My name is Claire. I am a mum, a wife and I work for the NHS. For as long as I can remember I have drank alcohol and my relationship with it has become increasingly complex over recent years.
I’m 47 and I want to be physically and mentally healthy. I want to be present in my life and enjoy the journey, not drown it out with wine and hangovers. I have had anxiety and depression and I am still working hard to keep them at bay. I am hoping that not having alcohol will help me beat them.
I have decided to detail how things progress via this blog. I know nothing about blogging but I think support from others is essential. Maybe one day I can help someone with my story.
I started my sober journey on 17th November 2019; long may it continue.
**Warning** Minor meltdown occurring alongside insomnia. Slightly dramatic post coming up.
Why can’t I find the courage to make the changes I need to? I’m really stuck and feeling trapped and I tell you, it’s not a great feeling. Not. One. Bit.
I’m not even sure what changes I need to make. I just know work has to change. My marriage has to change. My mental health and approach to life has to change. My attitude stinks and seriously must change. But how do you do it? How do you stand your ground. Set your boundaries. Overcome fear, guilt, anxiety? And here is the big question. What if the change you make is not the right one? Am I going to end up with years of regret and “oh shit, why did I do that?” mental torture?
See how tangled I am? I can’t even blame alcohol. I am now unsuccessfully self medicating this period of angst with sugar so I guess the old Claire lives on! I feel weighed down by so many emotions that I can’t move or breathe freely. Maybe I am just incredibly selfish and expect and want too much from life. The world is in the middle of a devastating pandemic and here I am, Miss Self Pity, wondering why my life is the way it is. First world problems.
I have so many lovely things in my life and I know I am incredibly lucky. I need to revisit practising gratitude and kindness as it really helps me feel grounded and focus on what is important. Hopefully, in time, I will find the courage to make the changes that are needed. Frustrated is no doubt how many of us feel right now. My frustration is off the scale. I’m getting sucked into ‘stinking thinking’ mode (thanks for the term Collette!) and stinking thinking never leads to good things.
Well, now I’ve offloaded all the swirling thoughts in my head into this post I feel a little better. No answers or solutions but that’s ok. To anyone who stuck with this one until the end, big thanks (and it begs the question, ‘why?’). I’ll give sleep another go. It’s evaded me so far tonight but maybe now it will come. A problem shared and all that …
It’s just past midnight here and I’ve put out the presents, set the table with crackers etc and it’s all looking very festive. I’m excited for my boys to see and open their presents in the morning and I’m actually really looking forward to a day of total R&R.
I’ve had a bit of a tough time emotionally these past few days. I won’t go into the detail. It isn’t really relevant. What I have learnt is this: when I am not drowning out the difficult stuff with alcohol, the pain feels intense and raw but it actually can be managed and dealt with. The anxiety and sadness don’t overwhelm me like I have always feared they will. The feelings come and they go; they ebb and flow. When I drank, those feeling were numbed for a short while but then they became cemented, entrenched and part of my make up. I could never shake them off like I can now. This is a really important lesson for me to have learnt. If I sit with the emotions I don’t like, they will eventually pass.
So, as I turn out the light and look forward to my second sober Christmas Day, I am once again reminded that kicking the drink has given me many gifts. I am so grateful for them all.
Happy Christmas to my lovely blogging community. You are awesome.
What a crazy, crazy time this has been and looks set to continue. I haven’t posted for a while I know. I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth, white knuckle riding life (or so it feels at the moment). It’s a roller coaster that’s for sure.
I finally broke up from work for a week last Friday. I really needed to finish and stick that ‘out of office’ on. The stress was gradually building day by day. More and more to do; colleagues off sick with stress, Covid or isolating; people making big mistakes under just too much pressure. I could feel myself losing control so my leave came at the perfect time. I have to say, so many people seem really low and down at the moment. It’s no wonder with everything that’s happened and continues to happen. Now people’s Christmas plans have been upended at the last minute and the UK has a new strain of the virus that is spreading faster and is fairly unknown. Another huge test of people’s resilience and strength.
For me, my plans remain the same. We had decided to stay home just the four of us. We will meet my parents for a walk as long as it isn’t raining and not see my brother or my in laws until this shit show is over. I know vaccinations are happening but will take time and my gut tells me this will get worse before it gets better. So, I’m hiding out. Protecting myself, my family and other people. I did venture out on Saturday. Just to the local shopping centre and I hated the experience so much, I turned around and came home. Too busy, people not really paying attention to any guidelines and I felt unsafe. I’m not prepared to take unnecessary risks. I have to work in the hospital. My husband teaches in one school and my children attend a different school. We have to do those things. No point adding additional risks into the equation.
I haven’t been doing my yoga regularly or getting out for walks, runs or cycling. I can tell I’m going slightly stir crazy so I do need to begin my routines again. It’s so easy to fall out of step. I know how much better I feel when I keep up my own self care. I am so grateful right now though. Grateful that we have a warm, cosy house. Food in the cupboards and the fridge. Thankful that we can keep in touch with family and friends via messages and video calls. It’s the small stuff that makes me happy now. Interestingly, I have just noticed on by sobriety app that I hit 400 days without alcohol today. That’s quite something. It doesn’t feel like that much of an achievement anymore. It’s part of my life and I never want to go back. But not that long ago I wasn’t able to get through 4 days without booze so it is something to be proud of. I won’t take it for granted. I know I would not have coped with any of the challenges this past year has thrown up if I’d been drinking (and likely actually throwing up!). I would have been a mess. Now I feel like chaos happens around me, mostly out of my control. I can watch it, experience it and remain calm. Knowing and believing, this too shall pass.
I am now past my one year sobriety milestone and life is ticking on. This past few weeks has been a little like wading through mud. Various challenges keep cropping up and with the back drop of Covid and lockdown it’s an uphill struggle some days.
My situation at work is dragging on and on and on. We cannot seem to reach an agreement on the pay for the additional role I have taken on. Usually it would be a consultant/medic who has the role and I have seriously upset the apple cart being a mere allied health professional (AHP). They have tried to offer me less than half of what would be offered to a consultant doing the same job with the same responsibilities because, and this is a direct quote, as a ‘non-medic’ I come with a ‘different skill set’. Damn right I do! Arguably a more holistic set of skills with significant expertise in the area of communication. I am a speech and language therapist, communication is my ‘thing’. Anyway, I have not accepted this offer and after a lot of back and forth we are now going to put the job description through a formal banding process. Which I have to say, has its own issues. It’s just all bureaucratic nonsense really and they have stalled and delayed. I am the first non-medic to take on a leadership role for a surgical team. They don’t want to open a whole can of worms where other allied health professionals start to demand equal pay. It’s all a little corrupt and dishonest and quite frankly I’m at the point of walking away. My colleagues, the patients and their families are the thing that keep me going but boy, it’s bloody exhausting.
On the home front, we have been having some serious teenage struggles with my 16 year old. The Xbox, particularly when playing FIFA, triggers such rage and anger it’s scary. It has scared him too. The other week he punched a hole in a door and made his knuckles bleed. With his right hand I might add. The one that has only just come out of plaster after breaking his wrist. Numpty. He also swore at his Dad and I. Think of the worst, crudest swear word you can direct at someone …. he used it. He has now, along with a hole in the door, broken two TVs, 4 Xbox controllers, 1 TV controller and damaged his bedroom walls on three occasions. I would like to say I remained calm and reasonable during the last exchange but I didn’t. I screamed and shouted back at him, which was not helpful I know. In my defence, I am completely sick of him trashing my house because of a stupid video game. He does pay to replace the things but that’s meaningless to him. It comes out of an account where he stashes birthday and Christmas money and it has no value. He is generally a kind, loving young man and after we all calmed down talked it all through. He had a week off the console. We haven’t replaced the TV. He has to play downstairs now, which means sharing the time available with me as it’s the room in which I work. He has, so far, remained calm and he is reducing the time spent playing FIFA. Let’s hope we have turned a corner.
What next? Christmas arrangements with the recent UK rules. Trying to please everyone. People feeling offended. My brother stressing about how to manage it all and Mum in tears. My Mum is also having surgery to remove skin cancer tomorrow and is understandably very anxious about life in general. I did have to listen to her moan and groan about me the other day. She hadn’t realised I’d picked up the phone and she was listing all my faults to my Dad. That also ended in tears (not mine!). In the end, it has been decided my husband, the boys and I will not see anyone within the five day Christmas window the government have allowed. It was becoming far too complicated with the ‘bubble of three families’ and frankly I just don’t see the point on risking my parents’ health or my eldest missing his mock GCSE exams in January for one or two days. So we are set for an extremely quiet Christmas, just the four of us. We can got for walks with family and my in-laws live 2 hrs drive away so it would be tricky to see them anyway. I am noticing how fed up and low people are now feeling. Lots of them struggling with this restrictive way of life. I had conversations with many people last week, upset and tearful about the new Tier system and arrangements for the Christmas period. The area I live in will move into Tier 3 restrictions once ‘lockdown’ ends on Wednesday. There will be little change to what we are currently allowed to do. It is ground hog day for sure. Vaccines are around the corner and as a patient facing member of the health service it would appear I will be the first to be offered one. I will have it but I’m not going to lie, I am nervous about it. I am also anxious about my children having it if they are offered. The unknown long term impact concerns me. That said, the long term impact of contracting Covid is very real and there is also a lot still unknown. It’s the right thing to do, to protect myself, my family and stop the spread of the virus. It’s just hard to shake off the anxiety.
So, lots of things happening and challenges to deal with. On a positive note, I am loving my bike. I’m slowly building confidence and though turning left is tricky as I can’t signal without veering into the curb, I am now able to pick up some speed without permanently squeezing the brakes! I’m practicing yoga daily and I totally love it. I don’t know what it is I love about it but I just do. I also went for a run last Monday which is the first in months. It felt great. I’m reading more and I have started a jigsaw. My cross stitch is coming on. It might be finished in time to give to the little girl at Christmas. It was supposed to be for her Christening gift last February. Ah well, better late than never.
Although some days I feel overwhelmed with life’s challenges, overall my mental health has been stable. I haven’t descended into periods of not being able to face the world or had days when I just can’t let go of what is bothering me. There have been disappointments, frustrations and tempers flaring but I can still breathe and continue on. I have been bored on occasions but interestingly boredom doesn’t fill me with anxiety anymore. I haven’t at any point been tempted to drink. I rarely have AF drinks either. A cup of tea provides me with the ‘and relax’ feeling I used to seek from booze. I have many dreams and hopes for 2021 and the future. All in all, I think I’m doing ok.
Now I have been sober for a year, I am starting to feel a little like I did when I gave up smoking in my early 30s. Giving up smoking was difficult but I did it initially by ‘cutting down’ when I met my husband at 27. He has never smoked and so I didn’t smoke when I was with him. He came to live with me around a year later which meant I smoked even less, tending to only have a cigarette when I went out with friends and when I was drinking (which I’m sure you can guess, was a fair amount of the time!). When I found out I was pregnant at 31, I gave up entirely and never touched a cigarette again.
If asked if I was a smoker I said ‘yes’ for a few years after I gave up. I always felt like a smoker and at that stage I still had cravings for them, particularly when out socialising and drinking. I therefore considered myself a ‘smoker’ but just choosing to not smoke. At some point this changed. I can’t tell you when or why, but I realised I didn’t want to smoke, never had a craving and the thought of putting a cigarette in my mouth made me feel physically ill. That’s when I became a ‘non-smoker’.
How does this apply to alcohol? Right now I feel like I am still a ‘drinker’ but I just choose not to drink. The cravings are less but I still like the idea of having a drink at times. I don’t ‘need’ it or rely on it like I used to. Similarly, I stopped ‘needing’ cigarettes after I gave them up but I still felt like I was a smoker for a while. I wonder if, in time, I will come to view myself as a non-drinker in the same way. Whether the thought of drinking alcohol will turn my stomach the same way considering smoking does now. Having a cigarette no longer crosses my mind, yet I thought about it all the time in my 20s. I could never have imagined not smoking but now I can’t imagine what it’s like to smoke. Does that happen with sobriety and giving up booze? Will I forget drinking in the same way? I hope I do. I’d like it to have absolutely no place in my life or my thoughts. I suspect it won’t be quite the same experience though. There is more social acceptance, and even encouragement, regarding drinking. It’s hard to get away from it sometimes. Adverts, films, greeting cards, comments on social media, tv …. alcohol surrounds us. Maybe this means it’s harder to move on from being a ‘drinker’ than it is from being a ‘smoker’.
On the 17th November 2019 I woke up, realised I had a serious problem and made a massive decision to change my life. After promising myself I would not drink that weekend and subsequently downing a bottle of red wine the evening before, it was painfully apparent I was unable to moderate my alcohol intake. I found the app that counts the days, hours, minutes without a drink and I started it. Day One of sobriety.
I have no words to describe this past year for me. I was a total mess. I wasn’t living, I was surviving. Just. I wasn’t aware of how I felt, I had no control over my life and I was the unhappiest I had ever been in my life.
When people tell you giving up alcohol is the greatest gift you can give yourself it’s hard to believe it. I just didn’t understand how or why that would be. For me it hasn’t only been the greatest gift I have given myself, it’s the greatest gift I could have given my family and friends. My mum told me the other day, she and my Dad feel I have returned to them. They thought they had lost me. God that makes me cry just thinking about it.
I am not going to lie. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever done. Not because I miss it particularly or because I wish I was able to drink again. It’s been hard because it has forced me to shine a light on myself. I have had to examine why I hid behind wine. I have had to uncover the ‘real’ Claire and discover things about myself and my life that I never knew existed. This has not been easy. It’s still a process and is far from over. There have been days, and sometimes weeks, when I have felt anger and fear, loneliness, anxiety and depression. I have wondered why I am restricting myself and wished I could just lose myself in a bottle. But, and this is a big but, there have been many many days where I have caught myself feeling true joy. For no reason. Just deep down inside. There is a peace and calm on some days that I can’t ever remember feeling. Those days of joy, calm and peace keep me going. I want more of those please.
I started my blog just a few days after my Day One. I have met many amazing people in this blogging world. People I now consider friends and people I care for deeply. So, newbies to this world, if you are reading this and wondering if you should start a blog or write a comment. My advice, for what it’s worth, don’t think, just do it. Engage with this community. It has brought me so much unexpected happiness this past year. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would not have reached this phenomenal milestone without the love, support and advice of my sober tribe. I have formed friendships I hope stay with me for many years to come.
Approaching the year mark has thrown up all sorts of questions and some worries. I honestly never thought this far ahead. I didn’t think this day would come. I focused one day at a time and never said ‘forever’. I have decided this is how I intend to continue. I am a work in progress and I don’t know where I will end up. I will take this one day at a time. I will carry on peeling back the layers. It’s exciting to discover that I am liking what I uncover!
Signing off at 365 days; 52 weeks; one year.
Off to treat myself to fish and chips and chocolate to celebrate 😊
Too much to say. I can’t get it down in any sense or order. Overwhelmed, worried, anxious and just struggling.
I want a drink more than ever tonight. I know you’ll all want to send me messages of positivity etc, you really don’t have to. I’m just so bloody fed up and I want to do something I used to really enjoy and found comforting. I also know this is not what many of you new into your sobriety need or want to hear from someone nearly a year down the line but I can’t lie.
This is so (F BOMB alert 💣) fucking hard sometimes. Not all the time, not even most of the time … just right now. I don’t have any thing else to say. I can’t be bothered to even go through possible reasons for it. It’s not fair!!!!! Why can’t I simply have a drink and enjoy it without so much other baggage attached to it? That’s pathetic and selfish I know. But this week I’m fighting demons again.
Life has been fairly quiet in my little corner of the world. Work continues to be as crazy as ever with no sign of let up and no sign of me being paid the equal pay for my additional role. Otherwise, no dramas to report. Which is nice. I feel stable for the first time in a while. I did completely forget to take my antidepressants for a week (don’t ask me how, to this day I don’t know). That was a few weeks back and believe me the ‘withdrawal’ made me feel so ill (physically and mentally) I know I will never just ‘stop’ taking them suddenly. I can fully understand why the advice is to lower your dose slowly and wean off them very very gently. The cycle of on/off/on/off would be a dead cert if you simply stop one day.
Anyhoo, I have recovered from that little mishap and back taking the SSRIs regularly and I now feel level again. I have struggled with energy levels in recent weeks but I don’t think I’m alone in that. There are some days when I just want to curl up under my duvet and sleep and there are some days when I have done just that. Before you report me to social services, I have fed and watered my two boys, the house is clean and shopping is done. But I then tend to ‘give up’ on any other plans over and above the daily survival routine and I sleep.
That lethargy seems to be reducing now and I do have more energy although I can sleep in so long at the weekend I’d give any teenager a run for their money. Is this a sign of menopause? I blame everything on the ever approaching menopause. Shitty mood? Menopause is coming. Eating my own weight in chocolate? Peri menopausal for sure. Weight gain? Time of life fast approaching. No energy? It’s the change. Don’t want to do any yoga? Understandable with those hormones flying around. Aches and pains? Nothing to do with the truck loads of sugar I had the night before … it’s the bloody menopause.
That said though, it is a horrible time for women and though I still may be a little way off, I’m not looking forward to it. My GP says the low mood, anxiety and periods of depression could well be related to the hormone changes as I approach that time. The antidepressants help considerably and my doctor says it’s what he prescribed for many women going through menopause, so I feel I’m ok for now. I can re-evaluate as time goes on I guess.
I have managed to continue with my yoga practice and when life settles down in terms of covid and restrictions I would love to train to teach yoga. Please don’t imagine that I’m some flexible zen yogi master after 7 months of home practice. I’m really not. I can barely get onto some poses and the inverted balancing ones are out of my league. But I think there must be scope for a person of 48 to teach others that it’s ok to not be able to touch your toes, you can still join in and reap the benefits.
So, I’m building my ‘to do’ list for future Claire. Teaching yoga and volunteering for the Samaritans or a similar support charity. I’d like to learn to dance and to one day act. Maybe even take singing lessons. I’m slowly creating a bucket list. My new bike is on it but hasn’t arrived yet. Oh, and that dog that I will have one day, when I can give it the time it deserves and needs. The list is getting longer by the day. It’s good to have plans and dreams I think. I’m adding to mine constantly. Make sure you add to yours too.
I haven’t written recently mainly because I haven’t had too much to write about. No naval gazing or soul searching to speak of and, much like the rest of the world, opportunities to head out and find excitement and interest are few and far between. Work occupies most of my weekdays and my weekends consist of house cleaning, reading, watching tv and not much else. I’m not complaining but it is a strange kind of existence.
I have been thinking that I need a new focus. Something outside of work and something that takes me outside and away from my bed, sofa and iPad. I’d love to have a dog but I need to be realistic about that. Though I am working from home quite a lot right now, that won’t always be the case and the rest of the family are out everyday. It seems that the world and his wife are all getting dogs. Every second conversation I have with someone they tell me they are about to have a new puppy. It is definitely on my bucket list but not for a good few years yet. I have to shelve that one for now.
So, it was back to the drawing board and I hatched a new plan. Last week I bought a new bike. It arrives in a couple of weeks (yes it is the bike in the photo) and it cost me more than I ever dreamt I’d spend on a bike. I’m not big into cycling but I want a hobby that I am able to do on my own as well as with my family. My Dad also adores cycling and I’m hoping it is an interest we can share and participate in together, even with the strictest of restrictions in place. I’m excited for it to arrive and hoping it lifts me out of my ‘meh’ mood. I used to run a few times a week but that has fizzled out. I still practice yoga every day and I am loving it but I need something more. I can feel boredom creeping in and for me boredom is very dangerous. It brings with it risks to my mental health, it triggers unhelpful behaviours and negative thoughts and is generally a state of being that I need to prevent and avoid.
I have also picked up my cross stitch again. I have such a complicated piece going on that mistakes are all too easy to make. Unpicking is not fun but when I hit my flow I find it really quite relaxing. It keeps me from reaching for the wine so that’s got to be positive. I started the current project last Christmas, intending it for a baby’s christening present in February. It’ll be about ready for her 18th birthday by the time I’m finished. It’s the thought that counts I guess.
Slowly but surely …
Does anyone else struggle with boredom? It isn’t that I find it tricky to be in my own company. Quite the opposite. I do worry however that I could become too introverted and lock myself away within a virtual world. I am aware that whilst boredom is not good for me, I am becoming less and less motivated to engage in physical ‘in person’ social contact. I noticed that was happening before the pandemic hit us. Removing alcohol removed my desire to mix and socialise. Or maybe it just removed my desire to mix and socialise with others who are drinking. I don’t really know. Something has altered within though and I need to be careful it doesn’t lead to unhealthy levels of solitude and eventually loneliness and isolation. I’m am always grateful I have this blog and my word press friends. This community helps me connect and engage which is so important, especially in the current climate. And who knows, in a few weeks you might see me whizzing around on my bike. Laura Trott … eat your heart out. 😊