From the beginning…

I first posted this on Soberistas in February, I left the site the following day and I haven’t felt up to writing the next part yet. I will do soon I hope.

This is going to be a long story so I apologise in advance…it may seem totally irrelevant in parts but I’ve had all this in my head for so long I need to get it out…if you do try to read, I apologise for the way I write it…its just going down as it comes to mind. Some parts may not make sense I think and I am sure the chronological order of everything may not be perfect.

My mum was born into a dysfunction family…her father left when she was only a baby and my Irish grandmother was left a single mother of three young children, in the late 40’s this was frowned upon an as such my mother grew up as a social outcast, I remember her telling me she never felt she fitted in and was always thought of as odd, they were very poor and the church helped them out often. Throughout my mothers childhood my grandmother drank, at a constant level. My mother had two older brothers who my grandmother struggled to keep under control, when they got to their teens they both went into the film industry and started earning a lot of money. They bought a sports car and used to go to parties and casinos in London, this was in the late 50s…they partied hard and drank a lot. On the way home one morning my eldest uncle lost control and crashed the car, killing his brother. He was arrested and was charged, the court case was long and drawn out, but he avoided prison. This propelled my grandmother into a severe depression and her drinking increased, my mother found her with her head in the gas oven a number of times.
Around this time, my mother went into nursing…she left home and moved to the training hospital in central London, this gave her the opportunity to just be who she wanted, she told me she loved to go to parties but rarely drank.
When she completed her training she carried on working at the hospital…she met my dad in 69/70 he was 10 years older than her and seemed very grown up. They married in the early 70’s and my mother was unaware of his chronic alcoholism at this stage. He worked, he was well liked, he never drank at parties. But the house was held up by his empty litre whiskey bottles…apparently they were everywhere in every possible space. I was born in 75 my sister in 76…my dad was a doting father, but the pressure of living with an alcoholic was too much for my mother…they separated on a number of occasions as well as my dad trying various in and out patient treatments. Finally in the early 80’s they parted company…my dad moved to another town and we moved too. We lost contact with him for a few years as his drinking continued, but finally my mother found him in a mental hospital, we visited him there on a few occasions and when he left he moved to a halfway house then a small flat.
So, as for me…I always felt like I was different, I never fitted in and was a bit odd. Having to keep family secrets is a lot to bear for a child. I was also very bright…my mother was obsessed with taking me to places to get my IQ tested! At 3 I had the reading age of a 12 yr old…but I hated school with a passion. I was always in trouble for being obstinate. I went to a convent school with French nuns and they were wicked…I was regularly caned and had my mouth washed out with soap on a number of occasions. I don’t remember anything happy or fun about these years, my mother was a hard woman and I didn’t like her. We spent weekends with my dad and he always had a bottle of ‘coke’ with him…that was out of bounds for us!! The weekends with my dad were full of fun, I realise now that my mum had the usual family stuff to deal with and had to keep a roof over our head and pay school fees all on her own, so my dad got the easy bit of just providing us with lots of good times!
I think it was probably when I was about 8 that I remember my mum starting to go out drinking with her friends…the overwhelming smell of her perfume, Opium turns my stomach now. My grandma was with us a lot during these years and we spent the whole of the summer holidays with her, miles from home as my mother worked full time. I wouldn’t see my dad for the whole of the holidays. During my primary school years I saw child psychiatrists regularly…I had a problem with not talking, I could just shut myself off. I remember the head teacher shouting at me…she really lost it, I expect I was a very frustrating child! I wet the bed every single night till I was 11, soaked from head to toe, I remember shivery nights being stripped off and put back to bed three or four times. I spent a lot of time in hospital having all sorts of investigative operations. Phew think that’s enough for now.

Lots to think about…

I have stated before that I have been extremely lucky in this, hopefully my last, attempt to become sober once and for all.  I haven’t had cravings, nor suffered any withdrawal symptoms.  I haven’t fought with feelings of ‘Oh, normally I’d do this with a glass of fizz’ and if I have had anywhere near that thought, it has been fleeting.  I have been able to envisage a life without another glass of wine or ‘poshecco’!!  Picture myself totally in control at all future weddings (not mine I hasten to add) work dos, birthdays, funerals (again, not mine 😉 ).  I can’t give any other explanation for this other than my head is obviously ‘in the right place’.

Or is it that I was so ashamed of my behaviour over the last few years that I have been put off drinking for life?

Or is it the disappointment in my father’s face when I fell off a train onto the platform flat on my face because I was so drunk?

Or is it the money that I poured down my throat over the years?

Perhaps it was my use of social media to publicly humiliate an ex, when in actual fact it is me that is humiliated?

Maybe the possibility of losing my job over the aforementioned social media no-no?

There are hundreds of events that I could list that I wish I hadn’t done, people I wish I hadn’t upset, family I long to have not disappointed and the constant self-loathing and depression.  But nothing can be done to change what has gone before.

Now I have to think about the future.  My re-found confidence.  To look for another job and to meet new people, make new friends.  I have done more in 71 days than I have done in the last 10 years, if not more.  I have done a spot of public speaking!! I am doing a little more for our good friend Binki this Saturday!  I have agreed to do a talk for a friend to a group of people in May (on what, I have no idea!).  Public speaking was an absolute ‘NO WAY’ before I stopped drinking!

I have set up The Happiness Club, in conjunction with Psychologies Magazine and ‘Action for Happiness’ and I am embracing changes in my personal life and taking steps to overcome difficulties in that area.

I feel positive and I need to give something back, as corny as that sounds (albeit not as corny as ‘The Happiness Club’!!).  I have had counselling, psychotherapy, group support, CBT, help from A&E departments, help from the police, help from local medical professionals and services, help from friends and family, help from total strangers.  All because I was selfishly throwing alcohol down my neck.  I am nearing the end of my first course in Counselling, with the second course to start later this year, so that I can start to give back.

So you see, I have a lot to think about – but it’s looking forward and it’s looking positively to find a way to make my awful experiences over the last 20 years of my life count for something and somebody.

And if this post comes under ‘Recorked’s Blog’, I think I may have finally cracked it Binki 😉  Hurrah! xx


I do run a bit

by Jessie
I do run a bit …… I am currently training for my 6th marathon and running between 55 and 70 miles a week. But I really want to tell you that I started from almost nothing 7 years ago. I had run the Great North Run in 1984 in 2 hours 8 minutes then marriage , children and life got in the way for over 22 years and I started again when my wonderful Mum finally went into full time care shortly before her death. I felt so impotent and as a way of repaying the Alzheimers Society for all the help and support we received as a family I started to run to raise money and instead of crying.

It has changed my life. Here I am a 53 year old Nana only getting faster at the moment!! My running has had a huge boost since I embraced sobriety and I am able to fully commit to my training and I push myself much harder. But I truly could not run round the block 7 years ago and those people in their lycra tights and running vests were terrifying!!

It is hard at first … I started in the June and it felt tortuous for weeks…only the thought of my Mum kept me going. I was determined to raise money for research in the hope that my future can be different to the one she had. I never intended to keep going after the Great North Run that October but somewhere along that road something clicked and I have truly never looked back.

It has saved me in so many ways. For a long time it helped keep a lid on my drinking, but it gave me both physical and emotional strength. My BP and resting heart rate are phenomenally low, my BMI and weight have reduced. I have faced demons and dealt with them and running through emotional pain has been a godsend.

Last year I ran a half marathon in 1 hour 39 …. 29 minutes faster than I was 30 years ago! So don’t think you can’t ..think you will!

If you can find a charity that is very close to your heart it really helps to focus on the training when you can’t face a run.

If I can help, share bits of my journey, run with you ….then let me know! If running makes you even half as happy as it has made me every investment in time and pain will be worthwhile.

There will of course be Swans who for a range of reasons are unable to choose running ….. But find something and make it yours. Exercise is a life changer.

Finally you might find something else …. ! I met my husband at a race in my second year of running and we got married last August! He is faster than me but can’t go as far!

Now I only look back to see how far I have come.

Happy running ….. And don’t forget Swans have strong legs!! Xxx

  • Hippydippy66 says: Jessie has really inspired me to get out there – Binki, I forsee the London Marathon next year, what do you think lol x

Fluff says:  well, have dusted off my trainers .. it is my cygnet’s birthday today and I am doing a dinner tonight – lunchtime run for this swannette xxxx

  • Sue says:
set myself up for a Race for Life 10k in July so starting to get nervous now but working to plan in the gym! xx

Bonkers101 says:

  •   Have you tried the site? You can get a plan specific to your personal requirements which will help work towards your goal xx

    MY ASICS helps you achieve your running goals. Create a custom training program for a marathon, half…
Paulita says:

Swooshing swans, i’m going to join you but I will start by walking fast, OK? And i might break into a run when the weather gets better. I don’t have much time during the day so I plan to walk at lunchtimes. And in summer, i can go out in the evening for a little trot perhaps…I did a fast walk at lunchtime yesterday. it was fabulous. I pulled on an old pair of walking boots ‘cos the path is muddy. And off i went with my phone. Didn’t have shower afterwards so it all fitted nicely into an hour. Can’t believe what a difference it made to a busy day. Great

 Cat says:

Going to start running at the gym to begin with & see how I get on………..🏃🏃🏃🏃

 Amanda says:

Ok I’m gonna do it too but only if I can wear this tee shirt… xxx

"Ok I'm gonna do it too but only if I can wear this tee shirt... xxx"

How did I get from drinking 60 units a week to four years sober?

by Sue S

When I started on my road to recovery I got referred to the local drug and alcohol support service where I was living at the time. I was told I had to moderate my drinking first and get to a point where I could stick to the recommended units level (which was 20) consistently. Once I’d achieved that – and it took months because as we all know, it’s almost bloody impossible – I was referred to “after-care” which is where I got the group work, CBT exercises and mentoring I needed to support me stopping.

I think the people advising me were taking the view that the amount I was drinking at the start was too high for me to quit safely straight off (averaging 50-60 units per week) and I needed to reduce safely first to avoid risks associated with stopping suddenly.

I think they possibly also took the view that even without the physical health risks, stopping suddenly from my existing levels of dependence was probably unrealistic. They helped me in:

• setting targets for days when I could drink
• what time I could have the first one
• reporting back with a drink diary would give me achievable intermediate targets and let me build some commitment muscles.

The after care services provided more intensive support and required a greater level of commitment and I think it’s possible they used the first phase almost as a selection process to see whether you’d stick to it. The aftercare service described the group I went into as support for those wanting to moderate or stop drinking. They didn’t tell me I had to stop, and although I was still fighting the idea at the start of the first session, by the end of it I was thinking and saying, there’s no point me pretending – I need to quit.

Once I’d made that decision it was a blessed relief and I completed my group work and individual sessions with a clear date in mind to stop, we planned for it, I continued to reduce but not stop until my chosen date (start of Lent four years ago) and I continued with support tapering off for six months after quitting at my own request.

I’ve never looked back except to see how far I’ve come.

The reason I’ve written all this out dear swans, (if you are still with me and haven’t taken to something more interesting!) is that I’m pretty sure the people advising me from Day 1 knew very well the answer had to be giving up completely but needed me to be able to do that safely and come to that decision myself so I had the ownership of it and the commitment to do it.

Do you know how much you, or your friend, or partner is currently drinking? Above all keep yourself safe, dance with drinkers if that’s OK for you but only if it’s OK for you and don’t let the dancing keep you from your own journey. Keep moving, let drinkers keep you in sight and encourage them to come with you, but keep moving. Lots of love and admiration for your commitment. xxxx

embrace the disruption

There will be some people reading this who have relapsed back into drinking recently – you may in the middle of a relapse right now. You are of course, not alone, not that this knowledge often helps. This is my shit, no one else’s! However it is a part of being human that most of us find significant change difficult to handle at the best of times, and few would argue kicking alcohol our of our lives forever is one of the most significant changes we could contemplate!

No matter how often people list the advantages of quitting drinking, putting the thoughts into action is often easier said than done for us creatures of habit. That sense of inertia, that feeling of mañana, has such an enormous effect on our ability to turn words into deeds. Dare I say there can sometimes be a certain sense of complacency involved; the ‘I’ve got plenty of time’ approach. Priorities are acted on which are different to our intentions…once the bottle (or the cigarette, or the gateau, or all three in fact) is in front of us, all our resolve goes out the window. It’s a genuine surprise; like how the hell did that get into my hand?

Struggling to embrace the very necessary change in thinking about alcohol, or any addictive substance, is one of the reasons why people find it hard to get past the first couple of weeks of sobriety. Sometimes people can go months and relapse, because the ‘stinking thinking’ hasn’t been dealt with. They have stayed sober through fear, or threat to themselves, or emotional blackmail…or any one of a whole set of negative thinking processes. They are basically waiting to start drinking again (or smoking, or over eating) and the urge never quite goes away. Some modes of thinking call it being a ‘dry drunk’.

Accepting the need for a change in thinking is an essential part of choosing not to drink (you can drink any time but you choose not to) as opposed to feeling you cannot drink and are therefore depriving yourself. So how to do it…the eternal conundrum. Some suggestions:

• Listen to the positive viewpoints and discard the negative views of sobriety
• Celebrate being an unconventional thinker and a sober pioneer – it won’t be long before the rest of society catches up with you and sees the harm alcohol does, just as people now understand the dangers of smoking.
• Look for new ways to deal with the old problems that trigger an urge to drink (they will always be there)
• Change your profile. If you choose, you can make yourself over; physically, emotionally, financially, educationally…think about reinventing yourself afresh and cutting those links to old habits.

In the end we can all talk the talk, but ingrained conservatism makes change almost impossible. Self-innovation is blocked by keeping the same kind of lifestyle, environments and relationship balances that always lead to a drink. It isn’t enough to just buy the gym membership…you really need to go, too.