SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

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Eden Project Parkrun.

I used to have a lot of friends. I had even more acquaintances. I think I saw my friends list as a badge of success. If I knew all these people, then they must like me, I must be popular. I think ultimately, since school I’d always struggled with how I felt about myself, and how I felt other people perceived me. I never quite felt good enough, I don’t know why, but there was always a little voice of doubt nagging me, reminding me that other people were judging me, and generally looking down at me. I probably should have been able to shake the feelings off, and left it behind when I was no longer a teenager, but I didn’t. Instead I just covered it up and buried it. On the outside I projected a look of self-confidence, because worse than feeling bad about myself would have been other people knowing about it. So following the “Fake it till you make it,” school of thought, I just kept on trying cover up how I felt.

Wine acted as a huge buffer for me, between myself and my feelings. Although events themselves might have been hard, later when I got to overthinking and winding myself up, wine numbed it. It made it easier, but in the long run so much harder. Alcohol not only fuelled my anxiety, but it also prevented me from realising how bad it was.

Over the last few years I shut myself off from everyone I knew. It was hard to go out and face everyone, not only was I more anxious than I had ever been before, but I was also filled with a huge amount of self-loathing for the amount I was drinking as a coping mechanism. I couldn’t open up to anyone about how I felt, I was terrified that they would judge me and think the worst of me. Instead I avoided everyone. After I stopped drinking I had no reason to reconnect with anyone. I really felt any of my old friends wouldn’t understand how much I’d changed, and that they didn’t really know the real me anyway.

My kids joked with me that I had no friends, and to a certain extent that is true, I found it easier just to stay in my little bubble. Even making small talk became difficult, I’d often circle over conversations I’d had in passing, wondering why I’d said something and thinking how stupid I must have seemed. I hadn’t expected my confidence to take such a knock, but then I guess, I should have been prepared, this new stripped back me had nowhere to hide.

Running got me outdoors, it helped my anxiety, it gave me a focus. Something I had never done before, and wasn’t good at, suddenly became something I enjoyed and was getting better at, but people, well, I still avoided them where I could.

Something has changed in the last few months. I’m not sure exactly how or when, but looking back I can see it has. I’m not quite so suspicious of everyone I meet, I don’t think everyone is out to get me anymore. (At least, not all the time!) It’s been 3 years and 3 months, I never thought in a million years it would take me this long to get my mind back on track, but it’s getting there. There were days when I thought I’d feel broken forever, and I don’t anymore.

Today I went to Parkrun at the Eden Project. Unexpectedly my son and I ran into someone we knew and afterwards we stayed for tea and cake and a chat. It was lovely. I forgot how nice it is just to stop sometimes, how nice it is to connect with others.

So, while the last few years have been more challenging than I expected, I am glad I am where I am now. I’m not hiding anymore, I’m authentically me and I think for the first time, I’m okay with that.


As always, thank you for reading.


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Hangover Days - Is that really a thing?

I was at work when someone mentioned listening to a discussion on the Radio about people being allowed ‘Hangover Days’. So of course, being alcohol related and having missed it, I had to google it. Here it is if you want a read… https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/business-50731781

Is it just me, or is the idea of a ‘Hangover Day’ a bizarre concept? I get the honesty side of it, I’d much prefer staff to be honest, than to lie about time off, but surely if we introduce something like this, then we are just encouraging people to drink more, knowing that they can easily take time off? Surely we should be encouraging responsibility for our actions rather than promoting ways out when someone over-indulges. I went out to an event on a Thursday night recently. I knew I had to get up the next morning so I had to be aware of that even given the fact that I don’t drink. I can’t imagine phoning in sick after a night out, even when I was still drinking.

When interviewed, Claire Crompton, a company co-founder and director, said, ”It’s basically a work-from-home day, but we've sexed it up a bit to appeal to the younger generation.” This opinion just seems totally wrong to me. I know that a lot of people drink and can moderate and that is fine, but to encourage people to go out without needing any restraint because they can ‘work from home’ seems to encourage the whole perception of drinking to excess and of alcohol being a reward, when in reality it shouldn’t be. I certainly don’t like the way she refers to it as being ‘sexed-up,’ what on earth does that say? What sort of message is she promoting, drink or be boring? I hate when people make this sort of assumption. It took me a long time to shake that feeling myself, and I certainly don’t want my kids growing up in a world where you’re only cool if you drink. I think it’s ridiculous! I don’t seem to be the only one to think so. The article also referred to a Dr Miller who suggests that while flexible working hours are a positive thing, the way they are labelled is also important. She states, “[L]abelling them as 'hangover days' might not be as helpful if it's encouraging excessive alcohol consumption. Employers have a duty of care and need to consider that when designing policies. Is it promoting drinking? I'd suggest a rethink on the labelling.”

What was wrong with duvet days? Is it too warm and snuggly? I can’t say I took those either, but the idea of a duvet day certainly appeals to me a lot more than the idea of a hangover day. In fact, I don’t think I could think of a worse way to spend a day, even if it meant a day off work. I’m not saying we should lie to employers about why we are off, I’m just not comfortable with alcohol use (or abuse) being a dedicated reason for time off.

Rant over! I’d love to know what you think though!

Thanks for reading.

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The Green Eyed Monster

The Green Eyed Monster
My family, no alcohol needed to have a lovely time.

After three years alcohol free I was really surprised to have a visit from the green eyed monster this week. I was having a conversation with my son and he mentioned in passing that he’d seen our neighbour out one night in a pub, and that they’d stopped to have a chat. I was happy to think that our son is out socialising, and that he is comfortable enough to chat with our neighbours, but later in the evening I did start going over it in my head and realised I was a little jealous.

It’s funny, I’m not actually jealous of him going out, I could do that. I’m not jealous of him drinking, I did plenty of that, and I don’t want to do it anymore. I guess, I’m just jealous, if you can call it that, of the fact that he can choose, that our neighbour can choose and I can’t. I know, or at least I have a very good idea, that one drink would not be enough. One bottle probably wouldn’t be. It certainly wasn’t before, on a normal evening. So I took the decision away, and decided not to drink any more. It surprises me that after all this time, that envy or jealousy, or whatever you want to call it comes out of nowhere to surprise me.

Our eldest son is 18. Since his birthday, he has started going out with his friends to night clubs and pubs on the weekends. As we approached his birthday, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about him going out, given my history, but actually I’ve found it doesn’t bother me. I do have an element of worry associated with him drinking too much, I mean, my problems started somewhere didn’t they? But I know that he doesn’t have the problems I have, and I hope that all of our kids will have learned from my experiences. I hope that if they ever get into a situation like I was, that they will recognise the signs and ask for help. Hopefully much sooner than I did. I hope that they have learned that difficulties are not the end of something, but the start of something else, if you can stick with it and overcome them.

I also hope that the green eyed monster gives up, because I’m not giving in.


Thank you for reading.

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I’m Dreaming of an Alcohol Free Christmas!

I'm Dreaming of an Alcohol Free Christmas
Christmas a few years ago.

I read an article recently by Bryony Gordon. She came onto my radar a couple of years ago as a writer who honestly (sometimes almost too honestly) talks about her life and mental health and it is refreshing. She doesn’t appear to want to please or impress people and in doing her own thing actually reaches more people with her honesty. I’ve read all her books but I don’t often read a newspaper, so I don’t see her column that often. This was entitled, “I can’t be the only one who's looking forward to a sober party season,” well she’s right, I’m looking forward to it too.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/cant-one-looking-forward-sober-party-season/

A few years ago, my Christmas party season looked very different to what it does now. I always went out to shop for at least one ‘nice’ party dress and shoes. I knew I always had at least two parties to go to where I’d wear them, as both my own work threw a party and my husband’s work also did, and that was just the events we ‘had’ to do. They were often quite different evenings, my husband’s would always be a bit more of a formal do, normally at a nice hotel, so we’d get a room and make a weekend of it. There was always a free bar too, so that was nice. Of course, that probably wasn’t a good thing for me, I didn’t need much encouragement.

My own parties were often more quirky. We sometimes had nice meals out at restaurants and hotels, but the one year that sticks in my memory most (I’m not sure how) is the one where the school I worked at put on a James Bond themed evening. We closed off the school library and it was transformed into a casino. All the staff dressed as characters from the films and the catering staff put on a great meal, although I don’t remember eating it. I do remember making mojitos and drinking a lot of wine. I remember doing karaoke (badly) with some other Bond girls. I remember a bonfire (I didn’t start it!) in the school grounds where I burned my finger and I remember falling asleep on a sofa. I was woken up by someone I worked with who ignored my protests that I was fine and drove me home. And that was all way before I even thought I had a problem and drinking was still ‘fun’.

So in answer to Bryony’s question, no she isn’t the only one who is looking forward to a sober Christmas. This one will be easier than the first, where I still thought I was missing out, and the second where my youngest was incredibly poorly. This one will be a lovely Christmas, with no expectations except to spend time with my husband and kids, remembering everything and not dulling it with alcohol. Not needing to return to the kitchen to constantly refill a glass that never seemed to stay full for long, or questioning whether the wine I’d bought would even last for the few days the supermarket was shut. I’m definitely looking forward to a Christmas without wine, and it feels bloody great to say that!


Anyone else looking forward to an alcohol free Christmas?

Thank you for reading.


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Christmas Canter

Christmas Canter
Finish line photo!

Sunday was my first race since I had laser eye surgery. I was told not to run for a week, but it’s been three. I’ve run on the treadmill a little bit, but nothing like I normally do. To be honest, although I am so glad I had my eyes done, it has knocked me a little bit. I didn’t expect it to make me so squeamish afterwards, and thought once the procedure was done, I’d be fine. It’s taken me really until this week to feel myself again. I think partially some of that was down to the fact that they told me I also couldn’t swim for a fortnight, so I think once that time passed it also meant that if my eyes were healed enough for swimming they must be back to normal.

It takes me quite a lot of effort sometimes to go for a run. Logically I know that if I get out, I’ll enjoy it, and I know from the past, that I’ll feel better once I get back. It doesn’t matter if it is wet, rainy, I’m tired or angry, once I’ve run, I normally feel loads better. Having not run properly though, I wasn’t looking forward to this one. It became a ‘big thing’ and the more I thought about it, and tried to reassure myself, the worse it got. I even convinced myself I wouldn’t physically be able to run the distance which is ridiculous, but that is the way my mind works. In the end, the only reason I even decided to try was because my daughter was running the 5k, which was one loop of the course through the forest, so I told myself if I struggled I’d just stop there and not do the second loop to complete the 10k. Something was better than nothing.

We heard there was a weather warning for wind and rain, but they didn’t come into force until the afternoon, so we went ahead and got going even though I would have secretly have liked it to be cancelled so I could stay in bed past 7AM on a Sunday morning! It was sunnier than we expected so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

Once the race actually started I felt pretty good which surprised me. I’d decided to run with my Trekz earphones, which I never do in a race, but thought it might be a good distraction in case I struggled. I didn’t want my mind to get the better of me. My son shot off into the distance and I didn’t see him until the end, which I expected, but I ran most of the first 5k with my daughter. It was nice, we didn’t talk that much but it was nice to have company. Then the heavens opened and the hail fell. It was so wet! But it was great, and I suddenly remembered what I love about being outdoors and running. It’s that feeling of being alive. Especially on trail runs. Every runner was soaked, but no one complained, and on I ran. Not once did I have that nagging voice of doubt in my head, and soon enough 5 miles had been and gone with only a little over a mile left to go. I pushed on and managed to pass a few more people during that last mile, and then I saw my daughter waiting to run in with me. As we ran we came to the last hill and saw my son. They’d both come back in the rain to wait for me, and at the finish line the photographer took a photo of the three of us finishing together.

So there we were, up early, soaked through, but what a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning with some of my kids. Pretty special.

Thanks for reading.

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Daily drinking

When I was drinking every day I thought I had everything under control. I thought that on the outside everything was fine. I knew that I was anxious, I knew that I panicked about things, but I thought if I put up a strong outer shell not one would see the vulnerabilities underneath. If I could just make it through each day, at the end I would be rewarded with that magical glass of wine. I relaxed the minute I poured it. I knew then that I could relax.

Throughout the day I was always on edge. It was like being on a state of high-alert all the time. It was exhausting. I’m not sure what I expected to happen, I just felt that something might. The more I felt like this, the more I put into place to control things. I created habits of things that needed to be done to make sure I felt in control. I couldn’t sit and relax, it was impossible for me. I felt like I had to be doing all the time, or people would thing I was lazy. It was almost physically uncomfortable for me to be still. Even on a Sunday afternoon, when there was nothing to do, I felt I should be doing something. It was hard, and as much as I know my behaviour could irritate, I just couldn’t do anything about it at the time.

In the daytime, I was busy too. I’d get up and hoover the house, I had to leave it clean before taking the kids to school and going to work. There’s nothing wrong with tidying, but I couldn’t even leave a glass on the side, the dishwasher had to be loaded and on. When I got home in the evenings it was homework, dinner and anything else that needed to be done as quickly as I could. I knew that once everything was done it would be ‘okay’ for me to have a drink. Not much got done after that you see, well it did in the early days, but as time went on, and my tolerance grew, I drank more, and then spent most of my evening on the sofa in front of the telly.

I had intentions of doing so much more, I often wanted to. I had plans for things I wanted to achieve, it was just that after I’d ticked off all the things on my list, the lure of the bottle became too strong and generally won. So much so that I didn’t like to go out in the evenings anymore. I didn’t like to do anything that could hinder my plans, which just involved getting the day done so I could be at home with a glass of wine.

The realisation of my reliance on wine was one of the reasons I wanted to stop drinking. The problem was, that I was terrified of admitting I had a problem. I knew that once I admitted to it, I’d have to stop drinking, and I had no idea how I would cope without it. It took the edge off and made things seem easier, until the end when I realised it was just making everything worse.

Removing alcohol was the best thing I’ve ever done, but it was challenging and made me face my fears and my anxiety head on. There was no buffer anymore, and unfortunately it made all the difference and my panic attacks got worse, and so frequent I’d avoid simple things, for fear that I wouldn’t cope. I put many avoidance strategies in place to cope, to try to get through without admitting how hard everything was. It has taken three years of hard work to get to where I am now, but I am so glad I chose this path. Difficult or not, it is so worth the fight.


As always, thank you for reading.


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