This is going to be the shortest post ever from me. I wanted to say ‘hello’ and let you all know I’m doing ok. I’m going to catch up on everyone’s blogs and posts over the next few weeks and then I’ll write a few of my own.
As my lovely friend @jaquelyn3534 would say … “I’ve missed y’all”
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 if I 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!
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:
Warmth (the weather this week looks pretty chilly in the evenings and at night)
Not having to psych myself up for a day of packing, shopping, transferring guinea pigs to my parents, cleaning ….
A free day to do whatever I want today
Time this week to work on my application for re-banding my job. I have continually put this off but it’s so important I get it done.
Day trips to more local areas with the ability to come home, shower and get warm and cosy
We can still cycle and walk and explore each day. We just do it from home as our base. More facilities are open from tomorrow so we have more choice than we have had for 4 months
I can take baths
I can still practice my yoga (I’m not confident enough to practice outside the caravan in full view of fellow campers)
Being able to sit watching TV in the evenings without wearing a coat or 20 layers of clothing
Our beds are ready for us to get into at night and don’t need to be packed away in the morning
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.
I have had some trouble sleeping this week. It’s made me tired each day and a little bit grumpy. I adore sleeping and I hate feeling tired and lethargic. Today is good though because, although it’s cloudy and a little chilly, it’s Good Friday and I slept well, albeit having very weird dreams. That’s for another post!
I often listen to bedtime and sleep meditations when I’m in bed. Hypnotic ones from a variety of apps I have accumulated. The one I was listening to last night included a visualisation technique which I found helpful. I had to observe and notice the thoughts swirling around my brain, of which there were many, and visualise a box, chest or some type of container. It could be any size I wanted; mine was fairly large. I then had to visualise all my thoughts going into the box, one by one. Once they were all in there, I put the lid on the box and put it away somewhere for the night. It had to be out of the room I was sleeping in, just outside the bedroom door or miles away if that was preferable. I stuck mine at the bottom of our garden. I didn’t want it in the house at all. The meditation guide instructed me to visualise coming back to bed, leaving the box containing the thoughts and worries until the morning, where it could be reopened and dealt with. I did feel lighter and more at peace.
She then asked me to visualise something positive that happened during the day. To focus on one thing that had made me feel good, at peace or happy and to embrace that feeling. I thought back over my day. I’ve been working in the hospital all week with a very heavy clinical schedule. It’s been refreshing to work with patients again. I thought back to one of the little boys I had seen earlier in the morning. A little 5 year old with a repaired cleft lip and palate. He had been very wary initially but I kept grinning at him (under my mask!), asking him about what he liked and enjoyed and generally joking around with him. He began to relax and at one point he looked up at me and gave me the most enormous smile. It was absolutely adorable. I felt so happy because he was smiling and enjoying the session. Thinking back to that moment and visualising his big smile and how it had made me feel was lovely. I lay in bed, anxious thoughts tucked away in my box in the garden, with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
I was asleep before the 20 minute meditation had ended. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and positive and ready to take on the day. I have unpacked my thoughts from the box and some of them didn’t need dealing with. They were simply me overthinking and getting stuck in a negative thought pattern. Others can be sorted. None of them involve challenges that are insurmountable. There are now blue skies peeking out behind the clouds and if I can make an anxious little boy smile with happiness, I can do anything.
I am aware I have slipped off the radar a little recently. I don’t post very often but I do try to read and keep up with my blogging community, their posts and comment where appropriate. I haven’t done that for a week now and thought I best say ‘hello’ and check in!
I continued to struggle with sleep and anxiety for the best part of the week and found the UK lockdown number 3, home schooling two teenage boys and working from both home and the hospital quite triggering in terms of stress levels. Many of my husband’s family all tested positive for Covid last weekend, including his dad and sister. It seems as though his mum and 91 year old Nan have avoided it somehow, which is great news! On Wednesday I felt physically sick from tiredness, stress and headaches so I made the decision to call ‘time out’, have someone else cover my clinic and go to bed for two hours. After I woke up, I made the decision to get a handle on my anxiety and stress before I ended up sliding downhill into depression. I worked a little, sorted out a laptop from school for one of the boys to use (and stop him use he kept missing online lessons) and did a yoga session. Then took a long bath!
Since my melt down on Wednesday, I have picked up the regular yoga again. I have taken baths every evening and read a novel while lying in the soap suds. I have emailed relevant people at work to,yet again, raise the issue of my pay and treatment, and I have included my union rep. I am carrying out a skin care regime morning and night and I love it. My skin feels so hydrated and my eyes are no longer puffy and sore. I walked 4 miles yesterday and today. I have managed two nights of 7hrs uninterrupted sleep and I already feel the anxiety lessening. Relationships at home are still fraught, especially with the added pressure of 4 of us trying to work and live under one roof. No space and a lot of tension. But, here’s the thing. Focus on reducing anxiety over all and when I feel less anxious, I can handle my home situation more sensitively and I am less reactive. It’s true what I have been told, look after my own well being first and then deal with the other stuff.
Ditching the sugar is unfortunately remaining more challenging than I would have hoped. It has to almost be completely removed from my diet for me to succeed because, as many of you will know and understand, there is no ‘moderation’ in my world. Once I start with the sugar, it takes over and becomes my next addiction. It simply proves to me that, should I ever wish to try alcohol again, I would never ever stop at just one drink. I might manage one the first night, but within days it would be far more and with increasing frequency. It is not worth the risk. I never want to go back to the torment and trauma of the first steps in giving up. I’m not sure I’d ever succeed if I tried to abstain again!
So, my friends, I am using every tool I currently have in my box. I hope my tool box is actually like Mary Poppins’ bag, bottomless. I’ll keep discovering and adding different things that help and support me. Using my bottomless bag, these periods of anxiety, stress and overwhelm should feel easier to deal with, have less impact on my mental health and not throw me quite so violently off course. A magic shield and a bottomless bag of tricks … what more could a girl ask for!?
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.
Today has been an exceptional day. Not exceptional in that anything particular has happened. I haven’t won the lottery or landed my dream job (not even sure what that would be tbh). I’ve not done anything particularly exciting or achieved a huge gold star of accomplishment. It was a Monday, it was a non working day and it was a day I spent (mostly) alone. So why exceptional?
Our kitchen floor was being taken up, re-surfaced and prepared for new flooring later in the week. I couldn’t really make any plans so I didn’t. Once the boys went off to school, I settled down to do a 40 minute yoga session. It was tough and my legs ached but it felt really good. I pottered around a little, catching up with blogs and the news. I had an errand to run and because I’d not been able to grab a coffee this morning, I decided to buy a takeout one and head to the park. Weatherwise it was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm. I found a bench and sat with my cuppa and some nuts (don’t ask), watching birds fly about and ducks paddle on the lake. It was an extremely pleasant half an hour.
I managed to clean bathrooms and bedrooms in the afternoon but we still couldn’t go into the kitchen and therefore the garden. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I decided once the boys were in and doing homework to go for a long walk alone. I took my earphones and listened to a Brené Brown podcast. It was fascinating. I discovered that in times of anxiety I ‘do’ to avoid feeling and that ‘calm’ needs to be practised. It doesn’t always come naturally but it can be developed. I learnt some great strategies for practicing calm. It was a great feeling to walk, listen and learn.
Since we couldn’t cook due to not having a functioning oven I ordered pizza for the boys and my husband. I rustled something else up for me … still trying to reduce those carbs! We watched a little of the Tour De France. I started to think about work which triggered some anxiety. The outstanding job situation remains unresolved and I have been avoiding addressing it. Instead of allowing the thoughts and feelings to spiral, I decided to try a short yoga session. More of a relaxing one which ended with some really structured deep breathing at the end, whilst lying down with my head on a pillow and my legs wrapped in a blanket. Oh boy, it was bliss. I felt so relaxed on that mat I could’ve stayed there for hours. I didn’t want to get back up. I was so lost in the moment.
So right now it’s just past 9.30pm and I’m in my pyjamas and in bed. I’ve had limited social contact today. The day has instead been one of self learning, self care and (dare I say it) self love. That’s what made it exceptional. I have never before spent a day in this way and it was wonderful.
I am currently sat outside the caravan typing this post. The sun has come out on what has been a very rainy and stormy day. We still managed our 14 mile bike ride this morning which was fun but ended up very wet. We then sat in the caravan/awning in a lightening and thunder storm, torrential rain and we were flooded … again! Big sigh. It happened the other morning. Wading through standing water to get in and out of the caravan. Only on our pitch, no-one else’s. Luckily this time nothing was ruined. The other day all our games, shoes and clothes were totally drenched.
Anyone for a swim?
It’s ok though. I haven’t let it trigger me and I’m not wallowing in self pity mode. We are leaving a day early because we don’t want to risk it happening again but that’s ok too. I have written emails and asked for compensation for the inconvenience and damaged belongings. We will see. In spite of all of this, I have managed to relax and enjoy my time away. I’m relieved about that as at the beginning of the week I wondered if that would be possible. I’ve had lovely chats with both my boys and soaked up the scenery. I have not checked any work emails which has enabled me to totally switch off.
Ponies taking shelter from the rain
Watching the storm from safety
I have decided I am going to buy a new bike. I have really enjoyed cycling this week. Unfortunately the fun was tarnished a little by my 18 yr old heavy piece of crap with gears that don’t really work and brakes that squeal as loud as a banshee. My dad loves cycling and my eldest son is becoming just as addicted. It would be something to share with them and also to do alone. There are also clubs to join where maybe I could spread my wings a little more. I have no idea where to start but I’m quite excited about researching bikes and finding the best one for me. I know it will be expensive but I work hard and I don’t treat myself to many things.
I’m still trying to reframe situations and attempting not to turn everything into a catastrophe. It takes hard work and effort to stay in the present and not look too far ahead. I don’t get it right a lot of the time but some of the time is better than none. I am a work in progress!
So I sit here watching the clouds float by, gathering together, readying for another dollop of rain. I best get up and move everything off the ground including my children. We could be swimming out of the caravan tomorrow. Now where did I pack my goggles?
After my last post, where I found myself in Limbo Land, I made a decision to try and enjoy today. We are back holidaying in the caravan and this time have come back to a place we have visited many times and love dearly, The New Forest. For those who don’t know, it’s on the south coast of England and is a beautiful area. Beaches, villages, gorgeous coastline and of course the forest itself. The weather is not forecast to be in our favour but today, other than one almighty downpour, it stayed dry and sunny. We cycled around 10 miles through the forest directly from the caravan site. Coming across wild pony after wild pony. Gorgeous brooks and purple heather stretching far and wide. It was gorgeous. Once back, we all sat out in the sun and I lay back in my luxury reclining chair (a treat to myself on our last trip) and I fell asleep. Completely zonked out. Likely I was snoring or dribbling, I was so out of it. I was fast sleep for an hour and woke up feeling totally refreshed and renewed. We ate dinner out (huge bonus), followed by us all doing our own thing for a while before watching a movie in the awning (tent attached to the van).
All in all it has been a better day than of late. At times, I still felt irritable and snappy. I also worried excessively that one of the boys will hurt themselves, or that we were cycling miles in the wrong direction. I just can’t seem to ‘chill’ or ‘go with the flow’. There were, however, other times when I cycled merrily along at my own speed and just enjoyed the moment. No real yearnings for alcohol today and not wishing for something different or better. A good day.
I have started to wonder if restarting the antidepressants might be a good idea. It’s been a couple of months since I stopped them and I am noticing the difference without them. I know they don’t solve underlying problems but I have lost that sense of peace and calm I had when I was taking them. The combines effect of antidepressants and sobriety seemed to reduce the negativity and endless worrying about everything and nothing. I’m not sure, still thinking, but it is worth considering.
I had another thought today, triggered by something Collette said in a comment on my last post. I am in limbo at the moment, feeling stuck and somewhat trapped. Collette suggested considering that it might be for a reason. There could be a purpose to not moving forward right now. After today, it dawned on me how little time I have left to be with my two boys doing what we have done. Cycling, having tea out, chilling in the sun and watching a movie in the awning. Maybe, just maybe, I am meant to be standing still. I have focused on the negatives of Limbo Land but there could be positives. This is an opportunity to focus on my children. To be available for them should they need it. I have been worrying about the future, when they have flown the nest, forgetting that they are still here now. This could be the time to truly build my ‘adult to adult’ relationships with them both. It is also the time to soak up the last few years of their childhood and form some everlasting memories. I am reframing ‘being stuck’. I’m changing it to ‘taking a pause’. There will be an appropriate time to make changes and move forward again. For now I will pause, tread water and be Mum for a while.
I have been thinking today about sobriety and what it has given me. It can be difficult to hold onto the positives of giving up alcohol as it becomes the norm. In the initial months of becoming sober the fantastic changes I felt inside and huge improvements in my mental health were a daily occurrence and realisation. I spent every day thankful and grateful for all sorts of impacts it had on my life. Better sleep; waking up feeling well; less anxiety; increased self esteem; a feeling of peace; more hours in my day; respect from my teenage boys; less internal and external conflict; less guilt; resilience; more focus; improved memory; better self control; and so on and so on.
The list is endless and is all a direct result of removing alcohol from my life. Awareness of these changes and positives fades as they become part of the status quo. Surely I was always this resilient? I never had problems with self esteem and setting boundaries did I? Calm and peace is not new is it? Nope I wasn’t, yes I did and yes it is. Personally I think it’s really, really important, as we clock up the sober days, months and then eventually years, to remind ourselves about the reality of what life was like BS (before sobriety).
BS, I was fragile and vulnerable. I was teetering on the edge, in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. The slightest issue, event or comment could send me over that edge, into conflict or despair. I had absolutely zero resilience. Zilch, nada, nil. Resilience is such an important thing to have in life. How we achieve it I don’t know. Where it comes from is still an enigma to me. Maybe different people build it in different ways. What I do know is, when you have the internal strength resilience gives you, life is much more doable and challenges are not insurmountable. Sure, you still feel low, fed up or downright miserable some days. At times people can offend, upset and infuriate you. Situations don’t always go your way. Resilience helps you move through all this without falling apart. Sobriety provides us with that resilience.
I notice now that my vulnerability has lessened, I’m less affected by what others think about me. I want them to like me, of course, but I know that stuff happens around me that I can’t control and people will form opinions that have no bearing on the truth or facts. This has come with sobriety and this brings more resilience. Life is pretty tough when you feel constantly fragile. Like at any moment you might break or shatter. I am the opposite of that now. I actually feel strength inside and out. The first step towards this change was saying ‘bye’ to booze. Practicing yoga and mindfulness have built on the foundations laid down by being alcohol free. I knew I wanted to try these and the advice from my sober tribe when I wrote my post ‘Musing over mindfulness, meditation and me’ really gave me a push to give them a go. I am now addressing my diet and ensuring I am eating for positive physical and mental health. Continuing to build, brick by brick, my own personal wall of resilience.
Tomorrow it will have been 9 months since I put a glass of wine to my lips and every day of those 9 months has made me stronger, tougher and more resilient. That’s why I am sober and that’s why I will stay that way.