SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

Growing Up

Growing Up on holiday in Spain with my family and writing on my blog My Not So Secret Diary, by Claire Hatwell
Our four kids mean the world to me, but as they get older, I find it hard to know where the line is. We’ve always been close and I want to stay that way, but of course they’re finding their own paths, and they don’t always want to share it with me.

I don’t expect them to tell me everything but it’s nice to feel involved a little. At the moment I seem to be putting my foot in it more and more often, saying the wrong thing or choosing my time badly. I do it with all of the teenagers, but especially with one in particular. I feel like I’m pushing him away and it’s the last thing I want to do.

It’s weird, because I don’t think I’m judgemental or pushy. I’m just interested and want them to know that. I’ve never told them not to go anywhere or do anything and yet it’s like my eldest just wants to keep it to himself. It’s hard not to be involved and yet I understand his need for freedom. He works hard and so he should be able to go out and enjoy himself. It’s good for him to let off steam. I suppose it’s hard for him too. I don’t know any of his friends now, and I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t want him (or them) to think I’m judging them, so I’m careful about the comments I make. In fact, I’m careful not to say anything if it’s too sweeping, or could be seen as offensive or ‘labelling’. That in itself seems to annoy him too and that’s a shame because it only comes from a good place, because I care about him.

When I was his age, I was married with a little one on the way, so I try to remind myself that, as he should be allowed the same freedom as I had. I just liked being a friend I suppose, as well as his mum, and I miss him sometimes. Even though he still lives with us, I don’t see him that much. Lockdown was nice in some respects because it meant that I had all the kids at home with me. I know I can’t keep them forever but sometimes it would be nice to freeze time for a little bit. They grow so fast and they won’t need me for much longer.

Last weekend we saw Lee’s mum and dad for the first time out of work since before the lockdown. We stayed in the garden and socially distanced of course, but I watched them talk to the kids I saw that it’s the same for them, and for my parents. Once we’d been young and the centre of our parents world and now, while we’re still important, we aren’t as dependent as we once were. Things move on and people grow. We can’t stay the same forever, so I’ll try to let them go as they grow, and hope that one day, they’ll come back to me.


Much love,
Claire x

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Words

Words
I’m never quite sure how to take compliments. I don’t quite believe them - normally I feel like it’s a wind up or a joke to be made at my expense. The other thing is I worry about is their intentions. It’s weird but I can’t see a compliment as it’s meant, or how I am expected to take it, rather than looking for an ulterior notice. I know I should try not to read more into things than is intended and take them at face value, but it’s hard sometimes. Of course, then I remind myself that if something isn’t intended in a nice way, I really should have no reason to care. Should I even know? It shouldn’t really matter and it isn’t really our business what other people think about us as long as it doesn’t affect us. It’s different if it’s aimed at us or intended to cause us harm. Instead of letting it wash over me, I worry about what is said and how it’s meant and then of course about my reaction to it.

When I get any comment on any of my writing I try to carefully word my response. I want everyone to know how much I value your feedback and opinions. I also don’t want to offend anyone and it’s easy to mis-read something said online or via message. For example I had a message in response to one of my posts saying the reason people drink is when they to get drunk. I get it, a lot of people do have that reason but I didn’t actually. I only drank to take the edge off and when I started to get drunk, have blackouts or become forgetful more often that was when I began to realise I might have had a problem.

I worry about about how to respond and yet, I’m not going to ignore comments as I want this blog to be inclusive and supportive for everyone. For that reason I welcome only positive or helpful comments, not those that are spiteful or judgemental to anyone. I’m not saying I am going to agree with every comment, or that everyone should agree with my opinion, but it’s my page and I like having a voice. I want this to be a respectful and safe place with those who need support to be able to find it. I want people to hear what I have to say because voices like mine matter. They help those out who aren’t sure if they are okay or not, those who might be afraid or not know where to turn. If I can reach one person that was like me, then it makes it all worthwhile.

I find it great being able to talk to you all. I like to hear what you’re up to. It’s nice to have a connection with others who are like minded. Sometimes, personal comments aimed at me or the way I look can make me feel really uncomfortable. I mean, it’s nice to know I look okay, but that’s not really what my page is about. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to react to it. I’m a happily married mum and my family means everything to me. It doesn’t change the fact that I write to express myself, but the way I look shouldn’t come into it. It doesn’t make a difference to what I’ve said. But then, maybe I’m a being judgemental or reading too much into things because it doesn’t bother me half so much if a comment comes from a woman. I’m working on my insecurities now though. I’m trying not to let things bother me, and letting other things go a bit. Hopefully one day I’ll get there!

Words are a funny thing really aren’t they? They can be taken in different ways, or misinterpreted. It’s hard when we read things to be sure that we aren’t taking them the wrong way, but know that everything I write comes from a good place.

Take care everyone.
Claire x

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Some Positive Thoughts 💖

mind is a garden

In The Beginning

In the Beginning, sobriety and recovery blog, writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
I didn’t write in the beginning. I wanted to, and I had so many ideas, so many thoughts and feelings but I just couldn’t bring myself to put pen to paper. Whatever I wrote, I felt was too much. Nothing made sense to me, from the way I felt to the way I reacted to things. Without wine in my life everything felt different. I didn’t like to write anything down, even when I wanted to, because I was scared it would make it more real, or worse, that someone would read it. I felt terrible about myself already and I was scared that if I admitted my honest thoughts, that it would be too much.

I wasn’t sure of anything for a long time after I stopped drinking. I felt nervous and shaky all the time. It was exhausting. My anxiety had hit an all time high and I was always on edge. I felt panicky at the best of times. The tiniest thing would set me off. I’d stopped going out much and when I did, I went by myself because it was easier than explaining my worries to anyone else. If I panicked I could run away home without having to tell anyone else. I worried that people were looking at me, talking about me or judging me. I was terrified of getting things wrong or looking like a fool. I knew my worries were out of proportion, but knowing that didn’t make them go away.

I know now that for me my mental health and my addiction to alcohol are completely intertwined. They’ve both been there a long time, each masking the other and making it far harder to really notice and to deal with. Using one to cover and cope with the other just made them both worse.

My anxiety was so bad that it had affected my self-confidence and the way I felt about myself. I was on edge all the time, except if I was drinking. So it was hard to see how it would be without wine and I couldn’t imagine life without it. I didn’t eat much towards the end. I could feel my tummy bubbling with nerves all the time, and I got more and more anxious about ‘normal’ things. The more anxious I got, the worse my nerves were. It was difficult to make myself do anything that I really couldn’t get out of. It was so hard to go out or to see anyone, to push myself out of my comfort zone. So I didn’t.

When I look back now, I feel like I’ve lost time. There are moments that are gone forever because I would rather have had a drink or because I was lost in my worries. I can’t get those times back, but having had them, I know I’d rather do anything than go back to where I was. I found the times so hard that I didn’t write. Looking back now I do sort of wish I had, but I don’t think it would have been very pleasant reading.

Recovery is hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It might not happen on the first go, or the second, but when it does, when you stay sober, you’ll realise how worthwhile that battle is. Stick with it if you can, and be kind to yourselves.

Take care.
Claire x

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The Early Days

The Early Days and living sober without alcohol in recovery, writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
This is not so much a guide to going without alcohol, but rather some suggestions of the things that helped me. I’m not going to lie, and I don’t want to sugar coat it because giving up drink is hard, but, and this is a big but, it is one of the best things in the world to achieve if like me, you have an addiction to alcohol.

There was a time when I couldn’t see a way to live without wine. I didn’t know how I could function without it because it was such an ingrained part of my life. So for me, it was much more than just giving up the drink itself, and I suppose in a lot of ways I hadn’t been expecting that. Naively, I thought it would be easier and the hard bit was just stopping myself from pouring and drinking my nightly glasses of wine. I felt that once that was gone, everything else would fall into place. I was quite wrong, and it was far harder than I thought, but when you have spent so many years relying on something, it will take some time to overcome the dependence you have created.

Alongside the habits we need to overcome are the thoughts of alcohol, and in some cases the memories of it. Of course, those of us who have relied on it will find our habits are quite intertwined with alcohol. The idea of being without it can be worse than actually being without it. Our brains are complicated things. For me particularly, the idea of being without alcohol was terrifying, before I’d even tried to be without it. Without alcohol we have much more thinking time, and that can be tricky too.

While not by any means excusing my behaviour, I think that some people are wired slightly differently to others, and personally I know I have an addictive personality. I find it very easy to get attached to something, and have been known to replace one habit with another. I’m not sure that these tendencies even show themselves in everyone, and are more dependent on life experiences as to how they develop. It’s just something to be aware of, because you don’t want to replace one habit with something worse.

Cravings are hard to control. At times it might feel like a drink is the only way to stop the feelings. It can seem like an internal battle that affects everyone in different ways although in time they won’t feel as strong or be as frequent. It can manifest in different ways, including thinking about drinking, (sometimes this can feel constant), tiredness and mood swings, difficulty sleeping, lack of focus or finding it easy to be distracted, resentment of wine and of those still drinking and ideas of having a drink to fix the way you’re feeling or a problem.

Being aware of the what might set you off, e.g. triggers is important as it can help you to deal with them, or avoid them if necessary. It’s also important to be aware of the feelings you have, and identify them, rather than push them under the carpet. It’s scary dealing with things head-on, but honestly, it’s the most effective way of overcoming our difficulties. There are two different types of triggers, internal and external. The internal ones are based on our inner thoughts and emotions. Mine came out of the blue, and to be honest, still do occasionally. They can come out of nowhere, sometimes from a memory, or the idea of a certain situation that I think about. External triggers are more from situations, places, or people that you might spend time with. I found in the early days, it was best to avoid a situation that might make me want to drink, although this was quite difficult as I didn’t just drink when I went out. I drank mostly in the evenings at home, and in the garden when the sun was shining and when we visited my parents or my in-laws. We also drank when we went out to dinner, and on occasions out with our friends. It was ingrained in my life and meant that there were a lot of situations that I wanted to avoid, but I couldn’t avoid life itself. You can’t necessarily avoid all the occasions where you used to drink, but by limiting them in the early days it makes it a little easier to deal with.

Of course, there are things that we can put in place to help us. It seems so simple, but when you get a craving, one of the best ways to deal with it is to distract yourself. Going for a walk, drinking a large glass of water or just finding something else to do can help you get through the moment. It is suggested that a craving lasts about fifteen minutes. It’s not a long time, but it can seem it when you’re caught up in it. If you know the end is in sight it can help you get through it. Nothing lasts forever. There are so many things you can find to do, so embrace the opportunity and take something new on, running, cleaning, anything that can occupy you will really help.

The feeling of missing out is rubbish so whenever I felt or feel grumpy I like to remind myself that it is my choice not to, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I can drink wine, I am the one who chooses not to, no one else makes that decision for me. Be selfish and choose where to go, don’t put yourself into situations that will set you off, especially in the early days. In the future and as you get stronger, that is something that can be worked on and improved on. For me talking and writing have really helped. Sometimes, I don’t find it easy to express myself well when I’m talking. A pen and paper make it much easier, but find what works for you and do that.

There is no rule book, except for two that I try to stick by, and that is not to romanticise the idea of drinking, and to avoid the first drink, because for me it will never be just one.


Good luck to you on your journey!
Claire x

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Covid Drinking Rises

Covid Drinking Rises in lockdown in the UK, writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
This is an eye opener!

Almost half of those in the UK are drinking more due to the covid 19 pandemic.
I wish alcohol wasn’t seen as such a coping mechanism. Coming to rely on it really opens another can of worms in the long run!
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https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8379573/Nearly-HALF-Britons-admit-drinking-earlier-day.html?fbclid=IwAR0dO_6KLAgHDWY_PViHmSAzuBRQJQOBoGatIna6yuRXUOpf2M9c1NtniCI

All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter #blackouttuesday #justiceforgeorge something needs to change. My Not So Secret Diary blog by Claire Hatwell
I doubt there is a person in the world who hasn’t heard of the tragic passing of George Floyd. It is so terribly sad and I can’t believe we live in a world where such a thing could happen. I don’t know the full extent of the story, but truth be told, I’m not sure that anyone will know the truth except for those that were actually there at the time. From my understanding when Mr Floyd tried to buy something it was noticed that the money he was using was counterfeit. Did he know that? I’ve been given money once or twice that wasn’t real. If he didn’t know then this is an even worse injustice.

There are so many ifs and buts about the whole thing, and it makes me so sad to think about it. Did Mr Floyd do anything wrong intentionally? People are surely allowed to make mistakes? Did he resist arrest? From the sound of it, there is security footage to show that he didn’t. What about the fact that four men restrained him, even continuing after he became unresponsive. Was that really necessary? What if the police officers had been black? Or George white? Would the outcry be the same then? Given the amount concerned was $20, is the response that the poor man had even remotely justified? I don’t see how it can be right.

Wherever we look there is inequality in the world around us, and I just don’t understand it. The message of the day seems to be to turn the internet black with the hashtag #blackouttuesday, showing that black lives matter, and while I agree, I really think we should be remembering that all lives matter. No one should hold any more value than any one else, regardless of their colour, gender, race, sexual orientation or background. The fact that some are more privileged by something out of their control doesn’t sit well with me, and I don’t understand why it would be. We are all people after all.

I don’t think anyone really escapes prejudice. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, it could be you are a woman, or an ethnic minority, or have a disability, are overweight or underweight, or maybe a teenage mum like I was. There are plenty of people who will jump in and try to align you with others like you, even when you aren’t like them. We should see and be seen as individuals, the unique, amazing and interesting people we all are in some way or another.

The only problem I have is when someone tries to force their ideas or beliefs on to me. I’m generally curious of what and why and how people think and of why they do the things they do, and as long as it isn’t pushed on to me and doesn’t affect the way I live, I am happy for them to carry on. I think personally that diversity makes the world the colourful and interesting place it is. If we were all the same wouldn’t it just be boring?

I do feel that the tides have changed in some ways though. There are some who look for injustice where there is none, to get attention or cause a problem, maybe sometimes to incite acts of violence. But where does that violence get us? Surely when innocent people get caught in the crossfire, instead of making our point, we are instead just as bad as the ones who caused the problem in the first place?

It’s important to remember that, otherwise in all our attempts to make things fair instead we alienate other groups. It’s almost impossible for things to be balanced when those in power aren’t open minded, and I am pleased that Twitter has resorted to removing inappropriate comments, that do nothing but escalate the situation. We should all be working towards a fairer society for everyone.

Equality for all, fairness for all, justice for all. We all matter.

Much love to you all.
Claire x

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Unloading

Unloading my thoughts for mental health and sobriety me with my son during lockdown writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
Isn’t it funny how times change? At the beginning of the year we would never have dreamed that there would be a worldwide pandemic, that the majority of the world would be under lockdown and people would hardly leave their homes for months.

I had so many good intentions going into lockdown. I was really going to make the most of the time. I’d decided I’d run every morning, that I’d beat all my fitness targets and even Katie was keen to do some sort of fitness each day but to be honest, as time has gone on, we’ve gone out less and less. It’s hard to get motivated and safer to stay in. I don’t know where the time has gone.

The problem is, that I find it harder and harder to go out now. I’m not sure what it’ll be like when it’s time to go back to work properly! It’s just safe at home and I don’t just mean safe from the virus, I mean safe in my head. It’s easy not to push yourself and I guess at the moment, it’s easier to stay in. At least it is for me.

I’ve always found it hard to change my plans to cope with things being thrown at me unexpectedly. It’s a coping strategy but sometimes it probably doesn’t help. Lee calls me a creature of habit, but I know sometimes I can be a bit extreme. The other day was a prime example. After work I decided that the next day we’d go for a walk at a beach as we’re allowed a little further now. The weather was so nice and hot that I assumed it would be the following day, and it wasn’t. I suppose I romanticised the idea of the beach, going in the sea, being in the sun, and when the weather didn’t match up to that, it kind of ruined it. Instead of being fun like it was supposed to be, going out just felt like another thing to do. Then I received an email about something I needed to do for work by the next day and that just added to it. Putting on top of that all the things around the house that I feel need to be done, and the little three year old following me around because he won’t let me out of his sight in case I disappear and go to work again like I did the day before… it’s all a bit busy.

Sometimes my head feels full and it is really hard to think straight. It’s like I have so much much to think about that I can’t see the wood for the trees. It makes me feel so muddled that I don’t know where to start, and then I end up going around in circles and don’t really finish anything properly. The only thing that I find that helps me unload a little is to write everything down. It doesn’t get anything done but by having a list, or several post it notes, like I often have on my desk, gives me something visual to work through and to knock down. Seeing the list helps me notice what I have done, rather than just what I have to do, and it helps, although I’ll be honest having a busy brain is tiring.

Logically nothing is that bad or that demanding, I just feel it more sometimes, and it can be one extra thing that sends me spinning. Some days are harder than others with my anxiety and it can be the most stupid thing that upsets the balance. You’d think that at the moment with the removal of pressure for so many things due to the lockdown that I would be better. Some days I am, but I think structure helps me out a fair bit. The lack of it gives me more reason to worry, partly because I am out of routine. I find myself doing the same things, and I sometimes wonder what the point is, but without these little things, where would we be? At least, by writing myself notes, I make myself slow down, I keep myself focused for a minute and that helps calm me. I suppose, that’s another reason why writing helps!

While I’m enjoying having less demands on me, and on the kids, and being able to enjoy a slower pace of life, in some ways I think it’ll be nice when things get back to normal a little more. Routines help me keep things running smoothly. Is anyone else a creature of habit like me?

Take care.
Claire x

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