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!
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!
Yesterday we started packing up our caravan for a trip away. The plan was to head off tomorrow to the Cotswolds for 5 days and finally get away from the house. My husband had picked up the van during the week, cleaned it and paid for it’s storage. I didn’t achieve very much in the packing department as I was having one of ‘those’ days. Lacked motivation, felt exhausted and generally a bit grumpy. Last night we sat down after dinner and I checked emails and texts about the arrival time and general holiday details. I discovered I had missed a rather essential piece of information. England is opening up a little more from the 12th April. Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants with outdoor facilities, gyms, hairdressers … this is all good news. Not, however, toilet and shower facilities on caravan and camping sites! Well, not strictly true: some sites will open toilets and cleaning facilities but no showers. Our site was a no facilities open at all kind of site. Oops. I missed the fine print there. Although, it wasn’t really fine print. It was quite clearly expressed on every piece of communication I had received in the past two weeks. Epic fail on my behalf. We can’t function without an on site toilet and shower facilities. Our caravan is not a fancy, sizeable outfit with mod cons such as a working shower or a toilet space you can actually fit into.
I felt a bit gutted. I broke the news to the family. I noticed a small smirk on each of the boys’ faces as they desperately tried to look disappointed that they didn’t have to go and live in a tin can with no WiFi for 4 nights. Even my husband failed to hide the relief at the thought of not freezing his backside off and having to wear a hat at night to keep his head warm (we don’t have heating in our caravan). The joy as he realised he could watch his football team play on Monday night … well, that was blatantly clear to see! Had it only been me looking forward to this trip? Was I the only one who felt disappointed about not going? Or are my family just far better as seeing the positives in whatever the plans are, no matter if they change? (I don’t actually believe that’s true …. my son’s reaction when he couldn’t go to football training last Sunday was something to behold).
I decided to apply some gratitude and reframing practice to the situation. I listed the positives about not going away and having some time (off work) at home. This is my list:
Writing the list almost put me off ever going away in the caravan again 🤣.
I do love going away in our van. It’s hard work to get everything ready and set up and we don’t have the luxuries we have at home but it’s a refreshing way to live. We don’t rely on technology and spend more time together as a family. There will be other caravan trips though and it just takes a little effort to ensure we still spend some quality time together whilst having a staycation. I’m quite excited to make some plans for the week ahead.
One last thing I am very grateful for. Thank goodness I realised about the toilet and shower situation before we spent all today packing up, all tomorrow morning hooking up and driving 2 hours to the location. I’m not sure any of us would have found many positives had that happened, no matter how hard we tried.
Happy Sunday to you all
**Warning** Minor meltdown occurring alongside insomnia. Slightly dramatic post coming up.
Why can’t I find the courage to make the changes I need to? I’m really stuck and feeling trapped and I tell you, it’s not a great feeling. Not. One. Bit.
I’m not even sure what changes I need to make. I just know work has to change. My marriage has to change. My mental health and approach to life has to change. My attitude stinks and seriously must change. But how do you do it? How do you stand your ground. Set your boundaries. Overcome fear, guilt, anxiety? And here is the big question. What if the change you make is not the right one? Am I going to end up with years of regret and “oh shit, why did I do that?” mental torture?
See how tangled I am? I can’t even blame alcohol. I am now unsuccessfully self medicating this period of angst with sugar so I guess the old Claire lives on! I feel weighed down by so many emotions that I can’t move or breathe freely. Maybe I am just incredibly selfish and expect and want too much from life. The world is in the middle of a devastating pandemic and here I am, Miss Self Pity, wondering why my life is the way it is. First world problems.
I have so many lovely things in my life and I know I am incredibly lucky. I need to revisit practising gratitude and kindness as it really helps me feel grounded and focus on what is important. Hopefully, in time, I will find the courage to make the changes that are needed. Frustrated is no doubt how many of us feel right now. My frustration is off the scale. I’m getting sucked into ‘stinking thinking’ mode (thanks for the term Collette!) and stinking thinking never leads to good things.
Well, now I’ve offloaded all the swirling thoughts in my head into this post I feel a little better. No answers or solutions but that’s ok. To anyone who stuck with this one until the end, big thanks (and it begs the question, ‘why?’). I’ll give sleep another go. It’s evaded me so far tonight but maybe now it will come. A problem shared and all that …
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.
It’s my son’s 16th Birthday today. 16 years ago I was a completely different person. My little bundle of joy, and need, and wind, and poo, was about to arrive and change my life forever.
16 years. I was 32. I’d been married just over a year. Been in our house for two. The house was much smaller than it is now. I, on the other hand, was HUGE! A tiny 7lb baby and I’d managed to somehow gain almost 4 stone. I’m surprised he didn’t come out looking like a chunky KitKat!
16 years. Maternity leave stretching ahead of me. Sat contemplating what life would be like (it was all very organised as I had a Caesarean section due to him being breech. He has always liked to buck the trend). I had taken the planning for his arrival to ridiculous levels. Mrs Extreme strikes again! Pages and pages of handwritten feeding charts, buoyed on by the immense amount literature I had read. Get into a routine immediately. Don’t let people pass him around. Feed at these times only. Leave him to cry. Blah blah blah. I was going to be the ‘perfect’ mum and do it 150% right. Ha! 4 months later, post natal depression in full swing, it was not quite as I anticipated.
16 years. A baby that would not stop crying in the day. A life at home I struggled to get used to. Missing work, missing my social life. Feeling like I hadn’t bonded with my baby. He was all I’d ever wanted in life and I couldn’t enjoy it. We made it through those dark days. I refer to a particularly bad period as ‘Bleak January’. We survived together. He was an adorably cute toddler. Blonde curls and such fun and energy. Learning to walk. Learning to swim. Learning to be a person in his own right.
16 years. 15 of them spent drinking. Increasing amounts as the years went on. It’s 5pm, is it too early to start? It’s a Wednesday evening, I’ll open a bottle … end of my working week now. Out for lunch dates with mums. Glass or two of Prosecco to wash it down. May as well carry on through the evening. So many new friends and a social life that was booming. Dinner parties at home that became drunken evenings of dancing and singing (screaming loudly). It was fun though. The hangovers weren’t. 5am starts, lying on the sofa with him next to me, watching CBeebies. The colours, the enthusiasm of the presenters, the noise! No more hangovers now thankfully. Plus a son that is proud of my sobriety and happily tells all his friends that his mum doesn’t drink.
16 years. Nursery. Primary school. Secondary school. New friends. New hobbies. New sports. Xbox. Swearing. I have never heard such bad language used within one sentence when that machine is on. Suddenly he is 5ft 10 with size 9 feet and so very independent. Planning driving next year. Planning a law degree. Planning his own life.
16 years. Two children. Two extensions. Three guineapigs. Countless hangovers. 324 days of sobriety. One period of post natal depression. One diagnosis of anxiety and depression. 2 promotions. One pandemic. One caravan. Two amazing trips to the US. 16 of my own birthdays. Too many nativity performances and school assemblies. One life.
16 years. 16 glorious, tough, exhausting, amazing, rewarding, challenging, phenomenal years. I’m grateful for them all. Happy Birthday lovely boy. Thank you. 😊
A few days a ago I had a really vivid dream. One of those totally ‘in focus’, acutely clear dreams where you feel you are completely in the experience. Many of my sober gang will know what I am about to say now. Yep, it was dream where I was drinking. It was so realistic. I felt the anticipation of the first sip, the automatic ‘unwind’ as the wine settled into my body, the buzzing effects as the alcohol started to do its stuff. In the dream I was living the experience but at the same time I was also watching it unfold as an observer. Almost like a documentary. I was socialising with a variety of different people. I was on form. Chatty (outspoken), sharply funny (mean and gossipy) and full of wit and wisdom (boring and opinionated).
I watched myself become embroiled in drama and physically felt the lack of control as my behaviour and reactions began to cause situations to escalate. Different people in my life made guest appearances and I found I was in circumstances that developed in ways I was not happy with. Reliving situations that have happened to me during my drinking days.
The most tangible aspect of the dream was the experience of waking the next morning. I don’t mean ‘actually’ waking, but dreaming I had woken up. I felt that crushing sense of shame as I remembered what I had done and said. The itchy skin feeling I used to experience when it dawned on me that I couldn’t undo what had been done. Feeling sick with wine swilling around my body and feeling sick with remorse and guilt swilling around my brain and heart. Horrendous.
This used to be my life. Not always but often. I have to say the overwhelming and intense emotions and feelings I used to experience were, for the most part, completely over the top. I generally didn’t deserve to direct such anger at myself. I had rarely behaved ‘that’ badly. It didn’t matter though. It was a pattern and a hard habit to break. I have come to realise I really had no self respect or self compassion and I could not, and would not, give myself a break.
The dream was so real. It stayed with me all day. I kept thinking about it. Revisiting those old feelings. It absolutely reaffirmed why I gave up my once beloved wine and why I remain sober. Nowadays, even when I have struggled with depression or anxiety, I still like myself. I can honestly say, in the latter years of drinking, I did not like me. I could see that I had skills and abilities but I did not like my very core. If your opinion of yourself is that low, you are vulnerable. It taints your view of what other people do and say and colours the things that happen around you. It adds a negative lens to life. Removing alcohol hit the pause button. It gave me the space and ability to work out that change is possible and that sober I could be pretty awesome! The negative lens does not switch to a positive lens, rather it becomes a ‘realistic’ lens. I still reflect on situations, my behaviour and reactions but I have the ability to recognise when comments, circumstances and others’ behaviours are absolutely nothing to do with me. What is apparent is that in sober life, it is rarely to do with me.
Making these changes has taken work. Calm, compassion and gratitude take practice. Integrating them into daily life is a challenge some days but was an essential part of me starting to like me. I haven’t always been aware that change is happening but I can see now that it has. I have had to show up day after day and live with feelings and emotions, thoughts and situations that, quite frankly, scare the shit out of me. I’ve had to take responsibility for past behaviour, accept it and move on. But oh! the freedom when you are able to do that. That’s what sobriety brings. Freedom. No crutch required. No prop needed. I have all the resources inside of myself. Yep. Freedom.
I haven’t posted for over a week. I had a few ideas and was planning to get down to business at the weekend but my eldest had a bike accident. He and I ended up spending 5 hours in A&E on Saturday following an ambulance ride and some tricky moments trying to help him walk out of the park to reach said ambulance. We were looked after really well though and after 2 xrays, manipulation and reset of bones, gas and air, a lot of giggling and random chat from B and one large plaster we were allowed home. Fractured wrist, right arm (yep he is right handed) and no sport for at least 3 months.
He is in his GCSE year, he has also taken PE GCSE so this is not great news. He is in the middle of completing his silver Duke of Edinburgh award (with regular biking as one of the challenges) and it is his 16th birthday in 2 weeks time. The icing on the cake is that we have bought him a mountain bike and football boots for his birthday. You couldn’t write it!
I am however supremely grateful and relieved that he is ok. He was coming down a hill in our local park when a little girl (around 3 years old) ran out in front of him. He slammed on his brakes and flew over the handlebars. He could have been much more seriously injured. The little girl too. So, we will manage. He is impressing me with his resilience and his need to be independent throughout. I know he is massively disappointed that he isn’t able to play football for his team, go for his squash games or get out on his bike. He can’t even play his xbox! He hasn’t moaned or complained, though I’m sure that will happen. I am extremely proud of his maturity and behaviour in dealing with it all. The little nuggets of information he shared whilst inhaling copious quantities of gas are to be kept for a special occasion I think!
When his dad called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me Ben had come off his bike, for a split second my heart and the world stopped. I imagined the absolute worst and it shook me to my core. I felt intense relief when I found them and could see he was battered, bruised, pale and broken but alive and breathing. He and his brother are my world.
So, I am doing ok. I will admit, there were a couple of times I thought about having a glass of wine and how much I ‘could do with one’. Once home, I poured an AF wine, took two sips and then switched to a cup of tea and mounds of chocolate. It did a better job to be honest. I don’t need to numb the emotions triggered by these type of events anymore. I can sit with them, deal with them and process them. In fact, the events of last weekend have given me more to add to my gratitude list, which is becoming longer day by day.
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.
ps. The title photo is B’s self portrait for a lockdown task set by his uncle. Pretty cool eh?
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.
Ah! Peace at last. My busy, bustling, burdensome brain has finally calmed. There are no big waves of feeling and no strong emotions to deal with which, after the month I have had, is nothing but a blessed relief. I love joy and excitement and fun just as much as the next person but I think maybe, like many things in my life, I don’t do emotions in moderation. The flip side being when I fall, I go to the other extreme. Occasionally it is good to take a break from extremes and sit in the middle and I think maybe that’s the place the antidepressants help me to settle.
I still feel all the emotions and enjoy them just as much. They somehow don’t take over when I’m in a better place with my mental health. I can appreciate them, like or dislike them, but they aren’t the end of the world or the only thing that matters. I can experience the feelings without them overwhelming me. That’s so important in being able to function. Some might consider it boring. Some people adore that high and low, rough and smooth. I used to be one of those people. I wonder if too much living life with such emotional extremes puts you into the ‘at risk’ category for depression? Or maybe I was depressed at times when I was younger but didn’t recognise it as that. Post natal depression with my first was the first experience I remember.
The other, completely lovely feeling of having your mind quieten down is the opportunity to stop thinking about yourself so much. Depression , amongst many other things, is so bloody boring. I mean, I’m really not that interesting a person to be spending so much time focusing on myself. The space in my brain means I can think about other things and care about other people. That makes me happy. In a selfish way it helps me climb the ladder to the top of the wall I have built around myself. Being compassionate and kind towards others really improves my mental health but when I am depressed my kindness mojo is switched to off.
So, after all the deliberation about the antidepressants, it was the right thing for me at this time in my life. I can feel they have worked even more quickly than last time and although I have a long way to go, I am grateful for the quiet and the calm inside my head and my body. I am also hugely thankful to all of you who supported me, sent me love and hugs and had your kindness switches firmly on.
Like I said at the beginning, peace at last!