31 May. 2020
I’ve been sober now for three and a half years, but I think in all honesty, it’s only this summer that I’ve realised what freedom sobriety actually has given me and started to take advantage of it.
When I drank wine everyday I didn’t realise what a tie it was. I looked forward to it, I enjoyed it, I only saw the positives in it. There wasn’t a night in the last few years before I was sober that I didn’t have a drink. I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t drink, but looking back I’m not really sure what I was missing out on. I just knew I couldn’t relax properly without my wine.
Of course as time went on the pull of the wine was stronger and stronger. I can’t even say when I noticed things had changed and by the time I did it was such an ingrained part of my life that I couldn’t go back how things were before. Every night I felt I needed to go home to have a drink and relax because of course I’d earned it. In the mornings, I often regretted how much I had drunk, but by the evening I’d forgotten or managed to put that out of my mind and so the cycle continued.
I saw wine as way to reward and relax, and instead it just stressed me out as I tried to decide how I could incorporate a drink each evening. It wasn’t too bad when I was at home, but it stopped me from wanting to go out like other people did, because I’d prefer to be at home with wine. The only place that wasn’t too bad and didn’t cause me too much worry was actually the kids primary school. It was a tiny village school, and every event had alcohol, whether it was drinking Pimms and lemonade at the sports day in the field or having a few drinks at the end of term performance in the village Church. One year they put on Bugsy Malone, transformed the church into a speakeasy and encouraged everyone to dress up to fit in with the story. It was great fun, but again reassured me that everyone else drank. I just failed to see that unlike me, they didn’t do it every night.
It’s funny how things change, for a long time I didn’t think they would, but they do, if you stick with it. As I write this, it’s after 9pm and I’m clear headed, watching Toy Story with the kids and waiting for the Tesco food shop to be delivered later. I don’t have to keep an eye on how much I’m drinking and I won’t have a hangover. I offered to add some things for my parents to the delivery if they needed it. It’s refreshing not even to have to worry about being able to drive to their house with the shopping late in the evening. I don’t even have to think about it.
In the evenings, I can go out for a walk and enjoy the evening sun. There is no rush to get home, besides the draw of a cup of tea and my book. I don’t always have an ulterior motive for my plans and if I need to, I can jump in the car at a moment’s notice, without stopping to question whether I am okay to drive first.
It’s a relief to have the freedom to do whatever I want without stopping to think about whether I can because I’ve had a drink. Don’t get me wrong, it’s taken a long time to get here, but it is a lovely place to be, calm, quiet and not reliant on a substance in order to feel that way.
Enjoy the sunshine!
26 May. 2020
The other day I remembered something that happened years ago. It was only a little something, but one of those things that sticks in your mind, and I just remember thinking at the time that my sister-in-law was so confident to act in the way she did. I wished I could be like that, but I couldn’t. I felt like my self-doubt was really noticeable to others, even though it wasn’t.
As I got older I always compared myself to other people, I looked at everyone with curiosity, not judgment, but I tried to pick apart how and why people behaved in the ways they did. I wondered what people saw when they did the same to me, and I often thought they’d find me lacking. I hated feeling like that, but it just seemed obvious. Everyone else was strong and confident and I wasn’t. It’s funny though, when I look back now on those times, I realise they didn’t see me in the same way as I felt about myself.
Changing the perception I have of myself is one of the biggest things that has happened for me since I became sober. Wine had a huge impact on me and my life, not only in how I behaved, but in how I thought about myself. Although in some ways I drank to ease my anxiety, to relax and to make things easier, in the long run it eroded my well-being, my sense of self and made me question everything about myself.
I’m still the same person I was before I drank, however many years ago that was. I’m the same person as I was when I was drinking too. The difference is, now, I am me without the affect of alcohol. Wine was a buffer and the way I coped, so coming to live without it was hard. It meant I had to face things head on. I had to tackle thoughts and emotions that were difficult and not always pleasant. In all honesty it was far easier to have a glass of wine (or three bottles) in the evening than to face up to my feelings. It was certainly easier to have another drink than it was to face up to my drinking problem. In the long run though, if I’d carried on the way I was going I may not still be here. So facing up to things was the only way forward for me.
To start with I felt like all my confidence had gone. Every last bit seemed to have gone with the last of the wine that I tipped away. Logically, I knew I had plenty going for me, but I also knew from the outside I looked way more together than I felt. That didn’t make me feel any better. It was almost harder to know people thought I was okay when I wasn’t. It made me doubt how real my own feelings were, and made me question whether I really had a drink problem, because you know, people like me don’t - do they? All these questions chipped away at everything I knew or thought about myself. But of course, there is no typical person, there is no typical addict either. No one can define me and no one should judge me, because no one else knows what is in my head except for me.
I’ve spent the last three and a half years rebuilding, and it feels like things are coming together. I feel calmer and clearer than I have in a very long time, and it’s nice. I like the quiet. I like the peace. It’s been hard getting to where I am now, but I’m very glad I persevered!
Take care and thank you for reading.
21 May. 2020
The last Friday before lockdown I took the kids to the beach. It wasn’t warm, but it was nice to blow away the cobwebs. Katie is an art student at college and she needed some photographs for a piece of work so I thought it would be nice to take Barn and Stanley too. It was cold, but beautiful. We all had coats and wellies and Stanley had his waterproofs on too. It was very different to the weather today. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be the last time we saw the beach for months!
Today I decided to take the kids to the beach. It’s a beautiful, warm day, not too hot and there’s a pleasant breeze. As I write this I am laying on my blanket watching the kids build a huge fort designed to withstand the tide when it comes in. It’s lovely to have the freedom and we have the beach largely to ourselves, except for the surfers and a few dog walkers. It is very peaceful.
I was worried about coming here to be honest. Although the beach isn’t far from home I worried because I’m so out of the habit of doing things like this. I’m out of the habit of leaving the house to be honest! I worried that I shouldn’t really be here even though we live locally and are keeping far away from anyone else. I just don’t want to look like I’m doing the wrong thing. But, it’s been weeks since the kids have been out of the house and had any freedom like this and it’s lovely to watch them playing.
Stanley is paddling in a rockpool, driving his truck and knocking down sandcastles. We’ve looked in a cave to see if there are any bears, but found nothing but footprints.
It’s been lovely, I think he will sleep well tonight. As I probably will too!
Stay safe everyone!
20 May. 2020
I don’t normally watch adverts, mainly because I rarely watch TV at a time when what I want to watch is actually on, and so end up fast forwarding through the breaks. The other day though I must have been watching something which was actually on and an advert caught my eye. It was an animated one for Dove based on building self-esteem through cartoons.
I’ve been known to struggle with social media. At different points in my life I’ve worried about keeping up with other people, about posting a modified version of myself rather than the truth, you know, all the best bits and ignoring the others. I’ve felt like my friends list was proof that people like me, even though some people on it barely knew me, and I’ve felt jealous of others, or like I was being compared to them. Most of that was when I was really struggling both with my anxiety and with my drinking, and in the past, but I’m still aware that it was there. It makes me slightly wary of it still. Over time I deleted the majority of the people on my friends list, my criteria being that if I wouldn’t stop to talk to someone in the street they shouldn’t be on my Facebook. For a time, I even deleted all my accounts, but I like seeing what those are close to me are up to, and before long I reactivated them.
Seeing the adverts by Dove really struck a chord with me. From experience I can see the good and the bad side of social media. It isn’t something that is going to go away, and it is not necessarily so ‘bad’ as it can seem, although like anything it can be used in a bad way. We need to teach our kids to use it carefully rather than to be afraid of it. It’s an integral part of out lives. I feel for my kids, because when I was young, I was able to go home from school and have a rest from classroom politics. Our children today are often in constant contact, whether they want to be or not, and even when they want to take a step back, they are then afraid that they will miss out, that something will happen and they’ll be excluded because they weren’t part of the conversation. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for social media at the moment, many of our children would be isolated from their friends and classmates.
My daughter is a prime example of this, when she was younger and in the last year of secondary school she had a falling out with her ‘friends’. She felt isolated and got at, like she was being targeted in group chats, and yet was reluctant to leave them because at least while she was in them she knew what was being said. It’s hard to balance participation with the fear of missing out. I don’t think stopping kids from using social media is the answer though, it’s not going to go away. It’s a useful form of connection, especially when people are unable to meet up, whether that is because of lockdown or because of distance. It also enables you to connect when you are anxious or unable to leave your home. You can connect with like-minded people regardless of geography, time zone, or your physical state.
What we need to teach our children is responsibility and resilience.
Dove say that, “Social media plays an increasingly influential role in shaping our definition of beauty[.]” The statistics are worrying;
• Many girls use an average of 4 different social networks, with 1 in 2 being on ‘all the time’.
• It takes 12 minutes for an average girl in the UK to prepare to take one selfie.
• Between the age of 13-18 years it is suggested that the number of girls who think social networks make them feel worse about themselves doubles. This is from 30% at 13 to 60% at 18 years old.
• The need for likes increases, with girls of 18-23 wanting three times more likes than those aged 13-17.
I really like the message that is part of the campaign, that beauty is in all of us, and we shouldn’t look or behave the same. I think that this is something that should be reinforced for our young people, whether they are girls or boys. They should know it doesn’t matter that we are not all the same, that each of us is strong and vulnerable in different ways and just because it is not obvious from the outside that someone is insecure, does not mean they aren’t. We should be ensuring that we are respectful and kind to everyone, and let everyone be themselves as long as it doesn’t do any harm. Although, this is often easier said than done. The more that we teach our youngsters to accept everyone for their strengths and their differences, the more understanding I hope we will all be.
Words do hurt. Instead of telling our kids to brush it off, maybe we should be teaching them to express themselves confidently and be proud of who they are, inside and out. We should be listening to their concerns and validating them, whether we think they are valid or not, because like it or not, it does matter to our youngsters, even if we can’t see what they think is an imperfection. By supporting them and showing them how to love themselves and by modelling that in our own behaviour towards ourselves, we will empower them to do the same.
18 May. 2020
There are all kinds of initiatives nowadays to get people to talk about their thoughts and feelings but I still find mental health harder to talk about than addiction which is weird, because if my mental health had been good, or to use a stupid word, ‘normal’ then I very probably wouldn’t have had an addiction at all. But there’s no point in thinking like that, because it won’t change things.
I doubt myself a lot. I wonder if I’m good enough, if the things I do are good enough, if the effort I put in is enough. I worry that I write too much, or share too much, and yet, writing is such a good way for me to process things. I worry that I’m not running enough and losing the fitness that I worked hard to build, but then I don’t want to go out much at the moment. If something goes wrong, I worry that it’s my fault. I worry that… well I think you get the picture, I worry about most things. To be honest, being in my head without medication is pretty much a nightmare. It’s hard work with medication, but it’s so much more manageable. According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems each year, with 1 in 6 experiencing anxiety and depression each week in England alone. That’s a lot of people!
A few years ago I came across Ruby Wax, not as the comedian she was already well known for, but as a mental health advocate. She is fabulous and having really struggled with her own mental health now writes really honestly about her own experiences. I’ve read a lot of her books, but had missed an older one, called ‘How Do You Want Me?’ and read it recently. This quote from it really struck a chord with me, “When you have a mental disorder, in other words are sick in the head, the big double whammy is that you can’t tell you’re ill, because when the very brain that makes these assessments is infected, it can’t give a correct reading. No one’s second-in-command - no one. If you had a spare brain it would tell you you’ve gone nuts, but you don’t[.]” I think it’s true for a lot of us, that we doubt if there is anything wrong, especially when we still function, even if we’re not quite ‘right’. It’s easier to doubt ourselves and to carry on pushing through than to stop and ask for help. I know that even after years of being not quite right, and times of being far worse than that, that I still doubt whether others will believe me, that I’m not making a mountain out of a mole hill.
The problem with mental health is that it’s inside. No one else can see it, so it’s hard to understand. If it were a problem with a part of the body you could see, then it might be deemed more valid, but often because it is internal we are told to ‘pull ourselves together’ or ‘cheer up’. That does nothing at all for the way we feel. Instead it makes it worse. It chips away at the confidence we have, and makes us doubt the feelings we have. If anything, when I was told things like that, it made me feel worse about myself because it made me feel that my feelings were wrong. However much you try to stay positive, you can’t always change the way you feel.
I really feel strongly that we need to talk about mental health, but also from experience I know how hard it is to do that. I think the stigma needs to be reduced and removed, but I’m not sure how we go about doing that. It’s a difficult thing to change, but we do need to realise that when 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health problem, it is a significant amount of people, not something that can be easily swept away under the carpet. We aren’t all wrong for feeling the way we do, maybe we’re wired differently, maybe it’s that the world has evolved to a point that it’s actually too mentally demanding for many of us. We aren’t designed to live in constant connection with everyone and everything. We know not only what is happening in our home, town and area, but also the rest of the country and usually the world. We weren’t meant to cope with the demands of this constant knowledge, there is no down time to recover, and so it is taxing, and eventually, often something has to give.
There’s no magic answer to any of this, but to try to be kind to yourself and to others. No one knows, and how can they, what anyone else is experiencing, and how the same things we all go through affect others. We are all capable of change, but for some of us it might take longer than for others.
Take care of yourself, thank you for reading.
18 May. 2020
17 May. 2020
Is anyone else exhausted by their kids by now? Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids more than anything in the world. They are funny, clever, happy and generally a joy to be around, but at the moment, crikey, they are also wearing me out!
I think it comes from having four of them, that anytime one of them is occupied, the others aren’t necessarily also busy. I find, one after the other they come to talk to me, and then when one thinks they are giving me space, another one has collared me. Normally I get a few moments in the day to myself, but at the moment, any that I do get are few and far between.
I wouldn’t change it, but some days, like today, it’s just a little harder. I woke up with a really sore neck and a headache, and I decided I didn’t want to go for the run I promised Katie. I also didn’t want to go for the bike ride I’d promised Barn. Stanley was really grumpy, and seemed over-tired so I’m not sure that he is feeling that well. I only saw Joe for a few minutes before he went to work, so he isn’t to blame today. I thought maybe I could take the other three for a walk, now that we are allowed to go a little further. I imagine the beaches will be too busy to be enjoyable, but I thought a little cliff walk might be nice. No sooner had I began to plan that than I decided it might be a bit much too. I’ll find any excuse not to go out at the moment.
I read an article yesterday about how we are all exhausted by lockdown. The concept I read about is called the “Allostatic Load’ and basically means that we are aware and weighed down by ongoing stress, at the moment for many of us it is the stress caused by the pandemic as well as by the isolation we have been experiencing. We worry, possibly subconsciously, and can’t actually do anything to relieve the cause of our worry and stress, because it is in the hands of the government and the scientists. It makes sense to me actually, because I seem to be more tired than usual at the moment. All my good plans have gone a little bit out the window, and I don’t seem to be achieving as much as I would like with my time or as much as I had planned when I first thought about what I would do during lockdown.
I’m lucky that the kids care about me though, I’m used to them being busy and having a lot to do, and while I’m at work we don’t spend so much time together. I think they like to baby sit me a little bit too, which is why they chat to me so much. I think they worry about me, and come and talk to me to make sure that I am okay, even though sometimes a little bit of peace and quite would be really helpful. It makes me feel ungrateful when I am shorter of patience, because I know they only care, but it is hard work! I have to remind myself that they are growing up quickly, and that I’ll miss them when they’re gone. I already have an experience of that with Joe, as he is only at home when he has nowhere better to be. So I’ll make the most of it, and remind myself how lucky I am to have them, even when they are chattering away!
16 May. 2020
15 May. 2020
Last night I had a comment on my Instagram about seeing posts about drinking in my newsfeed. To be honest, it really upset me. Let me explain.
I don’t expect every one to be sober, or to want to be, because not everyone has a drinking problem. Personally, I do have a problem. And, I’m not the only one. I found getting to where I am now really hard, and although I no longer feel like I am missing out, sometimes the memory of drinking is still there, and I don’t like to trigger it. It isn’t that I am jealous of those who drink, I just don’t really like being reminded of the past. I don’t care so much what everyone else shares, but actually, I do find it triggering/upsetting/offensive to see posts glamourising what is effectively a poison to me in my newsfeed. In the same way, I don’t like adverts or comments on TV either. I can’t limit everything I see, but I can have a voice about it. Sharing my thoughts helps me, and talking to others in a similar situation makes me feel understood and validated in my feelings.
The thing is, regardless of the words I write, no one knows what is in my head. You can read all of my posts and know that I am generally positive about my sobriety, but you won’t necessarily know that yesterday I had a real wobble. A wobble that caught me off guard. Lee phoned to say he was going to stay at work late, and the first thought into my mind, while he was still on the phone was to think, “I’ll just pour some wine then.” It caught me off guard because I haven’t had a spontaneous thought like that in a long time. It really isn’t that I am longing for it, it’s just that I drank for such a long time that it feels a bit ingrained really.
It’s the same with the comment yesterday. I like that people follow me, but I understand if you don’t, and not everyone will agree with me all the time either. I don’t want it to seem like I am preaching, because that really isn’t my intention, but it is important for me to voice my feelings, as I know connection helps us to overcome our difficulties, and I know that I am not the only person out there who was in my situation. I want people to be able to see that there is a way to be happy without alcohol in their lives, if that is what they are looking for. It made me upset to have someone tell me how I should feel, that apparently it’s okay for posts like that to fill my newsfeed because it will make me stronger, if I can’t drink ‘responsibly’. It’s hard for people who haven’t been there to understand quite what a fight those of us with addictions have, but that comment hit a sore point. What does it actually mean to drink responsibly? My first thoughts were that this person perhaps had already had a few drinks and so wasn’t thinking about what they were saying, followed by the fact that perhaps they are sensitive about the amount they drink themselves?
Whatever the reason for the comment, I am sick of having drinking glamourised. We don’t need it. It’s nice for those who want it, but we shouldn’t be justifying it to get through the day or a tricky time. While it can be explained away as saying it’s ‘fun’ actually we need to remember that it’s an addictive drug. Would the reaction be the same if we posted jokes about doing a line of cocaine in the evenings? Would that still be so ‘funny’? Maybe I’m being too harsh? It just wound me up to be told what I should think or feel by someone who hasn’t been there and therefore can’t understand.
I don’t always get it right, and the anxious person I am, I worry that I’ve upset people, but I’m sure not everyone feels the same when they post a comment to me. So, like I said last night, this is my blog, and while I don’t want to offend, I will keep posting my opinion because that’s what it is about. My blog is genuine. The things I write about are things I’ve experienced. The words are my own and the photos are real, unlike some pages which are full of purchased stock images. I hope you continue to read it, but I understand if you don’t. 💖
Big love to you all, and thank you for being here.
14 May. 2020
Over the years and I mean once I had admitted to myself that I had a drinking problem, I tried so many ways to stop drinking. I saw doctors, went to counselling and group meetings and tried medication. I didn’t really fit in with the groups and counselling to be honest, and by chance, I think because of a book I read, I stumbled across a website hosting an online support group for others.
I joined it, but I was nervous. I didn’t think anyone I knew would be in the group, because that would mean they were like me, and that wasn’t likely was it? How many secret alcoholics could there be in my circle? So I joined with a secret name. I still thought somehow, someone would know. That they would find me out and tell everyone my secret. It’s strange that I thought all these people were interested in my problem, but then of course, that was my insecurity talking, not reality.
I tried a few groups, to be honest, there are so many out there that you are sure to find a group that suits your needs. Some of them are women only, some are more moderated, it really depends what you want from a group and who you want to talk to. I was online recently and was asked to complete a survey about the reasons I used online support groups which really made me think. Obviously I’m quite open here on my blog, I’ve found it really helpful to work through and address my worries and issues, but I wasn’t always like that. In fact, I was the complete opposite.
Like I said though, it got me thinking and I realised that there are a lot of benefits to online groups, and they probably did help a lot more in the long run for me, rather than the face to face ones. Just to be clear, I’m not saying meeting people isn’t a good thing, I think there is a time and place for that too, it’s just that everyone is different and therefore approaches to recovery need to reflect that.
For me, what worked was that no one knows you - they only know what you tell them. Likewise, they may be more honest with you because you don’t know them. The anonymity allows for more honesty in a strange way, so you can create your own story and it frees you from any shame. It doesn’t matter where you live and you don’t have to go out. This is always a bonus when you’re on lockdown! There’s no schedule to attend, and in the same way, there is often someone there when you want to talk, even if they are on the other side of the world.
Obviously recently many traditional meetings haven’t been able to run as normal recently due to the coronavirus lockdown. This means a lot of people are unable to be in regular contact with their normal support networks. While it might not be the same, meeting online at least provides some form of support, camaraderie and understanding for those isolated at home.
Another thing I liked was the changing of roles. What I mean is that in the early days, I was the one struggling and unsure, asking for advice. As time went on, I became more and more able to give advice as well as receive it. There is something really nice about being able to give something back. Even if it is only your time.
Nowadays, I am part of many different groups. I still find connecting with other people useful for keeping me on the straight and narrow. I’ve been interviewed for Living Sober and have written for Soberistas. It’s good to share. Sharing helps us to acknowledge our difficulties as well as our strengths. It helps us to keep connected with other people who have had similar experiences and realise that we are not alone. It helps us to remember that we are part of something bigger, and our community doesn’t always have to be local to mean something to us.
I once read that the opposite of addiction is connection. I think it’s true. The more connected we are, the less we need our addictions. I hope that it’s true for you too.
Thank you for reading. Take care.
13 May. 2020
12 May. 2020
Soberistas - always good to surround yourselves with other sober warriors, to help give you strength in sobriety.
12 May. 2020
11 May. 2020
I find social media a funny old thing. I quite like it, and yet I don’t. It has a place, and I like the connection it gives us all, especially at times like this, but sometimes I find it takes my attention when I’d rather it didn’t. I have to remind myself that it isn’t the only way to connect with others, and that virtual likes while good aren’t the most important thing in the world. I think for someone like me who is quite anxious, it’s almost easier to write and rewrite a comment, than it is to speak to someone, as you can’t delete what you’ve said when you feel like you’ve made a mistake. On the other hand, of course, I often feel anxious about when I’ve posted something, whether on my page or my private profile. I wonder if I’ve said the right thing, or too much or embarrassed myself. A common theme is if I post at night. Waking up to lots of notifications worries me as it makes me question what I posted the night before. Although I am always aware now of what I’ve posted, and always do it intentionally, there’s still a memory of the past there for me which I don’t like.
My daughter Katie has been nagging me for ages to get Snapchat. I didn’t want another social media account for several reasons, I think I spend enough time on the ones I already have here on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t get Twitter, as it moves too fast for me, and although I have an account I don’t really use it. I’m just reacquainting myself with Pinterest after years out of the habit, I’d never been sure of it, but it’s quite interesting actually! The other reason was that I didn’t want my eldest son thinking I’m stalking him. This might sound silly, but as his location services mysteriously turned off a while back it would be the only way I’d know where he is. Of course, at the moment, that doesn’t matter quite so much, but as things get back to normal we’ll probably go back to our old normal, which involved our family all being part of a group to see where the others were. It meant we didn’t have to phone to check if someone was on the way home, or worry that something out of the ordinary had happened. It’s also been used to find out where I am on some of my longer races so the family can find me to cheer me on.
Katie is persistent though, she said we could play online games together. Stanley has Talking Tom on the iPad and we both get a little obsessed with it, not the playing with the cat so much as the little mini games… there’s one with a snake, and we’re all trying to beat the high score. It is surprisingly addictive, and Stanley is shockingly good at it for someone so small. Except when he gets the screen mucky and it stops responding to his gestures! Anyway Katie caught me at a good moment the other night and I gave in. It was hilarious! We didn’t do much but send random pictures to each other. I took a selfie and it imposed my face onto lots of ‘cameos’ basically me and Katie doing silly things things like the one in the photo. It was daft, but we had so much fun and we laughed so much. It wasn’t drunk laughter. It was laughter I will remember. Fun times with my daughter with tears running down my face! So I may not use the account that much, but for the fun we had that evening it was definitely worthwhile.
Take care and thank you for reading.