All posts by clairei47

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.

Limbo

So strange this feeling of treading water. Just biding time until something happens but I have no idea what. It is really disconcerting and it’s triggering all sorts of stuff for me. Wanting to drink, feelings of dissatisfaction and boredom and the general overarching emotion of ‘meh’.

The thing that is really annoying me now is myself. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am that I’m not making the most out of all I have and that happiness is eluding me. I’m irritable and tetchy and quite frankly, a right royal pain in the arse. Nothing is right and nothing is good enough. In fact, ‘nothing’ is a great word to describe how I feel at the moment. Now I realise that sounds terrible and reading it back now makes me want to shake myself. I mean, what is wrong with me for goodness sake? I want to find the switch that turns it all back on again. Whatever ‘it’ is.

I have to be honest though. No point in not. I have lost enthusiasm for it all again. I can’t see a way forward and I’m in one huge mental block. I’m living life in limbo. I have absolutely no answers and all I’m doing is hanging on to the small ray of hope that it will change. I don’t know how to initiate that change but hopefully it will come. Ideas and solutions seem out of reach. One question that keeps going round and round my brain is ‘why can’t I just be grateful and appreciate all I have?’. That would make me happy. That would bring joy and contentment. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to happen like that. These things can’t be forced and actually that only serves to make the situation worse. I’m becoming increasingly despondent and fed up with Claire.

So on I go. Not drinking, trying to do my best to be a good mum and a kind person, feeling a little like a failure. Am I the only person that sticks rigidly to a diet and gains weight? Are the odds stacked against me in that too? We tell each other constantly to ‘take it a day at a time’ so that’s what I’ll do. Maybe an hour at a time would be even better? It’s just an hour can feel like an awfully long time here in limbo land.

Claire x

Resilience

I have been thinking today about sobriety and what it has given me. It can be difficult to hold onto the positives of giving up alcohol as it becomes the norm. In the initial months of becoming sober the fantastic changes I felt inside and huge improvements in my mental health were a daily occurrence and realisation. I spent every day thankful and grateful for all sorts of impacts it had on my life. Better sleep; waking up feeling well; less anxiety; increased self esteem; a feeling of peace; more hours in my day; respect from my teenage boys; less internal and external conflict; less guilt; resilience; more focus; improved memory; better self control; and so on and so on.

The list is endless and is all a direct result of removing alcohol from my life. Awareness of these changes and positives fades as they become part of the status quo. Surely I was always this resilient? I never had problems with self esteem and setting boundaries did I? Calm and peace is not new is it? Nope I wasn’t, yes I did and yes it is. Personally I think it’s really, really important, as we clock up the sober days, months and then eventually years, to remind ourselves about the reality of what life was like BS (before sobriety).

BS, I was fragile and vulnerable. I was teetering on the edge, in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. The slightest issue, event or comment could send me over that edge, into conflict or despair. I had absolutely zero resilience. Zilch, nada, nil. Resilience is such an important thing to have in life. How we achieve it I don’t know. Where it comes from is still an enigma to me. Maybe different people build it in different ways. What I do know is, when you have the internal strength resilience gives you, life is much more doable and challenges are not insurmountable. Sure, you still feel low, fed up or downright miserable some days. At times people can offend, upset and infuriate you. Situations don’t always go your way. Resilience helps you move through all this without falling apart. Sobriety provides us with that resilience.

I notice now that my vulnerability has lessened, I’m less affected by what others think about me. I want them to like me, of course, but I know that stuff happens around me that I can’t control and people will form opinions that have no bearing on the truth or facts. This has come with sobriety and this brings more resilience. Life is pretty tough when you feel constantly fragile. Like at any moment you might break or shatter. I am the opposite of that now. I actually feel strength inside and out. The first step towards this change was saying ‘bye’ to booze. Practicing yoga and mindfulness have built on the foundations laid down by being alcohol free. I knew I wanted to try these and the advice from my sober tribe when I wrote my post ‘Musing over mindfulness, meditation and mereally gave me a push to give them a go. I am now addressing my diet and ensuring I am eating for positive physical and mental health. Continuing to build, brick by brick, my own personal wall of resilience.

Tomorrow it will have been 9 months since I put a glass of wine to my lips and every day of those 9 months has made me stronger, tougher and more resilient. That’s why I am sober and that’s why I will stay that way.

Love Claire x

Outrageous

Seals are not interested in the keto diet

It’s been a week of ups and downs, and not particularly in a fun way 😳. That’s an outrageous start to a post but I’m feeling a bit like that right now. Hell it’s my blog. I’ll be as outrageous as I like!

I began the keto diet a week ago. I’m following Dr Axe’s book mainly because he proposes lots of vegetables, vitamins and probiotic supplements to help the body adjust and to maintain a good overall balance. I’ve stuck to it fairly strictly and I have no idea if I’m doing it right and (WARNING!! F-bomb alert) who the fuck knows if I’m in ketosis or not? I don’t feel like I am because I am not feeling all kinds of shit. I was warned and almost put off that it would be terrible for a week or two, or even more. It really hasn’t been. After two days of sugar cravings that turned me into a monster no one ever wants to meet or even dream about, (seriously, never ever), I calmed down. My desperate need to live close by the fridge devouring anything that looks like chocolate has gone. I’ve had a couple of AF wines, making sure they are low in carbs, but not wanted more. Overall I haven’t felt very hungry. I’m not tired and in fact my energy levels have really upped their game in the past two days. My mood has improved considerably. Far, far less ‘woe is me’. The down side … I don’t think I’ve lost any weight. I haven’t weighed myself because I don’t want to feel all dejected and lose motivation. I am much less bloated than I was and it’s early days. I’m carrying on with yoga but not much else due to time constraints. I chose this diet due to research I’d read about improved mental health, positive impact on hormones and reduced inflammation in the joints and muscles. Weight was one additional factor. Only time will tell if it’s for me but less sugar surely has to be a good thing and at least there won’t be a chocolate shortage now.

Work has turned sour once again. The good old NHS eh? The pay offer and deal they finally proposed for my new role was frankly an insult and an embarrassment. I’ve said ‘no thanks’ and will wait to see the fall out. If they don’t take it seriously then I won’t continue to do it. Simple as that. I am disappointed but it hasn’t really affected me as much as I thought it would. I honestly believe, with this situation, the outcome will be the right one for me. What it has done is make me stop. I was working myself into the ground and after the ‘pay offer’ meeting I decided to hell with it. I would focus on my patients and families, support the speech and language team which is the role I AM paid for and leave the rest alone. I pretty much took this morning off, had a lovely chat to a friend over the phone, sorted out my son’s school uniform and bought a bright lime green bag in the sale. I think the NHS owed me some time and it felt bloody brilliant.

I have booked a sports massage, I’m thinking of going to visit my friend in London sometime soon and I’m planning on become the queen of keto baking this weekend. I have my almond and coconut flour and I’m raring to go. I did have to close my eyes and hold my breath when I pressed the button to buy it. Boy, it’s so expensive! The cookies better taste like the sweetest nectar is all I can say.

This weekend I will have been sober for 9 months. Riding that Soberista train with many of you. Though my life is full of ups and downs (steady on, you’re all at it now), I am dealing with them. I’m starting to believe that I can do this, I’m not alone and I’m worth good things. I know for sure that belief would never had happened if I was still drinking alcohol.

Love Claire x

Happiness

Happiness is a strange thing isn’t it? I’m not even sure if I can detect when I am happy and when I am not. I know immediately when I feel sad. I am getting better at recognising anxiety, which is positive because it enables me to deal with the impact of it more proactively. It’s often related to fear. But happiness is not as easy. I think sometimes those moments of joy and pleasure pass me by without my awareness.

Maybe I was better at being ‘happy’ when I was younger. I look back at childhood moments and I can relive feelings of total happiness, like Christmas night and jumping in a pool on a family holiday. Happiness came with a sense of glee and excitement. As I moved into my 20s and 30s it was linked with having a good time, usually with booze heavily involved. I was always happy when I was drinking. Wasn’t I? I think we all know the answer to that question. Then, getting older, I guess my happiest times were my wedding day and having the boys. Experiencing motherhood and the overwhelming happiness it brought me. Feeling their love, their excitement and their sense of glee. Nothing made me more happy than hearing them squeal with delight at a new toy, watching them run around the garden or cuddling up with them on the sofa to watch a favourite TV programme. Their total adoration because I am ‘mum’ brought me pure joy.

It seems a little trickier now for some reason. I don’t think it’s that I’m not happy, I just don’t seem to take the time to realise those moments when they do occur. They do still happen. There is a difference now though. My happiness comes from within a lot of the time. It isn’t out of a bottle of wine. It’s generally not because of a new purchase, though I am a sucker for gifts. It comes when I’m feel content and comfortable in my own skin. Being a mum still brings me happiness of course but I can’t rely and depend entirely on others for joy. I miss those moments of pure hilarity or craziness that used to happen years ago. That said, there are times recently where something or someone brings a smile to my face, makes me laugh right from my belly, triggers those old childhood feelings of excitement and joy and absolutely, without doubt, makes me happy. I am very grateful for that.

Claire x

What do I want to know today?

My mindfulness journal had this question as the prompt for writing. I wasn’t really sure how to respond or answer. What does any of us want to know at a particular moment or time? It might be something very specific or factual. It could be existential or philosophical. It might be nothing at all. Maybe you feel you know enough. It’s an odd question really.

I decided I would quite like to know what direction I should take. I want to know if I’m following the right path, heading on the correct journey. I feel like I’ve taken a turn somewhere, not necessarily a wrong one, but one that’s leading me somewhere different and away from my original route. I look back and I can’t really see the road I was on. It’s overgrown with trees and bushes. Should I spend time cutting them back and start searching for what was there, maybe to find it isn’t really the way I want to go? Or do I continue, down what looks like a footpath but I can’t be sure. I want to know where the signpost has gone. Where is the stile to help me over the tricky patch? There is just no clear map.

I really don’t mind how long the journey takes. I’m not in any rush to reach a destination. But what I’d really like to know today is, am I’m heading in the right direction?

Claire x

Going Keto

Time for a long overdue update. My recent posts have all been a little on the naval gazing side of things and too much naval gazing makes Claire a very dull girl.

A little bit of good news at last. Yesterday I had my interview for the position I’ve been covering at work for the past 4 months. I was offered the job and I have accepted. There are still lots of unknowns regarding the pay, the banding of my current role (as this is an ‘add on’) and the lines of responsibility but there has been agreement this will be addressed. This is a start and a big step forward. A month ago my stress and anxiety levels were pushed to the max due to feeling ignored and unappreciated at work and I was unsure what direction to take. I set boundaries and I communicated the issues and my expectations. I came to terms with accepting that, should the situation did not change, I would walk away. It was a really tough time and I hit a very rocky patch emotionally but I stuck it out. Now, I have been officially offered the post and I will be paid (at least something) for it. Underlying issues need to be resolved and I am quite ready to stand up for myself if they aren’t sorted. I have found an inner strength and self belief that allows me to know my worth and not accept anything less. That feels pretty darn good.

In other news, I have worked my little proverbial socks off since we arrived back from the ill fated caravan trip. There hasn’t been much time for anything else. I kick started yoga again. Boy, one week off had a big impact. I’m was absolutely not a yoga guru before the holiday but this last week I have been a creaky and squeaky old lady. Lots of muttering a few expletives under my breath as I attempted a ‘sort of’ downward dog and a very wobbly warrior three. Never have I been so relieved to hear the words, “now we will get ready for our final pose, corpse pose”. Thank the Lord for Shavasana.

My weight has been worrying me for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hugely overweight but I have gained a fair few pounds over the past year. In fact, 2 years ago I stuck a huge bag of clothes in the loft. Clothes that were far too big for me. Last week, the ‘fat clothes’ had to come back out of said loft. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, some of them were too tight! Oh the shame and mortification. I reflected on why I might have gained so much weight. Looking for reasons other than the lorry loads of chocolate I consume every night. My daily activity levels have seriously reduced during lockdown. When you reach the end of the day and your smart watch tells you the total daily steps are 82 you know you need to get your arse moving. So, I tried a run on Tuesday. It was a very unpleasant experience from start to finish. I felt so heavy and each and every step was torture. In addition, my joints and limbs have been so achy, stuff and sore recently. This can’t go on. Time to take action.

My plan is to increase activity levels and manage my food intake. I will persevere with the running and ensure that every day I at least run or walk 2 miles. I will continue with my yoga. I will, and here is the biggie, go on the 30 day keto diet. I have bought the book. I’m reading it now. This is my new ‘thing’. If I can ditch the wine, I can do this for 30 days and hopefully for the longer term. So, Dr Josh Axe, author of ‘Keto Diet’ …. let’s do this thing. Who’s with me? Anyone? Hello… Are you there? Hmm, radio silence ….

I’ll keep you all updated. Be warned, this may not be pretty.

Claire x

Reflection

Time for some self reflection I think. Life has gone a little awry recently. I’ve found myself engaging in a good deal of ‘stinking thinking’ (thanks Collette for this perfect phrase). My sobriety has been really tested, I’ve had periods of huge anxiety and my mood has dipped uncomfortably low on some days. This all seems to have happened during the past month to six weeks and I’m starting to wonder why that might be the case.

The obvious answer would be the antidepressants and the fact that around that time I started to wean off them and have been without them for almost 6 weeks now. My constant deliberation as to whether I should remain med free has come to no conclusion as yet. I don’t want to dwell on the whole antidepressant debate right now. Instead I’m going to look back and reflect on some successes.

  • I have maintained my sobriety for over 8 months now. I didn’t even realise I’d hit 8 months until the day after which in itself is petty crazy, considering I once thought about drinking ALL the time
  • I stepped up to take on a new role temporarily at work. It came with a significant increase in responsibility, leading a medical and surgical team at a time of great stress and anxiety.
  • I have done a good job in leading the team, maintaining our service and now resuming patient care.
  • I have become a yoga addict and since lockdown at the end of March (other than being away for the last week), I have practised at least 5 times a week and sometimes twice a day. I really do enjoy it.
  • I have maintained close friendships and formed new ones that have brought me so much joy and happiness.
  • I have cut ties with old ‘friends’ and people who had a negative effect on my mental health.
  • I have survived social situations that involved some of these people and I did so sober.
  • I have a lovely invisible shield. Granted I forget to use it some days and for a while it’s been stuck at the back of a cupboard BUT I’ve pulled it out, dusted it off and it’s back in action.
  • I have attended a christening in Belfast that involved a stay over and I spent a weekend away with a large group of people to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. Both occasions involved people engaging in a lot drinking for a significant amount of time. I enjoyed both events and remained alcohol free.
  • I have become a garden lover and enthusiast, gaining so much pleasure from pottering around and watching my plants and flowers grow.
  • I have realised many new things about myself. I am actually fairly introverted. I enjoy my own company. I can achieve peace and calm inside my mind and body, even if it evades me right now.
  • I have faced my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression and I will continue to find strategies and ways to deal with them when they come knocking. They will not get the better of me.
  • I play online scrabble and enjoy it
  • I have learned that kindness brings all kinds of positivity into my life
  • Eight months on, I am still living my life sober and free.

Looking back I am proud of the things I have achieved. My journey is not just about sobriety. It’s about learning to love myself. It’s about discovering what exciting things life might hold for me. I just need to learn to open my eyes and really see.

“sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step”. Naeem Callaway

Love Claire x

The unexpected (missing) joy of holidays

My last post was all about my saying ‘yes’. It was a kind of poem, sending out a declaration of intention. Sadly I haven’t really abided by many of the statements I made. All too quickly the negatives and the ‘if only’ thoughts crept in.

I’m away on holiday right now. It’s drawing to a close. I was really looking forward to coming away. I told myself I’d just sit, be happy with chilling and not doing anything much. I would be the queen of zen and tranquility. I even brought my yoga mat to take to the beach. What was I thinking?

In reality, the whole arrival and setting up the caravan was a complete fiasco. The drive took almost 5 hrs. The site information had clearly stated “levelling blocks would be required” but my husband had chosen to ignore this little nugget. As we perched at a very precarious angle on the side of a slope he finally admitted defeat and I had to race down to a caravan shop to buy ‘recommended’ levelling blocks. The van would still not level out and we enlisted the help of 5 other caravaners and a ramp, kindly donated by some bloke that felt sorry for us. Eventually we were level. Two hours later.

Level and ready to go, we started the mammoth task of unpacking. We have an old, small van and a large awning where most of our junk gets housed. Last year the awning broke. We got it fixed but one of the new poles was a little awkward. Holding up the proceedings even further. Then, no running water. The pump was doing nothing. This was something that had been a problem when we last used the van. Something that was on the list of jobs that my husband had a year to sort. You can see where this is going can’t you? No running water in times of COVID-19 is absolutely not my idea of fun. The shower blocks were set up for social distancing, two people at a time. Not only would we have to queue every time we wanted a shower or a wee (my husband bans using the toilet on the caravan) but to wash our hand and brush our teeth too. Deep sigh.

So, at around 9.30pm I had to start cooking burgers and sausages. By this point, I was seething. I kept trying to channel ‘the power of now’. This isn’t a problem. This is holiday time. Stop yelling at the world and your family and get over it. I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t and I didn’t. I raged against humanity. I spiralled into ‘poor me’ and ‘this is so unfair’ territory. I was a complete toddler and I became more difficult, with an increasing bad temper, as the night (and next day) wore on.

We managed to buy a new pump eventually. My husband was slow to sort it, waiting for me to go buy it no doubt. My mood remained uptight and stressy for a good few days. Not helped by observing my 15 year old giving me the finger when he thought I wasn’t looking. He was upset I’d asked him to put his phone away for a while. I resented everyone and everything. I knew I’d reached crunch point when I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to go and buy a bottle of wine and drink it. I’d even reasoned that although sobriety had improved my mental health for many months, it was doing nothing for me now. I was grouchy, cross and stressed. I wasn’t enjoying the moment and peace evaded me. Why not just go back to having something in my life that I could look forward to and enjoy? It was the closest I have been to drinking again in 8 months. I chose not to drink but my resolve is wavering.

Eventually, after a torrent of tears yesterday evening, I picked myself up and made the decision to say ‘yes’ to enjoying the rest of the trip. The little that was left of it. My son apologised, told me he loved me and it was a sudden ‘reaction’. We moved on.

Today has been better. I ran this morning. I haven’t done that in weeks. I wrote an email to a friend and read her lovely long reply which was immensely supportive. Her suggestion, that I maybe reconsider taking antidepressants, is something I have thought a about a great deal. I’m still very undecided. I don’t want to but I also don’t want to waste my life worrying and stressing about unimportant issues and small hiccups. The peace, calm and sense of ‘all is ok’ is not with me as it once was. I’m not crazily anxious and nor am I ‘depressed’. I just don’t have the ability to give myself a good (and well deserved) kick up the bum.

Well that’s me right now. In the morning I’m up early for seal watching with my younger son. Some quality time (another bit of good advice I followed). I’m trying not to be hard on myself and I’m trying to ignore the guilt and regret I feel at wasting this precious holiday time. I know it’s time I won’t get back. I guess there’s a lot of sadness and some deep rooted unhappiness that prevents me really feeling at ease. I can see the caravan holidays are coming to an end as a family of four. The eldest is outgrowing it both physically and emotionally. I suspect their growing up is an event I have not wanted to face. The grief it stirs up is too painful for me to even allow in. Perhaps that is something to reflect on and maybe a post for another day.

Love Claire x

Today

I have a mindfulness journal. I found it in a cheap bookshop and art store. It was £3. I have almost filled it with thoughts and emotions. There are exercises and prompts to help focus my writing and one of the final questions was …

What do I want to do today?

I’m not a writer by any stretch of the imagination but this is what I wrote ..

Today I want to move forward 
Today I want to feel acceptance and gratitude
Today I want love, peace and kindness
Today I want calm
Today is a day for people who love, respect and care for me
Today I want to let go
Today I want mindfulness, joy and laughter
Today I want nature and fresh air
Today I want family
Today I want friends
Today I want to look in the mirror and say ‘I like you, you’re ok’
Today I want to breathe
Today is the day it happens
Today I will move forward

The instruction was to write down one thing but as always I went rogue and created a huge ‘to do list!’ I won’t accomplish it all today, but TODAY is where it begins.

Love Claire xx

Thank you

This is a really quick post to let all you lovely people know that I’m ok. Yesterday was an awful day but I survived and I’m a teeny bit calmer this morning.

Thank you for all your amazing comments, support and love yesterday. I can’t tell you how much your kindness helped and how much it meant to have you all here. I was going to delete the post because I felt slightly embarrassed and self pitying but I’ve decided to leave it there. I think it’s important to read the comments when I feel that way again and to remind myself that, no matter how scary it was at the time, I got through it. It may help someone who stumbles across it and connects with the emotions and distress. So it will stay.

Thanks to you all once again. You really are the most amazing group of people. Your love and care for me yesterday was palpable.

I’m still here

Love Claire x