Hello January :-))

At risk of sounding like a right old misery guts, I’m writing today to say that I am very happy to be properly back at work and saying farewell to Christmas for another year. As I launched a half-eaten box of mince pies into the bin this morning, it did cross my mind that maybe nobody likes Christmas all that much after all…

To put this into some context, I should point out that the main event of exchanging gifts, which for me entails watching my lovely girls rip open their presents with glee, is very nice, and something that I am more than happy to do. I also love the enforced downtime that the festive season brings with it, as I generally don’t get much time to relax and it definitely does me good to do so.

But what I hate is the fact that so many people feel extreme emotional pain at this time of year, for a number of reasons ranging from bereavement to broken relationships to things just not being where they hoped they would be. And neither do I like the pressure to be all Nigella-like in the kitchen (which in reality means you miss out on all the fun as you slog it out over a hot stove and a sink full of dirty pots). As a non-drinker, neither do I like the intense commercial push stemming from the alcohol industry, which results in millions downing more booze than anyone should ever do for their mental and physical health.

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When all around us we see signs advertising Prosecco and craft gins, money off multiple bottles of wine at the supermarkets, great big cases of beer at knockdown prices…when magazines are filled with images of glamorous people daintily holding glasses of fizz at elegant Christmas parties, and ideas for disguising hangovers with luxury beauty treatments…when mainstream newspapers are publishing light-hearted articles about the best foods to eat on New Year’s Day when you are nursing a crippling hangover…when we consider all of these things, on top of the various reasons why December can be a cruel and painful month for so many people, is it any wonder that Christmas brings vast numbers to their knees, desperate for it all to be over and for January to get underway with its routine and normality? The temptation to join in and drink excessively can be overwhelming, especially for anyone living with an alcohol dependency.

Personally, I used to hate Christmas, as a drinker and then as a new non-drinker, but as the sober years have passed by it has become a time that I can enjoy for a few small benefits (as mentioned above). But it still strikes me every year that for many, many people, it is unwelcome, difficult and downright awful, and virtually impossible to escape for those who may secretly wish to do so. It isn’t OK to ditch Christmas – in the eyes of many it’s akin to turning down a wedding invitation. You just have to partake – stick a smile on your face and get on with it. And make sure you have fun…or else!

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Midway through cooking Christmas dinner (I’m not a bad cook but it didn’t turn out all that great and I would have preferred to just eat a salad!), I began to daydream about lying on a hot beach somewhere, with a couple of Christmas presents to open followed by a nice swim and a read of a good book in the sunshine. Following on from the theme of my last blog about being true to yourself, I’m starting to think that next December, I may very well pursue this daydream…

Happy January 🙂

Holiday Diary

May 28 2013

We’ve been on holiday for three days making home out of a static caravan nestled in the low lying hills of Holywell Bay near Newquay, Cornwall. We are positioned in a spot which is devoid of any possibility to communicate with the outside world, our mobiles displaying absolutely no telephone reception or 3G connection signs. That’s ok – I’m taking it as a good thing, an opportunity to lessen my dependence on incoming and outgoing digital messaging of all kinds and to concentrate on real life for a few days.

Strangely enough I haven’t missed Twitter or Facebook or even text messaging in any way. The absolute removal of its availability has resulted in my resignation of living how we did last time I came to this caravan park eleven years ago when mobiles hadn’t yet taken over our lives, my eldest daughter was just three, I was married to her Dad, I was a heavy drinker and life was, in almost every way, completely different.

The caravan park is set at the foot of a long winding road away from passing traffic. Holywell Bay itself is a short walk across sand dunes and is a calm haven of old-fashioned seaside postcard imagery;  boogie boarders and surfers, toddlers and windshields, coffee and ice cream huts, Atlantic rollers and small pools, enormous hulks of rock jutting from the waves and miles and miles of deep blue-green ocean stretching back to the sky.

On our first day at the beach the sun is out and the wind cuts a fresh breeze casting a healthy-looking tan on our faces. The baby is in her element, on hands and knees and overwhelmed with the vast expanse of trillions of ‘bits’ as far as her eyes can see. She grabs handfuls of sand and small shrapnel of seashells and attempts to wolf them down, only to be intercepted by our hands pulling her fist away from her open mouth over and over again. We sit and watch the world go by and take photographs of the baby in her sunhat and flowery playsuit.

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There is simplicity in living in a caravan with no internet connection. I find myself contemplating situations and mulling over the factors of my life back home – my relationships and friendships, my weaknesses and strengths. I am spending hours doing nothing in particular; a drive to Fistral Beach, sitting next to the baby in her pram, watching as she gazes curiously at the seagulls whirling in the sky above us, flicking through magazines, perusing the bikinis and hairstyles worn by models and film stars with my teenage daughter, assessing the selection of leaflets left out on the coffee table in order to plan our activities for the next few days, nipping out for an ice cream, taking the baby for a play on the swings and slides in the caravan park.

It reminds me of being young – you fill your time with pleasant pastimes and in between the trips out there is a sense of relaxation, contentment and none of the hectic pin-balling from chore to chore, appointment to appointment, work piling up around your ears and demands placed on you relentlessly, all of which define your existence at home.

It is as though the channels that deliver all the busyness into my life have been barricaded, preventing any of the usual grating stress factors from reaching me and creating a quiet blue space of calm. And I’m just floating here in a different existence where all that matters is the present. Days have become long once again; time has stopped pouring so rapidly through the egg timer, falling through the slim glass neck with increasing speed, slipping out of my grasp.

This afternoon we are visiting the Eden Project. Last time I was there it was newly opened, full to bursting with hoards of interested visitors and I had the hangover from hell which ruined the experience completely. Today’s visit to the alien white biomes at St. Austell will, I hope, be somewhat more enjoyable.

One-Way Ticket to Happiness

A few years ago amidst a period of very heavy drinking, I went on holiday with my then partner and our three children (2 of his, 1 of mine).

Right up until the day we left I had been downing at least a bottle of wine a night, every night, for weeks on end and as a result had experienced a number of distressing events, arguments, traumas and other assorted booze-related catastrophes.

I made the decision to have an alcohol-free holiday because we were taking our three children with us and I couldn’t trust myself to not do or say something terrible that would ruin everyone’s memories of that week forever more.

It was a simple decision to make and a relatively easy one to stick to. We drove down to Cornwall and stayed in a beautiful big house set in rolling green hills and farmland. The sun shone all week and we spent seven days surfing, swimming, eating ice creams, and in the evenings played trivial pursuits and watched films. We caught some amazing waves and I remember one in particular that my ex-partner’s daughter, my daughter and me rode together, the three of us careering towards the beach screaming and laughing at the breath-taking way we had been possessed by the sea.

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I spent the week relaxed, happy and content, relieved not to be waking up each morning with that familiar sense of dread and having to apologise to those around me for my lack of control and inability to realise that I had reached my wine limit but still continued to drink, yet again. How do you apologise to children for being drunk and stupid? You can’t really – they don’t, and neither should we expect them to, understand.

However, as was my way back then, I reached the end of the holiday feeling refreshed and full of vigour, tanned, happy and free and then hit the bottle again upon reaching home. It would take me a further five years to stop for good.

As we approach this year’s holiday to Cornwall in a few weeks’ time I am not in a position where I need to consider whether to cut out alcohol or not for the seven days I spend with my fiancé and two daughters in a caravan near the sea. I am lucky enough to have reached a stage in my life where I know I will never put myself through the torment of substance abuse ever again. My holiday at the end of May will be the same as every other holiday I will take during the rest of my life – a relaxing break which doesn’t involve booze, regrets and hangovers.

Drinking on holiday for me was like going sailing in a boat with a hole in the bottom –it starts out being fun but soon enough it’s going to sink and take everyone down with it.

Jason Vale, You’re My Hero.

I promise that I haven’t been paid by Jason Vale to endorse his (fabulous) book ‘Kick the Drink…Easily!’ but that isn’t going to stop me banging on about its wonderfulness. For ANYONE who wants to stop drinking, especially the ones who are scared stiff that by becoming sober they will be missing out on all those great benefits of booze (furry morning tongue, headaches, bad moods, embarrassing incidents, spare tyre, spending money you can ill afford, death to self respect, bad breath, liver damage – I could go on, but you get the picture; there are no benefits), READ THIS BOOK!!!

I spent my spare time on holiday in Mallorca last week reading this literary piece of soul-saving brilliance and as a result, all remaining negative notions regarding being ‘on the wagon’ that lingered after I had my last drink a year and a half ago, have been blown away. Gone, wafting away on the warm Spanish air up towards the Tramuntana Mountains, never to return.

If you refer to my earlier posts, you will glean that I was harbouring the odd   lustful thought for Imagemy erstwhile beloved Pinot Grigio. Honestly, despite being so much happier, calmer, richer, more balanced, more productive, more creative and more energetic, there was still a stubborn chunk of me that wouldn’t let it lie. Niggling somewhere in the back of my sober head, a voice sometimes whispered (pretty convincingly) ‘You will never have fun again without a drink, you are boring now. You have nothing to say, you’ve got no confidence. You have a life to look forward to that is coloured by heartache and your longing for a glass of white wine.’

After reading Jason Vale’s book, I have finally thrown these thoughts out of all consciousness – this isn’t a willpower game, but a firm belief and pride in the fact that I do not need alcohol; I am not addicted to alcohol. I would even renege on my earlier protestation that I am an alcoholic:-

Hello, my name is Lucy and I am NOT an alcoholic. I used to be addicted to alcohol, but I got over it. It’s great. Life without drinking is a life lived in truth. In vino veritas? No, the truth is out there readers, but you won’t find it in your glass of poison. (However, you might find it in Jason Vale’s book).