14 June 2020
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!
Writing can be nerve wracking. I share my thoughts and my emotions with everyone who reads my blog, and I trust that my opinion is respected, which on the whole it is, which is lovely. While it is scary, there is nothing more therapeutic for me than getting the words out and down on to paper, it’s a way of sorting through my mind and organising it. It seems to be the best thing I’ve found so far for untangling myself.
There is always an element of worry though, maybe that I have shared too much, or given too much away. I often procrastinate before I press the share button, and afterwards I often worry I’ve done the wrong thing, but once I start seeing lovely comments I begin to relax again. There’s still a lot I don’t share, but I do share a lot. I worry about what people will think about what I have to say, and yet sometimes, judgements come from those closer to me than I would like. That never fails to surprise me.
As I said, I do sometimes wonder if I share too much, but in all honesty, I worry less about what ‘strangers’ think or say, than those closer to me. It’s the main reason I started this blog without my name or a recognisable picture, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to share my thoughts, because I did, I just didn’t want people I knew to read them straightaway. It’s been a while now, and I’m more confident. When I write I’m not trying to please anyone, but it’s a bonus that I do, and I really like that I people enjoy my writing.
It’s a reality that most people close to me didn’t know I had a drinking problem or severe anxiety, because I chose not to tell them. It was easier not to show anyone anything below the surface, but it must be strange for those of them who read my blog to learn about it now. As I’ve said before, I was so afraid of judgement that I kept things to myself. I was hard enough on myself, as most people with an addiction are, that I didn’t need anyone else adding to that. I didn’t want any comments on what I should or shouldn’t be doing, regardless of how helpful they were intended to be.
It’s different now. I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have done in years. I feel like I have found myself, if that makes sense? I still have wobbly days, but I guess to some extent, everyone does. Knowing that I am not the only one actually helps me feel better about myself too.
Honestly though, since starting this blog I feel like I’ve found my tribe. I seem to have more in common with you all, the people I talk to on here than I do with most other people, so thank you for being here, for reading, commenting and supporting me. It means a lot, and I am very grateful.
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.