SoberMe

My Not So Secret Diary

A Slower Pace of Life

A Slower Pace of Life, making the most of the covid-19 lockdown to spend time with my family outside and at home in Cornwall, writing about it for my blog My Not So Secret Diary
Den building in the garden with my little man Stanley.

I feel a bit naughty saying this, but I’m going to because it’s true. Although it’s weird and it’s taking some getting used to, I don’t think I can be the only person who is actually enjoying the change at the moment? The daily hustle and bustle has gone. The reasons I had to be up and rushing around, making sure things were done before aren’t there right now. Even work is closed for us at the moment, and while it is worrying to be unsure about the future, it does enable us to slow down a little bit.

Nothing can be rushed, because there is very little to do, and because it isn’t, I feel like I am able to slow down and appreciate things a bit more. I spend a lot of times with our kids anyway, but at the moment, I feel like we’re spending even more together. Two of the kids have online lessons and work for school and college, but it’s flexible and not taking a priority and at the moment they are officially on their Easter holidays so they even have a break from that. The big one doesn’t have work and the little one doesn’t have nursery, so we are all at home.

It helps that the weather is nice at the moment, the sun always makes me feel better, but I feel like I can just take things steadier. I’m getting up and going for a run, doing yoga, enjoying time with the kids in the garden and reading. I read a whole book yesterday! Now I don’t plan on doing that everyday, but it was nice to get sucked in by a good book and be able to enjoy it! The house work is done, but it doesn’t feel like the most important thing to do besides work at the moment. It may sound a bit daft, but I am especially enjoying the time I have to do the simple things like pegging the washing out on the line and watch it dry, rather than bunging it all in the tumble drier.

It’s so easy to spend our time rushing from one thing to another. We are always trying to achieve, and complete things, our modern lives are just so busy. It’s lovely not to feel like there is something else I should be doing and so I’m taking advantage and making the most of it. I’m writing this at the moment from my sofa, sat with my two of my boys, Barn next to me and Stanley under my arm, watching the TV. They grow so fast, it’s nice to slow down and enjoy them.

I think we all need it, just the chance to stop. I’m not saying it’s easy, it certainly wasn’t for us. We all are hard wired to be part of the world we live in and it’s weird not to have things when we want them, not to be able to go out to the shops, or out where and when we choose, but I think this enforced slowing down will make us all appreciate the things we have when things go back to normal in the future. Maybe it won’t be back to normal for all of us, it’s sad to think, but it’s likely things will change drastically for some of us and our families.

No one quite knows what we are dealing with, and how long this will go on. So for now I’ll just continue living like this, and enjoying being at home with my family while I can and building dens in the garden with my little one. I’m sure before long everything will be back as it was before and this strange time will all be a distant memory.

Take care and thank you for reading.

Claire
x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Easter Break

Easter Break daffodils outside quarantine spring blog about recovery and sobriety living My Not So Secret Diary

I've been thinking about where to spend the holidays. So far it is very weather dependent, but I've managed to narrow it down to the lounge or the garden. 😁
What are your plans? πŸ’œπŸ’œ

Sobriety in Quarantine

Sobriety in Quarantine self isolation in Cornwall for the corona virus covid-19 walking on Bodmin moor, and writing about my experiences for my blog about sobriety and mental health My Not So Secret Diary
Happy!

If there is one thing I am grateful for right now, it’s my sobriety. I certainly wouldn’t be coping with this crisis if I was still drinking. I think in all honesty, I would be impossible to live with.

As a family we haven’t stockpiled, but as there are six of us living together, we have bought a few things that will last, in case the shelves stay as bare as they have been recently and also, in case one of us contracts the virus and we actually can’t get out. Both sets of our parents are at home in self-isolation and there is no-one else I would be able to ask to get things for us, so I’ve had to prepare us a little. I couldn’t reasonably ask my parents to collect something for us, and live with myself if they got ill because of me. I was thinking the other day though, how I would have stockpiled before. I can’t quite get my head around how much wine I would have bought, how I would have excused it and where I would have put it. It would have cost a fortune!

One of the reasons I began to address my drinking problem all that time ago was because I began to worry about the amount I had to buy, not only to drink, but to calm my anxiety in case I couldn’t get to a shop, like late on a Sunday. Now, with the lack of food, especially alcohol in my local supermarket, I would be very concerned.

On top of my worry about getting enough wine to drink, I would have also not been as present as I am at the moment, I wouldn’t be as clear headed and able to listen to the news, and the events in the world. I’d most likely be making excuses to drink earlier in the day, because we are at home, and the weather is nice or it feels like a holiday, or we don’t have to get up for work… I’m sure I would have been able to think of something that seemed like a good enough reason, but all it would have done would be to numb my feelings. It wouldn’t have fixed anything. I wouldn’t have been so open to listening to events unfold. I would have been falling asleep in the evenings, or not remembering what happened the night before. I know this is true, because I know what I was like.

It might seem tempting to drink, to stop all the worry and to ‘relax’, especially at a time like this. I know I found myself scrolling through Instagram and saw a photo of a glass of freshly poured wine next to the bottle. Someone had poured it to reward themselves for something they had achieved earlier in the day. Before I even realised, I had stopped scrolling and was just looking at it, remembering. And then I caught myself and I scrolled on by. I don’t actually want to drink anymore, it’s just that sometimes the memory is still there and catches me out. I know honestly that it won’t help in the long run. It doesn’t make things better.

So here are a few tips to help you, if you’re struggling, because the last thing anyone needs now, is to relapse.

• Occupy yourself, keep your mind busy and it will help you to stay positive. Take advantage of the extra time you might have on your hands to take up a new hobby. It might be harder than normal to buy supplies, but if you’re happy to wait, you can get most things online.
• If you’re not already a member of any online groups, join some. Your online sober community can provide a safe place to talk to many people in similar situations and share, even though you can’t meet up.
• Get outside if you can. I went for a run this morning and spent the afternoon in the garden with the kids. I felt so much better. Granted, the weather is nice at the moment, but let’s make the most of it, and take advantage of it where we can. Walking, running and fresh air are all good for your mental well-being, just respect the social distancing rules.
• Distance yourself from negativity, whether it’s social media or excessive news consumption, don’t get too drawn in, and make sure that your news comes from a trustworthy source.
• Whether you are home alone, or with others, try to stay in contact with others, by safe means like FaceTime, and don’t isolate yourself.
• Equally, remember the difference your contact will make on others, don’t isolate them either. It’s easy to forget how others are feeling at times like this.

Above all, stay positive. We will get through this!

Take care and stay safe everyone.
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Quiet

Quiet antidepressants working to help calm my anxiet, out for a run in Cornwall on a sunny day in quarantine for covid-19 and coronavirus, writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary about sobriety and mental health
Mid-run selfie!

A month or so ago I finally gave in and admitted I needed some help with my anxiety. I’ve done everything I can by myself, but it’s exhausting to keep having to fight my mind at every turn. It can be something insignificant, or just a change in situation, but my mind circles and worries and blows things out of proportion escalating to panic attacks at times. I’ve always been interested in alternative therapies and actually trained as a holistic therapist years ago. Since giving up alcohol, I’ve tried to employ all manner of alternative ways of defusing my anxiety and keeping my mind calm. You name it, I’ve tried it, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, oils, crystals, walking, running, everything. They all help a little, but nothing takes the edge off my busy mind like wine used to.

Really, I should have gone a long time ago, but I don’t really trust doctors so I avoid at all costs if I can. Past experience has taught me that they don’t always listen and they don’t always help. However, I saw a physiotherapist a few months ago who suggested I saw someone about my mental health. She could clearly see I was struggling and I hadn’t expected that. She pointed out that I had a lot of coping strategies in place, and when they weren’t there, I struggled more. I listened but dismissed her. On my next appointment she suggested it again, and again I thanked her and told her I was okay. She was keen for me to see someone, so I felt it was easier to discontinue my appointments with her. Not long after, I had a phone call from the doctors surgery, asking me to make an appointment to follow up from a letter from the physio. I made the appointment, but cancelled it not long after, not wanting to waste it if someone else needed it.

Deciding I needed to finally address things I phoned and asked to see my doctor who was of course fully booked for the following two months. I explained to the receptionist about the physio referring me, and promptly burst into tears which I hadn’t expected. It takes a lot for me to ask for help and I find it so hard, so it makes me emotional. Anyway, the poor receptionist then conjured up a new appointment for me. My doctor is lovely, and was really helpful towards the end of my drinking, she was the one who prescribed my Antabuse which helped me finally kick it. Although it was a way off, it was a relief having the appointment, but of course, as I do, I began to convince myself that I didn’t really need it and that I was wasting their time. Usually I would have cancelled it, but this time I didn’t. The night before, I was certain I should cancel it, but I still didn’t. So I went. I waited for the doctor to tell me I was being silly, that I didn’t need anything to help me along, that maybe it was all in my head. But she didn’t. She listened and she seemed to understand.

I explained how things have been since I stopped drinking. How I am so much better, but I still have so far to go, that I don’t want to worry about ridiculous things that aren’t even going to happen, but it’s like my mind needs to. That sometimes it runs away with me. She didn’t judge and she didn’t tell me I was silly.

When I had my laser eye surgery last year, my surgeon recommended I take Diazepam for the day. It’s something I’ve been prescribed in the past before as a relaxant for the muscles in my neck which I damaged a long time ago but I don’t take, as I know how addictive they are and it frightens me. I don’t quite trust myself, given my history, so I prefer not to risk it. I did however take it on the day of my surgery and I was amazed at the effect it had on me. I still felt like me, just a calmer me. I expected to feel more out of it, and I was happy that I didn’t. That was one of the things that made me think going to the GP might be useful, that maybe there was a medication that could help. That was in November, but it took me until March to actually get there. The doctor understood my worries and offered me a few options of things. Apparently beta blockers can take away the physical symptoms of panic attacks, but I think now I’ve got a fairly good handle on that side of things, it’s just my mind that is too busy. So she went through some others, all non-addictive ones, so I don’t have to worry and then gave me a prescription.

It was so nice to finally be heard. I’ve asked for help from the doctors over the years and been brushed off. I told her that nothing quietened my mind like wine did and she listened, she didn’t tell me to pull myself together or any of that crap and it made me feel better.

So, we’ll see how it does. What I can tell you is that my mind currently feels the most quiet it has in a long time. I can concentrate on the TV again or on reading, without my mind wandering off somewhere else. I feel like me, just more relaxed. I’m glad I went before this whole crisis kicked off, it’s certainly helping me keep calmer! It’s good. So I hope it lasts. I’ll let you know.

Thanks as always.
Claire
xx

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

The World is Changing. Why Aren’t We?

The World Is Changing. Why Aren't We? Stanley my two year old and me at the beach today, watergate bay, corona virus and covid19 avoiding relapse from alcohol addiction My Not So Secret Diary blog
Stanley and I at the beach today.

We’ve known for years that the way we are treating the world isn’t sustainable. We know that we can’t go on the way we are, and yet we have.

When I was young (and I’m not that old), recycling wasn’t even a thing. Then banks popped up in car parks to take your recycling to. Our first collection from home was when we first moved into the house we are in now, and we’ve been here 19 years. It was fairly hit and miss, one green box for all the mixed recycling, and it frequently wasn’t picked up, so we would have to throw it away with the rubbish. It was way harder than it needed to be. Now it’s easier, I recycle religiously as many other people do, but it is possible it is too little, too late?

This year we have had storm after storm, creating so much damage and destruction. It’s almost like the earth is fighting back and putting us back in our place. But still, we haven’t stopped. Australia has experienced terrible wildfires and the rest of the world has watched with sympathy, and yet, nothing has really changed.

We’ve had Ebola, Swine Flu, Bird Flu and now Coronavirus… Finally we stop.

And yet, no one wants to. If we do, businesses will fail. Things as we know them will change and it is frightening. I’m not sure how many businesses will survive. Even in light of the governments plans which offer so much to so many, there are still so many more who will slip through, who don’t fit the categories they are offering the help to. It’s hard to make a provision when no one really knows what they are dealing with.

I’ve never known anything like this before. Most people of my age and younger won’t have. The unknown is scary. We can do all we can, but it doesn’t feel like it is enough. Self-isolating is fine, but it is only a matter of time before things grind to a halt.

I’m aware that provision is made for key workers to remain in work and their children in schools. But what if they also contract the virus. What are the contingencies then?

I can’t imagine we are looking at the future as seen on TV in an apocalypse programme, but I’m not quite sure what we are looking at. Especially with the food shortages we are already seeing.

I think this one might take a while to bounce back from. I think changes are afoot and I hope we begin to listen, to slow down while we can because who knows what is round the corner?

On the positive side, my daughter showed me a photo online, the smog had cleared and there were blue skies over China. My son showed me another where the water had cleared in the canals in Venice allowing swans to return, fish to be clearly seen and dolphins have even been spotted.

Maybe on some level we need this? Maybe we need to reset a little? To stop and just be. What else is there we can do? So this morning after I’d done the housework, we played boardgames. This afternoon I took the kids to the beach. It was quiet, with the few people who were there all giving each other plenty of space. It was cold, but sunny and it was beautiful. We just spent time together, and while it won’t pay the bills, it was lovely. I’m going to try and make the most of it if I can.

Stay safe everyone.

Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Importing Medals?

importing medals running with my son at Looe 10 Miler Hillish and Hellish on Saturday in Cornwall and writing about it for my sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
Me and Barn at our 10 miler.

You may have gathered I like to run. I sign myself up for a lot of races because I find it very easy not to run, and to find other things to do instead, but when I run I feel a lot better, both inside and out. Having a race to go to is like a little nudge that I have to go, rather than put it off. It gives me a focus to train for and a reason to keep going. I do feel the pressure, I have a habit of biting off a little bit more than I can chew, and then worrying about it beforehand, although so far I’ve only done one race longer than a half marathon. It always seems like a good idea, even though the closer they get the more nervous I feel, but because I have put my name down and paid for my space, I always go, even running a half marathon in terrible weather with a warning out for wind and rain like I did recently!

Having a reason works well for me though, it takes away the thinking part and stops me making excuses for myself. I have good intentions when I get up in the morning, but rarely run before work as there is no one about to look after our little one then. By the time I’ve been through a day at work though, that run doesn’t seem such a good idea. I’ve been a bit better since my running son joined his club. Taking him to training at least twice a week means I’m waiting for him for over an hour. It’s about ten miles, so a bit far to go home before I go back to pick him up, so I use the time sometimes to write as there is a lovely cafe at the track, but also to run. While he is on the track I go for a little explore around the local area. It’s good to have a reason and nice to run somewhere different too.

Going back to racing though, my first ever ‘long’ race was a year ago and called Hillish and Hellish. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? It’s ten miles out and back from a town in Cornwall and it is mighty hilly, but as I was training for my first half marathon I thought it would be good as an interim race. I resigned myself to just walking some of it if I had to, but I shouldn’t have worried, all but the fastest did walk the hills as they were so steep. Although it was hard I really enjoyed it, and it was the first race I’d been to where there was very little waste, for example, they gave all the finishers a great little rucksack full of goodies rather than a plastic bag. Even better, but the goodies themselves included tea, which was a welcome change to the beer I often find thrown in.

Like I said, although it was hard, I actually really enjoyed it - well I must have, because I signed up again this year. I quite like races with hills, it gives me a reason to slow down and pace myself, rather than go flat out (for me) and end up hurting! Although to be fair I still hurt! When it’s flat though, I do struggle to realise how fast or far I am going.

I was very surprised to see a post from the event organisers a week before the event, telling the runners that only the first ones to book, before the early-bird closed would get their medals on the day. I’m pretty sure that I was in early, I normally am, as I panic I won’t get a place if I wait too long, but I can’t be sure. The organisers said that they would post out the medals as soon as they got them to all the other runners, but they were currently in quarantine in China due to the Coronavirus outbreak! Now, I don’t have a problem with the quarantine of course, if it’s a delay due to safety then fair enough. But, I do have a bit of a problem with the need to import them from the other side of the world when there are plenty of companies that can make them in this country.

I do love a good medal, as many other runners do, but do we really need to source them from so far away? Putting the environmental impact of the making of the medals to one side, it seems at odds with many of today’s values to be obtaining something from so far away and in such high quantities. With many runners enjoying the environment and the freedom of the outdoors, and races moving towards generating less waste, this just feels a little wrong to me. I know that there are other alternatives out there too, and it’s frustrating not to see other options being explored. I wish I had the nerve to say something to the event organisers, but I am so afraid of upsetting people that I don’t. Someone else did though, not long after I read the comment, and they clearly weren’t impressed with the fact that the medals weren’t remotely local. I watched eagerly to see what would be the response. The organisers replied that they do use a local company as many of the other races in the area do, but that company outsources to China. That doesn’t seem much like a local company to me, in fact it just seems a poor excuse to try to say something is local when it clearly isn’t. It’s sad, because I like to support local races, companies and well everything really, but in an event like this, when they are asking for local companies to support them, but then increasing the number of runners considerably, it seems like they are taking the help for granted and not really considering what the local businesses are having to donate in order to support the race, especially when they are then paying foreign companies for their medals. I’m not sure who is meant to benefit in a situation like this.

There were a lot of comments on the post, of runners offering to give their medals away to runners that really wanted them, but I don’t know if that happened. In a world where we are meant to be focusing on less waste and more sustainability, this whole issue doesn’t really sit well with me. If you’re wondering though, I did come away with my medal which probably makes me hypocritical in some ways, as I don’t necessarily agree with how it’s made, and yet, it would have only been wasted if all the runners had refused them. It’s a hard one isn’t it?

What do you all think?

Thanks for reading,
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

What is the world coming to?

What is the world coming to? Two year old running at Lands End in Cornwall for my blog My Not So Secret Diary
Stanley running away from things at Lands End yesterday.

I don’t want to complain, but I am going to. I’m quite angry you see.

I popped to the shops this morning, not for a lot, just for a few bits that we were running short of and dinner for tonight. I often go on a Wednesday morning as it’s my day off work. The shelves are pretty bare and it’s impossible to buy meat, eggs, milk, flour or toilet rolls, but thankfully they have stocked up on biscuits since I was last there, when they had completely run out. On the door, along with the hand washing advice was a sign to say they’d be closing at midnight rather than operating 24 hour opening times in order to restock shelves. I’d seen that on the news this morning, well at least, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons had been mentioned, but I assume Asda had just followed suit.

I was shopping with Stanley so didn’t want to be ages, shopping with a two year old is stressful at the best of times, but I have to say as I wandered around the store, I began to feel pretty positive. I didn’t want to buy indiscriminately, as I am conscious many people also need to make do with what is on the shelves at the moment, but I managed to sort out a few meals. The lack is making me nervous, I haven’t panic bought, but it is obvious others are, and having a little bit of food for the family made me relax considerably.

Once we had finished I loaded the shopping onto the conveyor belt to go through the self scan. A lady came up to me as I was scanning and told me she’d, “Have to take this”, pointing to a packet of chicken Kievs on the end of the belt. I wasn’t sure I’d heard and asked to her repeat herself which she did to my surprise. I asked why, to be told they’d limited it to three items. I was really surprised, and asked why no one had told me. She said, “There were signs everywhere!” I hadn’t seen them, and to be honest, unless it was really obvious, I may not have noticed with Stanley helping me shop. But I told her I needed that amount for dinner, it’s not like I was buying excessively, I just wanted enough to feed all of my children rather than some of them. She told me unsympathetically that I’d have to come back tomorrow. It isn’t particularly helpful, as that means not only braving the bare shelves of the shops again, but considering we have been advised to reduce our socialisation, it seems silly to encourage people to return more often than needed to the shops.

I was annoyed, to be honest. I get that we need to be considerate of others, but I feel that needs to be extended to everyone in this situation. I, like many, have children to feed, and I don’t want them to go hungry, I was buying considerately, and had very little in my trolley, so while I get there needs to be rules, this just seems unfair. But, I couldn’t do anything about it, so I tried to let it go and continued to scan the rest of our things. The lady then came back and began to paw through the rest of my shopping, checking what I had and removing a packet of tortellini, and some chicken goujons.

At this point I was beyond angry. I felt violated, having someone pick through my shopping and take what she saw fit. I’d purposely picked things with long dates to feed the family, that would avoid me having to come back to the shops over the next few days, and her attitude absolutely stank. What also didn’t help was that I had seen other people putting multiple bags of frozen chicken and other items into their trolleys as I had walked down the frozen aisle. I guess, where I made my mistake, was by not scanning as I shopped. It seemed that the people who packed their bags in their trolleys as they went were left alone. It just makes it worse, to me to think that those really loading up are left to it, and the honest people are the ones who miss out.

We are all in this together at the moment, so the sooner people start realising that and being less selfish, the better.

Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Silver Linings

Corfu Parasailing My Not So Secret Diary
Parasailing in Corfu.

I was driving to work this morning when my little boy saw an aeroplane flying overhead in the distance. He shouted out to me, “Mummy! Airplane!”, in his excitement and in reply I asked him if he thought it was taking people on holiday. It was such a throwaway comment, one I have made many times before, well, that or asking him if he thought it was going to the moon. But of course, things are a little different at the moment.There can’t be many people going on holiday at the moment, in fact, it’s more likely that those who are away, are worrying about how to get back. I feel terribly sad for all of those who are affected, don’t get me wrong, but actually surprisingly it helps make me realise what I have and feel incredibly grateful for that.

We’d never taken the kids abroad before, well at least on a plane. When Joe and Katie were small we drove to Spain, and when we had Barney too, we drove down to the South of France a few times. We didn’t like the idea of inflicting three small kids on a plane full of people, and having the car gave us the freedom to explore with our tent, moving about the country as we chose, rather than being confined to one place or another. We’d always wanted to go somewhere on a plane, but as they got older we wondered if we had missed our window, and if they’d even still want to all come away with us.

A couple of years ago something changed, we realised time was slipping away by putting things off and as a last minute deal we booked a holiday for all of us to Corfu. We flew the day after we booked it, so there wasn’t too much time to get too worked up. For me this is always a bonus, because I over worry all the time anyway, so it was a relief to go without having too much time to build it up. I still had a major meltdown in the departure lounge, because I felt trapped, but once we got moving again and onto the plane I was fine. It was a brilliant holiday, simple and fun. Seeing the enjoyment on the kids faces made it so worth it. So last year we went back to the travel agents again and booked a holiday to Almeria in Spain. Again it was brilliant, and again, we were some of the lucky ones. We had two holidays in two years with Thomas Cook, and literally a week or so after we got back the company went into administration. I know a lot of people weren’t so lucky and lost their holidays. We don’t get to go on many holidays like that, so to have two that we could enjoy safely was amazing.

It’s easy to see all the negativity at the moment. There is a lot to worry about to be honest, but I try to look for the good where I can. Over the years trying to have faith that things will work out in the way they are meant to has been one of the things that has kept me going. When things get rough, I try to remember that there is a bigger picture, that things are sent to try us and although times may be hard, on the whole, they work themselves out in the long run. I once read something that said, if you won’t remember the worry in five years, don’t spend five minutes on it now. Or something along those lines anyway.

In the same vein, I learned over the weekend that my next half marathon, the Tavy 13 has been postponed. Quite frankly I am relieved. It takes the decision away from me. I don’t have to worry about missing out, because no one will be running it, and while it is disappointing, I am glad that the organisers are being proactive. I’m grateful that it’s one less thing I have to think about. I know that so many people are disappointed that their races are being cancelled at the moment, and I know that it’s frustrating when so much time and effort has gone into training, but there will be other races.

It got me thinking… I was so disappointed that I didn’t get a place in the London Marathon Ballot. Equally, I was disappointed that I didn’t get a place in the London Landmarks Half. That was what prompted me to book a place on The Vitality Big Half that I ran a few weeks ago in London. The thing is, if I hadn’t been disappointed about missing out, then I wouldn’t have booked that one, and enjoyed running it. And if I had got a place in either of the other two, then I wouldn’t have been able to run them anyway, as they have both been postponed. So actually, looking on the positive side, I think I’m pretty lucky. Things worked out quite well for me on this occasion.

It’s easy to focus on the negative, or if not focus on it, then just see that side of things more easily than the positive. It’s just about changing the way we look at things. I’m even trying to apply it to work. I work with my family, and recently we moved into a new premises. Our new building took some work to get to where we wanted it to be, and at one point we found there was a leak in the roof. It wasn’t a major deal, but it was something that we didn’t need at an already busy and costly time. However, rather than focusing on the leak, I actually managed to feel grateful for it. The reason I did was because it happened before we got all of our machinery and equipment into place. If it had happened then, it would have cost us a fortune.

So let’s try to look for silver linings. Who knows what good things we might find when we do!

Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Spring

Spring has arrived, daffodils on my desk at work make me feel happy and anxierty-free. Alcohol free addiction blog My Not So Secret Diary

I drove to work this morning with the sun shining. I think everything feels better when the sun is shining. I feel lighter if you know what I mean? Even my worries seem smaller. I have a twenty-five mile drive to work across the Moor which is wild in the winter, but stunning on a day like today. I arrived in town and along the side of the road where I have to wait at the traffic lights, the bank is filled with daffodils. It’s lovely.

Daffodils are my favourite flower. They are simple and yet beautiful, in fact they remind me of the sun shining. My two year old son Stanley saw them the other day and pointed, daffodils is quite a hard word for a toddler, but he remembers their name now, and tells me in the mornings when we see them that they are his favourite and mummy’s favourite too. It’s very sweet.

I have a bunch on my desk, it brings the outdoors into the office, and the fairies (my mother in law) refills them from her garden when they start to wilt. It’s not warm today, but looking out to the sunshine from the window it looks like summer, and everything feels nicer. It’s good to have the rain, but it makes such a change to enjoy the sun too.

Spring is coming, and little reminders are popping up everywhere, from the model lambs on the table in Stanley’s nursery to the flowers dotting the hedgerows. It’s surprising what an effect the weather can have on your mood isn’t it? Everything else is the same as it was yesterday, and yet, everything feels so much better.

I do love the changing of the seasons, I appreciate the difference and the beauty of the world around us, but I have to say, I’m looking forward to more and more warmer days!

Thanks for reading!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Am I The Only One?

Am I The Only One? My Not So Secret Diary
Are these really as funny as they are meant to be?

I’m getting a bit sick of all the posts trying to convince me that I should be drinking more in light of the current situation with Coronavirus. I know they are meant to be funny, but I’m beginning to find them more and more offensive, especially when they are coupled with comments about wanting to escape from the kids to hole up alone. I don’t get it. Why do people feel the need to drink away all their sense at the moment, or at least joke that they are doing it?

My news feed is filled with drinking related posts and memes like it at the moment, and I just don’t understand it. Surely if the situation is as bad as it looks like it’s getting, we should be aware, we should be looking out for ourselves and others, not just drinking? I understand too, that many people moderate, but these posts, at least the ones I’m seeing aren’t relating to moderate drinking, they are all pointing towards the excess and that is the bit that bothers me.

You name it, I’ve seen it recently, pictures of fridges full of wine with comments like, “I’ve got no loo paper but I’m ready!” I understand that we need to retain our sense of humour but I don’t see why so much supposed fun should be alcohol related.

I’m glad I have a clear mind, a calm (as far as I go) outlook, and am not panicked about the stocks of wine at home. That would be the last thing I need right now. It’s bad enough when I went shopping last week to see the shelves empty of pasta, soap and toilet rolls. If I had to worry about wine too, it would probably push me over the edge.

Then there are the jokes about drinking alcohol as protection due to the lack of antibacterial soaps and handwashes at the moment. I’m sure that again these are supposed to be funny, but I’m not sure that I really think encouraging drinking is helpful. We’re experiencing a pandemic that is making many thousands of people ill and killing many more, why should we joke about replacing it with alcohol, another substance that causes more harm than good and can create a disease that makes many thousands of people ill and kills many more?

We have to think about the example we are setting for our young people too. Do we really want them to think that in tricky situations we have to reach for a bottle (or three) and drown our sorrows? Do we want to teach our kids that we have to bury our heads in the sand, or a bottle, rather than deal with difficulties? Or that we’d rather spend time drinking than with them? I know I don’t. I want to do the best job I can, and that means being 100% present whenever and wherever I can. Alcohol removes your inhibitions and barriers, but it doesn’t help fix anything. On the whole, it just makes things worse, and then you have a hangover to deal with too. I can say for sure, that I don’t miss it at all.


Thanks for reading, stay safe everyone!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

The Current Situation

The Current Situation my son Barn running the Vitality Little Half in London awareness of the covid19 virus coronavirus and anxiety and alcohol addiction recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary
Barn running in London.

I didn’t really want to write about Covid-19 on my blog, it seems like it’s everywhere, and I didn’t want to add to it. But…

I honestly didn’t think it would affect everyone to the point that it has. Mostly when we get something contagious, it’s contained relatively quickly and the only people that are affected are those who have travelled to some far off country or put themselves at risk in some other way. This new virus seems to be relatively indiscriminating as we don’t know enough about it to do anything. I mean, yes of course, everyone is washing their hands, but on the verge of something of this scale, is it really enough? I’m not sure.

I don’t usually panic about the news, in fact, I tend not to watch it too much. I confess though, that yesterday at work, I had Sky News running in the corner of my screen so I could keep up to date while I worked. The problem is, it has the chance to affect so much, so many of us and to so many different levels. My husband and I run a business, and so like many others, we aren’t only worrying about how this virus will affect us and our family, but we have the balancing act of worrying about how it will impact our staff, and the greater impact it will have on the company and other local businesses on the whole in the long run. It seems that every year something new is sent to challenge us!

On top of that, my running son is at the end of his Cross Country season, with loads of Championship Competitions to run. Last week he went to Loughborough and this morning I had to put him on the Cornwall Team Coach going to Liverpool for the Nationals tomorrow. They’ll be away most of the weekend, and he is so happy to get to where he is, but I can’t help but be a bit worried. I normally do worry when the kids travel without me, I think it’s just the lack of control I have for them travelling with others. I know they’ll be safe, but still I worry a bit. Of course, this time there is the concern, not so much for him and the other athletes, as they are all young and fit, but the fact that they might come into contact with the infection and perhaps bring it back? I know they’re limiting the time they spend in service stations, but they will still be stopping for breaks as well as staying and eating in a hotel.

Down in Cornwall we seem to be largely doing okay at the moment, there haven’t been a huge amount of cases, and although I know schools are putting in extra measures, there doesn’t seem to be too much to worry about on that front. On the other hand, going into the shops on Wednesday, I picked up the last bag of pasta, not kidding, it was all gone, as was all the soap and toilets rolls. I left, to take my daughter to college, and needed fuel, having been on the fuel light for ages went to the petrol station, but they were queued up the road. I thought nothing of it, took Katie to college and came back for fuel but they were still queued right up. In the end, I had to join the queue as I was so low, but it seems to be normal now for people to be filling up all the time. I wasn’t expecting that. I guess people like to be prepared.

I was in two minds about letting Barn go to be honest, I know he is in the same country as us still, but I can’t help be concerned. I just worry that something will happen. I can’t imagine we’ll end up with road blocks in place over the weekend, but who knows? The way the virus is spreading so far, I guess we don’t know what measures will end up being put into place. I’d hoped, probably a little selfishly, that the event would be cancelled and that the decision would be taken out of my hands. I waited to hear, and was surprised when they said it was going ahead, but due to the fact it’s in the open air, the risk seems minimal, with the only concern being travelling and accommodation. I don’t want him to miss out, so I didn’t say no. He’s supposed to be going to Spain in July with the school, who knows what will be happening by then!

I can tell you though, although I hope he and the team have a great time, I will relax a bit more when he gets back on Sunday!

Stay safe everyone!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

An Inspector Calls…

An Inspector Calls theatre royal in Plymouth to see a show with my son blog about alcohol addiction and overcoming My Not So Secret Diary
Barn and me.

My 14 year old son Barn is sitting his English GCSE’s this year. He’s the third of my four to sit these exams so I know roughly what to expect, but that doesn’t make it any easier for him. Just before Christmas he came home to tell me there was a trip to the Theatre Royal in Plymouth to see one of the main plays in his syllabus, ‘An Inspector Calls’. He was interested in going, but by the time I’d logged onto the school’s online payment system not long after, all the available places had gone. He was disappointed, and me being me, I felt like I’d let him down by not getting him a place, even though there was little else I could do. I thought about it and suggested booking it separately and just the two of us going, I wasn’t sure if he would want to go with me or not, but he was happy to, as long as we went on a different day to the rest of the school.

I’d forgotten I hadn’t taken him to the theatre before. It’s something I used to love, and I often used to go with some of my friends, before, when an evening out involved wine. I took my daughter a few years back to see Hairspray which was fun, but even then I was a little preoccupied with wanting to get home afterwards for a glass of wine. I didn’t drink when I was ‘on duty’ as a mum, and not at all when I was driving, but that didn’t stop me wanting to. I always noticed what other people were drinking and felt envious of those who had something I didn’t.

Since I stopped drinking I have got out of the habit of going out. Everything has been a little harder than it was before. I felt for a long time, rightly or wrongly, that I’d be judged, and to be honest staying in felt safer and easier. When you’re in the habit of going home straight after work and staying in all evening, it takes quite a lot to change your habits. It’s scary, and pushes you out of your comfort zone, which is hard when you’re already feeling on edge. I’ve had to relearn a lot of routines and behaviours. I’ve had to acknowledge and sit with feelings I didn’t even know I had. It’s not all bad though. It’s just new.

Although I was looking forward to going out with Barn, I still had that familiar pull reminding me that it would easier to stay at home. I worried that I would be tired in the morning for work, I worried that I would be tired to make the drive home. But, as I try to do at the moment, I pushed myself. We went and it was great. As I said, Barn had never been before and it was lovely to enjoy the experience with him. He was surprised at how big the theatre was, and hadn’t see a live performance like that before so it was all quite new. I did let him down a bit though, only in that I’d promised him ice cream in the interval, and there wasn’t one. I’ll have to make it up to him next time!

I’ve read a couple of books by a writer called Jen Sincero. In one she said, “When you change who you’re being, you’re basically killing off your old identity, which completely freaks your subconscious out.” It’s true. It takes time to change, and you’re fighting against all your ingrained and learned habits that have been with you for years. Before, I always used to feel rushed to get home. I knew that waiting for me there was my familiar glass of wine. My reward at the end of the day. Things do change and although it has taken a lot of time, finally some things seem to be getting a little easier.

I often, although not as often as I used to, get a fleeting panic when it’s getting late at work or similar. I feel like I should be rushing home, but when I stop and think, I realise I have no reason for it. I used to worry about early mornings or late afternoon appointments because they might have affected my plans. Now, they don’t. I can pretty much do what I want to do and there’s no hangover or residual alcohol left hanging around upsetting things. It’s a good place to be. So if you are going through something similar, hang in there. There will be ups and downs, but it does get easier.

Thanks for reading!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Love

Love - daytrip to London with my husband Lee to run the vitality half marathon wedding anniversary blog My Not So Secret Diary
Me and Lee.

Addiction is non-discriminating, it doesn’t care who you are, where you are from or what you look like. I learned that in recovery. I met people from all walks of life and few were the stereotypes you think of when you imagine what an addict might look like.

Aside from the substances we were recovering from there was nothing that linked us. It was this invisible cord, all of us different, and yet so similar. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t been through it how it feels to want something you hate, and it’s impossible for them to understand when they don’t live in your crazy brain.

All the way through my ups and downs I have been lucky enough to have one constant, my husband Lee. While he couldn’t always make things easier for me, I certainly couldn’t have done it without him. He has always been there, always tried to understand, even when I didn’t understand myself. I know I’ve made things hard for him over the years, and even at my best, I know I can be a bit of a pain at times, but he is patient, kind and understanding, and I feel so lucky to have him. If I didn’t have him, I don’t know where I’d be now.

So, I suppose, what I’d like to say is, if you have someone that is always there for you, even if they don’t quite get it right, make sure you tell them how much you appreciate it. And if you’re one of those that is always there for someone who is struggling, hang in there, they do appreciate it, even if they don’t say it.

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary Lee, I love and appreciate you more than you know.
πŸ˜˜πŸ’–πŸ’–

As always, thank you.
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

The Fear

The Fear admitting to addiction and overcoming it writing a blog to share experiences as a mum with a two year old son My Not So Secret Diary
Say cheese!

I know how I felt about admitting I needed help, but just recently I’ve come to realise I’m not the only one who felt like that. It’s terrifying to admit you need help for anything when you’re used to being a strong, independent person. To come to rely on something, on a substance, and then realise you can’t do without it is an awful feeling. It makes you feel powerless and it destroys relationships, you might feel you can’t talk to anyone, and may not trust yourself, because every time you promise yourself you won’t drink anymore, you let yourself down.

There isn’t a rule book for dealing with addiction, though thankfully more and more people are beginning to talk about it. The stigma is being broken and it is easier to ask for help or if not ask, it’s easier to access shared experiences.

I don’t think the openness actually makes it easier to talk to your loved ones though. They are the hardest to talk to. Although an addict’s mind is centred primarily on getting the next fix, and the logistics of getting it, ultimately they are at their lowest point when they need help, and admitting that they need it is not only almost impossible, but worse than that is the possibility that they might fail.

I knew I had a problem quite a while before I stopped drinking. They say you need to hit rock bottom and I think that is probably right. I was scared to admit it though, once I had got through the questioning and the denial, because I wasn’t sure 1) how I would cope without alcohol in my life but more importantly 2) I was afraid if I did admit it, that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. I didn’t want to seem weak, and unable to kick my habit, even though realistically, I couldn’t kick it. Looking back I know I wasn’t weak, but ill, only then I didn’t understand that. I was so afraid of letting my family down. It was frightening.

Everyone is very different in their approaches to life, and their addictions. I’ve just read a book about a woman who ended up stealing money from her family to fund her habit. Her mother even became her carer as she was physically dependent on the habit and unable to get clean. While I know what addiction and dependency on a substance are like, this is a situation I don’t understand. To admit you have a problem and not do your best to get over it doesn’t make sense to me. But then everyone has a different circle of support and as I have said before, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family. At the same point knowing that you are asking them to understand you and stand by you, even though you can be irrational is hard. I know I was irrational, and tearful. I still am at times, but I guess to a certain extent that is normal.

The fear was a big thing for me though, it was there making me feel I couldn’t admit my problem, that I couldn’t move forward, but it was wrong. I am moving forward every day, and every day I move a little bit further from the person I was and that feels good. I’m not even so fearful now that I’ll slip back. I don’t think I will. Although I’ve been told complacency is the worst, as you feel secure and are actually more likely to fail. That doesn’t mean it is easy for me not to drink, I have days where it is quite hard not to feel tempted by alcohol, I guess for me, the difference is that I no longer want to. Now, that is a feeling that makes me feel good.

Thanks for reading!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Putting Things into Perspective

Putting Things Into Perspective - Vitality Half running a half marathon in London mental health and overcoming addiction blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running the Vitality Big Half in London.

I don’t like to see runners complaining about how slow they are or how fast they run. For me everyone runs differently, I know there are a lot of people out there that can run a lot quicker than I can, being able to complete a half marathon in almost half the time that I can, and yet, I also know that I can run a lot quicker than some people too. I’d rather be grateful that I run, and that I can complete some long distances than worry about how slow I am.

It is hard, because sometimes I would love to be a bit faster, but realistically, I am a mum of four, who only started running not even two years ago, I’m not training everyday or a professional athlete so I can’t expect to be that fast.

It’s a shame to hear people be so negative about their running when they forget what they are achieving. Although I’m not the fastest, I think it is amazing that I can run a half marathon now. I had no idea that my body would be capable of that, and quite frankly, I don’t think it matters what time it’s done in, if someone is doing it. It’s the same with parkrun. Some people look for the illusive sub 20, when others would be more than happy with a sub 30 or even 40. It shouldn’t matter, my favourite quote, is that we are still lapping everyone on the couch!

It’s easy to forget what we are achieving when it becomes normal and we take it for granted. I was at parkrun a few weeks ago and ran past the Marshalls thanking them as I went as I normally do. One was particularly supportive, cheering us all on and telling us to keep going, that we could all run faster than he could. He wasn’t just being kind, you see, he was in a wheelchair. It was so refreshing to be reminded of what we were all doing and what we were achieving, especially when it is clear that not everyone can.

I think sometimes we’re afraid, it’s easy to put our own achievements down, than wait for someone to do it for us. For example, I know if someone faster than me asks me what time I got in a race, I usually avoid telling them or I might start the sentence with, “I only” or even put an excuse in, maybe about the weather. It’s stupid, because actually, I am proud of my times, I worked hard for them, and while there are people that are faster, I know that I got those times on my own, with no one helping me, just me and my feet.

So we should all be proud, because we can do it, and some people can’t. Because getting out there is better than staying at home. Even if we’re slow, we’re improving, we are out and seeing things that we wouldn’t have done if we stayed at home and maybe connecting with others too. Even if it’s only a smile. Because it all matters.

Thanks for reading!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Finding Time to be Playful

Finding Time to be Playful at softplay with my toddler fun time playing exercise sobriety addiction recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary
Stanley and me.

I took my littlest son to a soft play centre last week. He had been jumping on my bed (he’s two), and when I asked him to stop, he asked to go to soft play. It was raining, it’s been a while since I’ve taken him and it was my day off from work so it seemed like a nice thing to do. I’ve always enjoyed things like that, where I can play with the kids, but in all honesty I am not great with the etiquette that goes with it. For example, why do I seem to attract all the children whose parents are happy drinking tea and chatting? I only took one of my children and yet I end up with a trail of others. I don’t mind, but it is awkward, I don’t want to be rude to them, but one in particular was so demanding and I just wanted to play with my son.

I’m a people pleaser, I don’t choose to be but it is one of those annoying habits I can’t quite knock on the head, so I don’t want to upset kids, although I also try not to encourage them. I also feel like I might be judged if I show impatience, even though it shouldn’t matter, I don’t even know these people! I’m not rude and this little one just followed me around trying to tell me all about her holiday on an aeroplane. Stanley tried to talk to her although she was a couple of years older, and mentioned his holiday which was sweet, but she didn’t even hear him. It was clearly an adults attention she was after. I think my experience of working with vulnerable children in the past has also made me wary of dealing with other people’s kids when out and about. It’s all too easy for actions to be misinterpreted and for that reason, I’d prefer not to be in any situation where that could happen.

Eventually I think the child’s mum cottoned on to the fact that I was being followed around, and she left her drink to come and watch her child play, and so Stanley and I had a bit more freedom. It was so nice just being able to run around with him and explore. Being able to go in the week meant it was really quiet and there were only about ten or twelve other toddlers there so we didn’t have to wait for anything.

We climbed, we rolled, we slid, it was fun, and it reminded me of being a kid again. Except it wore me out a lot quicker than it would have done then. Mind you, every time we went on the big slide, I had to carry two sacks and Stanley up the stairs. He was more than happy to race me back down to the bottom, before going again.

I think though, (and I am not suggesting you all go immediately to your nearest soft play centre), that play is important. It doesn’t matter how old we are or what we do, but having fun without worry or judgement, whether it is running, climbing or dancing in the kitchen where no-one can see you is important. All too often we get weighed down by our daily lives, the work, the bills, the grind. It’s all vital, we clearly need our jobs to pay our way through life, but it shouldn’t be the only thing in our lives. We should make time to do things that are fun, that make us laugh and that make us feel good. Otherwise, what is the point?

So am I the only adult that likes soft play?

Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

I Could and I Did... The Vitality Big Half

The Vitality Big Half 3a My Not So Secret Diary blog running sobriety
Coming up to the finish line.

The Vitality Big Half 5a
My son Barn flying again.

The Vitality Big Half 4a
My daughter Katie running the Little Half.

On Sunday I ran the biggest race I have ever run. Not the longest, I’ve run a few half marathons now, but definitely the biggest. But most of you know that, because you were so supportive of me before, on Saturday when I was worrying about how it would go. I thought I’d tell you a bit about it.

Most of the races I’ve done are small, local events, the biggest was probably Plymouth Half Marathon where there were about five thousand runners. On Sunday there were over twenty thousand. I’ve never run something with so many before, and I’ve never had to start in a wave before either. That was strange, but weirdly reassuring, knowing most of the people around me were a similar speed to me, based on the predicted times we’d put down.

So, as you may know we live in Cornwall. I’d decided to book this race last year, after the disappointment of not getting through the ballots of two other big ones in London. It seemed like a good idea considering you could just book the ticket, and I thought we’d maybe make a weekend of it and take the kids. Time however, got slightly away from me and that didn’t happen. By the time I looked, most of the obvious choices were either fully booked or had no parking. There seemed little point in not being able to park, and if we were too far away I thought we’d be getting up so early we wouldn’t have time for breakfast or anything else. So, we decided in our wisdom to do the trip in one day. We looked and looked for the best underground option too, because many of the stations we’d used on previous trips were shut due to maintenance. It made the planning harder, but we thought we’d worked it out...

On Sunday morning we got up at 2am, my eldest son had gone clubbing so decided not to come with us as he stayed with friends, just leaving the three younger kiddies. Trying to keep the littlest man asleep we got into the car, aiming to be at Ruislip for just after 6am. When we got there, we realised I’d misread the stations and Ruislip was shut, we were supposed to be at West Ruislip instead. We’d already parked the car, and so a very kind bus driver let us on and dropped us off at the right station. It was an extra thing I didn’t need. I’d managed to make it through the journey without worrying too much. I’d only had two or three head between my knees and try to breathe moments, so was doing pretty well. Anxiety gets me at the strangest times. It was a huge relief when I saw other runners carrying their marked kit bags for the race. I knew I wasn’t the last runner to arrive which helped me to relax, as did the enjoyment our two year old had at seeing and riding on the trains. He was so excited bless him, we’ve only brought him to London once, and he was so small then he wouldn’t have remembered it.

Forty minutes after we got on that train we jumped off to change over, and obviously having traveled a long way, needed the toilet. Many of the stations have closed the facilities they did have, which is fine if you’re local, but isn’t so good when you’ve come so far! An attendant pointed us out in the direction of the public toilets, and when we got there we realised we needed change to pay. That was brilliant, I’d left my purse at home, and my husband only had cards with him. We had no choice but to turn back, but the idea of being stuck on a train again, with no idea where the nearest toilets would be worried me. Luckily a very kind man in a cafe let us use their toilets, even though they weren’t open yet. It was lucky for me, because by the time I got to the start of the race, although there were many portaloos, there were queues of ten to twenty people for each one. I had no chance of getting in there! Going back to catch our next train, poor Katie tripped and fell, banging her hip, shoulder and shin on the metal edged steps in the underground, which really hurt, but also embarrassed her, we were so lucky it wasn’t worse or it could have really spoiled the day for her. That’s what you get for rushing!

We literally got to Tower Hill one minute before my wave loading closed. I panicked, thinking they wouldn’t let me in, and dropped all my extra stuff on Lee and the kids, before running to the start following the arrows. I had no idea where I was going, but marshals directed me according to my colour and number of my wave. And then I was there. Standing. It was so weird. There were hundreds of us, just waiting. In the distance I could see Tower Bridge, and a massive screen showing the elite runners who had started much earlier just flying along, making it look so effortless. I took a photo and posted it for you all to see, wanting you to know how much your encouragement meant to me. In the distance we could hear counting down and we began to move forward. Another wave started and we moved forward again. Soon enough we were there at the start, well the front of my wave was, I couldn’t see it! And then, we were off.

Mostly the half marathons I’ve done are hilly being as I live in Cornwall which means I can have the excuse to run and walk the steep bits if I need to. It helps break it up, and in my head feels like a break, even if I don’t stop. Not so in London. It was so flat! I had no choice but to run all but a couple of steps at the water stations. It was great to show me that I really could do it, as I am so used to slowing down, I questioned whether I could run the full distance. Boy did I ache afterwards though!

As we ran we moved through the different districts of London and it was so amazing to see the different things they had put on for us. There were samba bands, brass bands, choirs, all kinds, and it was brilliant. We ran through the longest tunnel, which upset my Garmin and told me that I was half a mile ahead of where I thought I was. I overtook the Eiffel Tower and a Rhino, and a bunch of grapes, among other people running, and it was fantastic.

The hardest thing was not knowing where my family would be. I signed Barn and Katie up to the Little Half, which started around my mile 11 and finished where I did. I hoped I’d be finished to see them run, but didn’t know for sure, so I knew Lee would take them to the start. The organisers had also suggested where good places to watch the race would be, so I knew in all likelihood I wouldn’t see them before mile 7 or 8. I kept watching though, and looking out. Running across Tower Bridge was amazing. Something so iconic that I have walked across many times, and yet I got to run over, straight down the middle, with people watching and cheering. It was fabulous. I felt very emotional, but I didn’t cry. (Not like my first half, where I did cry quite a lot!)

Mile 9 came and went, and then 10, and I thought I’d probably missed my family, that they were probably getting ready for the start of their race. But then sometime around mile 11, I saw them all sitting on the pavement and watching out for me. It was so good to see them, such a boost, and perked me up for the finish. That last mile and a bit was the hardest. It seemed to go on forever, and after the incredible Tower Bridge nothing much was going to match up. But I kept going as best I could. Running on cobbles earlier had hurt my ankle a bit, and the wind was strong to run into. I was getting tired, but I had to finish, and in my head, the fact there wasn’t a hill meant I couldn’t walk. So I pushed on, and got to the finish line. It wasn’t my fastest, but I am proud of it.

It took nearly an hour for me to get out of the finish area. I heard a lot of people talking and I’m not sure what happened, as apparently the organisation was better in the previous year. I had no choice but to wait with everyone else, but it was cold, I couldn’t get to my hoody, but then, neither could anyone else. Eventually I got through, and with my medal and finishers t-shirt made my way back to the finish to see the kids, but I’d missed them running and they had already finished. Poor Lee was struggling along with all the bags and a sleepy baby, so we decided to walk (I hobbled) back the two miles to meet him.

It was a fab experience for the kids too, they’ve never run anything so big either, and considering it was free for under 18’s and they too got a finishers medal and t-shirt, I think it was brilliant. Katie was so proud, she ran the whole thing and really enjoyed it. I was especially proud of her because she had hurt herself earlier but still carried on. Barn flew, (again) coming in 4th place in the whole race, of almost 1300 runners. If he’d started at the front, he may have gained a few places, but he doesn’t often like to. The best bit was that they enjoyed it. It was a shame I didn’t get to see them run, but Lee managed to get a video as they passed him.

It was a great day. A long day though and by the end of it my feet really hurt! I hadn’t thought about the walk to and from the start really, and then going back to meet Lee was further again. Although I heard later that the station nearest the finish was packed so it would probably have taken longer to get home had we done that. Although I worried about getting there, about even managing the car journey there, I did it and then I ran it. And it wasn’t a bad time either. I’m pretty proud of myself.

So thank you to all of you lovely people who read what I write and for all your support. It means so much to me.

Claire
xx

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Asking For Help

Asking For Help cold day at the beach in Cornwall walking with family sobriety blog about living alcohol free and improving mental health My Not So Secret Diary
A Cold Walk On The Beach.

I don’t like asking for help. I’m not sure why. Perhaps some of it is linked to my childhood. I didn’t like school and would have been happier not to be there so given any opportunity and an excuse that was reasonable, I would take it and take the time off if I could. Even when I was really ill though, I felt time off was given with a bit of scepticism. Maybe I was an attention seeker, I’m not sure. But I do know that now, and for many years, I feel like I am one when I admit how I feel.

I know my mental health isn’t great. Over the years I have tried to talk to doctors and therapists, but no-one understood and nothing made it better. In the end I resorted unintentionally to wine, which numbed it, and made things feel better than they were in the short term, but ultimately, I still had to deal with them in the long run.

Removing wine from my life is and was a good thing. It was the plaster holding me together but the wound underneath needed dealing with. So for the past three years and five months I’ve been trying to do that. I’ve tried to be patient with myself, I’ve tried to push myself slowly and safely out of my comfort zone and do new things. I’ve taken up hobbies, I’ve meditated, I’ve talked and I’ve cried. But... I am still struggling. I still find ‘normal’ things hard. New places, new things, people, work. Sometimes they are all a bit much for me.

Recently I had an argument with one of my kids. I know it wasn’t a big deal, arguments happen. But that voice is always there in my head reminding me what a failure I am, that I am not good enough, and it’s so hard to shake it off. I just can’t seem to keep it away. I want to feel positive in my life, because I have a wonderful family and home, I am lucky, and yet, sometimes I feel really down. I can’t get motivated to get out and do things. Everything is hard. Although sometimes there is a little glimmer in the middle when it gets easier again. That is confusing because it makes me question whether I am coming or going. I feel muddled and sometimes a bit vacant, like I hear what is going on around me, but I don’t take it all in. I feel like every comment made is directed at me, or a mistake I’ve made, even when I haven’t done anything. It’s exhausting.

I know recovery is different for everyone, but I had no idea it would take this long. Or that it would be this hard in so many different ways. Working through all this stuff seems endless. And makes me eat a lot of biscuits. Writing this makes me feel very self-indulgent, and like I am feeling sorry for myself, but actually I am a little bit. I feel like I’m doing all I can to get through this, to get on and make the most of my life, and yet I feel like I am stuck in quick sand. I know I’ve come along way from the woman who relied on wine everyday, I just wonder sometimes if it’s enough?

Has anyone got any advice? Tell me it gets easier please.

Thanks for reading!
Claire x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge 2 running the vitality big half selfie on the bridge running for anxiety and addiction recovery blog My Not So Secret DiaryTower Bridge 1 running the vitality big half selfie on the bridge running for anxiety and addiction recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary
A couple of photos from today... When you try to take a selfie on Tower Bridge, but you just can’t slow down!! At least I got some of me in it! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Thanks for all the lovely messages this morning. It was really lovely to have so much support!
πŸ’–πŸ’–

Claire x

The Vitality Big Half

The Vitality Big Half start line photo waiting to begin running for mental health and anxiety, recovery from addiction blog running mum in London My Not So Secret Diary

Tower Bridge in view at the start line. And what a lovely morning it is too. Not bad for such an early start. Now just to run this thing! πŸƒπŸΌ‍β™€οΈπŸ’–πŸƒπŸΌ‍♀️

Going to London

Going to London photo from 2015 outside poshpawn in Hatton Garden sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
A photo from 2015. Five years make such a difference.

I get a bit nervous doing things that are out of the ordinary. Well sometimes I actually get nervous doing things that are ordinary, but let’s put that to one side for a minute.

It’s a little bit of an endless circle for me, I feel like I might get nervous, so of course I do get nervous, then I stop myself doing things and when I have no choice but to do them, guess what? Yep, I get nervous. Nervous for me can be anything from chattering incessantly, I don’t even notice I’m doing it, to crying, which is embarrassing, or full blown panic attacks. I try to control situations I put myself in because I hate feeling out of control, but that doesn’t always solve it. Sometimes it can be something genuine, like a lack of the unknown, but other times it is something odd, like being stuck at traffic lights when I am in the passenger seat. Usually it’s more frequent when I am somewhere not so normal, but it can make me really nervous to feel trapped. The same thing happened when we were going on holiday a couple of years ago. I was fine at the airport until we got to the departure lounge. I think it was because I was stuck there until they told us to go, rather than it being of my choosing, but it really affected me, and I began to panic. It was such a relief when they let us board the bus to the plane, and before you ask, no, it isn’t small spaces. I was fine on the plane itself.

The thing is, although I’m nervous, and somewhat cautious of my reactions to things, I am keen to get over things as much as I can and push myself out of my comfort zone. Sometimes challenging myself is a good thing, even when it’s hard.

This year I wanted to run the London Marathon. I entered the ballot and although I had a really good feeling about it, I didn’t get a place so I entered the London Landmarks Half. I didn’t get a place in that ballot either, so I was a bit disappointed, but when I saw the Vitality Big Half being advertised without a ballot I bought a place straightaway. I was hoping to book a hotel and have a few nice days away. It seemed like such a good idea... As it’s got closer to the event though, it all seems a bit much. It is more of a mission than it was intended to be. I’ve even thought of not going, because it would just be easier. Instead, I booked my two middle kiddies onto The Little Half, a 2.3 mile event on the same day that is suitable for under 18’s and those not able to run the full half. They are excited so I am trying to be too. I love the idea of running through London and of seeing the sights as I run. It is exciting, I just wish I wasn’t so anxious about it.

Lots of things go through my mind though, like the last time that my husband and I went to London together without the kids. We had some meetings for work, and went up early just for the day. It was right around the time I was trying to stop drinking and was cutting down a lot. We had a lovely day, and on the way home stopped for dinner. I wasn’t keen to go to a fast food place, I wanted somewhere I could have a glass of wine. I only had one, maybe two, I can’t remember, but I was disappointed in myself for not being able to do without even then and I’m pretty sure the day ended up in a bit of an argument about it. So now, it’s a bit of a worry to me, a little bit of a reminder, and while I know I’m not going to want to stop on the way home for anything more than a cup of tea, I just want everything to go well and not be overly stressful. It feels like pressure, and yet I think I am probably the only one remembering and worrying about it.

So we’ll see, logically I know I can run the distance, so I just have to get there on time to start. The forecast isn’t great but I have my fingers crossed it doesn’t snow, or if it does, it waits for all the runners to finish first!

Thanks as always for reading.
Claire
x

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Vulnerability

Vulnerability me and my two year old son smiling vulnerably for the camera sobriety blog about positve living My Not So Secret Diary
My littlest son and me.

I find sharing difficult. That sounds bizarre, especially when you all know I share a lot with you. But I guess what I mean is that I am always afraid that what I think or what I feel will be wrong. I’m afraid of upsetting or offending others, I’m conscious of their feelings and that I don’t necessarily understand everyone else’s life experiences, as they don’t always understand mine. I’m quite sensitive both in the way I am with others, but also in how they are with me. As I think about it, I’ve realised recently that although I share a lot, I only share what I am comfortable with, sometimes keeping those extra details to myself because they are either embarrassing or just too much for me right now. It makes me feel like I am glossing over things, and I’m not. I’ve read a lot of books by other women who have gone through recovery and come out the other side, and some of them have really cringeworthy stories. In some ways it’s nice to read them and to realise that I’m not alone, or that there is someone out there who has been through worse perhaps and yet is still okay now. That they are still loved. But I’m not sure that I have to share that much, sometimes it’s nice to keep just a little bit of myself for me.

I think a lot of it comes down to the shame I felt when I stopped drinking. I was mortified about the situation I had got myself into, and it took a very long time to come to terms with that. It made me feel grubby for want of a better word, and I felt that people, even those who love me, would think differently about me. Maybe that they would be disappointed in me, or feel let down by my behaviour. I’ve realised that isn’t true, and those that really love me have stood by me and care about me, even if I’m a bit anxious and possibly quite hard work at times.

I want anyone reading my thoughts to know that if I can stop drinking and work on overcoming my mental health issues than anyone can. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it if you had told me that I would be sitting in a cafe at 7pm on a Tuesday night with my tea, writing this and not panicking about getting home for a few glasses of wine. I would have been going out of my mind then, and it is so unbelievably good not to be back there. I’ve come a long way and that makes me feel proud, but I also want to use my experiences so that others know that they can too. I’d love to give anyone who feels trapped in their addiction like I did, just a glimmer of hope that things can be different. Because they can.

I’m totally opposed to the insta-perfect way of life. I don’t think it does anyone any good to give an airbrushed perception of a life. I do however post a lot on Instagram. I use it as a virtual photo album really, a way of keeping up with what people I know, (and some I don’t) are up to, and I actually like to share on there. It’s full of all sorts, but that’s fine, because it’s my life and that’s the way it should be.

Maybe I haven’t shared every little detail with you all, I think I need to keep some things to myself although I’m a pretty open book. It feels good to share though, it helps me work through my muddled thoughts and feelings and work out where they are coming from and that is a great feeling. One thing I have noticed though is that I rarely now worry about what I have posted. I mean, I read back and check things, but I don’t wake up thinking who did I tag in that post? Or what did I share and was it even funny? I deleted many of my ‘friends’ back then. In all honesty, I don’t see the point in having a friends list that is full of thousands of people I don’t know. It’s not real and it isn’t an achievement for me. I feel that actually the conversations I have with you all are far more genuine, whether they are on my posts or in direct messages.

What is an achievement is to feel confident and strong in my sobriety. To have genuine connections with real people and hopefully to make a positive difference. If I can go by the messages I receive, then I feel like I am.

Thank you for listening.
Claire
xx

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Standing Up For What You Believe

IMG_9665.2 My Not So Secret Diary Extinction Rebellion Protest with my daughter Katie
My daughter at the start of the Extinction Rebellion Youth Protest

I am all for raising the profile of living sustainably, as a family of six we consume an awful lot and being aware of the impact we have on the environment is important. My cynical side makes me question what difference our efforts will make. What I mean is that for everyone who recycles, there are a lot more who don’t. I had friends who lived in a new build house, and had a shared area for their bins. They didn’t recycle and had no intention of it because they didn’t want to store their recycling in their own home and said they didn’t have the space. I get it, and yet I don’t. As a couple with six children they were throwing away so much that it seemed to wipe out all my efforts, and I know that they aren’t the only family like it too. It’s frustrating, and yet it does seem to be common, I mean, I can’t remember the last time I bought a plastic bottle, as I always have a refillable one with me, and yet others use so many I wonder if doing my bit really makes that much of a difference.

We recycle all we can, I’m a stickler for it so we have four boxes in our laundry room where we can sort it all out and empty everything each week to be collected. We have also cut down on single use plastic wherever we can, we buy local where we can and I try to think about what we buy so we don’t waste anything unnecessarily. I know we could do more, but there is a balance between being as eco as we can and making sure it is affordable. I’d like to do more, but with four kids, there has to be a limit somewhere!

My daughter is keen to do something too and is a little less inhibited than me. She hasn’t got age and anxiety weighing her down or life experiences which make you see the worst in a situation. So when she wants to do something, I encourage her. I don’t want her to be constrained by my worries, and I want her to experience what she can. As a follower of Extinction Rebellion, I worry that she’ll get drawn into something controversial, but she will admit she doesn’t agree with many of their methods. She’s not daft, or easily led, but even the most peaceful protests can escalate quickly, and I worry that when you get involved in something extreme only the behaviour is seen and the message is lost. People only tend to remember the negative and forget the reason. I want to support her, but I also don’t want her to be involved in something she ends up regretting. Even locally, where we haven’t been affected by some of the bigger protests by Extinction Rebellion, they get a bad press, and seem to be remembered mainly for their disruption than the awareness they bring to the subject.

Recently though, she has been more involved in a youth movement down here in Cornwall, and has watched from the sidelines as they’ve staged a few peaceful protests. This week they, alongside many other groups in other areas decided to stage a Valentines Day Protest. She talked to me about it and I thought it would be a good experience, why not let her go and see, the worst thing is that she wouldn’t want to go again, but at least she wouldn’t always be wondering and feeling she was missing out. So she spoke to her college tutors, we thought it would be best to be honest rather than calling in sick, and they were absolutely fine about it. Most thought it was a good cause and others suggested she should use the time to get photos to contribute towards her final piece. (She’s an art student).

Thursday night was spent making a placard, and on Friday morning I drove her down. It was a little more than twenty five miles and although she was happy to take a bus, I was concerned about where she was going and who she was meeting so I felt better about taking her. I dropped her outside County Hall and she was quickly engulfed by a crowd of other like-minded young people. I shouldn’t have worried and it was good to see. Young people standing up for their planet.

I’m not sure if protesting is the right way to get their message out, but it empowers them. They feel like they are doing something, not sitting idly by and watching everything go down the drain. They are standing up for what they believe in, and I think that’s good. They’re discovering what it sounds like to have a voice, to try and be heard, and what works and doesn’t work. They’re realising that they can’t throw their weight around without repercussions, that they can’t cause chaos without a consequence. At the very least, they are forming friendships with people with similar interests, how can that not be a good thing?

So for now, as long as it stays peaceful, I’m behind it. Hopefully the government will act, and changes that work will be implemented, but I don’t think it’s a quick or easy fix. If everyone does their little bit though, I have hope. I guess that’s what matters.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Outward appearances aren’t everything! πŸ’–

Beautiful words from Charlie Mackesy πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

outward appearances My Not So Secret Diary

Finding Reasons to Drink... Or Not To

Me and my husband Lee Hatwell walking around Padstow one evening after work looking at the boats and avoiding the rain sobriety blog living alcohol free addiction recovery My Not So Secret Diary
Enjoying a lovely evening walk with my husband.

I’ve always looked forward to the holidays. If you rewind a few years it was always because a holiday meant another reason it was ‘okay’ to drink. Holidays meant relaxation, and no work, even if we didn’t go away anywhere. It was nice to be able to turn the alarm clocks off for a few days, and not worry about getting up early. To pour a glass of wine just that little bit earlier, especially in the summer, because that was what people do. To drink socially, or to relax at home in the sunshine with that nice cold drink.

Looking back, it seems odd that I could turn so many things into a reason to be able to drink, but then that’s what our society does as a whole really isn’t it? Everywhere you look there is an advert or a program, something condoning the use of alcohol as a reward, as a commiseration, as a celebration, to drown your sorrows, to have fun, to relax you, to give you courage, the list goes on and on.

I think a large part of drinking starts as a way to relax, but also as a way to fit in. We want to connect, to be with like-minded people and drinking allows us to join the club and be part of ‘it’. I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is, I just knew that I didn’t want to miss out. It was nice to join my friends in a beer garden on a night out, it was fun to chat on the phone with a friend, sharing a bottle even if we weren’t together, but now, I’m not sure that these relationships were that genuine. I mean, how could they be when the ‘me’ that was there wasn’t me, but an intoxicated version? As time went on though, these moments weren’t enough, and when others went home, so did I, but I’d open another bottle when I got there.

Even now I sometimes romanticise the idea of drinking. I can get a little lost in my memories, and those I have conjured up that aren’t real, like the idea of sitting somewhere enjoying a glass of something. A few nights ago I was outside a restaurant and looking in through the window I saw a family sitting down to eat. It sounds like I am a stalker, I’m not, I had a valid reason for being there. It was about 4.30pm and at first glance I saw them with their sparkling water and I was impressed, it reassured me that I wasn’t the only one not to drink. But then, much to my disappointment, the waiter bought them over a beer and a bottle of wine. That’s when the envy crept in. It really annoys me that it’s still there, that I am envious over something that I don’t even actually want anymore, but it sparked the whole conversation in my head wishing I could drink ‘normally’. I mean what even is a normal drink? I can take a step back now, whereas a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to. I can look at it, and think, “Yeah okay, they want a drink. I don’t need one.” Normally my thoughts are followed up with relief that I don’t need something to take the edge off anymore, that I am able to just be me, whether it suits others or not. Sometimes, I even feel a little bit of pity, that others need a substance to help them have a good time.

Something in our culture needs to change. I think it is slowly, but alcohol is so ingrained, it isn’t going to happen over-night. When I was growing up in the 1980’s it was common for cigarette adverts to be everywhere, on the TV and in football stadiums particularly. Something changed, someone somewhere realised that smoking might do more harm than good and gradually people cracked down on the advertising. I hope one day the same happens with alcohol. People can decide whether they want to drink or not without it being rammed down their throats. We don’t need actresses on adverts telling us that Bailey’s makes Christmas special, and we don’t need soap operas normalising daily drinking. For people that can take it or leave it so to speak, it is fine, but for people like me, we don’t need reasons to excuse our drinking or to increase it, because that is what we do. At least it is until we stop. After that we look for reasons to see our behaviour as normal, but without the alcohol, and messages reinforcing how good it is really don’t help.

So nowadays, I still look forward to holidays and any other special occasion but it’s no longer an excuse to drink. Instead it’s a time to be present and enjoy myself, knowing I am being a genuine version of myself, that I can claim full responsibility for what I say and do and that’ll I remember everything. It’s not a bad place to be!

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

So very true! πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Pooh, what's the hardest Thing you ever said? Help. recovery and suicudal thought prevention sobriety blog with positive sayings My Not So Secret Diary

#bekind

#bekind My Not So Secret Diary

Like a lot of people I was shocked to hear of the sudden passing of Caroline Flack a few days ago. You don’t have to be a fan or even have liked her to be taken aback at what happened, and regardless of the issues she has had in the press, it has to be acknowledged that she was a young woman, with a family who cared about her and a life in front of her. It’s deeply saddening to think for her it was all too much.

Whenever I saw Caroline on TV I often thought she looked a bit fragile. She had a very good exterior, don’t get me wrong, but there was something there that made me feel like she was similar to me. For a long time I was also good at projecting what I thought people wanted to see, and how I wanted to be perceived when I was shaking on the inside. I was a firm believer of the saying, “Fake it until you make it.” I felt that if you could push through it would make it easier to do it next time, and the time after, until eventually it became second nature and you just did it without worrying. I wonder if Caroline was like that? I’m not sure, I don’t know, and it isn’t my place to know, but I do know that there was more there than met the eye. But then there often is with many people.

I think it is frustrating and saddening in the day and age we live in that there isn’t more help for people that need it. Actually it makes me angry that there isn’t. We are all super connected by the internet and social media and yet many of us are actually lonely. It makes no sense. Mental health is discussed and we are told to open up and talk about things, yet who is really there to listen? Our friends and family aren’t qualified and can only do the best they can with the knowledge they have. I for one have asked for professional help over the years several times and been brushed off. Waiting lists are often too long, and if you’re like me, once you’ve been turned away one too many times, you take matters into your own hands and refuse to ask for help anymore. My approach doesn’t help matters, in fact it probably just contributed to the isolation I felt. I just wonder, if I had proper help with my mental health when I had asked for it, if I might have got better sooner, rather than still be dealing with it now after years of self-medicating with alcohol. It takes a lot to ask for help though, and to be turned away knocks you at the very least, possibly making you feel like you’re a time waster. I know I felt like that.

Addiction is not the same thing as suicide, but people aren’t the same either. They each have their own experiences and their own ways of dealing with things. People adapt to their circumstances, and sometimes they stop adapting because they can’t do it anymore. It seems like people are talking more now in the wake of Caroline’s death about being kind, which I admire, and it would be amazing if something good could come from something so sad. I wonder though really, how much will change. It sounds cynical, but what difference will it really make? For real change, we need to educate our children more, to be kind and accepting, but at the very least to tolerate difference. Teenagers can be particularly unkind if someone doesn’t fit in, and often it is just due to a lack of understanding, rather than an innate unkindness or need to be hurtful. Nothing will change overnight, and the problem is, no one thinks it will happen to them, or to their friend, until it does. And then it is often too late.

So I hope that the hashtag of the moment will encourage more kindness, and that everyone will in general #bekind to each other. No one knows what is going on behind closed doors, or behind a carefully constructed mask. Often the most vulnerable people are the ones most likely to put up a convincing act. It doesn’t mean they are strong, it just means they are good at hiding their weakness. But because of this, it is often these people that are missed, because they look okay to the outside world.

Maybe we can just try to remember that when we go about our daily lives. Just to look a bit closer sometimes and not assume. Maybe we can stop for a second and ask if someone is okay, and actually listen to them when they tell us? Maybe I’m hoping for too much? It’s just my thoughts after all.


Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Negative Comments

Negative Comments blog about sobriety living sober and alcohol free mum and toddler beach cornwall happy mental health My Not So Secret Diary
Looking forward to evenings at the beach again in the summer!

I try really hard to be honest in my writing, I am not on a mission to convert everyone in the world to sobriety, but I am trying to prove that life without alcohol is good. For those of us who choose it anyway. I struggled for a long time to admit I had a problem and to do anything about it because I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to cope without it. The fear of missing out was huge, and as I have said before, our society does nothing to help that, everywhere you look alcohol is used as a remedy to fix just about every emotion or situation. So since I’ve worked out that wine is not a prerequisite to a good life, I want to shout it out to anyone who will listen, because there might be one person out there that reads it and thinks, “Okay, maybe I could do it.”

I’ve had a couple of comments recently that have upset me in all honesty. They haven’t come from any of you who read, but from people I’d expect more from really. I know I can be over-sensitive, I know I over think, but sometimes comments that seem flippant to one person can really hurt another person.

Someone close to me asked about my blog. It was the first time in a few months, and while I am proud of it, and of talking to you all, I don’t want to bore everyone in the ‘real world’ so I don’t tend to say too much unless I am asked. Well, I answered honestly, and said that my following is growing and I really enjoy the conversations I have with everyone. The person I was talking to kind of brushed it off, told me it didn’t matter how many followers I had, as what really mattered was family. I know my family is important, I think I’ve told you all that often enough, but actually my writing is important too. At least it is to me. My blog is the first thing in a long time that I have done just for me, with no-one else’s input. Sometimes I worry that I say too much, but I pride myself that what I write is honest and true if nothing else.

So that was one, and the following day I was talking with someone even closer to me who shall remain nameless. We were chatting about nothing in particular when the other person said that what I had achieved was great but I shouldn’t ‘harp on’ about it. I was stunned. I didn’t realise I did, especially to this person. It was followed with another comment about what a shame it was that I couldn’t enjoy one drink. I replied by saying that no, I couldn’t because it would turn into many more than that, but I was laughed off as if it was a joke. It really hurt my feelings. I don’t tell people not to drink, or that they are spoiling their lives by drinking, so why should I be told that I should have a drink or that I am missing out by not doing it? I would have thought this person would be proud of me getting over my problem. I’m alive and to be honest if I had carried on the way I was, I’m not sure how much time I would have had left. I have a good quality of life now, and I’ve worked hard for that. Forgive me if I don’t want a drink to celebrate that.

I’d expected negativity from out there, you know, from people I don’t know, who don’t get me, but from people I know it makes me question what I am doing and if it’s wrong. But I just about shook it off. I’m trying to be strong, writing makes me feel good. It helps me work through how I feel, and actually helps me deal with the things I’ve been through. So for now I’m going to keep going. I hope you all keep reading, but if you don’t want to, I totally understand that too.

One glass for me would never be enough, and I don’t want to go back there. I don’t miss it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out either and it’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I can say that. I don’t need it to relax anymore and saying that feels fantastic. So if you can go ahead and ‘enjoy’ one or two drinks and you don’t have a problem then go ahead, but please don’t judge those of us who can’t and no longer want to. Especially when we are learning to be happy just the way we are.

Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

My-First-Half-Marathon-This-Year

Me and Barn running and cycling at Bodmin Half Marathon in Storm Dennis My Not So Secret Diary
At around mile 11… it was so wet!

Many of you will know that I had a bit of a wobble of Saturday night, I was feeling unprepared for my race on Sunday. It was so lovely to read all your comments of support and encouragement and reminded me that I could do it. At the very least I could give it a good go.

As it was so local didn’t have to be up too early which was a nice bonus, although parking could be interesting so we gave ourselves a few extra minutes. I wasn’t sure that I’d be much use driving home afterwards as my legs tend to get a bit stiff, so my husband drove me down. But registration was fine, and done quickly so we then had about 45 minutes before the start.

There was a lot of bustling about, a sports hall full of runners and I only recognised a few faces. The organisers had been very clear about the inability to do any last minute transfers, but I think given the weather and Storm Dennis, quite a few people had been unable to travel to the race, so they were able to make a few last minute changes to the entries. The race had filled up very quickly so it was lovely to see some of those that had been unable to get a place being able to run at the last minute.

The weather was shocking, but I guess, with all the weather warnings, at least we were expecting it, and it didn’t just come out of no-where. We were running through Storm Dennis after all! I was most impressed with the man running in only a vest, shorts and sandals. I would have been freezing! To be fair, I was pretty cold anyway! I suppose, it’s probably better to run in less, at least your skin doesn’t hold weight like wet clothes!
The race itself was lovely. Running through some cycle paths from the start to our local National Trust property was nice in itself but quite protected. Once we got down to the forest, it was apparent how wet and rainy it was, the river looked ready to burst it’s banks, but it was great to have a reason to be out in the elements, rather than staying indoors and looking out at it. It was two laps which was hard, and unexpected, especially as when I was coming to the end of my first lap I was passed by the front runners coming to the end of their race. That was a bit disheartening, and I think that because of the weather, quite a few runners hadn’t arrived. It was quite noticeable that there were a lot of elite fast runners, but not many of the gently paced runners or plodders. Without the mix of runners, being near the rear of the pack was unusual, but none of us were going particularly slowly. It was quite strange.

The other unexpected thing was that at the end of that lap I found my running son waiting for me on his bike. He was soaked but it was good to see him. He rode alongside me for a lot of the rest of the race, it’s one of those things I always feel a little bit envious about, other people having company when I don’t. It can be quite lonely running for over 13 miles without anyone to chat to. Not that I have the breath spare to chat a lot! I guess this is the advantage of joining a local running club where you can run with friends.

Normally I have this little voice of doubt in my mind, it certainly was there beforehand, but strangely as I ran I seemed to leave it behind. I think the wildness of the weather helped distract me, as did the hills and the mud that was terribly slippery. But it was good fun. In the last mile I struggled, my legs were cold and I wondered if I could finish, but I did, maybe it was a second wind, or maybe I just ran through the doubt? Either way, I got to the finish line and I wasn’t last. It wasn’t my best time, but given the conditions, I was pretty happy with it.

I never thought I’d be the sort of person to run half marathons but apparently I am. If that doesn’t prove you can do anything if you put your mind to it, then I’m not sure what will.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Advice for Friends

Advice For Friends drinking alcohol free sobriety mother and daughter holiday in spain recovery sobriety blog My Not So Secret Diary
Me and my daughter, proving you can still have a lot of fun without drinking!

When you find out a friend or loved one decides to give up or no longer drinks alcohol it can be a tricky time. Do you talk to them about it or ignore it? If not dealt with, it can become the elephant in the room. I avoided people for a long time in my early months of sobriety. I found everything challenging. People didn’t get how hard it was for me, and although I’m not expecting them to, sometimes a little understanding goes a long way. However, if you’re the one giving up you do need to remember if they aren’t going through the same thing, how can they really get it?

I remember taking the kids ice skating in the town centre before Christmas one year. I’d wanted to keep it just us and the kids but then we thought of inviting my in-laws. That was fine, they might not have completely understood, but they were trying so I didn’t mind too much. Unfortunately that then changed as someone we knew overheard us talking and rather than brushing it off, they were then invited too (and not by me). That upset me, it wasn’t what I wanted and suddenly it became a bigger thing than I had anticipated. It was just meant to be quiet. It was enough to make me want to stay at home, but I was worried I would have looked rude. I should have followed my instincts or at least told the other people that it was meant to be family only. Nowadays, I have learned that on occasion my feelings need to come first but I generally don’t like to cause upset, at least not to others, so I just went along with it. The problem was, the other people that came were totally insensitive to my situation, and while we were getting hot chocolate, they went to the beer tent. It was really early days for me and although I never had a problem with beer that really made me wobble. My husband and I just went into Costa, as it was the only place you couldn’t see the beet tent and people weren’t drinking. Actually we didn’t just go, I practically ran there to hide. We still had a lovely time with the kids, but it was much harder than I had envisaged it.

That evening I just went home and cried. My husband held me and said all the right things, but I just didn’t know what to do with myself. It wasn’t just unexpectedly being faced with alcohol on an evening out, it was more that it was a Saturday, a day of the week when I didn’t need an excuse to drink. The day of the week that wherever you were it was meant to be okay to drink, and I couldn’t. Being out and coming home to not drinking was strange and hard to deal with. Being confronted with other people drinking just reminded me that I couldn’t, and at that point, it felt very much that I was losing something rather than gaining my life back. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t watch the TV, without that wine, I felt like I’d lost my purpose. What was the point, if I couldn’t get through the day and have the reward I was looking for.

It’s taken far more hard work that I would have liked to reinvent myself without alcohol in my life, but do you know what, it is so worth it and I am glad I won the battle in the end.

Other people’s attitudes and actions have been one of the hardest things to cope with, one of the biggest things to rock the boat so to speak. It’s not just when people say the wrong thing, it’s actually probably worse when they don’t say anything at all.

Here’s my little list of pointers for dealing with friends who are alcohol free.


• Please offer me a drink. Just because I don’t drink alcohol anymore, doesn’t mean I am no longer thirsty.
• Don’t assume what I want to do. Ask me.
• Don’t assume what I can do or can’t do. Ask me.
• Don’t talk about me with other friends. I already feel like I’m the object of everyone’s interests so please don’t make it worse.
• If I’ve told you about my problem, respect that, and keep my trust.
• Invite me out, and let me make the decision of whether I want to go or not.
• Put up with me changing my mind too. Sometimes what I want to do will seem like a good idea and then I’ll realise that I’m not ready. Or that I just don’t want to do it anymore.
• Don’t try to offer me advice unless you’ve been there.
• Don’t make judgements for me.

This list is by no means definitive, and only based on my personal circumstances, but I think they might be transferable. So let me know what you think and if there’s anything else you’d add to it.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Feeling Unprepared

Tomorrow I’m running my first half marathon of the year. It’s a hilly one. I’m feeling nervous.

This time last year I hadn’t run a half marathon at all. The furthest I had run was 10k which is just over six miles, but then over the course of the year I ran four half marathons, Plymouth, Eden, Cornwall Coast to Coast, and one at Cardinham woods. They were all varied, but my times were pretty consistent, and I enjoyed them, so you’d think I’d feel okay about tomorrow. Doubt has crept in instead. The last one I ran was in was five months ago, so it’s long enough to for me to begin to think I can’t do it anymore.

Then, as if I need more excuses, I’ve had a bad chest, which is better now, but was a bit nasty for a minute. Then there has been the weather. It’s been atrocious. Not that it’s an excuse, I know I can still run in bad weather, I know I am waterproof, but, you know, it’s easier not to some times. So my long runs, haven’t really been long enough. It should be fine, I keep telling myself, and yet, there is that doubt just niggling away at me.

Our local parkruns are never cancelled, and yet this weekend in the face of Storm Dennis, which follows on from last weekend’s Storm Ciara, they have been. It’s not ideal to be running in such wooded areas with high winds and rain, so I totally understand, but given that tomorrows half is at the same National Trust estate as my local parkrun, I sort of assumed it would be cancelled too. I’d allowed myself to believe it would be, but of course, because I tempted fate, it hasn’t been. It’s still on and weirdly I am excited. I don’t particularly want to get drenched, nor do I want to admit defeat, and knowing there is a cut off time makes me nervous. It’s an hour more than the last half marathons I’ve done, and yet knowing it’s there does me no good. I feel like I’ll fail before I begin.

The best thing, is that it’s only five minutes from my house, so if it’s horrendous tomorrow I can change my mind. I won’t, that will feel like giving up. It’s okay if someone else tells me I can’t run, but I’m not so good at telling myself. So I’m hoping my running son will come out and meet me at a few points, just for a bit of moral support, he’s quite good at it on races he isn’t allowed to join in with yet. He ran the majority of a ten miler last year with me just to keep me company as he was too young to run it properly.

I’ll try to be positive, like I said, I am looking forward to it, I just know that my body often runs better than my mind thinks it can. So as long as my alarm goes off, I’ll be there and I know that once I am there, I will enjoy it.

Fingers crossed I don’t get blown away! I’ll let you all know how I get on!

Anyone else running tomorrow? What are your plans?

Take care and thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Kindness

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. With an Elephant My Not So Secret Diary

It’s difficult to know what someone else is going through. Some people are good at hiding their feelings, and keep things to themselves. Some people don’t have anyone close to share with.

We don’t and can’t know what goes on behind closed doors, so today and always just remember to be kind.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Saturday Night Out

Saturday Night Out drinks at a bar, not needing alcohol to have fun as I am drinking a glass of lemonade in my hand My Not So Secret Diary
Sitting at the bar drinking my lovely lemonade.

We used to go out a fair bit. A lot of it was pubs and clubs when we were younger, in fact, we met in a nightclub. After we had the kids we’d go out to eat more often sometimes with them, sometimes without them, although it often involved me having a few drinks. I never needed to be the designated driver.

It was strange recently to be invited out for the opening of a new venue that my husband had been working at. It was a high end place, and to be invited by the owners was a real privilege. I’d just got back from parkrun and was expecting a relaxing afternoon and evening, when my husband told me we’d had the invitation. I felt quite excited for several minutes before the doubt crept in. Suddenly I remembered I didn’t drink anymore, that there would be no ‘fun’ drinks while getting ready, no drinks when we got there and none with dinner. It was so different to past nights out and I did wonder what the point was.

It’s tough when a lot of your relaxation, socialisation, and fun seems to be associated with alcohol. Learning to do without it on a daily basis is one thing, learning to be without it on occasions like this is almost harder. You don’t get so many of them to practice with, as going out for me is now a more unusual occasion, so the memories haven’t been worked through in the same way that day to day life has. Although predictably, there are still things in my daily life that catch me out from time to time.

It’s hard, but I also don’t want alcohol to win. It’s had enough of my time already. (Would you believe I wrote ‘wine’ instead of ‘win’ when I wrote that?! Clearly it’s quite ingrained!

So, I got dressed up. I straightened my hair and did my make up and off we went to the coast where there was a crazy amber weather warning that night! But, most importantly, it was good.

I find social situations difficult, not because I expect people will wonder why I don’t drink. I mean, I suppose especially when it’s work related, I don’t want people to judge me, to think I’m not up to standard, but generally I’m okay with who I am now. But sometimes, some situations are difficult. For example, a couple of months ago, our daughter won a prize for her art work and was invited to a University for the presentation. It was a lovely evening, food and drink were laid on, and an art gallery was set up for us to view the students pieces. We avoided the complimentary glasses of wine that were being handed out, but when we approached the bar to see what else was available we had no luck. I asked for a cup of tea, and was actually told they only had wine available and weren’t allowed to use the facilities to make hot drinks! I was more surprised than anything else. But of course, situations like that, where it seen as ‘different’ not to drink make it harder. I also ran a half marathon last year where everyone was given beer at the finish line. The odd few like me who declined were given a kids bottle of juice. These things don’t help any of use who are in recovery, we just want to fit in, and for things not to be any harder than they already are.

Luckily Saturday night was not like that. We were greeted at the door and I immediately felt welcomed. I walked in and went straight past the complimentary champagne. No one batted an eye-lid at us when we politely declined it, and it actually didn’t bother me. In fact, I only felt my eye wander once much later on to someone else’s glass. It was a glass of red wine in case you are wondering, and I was tempted for a split second, but with a deep breath, that moment passed too. Instead, we sat at the bar, and had some very nice lemonade. I did sniff it several times before I drank it, just to be sure you know. One sip now, and who knows where I’d be, but the thing is I actually wanted to check, rather than slip up.

I had a lovely evening. I chatted and the next morning I remembered it all. I didn’t have to wrack my brain to remember to whom I spoke and what was said. I knew. And that’s a great feeling. Remembering. And enjoying myself.

Thank you as always for reading my thoughts.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Exercise for the Non-Sporty

Exercise for the Non-Sporty Lonely Goat running club mum and son run at parkrun together family outdoors Cornwall mental health addiction recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary
Me and my son running together.

When I was younger, I wasn’t that keen on exercise. Nothing quite fitted for me. Everything I tried I wasn’t good enough at, and I didn’t really have the inclination to try to get better at it. I didn’t have any sporty friends or role models either, so sport seemed like something that other people did. That isn’t an excuse, it’s just my perception. I hated sports at school. It seemed like the teachers had their favourites and if you weren’t one, and it was clear I wasn’t, then you might as well have not been there. Mind you I didn’t like school much either, so PE was just something at the bottom of my list there. If I had a chance I would use any excuse to get out of PE. I wasn’t really unfit or anything, I just didn’t appreciate the chance to be picked last or ridiculed in front of people I didn’t like. My teenage years were not the best of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was particularly unfit or anything. I was lucky in some ways, I had horses growing up, so was often out riding, but that was something I did on my own. The idea of organised sports was something very different and not the way I wanted to spend my time. I didn’t even think of having my horses as exercise to be honest, it was just something I did and I enjoyed it. But, when you think about all the effort that goes in, the cleaning, the riding, the lugging hay bales around, it is quite a physical hobby to have. I loved being in the outdoors, I loved the time and the peace, though I wouldn’t have been able to explain that then. Things change though and unfortunately, the last horse I had, a beautiful well-mannered mare got colic and passed away. I was terribly sad, and I couldn’t replace her. Maybe one day I will, but that was twenty years ago now.

I decided sport wasn’t really my thing. Everyone that did sport seemed skinny, or fitter than me. I didn’t know where to start. So I didn’t. I’m not one for competing with others, but I don’t like to be judged either and I often feel like I am. If I can avoid a situation where that might happen I will. Just going out of the house in leggings was enough to put me off.

So it’s a bit mad that I get up early now, in the dark to run on the weekends when I could have a lay in instead. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I wish I could have a lay in, but the temptation of a Saturday morning parkrun, or the lure of a race are enough to get me out the door. Even when the weather is bad, and that is surprising. I even run in the evenings, in the dark and lately the icy cold weather when my son is at track practice. Now that must mean I am crazy, because there is a perfectly good cafe there which I could go and sit in to wait instead!

I love running now though, and I count myself lucky that I have finally found something I enjoy and that I am quite good at. By good, I don’t necessarily mean fast, there are plenty of people out there that are faster, but I mean, I can keep going. I couldn’t run for a minute when I started, no joke. Now I can happily pop out for a 10k (6.2 miles) without really thinking about it. I never thought I’d be able to say that. So while I’d like to be faster sometimes, I’m just happy to be able to get out and do it. It’s peaceful and you see places you wouldn’t otherwise see.

One day I saw a comment someone put on Facebook and it meant a lot. I often remind myself of it, and use it to encourage other people. It went something along the lines of, “You know when you are at a race, and everyone else looks like they know what they’re doing and you don’t? Well they are probably looking at you and thinking the exact same thing.” It instantly relaxes me and reminds me that you just don’t know what is going on in someone else’s head. They might just be trying to style it out and convincing you that they are confident when they aren’t.

So I guess really it’s about trying things and finding the one that works for you. I’m not great with team sports, or anything which involves loads of people, but put me in a race, with a herd of like minded people, and I’m fine. More than fine. I actually enjoy it.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Support

Support blog about addiction recovery living alcohol free mum doing headstand at home yoga and running strength mental health bravery overcoming My Not So Secret Diary
I can even support myself upside down!

I didn’t want help for my addiction for a long time. As I’ve said before, it took me so long to admit to myself and my husband that I had a problem, the last thing I wanted to do was admit it to anyone else. I thought I would be judged. I was also afraid of being outed and people I knew finding out. How things change!

During my second attempt (and failure) at sobriety, I knew I couldn’t do it on my own so I finally faced up to the fact I might need to ask for help. I hid in my workshop at the bottom of the garden (I used to make fused glass in my previous life) and phoned a helpline. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I was terrified that someone somewhere would assume I was a bad mother and try to take my kids away. While I sometimes might have been shorter of patience than I would have liked, I knew that I had never put them in danger and I never drank in the day, I just didn’t know if the people on the end of the phone would believe that.

I spoke to someone who listened, reassured me and put me on a waiting list to speak to a someone else. It took three months for me to be called back, and when they finally did I was drinking again. I felt like I’d been forgotten, I had asked for help and there was no one there. Finally I had someone on the phone who was offering help, but they had no answers, just a lot of questions for me. They suggested I came in to speak to a counsellor and I was assigned a key worker who I will call Bill. Bill listened when we met, but he didn’t have answers either. Except to tell me not to stop drinking. I was like, “What?” But I had heard right. I was drinking so much that actually stopping could have been really bad for me. It was frustrating. All I wanted was to stop drinking and suddenly I was being told to carry on. He told me to cut down, but only by about half a glass each week. He said it had to be manageable so I could maintain it and not slip back. I already knew what it was like to slip, but man, drinking when I wanted to stop was weird and went against everything I had thought.

Bill suggested I had two ways to go. Either I did all the work myself or I book in for a residential detox. I liked the idea of the ‘easy’ way out so I booked the detox. He insisted I needed to have things in place for afterwards, as otherwise it would be too easy to slip straight back to where I had been before. I needed to change my habits to help me stay sober. The problem was the waiting list was long and I was done with drinking, I loved it, I hated it, it was confusing, but most of all, I hated the control it had over me.

I don’t think Bill and I clicked. I’m assuming he was once an alcoholic, going by his job in an advisory role, but I just don’t think he got me, and most of all I wanted to be understood. He suggested I started going to some local group meetings and I said yes. They were quite close to where I lived, and on the second meeting I saw someone I knew drive past as I was talking to another person leaving after our meeting. I felt like I had a sign above me pointing out I was an alcoholic, I felt so self-conscious!

The first meeting was strange. I was early and met by two women who were cagey about why they were there. I was also cagey about why I was there, so trying to work out if I was in the right place was weird. Finally it was decided that I was and gradually other people came in. Obviously I’m not going to disclose anything to identify my fellow anonymous attendees but it’s fair to say that it was a diverse group. I connected most with another lady who although older than me was in the same position as me, she had finally admitted she had a problem when she had to leave a theme park she was at with her children to buy a bottle of wine which she then sneaked back in with her. I also connected with another person who had been in and out of prison during their drug addiction. They had been clean until they were stabbed by their partner, during an unexpected altercation. Coming out of hospital to find the partner had been arrested and the relationship unreconcilable had been too much, and the familiarity of drugs and alcohol had beckoned.

There were of course other people there in the meetings, and I had nothing and yet everything in common with them. Some people looked at me strangely before I spoke, trying to work out why I was there, like I said, I presented a very together image, as long as I knew there would be wine at the end of the day, and at that point there still was. That made it worse, knowing I was still drinking was just compounding the confusion I felt. After talking with my new acquaintances I found there was a drug I could take to dissuade me from drinking, so I made an appointment and saw the doctor.

I thought I’d have to persuade the doctor. I didn’t, she believed me. For the first time, I felt listened to by a health professional. She told me she had worked in addiction wards in a hospital where patients had tried to drink the hand sanitiser for the alcohol in them. I couldn’t imagine ever doing that, but she understood. She prescribed me Antabuse but told me not to take it straight away. I had to get my drinking right down and then I could start the course. The idea is that it makes you physically ill if you take the tablets and still drink. The idea of it scared me, but it gave me back the control I had lost. If I chose to take the tablets, then I was choosing to try to put a stop to my drinking. It was a strange thing to think I had them, but couldn’t take them yet. I went home and told my husband all about it, putting the pot on top of the fridge, making a plan to get my consumption down. I think from memory I lasted about two or three days before I had enough, certainly not the weeks I had been advised. I smashed my glass and tipped the last of my wine down the drain. It was like I was possessed. Then I took a tablet. My husband watching me in shock just said, “Bloody hell Clu.” (Clu is his nickname for me). It might not have been the end, but right then it was like I took the biggest step forward in my recovery. I sat there for a minute waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. I wasn’t magically fixed, but and this is the huge thing, I was finally on the right path.

So, I never needed my booking at the residential unit. I never made it back to my counsellor, and after a few more meetings I stopped doing those too. There was nothing at the time that fit me properly, but without each of those things, I wouldn’t have been able to make the progress I did. Knowing I had the safety net of the detox was helpful, but I was almost expecting a magic wand to be waved, and of course no one can do that for you.

It seems like recovery should be the end of a journey, the end of a love affair with alcohol that has to end but yet for me it was very much the beginning. In fact, I’d look at it more like chapters, I finished the drinking chapter and began the recovery chapter, and in some ways, although I don’t drink any more, I’m still in it. A chapter that lasts years is long, but so was the chapter that led up to my addiction. Unpicking everything takes time and I wasn’t that well prepared for that, I didn’t realise how much wine was holding me together in a dysfunctional way, but now without it, I am a better person, I know that now.

Underneath it all, we are all the same. We just want to connect, and be understood and that’s one of the things I love about writing to you all. I’m coming to understand myself more and more, so thank you as always for listening to me and if you want, pop me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Much love.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Insecurity

Insecurity blog about sobriety parkrun living alcohol free after recovery and addiction positivity and mental health My Not So Secret Diary
Start line selfie with Katie and Stanley this morning.

It’s been a busy few days. My husband has been working like crazy again, I’m not complaining, but he’s tired and it’s hard not to be able to do anything to help him. Our littlest has had a nasty cold and that means he has been up a lot in the nights, and this morning our running son had to go to Bournemouth for a race as he is representing Cornwall Schools. Since we’re in Cornwall and he was going on the coach he had to be up and out early, in time to meet his team just after 6am. So that was another early start, but as he is lovely, my husband took him down and then popped into work for a few hours. Our eldest son always has plans so leaving him to it, me and my daughter Katie decided to take our youngest out to parkrun.

I’ve now run 42 parkruns, and I run with Stanley in the buggy a lot, but I haven’t ever parkrun with him. I think it’s just another thing where I’m afraid of being not good enough, maybe other people are faster, or have a better running buggy, etc, etc. Anyway, what I mean is that I do tend to put things off, especially if I feel I won’t be that good. Today we just made up our minds and went for it, and you know what? It was great. Well it was once I managed to get Katie out of the door. She is easily distracted and by the time we were on our way, I wondered if parkrun might have been and gone by the time we got there. It was okay though, it was easy to park and we got there with four or five minutes to spare.

We started near the back as I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way with the buggy and clog up the pack. It took almost a minute to get through the crowd to the start line at the beginning so my PB went out the window, but it was one of the nicest parkruns I have done in ages. We just ran and chatted, and resorted to walking on some of the hills because my two and a half year old is heavy! I should probably have checked my tyres before I went because my front one was quite low, so of course, I’m going to blame any perceived slowness on that, rather than on me and Katie. But like I said, it was lovely.

We stopped afterwards at the cafe and warmed up with some hot drinks before going to play in the park on the way out. It was a beautiful day and really felt like spring was coming as we saw so many beautiful flowers coming out.

We arrived home to find my husband was already back from work. I was thinking that other than having to go and meet Barn from his coach later in the evening we had nothing else on for the evening. Instead, I was told we’ve been invited out. It’s so nice, and yet it’s made me panic a bit. I don’t cope that well with change. It makes me a little nervous, and it’s worse because I don’t know what to expect. It’s one thing going out just with Lee, as I know he has no expectations of me, but going out with others in a group makes me a little nervous as I haven’t done it much recently. I’m not sure of the venue, of what drinks they’ll offer and what conversation will be expected of me. Those points alone are many of the reasons I used to have a drink, to stop myself feeling nervous in situations like these. Clearly I won’t be doing that tonight. I’ll be working my way through it as best as I can, and I am sure I will have a lovely time. I just wish I didn’t feel so nervous about it.

It’s annoying that things I want to do still make me nervous after all this time. It would be easier to stay at home, but then when I stopped drinking I didn’t mean that I would stop living, so I’m going to go out, and hopefully I’m going to have a good time. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Newquay 10k

Newquay-10k running blog about sobriety parkrun living alcohol free after recovery and addiction positivity and mental health My Not So Secret Diary
With my medal.

Last year I wanted to run Newquay 10k but I missed out and it was full before I got the chance. I decided to make sure I got in quicker this year. They have quite tight guidelines as to who can book a place and it fills up very quickly. They open the entries first to local clubs, but although I’m local and in a club it isn’t a local club so I couldn’t get in. Then they open the second phase to non-club members, with the third phase being for anyone else. Typically, I totally forgot about it, even after trying to organise myself to get a place this year. By the time I remembered all three phases had opened and there were no spaces left.

I was so disappointed, but that day I saw a thread on Facebook about putting in for a reserve place. I never normally bother, but thought I’d give it a go. I had nothing to lose. I knew I wasn’t the only one, but I was pretty surprised when the email came back to say I was on the reserve this and I was number 26 in the queue. I thought that meant I had no chance!

A week before the race, I had an email to say I was in! I couldn’t believe it, what luck!

My son normally trains with his club three times a week and one of those days is a Sunday, which is fine, but as he needs a lift to get to training, it meant I would have to drive myself to the race. I know it won’t seem much to other people, but I’ve always had someone to come with me, whether it is my husband or one of the kids. Even on the start line, I am seldom alone. This race was the first time I had no-one so I was a little nervous, but I made up my mind I would push myself out of my comfort zone and go anyway.

I was the only one from my running club there, I know that for definite because I saw the list when they were handing out our race numbers. It actually said Lonely Goat RC (1). I don’t think I have ever been the only one from my club at a race before! But it was quite nice, as I didn’t know anyone, I could be properly anti-social and not worry about talking to anyone. I didn’t even have to look out in case there was any one I knew there as I was sure there wouldn’t be. It was quite a walk from the car to the race HQ so I left my hoody in the bag check area. Then there wasn’t a lot else to do, so I found a corner and waited, I even played on my phone for a bit. It was strange being on my own, but not in a bad way, just in a I hadn’t done it before way. I was pretty proud of myself too. A year ago there would have been no chance of me doing something like that on my own. Actually a few months ago I wouldn’t have. So it’s another step forward.

All in all the race itself was great. I’ve been worrying about it because I have had a nasty cold and chest and have been worried I might not be able to run. Last year I had a chest infection that turned to pleurisy so this year I’ve tried to take it a little easier, in the hope that I can shake it off and it seems to be working. Due to that though, I haven’t run as much as I would have liked this week, and my watch has been telling me I am on the edge of de-training, which isn’t that helpful for my self-confidence. It was good to get out though, and as so much of the race was on the road, and seen quite obviously by other passers by, it pushed me to keep going even when it was hard.

I have to say, I don’t mind having to go on a waiting list for a race that is really well organised with a lovely medal. I totally get why it would have sold out, but I am glad I bothered to put my name down for the reserves. I was warned that as a reserve I might not get a finishers t-shirt in the right size, so I was more than happy to get one, in bright pink, with the Newquay Road Runner logo on it. What a nice reminder to have! Hopefully next year I’ll be more organised and remember to put my name down straightaway!

Were any of you there? What else did you get up to this weekend?

Thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Living Sober

Living Sober Story half marathon finisher at Eden Project Lonely Goat Running Club blog about sobriety parkrun living alcohol free after recovery and addiction positivity and mental health My Not So Secret Diary

Sober Stories

You may have heard of Lotta Dann aka Mrs D. She’s from New Zealand, and an author of several books about sobriety. She also has her own blog and like me, she is an advocate of living a sober life, hosting a great site called Living Sober.

I was honoured recently to be interviewed by Lotta when she asked me to talk about my sobriety, and how my life has improved since I stopped drinking.

I really hope other people are able to read and find inspiration from my story. If you want support or community, the Living Sober site is a great place to start.

If you would like to read my interview, please click on the link.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–


https://livingsober.org.nz/sober-story-claire/

As always, thanks for reading x

My Suspicious Mind

My Suspicious Mind running with my daughter at Plymouth 5k and 10k race for mental health and overcoming addiction living a sober life alcohol free blog My Not So Secret Diary
Racing with my daughter.

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of situations, people, you name it, I overthink it.

I don’t mean be the way I am necessarily, but I do have a habit of jumping to the worst conclusion at times. I even know that a lot of the time I’m wrong, but the problem is, sometimes I am right, and that reinforces my thinking. I think for me that one of the benefits of no longer drinking is that I see things more clearly now, but also with that tinge of suspicion. I’m never quite sure how to take people.

You’ll know if you’ve read my other posts, that I count myself lucky to have my family around me, and also that I isolated myself a lot from my friends during my recovery. It seemed the safest option for me, rightly or wrongly, I couldn’t focus on lots of other people back then, I just had to think about myself and my family or I wouldn’t have got through it. Most people understood, and if they didn’t to be honest, there isn’t a lot I could do about it, but some people, just a select few, that I had counted as friends didn’t act like friends, instead they were selfish and used my vulnerability at that time to their advantage. Those are not the sort of people I want in my life, and I’m glad they are gone.

The problem is, removing negative people, deleting or blocking friends from your list, etc, only removes those people from your life. There are always other people out there in the wings waiting, and I find it tricky to judge their motives. I know logically that not everyone is out to get me, but I often wonder why someone would talk to me out of the blue and what they hope get out of it. I sound awfully cynical don’t I? But I second guess everything, from how someone looks at me, to how I talk to them and the impression I give them.

After parkrun recently I was deliberating over cake in the queue at the cafe when the man behind me spoke to me. We were just passing the time of day, talking about cake and I didn’t think anything of it until he asked if he could join me to drink his coffee. I was shocked, not that there is anything wrong with it. Parkrun promotes community and chatting after a run, so why shouldn’t someone want to sit with me, it just threw me as I wasn’t expecting it. I said that it was fine, and pointed him in the direction of the table where my son was sitting, and by the time I had got there they were both chatting. We talked about running and a few other things, but when I was asked questions, I found myself worrying about what he wanted to know, and why he wanted to know it. I told you I was suspicious! Many other people were sitting in groups also chatting over their drinks, and it was perfectly normal, I do think, at least in this instance it is my problem and not his, but it is annoying to feel on guard all the time.

After the man left I questioned whether the situation had been okay with my son. He gets how I worry, and is quite good at reassuring me, or telling me to stop being a fool depending on the situation. But despite his reassurances, I just wonder then if it’s because he is younger that he doesn’t realise how some adults can have ulterior motives.

It’s taken me a long time to start to trust people, and their motives and even those that know me will know I am not the most sociable person even now. It isn’t that I don’t want to be, I just worry. I am guarded, I know that, and I don’t let many people in, it takes time for me to let my walls down a little and make friends. I am getting better at it, though slowly. I’ve even been known to have coffee after parkrun with people I do know. It’s just when someone is forward, and it is unexpected, it throws me.

I would like to say though, despite my anxieties, I’d still like you to say hi if you see me out and about! Happy

Thanks as ever for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Changing Perceptions

Changing Perceptions sobriety blog about mental health mum and daughter and son playing family recovery and living alcohol free My Not So Secret Diary
Me with my daughter and one of my three sons.

It’s taken me a long time to comfortable in myself, and to be honest, I’m still not quite there yet. I’ve always worried if I am good enough, calm enough, clever enough, thin enough, fast enough… the list goes on, and I never quite measure up, but I am not sure who put the list there in the first place. I certainly don’t remember, besides catty teenage comments, ever being told I wasn’t good enough, but somewhere deep inside, I felt it.

I know a lot of people feel the same way, and it’s hard to get over it, it’s almost impossible to rewire the way you think to be more positive about yourself and kinder to yourself.

I was always of the mind set that ‘something’ would change the way I was and the way I felt about myself. I wasn’t really sure what, I would just feel like if I did this, or bought that, then it would make the difference. I always had a little space, that no matter what I did remained a bit empty.

Over the years I came to think this was normal, that everyone must feel the same as me and I learned to live with doubting myself. It isn’t a nice feeling though, and I am sure I am not the only one. Of course over the years I came to rely on things that made me feel better, those inevitable glasses of wine in the evening, but they were only temporary fixes. When the alcohol wore off, I still felt the same.

Reading that back, it sounds like I was unhappy, and I wasn’t, at least not with everything I had, my husband, our family and our life together has always made me happy. I guess I was just always a little disappointed with myself. I just didn’t quite measure up to my expectation of what I should be. I know now this is stupid, I know there are people in a lot worse situations than me, but my mind has always over-thought. Telling it to stop thinking is like telling an alcoholic not to drink. We all know that doesn’t work. I know now realistically that looking in from the outside, you only see one side of the story. You only see what people want you to see, so the people I compare myself to, they aren’t real, at least not all the time. I know because I’ve been there when I portrayed myself as a calm and together person all the years I let wine control me. The difference is I can see it now, and it allows me to take a step back.

I’ve slowed down, I don’t rush quite so much. I don’t let my crazy mind run away with me all the time. I try to stop it, and I try to be present, and I try to ignore that irritating little voice that tells me I’m not good enough. Sometimes it is challenging but it’s allowed me to settle and just be, and in learning that I feel better in myself.

You go through life thinking that one day you will change, that when you have that ‘thing’ you will be complete, but ultimately the only thing you can control is yourself and that is the ultimate thing in determining whether you are able to be happy.

Thank you as always for reading and remember to be kind to yourselves.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Pub Lunches

Pub Lunches on holiday in spain with family going to meetings in pubs without drinking living alcohol free after addiction and recovery blog My Not So Secret Diary
I even do non-alcoholic holidays now!

I had a meeting recently in a pub. It doesn’t bother me now like I thought it would, for a long time I didn’t think I would be able to or even want to go into a pub again. I mean, what would be the point if you aren’t going to have a drink? Well, like I said, I had to. It isn’t the first time recently, a few weeks ago, I went for a coffee in a pub with some colleagues. The thing was that was quite explicitly just coffee. It was in the morning, there was no risk of anyone ordering anything more than a hot drink so I knew what to expect. This one was a lunch meeting, and it was the first time I’ve done that since I stopped drinking, and I had to walk in on my own. I didn’t really think of it until just before, I assumed that because it was work no one would drink. But then I started to worry a bit, and that is frustrating because it isn’t like I need to drink even if others are.

I managed to get a seat and there were lots of bottles of water on the table so I felt safe, so to speak. It wasn’t long before a gentleman came in with another woman. Before they had even sat down they were announcing to the room that they were going to try to avoid drinking, especially as it was still January (Dry January). He soon followed this by saying that the tonic waters they had just bought cost £4.50 so it would have been cheaper to drink alcohol. Then the conversation moved to how expensive drinking could be and the cost of various varieties of alcoholic drinks. I felt a bit uncomfortable as this wasn’t a conversation I wanted to participate in, and yet I didn’t want to be rude. No sooner had I thought this than another attendee joked loudly, “Boy, am I glad I don’t drink anymore.” I know this person also had a drinking problem in the past, but I had never heard them acknowledge it before, and I was pleasantly surprised. This comment was followed by, “Celebrating twelve years.” I said, “Wow, well done.” I didn’t like to say too much and yet I felt it deserved recognition, but where I was worried about drawing too much attention, this person just bravely said, “Well yeah, it was either give up, or die,” which made me laugh, as was the intention. Without even really meaning to, I just said, “It’s three years for me.” It’s the second time in a short space of time that I have admitted to people outside of my circle the truth, and the minute it was out of my mouth, I wondered what I had done. I almost expected people to be staring, wondering whether I was contagious or something. But no one else seemed to react, maybe they just didn’t care, but then why would they? My addiction and my obsession with what others think of me shouldn’t be the first and only thing that people think about when walking into a room. The person I was talking to congratulated me and the conversation in the room moved on, as it already was.

Later after the meeting, where I drank a lot of water and nothing else, the same person caught me and we chatted. Although we both knew of the other’s troubles, we had never spoken to each other about it, only through my husband. We joked about how we wouldn’t have been able to face being in a pub a while ago, but now neither of us were going to jump over the bar to down a quick one. Then when talking about our other halves, my friend even said with a smile that their partner could take or leave alcohol which would have been our downfall, we could take it but never leave it.

“Who is sicker?” I was asked. “Us, the drinkers, or them, the spouses?”
“Them.” I replied, to which my friend laughing out loud said,
“Yes exactly, why would they put up with us and all the crap we’ve given them over the years? What is wrong with them?”

It was funny to be so open about it, a relief to talk and not have to explain or be ashamed or embarrassed but just to laugh at the situation and our experiences in a light hearted way. It’s an experience I would never have chosen, but it has shaped me as a person now, and made me who I am.

It’s another experience ticked off my list, one that is no longer a trigger, but something I can enjoy if I want to. So, my thought of the day is not to push yourselves too far or too fast, but not to limit yourself either. We can do whatever we want to do now we are free.

Thank you as always for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Sharing

Sharing running for recovery on the camel trail and training living alcohol free and after addiction blog My Not So Secret Diary

A few years ago, right back at the beginning of my recovery I read a poem. It’s only short, but resonates deeply with me and I want to share it with you all. It’s called Autobiography in Five Short Chapters and it is by Portia Nelson, I hope you like it.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost.... I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it’s a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.



I hope you liked it? Let me know what you think

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Feeling Proud of My Running Son

Feeling Proud of My Running Son parkrun hands holding barcodes running mother and son saturday morning addiction and living alcohol free blog My Not So Secret Diary
Finishing in places 19 and 200 at Parkrun

I love my children more than anything and am proud of all four of them. I don’t have favourites, although they all know I tell them they each are, generally for different reasons. Each of them is very different and yet they are all kind and happy kids. As we have three teenagers and a toddler at the moment though, they do have their moments.

My third oldest, Barn is 14, and fell into running by mistake. He started coming out with me when I was doing Couch to 5k and to be honest got a bit frustrated with me. I was never fast or slow enough for him, as I was following the plan, and I refused to divert from it. I admit this might have been annoying but without it I would never have got to where I am with my running.

I booked a 5k for us both and we raised money for a new Air Ambulance in Cornwall. While it gave me the target I wanted to push myself, I got a bit concerned as Barn seemed to lose interest and for a while didn’t train with me at all. I wasn’t sure if he would even want to run. But then something clicked and he did start going out more often. He wasn’t a keen runner but he enjoyed it more, and with that first race, he realised he was quite good.

Last year he started upping his distances and began to run longer 10k races with me, until he realised he was faster than me, then he started waiting for me at the end. The more he tried, the faster he got, and it was exciting to see. He got very competitive, but mostly with himself. At the end of a race last year a gentleman stopped us to tell us we should get him into a running club to train properly, but due to his age, it was hard, most near us only take over 18’s due to child protection.

At the start of the school year he was picked to represent his college for Cross Country, and there after the race we met a coach keen for Barn to join his team. It was exciting, and although Barn was nervous, he went, and began to enjoy it. Training was very different, suddenly he was running shorter distances than he had been used to, and the others were naturally faster, but he had the stamina to keep going, and week by week he closed the gap.

Shortly after this he qualified for the Cornwall Team, and has the chance to travel with his team and represent the county at races all over the country. It’s very exciting for him, and a great opportunity. Pushing himself out of his comfort zone with running and marshalling at parkrun, as well as joining the club has been good for him, his confidence has grown and I am proud of the lovely young man he is becoming.

On Saturday we ran at Eden parkrun. It’s a three lap course, where we run down into the pit by the biomes and back up before repeating. He always beats me, but we have a bit of a challenge where he tries to lap me and I try to stop him. It’s good encouragement for both of us and so far I have managed to fend him off. Today he shot past me on my second loop, slapping me on the back as he went, finishing 19th, which isn’t bad for a 14 year old. I have never felt so proud, and although I have a cold, and wasn’t so fast as normal he shaved a whole minute off his personal best so would have probably beaten me anyway. He then joined me for my final lap, using it as his cool down.

It’s so nice to see a hobby that I love being enjoyed by my son, and to see him doing so well at it. Running has helped me so much and I hope I’ve helped to instil a coping mechanism that will be there for him in the future if and when he needs it.

Have you managed to encourage their children or partners into running or other hobbies? Do you find it encouraging or challenging to share something like a hobby with others?


Thank you as always for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Trying and Failing and Trying Again

Trying and Failing and Trying Again recovery blog after addiction living alcohol free family smiling mum and dad and toddler son little boy smiling selfie overcoming together My Not So Secret Diary
My husband and I with our littlest boy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but sobriety is hard. Especially for those of use who have had years and years of ingrained use of alcohol in our lives.

So much of our culture involves drinking. It is as normal to expect a drink of wine or beer as it is to expect a cup of tea. So when someone realises that alcohol has become a problem in their lives it isn’t just the drinking that has to stop, they also have to entirely relearn the way they live. I know because I did it. I didn’t do it on the first attempt either, it wasn’t that easy. It took me about six years, maybe more to really believe and understand that I had a problem. Coming from a family that always ‘enjoyed a drink’ I grew up expecting that that was the normal way to relax, that it was okay in the evening to always have a drink with your dinner and more after. It was so normal that I really didn’t think for a very long time that I had a problem, and even when I questioned it, I wondered how many people would believe me. I honestly thought they would think I was after attention. I wasn’t, trust me, no one in their right mind would put themselves through recovery unless they had to.

So, in the summer of 2015 I stopped drinking. I knew I had a problem, I relied on it too much. Tearfully I spoke to my husband about it. He agreed with me, he knew I liked to drink, he also enjoyed a beer in the evening, but the difference was, he could leave it, I couldn’t. He was supportive and helped me get through the first couple of days. It was a Wednesday and Thursday I remember because I had to take my daughter to a hospital appointment. It was immensely hard, but I did it, and two days in I felt better than I had in ages. My appetite began to come back, and the anxiety I always felt, the hyper-vigilance causing me to be constantly on edge eased off. I felt so good that I convinced myself that I didn’t really have a problem and by the weekend I was confident that I had over-reacted. So I had a few drinks. Moderation doesn’t work for me. Within a very short time I was right back where I had been again, except possibly worse, because now I really knew that it wasn’t possibly a problem, it was definitely one.

I couldn’t imagine life without wine. How would I relax? How would I reward myself after a day? How would I switch off in the evenings? There were so many questions. So many I couldn’t answer and so I did what I always did when I had a problem and drank.

In the spring of 2016 I tried again. Again I failed. And again I got worse because the thing is, one glass of wine is not enough for me, and that one glass that I couldn’t resist always made everything come tumbling back down.

That was my rock bottom. I knew I had to do something serious. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was. I didn’t like myself anymore. Every day was a battle. I grew to resent the wine I loved so much, I hated the hold it had over me, and yet I just couldn’t say no to it. More than once I smashed a glass, literally throwing it across the room in frustration because I didn’t want it and yet I needed it. I have never been so conflicted in all my life, and yet the times I had tried to stop drinking just resulted in making me like I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t strong enough to do without it. And that made me resent it more, but regardless, every night I still poured a glass or two, or three, or four. I was over the two bottles of wine I used to limit myself to now, and ashamed of the recycling I was putting out each fortnight. I would try to hide it, or take it in the car to the recycling bank, embarrassed that the neighbours would see. My excuse was that the kids enjoyed smashing the glass, and they did, but they wouldn’t have minded not doing it either.

That was where my love of drinking stopped, when I realised it controlled me, and although it was the scariest thing I have ever done, admitting my problem and learning to confront it saved my life. It changed me as a person, or maybe it didn’t, instead maybe it gave me back the person I was before all the drinking. It wasn’t easy, trying and slipping up and trying again, but each day is easier.

I have a lot of memories, a lot of regrets and wishes that I had stopped long before, but of course I couldn’t. I had to get to the point I did to finally make it through that time. I had to get to the bottom to be able to climb back up. However, it still surprises me that these memories spring up from time to time. Of course it knocks me, and I wish I could change things, but then I wouldn’t be here where I am now, surrounded by people that love me.

Life isn’t fluid. Nothing comes with a plan. I know that I wouldn’t have chosen to become addicted to alcohol, but if I didn’t I also wouldn’t be here writing to all of you, and that matters to me. I have rough days, but I actually like who I am now and so does my family. What they get now is an authentic, honest me. Not a wine-addled mess. They might not always agree with me, but they know what to expect most of the time. I am loved and I am cared about. I am lucky.

Recovery is a challenge, it is a journey, but it feels amazing to come out the other side. The wobbles get less wobbly, and everything gets clearer. Stick with it, be patient, be kind to yourself. Find new hobbies. Everything will be all right in the end. If it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end.

Much love to you all.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Opinions

Regardless of my history with wine, I’ve heard more than once that alcohol is more damaging and more addictive than some class A drugs. It’s hard to find proof of these types of claims though, I assume things that might be detrimental to sales are somewhat swept under the carpet so to speak. The other day, I shared my thoughts about an article which suggested a campaign to depict the dangerous side of drinking was removed from the public domain as it would be damaging for sales of alcohol. Of course, I really think if we are going to live in a society that promotes alcohol sales, then we should make the side effects really well known to everyone too. Some of course suggest that everyone knows alcohol is damaging, but I would argue that most adverts only paint the rosy side of the picture. Does everyone out there really know it is more addictive than heroin, and yet more readily available? Even when alcoholism is touched on on TV, perhaps in a soap opera it is overcome very easily, and while I don’t want to see dramatic warnings and scare stories everywhere, I do think a certain amount of realistic forewarning would help.

My 14 year old son has already spoken to me about his intentions to drink for fun when he is older, and never to have a problem. Strangely, that actually worries me more, because it is often that feeling of control that allows addictions to creep up on you. I know as an intelligent woman, with a good life, I certainly never, ever intended to have a problem with alcohol. But then again, I am not sure that anyone would plan to. I always felt I could control it, until one day, when I couldn’t anymore. Of course, by then it is too late, and that is what I think we should be helping others to avoid where possible.

I found it interesting to read this article recently,
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/16/share-a-pint-or-glass-of-wine-to-drink-safely-says-expert It’s a little controversial, as the claims are made by Professor David Nutt, who was dismissed from his post as an advisor on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for his challenging, although perhaps correct, views. Now working independently he and his team have been researching the damage alcohol causes, above that of heroin, crack cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and tobacco in the UK, Europe and Australia.

So in this article, it is suggested that, in order to reduce consumption to a ‘safe level’ that, “…[T]he only safe way to drink is to take three straws to the pub and share a glass of wine with friends.” An admirable idea, but I for one would not have been able to share a glass with anyone when I used to drink. Moderation is not something that is accessible to everyone. I think by the time moderation becomes an interest, there may for a lot of people, already be a problem.

Professor Nutt goes on to say that he feels, as I do, that there is a constant attempt to undermine any difficulties associated with drinking, instead focusing on any possible health benefit. I’m not sure what can be done to raise more awareness about the dangers of drinking, when we live in a society that promotes its use for so much. I also don’t want to sound like a bore for going on, and unfortunately a lot of people will take my attitude to alcohol negatively.

I just hope that by more and more people being open and about their experiences, talking about sobriety and it’s benefits, others will realise you don’t have to rely on drinking for fun, enjoyment or anything else.

There is life without wine.

Thank you as always for reading.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Little things

Little Things family holiday in spain mum dad and teenagers together family photo living alcohol free after recovery blog addiction My Not So Secret Diary
It's rare I have a family photo now, this one is missing our littlest one.

My kids are growing up. They are 18, 16, 14 and 2. I know I have a few more years with them, but realistically, them moving out might not be too far away as Lee and I were already married and we had Joe when I was 19. I try to give them their freedom, I don’t want them to feel like I’m clingy and that they have to stay at home with me all the time but it is nice when they want to. The things we do together are special.

I think that (smallest person aside) having the three of them so close in age, meant I was always physically and mentally tied up, and now that they are largely self-sufficient I have to adapt, and it’s strange. I like the bustle of a busy house, I like them being about. I know my little man will be around for a lot longer and I am grateful for that, he is such a little bundle of fun, but it is strange knowing the others not needing me so much.

I notice the little things much more now, and I have more patience now, than I did before when I was drinking, to see the small things and let other things go. It was lovely over Christmas as I’d been bought a jigsaw puzzle, and Joe sat down with me for a minute to help me. It was so hard, double sided pigs in blankets that all look the same! I know his main reason for doing it was because he wanted to go out again and was probably hoping that by giving me five minutes I’d let him go, but it was nice anyway. It was nice to think he cares enough to do something like that with me, even if only for a few minutes, and instead of wasting time thinking about him going out, I just enjoyed the time we had.

That patience is something I am so grateful for, I feel him growing up and away and it is frustrating to think I can’t really keep him here, that I don’t see him very much and when I do, his head is often in his phone, but I try to be grateful for what I can get. I’m grateful that I have the time I do with them, and I’m grateful for the relationship I have with each of them. I’m working on being patient more, but I do find it hard sometimes. There is so much going on in my head that it makes me anxious before I’ve thought about anything else. Hearing the kids all chattering away at once just makes it harder to focus. I don’t think I can be the only one, but it can be hard. So I’m reminding myself to relax, and be grateful. They grow up too fast.

As always, thank you for reading.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Tuesday Night Training

Tuesday Night Training My Not So Secret Diary

I’m trying to make the most of taking my running son to his training every week... so, instead of waiting in the car, watching him on the track and reading something on my kindle, I have been getting out and running. πŸƒπŸΌ‍β™€οΈπŸ’–πŸƒπŸΌ‍♀️

It’a a bit weird for me, because I am not a great one for running where other people look like professionals, and I don’t like running in the dark on my own. I normally try to go in the opposite direction from any crowds! There are loads of people training both on and off the track, but once I realise they aren’t interested in what I am doing I remember it is okay. I am okay.

I didn’t want to run last night, it would have been much warmer not to, but I did almost 4 miles which was certainly better than sitting in the car, and then I had time for a cup of tea in the cafe before training finished. It is a lovely little cafe and run by volunteers, so it is great to have an excuse to support it!
β˜•οΈ

It’s nice to do things like that. Not long ago, there is no way I would have sat in a cafe by myself, so that in itself is proof I am getting somewhere!

Thanks for reading!
πŸ’–πŸ’–

Running and Addiction

Running and Addiction sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running again.

There are a lot of people who run, and they all have different reasons. Some run for their mental health, and a lot who run to escape from addictions. The question is, why does it help?

  • A sense of achievement. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast you run. Every single step is further than most addicts did before, and bettering yourself, regardless of everyone else, is an amazing feeling. I went from non-runner to doing four half marathons in a year. It felt bloody good to be able to achieve something that I had no hope of doing before.

  • It gives you something to focus on, if you’re giving up an addiction, it is likely that you’ll have a lot of time on your hands, having something to do, where you see genuine results based on what you put in can be a game changer.

  • Running channels your energy and your mind. Many addicts use their substance of choice to calm a chaotic mind. Running does the same thing, but without a hangover. Although you might ache sometimes.

  • Running regularly reduces stress, anxiety and depression as well as improving self-esteem and sleep. You aren’t running away from anything, but instead dulling the feelings of worry and panic, and developing a healthy coping strategy.

  • I’ve been told that as running hard affects your body in the same way as a panic attack can, and so can help you learn to cope better with the symptoms, for example, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, feeling hot or sweaty, etc. It won’t take the panic attacks away necessarily, but it might like me, help you stop panicking about having one.

  • It’s as social as you want it to be, join a club and meet some people, or don’t and do it by yourself. It’s so flexible and doesn’t cost a lot, besides a good pair of trainers.

  • It’s great thinking time, and enables you to process a lot of what is going on in your mind.


Running boosts feel good chemicals in your body dopamine in the body called endorphins, which help reduce the perception you have of pain, so instead of self-medicating with alcohol for example, your body can instead relieve some pain on it’s own.
Endorphins also trigger a non-substance related positive feeling in the body, which has become known as a ‘runner's high’.

Some argue that it is merely swapping one addiction for another, and maybe that is true, especially when we think about ultramarathoners who need more than a bit of grit to run the distances they do. I know if I had to to pick one addiction, I’d prefer to pick running over drinking!


Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Thinking

Thinking alcohol free sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
It was cold and frosty on Sunday morning, but so great to be out!

Sometimes it surprises me just how much time wine spends in my head. The thought of it at least, you all know I don’t drink the stuff anymore. It used to be so much worse of course. For a long time, it was the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing before bed. I would plan how not to drink, put reasons in the way, and then as the day worse on it used to change to how I could fit a few drinks in. It drove me mad.

I thought after I stopped drinking it would go away. It didn’t. I thought it would go once I replaced it with other things. It didn’t go then either. I was sure it would go when I broke the habit and finally stopped wanting to drink. It certainly got easier then, but it was still there.

After about three years things changed. Not everything revolves around alcohol now. It’s not the be all and end all of everything, and yet, it is still there.

I can avoid the alcohol aisle at the supermarket, it doesn’t bother me at all, but a display in the wrong place can catch my eye. It makes me remember. It wouldn’t take much to push me. I wouldn’t need much persuasion, and to know that is so frustrating when I look at how far I’ve come. I know, and it’s quite scary to know, that one glass would not be enough. It would lead to another as it always did. It was like an unquenchable thirst. Moderation does not work for me, whether I wanted it to or not. I can’t risk it, because however much I still for some reason romanticise the idea of drinking, in the end that wasn’t how it was for me.

However tempting it is at times, I won’t go back to that.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

P.A.W.S

PAWS sobriety and mental health blog My Not So Secret Diary
Running has really helped me.

You may or may not have heard of P.A.W.S. and if you haven’t, you might not have been able to identify your feelings or know that this is a condition that affects between 70% and 90% of us in recovery to some degree or other, both emotionally and psychologically.

So what is it?
P.A.W.S stands for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. It's symptoms affect those of us who were addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it doesn't happen so quickly as you might think, actually occurring after the initial withdrawal is over. In fact, P.A.W.S can occur two months or more after the substance has been removed from the system, and the affects can be felt for weeks, months or years, depending on the individual.

There has been much research into P.A.W.S in association with alcohol addiction, with medical reports being published since the 1990's so it isn't a new thing, but it isn't hugely common knowledge either. In fact, I think it is one of the most important factors of recovery, one that you should be prepared for, and I for one certainly didn't know anything about it beforehand.

The symptoms.
As a sedative, alcohol decreases brain activity, and of course, the brain comes to see that as normal. Once you remove that inhibitor your nervous system can go into overdrive. There are a lot of symptoms associated with P.A.W.S, and each of them individually are quite normal and common. The accumulation and severity of them is down to physical differences in people, the type of substance that is causing the addiction and the amount that is taken. The effects come and go, lasting for a few days before easing up again, which can be a bit of a rollercoaster, but if you are prepared from them, it can make your recovery more successful.

Here’s a list of the main symptoms:
• Stress - The effects of P.A.W.S. can leave you with a low tolerance to cope with stress. Even the smallest thing to other people can seem like a really big deal, and considering you've probably given up your biggest coping tool, it is easy to understand why things are more difficult. New coping strategies are the way forward here, but believe me when I say, it takes time.
• Concentration difficulties - yep, I had problems stringing coherent sentences together at times, it seemed like I was losing my mind. I also used to forget what I was saying, mid-sentence. (I still do that sometimes!) It seems some of the neurotransmitters in the brain have to fight back and repair themselves in order for us to regain our ability to think clearly. The good news is, it is usually only temporary.
• Mood swings - I don't know about you, but I had them when I drank too. When I stopped they just got much more tearful.
• Cravings - Although the physical addiction might have worn off, there might (for some time) be psychological cravings which might try to tempt you back. Don’t give in to them, they get weaker with time.
• Anxiety - so not only is our brain learning to be without something that helped to keep it calm, but it is also having to adapt to function without it going forward. This can make you feel terribly anxious.
• Depression - these addictive substances have a lot to answer for! Your brain needs to readjust to learn to be without whatever it is you used to take. When you stop it is a shock to the system, however prepared you are. Again, it is normally just a temporary set-back.
• Insomnia and sleep disturbances - I was told I would sleep better when I stopped drinking. I do now, but it took a long time to get there. Not only do many addictive substances affect our sleep patterns, but our subconscious thoughts, like wanting a drink, can affect our dreams when we finally do drift off. It can be a bit of a nightmare. Sorry!
• Anhedonia - (the ability to find pleasure in normally pleasurable activities). Most addictive drugs affect neural pathways. When we stop taking them, it takes a while for the brain to balance out again and start to make normal levels of chemicals that make us feel good again. Until then things can be tough.

What can you do to help?
• Knowing that these symptoms are possible, and that they may be long term can help, if you aren’t expecting them, it can be easier to relapse.
• By gradually reducing the amount of alcohol consumed before stopping altogether, the intensity of the withdrawal may be lessened, although long term symptoms still seem to be quite strong. Try to remember that these symptoms may come and go, and although not pleasant, it is a normal part of recovery.
• Exercise can help, not only as it helps your body and brain recover, but as a bare minimum, it can work as a distraction to the way you are feeling.

It might seem a bit doom and gloom, but after I got to about two years of sobriety, I really began to wonder if my anxiety would ever get better. It got me down. I was meant to be healing and I still felt like a nervous wreck, in many ways, I actually felt at times worse than I did when I was drinking, which made me sad, because I was doing all the right things. Learning about P.A.W.S. helped. Having a reason, a cause, meant that I wasn't going mad and it wasn't my fault. It meant that my brain was healing. Other people might not understand, but I do and that helps. I would say after three years, I began to feel different and a lot better than I had in a long time. But everyone is different and not everyone will experience this for the same time I did. I think I am a minority in that!

If you are in recovery or experiencing any of this, then good luck, my thoughts are with you.

Once again, thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Yesterday I Told Someone

Yesterday I Told Someone My Not So Secret Diary

I don't tend to tell people about my alcohol addiction. People know, but generally it's close family or those of you who read my blog. For a long time I didn't tell anyone because I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt I'd let myself and everyone around me down. I really didn't like the way that made me feel.

I didn't go to AA and without having a group to talk to, I didn't really express how I felt, I guess it was hard to explain to people who hadn't experienced quite the same things as me. There’s also a fine line between working through things and feeling like you are just complaining. So I didn't share it with too many people, until I began to write this blog.

When you all started to read and talk to me it was like a weight had been lifted because so many people understood. So many of you had experienced something similar and connecting reminded me that I wasn’t the only one, that others had been there too. It helped a lot.

I still didn't tell anyone else though. I didn’t think there was a reason to and to be honest, it was just easier to avoid everyone from before. I think as well as feeling there would be judgment, I am afraid people won't understand, that they will think I'm attention seeking, or making it up, or that they will brush it off and not understand how hard it was to stop. Not that these things should matter really.

Yesterday I had meeting. There were a lot of people there, some new faces, some familiar and it was good. A year ago you couldn't have paid me to go into a room full of people like that and pitch. But I'm doing it and getting better at it. Even if it did involve a little mental preparation beforehand.

Afterwards people mingled and I got talking to someone I've met before a few times and chatted with. We spoke of work, Christmas, all sorts, and somehow got onto mental health. I may have said how much running helps me. Then we were talking about drinking, and without thinking I just said, 'I don't drink anymore.' I've said that before, but usually without the 'anymore' on the end, as it stops people asking any more questions. My colleague remarked how easy it could be to come to rely on it, how one drink turns into more, and I said I stopped over three years ago for that very reason. It was enough. I didn't have to explain, although later as we talked I did say how hard stopping had been. I felt accepted for being me, and not judged in the way I had been fearing. It was refreshing and a lovely way to start the day. It gives me hope to feel I am moving on. Even sitting here thinking about it now, I actually feel proud of myself for admitting it to someone.

Are any of you careful about what you say to others, or is it just me who is a little bit cagey?


Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Knocks and Bumps Along The Way

Knocks and Bumps Along The Way My Not So Secret Diary

I hate when things don’t go to plan. I told you recently that I was feeling braver… well that bravery has wobbled a bit. I guess it’ll be a bit up and down for a while? I can’t just go back to where I was can I? And like I’ve said before, I don’t want to really, as that involved drinking.

I was getting somewhere I thought, and then someone corrected me on something. I still think I’m right but that is besides the point. It was like my voice disappeared. I felt myself shrivelling up. I wanted to say, no actually, I value your opinion, but what I mean is… and explain it, but instead, I was like, “Oh okay, I’ll change it.” So I change it, and of course, everyone else thinks it’s okay, and that it isn’t a big deal, because really it isn’t. But I feel annoyed because I wasn’t heard, and it makes me stew on it, and I go over and over it, trying to work out if I am right about something no one else cares about anymore. It’s ridiculous and I’m driving my son to the running track later when I randomly say something to him about it, mid conversation. He looks at me, and is like, “What mum?” So I feel bad, because I should have left work at work, and not even be thinking about something so stupid when I’m at home, but it gets to me.

I think that is the biggest thing that affects me now, not being heard. Yet, I am not sure how to make myself heard sometimes. I just want an opinion, and yet I am scared to voice it, in case I upset someone, and then in feeling nervous, guarded and trying to bite my tongue, I inevitably seem to upset someone.

I told you I overthink. Who knew this sober life stuff would be so hard? I think I’m getting a handle on things, and then something else jumps up and gets me. So, I thought I’d tell you all, because I think you might understand.

Much love
πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Alcohol, Anxiety and Over Thinking

Alcohol, Anxiety and Over Thinking My Not So Secret Diary
I’m a worrier, I always have been. I think some people are more predisposed to worry than others, and yet, I also think it is influenced by our upbringing and experiences too. I can’t say what made me the way I am, because I don’t know. I just know that without wishing to, my mind sort of jumps to a worst case scenario before I’ve had time to think about the other options. It’s quite annoying, as I’d prefer to be more easy going and worry free, but it is something I am trying to work on.

Anxiety for me used to be worse, it was always there bubbling away under the surface. The only thing that helped keep a lid on it was drinking wine, but of course I stopped doing that when it became a bigger problem than the anxiety was. I didn’t realise that stopping would lift the lid and release all this anxiety that hadn’t been dealt with. It suddenly seemed so much worse. Probably because it was. A vicious circle can be created when you use alcohol to help mask the symptoms of anxiety. At first, it will give you a calm feeling as the alcohol affects the brain, but when it begins to wear off, you are often left feeling worse than you were before. Alcohol can even trigger panic attacks, something you don’t associate with something that is supposed to be fun or relaxing.

The fact is that alcohol affects neurotransmitters in the brain as well as the level of serotonin which can badly affect anxiety, and as the alcohol in your body wears off, it is likely you’ll feel more anxious than you did to start with. This ‘alcohol-induced anxiety’ can last up to a whole day after drinking, and it is this after affect, with long term drinking especially, that can lead to you reach for another drink to numb the feeling as it starts to build again.

There has been a lot of research into the links between those who suffer from anxiety and excessive alcohol consumption, I know, because I have read almost everything I could get my hands on. It is suggested that many people suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) actually turn to alcohol as a way of self medicating, but as mentioned above, in the long term, this only worsens their conditions. Reliance on alcohol as a means to cope with anxiety and other symptoms can mean you build a greater tolerance, therefore increasing the amount you drink. The cycle follows that the anxiety also increases and again, so does the amount you drink. Alcohol has a number of side effects that can cause panic attacks, including an increased heart rate, low blood sugar, dehydration and increased stress on your organs. It’s no wonder when you’re feeling over-whelmed and under pressure, that you might pour yourself another. The long term use of alcohol like this can be detrimental not only to your physical health but your mental health too. That calm feeling is harder to get and takes a larger quantity of drink to get you there. Overtime, you put more and more stress on your body and your mind.

Living without a buffer to your emotions and feelings is hard, stopping drinking is just the first part of the journey. Learning to sit with your emotions is the hard part. Learning not to be so reactive and sitting it out, waiting for the panic to pass, knowing you can come out the other side, that’s where the challenge comes in. It’s also where you begin to find yourself again. So stick with it, and I promise, it will get easier. Just give it time.

Much love and thanks for reading.


Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Resolutions

Resolutions My Not So Secret Diary
My Cornwall Team runner.

On Saturday we went to Eden for parkrun. I’m pretty pleased with myself, I’ve managed four parkruns already this year, and on one I volunteered too, so that feels good. I’ve tried to make it my New Years Resolution to get out even when it’s hard, mind you I haven’t run yet today, and I don’t intend to. I am on the sofa at the moment watching the rain and there is a yellow weather warning in place for the wind, but I did run yesterday too, so I don’t feel too bad.

It was raining when I got up, I hadn’t felt like going, but my son is upping his training, as he recently qualified for our county team, and we’re trying to follow his coach’s schedule as closely as we can. On Friday night I suggested maybe just giving the one week a miss, I felt tired and it had been a long week. Barn suggested that he go anyway and ride his bike there, it’s ten miles or so, so he would have to be organised to go, but his reaction just meant that I didn’t feel I had to anymore. Immediately I felt like a weight was lifted from me, and then I actually felt like going. Isn’t it weird how the mind works? Or is it just mine?

It felt good to go, and although I didn’t run fast enough for a personal best, I did get a few records for fastest sections, so I couldn’t have been that slow. I always try to remind myself that whatever I do, it is more than I would have done if I stayed at home. Having the focus of making myself do something each day for RED January also makes me feel better. However much I don’t want to do something, I always feel better when I have made the effort.

Thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Confrontation

Confrontation My Not So Secret Diary
Post run picture.

I used to be quite opinionated, not argumentative necessarily, but certainly I did like to make my opinions known. I wouldn’t have said I was rude, just vocal. I liked to know about a subject and stand up for it. I had a voice and I wanted it to be heard.

Of late, or at least since I stopped drinking, that voice disappeared a little. I still had opinions but the idea of any confrontation terrified me. Now, I know healthy discussions are good. I am all for people having opinions, and I don’t think everyone should agree on everything, but I’ve found it hard to voice my own thoughts. The idea of standing up for something frightens me. I’m afraid of conflict, afraid I’ll upset someone and afraid to be wrong. It’s hard to relearn things, especially things you’ve been good at in the past. It’s hard to put yourself out there again and take a risk.

I may have said before, but the three year mark of sobriety seemed to be a real turning point for me. It coincided with this blog becoming a bit more known and I felt some more of my old self returning. The old me mind you, not the wine me!

Anyway, as I said, I tend to avoid conflict out of habit. Then I was scrolling through my news feed and I saw a post that I felt was really unnecessary. If I'd read it in my early days, it would have made me think twice about posting for support for fear if being judged and it annoyed me. I could see others felt the same and so I reported the post to the group admins, not for them to do anything necessarily, just for them to be aware. Sometimes it seems like ‘fake’ accounts pop up in support groups just to unsettle things. It wasn’t long before I had a message from an admin asking why I’d reported it. She was quite abrupt in her tone and said the person had since left the group, which reinforced my thought of it being a fake account. I explained my reasons and said that if the person had left, then that was cool, problem solved. The admin didn’t feel the matter was resolved though and questioned me again, saying she didn’t understand my reasoning and saying the post created a healthy discussion. My point was that it did, but only for those brave enough to speak up and lots of people in recovery aren’t. It was strange having her question me. It annoyed me and stirred up a fire in my belly that had lain dormant for a long time. I wanted to defend the vulnerable. Now, maybe I trod on her toes, maybe I shouldn’t have reported it, and just left it to her, I just didn’t know whether it would be seen by an admin or not. I didn’t know how many people it might have affected before someone said something. Either way, the admin didn’t like my perspective and I didn’t like her aggressive tone and the implication that she was right, regardless of what others thought. There’s no need to be rude in a conversation like that.

But, it was good. It showed me I can voice my opinions. I can be brave. I don’t have to sit quietly by and watch from the sidelines. Oh, and I can remove myself from a group where I don’t like the ethos. So, all in all it was a good lesson to have, and nice to feel I am getting my voice back!

Thanks everyone, I love chatting to you all.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Freedom of Opinion?

I was really surprised recently to read an article online about an advert trying to bring awareness to the fact that, ‘Drink is a Drug,’ was banned in Ireland as it was deemed too ‘political’. It seems that the campaign is being promoted to target teenagers, as opposition to the current adverts promoting the fun and social side of drinking, and instead, to educate them to the dangers of it.

Declan Bourke, the Campaign spokesman argues the point, saying, “Is it okay for our children to be exposed to messages glorifying drink and drawing positive associations with sport and aspirational living, but not to see an ad pointing out the dangers of underage drinking?” I have to say I agree with him.

While I can’t say that all advertising is fair as clearly it is all there for a purpose, paid for by the company wishing to profit, I do wonder if, especially when it is health related like this, there should be a more broad perspective provided, rather than just promoting one aspect which will ultimately lead to bigger sales. I feel like by showing the public the side effects and the negative elements, it gives them a chance to make an informed decision rather than base it on one side of the argument.

I think really there should be stricter rules around the advertising of alcohol, or at least on the promotion of it. I think some of the emphasis should be removed from the ‘fun’ it provides, fair play if people want to drink, I just don’t think we need to be conditioned to rely on it. If we can tighten up the advertising rules for cigarettes and junk food, surely we can include alcohol? What do you all think?

Thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/ad-stating-alcohol-is-a-drug-blocked-as-too-political-971955.html

Alcohol Free Bars

“…we are starting 2020 with a celebration. A celebration of alcohol-free.” When an article starts like this, it’s definitely going to catch my attention! Brewdog, a craft beer company, are announcing their first Alcohol Free Bar, which opened this week in London.

Okay, so I know that alcohol removed beers and wines can be a point of controversy for lots of us that no longer drink alcohol, but isn’t it refreshing to see something where not drinking is for once being promoted. Although a pilot scheme, everything on offer in the bar is alcohol free, making sure there will be no room for error when ordering at the bar, and I have to say, I think it’s a great idea.

I’m not sure that I’ll be making a visit any time soon, because I don’t really know where I stand on drinking anything that resembles alcohol now, but the idea of being able to is nice. Knowing that if I did go there, I wouldn’t be the odd one out, or the only one not under the influence. Claiming that this is the world’s first alcohol free bar, I love the fact that there is a venue which isn’t focused on wine or beer sales, and yet is still providing a bit of a vibrant atmosphere.

This month, The Brewdog AF Bar are running “Drink All You Can Jan,” where they are providing free refills which makes a pleasant change to all the traditional Dry January campaigns. It feels like for once, we don’t have to feel like we might miss out by choosing not to drink, but instead we get to participate in something a little bit fun and quirky.

Finally something in the news that I approve of!
πŸ™‚

Here’s the link if you’d like to read more, and if any of you have been, let me know, I’d love to know what you think!

https://www.brewdog.com/blog/we-are-opening-the-worlds-first-alcohol-free-beer-bar


Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Triggers

Triggers
Writing this blog is helping me work things through.

I know that people with addictions are all triggered by different things but recently I’ve noticed just how varied the range is. I’m a member of a couple of groups where certain things are banned as they could trigger a relapse, but then other things are posted which can affect the balance of the group. Rules are there to protect all members and so things like posting while under the influence aren’t allowed. It’s interesting how many different things can affect the way people think. For example, for me, I’m really affected by adverts portraying the ‘fun’ people have when drinking, it’s normally food adverts with family gathered around the table. They make me feel abnormal, because I can’t do the things the people in the adverts can. I can’t pour that glass to celebrate, and sometimes, I just wish I could. So that bothers me. Other things don’t, like adverts for non-alcoholic drinks and yet that really upset someone in one of the groups recently. They felt it supported a pro-alcohol movement, and I’m not sure that I agree, as for me, wine with the alcohol removed did play a part in my recovery. I know though, that it doesn’t work for everyone. Most things aren’t a one-size-fits-all.

So obviously we can’t all avoid everything that might be a possible trigger, I know I am not going to avoid the TV in case I see an advert or a portrayal of an addict that I don’t like. But how far should we push ourselves? Over Christmas although there was no wine in the house, I found a real trigger in having my in-laws come over, as we used to enjoy a few drinks together. I guess, although it is a trigger to me, and did make me wobble, I shouldn’t avoid it, as no one was actively drinking, it was just a situation that bothered me, and actually, although I do have a drink problem, not everything in the world should be about me and my problem. I wonder if I should have pushed myself more, if I should be going out more, and more able to be around other people drinking without thinking about it? I’m not sure, I don’t have the answer for that yet, but I’m hoping I will work it out soon.

Thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Do We Really Need More Excuses?

It might not be available locally, but I saw this advert before Christmas and it caught my eye, “Aldi are now selling $25 handbags you can pour wine from.” I know most of us have a local Aldi now, and after a quick internet search, I see this sort of thing is largely available online in most of the world.

I couldn’t believe it when I scanned through the article, not only is this being marketed as a stylish and desirable item, it is being regarded as clever for it’s hidden compartment allowing you to hide wine, and of course the writer suggests that, “It’s the handbag set to be on every mum’s Christmas wish list this year.” I can tell you now, it wasn’t on mine.

Do we really need to have items like this? If someone is going out for a picnic or similar, then surely they don’t need to hide the wine? What market is this really aiming for if it is targeted at mums and suggested that the wine needs to be secreted away to, “dispense whenever you fancy.”

Of course the article is supported by many claims from mums, illustrating the value and need for the bag in their lives. I wonder though, do you really need wine in your bag to take the kids out? One mum claimed it is a must for park play dates, and that seems really sad to me. Again, you know I don’t drink any more, but I get that many people do and can enjoy the odd one here and there. I’m just not sure that hiding a bottle in your bag seems like a good idea for anyone. I think one of the problems with addiction is the need to hide what we drink, and not face up to it. Surely this sort of item just encourages that along with the growing emphasis on ‘wine o’clock’?

I’d love to know what you all think.

Once again, thank you for reading, and the link to the article is below if you want a read.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

https://www.kidspot.com.au/lifestyle/home/home-solutions/aldi-are-now-selling-25-handbags-you-can-pour-wine-from/news-story/29daa39bb08952907c3e08bf0a1bee6a

Non-Alcoholic Wine

Non-Alcoholic Wine
After a Christmas parkrun with two of my lovely kiddies.

I had a great gaping hole in my life when I first stopped drinking, Part of that was the extra time and the chaotic mind I’d acquired but I also was used to having a glass in my hand for a large part of the evening. I’m a creature of habit and wanting to fix things as quickly as I could, I decided alcohol free wine would be a good replacement. I know there are very mixed feelings about this, it seems to be really good for some people, and a painful reminder for others. Bearing in mind I’d been drinking for a good few years, it was strange not to have a wine glass in my hand, other glasses didn’t cut it for me in the evening and a mug was certainly not okay. I had a friend in recovery that actually resorted to drinking milk in a wine glass for similar reasons.

Many people crave sugar when they stop drinking, it seems that both alcohol and sugar boost dopamine in our body, this gives us a feeling of pleasure. Obviously when we don’t get this from alcohol (and many drinkers are getting it in large quantities) we look elsewhere for it. Cutting alcohol and sugar from your lifestyle might be a contributing factor into why many drinkers lose weight when they stop drinking. For me it was the other way round, I put on quite a lot of weight because I started eating properly again.

I did crave sugar though, biscuits with my tea where my greatest weakness, as was chocolate in the evening. But none of it hit the same spot as a nice cold glass of wine. That was where the non-alcoholic wine came in. I spent many an hour googling how much alcohol was in these bottles that said they had the alcohol removed. I was pleased to find out that they were ‘safe’ and actually had health benefits! It seemed too good to be true. It wasn’t the same, but at least I could have it in the house. To start with it was fine, and to be honest, I drank it for a good year before the same panicky feelings started to come back. I had to make sure that there was some in the house at all times, especially on Sundays when the shops shut earlier. It began to remind me more and more of drinking real wine.

Then I had a melt down in our local supermarket. I’d been shopping with my biggest and littlest boys. I had a normal amount of shopping and in it was a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic wine. I was scanning it as normal when the baby started to cry and so I turned to him to check he was okay. My other lovely son carried on scanning… when I came to pay I was asked for ID. I gave it, and then my son was asked. The cashier was so rude, and told me that she needed Joe’s as he had ‘handled’ the alcohol. I told her 1) it was alcohol free and 2) it was mine, and may have said something like, “Look in the trolley, you can see it’s all mine. He isn’t partying with a box of cereal and toilet rolls is he?” I told her that I was paying, but had been distracted and was just comforting my baby and she accused me of lying, saying he hadn’t been crying at all. That escalated the situation somewhat to me in tears, reporting said cashier to her supervisor who upon being made aware of the situation apologised profusely and offered me the bottles anyway.

At this point I was so over it, I felt vulnerable, frustrated and stupid. I knew I was possibly over-reacting, but the challenge didn’t help me, as I was still just trying to get by, and at that point, it felt like they had cut off my life line, by refusing me my non-alcoholic wine. It just showed how confusing my relationship with wine was. It made me resentful of buying something like that and being put in that situation. I refused it then, and left, I wished I’d left the rest of the shopping too, I was that angry. And because I was so angry, even though that was our local supermarket, we didn’t use the shop in over a year and half. I refused, and my husband supported me. I know the cashier wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but having someone accuse me of lying hit a sensitive spot.

It was at this point I realised that the alcohol removed wine would have to go to. It had done it’s job, and it was time. I have about four bottles in the house, but haven’t drunk any in months. I even wondered whether to have a glass over Christmas and New Year, as I am of course ‘allowed’ to, but it’s strange, for the first time, it would seem like a real step backwards for me. Even using a wine glass would, and that was something that felt like an extension of my hand for a long time. So things change, and I guess, I am changing too.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

The Effects of Alcohol on our Children

Just before Christmas I read an article called, “The Damaging Effect of Alcohol Culture on Our Kids.” Although it is written from an American perspective, I think the effects are the same here in the UK too.

It’s a sad fact that the more children see adults using alcohol as a way to manage stress or emotions, the more they will turn to it for the same reason as they get older. The author of the article points to an event where she was stressed and upset with her children and the youngest, only a toddler, brings her an empty wine glass, already seeing the link between the glass and a calm mummy. Is this what we want for our children? She states, “Children don’t copy what we say, they copy what we do. And what we are doing is drinking in almost every social situation and glorifying booze without a second thought.” Every advert they see and all our actions are modelling what we perceive is normal, and teaching our children that we need an external source to manage our behaviour and emotions, which is often found in a bottle.

The article goes on to discuss the messages we are bombarded with, regarding drinking, you know the ones, where you buy a glass reminding you that it’s prosecco time or something equally as bizarre. These bother me, but I always wondered if I was just being over-sensitive. It’s quite refreshing to read that I am clearly not the only one who hates the justification all these gifts provide.

I like the clarity of one of the final statements given by the author when she says, “Lastly, and most importantly, if you’re drinking daily in front of your kids, stop. It starts and ends with your example. If you cannot get through the day without a drink, if you use wine as the fix-all for your stress, and you’re showing your kids that alcohol is a required part of adulthood, you are sending them the message that substance = stress reliever.” When you read it like that, it’s quite clear of the example we send to our children by drinking regularly, and yet we are surprised when our youngsters grow up and begin to ‘experiment’. They are only replicating what they see, in the culture of our society, and reinforced by our behaviour at home.

I’m not trying to demonise alcohol for recreational purposes, I know many people out there can moderate and that drinking at home is only an occasional experience. There are however, a lot of people like me, who cannot moderate, and by drinking regularly around their children we are only encouraging them to do the same as they get older.

I hope that by gaining my sobriety, I have broken the circle for my children, and they won’t fall into the same traps that I have. On the other side, though, at least if they do, I’ll be there to understand and help them pick up the pieces.

Here’s the link if you want to have a read of the article by Emily Lynn Paulson,
https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/the-damaging-effect-of-alcohol-culture-on-our-kids

Thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Yoga

Yoga
After run yoga!

A famous yoga teacher called Kino MacGregor once said, “Practice yoga and change your world.” It sounds a bit airy fairy doesn’t it, and yet it works. Yoga was always something I had wanted to do, but didn’t, a bit like running, because all of the stereotypes were these fit, skinny, bendy people, and I wasn’t like that.

I finally stumbled into a yoga class on the advice of my midwife, when pregnant with number four. She thought it would help my anxiety and also help as I had a lot of pain in my hips. Being part of a pregnancy yoga class took a lot of the pressure away, I wasn’t expected to be super bendy, and in fact was told that, ‘now is not the time to push yourself’. It was the gentle introduction I needed. I didn’t have the greatest relationship with my body, it was never thin or strong enough, and when I stopped drinking, with the increase of anxiety and recognition of other issues, I found I was actually disliking myself. It was almost like the wine had washed away everything I had ever thought good about myself. Slowly, slowly, I started to gain in confidence again. Slowly, I started to feel good about myself again.

As I said, I wasn’t particularly flexible, but yoga taught me to be strong in body and stronger than I had been in mind. With practice I got more flexible and learned to stand on my head, something I never thought I’d be able to do in my mid-thirties. I found it a calming way to reconnect with myself again. If I hadn’t started yoga, there would be no way I’d be a runner now, so I have more to thank it for than just the peace it gives me.

Like most things, I find it easy to put off even the things I love or benefit from, so I’ve signed up to a 30 day yoga challenge to jump start my practice into the New Year! I find challenges really help with my motivation, and often find one on Instagram if I need a bit if encouragement. Knowing I need to post a pose each day as part of the challenge helps keep me accountable! If it hadn’t been for yoga, I would never have started running, and the two of them together have been fantastic for me.

Do any of you practice? What helps motivate you?

As always, thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

New Years Day Parkrun Double

New Years Day Parkrun Double
At our second New Years Day Parkrun yesterday.

You’ll have seen me talk about parkrun before, as nowadays I’m a huge fan, but I’m going to mention it again, to tell you about yesterday. Normally a parkrun only happens at 9am on a Saturday morning all across the world, with a couple of exceptions in some countries due to heat. The idea is that runners can only complete one run a week, so it makes the milestones that are awarded a little more special as it can’t be rushed and takes time to achieve them. The only exception to the rule is that some parkruns do host events on Christmas Day and New Years Day, regardless of the day of the week, and extra to that, sometimes you get to do two on the same day on New Year. That means three in one week if you do the normal one on a Saturday!

It took a little bit of organising, because it is a rare occasion that parkrun times change, and so we tried to work out what would be possible for us to do, considering the distance we’d need to drive and the time it would take us to run while we were there. Luckily, there’s a website which helpss you to plan. You input your postcode, your predicted finishing time and it works it out for you, giving you the possibilities you can run and the distances to drive to get to them. As we are in Cornwall, there aren’t as many parkruns as in other parts of the country, but we had three options, run at Eden, as Lanhydrock wasn’t running, but that would give us no time for a second run. Our second option was to go to Plymbridge and follow up with one of three in Devon, but they were all new to us, and a little further to go. Our third option was to get up earlier and drive to Heartlands as they were running an early parkrun at 8.30. Once finished we had an hour or so to drive to Penrose to start the second run at 10.30. It was a mission as it meant waking most of the family, (including two of the teenagers), up early enough to leave the house at 7.30 and of course, that was after staying up for New Year. We decided to leave the eldest at home, after his night out, he didn’t get home until after 5am!

It was worth it though, what a lovely way to start the New Year, even if it was a bit wet at the first parkrun and dry but colder at the second. It’s the furthest Katie has run, and she did so well, despite getting a bit cold on the drive between the two and struggling to get going again at the second start. Barn missed the finish and decided to do start an extra lap at Heartlands, costing him three minutes, but his time was still great.

I wanted to run 1000 miles in 2019, but was a bit short, but with 6 miles already done on the first day of January, maybe this is the year I’ll do it!

What are your targets for this year?

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Connection

Connection
Feeling connected stops us from feeling alone.

A few years ago I was really struggling. I was at the point of realising, coming to terms with, and dealing with my alcohol addiction and it was wiping me out mentally. Everything I thought I knew about myself changed. The ‘fun’ me wasn’t there anymore, just this nervous wreck who was scared of her own shadow. I felt awful about everything I could remember doing, and worse about the things I had forgotten. I had a lot of time on my hands, but no concentration to focus on anything. I wanted to get better, but I didn’t know how. I thought by removing wine, everything would be okay. I guess what I hadn’t thought about was how long it took me to get there, how many nights and days, so it was of course not going to be a quick fix.

So I began to devour books. I’d always loved reading, but in the last few years, had neither the time or inclination to read like I had used to. Even when I enjoyed a book, I struggled to remember what I had read, so missed bits or had to re-read. There seemed little point.

With my new alcohol free mind, I re-found my love of reading and started to read anything and everything about alcohol addiction, anxiety, mental-health and loads of self-help books. I could probably open my own library. I began to understand that my addiction was only part of my problem and my mental health needed a fair bit of attention too. I felt pretty low, for letting myself get into such a state, and for not being able to fix it more easily. To be honest, I thought for a long time that if I admitted my problem, people wouldn’t believe me, and because of the way I presented myself to the world, they’d just think I was attention seeking.

Then one day, I found a blog. It wasn’t about addiction, it was just a woman, writing about her imperfect life. She was quite new back then but has gone on to release several books and do some amazing charity work. She wrote about the good, the bad and everything in between. She challenged women to rethink the way they thought about themselves and about others. Conversations followed her posts and I began to realise that other people out there struggled too, that no-one had a perfect life and that I didn’t need to hate myself for my imperfections. She called her readers ‘Queens’ and reminded us that it is okay for your crown to slip once in a while. You can always straighten it up again.

I think connecting with other people is vital to recovery or any sort of mental health difficulty. Actually I think connections are vital to life. I know there is a lot of negativity surrounding social media, but for me, I found myself isolating myself for a long time. I didn’t want to meet people, but talking in the safety of my own home, via my iPhone or computer made it easier. If it hadn’t been for being able to make connections with like minded people on platforms like this, I’m not sure I would be where I am now. Even my running club is an online group. I run alone, don’t go to club nights but when I want to chat, there are a whole herd of runners there for me.

Recently my hard work has started to pay off and I’ve noticed I’m not analysing all my conversations with ‘real’ people quite so much. Instead I walk away feeling quite chuffed with myself that I’ve managed to have a chat with someone. It’s such a small thing to many, but to me, it gives me a bit of a warm glow inside, how ever soppy that sounds!

Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Couch to 5k

Couch-to-5k
At the end of a Half Marathon with my son back in the summer.


I want to take a minute to talk about Couch to 5k (C25k), I know many of you probably know about it, but a lot don’t and as I have found running really useful in my recovery, I thought this might help someone out there. The program takes a complete non-runner to progress to run 5k in between 8-12 weeks. I was a total non-runner and started in 2018, 18 months into my recovery and new sober life. Before that, I think I was still a bit in shock and had no extra energy for anything like running.

I heard running was good for mental health, as I have quite severe anxiety, I was happy to try anything. I didn’t have a great deal of confidence in myself or in my body, so didn’t really love going out in leggings to start with, but persevered, just picking places that I wouldn’t find too many people to make me feel uncomfortable.

So, with my new plan in my head, I downloaded the C25k app, and put on my headphones. This was great for me, it meant I could zone out and just try to run, while a voice in my ear told me when to walk and when to run. There are lots of running clubs and groups that run c25k training sessions and for some people, the camaraderie of training in a group will be great, I just wasn’t ready to run with people back then, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up. My app wasn’t complicated, but the running was! I couldn’t even run for 30 seconds at the beginning. I felt terrible, I couldn’t believe I was so unfit! Before I stopped drinking I was quite skinny, so I convinced myself the two things were linked. They aren’t, and with my healthier lifestyle, I put on a bit of weight, which obviously also needed moving too.

Although it was hard to start at the beginning, I did feel that the way the programme is broken down really helped me see improvements quite quickly and if I struggled, I’d just repeat a week. It wasn’t many weeks before I could run for five minutes continuously, which may not seem like a lot, but believe me, for a non-runner like me it was amazing. As I had the little one at home, we looked out for a treadmill, so for the days I couldn’t get out, if it was too dark or anything, I could run at home instead, and it really helped with my training. They say to book a race, as it helps with motivation, and I chose to run a 5k fundraiser for The Cornwall Air Ambulance. It was great, my son and I raised over a hundred pounds, but it did put quite a lot of pressure on me. I felt like I might not be able to achieve it, or I’d be last, and I ended up hurting my knee and having to take a couple of weeks off.

Soon enough, I could go out again and learning from my mistake, I took things a little slower. I stopped worrying and tried to enjoy it. I remember a turning point quite clearly when I had to run for a set amount of time, and I thought to myself, “Only eight minutes left.” Suddenly I caught myself and realised that I had achieved something I never thought I would! I still struggle a little with my mind when I run, I often have a little voice telling me that I can’t do it. Worrying about completing a distance, however long, worries me, but I know now logically that I can do it, so I just try to push through it. That voice has got to give up one day surely?

So for anyone out there even contemplating running, get out and give it a go. There are so many people of every shape and size having a go, it’s so much more inclusive than I ever thought it would be, and there are so many opportunities for socialising too, whether it is joining a club or having a drink in the cafe after parkrun. Giving you a bit of time to yourself and a a sense of achievement, it’s a great hobby to have, I never thought I was a runner and yet here I am, enjoying it and running distances I never thought I could. You never know, taking up running could be a great New Years Resolution!

If any of you are new to running or doing C25k, let me know how you’re getting on, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Saturday Morning Parkrun, (the last one of the year!)

Saturday Morning Parkrun, (the last one of. the year!)
End of parkrun photo with my son Barn.

I haven’t run properly in the last couple of months. First I wasn’t allowed to, because of my eye surgery, then I used being busy at work as an excuse -although, in fairness, it has been very busy! After that of course it was Christmas. Like most people, I’ve felt like I’m running about trying to get things sorted out and running has unfortunately been the thing I’ve let slide which is a shame, because I like the way it calms my mind. Even when I don’t feel like going out for a run, I always feel good when I get back, I feel like I’ve achieved something and my head feels clearer. It’s funny, I don’t necessarily notice the difference running makes to me, except when I don’t go out for a run.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d try to make the effort to go to parkrun every week again. I find my home run a bit too busy in the summer and with all the rain we’ve had recently, the hills would be pretty tricky too, as it is one of the hilliest in the UK, so we’ve been going to our next local one which is at the Eden Project. Afterwards we get a cup of tea in the cafe. There is a lovely community feeling to it, and we are home and done by 10:30 leaving the rest of the day free.

On my first week back I was shocked as to how much slower I was, almost three minutes slower than my fastest time there back in July, and I couldn’t run up all the hills anymore. But, however disappointed I was, it was probably the incentive I needed and it was better than staying at home on the sofa. The saying that I was lapping everyone on the sofa did come to mind a few times! The next week was a minute faster and closer to my PB, and this week I took another fifteen seconds off again, which isn’t bad considering how much I’ve eaten over Christmas! The main difference is that a few years ago I would have added quite a lot of wine to the Christmas consumption list, and there would have been no way I would have gone out for a run.

I’ve got four half marathons booked in the next few months, so I’m glad I’m getting back into the swing of things, and I think being slower than I was has given me the kick I needed to get myself moving again. It’s so easy not to, and I always feel better when I have.

Thanks for reading.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Understanding

Understanding
My family.

Trying to explain to your family that you have an addiction is not easy. For a long time I felt that I didn’t have a problem and even when I realised I did, there was still a voice in the back of my mind that said I was just attention seeking, that someone like me couldn’t have an addiction, and that everyone would think I was just after attention.

Just to be clear, when I say everyone, I mean everyone except for my close family. My husband lived the ups and downs with me. He was there for me, even when I wasn’t there for myself, and tried to do everything he could to help me. I thought I’d hidden it well enough from my children, I thought they were young enough not to know, that they wouldn’t remember, so I didn’t tell them. One by one though, in the last year they have all spoken to me about it. My eldest has asked me the least, so perhaps he remembers more than I’d like. My second to youngest was the first to ask me, one night when we were driving home. He must have been 13 at the time, and was so nervous asking me. I’ve always had the rule, if one of the kids is mature enough to be able to ask me something (this could be anything at all) then I will do my best to answer. I hadn’t been expecting it to be this though. It surprised me and I wasn’t sure what to say, should I tell the truth or gloss over it? I don’t think there is a right answer for this question and what worked for me, wouldn’t necessarily be the right thing for someone else, but I went with it and told him everything. Over the past year he has had more questions and I’ve answered those too. It’s been tricky trying to explain something that I was so ashamed of to someone I cared so much about, I didn’t want him to hate me, but, I really feel it has made us closer. He certainly knows now why I find things difficult sometimes, or why I might avoid certain situations. It isn’t a conversation I wanted to have, but I am glad I did.

Not long after this, my daughter and I were talking, also in the car. Driving seems to be a good time to talk. She wasn’t talking about me, but a character on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. We were talking about family gatherings and saying how awkward they could be, and I said I understood. She was surprised and told me yes, but I don’t have a problem like Amy. Amy was an addict in the show. I said actually I did. The conversation went from there, and again, although it wasn’t something I wanted to bring up, I am glad I did.

I always felt like I was stepping on egg shells, I didn’t want to admit to my problem but with it in the shadows I also couldn’t really comment on a lot of things. We’d be watching TV and there might be a portrayal of an addict that was done really well, or really badly, (they do get blamed for everything) and I felt like I couldn’t comment. Now I have the freedom to say what I think about it, and my family knows I am talking from experience. I do find TV shows difficult. They often make addicts out to be awful people who let everyone down and that isn’t always true. Sometimes they are doing the best they can.

Recently my middle son told me that he found me inspirational. Followed by, “Wow, that sounded cheesy!” But he went on, that it showed him he could overcome something difficult, like I had. I hope they never go through what I did, but if my hard-times have shown my kids that they can overcome literally anything if they put their minds to it, then at least there is a point to it.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Boxing Day

Boxing Day
Exploring in the rain.

On Christmas Day I was so positive. I had a bit of a wobble but it wasn’t a big deal. I felt pretty chuffed with myself. Boxing Day was a bit of a different story. It’s weird how it catches you out. You get a bit complacent. You think you’re fixed. At least I do. Or did. I’ve realised I’m not quite there yet.

On Boxing Day my mother and father in law were planning to come around. It’s a normal thing, some years we go to them, and some years they come to us. It’s just the way we balance things out as we spend Christmas Day itself at home with the kids. In theory, everything should have been fine, I didn’t really have a reason to find a problem with any of the arrangements and there was no pressure. They know I don’t drink and have been totally supportive, but suddenly, about ten minutes before they arrived I started to panic. Over the years my mother in law and I shared quite a few bottles of wine. She is not a heavy drinker so I always drank more, but seeing them was always a reason to have few glasses. Reminding myself of that made me so envious, and I really wanted to be back there enjoying it.

It’s strange how when you reminisce, you remember just the good and not the bad. You forget how one drink wouldn’t be enough, and by the end of the evening you’d either be asleep, have embarrassed yourself or had an argument, or maybe all three. At least I probably would have.

So, I had a little cry, reminded myself that it’s my choice not to drink and that choice makes me a better person than the one I was. We put our shoes on and took the kids for a walk. It was tipping down and we got completely soaked but when we got back I felt so much better. My mind felt like it was my own again, and I’d been able to put off the temporary hijack from unwanted thoughts.

I wonder if it’s an element of being at home for a few days, without the normal routines we all follow? I haven’t even run since last weekend! That certainly makes a difference normally to the way I think and helps calm the chaos!

I don’t ever want to give in. Three years and three months is too long to throw away but crikey, some days are hard!

I hope you all had a lovely day!

Thanks for reading.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

My Third Christmas

My Third Christmas

Well I did it, and it was a lot easier than last year. And even more easy than the year before that. Three alcohol free Christmases. That’s something to be proud of isn’t it?

We spent the day at home, us and the kids, as is our tradition. Then we see family on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. It’s only our parents who live near us, everyone else is hundreds of miles away so we aren’t torn in too many directions like some people are. This year work has been hectic though and I didn’t feel we have the time to prepare until the last minute. It was busy right up until closing time on Christmas Eve. Then we stopped.

Christmas Day was lovely. We were all tired, me my husband and the kids, and the little one is fighting off a bug, but just spending time together was wonderful and this year, for once, my thoughts didn’t revolve around drink.

I had one moment, where I felt a little lost, but it was over so quickly that I didn’t even bother to say anything. I was standing by the fridge, and suddenly found myself reminiscing slightly about the thought of that glass. Of course my Christmases always involved wine. I remembered the feeling of the glass in my hand and the taste of the wine, that no other drink quite matched… And then I caught myself. That moment of sadness where I remembered I couldn’t drink ‘normally’ like other people passed, and I moved on.

It’s nice that even these moments are becoming fewer and further between. I used to think they’d never stop and slowly they are, even if now they come out of the blue and surprise me.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and made it through without too many dramas? Happy

Thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Living a Sober Life

Living a Sober Life
At Eden after Parkrun last week.

Sobriety is hard. It’s probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

It surprised me because initially all my worry was around giving up drinking. I mean, I only ever drank in the evenings, except on weekends when it was allowed to be a little earlier, and holidays or special occasions for the same reason. I wasn’t an all day drinker, but when I did drink, and that was every day, without fail, I’d consume at least one and a half but more often two bottles of wine by myself. But that aside, the drinking bit, although a hard thing to do, was done. All I had to do really was stop drinking. Just refrain from going to the fridge and filling up my glass. It doesn’t sound too hard does it?

It was the thinking bit I wasn’t expecting to be so hard. Suddenly I had a lot of extra time. That time meant I did extra thinking, and the removal of wine from my life meant my emotions started to come back to life. That was weird, and even now, I still think I’m experiencing new things almost every day. Without wine to numb my thoughts, my mind was a whirring mess, but it was mine, and I had to learn to deal with all this excess of emotion. I felt like I was able to appreciate everything, that I could see things that I just couldn’t before. That I felt things that I hadn’t done for a long time. I’d thought wine made me fun and grown up and all that, but I didn’t realise how much it stopped me from experiencing. I didn’t realise how much damage it did to me. I knew it took the ‘edge’ off, but I didn’t realise it almost washed the foundations away too.

Rebuilding is taking time, but I know now that my foundations are strong. They say you have to hit rock bottom to change, and so my foundations are built on that rock. It’s certainly been a challenge, but I feel good now, I’m liking the person I’m turning out to be under it all. Three years is a long time, and yet it is nothing at all. I thought quitting drinking would be the hard part, but learning to live with your true self is harder. It’s also exciting, and although it sounds soppy, you don’t have to let anything hold yourself back.

So to anyone out there struggling in the early (or not so early) days, just go slowly and more importantly, be kind to yourselves. It does get easier and it is so worth it.


Much love.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Getting out there

Getting Out There
Me and my friend 'Broxanne'

A few years ago I felt like I could do anything. Nothing seemed to worry me, nothing seemed to get to me. Alcohol gave me an armour that took the edge off. If I worried about things more often than not, a glass of wine would help fix it. I never drank in the day, but more often than not, the after effects of the evening before helped take the harsh reality of tricky situations away, and a glass at the end of the day would stop me overthinking. Somehow I could push through most things, but in hindsight, it was like I wasn’t really there, it was like a game that I was watching but didn’t really matter too much.

Of course I don’t have that buffer for my feelings now. It makes doing things just a little bit harder as I have to face up to them head-on. The lack of this psychological buffer really knocked me, I didn’t realise how much harder things would be, and how things that seemed easy before, things that I could do with my eyes closed would be difficult. It became easier to stop doing a lot, at least the things I didn’t have to do. I found my self-confidence plummeted and probably because I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone, things got worse.

I worried I would get things wrong, I was worried I would make a fool of myself, and in worrying, I stopped doing. I’m not sure what has changed, but something has, maybe it’s just an element of time helping to heal? In the last few months I’ve started trying to do things again. I’ve tackled things a little more head-on. I’ve started going out to business meetings again, something I really couldn’t have faced a few months ago, but the more I do it, the easier it seems. I might not be the most confident speaker, addressing the room makes me nervous and I stumble a little over my words, but I know that I am an authentic version of myself, one that might make mistakes but is doing her best, and actually beginning to enjoy meeting people and getting things done again.

Last week I attended a breakfast meeting. Being there for 7.30am wasn’t something I would have looked forward to before, and to be honest it was hard leaving my warm bed, but I went anyway. Once I was on the road watching the sun break through the dark it was fine, as was the meeting. In fact it was more than fine, I spoke with lots of people, I addressed the room and didn’t forget what I was saying. I laughed and enjoyed myself. I had a photo taken with a colleague/friend and when I showed my daughter later, she said, “Mum you look so happy!” That she could see how I felt and that it was genuine means a lot.

It feels like I am getting myself back, and that can only be a good thing.

Oh, and my stunning friend in the photo? Well they raised over £2000 for charity for attending the meeting looking so beautiful!

Thanks as always for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

WIll Power

Will Power
They say 'do one thing a day that scares you'? Well here's mine - I'm not great with heights and I'm on a rope bridge!

I recently told you all about Tuesday Night Wine Club and some of my friends, well, I also had another friend… I was feeling honest one day about 18 months after I became sober. She was surprised, told me she liked a drink too and asked, “Didn’t you have the will power to stop?” I was so shocked! What a stupid thing to say! (Sorry friend!) Of course I had the willpower, haven’t you seen it? I’ve had the willpower over the last few years to get up and carry on, even when I was struggling. To get through a day, when I was locked in self-loathing for wanting to drink something that I didn’t want, to put myself through that each day and then eventually come out the other side. I had the will power to admit I needed help and then do everything I could to stop. I had the will power to smash a wine glass on the floor because I was so angry with myself for wanting to fill it up again. I had the will power to stop. Eventually. But it is more than that. Addiction isn’t something anyone would choose. It isn’t a choice it is a disease. That’s not an excuse, some people can drink, enjoy it, and stop, and some people cannot. I cannot. Not anymore. It is an insidious, horrible, poisonous disease that saps your self-respect and all your energy. You use everything you have to keep going, to put on the show, so everyone knows (or thinks) you are fine, and you are left feeling isolated and confused, unsure of how to move forward. Until one day you stop fighting and choose. I chose to leave it behind and three years on, I’m beginning to be able to admit just how hard that was. Do you know what though? It’s hard to look back on, but I am so glad I am here now, looking back on that episode of my life.

Thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Labelling

Labelling
Smile!

The language we use affects the way we think about ourselves. I tried to write this post a few days ago, but I stopped when I realised I hadn’t said what I wanted to. 

By using a word to describe a condition, we create a label which begins to define us as a person. A label can limit us, and make us think that is all we are. 

I struggled with the word ‘alcoholic’. It didn’t sit well with me at all. I worked, I had happy kids and a clean house, how could I possibly be defined as an alcoholic? When I think of the word it conjures images in my mind that I would rather not be associated with and yet I could be. Although I am different in many ways, I am also the same. 

I preferred the term addict, although to be an alcohol addict is much the same as an alcoholic, it felt like the label wasn’t just on me, it was also on the condition. It wasn’t just my failure, it was also the substance’s fault. Before, if tried to define myself I almost whispered the word ‘alcoholic’, I was afraid it could make everyone see there was something wrong with me. More recently I’m trying to come to terms with it, thinking that if I am okay with it, it takes the power away from the word. Gradually it has begun to bother me less and the more I use the term, the less power it seems to have.

I found the same with the term tea-total. Now there is nothing wrong with it at all, but I felt it just a little limiting. I don’t want to be limited by something, I had plenty of that when I worried where my next glass of wine was coming from. Personally I quite like the term alcohol free. That’s how I feel now, free of it, like I’ve shaken it off and it isn’t holding me back anymore. I feel this term implies it’s my choice to be without the burden of alcohol, which of course it is. It makes me feel like I’ve cast something off, rather than have something weigh me down.

Isn’t it funny the power these small words have? I never thought the terminology of something would bother me so much, but I know we are all different, even down to the perceptions we create by using a simple word.

So, is it just me, or do you have any real likes or dislikes about these sorts of things?

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

This boy πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

This boy
Our littlest monkey.

Stanley arrived in 2017. The youngest of our four, there is an age gap of 12 years between him and his next brother, 14 between him and his sister and 16 between him and his biggest brother. Age gaps seem to be a point of preference and disagreement, but for our family, this is perfect.

Lee and I were lucky enough to meet when we were young. We’ve spent our entire adult lives together. We’ve had struggles, things weren’t so financially secure for us in the beginning as we didn’t have years of savings behind us, but every struggle we have had has made us stronger. We had our oldest children Joe, Katie and Barn quite soon. There’s not a big age gap between them as we wanted them to be close. It was important to us that they were. Joe and Katie share the same birthday but two years apart and Barn is 23 months younger than Katie. It was full on when they were small. It was brilliant, but we didn’t get much time to ourselves and when Lee was working long hours, to get us extra money, it all fell on me. We had always wanted one more to complete our family, but the time wasn’t right, it wouldn’t have been fair on the kids or us to have another one then. We wouldn’t have had enough time or space to make sure they had all they needed. So we didn’t, and they grew.

I can’t believe how quickly they grew to be honest, I still feel the same age I was when I had Joe, but he is 18 now. It doesn’t seem possible. Life flies by. It seemed we had waited too long to expand our family. The kids were too old and we worried it wouldn’t work, that they would resent a new little person in the house.

Things have changed for us over the last few years, we started a family business and began working together, which was strange to start with but wonderful in it’s own way. It comes with a lot of challenges, but obviously provides us with a lot more flexibility. I don’t have to work five days a week now, which is nice, and we realised if we put off having another baby any longer then we wouldn’t ever do it. So we did. The kids were all teenagers (or almost), and we did wonder how they would take it, but they were all excited, once they got over the surprise.

When Stanley arrived we joked that he had been lost in the post, and that’s why there was such an age gap. He was always meant to be here, we just had to wait for the right time, and when he did arrive it was perfect. There has never been a little boy so loved. He is adored by the whole family, and always has someone to play with. Everyone has time for him, and no one feels left out. The bonus of the other kids being older is that when they go out, it’s almost like having an only child for a minute. It is so different from having the chaos that came with having three kiddies under four years old. Not better, just different. An experience I didn’t think I would have. To a family that is close anyway, he just brought more love. I’m careful not to ask too much of the older kids. I’m often told I’m lucky to have three built in babysitters, but I wouldn’t ever want them to think that was all they were. I wouldn’t want to take advantage of them, but it is handy to be able to pop to the shop when I need something without having to drag them all out!

I don’t think there are any rights or wrongs when it comes to family dynamics. For us this works, but if you’d asked me five years ago, I would have told you the gap between the kids would have been too much. There just came a point when it didn’t matter any more. Several people have told me we should have one more so that he isn’t on his own, but he isn’t. He might be the smallest, but he has the love and attention of all of us, and for that, he is one very lucky little thing. I knew the minute he arrived, that our family was complete, and perfect and that makes me one very happy Mummy.


Thanks as always, for reading this.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Gratitude for a Sober Life

Gratitude For A Sober Life
Moorland walking

It’s getting towards the end of the year and I’m feeling pretty grateful for all that I have and for how far I’ve come. I feel like I’m getting myself back if that makes sense. There are so many big things, but here’s a little list of the small things that actually really matter…

Since being sober I have never…

• Hidden my recycling.

• Taken my recycling to the dump in between collections to avoid embarrassment of an overflowing box of glass.

• Snuck to the fridge to have a sneaky extra glass of wine, when I thought no-one would notice.

• Had to cover up a hangover or sore head, and actually allowed myself to be genuinely poorly.

• Wondered what I said or did the night before.

• Forgotten what I watched on TV the night before. (Okay I might still do this sometimes!)

• Known that during an argument or cross word it was me talking and not the wine.

• Not had to make extra trips to the shop because I might run out of wine.

• Felt like I had a constant need for something.

• Avoided going out because it was more ‘fun’ to stay at home with a few glasses of wine.

• Felt the need to argue with myself and convince myself that my behaviour was normal, when clearly it wasn’t.

• Worried excessively about my health. (With good cause).

• Felt completely out of control.

• Felt caught in a losing battle between myself and alcohol.



What do you think? Is there anything else would you add to this list?


As always, thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Tuesday Night Wine Club

Tuesday Night Wine Club
Yoga with my littlest one.

I used to have a friend, (I used to have more than one, but that is another story), we used to take it in turns to pick up our boys from primary school a couple of days a week to give us both a little more time. She’d pick her son up from mine when she was done, it was her other half’s day off so she often didn’t stop long, and I’d do the same, picking mine up from her house when I was done at work. It was nice, they used to play together and we used to chat. One day her sister joined us. I didn’t know her well, but she seemed nice, and the bonus was instead of being offered tea, I was offered wine instead. This was great as it meant I didn’t want to rush home. One week rolled into the next and we joked, while chatting and sitting out in the sun in the back garden as the kids played, about ‘Tuesday Night Wine Club’. This was during the time I was beginning to get concerned (again) about the amount I was drinking, but here I was being offered wine by two other mothers, surely that was proof that everyone else drank as much as me? At least on some days?

I remember being pleased that I had found a little loop hole in my plan, I had an excuse to drink somewhere that wasn’t at home, and of course, seeing as it was after 5pm, that meant as soon as I got home, I could carry on. Another glass as I was cooking, another one with dinner, and so one, until bed time.

The problem was of course, this was another friend I couldn’t talk to about it. Of all my close relationships, the only person I ever spoke to about drinking was my husband and even then it was tricky. If I was feeling vulnerable it was almost easy to admit I had a problem, to ask for help, but I was afraid to, because I knew that the minute I really admitted to it, beyond the wondering stage, I would actually have to do something about it, and I wasn’t ready to do that. In fact, the thought of doing something about it terrified me. As much as I was beginning to resent the hold wine had over me, I also loved it, and in the end it was like saying good bye to a best friend. One I wanted to kill.

For something that is marketed as fun and relaxing, the opposite happened to me. I know I’m not alone, but I have never felt so conflicted in my life. It is a battle at times, one I wasn’t sure if I’d win. Anyway, in the end, I won, I’m still winning and I guess that is the point?


Thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Community

Community
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.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

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.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

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.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

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.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

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.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

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.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

My Not So Secret Diary

My Not So Secret Diary
Running on Dartmoor this Summer.

I’m quite a private person. I keep myself to myself, so the fact that I write a lot down and share the inner most workings of my mind with everyone who reads my blog is quite bizarre. I’m not really an over sharer, and yet here I am over sharing!

The fact is, most of my family and all of my friends would only have found out about my drinking problem by reading this blog. I didn’t tell people besides my close family because I didn’t really know how to. I assumed that people would think the worst of me, that they’d assume, because I let wine get control of me, that I was a bad mother, or a bad wife, and that generally I wasn’t good enough. The truth is, I love my husband and our kids more than anything. So when I can I like to have them read everything I write, sometimes before I post it.

I spoke about this to two of my kids (the middle two) a couple of weeks ago. I was suddenly embarrassed when people I actually knew started reading what I had written, and worried that mattered more than when strangers read it. I know it’s the same information but I wondered if it was more personal somehow. They both looked at me like I was mad when I asked if my blog embarrassed them, then they both reassured me that it didn’t. In fact my son said that if people were to look at my blog or my Instagram what they would see is a Mum who has overcome a problem and is always out doing things with her kids. That made me feel better. A lot better. To think that I have overcome something this big, and I still have the love and respect of my family means the world to me.

Sharing my experiences was not something I took lightly. I always wanted to write, even from a young age, but life got in the way. When I was struggling in the early days of sobriety, reading the experiences of others really helped, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the way I felt, like other people, women, mothers, etc, had been where I was. I carried a lot of shame about it though, and for that reason mainly, I kept it to myself. One day, and I really don’t know what changed, I wanted to put some of my thoughts down on paper. Once I’d started it was like a dam had broken and loads more came spilling out. All these memories and thoughts filled the paper, and suddenly my head started feeling clearer. They say that writing is cathartic, and in my case it certainly is. I feel like I am finally filing all these thoughts and experiences away and creating a bit more order. I really hope that someone reading this blog finds it useful, to be able to return the favour would mean a lot to me, but at the very least, if nothing else, it makes me feel better, and that can only be a good thing.


Thank you as ever, for taking the time to read this and connect with me.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

This is not political…

This is not political
So much recycling!

I guess really I’m just confused, and perhaps a bit cross. Let me try to explain… Whatever party you support or don’t support, whether you love them or hate them, there do seem to be two main points in any of the agendas. One is Brexit, and I’m not going to get into that now! The second one is Climate Change. Now I am all for us doing something for the planet. We need to, as it’s been said before, there is no planet B. I want somewhere for my children’s children to live, and their children after that, but the way it’s going, I’m not sure what they will be left with. There are plenty of disaster movies surrounding the apocalypse, but maybe ours won’t be that dramatic, maybe we will just run out of everything we need to live.

I try to live better, I recycle everything I can. I encourage the kids to choose anything that has less waste. We don’t leave lights on or waste water. We are trying to go plastic free, at least in the case of single use plastic. There’s six of us, it’s hard, but we’re doing everything we can. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it. By the attitudes of other people who don’t seem to care. For everything I recycle, there are more people out there throwing things away, buying things they don’t need to, putting bananas in bags in the supermarket, and it makes me sad.

Today our post came. There wasn’t much, it was all about the election really and that’s what surprises me most. Now I know that the leaders need to get their messages out there, I’m aware of all the debates on the TV at the moment and I understand it’s importance. What I really don’t get is the amount of paper that is pushed through my door and why most of it is repetitive. Yesterday and today I had the exact same flyer put through the door, maybe the postie got lost and it wasn’t all intended for me? I don’t know, but I do know that one local representative claims to be promising change and looking to our green future and yet they are bombarding me, and I’m assuming my whole local area, with endless amounts of paper. I understand that paper is not the problem plastic is, I know it can be recycled, it just doesn’t seem right. It seems hypocritical. We ask ourselves to limit our carbon footprint and to reduce, reuse and recycle, it would make me feel better if the potential future leaders of our country and their parties could do the same.

Is it just me?

As always, thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

I Read This Quote Today...

I Read This Quote Today
Sunset at the beach. I've used this picture before, but I like it!

I read this quote today…

’We always placed great importance on the mistake. But the next move, what you do after the mistake, is what really defines a person. We’re all going to make mistakes. But what is that next step?’ He added: ‘We don’t, as a culture, seem to stick around to see what that person’s next step is. And that’s the part I find so much more invigorating and interesting.’

This is from an article where Brad Pitt discusses his addictions. Isn’t it a lovely perspective to see an addiction from, or indeed any difficulty, rather than it being a problem, it’s how it’s dealt with that matters, how the person has moved forward after it. The link to the rest of the article is below if you want to read it.

It’s interesting when you read articles like this. It’s not just the ‘normal’ people that suffer from addictions. Here is a man who from the outside presents that they have a good career, a relationship and a family, and yet he also has had an addiction. It seems it wasn’t a recent thing either, but one that was there alongside him as his career grew. It seems that more and more people resort to using substances as an ‘escape’ - but what are we all so keen to escape from? Is it the pressures of modern life? Is it the demands we place on ourselves to achieve more and be better than our predecessors?

We live very different lives now from that of our ancestors, very different even to that of our parents. Our children, (certainly mine), have very different childhoods from the one I experienced. The internet, phones, social media are all constant and unavoidable. We are not designed to be bombarded constantly with every snippet of news or celebrity information, and yet we are. When something happens across the globe, we feel it. Years ago, we would have been living in close proximity to our families and our village would have been the extent of most of our worries. With modern technology comes modern troubles, and modern coping strategies.

It’s refreshing though, to see people being more open about their difficulties, I think it makes it easier for others to deal with if they know they aren’t alone. It makes the shame feel less. It shares the burden. I agree with Brad, really it is the way these things are overcome that matters, how we deal with it and how it shapes us as people.


Thanks for reading.

Much love.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

https://extra.ie/2019/12/03/entertainment/celebrity/brad-pitt-alcohol-addiction
 

πŸŽ„ Christmas Survival Guide πŸŽ„

Christmas Survival Guide
Christmas Shopping in London.

Although it is a magical time, Christmas can be a pretty stressful time too. Of course, there are the predictable elements, of making sure all the presents are bought and the shopping is done, but also there are other factors, like parties and meeting up with friends and family, some of whom you might not see for the rest of the year. It can be exhausting, and that is before we even talk about not drinking.

Everywhere you look from adverts to TV and even in the aisles at the supermarket, you’ll see that alcohol is marketed as an integral part of the festivities. So, whether it is your first Christmas without drinking or you’ve done a few, it can prove a bit of a challenge.

This is not a definitive guide, it’s just a few things I’ve picked up along the way and hope will help. Please let me know if you’ve got any other ideas that I can add to it. 😊

πŸŽ„ It’s not just you! (#1)
There are many people who choose not to drink. It’s a struggle to stop, but you are not on your own, even when it feels like it.

πŸŽ„ Only go to the events you really want to.
It’s hard enough to psych yourself up for things you want to do. Don’t use your energy going to things you aren’t feeling up to. It’s likely that it will end badly or put you off going out to other events. It may see scary to let other people down, but it might be better for you in the long run.

πŸŽ„ It’s not just you! (#2)
Other people have struggles too. You could feel awkward but they probably can’t see it, just like you can’t see their insecurities.

πŸŽ„ Don’t be afraid to leave early.
You might have had a good time, you might not, but don’t feel you have to stay to the end. Leave the night on a high and you’ll probably feel more up to another night out. Stretching it out could ruin it for you and to be honest, if everyone else is drinking, they might not even notice you go!

πŸŽ„ It’s not just you (#3)
Keep remembering, you aren’t alone. It’s a hard fight, but there are other people wanting to do it, doing it or having done it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Just keep going.

πŸŽ„ Have an escape plan.
Like me, you might not want to make it common knowledge that you aren’t drinking. I kept it private for a long time, and so it could work for you to have a plan, just in case things get too much. If you have a back up plan, you can get away when you need too.

πŸŽ„ It not just you (#4)
There are so many people out there in exactly the same place as you!

πŸŽ„ Have an excuse!
If you really want to go and really don’t want to tell people the truth, and are afraid that it will be awkward, just have an excuse ready. Maybe you’re on antibiotics? Maybe you’re in training for a marathon? Maybe you are driving? Not that you need a reason!

πŸŽ„ It’s not just you (#5)
I think I’ve covered that it isn’t just you, but keep remembering it, it really helps!

πŸŽ„ Connect
Support groups might work, but they might not. You don’t have to meet people to have support though, there are plenty of online groups you can join. Likewise, I found reading so helpful, other people’s experiences helped me remember that I wasn’t alone, and that other people had walked the same path before me and survived. In fact, not only had they survived but it was worth the struggle.

πŸŽ„ Enjoy it!
Remember this, you will probably have a fab time. You’ll remember everything you say, and everything you do. You’ll not have ‘one too many’ and embarrass yourself and when someone else does, you’ll remember that too!

I hope this helps, even just a little bit, I know that I felt nervous before my first couple of non-drinking events, and even now, I don’t choose to go to many. I’d rather do other things now, so they have to be good for me to go!

Let me know how your festive season goes though, and if any of these ideas work for you!

Take care, and thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

My First Alcohol Free Christmas

My First Alcohol Free Christmas
It's almost Christmas!

I had my last ever drink on 7th September 2016. A date I will always remember, and celebrate passing every year. But this meant I had only three months of non-drinking under my belt by the time Christmas came around. As anyone who has stopped drinking before knows, three months is barely anything. Certainly not enough to learn to rethink all the brainwashing we have coming at us constantly from TV and elsewhere regarding the fun we will have once we have a drink in our hands. I’d got to three months before and that was where it ended.

I approached Christmas with trepidation. It certainly overshadowed things for my whole family that year. Things we would normally do couldn’t be done, like the work Christmas party which was always a good excuse for me to have a few. Even family gatherings had a different feel, as more often than not, they all involved us having a ‘nice’ few drinks to relax and enjoy ourselves. Our family often travels a fair distance to see one another (several hundred miles) so once there it was often seen a reward to have a drink after the long journey. It was easier to avoid it all.
At home though it was no different and my husband and I would often have several glasses of wine or beers throughout the afternoon and evening. It was an excuse to drink earlier, to be allowed to and to enjoy it. I couldn’t see how Christmas would be the same without it. That makes me feel quite sad now, but I think the belief that alcohol is so needed and used as a reward by society makes it very difficult to imagine life without it when you have got yourself caught up in a situation like mine.

On Christmas Day itself we had a quiet family day, just my husband and I and the kids. It was lovely, except during Christmas dinner, when I had a bit of a meltdown. I was so angry! I was angry with myself for wanting a drink, angry that I couldn’t have one, angry that I didn’t want to give in and let myself have one, angry that it was so ingrained that I should have one. It was so confusing. But I got through it with the support of my husband and I didn’t give in. I would have been so cross with myself if I had done.

I didn’t want to make a huge deal of my non-drinking, but I told my closest family, because I wanted them to understand. The majority of my friends and family will still only now find out if they read my blog. It isn’t something I’ve advertised. That comes back down to the feelings of shame I had about the whole situation. I felt like I’d let myself and my family down. But now, in hindsight I am proud. I gave up something I relied on and now days go by without me giving it a second thought. I didn’t ever think that would happen. I wasn’t sure how it could.

So I guess my message is to stick with it. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, sometimes it will be harder, and sometimes it will be easier. We have to fight the message that society portrays, that alcohol is the answer to everything, because certainly in my case, it is the complete opposite.


Thanks as always for taking the time to read this, and let me know how you’re finding the run up to Christmas this year.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Pushing, but not too hard

Pushing But Not Too Hard
Speedy legs!

When I started running, two of our four kids started running too. Of the others, one was a baby, so I’ll let him off, and our eldest, a mountain biker couldn’t be persuaded to try two legs instead of two wheels. More recently he has passed his driving test, and become more of a car enthusiast, so I think I’ve missed my window there.

My middle two are quite keen though, and enjoy going to parkruns, and doing local races. You’ll have seen them pop up quite often in my photos if you follow me on Instagram. Katie is more than happy with 5k races, and isn’t interested in going further, although I did convince her to run 4.5 miles at The Remembrance Run which was great. It’s lovely to have her out with me, and recently she has been more confident to run on her own, so we’ve managed to sign up to a few races that have a choice of 5k or 10k depending on how many laps you choose to do. It’s fun to go to a race together, even if we aren’t running the whole thing together.

Recently someone stopped my husband at a race to ask if our son was a member of a club. They suggested he had a natural talent and he could do well with training. He isn’t, like me, he wasn’t sure whether an organised club would be too regimented for him, and whether he’d fit in. I looked around to see if there was something close to home for him, but our local clubs don’t cater for children, so it was tricky. I understand the need for children to have suitably supervised sessions, but in our area, there seems to bit a lack of serious clubs, for those that really want to progress.

More recently though Barn was approached by one of his PE teachers, a lovely lady who drives a minibus full of kids to their surf lessons every week after school, come rain or shine. Without that, they might not have got chatting about running outside of the confines of school. What came about was Barn being asked to represent his college at some local cross country races. So one Sunday we stood in the cold and watched the different age groups compete. It was brilliant!

One thing I’ve really noticed with both of my running kids, is the improvement in their self-confidence since they started running. It’s amazing seeing what a difference one activity makes to all areas of their lives. They both also marshal frequently at parkrun and that seems to have made a difference too. However, after Barn finished his race, he was so gloomy. He was disappointed he didn’t come first. I understand that, he often runs with me, often in races with people much older and he is fast. Competing with kids his own age who have been training for years was a surprise to him. And it knocked his confidence a little. His teacher introduced us to a coach, who would welcome him into their club, but Barn took a lot of convincing. He felt we were just being kind to him. However, eventually, especially after seeing the results, he realised we were telling him the truth. He’s joined the club, even though it’s not in his comfort zone. He’s been a few times now, working on his speed, rather than just his distance, as that seems to come naturally to him.

I want to be supportive, I want to tell him how proud we are, like we are of all our kids, but I really don’t want to put him off. The biggest thing for me is that they are happy. If he came last and enjoyed it, it wouldn’t bother me as long as he was happy. So I guess there is a fine line between pushing and encouraging. Getting him to join a club was a struggle, but now he knows what to expect, he is enjoying it. I wonder where his path will take him?


Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Overcoming

Overcoming
Me and my lovely daughter.

When I stopped drinking I thought I was fixed. I thought I’d suddenly have a clear mind and a healthy body. It was strange to have so much time on my hands, but I thought it would be a good thing. (Drinking takes up a lot of time if you let it). Suddenly, I had time and space and it was like everything came crashing down. Not all at once, and not even hugely noticeable at the time, but like a dam, with a little water coming over the edge before finding a crack and seeping through, and one day washing the whole thing away.

People don’t warn you. You think the hard bit is giving up, and believe me, it is hard, but the thing is that it only works if you change too. Without a numbing agent my anxiety hit new highs and I was in a bad way for a while. While I felt good that I was no longer drinking, all that extra time gave me more time to think. I think a lot anyway, but suddenly I was going over and over old things, beating myself up about stuff I couldn’t change. I got lower and lower and my anxiety got higher and higher. It’s been hard to get back to where I was, although I’m not sure I’ll ever really be there, or that I even want to be. I was a different person then. Not a bad one, just not necessarily the one I want to be.

Sometimes I find ‘normal’ things overwhelming. I don’t take things in my stride like I should, but I’m getting there. Until recently, I hadn’t even realised how many safety nets I had put in place, so I didn’t end up feeling too challenged by an event or situation. Learning to risk things again, and letting myself try things without getting cross with myself has been a challenge, but I am getting there.

A wise and lovely lady once told me, “Don’t regret your past, it brought you to where you are today.” That meant a lot. It still does. Even on hard days and days when I remember my mistakes I am glad I am here, and that I am surrounded by my family, my lovely husband and our kids. I am one of the lucky ones.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read this.


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Anxiety and New Eyes!

Anxiety and New Eyes
Running again!

So, last week I had my laser eye surgery. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for years, but money and the fact that I am VERY squeamish have put me off for a long time. It was pure chance that I saw an advert for a free no-obligation assessment, and decided to go. I didn’t think I’d be suitable, (for some reason I often seem to be the awkward one when there are criteria to meet), and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to afford it so I didn’t get too excited.

The thing with thinking something won’t happen is that you don’t get too excited about it, at least I don’t, as I am almost expecting it to go wrong, or not happen. Even when I was given my date for surgery and had met the surgeon I tried to stop myself getting carried away, I assumed it might be cancelled, or would snow and I wouldn’t get there!

I was so nervous, I didn’t even know in honesty whether I’d be able to go through with it. I have a habit of working myself up, and although I try not to think of things in worst case scenarios, all too often, my head has raced ahead to the ‘what if’s’ before I have a chance to catch up.

I’m still not quite sure how, but I got through it, and the relief I felt immediately in the recovery room was immense. I cried. I do a lot of that. When I saw my husband he was worried and thought I was hurting, but it was relief! Relief that I’d done it and relief that almost immediately I could see so much better.

I hadn’t anticipated the after effects knocking me so much though. The pain went, and although the lights had to be dim that evening, I felt okay. It was just thinking about my eyes that made me cringe. Sleeping with my googles on was supposed to protect my eyes but I was so nervous of knocking them and doing some damage.

After a couple of days, I knew that they’d be getting stronger, but if I thought too much about what they had done, I felt awful. Even closing my eyes too tightly made me nervous! After a week I was allowed to wear makeup again, and though I don’t wear a lot, I don’t really like to go out without eyeliner and mascara, I feel a bit bare without it. It was fine, I felt like me again, until the evening came and I had to take it back off!

Today it a turning point though, I went for my first run, since the day before the surgery. That’s the longest I haven’t run, well since I started running! It was only 2.6 miles, but it was fab to stretch my legs, fab to see where I was going and my eyes remained where they were supposed to be!

All in all, it’s been a funny old week, but I am super glad I faced my fears and did it.

Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Being a Hi-Vis Hero!

Being A Hi-Vis Hero
Me and my son.

When I was younger I used to enjoy volunteering for things. Perhaps I saw it as a way into something or a way up the career ladder. I’m sure I always had a reason.

When I started running I found out about parkrun. For those of you who don’t know, parkrun is a free initiative across the world where you turn up and run, walk or jog 5k. They are at 9am across the world every Saturday morning. All you need is a barcode (free) and you can have your time recorded each week. Most people have one pretty close by, even if they don’t know about it.

I was shocked to realise that there were two parkruns close to my home, and more that were in easy travelling distance, but even more shocked to realise that they were all run, every week by volunteers. I couldn’t imagine what these people got out of it, surely they had better things to do than volunteer every week? Surely they would all prefer to be out there running?

Well as I may have said, I started running in June 2018. That summer after a lot of persuasion I started parkrunning as a means to get myself out more and build myself up to my first 5k race which was in October 2018. It was a great way of improving but I always felt a little bit lacking on the community side. I don’t run with a club and thought it would be nice to have a social side to it. I struggled to break the ice at parkrun though, beyond saying hello to familiar faces.

My son started his Duke of Edinburgh Award at the start of the last school year, and to start with I still ran each week while he took on different roles. Then one week I saw the roster looking empty and before I thought too much about it, I put my name down. I don’t know what I was expecting, and certainly nothing hit me straightaway, but after a few weeks, I realised that I no longer felt like an outsider. Parkrun suddenly started to feel a little bit like it was mine too. It no longer mattered that I didn’t know anyone, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t the fastest. Instead, I was part of the community, I was out there, helping to make an event happen, come rain or shine. That feels pretty good.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Plastic Waste At Races

Plastic Waste At Races
Just about to embark on a trail half marathon back in August!

Plastic bottles at races seem to be an increasing problem or maybe it’s just that we are becoming more aware. I’m aware that a lot of races that I’ve participated in have moved away from bottles, and instead use compostable cups with easy access points to collect the used ones. Perhaps not so much on short races, but certainly on long ones the best option would be taking your own bottle or maybe a reusable cup for the water stations. I’m aware this is encouraged at longer races and I can’t see it being a problem when you are carrying a bag of some kind. I have a lovely rucksack I use mostly for trail running or running long distances. It isn’t heavy, but means I can load up with plenty of water and sweets and I also have somewhere to put my rubbish! I’d looked for ages before buying one, as they can be so expensive, but I got my Aonjie one for about £20, it’s lasted so well, and is so comfortable, PM me if you want me to send you the link.

A couple of months ago I ran a 10k where we were supplied with plastic water bottles which were handed out at the half way point. It was surprising because the amount of water was actually too much for me mid-run and I drink quite a lot of water. It felt a waste to just bin them straight away, but many did. I ran with mine for longer but then realised there was no where to deposit them. We were told to toss them to the side of the road to be collected by marshals later, but the throwing of them turned them into missiles as they were thrown half full into the curb, sometimes bouncing back under the feet of the runners. With thousands of runners this was a potential hazard. As were the bottle lids that were dropped by some runners as the bottles were opened which became really tricky underfoot. This of course is without mentioning other waste that gets dropped like gel sachets and wrappers.

I know this event, as well as the half-marathon event by the same organisers choose to provide water bottles, perhaps due to their sponsors, but it doesn’t sit well with me in this day and age that the use of single use plastic is promoted in this way to such a captive audience. I also think that as a potential hazard, that organisers should be thinking about providing alternatives for the safety of the runners. As a runner, I don’t want to trip and fall at any time, but especially when running in such close proximity to so many other runners, which could make any accident much worse.

So it looks like some events might be changing the way they do things, I thought this article from the BBC was quite interesting.

As always, thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-50389804

No Running For Me This Week!

No Running For Me This Week!
No more glasses for me!

So, I’m not allowed to run for a week or so... and no, before you ask, I’m not injured. It’s self inflicted, but it’s good, better than good actually, although I wasn’t saying that on Monday when it felt like someone had washed my eyeballs with onions! I had laser eye surgery! No more glasses for me! No more misting up when going indoors from the cold, actually being able to see properly when I run, and no more wishing I had windscreen wipers when it rains!

I don’t like to wear my glasses when I run as I am afraid of what will happen if I fall. A few months ago my daughter helped a lady who fell at our local parkrun, bless her, she had black eyes and a badly cut nose as a result of running in glasses so it didn’t help how I already felt. That doesn’t make it any easier though, and I struggled to see well, especially in the autumn when the leaves are all on the ground. It’s beautiful, but I’m never quite sure exactly what I am about to tread on!

I saw an advert and decided to go for the consultation, I was told one in four people weren’t able to have surgery and wasn’t sure if that would apply to me, with astigmatism and one eye considerably worse than the other. I shouldn’t have worried, it was all good and I was given the go ahead.

In passing I mentioned to my surgeon that I suffer from anxiety. I didn’t want to really, but I like people to know that I really don’t mean to ask the same question several times, it’s just hard for me to be sure I have understood everything. So I tend to ask again. And sometimes again. I told him I was worried. He was very matter of fact and told me that I had two choices, the first was, “Get over it!”, and the second, “Don’t have the surgery.” However unsympathetic it seemed, he was right, no one was making me go!

I found it frustrating though, that the moment the surgeon heard the word anxiety he wanted me to get confirmation from my GP that I was of sound mind to choose the procedure. It’s strange to get someone to sign off on something they have never treated me for. Well, not in over 15 years anyway, but that piece of paper was the make or break so I had to ask the GP to sign the form. I’m not quite sure what they based their decision on, but I was glad to know they agreed with me. I know I’m anxious, but I’m not crazy!
πŸ˜‚ It wasn’t the nicest procedure in the world to be honest, but given the results so far, I’d go through it all over again if I had to, although I'm relieved that I don't have to!

So, no running for a week or so, but it’ll be amazing to see where I’m going when I can run again!

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Running to Recovery

Running To Recovery
Just finished my first half marathon!

This is me on 20th May 2019.

I’d just finished my first half marathon. I cried. While running. I cried so hard that I could barely breathe, but I couldn’t stop to catch my breath because I was afraid people would see. They wouldn’t understand. You see, I wasn’t crying because I was sad, I was crying because I was so happy. I gulped my breath and carried on, because I was running, and that was amazing. I had treated my body badly for so many years and it still let me run over 13 miles. I was so proud, and so pleased with myself. I still have days where it is hard, although I don’t want to drink anymore, sometimes I am still a little envious of people who get to relax with a glass of wine if you know what I mean? One glass was never enough for me though, and that’s my problem.

Eleven months before this photo was taken I’d started Couch to 5k, it was hideous! I really couldn’t run, but I heard it was good for anxiety and complemented Yoga so I gave it a go. There must be a real life ‘Running Bug’ because I think it bit me, I couldn’t stop, and gradually I was able to go further. 5k became 10k, 10 miles and then I booked my first half to train for. I never imagined that I would be the sort of person out in all weathers and enjoying it. I had no idea I would ever run as far as I have.

Completing my first half marathon changed things for me. I realised that it wasn’t only my addiction that defined me, and that I could instead now define myself as a runner. What an experience, and the best bit? If I can do it, I think anyone can. Plymouth was the first of four half marathons this year and I’m already booked for next year. My competitive side wants a better time than I got this year!

Thanks for reading! Happy running everyone!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Addiction

Addiction
A beautiful evening at the beach.

Addiction is a slow moving disease. It sneaks up on you. It tricks you. It makes you question every thing you thought you knew, everything about yourself. It isolates you. It makes you think you are alone. No one really understands you any more, but how can they when you don’t explain, when you’d rather have a drink than talk? It’s easier that way, you see. Addiction is destructive. Damaging. But to start with you don’t see it and when you do, you don’t believe it, because alcohol is your friend, isn’t it? Of course it is, it makes you relax and it makes you fun. Talking is uncomfortable. It makes you face things you’d really rather not. It makes you question your choices, it makes you open up and let out the ugly truth. Drinking, (or any form of substance abuse), is easier. It makes the problem go away. Until one day it doesn’t any more.

On the other side of it, everything is new. Everything is harder. Simple things are difficult, now everything is emotional, but everything is you. There are no longer two of you, the one sober and the one tipsy (smashed). Every choice you make is yours, every decision, that’s yours too. And when you forget something, that’s okay. It happens to everyone at times, you don’t have to blame drinking for making you forget a conversation.

It’s a beautiful world out there when you choose to see it again.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Runway Run

Runway Run
A runway full of runners. I'm on the right near the silver van!

Am I the only one who panics before and sometimes during a run? I think it’s getting worse. Or maybe it’s just because I’m going further and am usually a bit faster? I don’t know. All I know is that it used to be hard to get out or to get to the start line. Now, even when I do that I struggle. It honestly seems like my mind is out to get me. I feel like I won’t be able to do it, that I’ll have to stop and I won’t be able to finish whatever distance it is I’m trying to do. Even if it’s something I know I can comfortably do.

A couple of weekends ago I ran The Cornwall Air Ambulance Runway Run with my son. Last year it was the first official race I booked for us to do, although due to bad weather it was postponed and we ran another race first. Anyway, it was our ‘first’ 5K and we raised a lot of money for the Air Ambulance New Helicopter Appeal. I struggled on that race, because it was so flat, there weren’t any hills where I could comfortably slow down for a minute to catch my breath. It was cold too and I felt so slow. It wasn’t until I finished that I realised that I had clocked one of my fastest ever 5k times.

This year they didn’t offer the 5k option and knowing we could both happily run 10k I signed us both up. I didn’t realise it was an 8am start and of course we had to be there before that, so it was still quite dark! But it makes sense that they got the runners clear of the runway before the airport opened for the day. The sun came up and it was a dry day as we waited for the race to start, which was lovely as we had been experiencing pretty much non-stop rain before that. We met some other members of our running club and waited with them, I knew I wouldn’t be as fast as they are, but it was nice to be part of the group.

The race itself was interesting, it went up and down the runway, and in and out alongside some of the hangars. The difficulty with it being so open is that you could see many of the people in front and behind you, so it almost felt like we weren’t moving. There were more inclines than I expected from a runway, but in hindsight it makes sense that they were there for drainage. At one point I saw my son and a friend coming back the other way and we waved, he was just flying along effortlessly as he does. I have no idea how he does it! Meanwhile, I started to think too much and began to really struggle for breath. The more I thought, the more I realised I couldn’t get a breath, which made me panic more. I properly scared myself before managing to get it under control and pull myself back. I managed to keep running, and luckily as it was so busy, I fell into step with some other runners. Concentrating on the sound of our feet really helped.

At one point as we ran beneath the wings of several airplanes, all belonging to Thomas Cook, they seemed to be parked there for storage. It’s sad to think of a company that was around for so long disappearing like it did and it was eerie to be beneath them. Last summer we went to Spain with Thomas Cook, we weren’t one of the many families affected by the company’s closure, but it was sad to think that it may have been one of the last holidays provided by the company.

So, like many people, I struggle with anxiety amongst other things. Running helps but it isn’t a cure, yet. I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on. There isn’t much else I can do! Oh, and would you believe, for that race, I only went and got a 10k PB! Happy

Thanks for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Remembrance Run

Remembrance-Run
Remembrance Run on the Beach.

I haven’t written in a while. I’m never sure whether what I write is any good, if any one really wants to read it and in fact, I’m not sure really if I should be writing some of the things I have. It’s strange letting you all in to my thoughts and feelings. I don’t have a tendency to let too many people in, but in some ways it feels nice too, like I’m able to let go of things a bit. So after a lot of thinking, I’ve decided to keep writing, I mean, no one has to read it, right?

Yesterday I ran The St Michaels Mount Remembrance Run. For anyone that knows Cornwall, you’ll know that The Mount sits on an island out from Marazion, and the run was four and a half miles along the beach from there and back.
We started at 11:02am, just after the two minute silence and everyone was asked to wear something red. It was a beautiful way to commemorate the day, all of the chatter at the start of the race stopped immediately at the blow of a whistle. The only sound was that of the waves, until the sound of a horn ended the silence and started the race. Dressed in red, it looked like poppies had been scattered across the beach.

It was a beautiful run, harder going than I had imagined, as the sand was difficult to run on, and the tide was coming in. My daughter Katie ran with me and it was so lovely to be able to chat with her, for once not worrying about a time, but just enjoying the lovely sunshine and scenery. I’d warned her we would get wet feet, but at one point there was a river crossing that came up over our knees. The current was so strong it almost whipped my feet away, probably due to the heavy rains we’ve had lately. Luckily we both kept our footing, which was great as I had my phone and car key in my pocket! It was a beautiful morning though, we were so lucky to have a break in the almost continuous wind and rain we’ve had and enjoy the sunshine even if it was still a little cold.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning and a beautiful way to remember.

Thanks for reading!


πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Why Is It So Expensive Not To Drink Alcohol?

Why Is It SO Expensive Not to Drink Alcohol
Me with my family.

A couple of weekends ago we went out to eat. It was my husband’s birthday and so we booked a nice restaurant for us and the kids. Going out to eat isn’t something we do that often, in fact over the last few years we haven’t done it at all. I really struggled to go out and be surrounded by other people drinking in the early days after I stopped, but it doesn’t bother me much any more so we are getting back into the habit of it, and it’s nice. There’s six of us, and three of us are old enough to drink, so I always feel a little bit like a restaurant will be disappointed with the fact we are only ordering soft drinks. I know logically that this is a silly thing to think, but I guess I am somewhat sensitive about the issue.

In the summer we went on holiday to Spain. Every evening we ate at a different restaurant and it was a great experience. Doing this really helped me get over my issue with eating out, we tried new foods, went to different places every night and generally enjoyed the food so much more than we would have done if we had been drinking alcohol. It was a real treat, and to keep the cost down we’d often share a big bottle of water between us. We’d sometimes also have a soft drink each too, but that would be it.

Back to Saturday, and our meal out. We ordered our dinner, and looking at the drinks list, checked out our non-alcoholic options. To be clear, if our eldest son, who is 18 wanted to drink I wouldn’t have a problem with it, he just chooses not to when he is with us, and often chooses to drive when out with his friends. We had the choice of Coca Cola, Lemonade or bottled J20 or Appletiser. The prices for the unbottled drinks were for half pints, so we ordered four cokes and a lemonade for me. We were given four pints and my lemonade was a half, which was fine, but was gone quite quickly, and the kids being kids also needed some refills pretty soon. We’d looked at water on the menu but the bottles looked really expensive for the amount you got and it just wasn’t very clear.

We had two drinks each so ten drinks in total between us all evening, and the cost of those was a almost a third of the bill for our entire meal. I couldn’t believe it when checking it back, that almost £40 was spent on ten drinks. That equates to about £4 a glass! I remember when having a soft drink was the affordable option when out. The sad thing is that if it’s cheaper to drink alcohol, then it’s only going to encourage it. It feels like I am being treated unfairly for my choice. It’s sad and makes me cross that we are limited by our choice not to drink, when many pubs and bars run offers to make drinking alcohol cheaper. This might seem like a rant, I just don’t understand how it is okay to charge more for a soft drink than something alcoholic!

Maybe next time I’ll take my refillable bottle and see what they make to that!

Has anyone else experienced this, or did I just have bad luck?


Thanks for reading everyone!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Feeling Inspired by Kipchoge!

Feeling Inspired By Kipchoge
Finishing a Half Marathon at The Eden Project last weekend. I can do so much more than I ever thought I could!

Yesterday I was listening to a programme on the Radio about Eliud Kipchoge and his amazing feat of running a sub 2 hour marathon. I was listening to it because my lovely husband heard it, thought I might be interested and text me to tell me to turn it on. With the power of catch up I didn’t miss it. I had only managed to catch bits of the race itself, but from what I did see I was amazed. What an inspiration Kipchoge is, and how lovely to see someone who looks like he is truly enjoying himself while achieving such amazing things.

I couldn’t believe that running the time of 1:59:40 didn’t earn Kipchoge a world record, but I was interested while listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2, to find out some of the reasons why. I hadn’t appreciated that a car leading Kipchoge and his pacer team provided a laser target on the road which allowed them to provide a form of wind break for him, allowing him to attain maximum speed without expending excess energy. It’s interesting, as listening I realised I often slide in behind other runners, slip streaming, but when I do, it doesn’t have the same effect!

I know the choice of venue was questioned as Vienna apparently had optimal weather conditions, in that it wasn’t too hot or cold, but also it was dry and relatively wind free. Also, the course seems to be an ideal track for the target time. Again, I can see why he and his team would choose this though, as I know I’d hope or maybe expect to PB on a flat road course over some of the trails I run. Now out of choice given the scenery I love a trail, I love the technicality of it, it keeps my mind focused, but I also love the adrenalin rush of sprinting along a road and achieving a time I wouldn’t be able to elsewhere. Given the choice, I know where I’d choose to run if I want a good time, so surely he was doing the same?

The programme also spoke of another runner who has been close to the previous best time of Kipchoge. It was suggested that if in a true marathon event, the two runners were to both enter, they could provide a welcome challenge for each other, being of similar pace but with a competitive element. Imagine what that race would look like!

What really struck me is the inspiration it gave me. I won’t ever be a professional athlete, but I’m not trying to be. I do think though, that I can be better than I am. Kipchoge, although a professional athlete now, wasn’t always one and in fact only began formal training with a coach at 16. Now, at 34, while not old by any means, he is also not a spring chicken. It makes me question my limitations, or the limitations I put on myself. We all limit ourselves by social expectations of age, gender and ability amongst other things. Perhaps we should instead be thinking like the hash tag #nohumanislimited it gives me a lot of hope.

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

The end. And a new beginning…

The end. And a new Beginning
Smile!

It’s hard to give up something you love. Even when that something isn’t good for you. I know that although I was worried for a long time about the amount I was drinking, it was hard to admit and ask for help because I was terrified that it would be the end for me. I couldn’t imagine a life without wine. We are encouraged by the media, amongst other things, to see alcohol as a reward, and I knew I did. It was always there for me at the end of a hard day, to reward a good day, to relax. There was always a reason. And of course like as was proved yesterday when I ran a half marathon and was given a kids juice as I didn’t want the beer they were offering, all the cool kids drink. So I must be be very boring now! Excuse my sarcasm. I just find the stigma of alcohol as a reward very annoying now I am sober. But like I said, it wasn’t always that way.

I’ve had lots of people ask me for advice and I am more than happy to give it, but to be clear, I am not qualified as a addiction counsellor, I just have my own experiences to share. I hope they help someone. Other people’s experiences were always a help to me.

The first time I managed to stop drinking I convinced myself that moderation was the key. After all, there are so many people out there who drink for fun and seem to be fine. I was wrong. It happens so quickly, one glass becomes two or three. Suddenly you are back where you were or worse. For me moderation just isn’t an option. It takes all the confusion and guilt out of it if I just remove it completely. But that’s just me, I can’t say what would work for you.

I’ve been asked how you stop a loved one who has a problem. Simple answer? You don’t. It might not be nice to hear, but until someone is ready to stop drinking they won’t. If you try to stop someone who isn’t ready, then they will end up resenting you. They might end up feeling more alone than they already do. Dependency is isolating.

It’s a slow process, there is no right or wrong, but I believe when you realise you have a problem and can admit it, you are on the right path. At the beginning of that path though, you find you have a very long way to go. Your whole life needs to be reworked. You can’t just stop drinking and expect things to be fixed. Dependency takes a lot of your hours and you need to find things to fill the void so you don’t slip back. Hobbies, self-care, there is so much you can do, but it’s weird to have the time suddenly. I also found my mind got chaotic. When I stopped drinking I unleashed it from the years I had spent dampening it down with wine. My anxiety was released with a vengeance! Learning to be quiet and still was a challenge, I felt I should always be busy.

I guess what I am trying to say is stick with it. It isn’t easy, but it is so worth it. Amazingly worth it. Just start at day one and remember to be kind to yourself.

Much love and as always, thank you for reading.

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Apple Juice at Eden

Apple Juice at Eden
Celebrating with my kiddie juice after Eden Half!

Today was The Eden Project Half Marathon. I’ve been training for it for a while, it’s my fourth half marathon this year, but nothing could have prepared me for the weather.

It has rained almost constantly down here in Cornwall this week, and it has been proper heavy wet rain. My heart sunk a little each time I checked the forecast. But, I don’t like to give up before I’ve tried something so I went, as did hundreds of other people. We were drenched before we started!

One mile down and we entered the woods. I was grateful to get off the leaf covered lanes, I was so scared of slipping, that is until I saw where we were going. The trail turned into a mud bath for about two miles then, as we ran alongside the river, it was hard to get going and when I did I couldn’t stop!

It was such a fun race. I can’t say I’ve ever had such a good time while running over 13 miles. My time wasn’t the fastest, but under the circumstances I was really pleased with it. It felt such an achievement to be able to run that sort of distance and come out of it smiling, even if I was covered in mud.

When I got back to Eden all the finishers collected their medals, shirts and vouchers for a free pasty and a beer. I was even given some tea bags! When I mentioned to the lady handing things out that I’d prefer the tea she was surprised, so I told her I didn’t drink. She kindly told me I could get a cider instead of a beer! It takes a minute for my brain to catch up with me when I’ve been for a long run, so I just followed the other runners into the queue and waited for my free pasty.

I was lucky though, as I got to the front of the queue I saw that amongst the stacks of cans of beer, there were half a dozen bottles of kids juice. I was so pleased to get a cold drink that it didn’t matter so much that the alcohol free runners seemed to be a bit of an after thought in the eyes of the organisers. It made me laugh, kids juice for those who didn’t want a ‘proper’ drink? What sort of message does that send out?!

All in all though, a great race! I think I’ll be back next year!

How has everyone’s weekend’s been? Who else has been running and where have you been?

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Yoga in a Pub?

Yoga in a Pub
I bought him his own mat, he still prefers to be on mine with me. Even if I end up squashing him!

I love yoga. I find it refreshing and invigorating. It puts me through my paces and leaves my body feeling strong and my mind feeling clear. It really compliments my running too.

I got out of the habit of going to classes about a year ago, it’s hard to find something that fits in which our schedules, so I can go but also have someone at home to look after the little one. Daytime classes just don’t work for this reason. I normally practice at home but recently happened to see a class advertised at a time I could make, and the bonus was, my daughter wanted to come too. She also really finds yoga beneficial, but doesn’t practice at home. It’s nice for us to have something to do together.

We’ve been going religiously each week, and despite a couple of changes in times, it’s been fine. Last week I had a message to say that the venue we had been using was no longer available. It seemed a terrible shame as the teacher is truly talented and we both really enjoy the classes. I was so pleased to hear not long after that she had found another place to use, until I found out it was in a pub.

Is the idea of yoga in a pub bizarre to everyone or is it just me? I just don’t think I would be comfortable enjoying my yoga practise in such a close vicinity to all that alcohol. Maybe it’s just my background, but being sober now, I don’t particularly want to spend my free time in a pub, especially for something like yoga. I know it doesn’t actually involve drinking, so maybe I’m being over-sensitive? But, for someone who was alcohol dependent the idea of yoga in a place surrounded by alcohol just doesn’t sit well with me.

Anyway, fingers crossed a new space turns up, two weeks without a class is a long time and I might have to find a new class! Until then it’s yoga at home for me, the problem is, that often involves having a two year old on my mat with me!

Thanks for reading everyone!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

My Thoughts on Go Sober For October

My Thoughts on Go Sober For October
Chilling at the beach with my little man.

As many of you know, I don’t drink. So when I see Go Sober for October adverts, although I see what I think is a good cause, I also see a reminder of something I couldn’t do for a long time, and by that I mean stopping drinking. I signed up for at least two years, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I thought that by signing up, some sort of magic wand would be waved and I’d be able to drink soft drinks for the rest of the month without wanting anything more, and my problem would be fixed. How much easier that would have been than going through recovery!

I recently saw a post from someone excited to start Stoptober, wondering if cutting out alcohol would help make any improvement on their running. I was interested in this too, although I started running after I stopped drinking, so it wouldn’t affect me in the same way. I was really surprised at the amount of different opinions to it! So many people out there don’t drink at all, many having used Stoptober as a stepping stone and then just not started again. Others are more training orientated and use races as a guide to how much or little they should be drinking. Some, clearly happy with where they are at, are just happy to, in the words of one gentleman, ‘crack on’. It isn’t envy I feel any more when I read comments like that, (it used to be, and not so long ago), I’m not sure that it’s pity, but there’s definitely an element of sadness that people would choose to drink to excess. Now I have a clear head, I’d rather keep it. It took a long time to get it and it isn’t always perfect, but it is certainly a lot better without wine. I do understand though that not everyone is the same.

What stood out the most to me was someone questioning the reasoning having a month off. The point was that if someone doesn’t have a problem with drinking then a month is nothing, and shouldn’t need to be celebrated. It makes me wonder just how ingrained alcohol is in our society that it is the norm that ‘everyone’ drinks and so stopping for a month becomes nothing more than a game?

It’s a great cause, all the fundraising helping Macmillan, but I do wonder if drinking wasn’t so much a part of our society, would we need Stoptober, or Dry January? Although maybe they are a helpful excuse to help people recognise when they have a problem? Reading through the website, they promote the benefits of being sober, including clearer head, more energy, better sleep, weight loss, personal achievement and helping those with cancer, but I was so disappointed to read that they offer a ‘Golden Ticket’ that you can buy if you have an occasion where you really need to drink! It seems like a contradiction, to be offered a way out before you start, and a reinforcement of how ‘important’ alcohol is to society! Maybe I’m just over-sensitive when it comes to this subject?

As always, thanks for reading!
πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Parkrun

Parkrun
The start of our home parkrun. Not a bad place to run!

Last week I ran my 30th parkrun. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with parkrun. I do really enjoy going, and certainly after I’ve been I feel glad I have. My home run is beautiful, it’s at a National Trust Estate and running through the woods is amazing. The downside is that it also is rated as one of the hardest in the country as it is so hilly, and we get a lot of parkrun tourists. Now I am not saying I don’t like the tourists, I am proud that they come and get to share what I get to have every week. It’s just, it gets so very busy! The first hill is down a lane and when it’s wet I am afraid I’ll slip, then it’s onto a steep gravel up hill, followed by an even steeper uneven gravel downhill that goes on forever to the river at the bottom. This bit gets narrow and I am always afraid I’ll fall. This run was worse as the sun was shining between the trees and I struggled to see where I was going. I’m conscious that I’ll slow other runners down, so I try to keep to the side, often running on more bumpy ground to do so. So, in the summer months running down this bit is even harder than normal because there is a much larger group of runners out, in the winter I feel a bit safer.

It took me a long time to get to my first parkrun. I heard they were really friendly and that you could, “walk, run or jog”, but I still thought I’d be last, and show myself up. The first time I ran, I knew I could comfortably complete the distance, but that I’d definitely have to walk some of it. I enlisted my middle son, (now a super keen runner who knocks out 10k ridiculously fast) into coming with me. He said he would and was happy to run with me, but as we started, I could see him itching to get away. I told him to go and so he did after a little encouragement. I didn’t see him again until the finish line! Meanwhile I wasn’t fast enough to be at the front and not slow enough to be at the back… at one point I was worried I’d get lost in the woods as there seemed to be a spot down by the river with no signs and marshals. It was fine though. I got back and finished, feeling super proud of myself.

I’ve since gone on to improve my time, I’m not the fastest, but as they say, it isn’t a race, I’m just running against myself and I like that. The only trouble is, I am quite competitive (mainly with myself) and I get quite disappointed if I don’t get a personal best each week, Now logically, I know that I couldn’t do that week on week anyway, there is only so fast anyone can go, no matter how fast they are, but some weeks I’ve been a little bit slower, and then a bit slower again and it knocked my confidence. Combining that with lots of visitors made it easy to miss the odd week, and suddenly I realised I hadn’t been to a parkrun since the beginning of the summer.

As well as being a keen runner, my son is also happy to marshal at parkrun, and has logged many weeks as a #hivishero but again hasn’t done much over the summer. This week he suggested marshalling and checking the roster I saw that they were in need of another time keeper, so he quickly signed up. This was great, because although he offered to ride his bike there I decided I’d drive him, giving him a few extra minutes in bed and giving me a reason to go and run. It was cooler, being September, and less busy which was nice, although I did have to give myself a stern talking to several times regarding times. Eventually I settled into a rhythm and realised that getting a PB didn’t really matter, I was out, I was running, I was enjoying myself so whatever time I came in, it was better than staying at home on the sofa!

The best bit? Tea and cake with my son in the park cafe at the end!

Thanks for reading!
xx

Motivation

Motivation
I'm smiling! Proof I do enjoy being out once I get there!

I’m not sure that I really like running. Well that isn’t exactly true. I do like running, in fact I love running. Especially after I’ve been out and I’m feeling all good about myself. But the getting out bit is hard. I think the actual running is okay, although I often have this little voice in my head which questions what I am doing. It often asks me why I’m running, reminds me that people looking will be laughing at me and of course that I am slower than everyone else in the world. If I can push through, which I usually do, I get to a point at about 3 miles, where something clicks and it suddenly becomes easier. Maybe it isn’t easier, maybe it’s just because I no longer have a choice, I am aware that my legs have taken me a certain distance and short of phoning someone to come and get me (which I have never done) I have no choice but to run home again. Or finish the race, but you get my point.

On the other side, I can’t say it’s just running. I love yoga class, but if you gave me a good excuse I’d find it easy not to go. I think it’s more that when I have things on my agenda it feels like I have to tick them all off my list as quickly as I can so I can clear them. It means I feel like I am rushing a lot and always on the go, sometimes it feels like I don’t really enjoy what I am doing because I am looking at what I need to be doing next.

So I’m working on mindfulness, I’m trying to be more present, but it’s hard. Who knew life would be such a challenge at times? There always seems to be something I need to learn or improve on.


Does anyone else struggle with motivation for doing things they enjoy?

Becoming a Runner

Becoming a Runner
Freedom Racing on the Cornish cliffs - I'm number 116.

Over the years I’ve classed myself as many things, a wife, a mum, an employee… They are all things that I am proud of, that I value, and things that I think I do well, but I guess over time, it is hard to define yourself as someone or something without relying on others for that definition. To be any of those things, I always need someone else. I didn’t really have many hobbies and for a while I lost sight of who I was. It has become clear that to have something that is just mine is actually really important.

On Saturday I ran a race. It was 10 miles, which gave me quite some time on the trails in the woods by myself. I don’t run with others, which can be a good thing as I get plenty of time to myself to think, but also it can be lonely, especially when the going gets tough and there is no one to help you along. I didn’t find it as mentally challenging as I do some races. I’ve often said that my body runs better than my mind does. Sometimes it is hard to get to the start line, let alone over it and as this one was quite long I doubted myself. Especially as the first mile or so was a long drag up a hill. There were a lot of hills, and only the front runners ran these, back where I was we dropped to a fast walk. Rather than panic I just ran and before I knew it I’d settled into a nice rhythm. Some of the course was on my home parkrun course, so I knew it quite well, maybe this helped? I thought it would make it worse as every time I thought I knew where we were going we veered off in another direction. The end was possibly the most challenging as we ran past the finish at nine and a half miles and had to do another loop in the other direction before coming back the other way to cross the line! That was hard!

While it was a challenging race, I was immensely proud of running it. No one else got me round that course. I could have been at home on the sofa, watching the TV. It was a rainy Saturday so there were a lot of other things I could have done instead. I chose to run 10 miles in rain and mud and I rubbed a blister on my heel. I think I need some new trail trainers. But as I was running it dawned on me, I might not be the fastest, I might not be the fittest, but I am a runner now. That definition belongs just to me and others like me, it doesn’t rely on someone else to make me a runner. By putting my shoes on and getting out the door, no matter how long or short a run, I am doing something that I couldn’t do a year or so ago. To those of you who choose to run, no matter how fast or slow, just remember that you are always lapping those people who stay on their couch!

Thanks for reading!
xx

Being Authentic

Being Authentic
Me and my little monkey!

I’d heard and read about ‘being authentic’, it features quite highly in a lot of self-help type books. The idea is that you should really own being you and show that to the world. It is a brave thing to do and the right thing, because surely all we want is to be liked for who we are? That being said, it is a hard thing. One that I find hard, I’m always worried I’m not getting things quite right, always afraid that I will be judged. I am sure a lot of people feel the same way.

Recently I posted a long blog post which was truly authentic. I re-read it, and before I could think too much more about it I posted it for all to read. Well, I wasn’t expecting it to get shared so many times, and for it to be read by so many, but I’m glad it did. It felt like a weight had been lifted, that I could finally show who I really was. My husband and children know and have always known the real me, but my anxiety does tend to mean I put up a bit of a wall with other people. On the outside I am fine, on the inside, not always quite so much, but believe me, I am so much better than before.

Writing things down helped me own my past but more importantly the fact that I have moved on and overcome a lot of challenges. It gave me strength and actually reinforced to me what I have achieved. It’s funny though, at the weekend I saw a runner I know well, and we chatted before the start of a race. I was congratulated on my post, and told it was ‘brave’. That meant a lot. I’m so grateful that bearing my thoughts and feelings is seen that way. It makes me feel proud to think I have experienced a lot, that I am still here, and if that provides a little bit of inspiration to others then I am really happy for that. Reading the experiences of others helped me a lot, and I’m glad to share with you too. It makes me feel naked though in a way because I’ve suddenly let so many people into my head. It is very strange to think so many people know my inner most thoughts and feelings.

So I guess with authenticity comes a level of vulnerability. If I allow the world to see me for who I really am, then I am not pretending, but I am taking down my armour and being me. It’s empowering to let the world see me, if not a little nerve wracking, but I guess now, what you see is what you get.

Thanks for reading.
xx

Running a 10 Miler Tomorrow!

Running a 10 Miler Tomorrow!
I hope these guys don't give me any trouble tomorrow!

Tomorrow I’m running a 10 mile race. It seemed like a good idea when I booked it. It fits in nicely with my current half marathon training and it’s local so I thought, ‘Why not?’ But now it is happening tomorrow it seems like a much bigger thing. There is a time limit which stresses me out. Most of the races I do don’t have limits which means there is no pressure. I’ve never been last, but I always have the worry that I will be. I just don’t quite trust my body to finish the distance. I keep imagine being pulled off the course by the marshals.

I did my first 10 miler back in February having had a really bad chest infection. There wasn’t a time limit so I decided even if I had to walk it, I would do it and it would be fine. My middle son surprised me at the two mile mark, he wasn’t old enough to run with me, so I couldn’t sign him up, but he decided to do it anyway, without an incentive of a medal at the end, just to make sure I was all right. Love him. It lightened the feel of the race for me and we finished in a fairly respectable time, although I was the only one who ran through the finish funnel. I will try to beat it next year!

Since then I’ve run three half marathons, and I have my fourth in October. It’s built on my confidence because I know I can run the distance, even though I am not the fastest, I am happy with my times, and it gives me room for improvement. It’s just the fear… I’ve checked the weather, it is set for rain, but at least I won’t get hot. I’m trying to look for positives here!

It’s a Saturday which is more commonly known in our house as parkrun day. I’ve decided running 3 miles as a warm up to the 10 miler might be a little excessive for me, so I’ve put my name down to marshal instead. My running son was already down, so I’d most likely be driving him there anyway, I might as well stay to help. It’s a good feeling to be able to give something back and I really feel like it gives us a little ownership over our homerun. The only thing is I’d quite like a lay-in, at least I have Sunday for that!

Thanks for reading!

πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

Gratitude

Gratitude
After an evening race at the beach.

I think the title of my blog and Facebook page might give away the fact that I’m a little cautious about sharing what I write. I know I’ve posted online, but I’d mistakenly thought I could do it somewhat anonymously! I’d always intended to share with others who I am, but just not yet, my anxious self needed a little reassurance first that what I’ve written is okay to share. I’m often afraid that I’ll upset, offend or give too much away and embarrass myself. Before I go on, I want to thank everyone who took the time to like, comment or DM me about that post. It means so much to me that you all read it and I really enjoyed talking to everyone. I hope I didn’t miss anyone and I hope it helps!

I’m proud to be part of The Lonely Goat Running Club (Go goats!). We are an inclusive group who don’t always meet or run together, but instead chat online. It is a super supportive group and people (goats) share a lot in our chat, always without judgement, I’ve never known such a diverse group to be so united in their support of each other. We were featured in Runners World a few months ago and since then our group has grown to over 12,000! Anyway, I digress. Last night I shared my most recent blog post with the goats. I felt that if I asked for honest opinions, that I’d either realise my writing is rubbish and stop, or I’d get a few comments that made me feel I could continue. I wasn’t expecting what I got! Last night (and this morning) I have received such a huge out pouring of love from so many people. It means so much to me that my words might give hope to people out there going through experiences similar to mine.

Writing is a challenge, as it means I am admitting to a lot of things. It means letting people in, and allowing them to know me. That’s not something I am good at. In my darkest place, I realised that a lot of the people who ‘knew’ me really didn’t, the friends I thought I had disappeared and some took advantage of my vulnerability. It made me shut myself off, I don’t like being vulnerable, or at least admitting to it, and keeping everyone (except those closest to me) at arms length made it easier to deal with. It feels now, like I’ve admitted everything, that a weight has been lifted. Believe me, I didn’t intend for my post to be shared so far and wide last night, but maybe it is a good thing. Maybe it needed to happen.

Gratitude plays such a big part of my life now. Every night, I make sure I find time to find things to be grateful for throughout the previous day. Sometimes they are big things, sometimes they are small, but even on the most rotten of days there are things! I think that this habit makes me really notice the positives in life, for example the weather, I love the changes in weather, recently running across the cliffs one evening while the wind blew made me feel so alive! Such a small thing, but so special. Obviously I am grateful for my family, and my health, something that a few years ago I might not have had. There are many things I could add to it, but last night I added everyone that I spoke to about my writing. It made me feel very special, so thank you.

Thanks for reading!
xxx

Bear with me, it's a long one...

Bear with me, it's a long one
It's been a hard few years, but I think the worst is over now.

About six years ago, I wondered if I had a drink problem. I knew I drank a lot, but my husband also enjoyed a beer in the evening and it seemed normal to have one or two drinks in the evening to relax after a long day at work and stress with the kids. The thing was, I had a good job and a tidy house, I had happy kids and things were okay, so I decided I was being silly, and that I was fine. It’s easy for me to worry about silly things due to my anxiety so I put it down to that.

About five years ago, I wondered again. By this time I’d got a different job. I’d told myself if I had further to drive, I’d have to get up earlier, therefore I’d drink less. I made a great friend at work, she’d talk with me in the mornings, maybe one of us or both of us would feel a little worse for wear. We’d encourage each other to have a night without, and we’d both mean it, but we worked in stressful roles, and each day was fraught. (Not an excuse!) By the evening, we’d be on the phone to each other reassuring each other that it was just one glass. It never was.

I read a book, it was dedicated to the women for whom one glass was never enough and always too many. That was me. One glass became two or three, and before long, two bottles of white wine every night. Every night. Fourteen bottles minimum in the recycling, just for me. But my house was clean, I had a job and a husband, happy kids. I couldn’t have a problem. I just ‘liked’ a drink. Even when I was on my own.

About four years ago I hit rock bottom. I’ve always had difficulties with anxiety, and depression. I’ve never felt like I fitted in that well with anyone, except that is my husband, my rock who has stood by me through everything, and believe me, I haven’t made things easy for him. I spoke to him, more than once over the years about drinking, and the amount I drank. He supported me, and together we’d abstain for a few days, managing about three by memory. I found this super challenging but I’d do it just about and then having proved that I could do without, I’d have a drink to celebrate. We live in a culture where alcohol is everywhere, you drink to celebrate, to relax, to commiserate, because you’ve had a hard day, because you’ve had an easy day. The list is endless, and it makes stopping hard, because everyone else is doing it. I never drank in the day, I hate to admit I was possibly still a little drunk in the morning from the amount I’d had the night before, but I never drank before 6pm. Then it became 5pm, then 4pm. It’s a slippery slope. I hated wine at this point. I hated the hold it had over me, I couldn’t reconcile how much I hated something I wanted so badly. Nothing was the same without it, I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t be calm. It was my saviour, to know I’d made it through the day and I could have my reward. It was strange though when the reward never seemed enough and then when I started to forget. My family would remind me of things I had said or done, but I had no recollection. I felt like I was losing my mind, my only constant was my bottle or two of wine. I stopped going out. It was work, home, kids, wine. I knew something needed to change.

I shut myself away one day and phoned a support group for help. I was at the end of the line and needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I played out the worst case scenarios of what would happen now I’d admitted I needed help. It terrified me. What I wasn’t expected was a three month wait for help, and when it came, being told in a meeting to keep drinking. As I was drinking so much at the time, it would have been dangerous to stop. This only confused me further, I was so angry then, at myself, at wine, at life, but mostly myself for letting the situation get so bad.

Eventually I had cut down enough to be prescribed Antabuse from the doctor. Effectively if you take it and then drink you’ll be really very sick. Taking that gave me back a little of the control. I knew that if I willingly took that, I’d not be able, (without risking my life), to drink. It was the first time, in a long time, that I felt a little bit in control.

Recovery was the hardest thing in the world I have ever done. It was also the best thing. I’ve been sober for over three years now and I know that I am 100% me all the time, any mistakes I make, any stupid things I say, that’s me, not wine saying them. I’ve not only had to stop drinking, but basically relearn the way I approach things. Alcohol is so ingrained into our society that we assume there is something wrong with someone when they don’t drink, unless they are the designated driver. It took me a long time to see that I wasn’t boring because I wasn’t drinking. It was also hard to find something to do with all the time I had now. Sitting mindlessly in front of the TV in the evening was not enough anymore. Harder still was dealing with anxiety on a daily basis, rather than drinking to keep my mind sedated. Nowadays that is the tricky thing, alcohol played such a part in being a buffer for me, I didn’t have to over think things because I couldn’t, self-medicating calmed me. Now there is no buffer, it’s just me, doing the best I can, and living with the consequences. I try my best, but like everyone, I do make mistakes. Day by day, I am getting there. It is certainly easier now, even though I’m still caught off guard by old thought patterns.

To anyone out there who is going through something similar, keep going, it is worth it, even though it is hard. Remember too, be kind to yourself.

Thanks for reading!
xx

My Anxious Mind

My Anxious Mind

I’ve struggled this week. It always starts in the same way, I feel a little more tired than normal. I feel a bit vacant, like I’m detached from everything and everyone, almost like I’m watching my life happen on the TV, going through the motions, but not really here. I know I am sensitive and anxious but I am a lot better than I used to be. In fact it is more of a surprise when I feel unusually low, there were times when I felt like it all the time. I know I’m on a bit of a downward spiral when things begin to get to me a little more than they should, and when I say that, I know that I shouldn’t let them, I know not everything is meant to offend or upset me. I just can’t seem to shake them off and things get through whether I want them to or not. On days like this I find everything harder, whether it be seeing purpose in what I do or thinking I am a rubbish Mum. I hate feeling this way because I know I am lucky, I have a lovely husband and kids, a dog and a home. I know many people don’t and feeling like this almost makes me feel self-indulgent, although if I could stop myself feeling like it, I would.

Yesterday my middle two had a bit of a disagreement. Much as I try to encourage them they aren’t good at talking to each other and I find it really sad. On this occasion they both decided to make their points, clearly trying to get a reaction but instead woke the littlest one up. I know they didn’t do it on purpose to annoy me, but that’s what it did and instead of reacting as I should and being calm, it just upset me. I felt like a failure as a mother because of their lack of communication and respect for each other. I know they are tired, they just started the new school year and a lot is being asked of them, but I don’t think I ask a lot from them, just really a bit of decency towards everyone else in the house. Maybe that is too much to expect from 14 and 16 year olds? Later when my eldest came home, a similar conversation occurred between him and me. Again I know he is tired, but do you know what? So am I! He always seems to be on the defensive with me, and it makes it hard to have a proper conversation with him.

Instead of seeing these things as just the little hiccups they are, I take them to heart, worrying about what I could have done to help the situation, and feeling like a lot of it is my fault. My mind whirs and I can’t keep my thoughts still, it’s almost like I need something to worry about at this point, and soon I was skipping about between worrying about money and replaying over and over something my mother-in-law had said to me earlier in the day.

Meditation helps, but when my mind is chaotic I find it hard to focus. Running helps, but on days like these I struggle to get out, feeling like people will laugh, that they’ll all be looking at me, that I am stupid for even thinking I am a runner. So I curled up under a blanket with my husband and tried to lose myself in a book. It was hard, my mind was busy and it kept wandering off, but I kept at it, and although I picked a lot of fault with the book, it did help focus me and stop the chatter in my head.

Any one else get days like this?

Thanks for reading.
πŸ’œπŸ’œ
x