30 September. 2020
Welcome to my September Entries. For the current month, please click on 'My Diary'
I had a dream the other night. Not a Martin Luther King type of dream, rather one that scared me a bit.
I dreamed that I fell off the wagon, that after all this time and hard work, I dreamt that I just gave in and had that elusive ‘just one’ I had often thought about. Of course that ‘one’ would never have been enough, as I am well aware, moderation does not work for me, I’m an all or nothing kind of a girl.
In the morning, I woke up feeling bad. In actual fact, I felt really quite guilty about my drinking dream as if it was a reality. But then after rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I realised that was all it was, a dream. Even though it was a bad one.
The thought of telling you all that I had let myself down was properly scary. I felt so ashamed! But then I thought more about it and I realised how far I’ve come, for the actual thought of drinking to be a bad thought now. It’s not something I want to do, or look forward to, or try to excuse. I don’t feel tied to it anymore. I’m just me, plain and simple, take it or leave it. I’m not hiding behind something to make me someone else, and I like that.
It was random, but actually quite welcome in the end, to remind me of what I’ve got. My four years aren’t something I’m going to throw away in a hurry.
Thank you all as always for reading.
I’ve been busy recently, so it’s been a little harder to find time to write. Not only am I trying a few things out for myself, but I’ve also gone back to work pretty much full time. I hadn’t been looking forward to it to be honest. As you’ve probably worked out, I have a tendency to build things up, to worry about them before anything has happened, and to generally blow things a little out of proportion.
I haven’t worked full time since I gave up drinking… when everything was different. Since then I’ve had rather a large meltdown, had a baby, and crawled my way back out of the darkness. But, I hang on to a lot of memories, I beat myself up about things that I’ve done, and worry about how I’m perceived. It makes things harder, because a lot of the time, when other people have moved on, I haven’t. I’m working on letting things go and realising that not everyone is out to get me.
I work with my family, my husband, our eldest son and my in-laws as well as several employees. It’s part of the reason I’ve been able to be so flexible with my hours, but it’s also meant at times things have been more stressful than they would in a ‘normal’ job, boundaries that would be there normally aren’t which can makes it difficult, but there are positives too. And that’s the bit that I sometimes forget about, and fail to see.
The idea of coming back in has stressed me out, because being part time, much as I didn’t want to admit it, I felt a little out of the loop. That feeling didn’t make me want to come back in and I was happy doing my own thing. I’m busy at home too, like many Mums are. The housework and cleaning don’t do themselves, and with four kids, there is a lot of washing to do. I’m not complaining, but there is only so much time in the day!
I’ve also been enjoying writing and doing things for myself. For the first time in a really long time, I feel pretty good, content and happy in myself. It feels great and I don’t want to rock the boat. It’s taken me four years to get here, so it’s a little scary to think it could go wrong. Before, stress made me want to drink, and now I have other ways to cope. I’m careful though because I have no intention of ending up where I was before.
Stanley started pre-school at the beginning of September, so it seemed logical that I’d increase my hours again too. Much as it made me nervous, I didn’t want to let anyone down by saying no. I was worried how the longer days would affect me, but the funny thing is that I’m enjoying it far more than I thought I would. Being there more often makes me feel more part of the team than I did before. I’ve taken on more, and I’m coping. Actually, more than coping, I’m enjoying it. I always took things home with me, but now I find I’m actually content to stay in the office. It’s an odd feeling for me, but I quite like it.
The photo is from just before lockdown, when we hadn’t yet closed, but were not running at full capacity, and because having a small person chilling out on my desk made me smile. Even though he was watching a lot of Hey Duggee on Cbeebies!
This is just a reminder that things don’t always work out the way you think they might, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Sometimes embracing change, even when it’s challengin is a good thing.
One of the things that lingers a little from the days when I used to drink is the fact that I like being at home. That may sound odd, I mean, a lot of people like being at home, but for me it’s a bit more than that. In the beginning it was just normal, but over time, it became easier to go home and stay there than to go out. I could always guarantee there was wine at home, and I couldn’t if I went out. I liked to be home early too, because that gave me more of the evening for a few drinks, after I’d done all the jobs around the house of course. I always liked to know things were done before I sat down, because then I could properly relax.
I don’t think I realised how stuck in my ways I was back then, how much I planned things to make sure I was home each evening. I just knew I enjoyed a few drinks, as I was sure every one else did, and so after a long day at work, it was good to get home and relax. I just didn’t see how gradually that crept up and became more important than everything else, until it almost seemed like the day was just a mission to get through so I could get home and stop.
Definitely in the early days it was a huge reminder to me to come home and not have that drink. Getting through the so called ‘witching hour’ was difficult but I overcame it. Still though, there in the background was the need to get home. I just didn’t know why. There wasn’t so much of a reason anymore, because I wasn’t running home to open the fridge. It just seemed that I needed to be there. Sometimes, I’ll admit, on the drive home, I’d think about pouring a glass when I got there, but then I remembered that wasn’t something I did anymore. It’s taken time to get out of the habits I’d formed, but going home isn’t one of them.
Home is my safety net. It’s the one place in the world I don’t have to worry about anything. I feel safe and secure here. I’ve always told the kids that, when they were younger and being mean to each other, I used to tell them home is our safe place, here we can say and do what we want, and we should all be considerate to each other. Everyone at home knows the way my mind works, and they don’t question it. They laugh at me sometimes, but there is never any harm in it, and often it’s when I’m laughing at myself too. I’m lucky to have this little haven, and while I am pushing myself to get out and do more, it’s good to know that once I shut my front door my safe place is always here.
I hope you have a safe place? 💖
Take care and thanks as always for reading.
Years ago I ran a fused glass business. It ran fairly successfully and I made all kinds, from coasters and small bits to large custom sets of awards. I enjoyed it, but I’ll admit, I did find it stressful making things for others, not the things I wanted to do myself, but the things where others had an idea of how they wanted them to be. It was lovely to be able to create something I had thought of and then for someone to buy it. It felt good and made me feel like I had a purpose. It was at a time when I was beginning to fall apart, and so having this little pretend world where I could exist made me feel better.
I associated creativity with ‘before’ the end and for a long time I couldn’t set foot inside my workshop because I didn’t have wine to take with me. I know that isn’t a good reason, and it was probably more of an excuse than anything, but everything had changed so much it felt too hard.
Craft/making/designing - whatever you want to define it as makes me feel vulnerable. Before, I had my wine induced coat of armour, but after, I had to learn it was okay to try things, and they didn’t all have to work out. I found it easier for a long time, not to try, rather than to feel like I had got something wrong.
Then of course, about a year ago I started posting my writing and finding that people I didn’t know liked it. It was nice to feel it wasn’t just friends and family trying to be kind to me. Gradually I began to let myself get creative again. I let myself explore what I liked and what I didn’t, only now I find, I am doing it more for myself that anyone else. It’s a wonderful bonus that other people like it. It’s empowering. It makes me feel good, but now I see that it’s important that I enjoy it first and foremost, for me.
I was sitting with Katie recently watching TV. Finally now that Stanley has got into a slightly earlier bedtime routine we can catch up on scary things he can’t watch. We were interrupted by my phone letting off a loud, ‘kerching!’, that sounds like a till and always makes me smile. It’s the noise Etsy makes when someone purchases something from my shop. It’s funny how much the small things matter! That noise means that somewhere in the country (or the world) someone has clicked and bought something. Little do they know how much it means to me or other sellers like me.
The simple things are good. Life is good. It changes, and we can stay stuck in our rut or choose to change. I’m glad things are working out, I’m feeling more positive and more hopeful, than I’ve done in a long time.
Thanks for reading,
We haven’t been out on the water since we sold our boat. I used to swim a lot in the sea too, but since all this Covid business Barn’s surfing lessons have been cancelled, and that was the time I took to swim. It’s funny how you can miss something without realising you do, and when you get out of the habit, it’s not that you forget, but you fill your time up with other things and it’s easy not to do those things that you used to enjoy.
Most weekends we end up driving out to Rock to drop Barn at work. He gets the bus in the week but at the weekends the times don’t quite match up with his shifts, so it’s easiest for us to take him. We often plan it, at least when the weather is nice to take Stanley to the beach which is lovely. It’s nice in some ways to have a reason, to be almost forced out of the house to do something. I find it so easy not to go out, so having that reason really helps. It’s a bit like having parkrun or a race used to make me run more, I seem to need things to help with my motivation.
Anyway, on Saturday, just before we were going to leave the house, Lee suggested taking our kayak. It’s been over a year, closer to two actually since we’ve used it, so as we didn’t have much time, I quickly checked Stanley’s life jacket still fitted while Lee bundled it all into the car and off we went.
We don’t like an audience when we do things. It’s one of those things that puts us off. Some people thrive on being watched, while we just like a bit of space. It’s one of the reasons the boat we had was so remote, it was just us when we were out there. When we ventured down onto the beach, after paying the harbour master, we found a quiet corner out of the way of inquisitive eyes. It’s always fun trying somewhere new, but of course, it’s also hard when you don’t know the beach well, or the current, so there’s a lot to consider, and that’s without a three year old running around!
Once we were out on the water though, it was perfect. I forgot how peaceful it was, how soothing. Of course, it was hard work too at times, paddling upstream and trying to keep out the way of the rest of the boats out on the water, but it was lovely. The tide was going out, and it uncovered a large sandbank in the middle of the estuary, which is usually inaccessible, so we pulled the kayak up and let Stanley out to explore. He loved ‘Pirate Island’.
Of course we got pretty wet, but it was so much fun! It’s a lovely feeling to feel tired from doing something like that, to feel that we had spent time together doing something fun and effectively free. Stanley never sleeps in the day, but we must have worn him out because he slept the whole way home.
The simple things in life are great, I’ve realised that more and more in the time I’ve been sober. I don’t need shopping and expensive things to make me happy. I just need the people I love, and a bit of an adventure.
I’ve always loved being out in nature. There’s something very calming about the feel of the sun on my face or the wind in my hair. Mind you, it’s not always easy to get out - a lot of the time, it’s easier to find other things to do.
We have to make time for ourselves out in nature. It’s not frivolous, it’s good for our wellbeing. I didn’t actually realise what a difference it made to me until I lost it. For a long time I worked with vulnerable kids with behavioural difficulties. We spent a lot of time outside, often more than we did inside, regardless of the weather. We built dens, we walked, we explored, we planted and grew, and looked after our chickens. The group I worked with were lucky enough to have been donated a small patch of land which we referred to as our farm. It was only when I left that job and the outdoor work that I took for granted, that I realised how much time you can spend indoors when doing a desk job. It’s very different.
I think running fitted in where I left off with the outdoor stuff. I’d always liked walking, but running pushed it to a new level, it helped me explore and see so many different things in one short trip. I didn’t mind the wet or the cold, even the wind. Instead, it just made me feel alive. I felt like I was achieving something and afterwards I felt great. It extends further than that though, I mean, I have never felt more at home than camping in Scotland or being out at sea. I like the elements. One of my favourite things is a swim in the sea, once I’ve got over the initial shock of the cold of course. The only way I can explain it is that the cold takes your breath away and reminds you how alive you are. At least that’s how it works for me.
I spend a lot of time outdoors, but more recently, I’ve been bringing the outdoors in too. It’s hard, because I’m not ever so good at keeping house plants alive. I like them, but they don’t seem to like me! Lee has green fingers and we have a conservatory full of lemons, limes and oranges which are growing well and producing fruit, but I had to return an orchid my Mum gave me, for her to nurse it back to health as I nearly killed it. So, I’m careful about what I introduce. I buy things I like, but aren’t too difficult to keep. It seems to be going all right at the moment.
I’ve been following a florist on Instagram for ages. They post beautiful pictures online of bouquets as well as houseplants, and so the other day I decided to pop in. I came away with a little hanging plant which is the first one I’ve placed in our bedroom. I haven’t had plants in a bedroom since I was a teenager, but it’s funny how much difference it’s seems to have made already. Not only is it pleasant to look at, but it just makes the room feel nice too.
I decided to look a little more into it and found that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which means they make a healthier environment for us to live in. Not only that, but they collect dust, which means although we have to occasionally dust them off, the dust is kept isolated in one place, stopping us from breathing it in. A lot of plants act as natural humidifiers, relieving respiratory problems as well as coughs and some conditions where skin dryness occurs. Especially in sealed environments like offices and flats and apartments, there is evidence to show that plants help to purify the air, again making it a nicer environment to live in. Research has been done into the effects of houseplants on the body’s reaction to stress, finding that we have an innate reaction to plants and trees providing us with shelter, which we have gained from our ancient ancestors. So when we are around certain plants, there is a recognition that we are protected to a certain extent. Psychologists say that the colour green is associated with health and vitality, so when we see it it promotes our wellbeing.
Plants also take our attention without stimulating our minds, giving us a welcome break from screens which actually helps us focus. Plants trigger our nurturing instincts too, by reminding us that we are alive and a part of a wider eco-system. Caring for plants also helps us to remember to take care of ourselves and others, and as you often see a direct influence of your behaviour on a plant it helps build self-confidence. This is probably why a lot of people in recovery are encouraged to look after a plant, and keep that alive before taking on relationships with more complex beings, although it also provides something for us to do, as we learn a new skill. We can keep it simple, and progress to much more complicated plants which will reward us with fruit or flowers if we successfully take care of them.
With all those benefits I might have an indoor jungle at home before long! Who else enjoys the feeling of being surrounded by plants and nature?
Take care of yourselves.
Watching your kids grow up is a funny old thing. I flit between loving it and feeling scared by it. It doesn’t seem so long ago that they were all tiny and so completely reliant on me. The busyness of having them all small was chaotic, and I loved it. Now though they’re all quite independent, including the small one. In May Stanley was 3, in July, Barn 15 and last month Katie and Joe were 17 and 19. I remember being their ages. The fact that they are all taller than me (except Stanley), is scary.
It’s lovely watching them grow, explore and find their way. It’s nice to see them developing into their own people with their own likes and dislikes and while it worries me that they won’t need me, I’m sure they know I’m always here. Realistically I know I should be happy to know that they are creating their own lives and I am, it’s only what I did. It’s normal. It’s just scary to watch from the sidelines. I have to let them make mistakes. It’s how we all learn, isn’t it? Just sometimes, I wish they would learn from my mistakes instead!
Funnily enough, it wasn’t until recently that that I heard the term ‘lawn mower parent’. The idea did amuse me! I assume we’ve all heard the term ‘helicopter parent’ where we flit around checking our children are okay? Well, lawn mower parents are one step further on, literally smoothing the way for our children to have a bump free ride. It’s only when I read things like that, that I realise how my behaviour might be similar. I mean, I let them take risks and do things, but if someone or something threatens them I become a bit protective. (The word ‘bit’ might be a small understatement!) It doesn’t matter if it’s only an injustice that has been misinterpreted, I like to know things are fair so I wade in to defend them. I’ve always told them I won’t interfere if they don’t want me to but I am pretty persuasive. I preempt things that could go wrong, and organise them all, but that doesn’t really help them in the long run, as I won’t always be there to hold their hands, and it would be a bit odd if they wanted me to be!
I’m realising that I need to let them fight their own battles to an extent. To allow them to grow without me overshadowing them. For all that I care, I don’t want to smother them. But, at least I’m aware of my tendencies. I know that a lot of parents aren’t, so I hope it helps.
Take care of yourselves and thanks as always for reading.
Today is my fourth Soberversary!
If you had seen me four years ago, you would have met a person who never thought they could last a day, let alone a week, a month or a year without wine. Somehow I’ve muddled through and with each day I’ve got stronger. With each passing day I’ve realised that I don’t miss the thing I didn’t think I could live without. Each day I am more and more grateful for the time I have gained, and for my sobriety.
With a clear mind I can say that I’m not missing out on anything, and I am so proud of myself too.
It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey, be proud of what you’ve achieved and let me know how you’re doing!
Going back a few years, a place you would often find us on a Sunday afternoon was a local pub we liked with a lovely restaurant. The main reason we went so often was because they did a good carvery that was good value for the five of us, (it was before there were six). I also liked the fact that when we went there it meant I could have a few glasses of wine, and as it was a Sunday, that always seemed perfectly fine. It gave us a nice excuse not to cook, and to relax as a family. Back then not much got in the way of me having a drink if it was offered, even if I’d had a few too many the night before. It always seemed like too good an opportunity to turn down, so I seldom did.
Of course, when I stopped drinking, just day to day living was hard enough. Getting through the normal things proved enough of a challenge on it’s own so there was no way I’d walk into a pub. Or a restaurant. Or a cafe. To be fair, almost everything reminded me of drinking in one way or another, so it was easier not to go out unless I really had to. I think I thought one day it would just click and things would fall into place, and go back to normal, but because I didn’t push myself, I didn’t make it any easier on myself.
It didn’t help that my anxiety was really bad towards the end. I used to stress out about eating out, so the only way I could was if I had a drink or two, or three. I worried about everything, from people watching me, to whether I was wearing the right clothes or saying the right thing. I even worried about where toilets were, and had to check there were some close by before I could relax. It seems almost silly to think I worried so much, about what some might think are silly things, but I did. I would worry so much, that it made it hard to eat, and I’d often begin to panic, some episodes were worse than others, but it didn’t make eating out very enjoyable, and when there was no wine involved, there seemed little point. Especially when going out would mean I’d have to watch other people drinking, and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with it.
On Saturday Lee and I were talking about Sunday, and planning what we’d do. I’m not sure even who suggested it, but the idea of going back to that restaurant came up and we decided we’d do it. Of course, the morning came round and we had other things to do, we needed to take Barn to work, and as it was raining we decided we wouldn’t take Stanley to the beach as we often do. I had to pop to the shops and so we did that, and by the time we’d done it all, it suddenly seemed a bit much to go out for lunch too. I didn’t want to make it into a big thing, as I think placing expectations on occasions can make it harder to just enjoy them. I was all set to go home, but Lee often knows the right moments to push me, and so drove past just to see how busy it looked. Once we were in the car park, it was easier to go in, just to see what it was like inside. We could always leave after a glass of coke, if we didn’t feel comfortable. So we popped in. We hadn’t booked, but they had one table free, big enough for the three of us, so it was obviously meant to be.
I have to say, for something I have been putting off, it was lovely. That experience was one of the closest replicas I could get to a time when I was drinking and yet, it was good without wine. We had a beautiful Sunday roast and Stanley was really well behaved.
It goes to show that things change frequently when you’re in recovery. Things that seem impossible aren’t forever. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go to a familiar pub to eat, but I did, and I am so glad I managed it. We don’t have to rush, or push ourselves, but we do need to remember to be kind to ourselves. It takes a long time to become dependent, so it is only fair to assume recovery will take just as long. Maybe longer. That’s okay. Every day without alcohol is a win, everything else is a huge bonus.
In the days when I used to drink, my emotions seemed to verge on the extreme. I don’t mean at the beginning, when I was a ‘normal’ drinker, but certainly towards the end. I’m not sure how much of it was down to my anxiety, but I know alcohol didn’t make anything any better, it only ever made things worse and I was on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
For example, a disagreement would escalate into a full blown argument. I honestly didn’t realise how linked my temper was to wine. However, those disagreements used to happen often and they don’t anymore. Things that were funny would instead be hysterical and sadness was a tragedy. Any injustice - perceived or real was a targeted attack. I took things too literally and too personally. Oh and I repeated myself and forgot things a lot.
Looking back, everything seemed like a full scale escalation. It was so dramatic. I really don’t miss that drama. I know now that I am much more balanced. I still get upset or angry or any of the other emotions but they are more balanced. My reactions fit the occasion better. I seldom raise my voice. I tolerate other people irritating me, I might say something in retaliation, but only normally when I am pushed to a limit.
I took Stanley for a walk at the weekend to give Lee some space as he was working from home. Having a three year old constantly wanting to play with you gets a little distracting when you’re trying to focus. We took his bike and walked a fair way. He’s good on his bike, but not so good at staying out from under our feet. Normally I’m pretty aware, but as we were crossing a quiet road, he swerved, clipped my foot and had me over flat out on the road. Of course, he went down too and my first thought was to get us out of the road, before thinking about whether my sunglasses and phone had survived. (They had). The thing is, it really hurt, and although I know he didn’t mean it at all, it really hurt! And I felt a fool. The old me would probably have told him off, in a mixture of anger and embarrassment, and although I did tell him to be more careful, and that he’d hurt me, I stayed really calm. It would have been easy to blame or vent my frustration but it was far nicer to sit with him on my lap as I composed myself.
It’s taken a while, but it’s nice to feel back in control again. Calmer, and yes, better.
Take care and thanks as always for reading.
Drinking often starts off as fun, as a release, a reward or a past-time but for many, it becomes a need, a desire, a thirst and one that can’t ever quite be quenched.
I’ve recently read The Wine O’clock Myth, the most recent book by the lovely Lotta Dann, (I love her books). In it she says, “If we try to numb and disconnect from one thing, we numb and disconnect from everything - good and bad”. She’s right. I know I didn’t intentionally try to drown out the world, it just became a habit for me. I didn’t even realise that it was more than that for a long time, all I really considered was the way it made me relax. It gave me a respite from my crazy busy mind and it helped me stop ruminating on my thoughts.
Eventually though, if we drink enough, we replace honest connections with the idea of a drink and that only serves in the long run to isolate us more in our thoughts and feelings. It reinforces the need we have for what is increasingly becoming our only release. When you hit the point where the need is that great, it is almost impossible to see the wood for the trees. There’s no easy way out and if you’re like me, you’ll begin to resent the thing you’ve love and have come to rely on. But, that resentment doesn’t mean you can suddenly live without it, just that you’ll be more confused than ever, and will probably feel like you’ve let yourself down.
Losing who you are is a common theme with those of us who’ve been or are dependent on alcohol. We’ve spent so long avoiding feelings, numbing thoughts and drinking our way through situations that it’s like a new person you don’t completely know is emerging from the ashes. And that makes it harder in many ways, because everything is new and different. I slept a lot in the early days. Everything I did felt like such a challenge, I over analysed everything I did, even my own reactions to those things. It was exhausting. But, I carried on going, and things got better.
At this point, things were bad, but I felt I had no choice but to continue. I hated myself for drinking and the things I said and did when I had a drink, and yet living without it was a challenge that almost didn’t seem possible at the time. At least not possible for me. All I knew for certain was that I had to try, I knew I couldn’t stay where I was. Now, I know that I won’t go back.
Time is a wonderful healer. I can’t change the way things were, but they have shaped me into the person I am now, and for that I am grateful.
Take care and thanks as always for reading.
Even now, after all this time, I find myself questioning if I was really ever that bad… It’s funny because as I’ve said before, I don’t miss drinking, but, that doesn’t mean I don’t still remember.
Sometimes it seems that romantic idea or attachment is still there. I think because one of my sons has recently started working at a restaurant and often helps out on the bar, we’ve been talking more about drinking in the house. It’s not a conscious thing, just discussing his shift, and what he did. He’s been learning the different drinks and even brought home a wine list which he was showing me, it’s strange how much it brings things back.
I’m not longing for a glass of wine by any means, and I’m not sitting here wishing I had a glass of wine in my hand, (it’s late evening and I’m enjoying a lovely cup of tea), but I have caught myself absentmindedly thinking about it. For something I haven’t drunk in a long time, it’s weird how clearly I can remember the smell. Oddly, I find that more alluring than the taste. I reckon I’d be surprised now at how acidic it tastes. Not that I’m going to try.
I remember when I was young and wanting to drink to be cool, because that’s what people did. My first thoughts were that it was pretty disgusting, but I persevered, because I wanted to fit in. I pushed through the bad taste and convinced myself I liked it, in a way that I couldn’t with coffee, even though I wanted to like that too, mostly because they all drank it on ‘Friends’. Funnily enough, I don’t drink coffee now either, but I wasn’t ever addicted to it and I don’t ever catch myself guiltily thinking about it at odd times. I suppose that is what years of ingrained behaviour will do for you.
The thing is, that now, while I might remember how that glass felt in my hand, the smell and the idea of it, I know that isn’t where it would stop. I know that one ‘little’ sip wouldn’t be enough, and a small glass wouldn’t either.
Maybe it’s because it’s coming up to my ‘soberversary’ that I’m much more aware of how far I’ve come. It’s almost like it’s made me more aware, but still, it is different from before because although I have memories, I don’t actually want to drink anymore, and that is a big change.
Anyway, I might have had a few random thoughts of wine sniffing, but as for wine tasting, I’m not going to go there. I think that being more aware of drinking probably serves to make me more mindful that I don’t get complacent, and slip up, which is great because recovery is not a battle I want to have again.
I’ve already drunk more than a lifetime supply of wine, so I think I’ll leave it there.
Thank you as always for reading.