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My Not So Secret Diary

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I'm proud of the woman I am today! Blog about reccovery and sobriety by Claire Hatwell called My Not So Secret Diary

Times Like These

Times Like These recovery blog by Claire Hatwell called My Not So Secret Diary cycling in Cornwall with my children
We’ve all been told to socially distance, to keep safe and stay home and I totally agree, I really do. But sometimes we can’t stay at home. Whether we’re key workers or we are going to the shops, some of us have to go out some of the time.

Last week because my car had been left so long, it wouldn’t start. It’s a big Volvo four wheel drive so there was no hope of pushing it or jump starting it from our other car, which is a Smart Car - perfectly formed but little! We were embarrassed, I guess, that it had happened and didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves or annoy our neighbours with the noise. A couple of nights before the alarm had gone off - it must have been going flat then and we didn’t want to disturb them anymore. So as we do, we kept to ourselves, bought a new battery and kept quiet.

A few days later I was just getting ready to go to work when our next door neighbour came past. We’ve lived next door to each other for nineteen years now and are quite chatty, but aren’t the sort of neighbours that are in each others pockets so to speak. He’d been to take his in-laws a newspaper, and we chatted for a bit from a distance. We’re both shopping for family and our children are a similar age, so we have a fair bit in common. Then I mentioned to him about the flat battery on my car. I expected him to already know. Little gets past out neighbours but he didn’t and immediately told me that if I needed it, he could always jump start the car for me. He told me he’d already had to do it for our neighbour who lives opposite, and I didn’t know about that. So there I am worrying about disturbing others, without really knowing what is going on!

This morning my eldest son Joe came back into the house after leaving to go to work. I heard him going up the stairs to Barn’s room and jumped up to tell him to be quiet as I didn’t want him waking up Stanley. Joe had been hoping Barn was awake as he now had a flat battery too and was hoping for a hand to push his car. I said I’d do it to save disturbing the others, as they were all still asleep, and their Dad had already gone to work. Two houses down from us we have a little hill and I knew if we could get the car there Joe could roll start it. His car is far lighter than mine, so we pushed, got it over the speed bump and to the corner, where luckily we could see the hill was clear. Joe jumped in and off he went. He had just turned around and was coming back up the hill when our neighbour came out. He had seen our trouble and wanted to help. I don’t like to ask for help and I don’t like to bother people, and yet they are there, still offering to help. It’s nice normally, but is especially welcome right now.

Sometimes it feels like others turn a blind eye, ignoring the struggles of others, as long as it doesn’t affect them, but it’s refreshing to see people now (not just my neighbour) offering genuine help without wanting anything in return. I suppose, times like this help us to see who is really there for us when we need them. It isn’t always just those we expect.

Thanks for reading.
Claire x

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Uneasiness

Uneasiness sobriety and recovery blog by Claire Hatwell called My Not So Secret Diary in Cornwall with my children and my dog out for a walk
The lockdown didn’t bother me at all to start with. Actually that’s not true. I worried about getting food (and toilet rolls) because it seemed there was such a shortage in our shops, but once we got into a routine with that and the panic buying settled down it didn’t bother me really.

I quite like being at home as long as my family are there too. There’s been a few times over the past few years when I’ve told Lee to come home and he’s waited a bit too long and got stuck. Last year snow wasn’t expected, and when it started to fall heavily at home I called him and asked him to come home. He left work, but not until he’d finished some bits he was working on, and ended up getting stuck with Joe on the A30 (the main dual carriageway across Cornwall) for over twelve hours with loads of other people and cars until the emergency services could clear the road and get it open again. It’s a pretty remote stretch across Bodmin Moor and hadn’t been salted. A local hotel ended up providing hot food for any one who could walk there along with makeshift beds, but Lee and Joe were too far away. It was a total nightmare, and like many they were there until the early hours of the morning. Once they got home though, the snow no longer bothered me. I’m funny like that, we don’t spend much time apart and I do like us all to be together in difficult situations.

Now though, entering what is it, week 7? I’m beginning to get a bit twitchy. I kind of want everything to go back to normal and yet I don’t. I also want us all to stay safe so I’m kind of happy for us to stay locked down as long as it needs to.

We aren’t exactly on top of each other, we’re lucky in that way, and yet, with no change of scenery we’re beginning to get a little bit snappy with each other. It’s not all the time and to be honest, it’s probably mostly me and Barn. We’re so similar and although that helps us understand each other well, I think sometimes it also has the effect of us winding each other up. We bought him a little electronic project off the internet a couple of weeks ago to keep him busy but it seems to have got even more delayed than we expected. He was told it would arrive a week ago tomorrow and it’s just gone back to London again, we’ve been watching it on the tracker. So that’s frustrating for him.

It’s funny how alike Barn and I are. We both take things too personally but sometimes I wish he’d let things go. I know how difficult that can be though. With Barn sometimes, it’s like he just needs to make a point, and that just makes me bite. But he’s a teenager, and that’s what they do. He’s also a very kind and considerate lad so it’s frustrating when he gets ratty. In fact I think all of our kids are all good, kind and thoughtful, it makes me proud of them. They just have their moments.

All in all it’s a crazy time for everyone isn’t it? No matter how safe we stay, nothing is right. I feel uneasy at night mostly for some reason. When it’s quiet, without distractions, my mind starts to whirr. It’s one of the many reasons I used to drink a lot in the evenings. Going for a run would probably help, but being honest, it’s the last thing I want to do. Taking the dog for a walk with the kids is more my pace at the moment. To be honest, I’m not that keen on going out at all at the moment. I don’t like having to avoid people and I find it hard trying to give people space when it isn’t reciprocated.

The sun is shining, and we’ve had a nice day today. We played some games, I wrote for a bit and we took our dog Miley for a walk, Stanley took his bike, it helps him keep up with us as his legs are so little! Tomorrow, I guess we’ll do it all again!

Thanks for reading.
Claire x

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When does drinking become a problem?

When Does Drinking Become A Problem? Claire Hatwell My Not So Secret Diary blog about recovery and sobriety
I’m writing this to the person who is like I was. The person who is ‘fine’ on the outside, but that deep down knows they drink too much, but really doesn’t want to admit it, because they know that when they do, they are going to have to do something about it. The person who can’t quite imagine their life without alcohol in it. That’s how it was for me. There were times I wanted someone to tell me, “Yes Claire you have a problem,” but more often than not I was too scared to talk to anyone, and if I did, because they didn’t know whether to take me seriously or not, they’d brush it off, and tell me I was okay, that it was fine to ‘enjoy’ a drink. The problem is, when you drink a lot all the time your perception changes and it’s hard, if not impossible to see a way out. For me, although I desperately wanted to drink still, I came to hate the dependence I had on alcohol, in my case wine.

If you follow my blog you probably know how hard I found giving up drinking. If you have ever questioned whether you drink a bit too much then you’re possibly in the same boat as I was. Or maybe you don’t have a problem at all, lots of people don’t. Many people can enjoy a drink without drinking too much, but I for one am not one of them. It was never enough until it was too much and so now, I don’t drink at all. I don’t eat food with alcohol in it and I avoid medication that has alcohol in it. I bought some echinacea liquid recently without checking the bottle as I had been taking the tablets for years, but when I got home I realised there was a warning on it that it might not be suitable for people with alcoholism. Now I don’t think that a few drops of it will send me back to where I was a few years ago, especially since you mix it with water, but for me it isn’t worth the risk. So it’s still in the cupboard. I probably should throw it away.

There are so many ways we can excuse drinking. Most of my friends also drank, so I kidded myself that the amount I drank was normal. I was blinkered to the fact that they drank when they were with me, but not so much on their own, and I drank all the time in the evenings. Other people had a soft drink in the evening, but I almost saw it as a weakness which is crazy when I look back at it. Excuses get in the way though, and almost enabled me to carry on in the way I was. I had a job, I had happy kids who were looked after, I had clean house, I studied for a degree alongside my job, I didn’t take time off work sick. The list of what I did could go on, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that I drank far too much. I was conscious of it, that’s for sure, because I stopped putting my glass out for recycling and took it to the recycling bank instead. Like hiding it somehow made it better! When my husband worked late I pretended I didn’t drink as much, I made excuses before anyone even asked or thought about it. Which means I was clearly thinking about it long before I even thought it was a problem. I even tried to put things in the way, I thought if I got out and did stuff I would drink less. For me, that didn’t work, I just drank more when I got home.

Maybe you aren’t sure if you do have a problem? Ask yourself how often you think about drinking or whether you cover up or lie (to yourself or others) about how much you drink. How often do you set yourself limits which you don’t keep to or change them to suit yourself at the time? Do you compare yourself to others in order to excuse yourself? Do you feel guilty or bad about your drinking? Does it dominate your thoughts? What about doing things you don’t remember or doing things you wished you hadn’t?

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I was seriously stuck in my rut, I couldn’t see a way out, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I wasn’t sure what the point would be if there was no wine in my life anymore. So, if I can go from there, to someone who is happy to be sober, happy not to drink and honestly, really doesn’t feel that I am missing out by not drinking, then anyone can. I mean it.

Getting sober is not easy, I’d love to say it is and all you have to do is stop drinking, but I don’t want to lie. It is so good to be sober, so in the long run it is worth it and there are things you can do to help yourself. Here’s a few ideas.
  • Awareness. It sounds rubbish, but by being aware of what you are drinking you no longer have your head in the sand. This is one of the first things that made me realise just how much I was drinking. I didn’t change it for a while, mainly because I wasn’t ready to, but just realising how bad I was made me want to change something.
  • Measure your units. They say that men and women in the UK shouldn’t exceed 14 units of alcohol a week, but of course that does not take into consideration your weight or height, which must play a part. The guidelines state that one unit is 76ml of wine. Well I know for sure that my glass was 250ml at the very least and it wasn’t the biggest. So I was drinking 3 units per glass, and at least six glasses a night, which means I was drinking more than the weekly guidelines per day. Every single day. Easy to run away with you isn’t it? Especially when you think it’s only a glass or two. Glasses at home are the worst, they are so big compared to measures in the pub, so just be aware.
  • Drink free days. It’s easier said than done for some people, I know I really struggled with this. It made me stress out because I was so dependent on wine for my anxiety, and if I didn’t drink one night, which was rare, I just thought about when I could drink again. I’m all or nothing when it comes to drinking. Cutting down though is best, so try to manage two days at least a week if you can.
  • Stay in contact. Meetings work for some people, but if you don’t want to meet other people, like me, you can try online communities. There are so many out there, and knowing you are not alone can really help.
  • Ask for help. I for one am not keen on doctors, but, there is a time and a place, and for me, I needed some advice from a medical professional. I drank too much to be able to go cold turkey without it being dangerous. Please don’t try to stop suddenly if you are in a similar place, as it can cause a lot of problems for your body.
  • Find things to do. Everyone has triggers that are individual to them. For me it was certain situations or times of the day. I found 5-6pm particularly hard, and associated it with my first glass of the evening, it’s sometimes called ‘wine o’clock’ for that reason. If I could get out and get past that time, it was often easier not to have a drink. Although don’t get me wrong, I still found it hard. New hobbies and time for yourself help, so don’t be afraid to spoil yourself a little.
  • Expect it to be hard. I read a lot of experiences from people who maybe did a few days without drinking and then seemed fixed. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing if that works for you, but don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t. I almost felt there was something wrong with me, (besides addiction), when I wasn’t fixed straight away. It is a hard road, but one I wouldn’t change, I just think it might have been easier for me if I had been prepared for it to be so hard.
  • Don’t feel you have to explain yourself or make excuses. Frankly it is no-one else’s business whether you drink or don’t drink. Don’t put yourself into situations where you are challenged to the point of breaking your resolve and don’t feel you need to tell others anything. It is up to you what you do, and I found a lot of people don’t understand. It took a while for me to be okay with my new found sobriety and be able to take judgements from others without it affecting me. Now I feel stronger in my sobriety, it makes no difference to me what other people think, but it’s taken a long time to feel like that. I still worry I’ll be judged, but I am wrong more often than not, and it’s just because I don’t like being different!
  • Save your money. A lot of people find putting the money you would spend on drinking into a jar, and visually being able to see how much you have saved yourself is really helpful. There are apps which do this for you too!
  • Remember that no one is the same. Different approaches work for different people. Just because something does or doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it is wrong. Just do what you need to, and remember that it will get easier. I promise. It just takes time.

So, when does drinking become a problem? In all honesty, this isn’t a question that anyone can answer for you. We are all so different and what is a problem to one person might not be to another, but don’t hide from it. Facing up to a problem is scary, but is one of the best things you can do. One of the biggest things to remember is that there are so many of us out there. Alcohol is said to be more addictive than heroin, and yet you can buy it in the local shop. It’s crazy. People use it for so many reasons, but for those of us who are excessively busy, who have a minds that work overtime, it can be easy to slip from a ‘normal’ drinker to one who relies on it. Facing up to reality is hard, but the more of us who do it, the more people will realise that they aren’t alone, and that a sober life is not a boring life. It’s one I wouldn’t change for the world.

I hope this helps someone.

Take care, and thanks for reading.
Claire x

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Tea

Tea in a teapot in Launceston at a cafe writing for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I’m an avid tea drinker. I alway have been, but in recent years I have discovered a new love of tea.

I think for a long time, I thought it was too ‘mumsy’ to drink in the evenings. I felt it a bit boring, but that was just because I was so used to drinking wine.

It took me quite a while to get into the habit of drinking tea in the evening. It felt a bit wrong which is odd, because I drink a lot of it in the day. During my first attempt at sobriety Lee took me out and we bought a nice tea pot, some new mugs and a jug. The idea was to be able to make a nice cup of tea in the evenings, and to have things to make it a little different from in the day. The thought behind it was making it special rather than just popping a tea bag in a mug and drinking it without thinking about it. If I could make an occasion of it, so to speak, we hoped I’d drink tea instead of wine. Obviously that was a long time ago, and it didn’t work then.

Now though there is nothing I like more than a nice cup of tea. Even when it’s warm weather, like when we’ve been on holiday abroad, I still have to pop the kettle on. My family often make comments about me being slightly mad! I don’t mind though, there’s just something comforting about it.

I enjoy tea so much now that besides my ‘normal’ tea, I have an array of loose leaf teas, herbal teas, infusers and tea pots. Some people enjoy going into coffee shops and smelling the different blends, well I’m the same in a tea shop. I could be possibly likened to the kid in a sweetshop analogy! But, it’s quite an interesting habit to have.

I also enjoy going out to cafes although clearly not at the moment. It was never something I would have done before. For one, I would have been far too nervous and secondly I would have preferred a glass of wine. It’s nice not to be like that anymore, and I enjoy going out when I can, without the stress of wondering if I could get a glass of wine. There is something quite enjoyable about having a pot of tea when you’re out. I like the ceremony of it, if that makes sense, waiting for it to brew, and making it, rather than having it done for me. In fact my son Barn and I got into quite a nice routine of going out for tea together when I was pregnant with Stanley. He likes a good cup of tea too, but I think he also looked forward to the cake!

It’s quite a mindful exercise though if you do it properly. Not just making a quick cup, although I am guilty of that too! Especially in the morning before work! But if you slow down and take your time, it’s a nice grounding exercise. At least I find it to be.

I’m drinking a cup of my favourite bedtime tea as I write this. It smells gorgeous, of nutmeg and camomile. I like to think it helps me sleep but to be honest I’d probably still drink it even if it didn’t. Lee says I am a creature of habit, and it’s true, but if tea and biscuits is my worst habit now, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing! Happy

Take care, and thanks for reading.
Claire x

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Bravery

If you’d asked me a while back what bravery meant to me, I would probably have told you it was a physical thing. Maybe the ability to push yourself to do something physically challenging, or you to save someone like a firefighter or similar does. If you asked me now, I’d tell you it was more than just that, although of course those things are very brave too. It’s also very different for every single person, because we are all so different and coloured by our life experiences and challenges.

Bravery
For me, rather than something strength related, I feel my bravery comes with overcoming an addiction. For doing something that scared me. I know I’m not the only one that would apply to. Before I challenged that part of myself I would have said it was easy to do your own thing and stand up for what you feel, but it’s surprisingly hard. Especially when it’s something like going against the grain with regard to drinking, but that is mainly because drinking alcohol is such a part of our British culture. I’ve found people assume that you’re either driving, ill or pregnant if you don’t drink, and yet, there are many other reasons for it. Including the fact that you just don’t want to anymore. Or that you really want to, but have decided that it really isn’t good for you.

It’s said that alcohol is more addictive than heroin, but still it’s so readily available that instead of being supported for not drinking, it is often assumed that there is something wrong with those of us who are alcohol free or that we are missing out on something. For me it took a lot of bravery to stand up to that common misconception and to say actually, for a long time, I relied on wine, and now I don’t want to anymore. It isn’t good for me, and it put me in a dark place. I don’t want to be there anymore and so I’m not. I don’t need to rely on it anymore for anything, but it was bloody hard work to get to where I am now, as anyone else who has gone through recovery will understand. It’s challenging, and to be faced with a culture that drinks as a main form of relaxation, fun and reward, it’s even more challenging. But we can do it. I’m proof of that - with three years, seven and a half months alcohol free.

For me bravery means -
  • Having the courage to face your problems and do something about them. (Rather than bury your head in the sand like I did for years!)
  • Asking for help when it terrifies you.
  • Having the courage to say no to a drink even when you think you want one or when it would be easier to say yes, than to have to explain yourself.
  • Telling the people you care about that actually you’re not as perfect as you’d like them to think you are.
  • Accepting yourself, all the good bits and all the bad bits.
  • Standing up for what you believe in, regardless of what it is and whether others agree with you or not. (Unless it’s something really bad!)

I’m not sure that there is any easy way to define it, but I thought I’d have a go. I’ve probably missed other really important things, but it’s hard isn’t it? What about you, what does bravery mean to you?


Take care, and thanks for reading.
Claire x

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