdown, with additional time being found where we are not currently commuting, etc. According to an article I read, this means that not only our time dreaming, but also the recall of our dreams is increasing. The longer we sleep, the more rapid eye movement (REM) sleep we have, and this is the state from where most of our dreams are recalled. It is thought that modern life causes less sleep like this, which is why normally many of us don’t remember our dreams. Alarm clocks are also thought to disrupt our dreams, as a natural wake up seems to result in longer dreams. Interestingly it is also suggested that anxiety can cause us to have a more disrupted sleep which means we are more likely to remember what we were dreaming of when we woke up.
Outside influences such as memories, and events in our waking life are thought to influence our dreams, which is strange as I haven’t watched anything about climbing mountains recently. I wonder if it’s more subtle than that? It is thought that dreams are our brains way of making sense of things, but also that it’s a way of helping to prepare us for perceived threat. I’ve also read about the allostatic load recently, which basically is our awareness of coping with a crisis such as the pandemic, where we are largely helpless to do anything, besides wash our hands and stay home. We are aware of it, but it isn’t a threat we can fight, and that is what our bodies are wired to do. So I wonder whether this awareness of an unreachable threat adds to our, or at least my, crazy and illogical dreams?
The brain is an interesting thing isn’t it? Even when we don’t understand it completely.
Thanks for reading.
Photo credit to my daughter Katie Hatwell.
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2242379-how-coronavirus-is-affecting-your-dreams-and-what-to-do-about-it/#ixzz6OlSzGjGi
It’s easy to have one too many. That’s what I used to do, one too many, once too often until it was all the time, every evening. It’s so easy to slip into a habit, and I know for me, once I got home from work, going to the fridge for a bottle of wine was one of my first stops.
The NHS and Government in the UK suggest that to limit health risks, men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week and if close to that amount then drinking should be spread across three or more days with at least two alcohol free days a week. Of course though a glass doesn’t equate to a unit, and especially at home, it can be easy to lose track of how much you are drinking. At the height of my drinking I was drinking more than fourteen units in one evening, and of course that was every evening. It’s scary when you look at it like that, but when a bottle of white wine averages about 9 units, it isn’t out of the question is it?
When you drink frequently you can get used to the feeling and forget that without alcohol you feel better. Without alcohol in your system you should feel better in the mornings, and less tired, lots of people have improvement in their skin and have more energy. Of course alcohol affects your mood, not just when you’re drinking when it can make your temper shorter but long term when it can make your behaviour more irrational. It can affect you in more serious ways as there is a strong link between drinking and mental health. When you’re dealing with an addiction it can be harder to see other things in your life in the same way as you see alcohol and so your priorities can become muddled.
It might be that you just want to cut down your drinking. Moderation might work for you, it didn’t for me, although it took a few tries to realise that. I understand sobriety isn’t for everyone, but for some of us, it is the only, and in my opinion the best, option. Whether you are cutting down, or cutting down on your way to cutting out completely, I have put a list together here of things that might help you.
• Don’t make your targets too hard. Just cut down a little bit each day or each week. It makes it more achievable for you to last, and gives you a chance to adjust.
• Talk to people. You don’t have to talk to everyone, but it will help to talk to those who you are around all the time, or those who you drink with normally. At least then they will be more understanding and hopefully provide you with support rather than encouragement to drink.
• Don’t think about the long term. It sounds mad, but what I mean is take each moment as it comes, and don’t worry about the big picture. It can be overwhelming and I know that when I thought about not every drinking again, it was quite scary, it was easier to concentrate on not having that one drink instead.
• Choose a lower percentage of alcohol, alternate with water or soft drinks instead of drinking consecutive alcoholic drinks or set yourself a limit before you start.
• Try to take a day or two off each week to allow your body time to recover.
I hope these tips help, and just remember if you’re on this journey, there’s probably a good reone of the best things you’ve ever done for yourself!
On Sunday I had a really crazy brain day. It’s been a while since I’ve felt quite so sketchy, and it came completely out of nowhere. I don’t mind so much when it has a reason, and I at least know to expect it. Lee worked on Saturday as well as the rest of the week, which is not a problem, but sometimes I think it throws my inner control freak a little bit, because things aren’t as they are ‘supposed’ to be. On Saturday night I realised we had run out of Diet Coke. Shock horror, what was I going to be able to drink instead of that on Saturday evening? So, because nothing else would do, at least until later on when I could drink tea again, we went up to Asda. It was pouring down with rain, so luckily there was no queue to get in, and because we have been doing a weekly online shop with Tesco, we haven’t browsed in a long while, so we did. We bought a nice joint for Sunday and everything was good.
Even on Sunday morning things were fine, I woke up a little later than I would have liked, and that’s never a good thing, it always makes me spin out a little bit, because I feel like I’ve missed something. It’s like if I rush, I’ll catch up. It’s not a nice feeling. Plus the fact when I sleep really heavily, which I must have done, I find it hard to wake up, I feel groggy and it’s a bit reminiscent of a hangover. I hate that feeling.
Lee did us some nice breakfast and then we thought we’d put the roast on so it would have a nice long time to cook. We’d forgotten to buy carrots, but we have a lovely local farm shop five minutes walk from our house, so we took Stanley and walked there. We even managed to miss a super heavy rain shower, that came down when we were in the shop but had stopped by the time we had finished.
When we got home I picked up my laptop but I just couldn’t concentrate. My mind was whirring around, and try as I might, I couldn’t focus, anything I read went in one ear and out the other. Inside it feels like I have something important to do, that I’ve forgotten about. It makes me feel panicky and I struggle to focus on anything in particular. It’s weird when it comes out of nowhere, because I’m never sure what to do about it.
I rolled out my yoga mat in the end. There’s a nice practice I like that concentrates on over-coming anxiety. The first five minutes or so are based on something called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing. It’s meant to balance you as you practice. Of course, my mind was so all over the place that the voice in my head was telling me I was stupid for getting the yoga mat out, that it wouldn’t help, that I was being silly. I had no choice but to concentrate and try to keep going, in the hope that the little voice would shut up.
Whenever I get my yoga mat out, Stanley gets his out too. He has been doing yoga of some form with me since he was five weeks old. The problem is, he gets his mat out and then joins me on mine! He does a lovely little downward dog. It’s very cute! So I carried on practicing around him, and his inflatable penguin that also joined us, concentrating on my breathing, and just keeping moving, and after about twenty minutes I realised the knot in my tummy had gone, and that the panic was subsiding.
It isn’t nice having anxiety. Especially after all this time, I thought I would have a better handle on it. I thought it would have gone away, and yet, as Lee pointed out, I did know what to do to make myself feel better, and even though I doubted myself, it worked. I did feel better. So I guess, I need to start trusting myself more!
The sun is shining, so I’m going to take my boys out for a bike ride now. Have a lovely day everyone!
Thanks for reading.
For a long time after I stopped drinking I replaced my wine with alcohol removed wines. It is a controversial idea I know, and while some people seem to really like the idea of drinking something similar, others think it is just a substitute, a replacement which doesn’t really address a problem and may in fact make it worse. For many, the idea of drinking something so similar, even when the alcohol is removed is a trigger for those who no longer drink.
It seems alcohol free wines are made in the same way as a ‘normal’ wine, from fermented grapes. When fermentation occurs, it converts sugar into alcohol, while keeping the characteristics from the individual grapes and so retain a similar taste, regardless of the alcohol content. After the making of the wine, the alcohol is removed, leaving a product that doesn’t give you the after-effects of drinking, and has far less calories. The varieties come just as traditional wines do, to suit the mood or the foods you’re eating, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot.
A difficulty of nonalcoholic wines is that while the alcohol is removed, approximately less than 0.5% alcohol remains. Drinks with less than 1.2% ABV or alcoholic strength by volume are referred to as low-alcohol while those with an ABV of 0.05% or below are referred to as alcohol free. This ABV value refers to the amount of alcohol in a drink, so for example, a wine bottle that states 12% ABV means that 12% of the contents is pure alcohol. According to the producer Fre, the amount of wine left in an alcohol removed wine is, “roughly equivalent to the alcohol content of orange juice left unrefrigerated overnight.” While it is marketed as a suitable choice for those who want to reduce their alcohol intake, I’ll be honest, seeing that there is a minuscule amount of alcohol in it makes me nervous. I can see where the trigger could be, and of course, drinking it might seem the same as drinking wine, but it doesn’t give the same feeling, and if we are chasing that, there seems little point.
So, if we are being literal, even in these low, or alcohol removed drinks, if they state 0.05%, then they are not completely free from alcohol. On the other hand, many foods contain a similar amount of alcohol. I’m not even talking about cooking with alcohol, because we don’t do that, but just those found naturally. A quick Google search tells me that that a very ripe banana can contain up to 0.4g per 100g (0.4% ABV). The measure of this amount of alcohol is tiny, and some have argued that it can’t accurately be measured at a lesser amount so these drinks have to be categorised in the lowest bracket. It is thought to be such a tiny amount that 0.5% is often considered alcohol-free in many countries, even though it technically isn’t. It’s a bit of a mine-field really if you ask me, but I suppose the biggest thing is the way it makes you feel. It is ultimately your choice, and there really is no right or wrong.
It is confusing as to how it’s marketed too. While many companies sell it as the ‘healthy alternative’ to wine, there are a lot of people like me, who want to replace their vice with something else. For me, walking down the wine aisle at the supermarket to buy something non-alcoholic was weird. I felt guilty that I was even on that aisle, and it was hard at times when I was so used to picking up ‘real’ wine. When grape juices and similar are found on the soft drink aisle, I find it strange that these drinks have to share the aisle with the stronger versions. Especially considering wine and beer make their way out onto the food aisles to be sold as part of a meal deal. It’s just an observation that confuses me a little.
Replacing my wine intake with alcohol removed versions did work for me, it allowed me to replace it with something less damaging, and change my thinking. But, after a year or so, I noticed the same thought patterns emerging as they had done with wine. I began to worry if it wasn’t in the house, or God forbid, if the shop ran out. It made me stress out, and to be honest, that isn’t a normal reaction. It was like I couldn’t see that I could drink other things, anything not in a wine glass was alien to me. It was a vast improvement on other things I had tried to replace alcohol with though, like soda water and lime. While it was nice, I still drank the same amount and it was too fizzy for that. So for me at least, it had a place in my recovery, although I understand it isn’t the same for everyone.
There’s still some bottles in the house actually. I haven’t thrown them away as it seems a waste, but I worry now that it feels like a backwards step to drink them. While I can reassure myself that it’s okay to drink them if I want to, strangely it would feel a bit like letting myself down, and even to get a wine glass out I think would feel a bit weird now. So I don’t, I was going to say maybe one day I will, but actually on reflection, I think that might be the start of a slippery slope and that isn’t somewhere I want to find myself. These things all have their places and I am glad for the part non-alcoholic wine played in my recovery, but I’m also glad that I am finally feeling free of the ties I had.
What’s your opinion on drinks like these?
These are two of the brands I used to enjoy, https://www.frewines.com and http://www.eisberg.co.uk Both were available in the supermarkets.
Our four kids mean the world to me, but as they get older, I find it hard to know where the line is. We’ve always been close and I want to stay that way, but of course they’re finding their own paths, and they don’t always want to share it with me.
I don’t expect them to tell me everything but it’s nice to feel involved a little. At the moment I seem to be putting my foot in it more and more often, saying the wrong thing or choosing my time badly. I do it with all of the teenagers, but especially with one in particular. I feel like I’m pushing him away and it’s the last thing I want to do.
It’s weird, because I don’t think I’m judgemental or pushy. I’m just interested and want them to know that. I’ve never told them not to go anywhere or do anything and yet it’s like my eldest just wants to keep it to himself. It’s hard not to be involved and yet I understand his need for freedom. He works hard and so he should be able to go out and enjoy himself. It’s good for him to let off steam. I suppose it’s hard for him too. I don’t know any of his friends now, and I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t want him (or them) to think I’m judging them, so I’m careful about the comments I make. In fact, I’m careful not to say anything if it’s too sweeping, or could be seen as offensive or ‘labelling’. That in itself seems to annoy him too and that’s a shame because it only comes from a good place, because I care about him.
When I was his age, I was married with a little one on the way, so I try to remind myself that, as he should be allowed the same freedom as I had. I just liked being a friend I suppose, as well as his mum, and I miss him sometimes. Even though he still lives with us, I don’t see him that much. Lockdown was nice in some respects because it meant that I had all the kids at home with me. I know I can’t keep them forever but sometimes it would be nice to freeze time for a little bit. They grow so fast and they won’t need me for much longer.
Last weekend we saw Lee’s mum and dad for the first time out of work since before the lockdown. We stayed in the garden and socially distanced of course, but I watched them talk to the kids I saw that it’s the same for them, and for my parents. Once we’d been young and the centre of our parents world and now, while we’re still important, we aren’t as dependent as we once were. Things move on and people grow. We can’t stay the same forever, so I’ll try to let them go as they grow, and hope that one day, they’ll come back to me.
I didn’t write in the beginning. I wanted to, and I had so many ideas, so many thoughts and feelings but I just couldn’t bring myself to put pen to paper. Whatever I wrote, I felt was too much. Nothing made sense to me, from the way I felt to the way I reacted to things. Without wine in my life everything felt different. I didn’t like to write anything down, even when I wanted to, because I was scared it would make it more real, or worse, that someone would read it. I felt terrible about myself already and I was scared that if I admitted my honest thoughts, that it would be too much.
I wasn’t sure of anything for a long time after I stopped drinking. I felt nervous and shaky all the time. It was exhausting. My anxiety had hit an all time high and I was always on edge. I felt panicky at the best of times. The tiniest thing would set me off. I’d stopped going out much and when I did, I went by myself because it was easier than explaining my worries to anyone else. If I panicked I could run away home without having to tell anyone else. I worried that people were looking at me, talking about me or judging me. I was terrified of getting things wrong or looking like a fool. I knew my worries were out of proportion, but knowing that didn’t make them go away.
I know now that for me my mental health and my addiction to alcohol are completely intertwined. They’ve both been there a long time, each masking the other and making it far harder to really notice and to deal with. Using one to cover and cope with the other just made them both worse.
My anxiety was so bad that it had affected my self-confidence and the way I felt about myself. I was on edge all the time, except if I was drinking. So it was hard to see how it would be without wine and I couldn’t imagine life without it. I didn’t eat much towards the end. I could feel my tummy bubbling with nerves all the time, and I got more and more anxious about ‘normal’ things. The more anxious I got, the worse my nerves were. It was difficult to make myself do anything that I really couldn’t get out of. It was so hard to go out or to see anyone, to push myself out of my comfort zone. So I didn’t.
When I look back now, I feel like I’ve lost time. There are moments that are gone forever because I would rather have had a drink or because I was lost in my worries. I can’t get those times back, but having had them, I know I’d rather do anything than go back to where I was. I found the times so hard that I didn’t write. Looking back now I do sort of wish I had, but I don’t think it would have been very pleasant reading.
Recovery is hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It might not happen on the first go, or the second, but when it does, when you stay sober, you’ll realise how worthwhile that battle is. Stick with it if you can, and be kind to yourselves.