My Not So Secret Diary

Freedom At The Beach

Freedom At The Beach in Cornwall with my children, writing for my blog, My Not So Secret Diary, by Claire Hatwell
A week on from my first beach trip since the lockdown was eased slightly, yesterday I brought the kids to the beach again. We sat a little bit further on from last week, the beach was a little busier and the tide further out. There was more sand and space to play, despite the additional people. The carpark was busy but not full and despite the news reports, the sea was largely empty. There were about six surfers that I could see, all sticking together at the far end of the beach in their little tribe.

Katie and Stanley made it their mission to bury Barney in a hole, leaving only his head and shoulders visible. I was careful to make sure to keep an eye on the tide coming back in! I had helped to bury him, but Barn was being quite particular about how he wanted to be buried, so I walked away for a moment. Stanley wanted to add water from his bucket, but that didn’t go down well at all with Barn. It might have all ended in tears, but instead they enjoyed the moment and the freedom. After the weeks of confinement, the sun and the fresh air in such an open place is very welcome to all of us.

But of course this isn’t our normal. On any other year, it would have been the last day of half term. We would have been packed in like sardines on a day like that, if we had even bothered to come at all. Then we’d have been in for a busy drive home. We probably would have come down in the evening instead, and maybe had a barbecue. So it’s nice to have the space. Stanley pottered about, going up and down to the water, and I could see him well from my shady spot by the rocks. Normally, I wouldn’t dream of letting him go so far by himself, but it’s good for us all to have a little space and freedom to explore.

With social distancing in place for the foreseeable future I can’t imagine when the beach will look like it should do at this time of year. It’s going to affect a lot of businesses and holiday parks, but I know I’d be wary of coming here if there wasn’t enough space for us all. I certainly don’t feel inclined to go away on holiday this year, but with the sun and the beach on our doorstep, we are very lucky in that respect.

It still makes me nervous though, coming to the beach I mean. I worried that there wouldn’t be any space so I warned the kids that we might have to move to another beach, or worst case, come home. It’s worth trying, because you never know and I don’t want to disappoint them, but I’ll still avoid the beach over the weekend. Much as I’d like to go, I just don’t think it’s worth it if others are flocking to the beaches like the news showed them doing last weekend, and we have a garden to enjoy the sun in. But, while we can, we’ll make the most of the good weather and enjoy the freedom we are so lucky to have.

Take care.
Claire x



Waves the A30 with no traffic in half term Cornwall lockdown, writing for my blog, My Not So Secret Diary, by Claire Hatwell
There is something soothing about the sound of the waves. It is both relaxing and calming. The beach is probably one of my most favourite places, well, that and the woods, but both have to be quiet. I’m not against other people being there, but I do like my space. I don’t like to feel invaded by other people, and even with social distancing, some people aren’t good at giving others space. There’s nothing worse than keeping our dog on the lead and away from other people, to have someone else let their dog jump all over us.

Cornwall is notoriously a tourist destination which is lovely, and I do like to see the change in seasons. It can be hard when you’re local, when things change in the summer and you can’t get about so easily. Often even the main roads are badly affected and it can double the time it gets for me to get home from work, especially on a Friday.

It probably sounds selfish, as a lot of businesses rely on tourism, but it’s quite nice to have the county to ourselves for a little bit. It’s strange to get onto the main dual carriageway, and not immediately have to start queuing.

We avoided the beach last weekend, just because it was the bank holiday and we presumed it would be busy, but we went in the week before that and it was so lovely to have the beach to ourselves on a nice day, not to be packed in like sardines between holiday makers. The advice is not to go in the sea, but I can see the temptation, on such a warm day it was nice to paddle, but I didn’t swim. There are many surfers in though, and I struggle to see what is different for them at the moment really. They are told not to go in as there are no Lifeguards, and yet, a lot of them surf in the evening when there is no one on duty anyway. Obviously there is a risk if someone needs saving that it will break the social distancing rules and put the emergency services at risk. On the other hand, if I was out running or cycling and had an accident, I would be expected to phone for an ambulance if I needed it, so I’m not sure whether things should really be different for different activities. Surfers and swimmers that use the sea regularly, I feel, should be able to continue to do so, as it it often their most common form of exercise. I totally understand the reason to keep others out of the sea though, and to stop any unnecessary risks. On Bank Holiday Monday there was the need for several rescues and sadly two deaths that I know of at beaches local to me. It’s so sad to think people are putting themselves in danger and getting into trouble when there aren’t the rescue services on duty that we are used to. One was only a teenager.

Everything is quieter at the moment, and it will be strange to get used to the busy roads and carparks again. It’ll be odd to hear the extra noise when schools and shops reopen. Looking out now, there is no one passing by, and I wonder really what sort of normal we will return to. I don’t think it will be the same as it was before lockdown, but whatever it is, I am sure there will be more people and more noise. So for now at least, although I’m not going to go out all the time, I will try to make the most the space and the quiet.

Have a lovely weekend!
Claire x


Right Now

Right Now my son and daughter walking, time for myself and writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell in Cornwall
I came home from work this afternoon to find Katie walking down our road with Stanley. She was taking him to a nearby field to stretch his legs for a few minutes. I stopped to check they were okay, as she had been looking after him for me for the morning and she offered to see if I wanted to join them. Normally I would say yes. Even when I don’t want to, sometimes I feel like I should. I’ve been trying to stop doing things out of habit though and the lure of an empty house called. I told Katie that and she was fine, but of course she was, if she hadn’t seen me, she would have been on her own with him anyway. They carried on and I went home.

I left the jobs that always feel so important. I didn’t empty the dishwasher or load the washing machine. I didn’t even unpack my bag.

Instead, I put the kettle on, picked up my notebook and my Kindle and sat down in the sunshine.

Right now, the paving is warm under my feet. The only sound is the birds and someone cutting their grass in the distance. The sun is warm on my face, and the dog is asleep by my feet. The street is quiet and no-one is passing by. It’s very peaceful.

So… I’m going to enjoy it.

Just for a little while, until they come home.

Peace. Just for a moment right now, while I drink my tea.

The funny thing is, the minute I stopped writing, I realised I was listening out for them. I might like the peace, but I do miss them when they aren’t here.

Claire x


#cantwin #family #addiction #recovery #honesty #alcoholfree #sobriety #sober #soberlife #blog #anxiety #mentalhealth #awareness #lockdown #coronavirus #habits

On the Beach

On the beach with my children at Watergate Bay in Cornwall after lockdown. Beach to ourselves. Writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell.
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!
Claire x




I Love This!

I Love This saying by Louise Hay, Hay House, blog by Claire Hatwell called My Not So Secret Diary

Late Night Hair Cuts

Late Night Hair Cuts writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell lockdown hairdcuts for me and my family
I think having your hair cut is quite a personal thing. There aren’t many people who touch our hair really are there? We do it ourselves, except for visiting the hairdresser occasionally. I don’t even do that. I find it hard to let go, and am often disappointed with the way it looks. I think the last time I had my hair cut was about 18 months ago. The length is probably a giveaway!

My little man is a nightmare at the hairdresser. Well, once upon a time he was really good. We had a lady who had her own salon and was really relaxed with him. It was great but then she had a baby and closed. I tried lots of other places but he’d scream and fidget, no matter what we did to distract him, even watching Peppa Pig on YouTube! We still got his hair done, but it isn’t a nice feeling to feel that you’ve stressed your baby and yourself out and had to pay for the pleasure of it.

I wasn’t too worried at the start of lockdown, because Lee, Joe and Barn all got their hair cut literally a couple of days before, so I thought it would last. Stanley had an appointment for the first day of lockdown which of course was cancelled and we watched as he steadily turned into a mop. Katie and I decided not to worry. She hasn’t even been able to have her hair dyed recently, which is currently purple, but is fading to a pretty pink colour.

Of course though, lockdown goes on and hair doesn’t stop growing. Over the last few weeks we’ve started to do the kids ourselves. I say we, but I was too nervous so I just watched and Lee did a great job. He started with Stanley and only used scissors but got it looking a lot tidier. The next week we got some clippers and he did Joe’s and Barn’s. I’m not kidding, they look as good as if they’d been to the barber. Then Stanley got another go, and sat brilliantly, not only for the scissors but for the clippers too! He looks so smart and so much better for it.

Of course with Lee doing everyone else’s hair there is no one to do his. I didn’t want to offer, because I didn’t want to mess it up or for him to say yes to save my feelings. The other night though, he asked me. I was so nervous. I’ve never cut someone’s hair before and I’ve never used clippers and yet I was so touched that he asked me. Haircutting is quite intimate, and despite being married for over 19 years, it’s not something I’ve ever done, or ever thought I’d do. It was strange, and yet lovely.

Bearing in mind it was 11pm, the lighting where we were doing it was more subtle than functional and we need proper scissors, I don’t think I did a bad job. With the boys, we were on proper lockdown, so if it went horribly wrong, no one would see them the next day, besides us. With Lee, I knew he had to work the next day and I didn’t want to mess it up!

Thinking about it, it’s just another thing I can do now I don’t drink. There is no way I would have been able to do what I think is a good job had I had a few drinks. I might have tried though!

I have a couple of sore fingers because my coordination is clearly a little lacking, but I reckon with practice I could actually quite enjoy it. I don’t think it’s a career change for me, I’m not sure I could cope with the stress of cutting other people’s hair, but think of the money we could save if we don’t pay anyone else to cut hair for us in the future!

Thanks for reading.
Claire x


#lockdownhaircuts #addiction #recovery #honesty #alcoholfree #sobriety #sober #soberlife #blog #anxiety #mentalhealth #awareness #coronavirus #habits


Habits I'm a creature of habit, spending time at the beach in Cornwall and writing for my sobriety blog, My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I have a little bit of an obsessive nature. It’s not always a bad thing, but it does mean I struggle to let silly things slide by. In many ways, I think my nature is partly to blame for my dependency on alcohol. If I’d been a little bit more balanced and addressed my mental health sooner, I wouldn’t have begun to self medicate in the first place.

Often, I know my habits are a bit daft, or at least would seem so to other people, but if I don’t do them, I can’t relax. It makes me feel physically uncomfortable. For example, the hoovering. I have to do it every day at least once without fail. It doesn’t matter if the house is tidy, or doesn’t need it, I just have to do it. Yesterday I think I counted five times. I know the first time can be justified, as I like to keep the house clean, but then if I see anything on the floor I have to do it again. I can’t even just do the bit that is ‘dirty’, I have to do the whole house again. It’s frustrating, and the only one that makes me do it is myself. I can justify it normally as I want to keep the house tidy in case anyone stops by, not that they often do, but at the moment no one at all comes besides the postman who runs away as quickly as he can. I don’t blame him though, I think I’d be exactly the same!

Another habit I have is washing my hair. Again, doesn’t it sound ridiculous? But, I can’t leave it more than a day, and that is at a push, in case it looks dirty and people think I don’t make an effort. I go to a lot of trouble to research different shampoos to try to limit the washing of my hair, but they never seem to work for me. So I wash and dry it every day. As it’s so long, it takes ages! I’m not having it cut though! Over the lockdown I’ve managed to stretch it to every other day, using my
Lush dry shampoo, but I just feel lazy and grubby if I leave it any longer. It’s like the fact that I have to put my eyeliner and mascara on every morning, despite the fact that I rarely see anyone other than family, and if I do, I’ve probably got my sunglasses on and they can’t even see it! It just makes me feel like I’ve made an effort.

I suppose, for me at least, it’s a coping strategy, a way to tick the boxes and make me feel like I’m doing the things I need to, even when I don’t see people, and I guess, that routine is all we have during lockdown, when all our normal routines are changed or missing, but, I’m also aware that sometimes I can’t rely on these little habits, and so I’m trying to push myself a little bit. I had full intention of not getting the hoover out today. I wasn’t going to do it. In the end, I did, but on the positive side, it wasn’t the first thing I did. Lee and Barn were cutting our hedges yesterday and a stray leaf found it’s way inside the backdoor. Once I’d see it I just felt uncomfortable, and had to do it.

I do find it funny how these silly little things can help us cope. Who would have thought such a small thing like hoovering, or putting on make up can settle my mind and stop me feeling uncomfortable!

Do any of you have little habits like this? Or am I the only crazy one? Happy

Take care and thanks for reading.
Claire x


On Being a Perfectionist

On Being A Perfectionist at the beach in Cornwall. Writing for my blog, My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell about addiction, recovery and family.
For most of my life I’ve felt a bit lacking when I compare myself to other people. I know I shouldn’t do it, but it’s easy to pick fault, especially with ourselves. I’ve always done it, but nowadays, I am at least aware of it. I notice myself judging myself and I try to let it go.

It’s easy to make assumptions, and to believe other people are more confident than we are, but we’re all the same underneath, under our armour and our hard exteriors, under the shields we put up to protect ourselves. I don’t think even the toughest people are that tough underneath, although sometimes they need to project the image that they are.

Recently I did an assessment for some online training and it made me realise what a perfectionist I am. We had to grade the qualities with the value we held them in and my list was surprisingly long. Much longer than I thought it would be. Seeing it on paper like that made me realise what a lot of pressure I put on myself.

It got me thinking about my insecurities and I decided to try to change them around…

  • I might be anxious a lot of the time, but it shows I care far more than I should about a lot of things.
  • I might not be the thinnest, but my husband loves me, and my body is strong now. It also gave us our four wonderful children, and is capable of running long distances.
  • I might not know everything, but I’m pretty clever and can be very dedicated to learning something when it suits me.
  • I’m hyperaware which can be annoying, but it also means I notice the little things going on around me. I’d probably make a good detective!
  • I feel like I’m not doing enough or I’ve let people down, but that’s because I always want to do the best I can, all the time.
  • I worry about what people think of me, but that’s because I want to be recognised for getting things right.

There are so many ways we can choose to look at ourselves negatively, but if we flip them, we can see that they generally come from a good place. There isn’t a nasty bone in my body, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I guess what matters is the way we deal with our mistakes and slip ups. A few years ago I started following a blogger who really said things as they were. She was unashamedly herself and it was refreshing to see someone who wasn’t perfect just being herself without making excuses. It reminded me that no one is perfect. No one really can be, but it’s hard to apply it to yourself. But, I’m working on it.

Things happen, even when we don’t want them to, but what we can do is to make the best we can from our circumstances. So that means not just being kind to others, but treating ourselves with kindness and compassion too.

Much love,
Claire x


Society and Alcohol

Society and Alcohol writing about sobriety and mental health for my blog, My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell in Cornwall on Bodmin Moor
As a country the UK has quite an ingrained love affair with alcohol. It’s joked about often, used to reward achievements or hard days, for successes and for failures. Most evenings out will involve it, as will a lot of afternoons in the sun.

When it can be enjoyed without excess, or when it can be used without a reliance building up, it is an enjoyable way to spend time. For a lot of people, that is no longer the case and I for one, am extremely grateful for my sobriety. Especially considering how hard it was to get here!

The problem is, that alcohol affects everyone differently. Those of us with an addiction were not born with a warning to be careful in case we build up too much tolerance and drink too much, too often. It’s ever present in our culture, in fact, it seems more normal to drink than not to, which is weird considering it is ultimately a poison. But then, things change, a lot of people smoked when I was younger. Advertising for cigarettes was common place and yet, now that has changed. Maybe one day, it will for alcohol too.

For now though, we can be aware. For those of us that don’t drink, that means not slipping back into old habits, not romanticising the idea of a drink, even though it’s easy to, but remembering how hard we have worked for our sobriety. For those of us who do drink, it’s about remembering our limits and not getting carried away.

There are so many ways in which drinking can affect us -

  • It can affect or numb our feelings. Often one of the main reasons for having a drink is to help us cope with a stressful situation. This could be a long term stress, where we drink regularly to cope, or more short term, perhaps after a particularly hard day. A downside of this is that the feeling can be addictive. We can search out that feeling of relief but that often comes with an increased price and that means more to drink. We also need to remember that while drinking provides a quick fix, there are other longer term solutions out there that don’t have the same side effects.
  • Depression and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant. While it may calm and numb, it also can make us feel anxious or depressed. It is thought in the UK that there is a strong link between those with anxiety and those with an alcohol dependency. Serotonin is a chemical relating to our mood which is affected by regular intake of alcohol and this imbalance can cause us to drink more as things get a bit squiffy. While some people drink to feel that they are boosting their confidence and aiding their anxiety, actually it affects our brain chemistry and our neurotransmitters. This means it’s not only our mental health that is affected, but we may be less balanced and more likely to make rash decisions.
  • Relationships. We’ve all said things we don’t mean in the heat of the moment, but when we drink, it lowers our inhibitions resulting in confrontations, arguments and in extreme circumstances violence. It’s not just at home that these problems can occur, or even while we’re drinking. It’s likely that the effects of alcohol will affect our day to day lives, our reliability, our reactions and our health. It can end up making us a bit of a liability in the relationship stakes.

I read an article from
Sky News recently which I found extremely worrying. It seems that perhaps without our normal routines in place, a lot of people are drinking more, or relapsing. Of course this affects the individual, but given the close proximity we have to each other in lockdown, it is also affecting families more than ever before. Children are trapped at home, without even the reprieve of school to go to for some space and safety. It’s good that there are charities in place to support those who need it, but I do worry about the damage that has been done already, and the relationships that might be damaged beyond repair.

I’m not saying everyone should stop drinking and commit to a life of sobriety, although it you want to, you should! The clarity of mind, is something I never thought I’d experience. What we can do is to look at our alcohol use and the way we live our lives, to see whether one is perhaps affecting the other, and make an informed choice. I like to remember that #soberisnotboring!

Thanks for reading.
Claire x


Social Media and Self Esteem

Social Media and Self Esteem me and my daughter Katie Hatwell walking together. Writing my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell about mental health, addiction and recovery.
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.

Much love.
Claire x


Distractions cycling, mountain biking in Cornwall and writing about it for my blog about sobriety and recovery called My Not So Secret Diary, by Claire Hatwell
Once upon a time I began to wonder whether I drank too much. I convinced myself I didn’t because I didn’t fit the traditional stereotype of someone with a drinking problem. Like that stereotype is real! Many times I tried to do something about it, but most attempts were only half hearted as I was so scared to address the problem I didn’t ask for help or tell anyone else about it.

Shame plays a huge part of any addiction and it certainly did with me. I felt that if I didn’t tell anyone, no one would notice. Of course, I had my head in the sand. I hoped that I would be able to slow my drinking down, to stop or get it under control, and I wouldn’t have to admit it to anyone. I mistakenly thought I would be able to ‘moderate’ but I have proved several times that isn’t an option for me. Stopping needs more than just willpower though, especially when your family (including your kids) are so used to you having a glass of wine that they offer you one without even thinking, without questioning it, and it is more normal to drink wine in the evening than it is to have anything else. It’s more noticeable in fact to say no thank you to a glass of wine, than it is to accept one, and that makes people question why you’re not drinking as much.

Instead of tackling the problem head on like I should have done, with a clear head, which I didn’t have, I tried to put things in the way, to make drinking harder for myself. If that isn’t an indication of a problem, I don’t know what is! I knew I wanted to slow down, wine wasn’t fun for me anymore, it was hard to control and I suppose had instead begun to control me.

For a long time, I’d begun to find excuses not to go out in the evening, it stressed me out. To be honest, even staying at work later than normal stressed me out. I found it difficult when it got to that witching hour around 5.30-6pm. A lot of people know it as ‘wine o’clock’, I just knew after work or at the end of the day I felt like I deserved a glass of wine, I’d got some misguided idea that it was a reward. Now, in hindsight, I know that there are a lot of other things that would be a far better reward, but back then I was locked in this ridiculous cycle with no easy way out. Deciding that I needed a distraction I tried many things, including getting a new job that I had to travel further to, thinking I would end up drinking less if I had to drive more. It didn’t work. I also tried all sorts of hobbies, thinking if I could occupy myself, I would drink less.

For a while I got really into mountain biking. It occupied me, and gave me a rush of adrenalin. We’re lucky to have a lot of mountain bike trails near where we live and my eldest son was quite into it too, so in the evenings we’d load up the car and go off for a few hours. Don’t get me wrong, it was great, but it didn’t have the effect I had hoped. Instead, I felt even more like I’d earned a drink when I got home. It felt like I’d done more and waited longer, and so it was okay.

Recovery doesn’t happen if you’re half hearted. Nothing really got in the way of my drinking until I was properly ready to let it. It’s all or nothing, it takes a lot of effort and it is hard, but believe me, it is also so worth it. I am present now in whatever I do. I’m not rushing through life so I can get home to pour my wine. I actually am able to just be. I’m not always completely calm, but I’m working on that. It’s going to take some time for my anxiety to settle properly, but time and medication helps. So does not drinking. It’s nice to know that I am me, with a level head, unaffected by alcohol. It’s nice to think that I haven’t made a rash comment or judgement based on a misperception because of a glass of wine or two. I still worry that I’ve said the wrong thing at times, but I also know what I’ve said, and usually, there’s a pretty good reason behind it. I guess, although my mind is a bit chaotic, and probably always will be, that it’s more moderated now and that can only really be a good thing.

Much love,
Claire x


If One...

if one is never enough have none, blog post from Claire Hatwell called My Not So Secret Diary

Sharing Sober Stories

Soberistas Article 2
An article I wrote recently for Soberistas - always good to surround yourselves with other sober warriors, to help give you strength in sobriety.

The Gift of Sobriety

The Gift of Sobriety
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!
Claire x


My Kids

My Kids my toddler playing bubbles on a walk in Cornwall and writing for my sobriety and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
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!

Take care.
Claire x


Online Support

Online Support me and my son Barn Hatwell out for a run, writing for my sobriety blog called My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
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.
Claire x


Mental Health

Mental Health me and my son and daughter outdoors in our garden getting some fresh air. Recovery and sobriety blog called My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
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.
Claire x


I Would Rather...

sober sayings My Not So Secret Diary


Confidence me and my son together in the sun writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell sobriety and mental health
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.
Claire x



Laughter playing with my daughter Katie Hatwell on Snapchat. Writing for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
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.
Claire x