I wrote this post in response to a request for submissions on someone else’s blog. The idea was to write about what grief means for us as individuals. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t posted but as it was already written, I thought I’d publish it on my own blog anyway.
I wanted to share this post. I read it today and thought, like Jim’s post earlier about the evangelical sober authors, giving up booze is not easy. Life doesn’t suddenly become rosy and delightful. In fact you see life for what it is. I love how Charlie expresses it and for all those well into sobriety and those who are just starting out … it’s well worth a read.
I had to. I mean I had a choice. I didn’t HAVE to. There wasn’t a disgruntled wife standing at the door, coat on, screaming startling accurate …Why I quit drinking…
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 me’ really 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
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 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.
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
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
Last night I had very little sleep. I received a work email at around 11.30pm and stupidly I looked at it. I won’t go into details but I’m currently in one of those situations where I’ve taken on an additional role, not been paid for it but I wanted to do it to support my team. My grade for my regular post is significantly lower than anyone else doing the same job across the UK anyway and my employers have never been too fussed by that. Anyway, the long and short is the email made me feel incredibly devalued and demotivated. I have made a decision that I won’t continue with the additional role because the offer of any pay increase is minimal in real terms and the trust (I work for the NHS) won’t address any of the issues I have raised. They want me to continue working like a crazy woman but only do the bare minimum to support me. I would be a total mug to carry on.
Many reading this will wonder what the issue is. If the package isn’t right, don’t do it. The problem is more complex than that. When I’m challenged at work and have responsibility for making changes and decisions, although stressful, it motivates me. It actually keeps boredom and depression at bay. I want to make changes and influence our service for the families, children and adults we treat. I get a real buzz from that. It’s only possible to be influential if you are in certain positions and are mixing in certain circles. However, if I continue to invest the same level of time and energy with absolutely no recognition or support, I’ll likely end up struggling with my mental health anyway, just from the stress and resentment alone.
What to do? I don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s time for a change anyway. I’m limited with where I can go with my specialist clinical skill set and location constraints. I’ve considered volunteering for the Samaritans and have applied. I was going to put this on hold due to work pressures and time commitments but maybe that’s the way forward now. I’ve considered further education and completing a masters or even a PhD … finally using research to validate a patient outcome measure I developed years ago. Last night I was so wound up and frustrated at reading the email. This morning I cried big tears as I wrote to the individual whose role I have been covering, informing them I would not be continuing. Now, though I feel sad about the situation, I am already looking ahead and making new plans. I recognise this is so different to where I was a year ago. I’m not hungover, jaded and feeling sorry for myself. I’m calm and I will manage. I am hurting though. Life always seems to throw up little challenges and tests along the way. Decisions to be made. Keeps us on our toes I guess. Dealing with them sober is the only way I can cope. Thank God I am sober.
Love Claire xx
Completely exhausted. That’s how I feel today. From the moment I woke up to this moment right now. 7.40pm UK time. There is no reason why it should be the case. I slept ok. I haven’t had to work much. I’ve actually spent most of the day doing very little. But still I feel worn out.
I’d go one step further and even say I feel jaded with life today. On the whole I think I’ve stayed pretty positive through lockdown. I’ve harnessed my introverted self and for the most part, I have found the time, without social pressure and commitment, enjoyable. Work has been extraordinarily busy but that has meant my downtime has been more precious. I’ve interacted with people who make me happy And I’ve chosen not to engage in situations that do the opposite. I realise I am luckier than most right now and I have been grateful everyday for the things I have.
Today I’m struggling to find the energy it takes to be positive. Today I am left wondering what if this is all my life will be. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with my life. I just don’t know if I can do this day in and day out for the next 6 or 12 months. Maybe even longer. Our trip out to the US to visit my cousin and family in North Carolina is off. Today we finally made the decision to cancel. I am gutted. My cousins wife is like the sister I never had. We are exceptionally close and the thought of seeing her each summer (either here or there) keeps me going on low days. I knew deep down when the lockdown and pandemic kicked off it was unlikely we’d be going in August. I just lived in denial and hoped it wouldn’t be the case. Sadly it is not going to happen. I see the summer stretching in front of me and find myself wondering how we will fill it.
The boys have now been at home constantly for almost 3 months. Ben is 15. It’s unnatural for him to not have any periods of separation from his parents. It’s a weird way for him to experience these teenage years. We all need a break from each other. None of us can find any space. I know I need some space. A half hour walk is lovely but you take for granted those few times when you are truly alone for a morning, an evening or a day. I know I did anyway. It probably doesn’t help that I often feel alone within my relationship with my husband. I can’t find the connection we once had. I think we have functioned really well through this period but there is still something missing. As time goes on, I become less and less confident it will be found.
I hope tomorrow I feel differently. Today has been tough. Today I can’t see a way though. I know there is one. A path will become clear and life will move forward. It always does. But today is just one of ‘those’ days.
Goodness it’s been a little while since I caught up with my blog. I find it easier to write about things that have been happening in my life rather than selecting a ‘topic’ so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I think I won’t have any particular order to my ramblings today. I’ll just write as things pop into my head.
On Monday evening this week I was taken aback by seeing photos of many English residents heading out in droves to the seaside and country locations. Pictures or large groups of people sat together and close to other groups. My husband said it was rammed in our local park where he had ridden with the boys. Gangs of lads and girls, groups of adults clearly from mixed families. I honestly thought I had missed a vital government announcement thar lockdown was cancelled. Turns out this virus is so fragile it’s fading out all by itself. Maybe there was a nugget of info I’d glossed over whilst trying to wade through the reports of disgusting and incongruous behaviour of Mr Cummings. But no! I hadn’t missed anything new. We were still in lockdown with strict guidelines that we should only meet one other person, in a public outside area and remain 2 metres away. What is wrong with people? Stop being so bloody self centred!
I’m struggling with a friend of mine who considers herself to have a more ‘relaxed’ attitude than some, proudly announcing that she’s non-conformist but not judging anyone else. I think it totally passed her by that referring to her approach as relaxed immediately places a judgement on the behaviour of others as uptight and OTT. But then she was never one to have much self awareness or consideration for others. Probably why she’s able to feel so relaxed when she risks the health and well-being of others to meet her own immediate needs. Before sobriety I would’ve responded to messages from her with little thought for the consequences of speaking my mind. Now I make a considered decision whether it’s worth putting across my point of view. I decided in this case not. I did make it clear that I take different actions, whilst acknowledging that it’s her own choice. Not drinking has allowed me to let these things go and not create further tension when it’s unhelpful and not needed.
I took a few days annual leave over our bank holiday weekend. Loads of decluttering, moving my youngest son into a larger room and all his consoles upstairs into a ‘gaming’ room. This leaves the back room downstairs for me and the guinea pigs. It’s bright and sunny. I have my office space in the corner, I can lie my yoga mat out easily and I have my boy’s keyboard in there ready to learn piano on my new app. Biscuit, Toffee and I are all set in our new space. It felt good to declutter. We carried on with the garage too. On Monday I took the day to relax. No housework. No food shopping. Yoga, a walk and the new task I had to accomplish… leg waxing. Don’t worry, I am used to having my legs waxed. I’m not totally nuts. I have never attempted it myself though. I must admit, after a few false starts, where I’d clearly not followed the direction of hair growth (tricky to work that one out) and when one piece of waxing strip managed to get stuck to my coffee mug, the table and my finger, I did ok. Fairly smooth and shiny. Unfortunately I’d carried out this activity outside on a sunny day and by the evening I was smooth, shiny, bright red and sore.
I have discovered some lovely walking routes close by our house. All these years and I never knew they were there. My mum and I finally met up for a walk for the first time since March. It was a glorious day and we managed around 5 miles. My mum is 76 – pretty bloody amazing too. My running has slipped. I can’t find my running mojo. As I said to one of my lovely bloggers the other day, I keep looking for it in the biscuit tin and chocolate drawer of the fridge but it’s never there, or if it is, I’m far too distracted by the bar of wholenut or the chocolate covered almonds to notice it. I’ve stuck with yoga every day. Only 20 to 40 minutes. I’m not losing any weight but I find it very soothing and relaxing. I must be the only person who gave up alcohol and gained weight!
Today, when I left for work I received a huge bouquet of flowers. It was a thank you from a lady who lives in the street next to ours. I didn’t know her before the lockdown but she contacted me via my leaflets offering support. I’ve been doing her food shop for her as her son became ill and then went rapidly downhill with COVID-19. Happily, after a stint in hospital on a ventilator, he recovered and is now much better. I was totally taken aback by the flowers and sent the lady a text to thank her. She said I’d been the light in an extremely dark time. I honestly don’t think anyone has ever said anything nicer to me.
I will stop now. I have some other things I planned to touch on but I’ll leave those for another day. Right now I’d like to go play some scrabble with a good friend. Sending you all love and hugs 🤗
Love Claire xx