06 September 2020
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.