I guess one of my first ‘dipping my toe back in the water’ posts should be an update on my sobriety Alcohol consumption is the very reason I found myself here in November 2019, desperately searching for answers, support and reassurance. As I built up my sober tribe and my community of support, I dumped the booze and began a journey of self discovery.
That all sounds very touchy-feely and ‘woo woo’ I know, but I have learnt so much about anxiety, depression, the benefits of self-compassion, trauma in childhood, patterns formed from the trauma, numbing, leaning into vulnerability …. the list is endless. I am slowly unpicking it all and getting stronger daily. I have to be totally honest, I am not 100% sober anymore. I recently decided to have one glass of wine. It was a decision I took a long time to make and I have some very large and strict caveats to trying this out. I know it is unlikely I can moderate. When I use the term ‘moderate’ I am talking about a glass of wine every couple of months if that. The moment I begin to ‘think’ about it, or enter into a conversation with my wine witch … I am going tea total.
When I gave up drinking I didn’t have a plan. I said ‘not today’ but I could never say ‘never again’. I reached 26 mths sober but I’d stopped counting time tbh. I have had two glasses of wine in the past 3 mths and it’s been fine. I haven’t wanted more and I certainly haven’t thought about it again. I am fully prepared to completely stop again but like many others my curiosity got the better of me. I don’t advise it to anyone else as I know the return to alcohol addiction is an extremely high probability. I have enormous support around me who check in with me daily and I am working with my therapist through this. I am also fully aware that I may just be kidding myself and any form of moderation is impossible for me.
So, there we have it. Cards on the table. I will keep being honest and open in my posts and continue to support anyone if I can.
By the way, I am in touch with Jim if anyone remembers him? He’s still very much sober and doing really well!
I haven’t written recently mainly because I haven’t had too much to write about. No naval gazing or soul searching to speak of and, much like the rest of the world, opportunities to head out and find excitement and interest are few and far between. Work occupies most of my weekdays and my weekends consist of house cleaning, reading, watching tv and not much else. I’m not complaining but it is a strange kind of existence.
I have been thinking that I need a new focus. Something outside of work and something that takes me outside and away from my bed, sofa and iPad. I’d love to have a dog but I need to be realistic about that. Though I am working from home quite a lot right now, that won’t always be the case and the rest of the family are out everyday. It seems that the world and his wife are all getting dogs. Every second conversation I have with someone they tell me they are about to have a new puppy. It is definitely on my bucket list but not for a good few years yet. I have to shelve that one for now.
So, it was back to the drawing board and I hatched a new plan. Last week I bought a new bike. It arrives in a couple of weeks (yes it is the bike in the photo) and it cost me more than I ever dreamt I’d spend on a bike. I’m not big into cycling but I want a hobby that I am able to do on my own as well as with my family. My Dad also adores cycling and I’m hoping it is an interest we can share and participate in together, even with the strictest of restrictions in place. I’m excited for it to arrive and hoping it lifts me out of my ‘meh’ mood. I used to run a few times a week but that has fizzled out. I still practice yoga every day and I am loving it but I need something more. I can feel boredom creeping in and for me boredom is very dangerous. It brings with it risks to my mental health, it triggers unhelpful behaviours and negative thoughts and is generally a state of being that I need to prevent and avoid.
I have also picked up my cross stitch again. I have such a complicated piece going on that mistakes are all too easy to make. Unpicking is not fun but when I hit my flow I find it really quite relaxing. It keeps me from reaching for the wine so that’s got to be positive. I started the current project last Christmas, intending it for a baby’s christening present in February. It’ll be about ready for her 18th birthday by the time I’m finished. It’s the thought that counts I guess.
Slowly but surely …
Does anyone else struggle with boredom? It isn’t that I find it tricky to be in my own company. Quite the opposite. I do worry however that I could become too introverted and lock myself away within a virtual world. I am aware that whilst boredom is not good for me, I am becoming less and less motivated to engage in physical ‘in person’ social contact. I noticed that was happening before the pandemic hit us. Removing alcohol removed my desire to mix and socialise. Or maybe it just removed my desire to mix and socialise with others who are drinking. I don’t really know. Something has altered within though and I need to be careful it doesn’t lead to unhealthy levels of solitude and eventually loneliness and isolation. I’m am always grateful I have this blog and my word press friends. This community helps me connect and engage which is so important, especially in the current climate. And who knows, in a few weeks you might see me whizzing around on my bike. Laura Trott … eat your heart out. 😊
I had a telephone consultation with my GP (doctor) this morning. He is happy with regards to me starting my antidepressants again and I already referred myself for the NHS counselling service. I have been put on a waiting list for 6 sessions and in addition I am currently following an on line CBT programme. I’m grateful to have access to anything that might help and willing to give things a go. I’m not loving the online course I have to say. There’s a lot of information I already know. My problem seems to be with using the strategies. It’s all very logical and sensible but bloody impossible when you feel like crap and logic and sense have done a runner.
Overall, I haven’t had a lot of success with counselling. I had 6 sessions CBT face to face when I was initially diagnosed as depressed and anxious. This was organised through work. I’d go as far to say, it was a load of rubbish and a waste of time. I hadn’t taken any medication at that point in proceedings and I was in a bit of a state. The lady was lovely but I just said what she wanted to hear. When she suggested I looked at myself in the mirror every morning and say the words ‘I love you’, I just knew we were on a completely different wavelength. After the final session I walked out feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that I didn’t have to go back again!
My next dabble into the wonderful world of therapy was a locally run charity. My cousin had recommended it. There was a long waiting list but after 4 months I had my first session. Unfortunately, within 3 weeks of starting, my mental health hit an all time low and I had stopped eating. I saw the GP again and there was no choice really. Time to medicate. I continued with the counselling and we talked about a whole range of things. It was more helpful than before and certainly, with the antidepressants kicking in, I did feel more positive. That said, though it’s nice to have someone to talk to and not judge, I honestly don’t think it changed anything for me. It was interesting and I learnt a few new things but in terms of it improving how I was feeling or dealing with life stuff, it didn’t. Again, the counsellor, Sharon, felt I had done really well in the sessions and called them to a close. I am really good at talking the ‘counselling and therapy talk’ by the way. I don’t know why I do it because it doesn’t do me a single favour. I still do it though.
This is most definitely a cycle. I stopped the meds not long after this period of counselling because I felt well again. Yup, you guessed it, within 4 months I had re-referred myself back to the same charity and had started sessions again, with a new counsellor, this time a man. A few weeks in, I was back on antidepressants and so it goes on. I think I possibly took more from the counselling that time. He gave me lots to read and research and I learned so much about personal development. By this stage I felt I deserved a degree. I still however could not apply it to myself. Or maybe I just didn’t try. Again, the sessions came to a natural end. I was one of the hardest working clients he’d had. Same old story. Top of the therapy class. Gold star. Still no real progress for me though.
Not long after these sessions finished I gave up drinking alcohol. Interestingly my reliance and addiction to booze had never come up in any of my counselling or therapy sessions. I’d touched on it and I’d always been open and honest about how much I’d been drinking. On reflection I think they dropped the ball with that. Since being sober I have felt so much better. Sure there are times when it’s been horrible to have to experience the emotions without having wine as my crutch but I am more honest with myself and others. I’m not giving up on counselling or therapy, I just not sure what it can give me anymore. Whilst sober and taking antidepressants I can use the information and the strategies and yes, they work. Take away the meds and it’s like I’ve never heard of triggers, behaviours, reframing etc. Maybe I’m not cut out for counselling. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘fit’. Maybe it will finally be successful one day. I am absolutely sure of two things though. One, taking the medication only ever really worked when I was sober. Two, I am never going to stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I love you’. Just saying.
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.
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 🤗
I have to say, I don’t always find writing on my own blog very easy. I love reading other people’s and commenting but I just can’t seem to find the right words for my own post. Having said that, I’ve sat myself down in front of the lap top and I think I’m just going to chat about my Easter weekend. Just roll that dice, take a chance and have a ramble!
On Friday (Good Friday) it was a luxury to wake up late and not have to switch on my work laptop or check my phone for work emails. I have been grateful for work in recent weeks, its kept me occupied and stopped me descending into the Claire world of over thinking life, the universe and everything. I was so exhausted by Friday though and I made a purposeful decision to not ‘work’ at all for the Easter break. I lounged about in the morning, drinking tea, reading blogs and catching up with friends via what’s app. Then I went into the garden. Boy did I go wild in the wilds of our little oasis. The bushes and trees that run the length of the left hand side have not been touched since we moved in … 16 years ago!!! Once I start, I’m unstoppable. I pulled out weeds, that then suddenly became whole shrubs. There were trees with stumps as big as a bowling ball that came out in my hand when I pulled … because they were dead! I left huge gaping holes in the bushes. The neighbours are going to be delighted we can watch them sunbathe and also see what they are up to in the kitchen. Literally 3 days of cutting, pulling and bashing and its still no where near finished. You can imagine the pile of garden waste that now sits under, behind and in front of the trampoline. Oh and no garden waste collection (I forgot to renew it) and no refuge centres open. Oooooops. My husband is still not really speaking to me!
On Friday night we had a family quiz with my ‘in laws’ using Zoom. It was great fun. My parents joined in but I think I’m going to ban them from any similar activities until they agree to have their hearing tested. Multiple repetitions of each question becomes rather …. repetitive. By the end of the game people were clearly drunk, falling around and shouting at their respective devices. I sipped my alcohol free wine and was thankful that I gave it all up nearly 5 months ago. Sobriety has enabled me to cope with this lockdown and Covid-19 situation with a positivity and calmness than would not have been possible had I been still addicted to wine. Sure, I have bad days, but as Anna (Storm In A Wine Glass) said in her recent post ” I realise how my worst day sober is still a million times better than my best day drunk.”
Saturday and Sunday followed much the same pattern. Lots of gardening (well, destruction and demolition), chilled out lazy mornings and a trip to the supermarket for our food shop and one the for lady down the road. I arrived home from delivering her groceries to a little ‘care package’ left on my door step by my brother and his partner. He lives about a 40 minute drive away and had made the journey over to bring me some gorgeous goodies and treats. Their kindness overwhelmed me and I already knew I had a wonderful brother, but he really is the bee’s knees. I started thinking about ‘kindness’ after I’d checked out all the little gifts. It’s a quality I value greatly and true kindness is really a beautiful thing when it happens. I’ve had a lot of criticism throughout my life. Self-criticism, overt criticism, ‘subtle’ criticism and criticism meant to be constructive but really not. It has led to me being a little too judgemental and often having mean and unkind thoughts about others. In the past I have slipped into, not particularly nice, conversations about certain people and not really given it much thought. Since ditching the booze I have made a conscious effort to not do any of this, practicing kindness in how I act, behave and think. It’s actually an easier way of being. I still can find people irritating as hell and that’s ok. I’m not super human and people piss me off. I am, however, more able to understand a situation. I’m less bitter and resentful of what other’s have and do and I’m more at peace with my own world. In a selfish way, being kinder towards others has improved my ability to be kinder to myself. It’s a quality I want to instil in my boys. Plus you get really cute little gifts every now and then too!! Its a win win.
Today, Monday, I have stayed out of the garden and left my husband to try and salvage something from the wreckage. I ran 5 miles and cleaned the house. I’ve made a tandoori chicken and rice tea for the boys and now I am sat typing this blog. My life is so different than it was 6 months ago. I am living under government restrictions but I am the most free I have been in a very long time. That’s a lovely feeling and I am going to savour the moment as my first sober Easter weekend draws to a close.
When I left you last I wasn’t in a particularly good way. My unwelcome visitors were, well exactly that, unwelcome! Fortunately for me, this time they did not stay long and both Mr Anxiety and Mrs Depression went on their merry way as the week wore on. It’s hard to express how grateful I am that it was short-lived and I am following the advice you lovely people gave me. Yes, it’s normal to have periods like it and really important to continue telling myself it will lift. Things do get better.
The week trundled on. I was working in the hospital for two days and working from home for the other three. It’s been ridiculously busy but only in terms of organisation of services to enable patients to have some form of contact where needed. That’s been successful so far and assessing speech and communication over a video link has not been too tricky. I think it might be due to the ‘screen’ factor. I appear to be far more interesting now I’m on their phone, tablet or laptop. We cover an enormous region as a specialist service and I think this will change how we work in the future. It will enable some families to access services much more easily and not have to commute a one to two hour journey to see us. Every cloud eh? All staff have now received a letter informing us that we may now be redeployed to work on the front line and requested to cover shortages in other locations, in area outside of our usual roles. I just hope they give me some basic training if I have to do anything, particularly if nursing based – I could be more of hindrance than a help.
I’ve continued to support those in need in our local area. The people have been lovely and so appreciative of being able to have some shopping done for them when self isolating. To be honest, they are very straightforward as far as shopping goes. Compared with my own Dad anyway. His list consisted of baby plum tomatoes, Sainsbury’s taste the difference sausages, Rachel’s coconut yogurt, Coleman’s English mustard and a partridge in a pear tree! He and my mum are doing well with self distancing and I’m proud of them for sticking with it and following all the guidelines. We decided to delay Mum’s surgery for the skin cancer on her leg and nose. We agreed it was better to take the risk of a slow growing cancer getting worse than picking up Covid-19.
I’ve carried on running. I’m getting back into it slowly. It’s an interesting experience where some people make a lot of effort to move out of your way and there’s a clear mutual respect of the distancing rules. Others are not moving for nobody. No way. Not even a pretend wobble to appear like they are making an effort. They just keep on walking, sometimes two or three people across the path and I end up being forced to run into the road. I never ceased to be amazed by some people. Like those who are busily clearing out their houses of junk with all th spare time they suddenly have. Said junk is then bagged up and helpfully dumped outside charity shops who are, surprise surprise, shut. Never mind eh? I guess they are being ‘good’ by donating their useless crap to charity. Just someone else now needs to deal with it all.
I’m trying to have some ‘me’ time but with work and having the boys home it isn’t easy. To be fair, they’d be happy on their screens all day long but we are trying to restrict that. Today they helped in the garden. It needs a lot of work and much to their disgust they had to spend 3 ours weeding and picking up the pruned branches. I spent my day cleaning. Let me just say, I HATE cleaning. Unfortunately, my anxiety was not the type that encouraged me to get cleaning and tidying. I particularly don’t like cleaning toilets. But today I did three of them and the surrounding areas. I also gave the kitchen a good going over. It actually felt good! My brain switched off and I sang and wiggled about to 90’s Indie music. I’m not promising anything, but maybe I might be persuaded to try the lounge and back room tomorrow. It could be a rock day for Alexa. Who knows?
So, with the guinea pigs fed, our burgers ready to eat and my alcohol free wine poured, I’ll sign off. I’ll add some photos to make the whole thing more interesting. Oh, one more thing, I have reached 20 weeks sober today. 20 weeks. TWENTY WEEKS!!! I’m just going to give myself a big round of applause. Still the best decision I have ever made.
In the midst of social distancing and self isolation I still get two visitors knocking on my door. They don’t stick to guidelines or obey rules. Nope, they let themselves in and take over.
Anxiety has been here for a couple of days now. I kind of know how to deal with him (or is it a her?). I’ll refer to it as male for ease. He winds me up, throws all sorts of questions and ‘what ifs’ in my way. Dishes out problems I can’t solve and situations I can’t control. When I come up with a solution, he won’t accept it. Like a toddler repetitively asking ‘why?’ and ‘when?’.
I can handle anxiety. I use techniques to bring me to the present and the strategies do work, now that my body and brain are no longer muddled and confused with alcohol. Yesterday morning was particularly bad but I persevered. I cleaned, I ran and I listened to my buddhify app. So far so good. Or so I thought.
With a huge hit of anxiety I can sometimes have a visit from depression. She (I’ll switch genders in the name of equality) hasn’t been in my life for well over 6 months. I haven’t missed her, not one bit. I thought I was rid of her but like the proverbial bad penny, here she is! I could feel her coming late last night. I know that sounds weird but I know the signs now. Sure enough, 3am there I was. Wide awake and hanging out with two old ‘friends’.
This morning, anxiety had moved on for a break but not depression. She’s moved in, feet right under the table. That awful feeling of no feeling. Knowing there is so much you can do to help yourself and so much to be personally grateful for but absolutely no way to reach through the black fog and grab it. Not even a desire to do that. No energy, no interest in things that made you buzz with excitement only a few days ago. Most of all, no bloody reason. There is nothing in my life that others aren’t struggling with right now. Many many struggling with more challenges than I am.
At the moment I don’t have a positive, inspiring ending to my post today. I wanted to describe the feelings and emotions to try and depersonalise them. I’m furious that they, particularly depression, have returned to this extent and I’m praying it lifts quickly. I need to face what we are all going through as ‘Claire’ with my friends, family and loved ones by my side. There is no room for anxiety or depression. Quite frankly they can both fuck off!