Category Archives: relationships

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

Claire’s Update

Love this!

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.

Claire x

Sunny thoughts

Today is fairly cold but the sky is clear blue and I have been able to sit out in the sun. It’s been another quiet day with yoga, a family walk and then reading my Brené Brown, ‘The gifts of imperfection’, book in the garden. I have to admit I’m really enjoying it and learning loads. I keep re-reading chapters, highlighting sections and making notes on certain aspects of it. Much of what she says makes sense to me but there is a lot of info in there so I am taking my time.

I have almost completed the online CBT course I was registered for when I self referred to the local mental health service. I’m not particularly impressed and I knew much of what it has told me anyway. I’m currently waiting for 6 sessions of more specific one to one counselling, focusing on my relationships. Most specifically, focusing on my relationship with my husband. I have absolutely no idea what will happen there and I am slightly daunted by the prospect but I’m willing to try anything. I suspect he and I should really be attending the sessions together but that would mean an acceptance that I want to resolve things. In reality I think I would like to find a way that we can continue to live as a family for the next couple of years, without destroying each other and then decide what is best for us in the longer term. Maybe that’s terribly naive of me but at the moment I am not ready to face up to the devastation and trauma of splitting up. I guess the counselling might help me work some of this stuff out. This is all part of growing and changing I guess.

A year ago I was planning my trip to Vietnam. I went out there for just over 10 days with colleagues to work for a charity to deliver cleft care. God I was nervous but really excited. I’d never done anything like that before. I’d never been away from the boys for longer than a few days. It was an amazing experience and I learnt so much. Sadly we weren’t able to return this year due to Covid. I do hope all our colleagues and the families are doing ok. I wish I could have returned as my sober self. I worked really hard out there but I also drank a lot. Looking back, I know I was on edge and living on my nerves (if you know what I mean). I can only recognise that now because I have experienced calm and peace this last year. I did not have calm and peace back then. I returned totally knackered because I had burnt the candle at both ends. I don’t feel I gave my all to those families and I wanted to go again, to have one more shot and be the best I could be. Maybe one day …

It was after my return from Vietnam that I began to read about sobriety and started looking into alcohol and the effects of long term alcohol addiction. I’m approaching a year sober in November and I honestly can’t believe it. Claire of September 2019 would absolutely never have believed it. Just goes to show, we never know what is around the corner. The whole world has turned upside down and inside out since I headed off for that trip of a lifetime on October 3rd last year. My little world has also done the same. But I’m still here. I’m surviving, I’m sober and I’m sitting in the sun.

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

Rose

I’ve had one of my little blogging blocks again recently. I’ve started a post a few times this last week but they haven’t amounted to anything. When that happens I just have to go back to my tried and tested method of writing any old waffle that comes to mind. A lovely blogging friend also suggested starting with a photo and seeing where that leads. My photo is of a rose in my parents’ garden. They bought the rose bush as a gift to each other on their 52nd wedding anniversary last year. It has the same name as my first name. Claire is actually my middle name. Pretty isn’t it?

I took the photo on Sunday. We were visiting on Father’s day. A lockdown garden visit. My parents were really excited to see their grandsons. Unfortunately my husband and I rather ruined the atmosphere by arriving in the middle of a very heated discussion. Some more sensitive folk would have classed it as a full blown row. The content doesn’t matter here. The issue is that this past week (and for a little while now) there has been a regular flow of similar spats and disagreements. It’s become wearing. I can’t really work out why it’s occurring more, if indeed it is. Maybe I’m simply more aware of it. It’s very bloody irritating though. It feels as though I need to ask permission to do things I want to do. As though I have to check out if it’s ok to just be me. I know, I know. Here I go, being all over dramatic again. I am starting to figure some stuff out though and once you see, you can’t unsee.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to ‘people please’. Wanting everyone to like me. I’ve agreed to do things I didn’t want to do. I’ve allowed decisions to be made I didn’t feel comfortable with. I’ve even altered my own opinions and beliefs to match those of others around me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stood my ground in many a dispute and argument. Stated my case and my opinion loudly and at times aggressively. All when I have been as drunk as a skunk. It’s almost like I didn’t set any boundaries within relationships or make my needs known. Eventually that led to bitterness, resentment and anxiety. Mix up that little concoction with a bucket load of booze and what do you get? Fireworks. A mouthy, opinionated (and occasionally obnoxious) Claire. What do you get the next day? A sad, guilty, remorseful and humiliated Claire. A Claire who then apologises profusely for speaking her mind and expressing her feelings. Upset and devastated that people might not like her. Trying desperately to make amends, Back to square one. A little less self esteem, a little more eager to please and so it goes on.

Sobriety has taught me a lot of things. One of the most important being that I have a right to my own opinion and I have my own needs. Not everyone needs to like me and it is ok to say ‘no’ or not agree with others. The knock on effect has been that I am now clear about my boundaries. What and where they are. I express myself more effectively and I walk away from situations and relationships that are unhelpful and potentially damaging. I no longer seethe with resentment or bitterness because I am being used or treated unfairly. I will either attempt to address the issue or simply disengage and try to let it go, knowing I am worth more. No alcohol means no uncontrollable release of frustrations that have built up slowly over time. No regrets and guilt at losing control when pissed equals much improved self esteem and self belief. All this is incredibly positive. It does, however, have a significant impact on some of my closest and most long term relationships. Relationships where, for a long time, I have played the part of ‘pleasing’ and ‘giving in’ to maintain the status quo and be liked (and hopefully not abandoned). Relationships cultivated and built on the ‘agree – fall in line – challenge when drunk – apologise continually – make amends’ cycle. As I have developed and changed, those friendships and relationships (including the one with my husband) are being seriously tested and forced to change too. Some are possibly not going to survive this transition. That’s a scary thought but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. I will approach it as I approached sobriety, one small step at a time.

This quote is from my home page. I believe I have started to grow back after a pretty harsh winter. Like the rose with the same name, I may have even started blossom.

Love Claire x