Category Archives: challenge

Rollercoaster

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Hello fellow bloggers … soberitsas, drinkers and all those in between. Today has been a pretty fabulous day. Don’t get me wrong, I am currently lying in a bubble bath feeling like my whole body has given up on me. I can’t move, can barely speak and I feel so darn tired I could fall asleep and drown! “What has led Claire to this decrepit but jubilant state?” I hear you all cry. One word … Rollercoasters.

Well, actually 5 words in truth. ‘Rollercoasters with my two boys’. Yep, I took them to a theme park. Alton Towers is a pretty famous park here in the UK and it has some BIG rides. The kind that every thrill seeker loves. Perfect for two teenage adrenaline junkies. So the three of us woke early, packed up our lunch and suncream (today was going to be a hot one!) and off we went. We arrived early, well before any of the rides kicked off, parked up and headed for the first ride of the day. Wicker Man. Fast, furious with so many ups and downs, you can’t catch your breath. No, the similarities to my life a few years back did not go unobserved 😊

I know some people just don’t like high thrill, scary rollercoaster rides. I can fully understand that. My two boys, however, totally LOVE them. The faster, higher, more upside down turns, the better. They used to be slightly nervous before going on but now they have not a single anxious moment. Pure excitement flows from every pore. It’s wonderful to watch and experience with them. And yes, of course I go on them all too. What kind of adrenaline junkie, thrill seeking, addictive person would I be of my didn’t?

It was truly great. We rode them all and a few of them more than once. There was a moment around lunch where I gazed wistfully at others taking a break, sitting on the grass or picnic benches, enjoying their food in a very civilised manner. Not us! Not a chance! You snooze, you lose, with my two. Onwards and upwards. Go forth into the battle!! Sitting down was for rides only (apart from the one where we were suspended face down for the entire journey around the rails!). Queues are there for consuming lunch. No time to waste. We went upside down, backwards, 0 to 60 from the get go, higher than you can imagine, vertical drops. We even flew! You name it, we did it.

I am absolutely exhausted. I have no voice left from so much screaming. We have walked 20,000 steps and more. My right leg is currently unable to move. But boy do I feel happy.

I was present for the entire day. Not once did I long to go and sit somewhere to have a glass of wine or a cold beer. I did everything the boys did. We laughed and joked when waiting. We looked out for each other on the rides. I didn’t think about getting home early to open a bottle and ‘relax’. When some rides temporarily closed for no known reason, I didn’t freak and feel stressed that the day wasn’t running to schedule. They dictated the schedule. They led, I followed. It was freakin’ awesome.

This is what sobriety is for. This is what it’s about. It isn’t the physical act of not drinking alcohol. It’s the life experiences you can relish and savour once you no longer focus your entire existence around drinking (or trying not to drink). I spent so much of my life, and my children’s lives, pent up, stressed and worried. I wanted everything to ‘work’ and be ‘just right’. I often drank to help me relax about the plan or the schedule. That was a neat trick, until it wasn’t. It made life worse in all truth. I was less present. Less of a ‘mum’. Far less fun. Now I have finally learnt I already have the ability to ‘let go’ without needing a crutch. I had the tools inside me all the time. Yes, it’s a rollercoaster and yes, it’s bloody scary. But I’m here, I’m awake and it’s completely exhilarating!

Claire x

Piece by piece

I have been away on my holibobs. We went up to stay in a converted barn in the North East of England, just south of Durham and north of Yorkshire. We went with both sets of the boy’s Grandparents. Some may say that was lovely, others would call it brave. A few may consider it sheer lunacy. My parents and my in-laws actually get on very well and I find being away less stressful when we are with both sets rather than one. I suppose I find some free time and space for me if I’m not under the microscope. That said, it is quite an undertaking!

The cottage/barn was advertised as being on a ‘working’ farm. In reality, it was on a bit of a building site where a new housing estate was being developed. The ‘farmers’ had clearly sold all the farm land to a housing development company and all that was left was the farmhouse and our ‘shed’. The accommodation itself was lovely. Spacious and comfortable with a hot tub in the garden. The ‘village’ that was within walking distance did not really resemble a village and was pretty much deserted the whole time. All very strange. All a little random. Still, we ventured out each day and saw some beautiful scenery. The coast, long sandy beaches, waterfalls, gorgeous moors and countryside and stunning villages. Loads to do and see. Plenty to keep the over 70s and under 18s happy. Very poor WiFi which was a big negative for many but we survived.

On the first day we arrived, we unpacked and I watched my husband and his Dad grab their first beer, clink glasses and say ‘cheers’. Then my Dad joined in with his beer and the two Grandmas enjoyed a large goblet style glass of wine each. One white, the other red. There was lots of “… and relax” and ‘the holiday starts here …” type comments. I suddenly started to panic. I didn’t think I was going to be ok with this. There was a real sense of ‘group drink’ and I really bloody missed alcohol. I couldn’t ask them to stop but how was I going to cope? I began to get upset and dread the week ahead. Then, out of the blue, I considered drinking. Just for the week. For social purposes. My little addict voice told me all sorts of convincing reasons as to why this was a great idea. I wanted to relax and chill out. I didn’t want to be the dull grey person who would, in all reality, rather sit on her own, eating chocolate and drinking tea, whilst doing a jigsaw. Why not just do what the others do and enjoy it? It’s a bloody holiday for goodness sake!

Then my Dad began to irritate me a bit. Well, quite a lot actually. I always feel disloyal when I blog about my parents. I’ve said before that I love them and I know they really, really love me. They are just quite difficult at times. In different ways. My Dad is the most tricky though. He is a know it all. He has a comment on every subject and strong opinions to go with that. He’s fundamentally a misogynist as well as having other opinions that tip into the offensive and prejudiced categories. He has diluted this over the years but it’s always there. He monopolises conversations, rarely listens to others and is constantly in ‘impress’ mode. It is immensely annoying. Well, I find it annoying. I get snappy and a bit mean, which I know upsets him. We have had some huge fights and arguments over the years and they all had one thing in common. Booze. Lots of it. He would get louder and more obnoxious and I would get nastier and very intolerant. It wasn’t a pretty sight or experience.

So this holiday, on the first night, instead of pushing the ‘all systems go go go … let’s drink!’ button, I took my foot right off the pedal. I had a bath. I read some of my book ‘the happiness project’ by Gretchen Rubin (which I highly recommend) and made the decision that drinking would only make what was already going to be challenging, much much harder to bear. I poured a cup of tea. I went to watch tv with my eldest son and by this point the grandmas had stopped drinking alcohol. They joined me with cups of tea. The evening passed uneventfully and no argument occurred. No regrets and recriminations in the morning.

It remained the same for the entire week. I took my time out when I needed it. Not always easy when the mum and mum in law want to follow you around and sit with you and talk to you. ALL THE TIME! I completed a jigsaw and in the end all adults were clambering to get pieces in. I adored being with my boys and eventually I became less snappy and I relaxed. I did it without the help of alcohol. I found other ways to get my kicks. They might sound boring to some but they are how I find happiness and peace nowadays. No longer in a wine bottle. It’s in the nuggets of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Who knew? 🤷‍♀️

Claire x

Recovery Spotlight: Women For Sobriety

Check out this post from the lovely Collette if you haven’t already! Full of insight, support and excellent guidance for women wanting to become sober, trying to become sober or living the sober life!

Claire x

https://wine2water.blog/recovery-spotlight-women-for-sobriety/
— Read on wine2water.blog/recovery-spotlight-women-for-sobriety/

Sober thoughts

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’.

I’ll give it a damn good try though.

Claire x

ONE YEAR

Well who would have thought it? 🤷‍♀️

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 😊

Love Claire x

Teenage Troubles

I want to be a good mum. Actually, I want to be a great mum, one of the best and I want my my boys to really connect with me. I didn’t, however, anticipate what I was in for with teenage years. I can’t stop looking back at photos of their cute little faces and curly blonde hair. Scrumptious, sweet, adorable cherubs and they adored me.

Not so much adoring going on now. Lots of doors closing in my face and sulky, sullen exchanges of words. Other people always comment on what a lovely and polite boy my eldest is, which is great to hear and I’m so proud of him for that. Sadly, I don’t see much of that side of him at home. He generally can be seen rolling his eyes, completely irritated by my presence. When did I become so uncool?

What I didn’t appreciate when I was a teenager was how much my mum and dad had to bite their tongues to stop themselves from lowering to my base level. The temptation to stamp my feet, say something really spitefully sarcastic and add a swear word for effect is huge. It’s a level of self control I never knew I had and I don’t always manage to have it either. My 13 year old has not reached quite the same level of ‘teenage’ communication yet but it will come I am sure. My eldest, B, is 16 in a few weeks. I was in his way in the kitchen today. He had earphones in and he just snarled. Literally snarled at me. I’m not kidding. If looks could kill I’d be a gonner. Then off he stomped to his bedroom, Xbox on and the door firmly shut. The strange thing is that at other times he is clearly still a child. My baby. He will forget himself occasionally and “mummy” will slip out instead of “mum” or “oy!”. He’s generally not keen on any touchy feely stuff but if I am sad then he has no problem with giving me a hug. It’s the moments where it feels as though he really doesn’t like me that are the hardest. I guess that’s what we sign up for when we become parents. Doesn’t make it any easier when your time comes though.

My role seems different now. It’s to parent from a distance maybe. To gently guide but not dictate or control. To allow him space to find his own way and begin to develop his adult personality. To let him separate from me but continue to provide security and reassurance. He needs an environment where he can take some risks knowing that there is a safety net of his family to catch him if he needs it. Goodness it’s complex when you write it down. I know I am never going to get it right all the time but I’ll do my best and my best means doing it sober. B still remembers the rubbish I used to spout when I’d been drinking. He’s repeated it back to me on a couple of occasions. I’m so relieved that doesn’t happen any longer.

I’m not a perfect parent but I doubt anyone is. I lose my temper, try to control too much and sometimes withdraw. I love them both with all my heart and watching them grow into young adults is a bitter sweet experience. So proud of them and happy they are independent and confident, but at the same time wanting them to stay little and close to me. Yep, these teenage years are tricky to navigate but I am facing them head on. I am not wallowing in a fog of booze and drowning my sorrows. Instead, I am clear and awake. I am experiencing the good times and finding the positives, of which, my friends, there are many.

Claire x

ps. The title photo is B’s self portrait for a lockdown task set by his uncle. Pretty cool eh?

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

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

Life goes on

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

Today

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.

Claire xx