ARE YOU TOUGH ENOUGH??

Easter Bank Holiday Weekend brought us the latest instalment of “Are You Tough Enough” – not the SAS version (although that looks pretty challenging) – but the “Are You Tough Enough to be John Withinshaws’ girlfriend” version. Blistering heat, gruelling conditions and a true test of grit and determination.

OK, so I can be a little dramatic at times…

I’m not sure if it’s as we grow into ourselves as adults, or as we grow into ourselves as athletes (or both) but the challenges we present ourselves with are getting more and more extreme. The purpose of our trip to the Lakes over the Bank Holiday weekend was to start the arduous and lengthy task of recceing (knowledge = power, confidence and foresight) John’s biggest target to date – the Northern Traverse – 190 miles self-supported Ultra, following Wainwrights Coast to Coast from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay, April 2020, with 5 days to complete (on foot).

Picture of a map and Wainwrights Coast to Coast book
We had discussed various options of how we were to go about this, John coming up with the idea of carrying a temporary home on our backs for a couple of days and doing a bit of wild camping. We decided (I persuaded) that as novice wild campers and carriers of really, really heavy backpacks and that one of us deals really badly with the cold, that perhaps we should ease ourselves into the dirt-bag lifestyle and do an out and back of the first leg of the journey, then move along the route in the car and do the same from point 2. We decided to leave out the first section for now (St Bees to Ennerdale – approx 14 miles) on the basis this should be relatively easy to navigate – fresh, daylight and among other people. So – park up at Ennerdale, walk from Ennerdale for as far as we could manage, put up tent for the night, wild camp and then head back the following day. Sounds straight forward enough.
Hiking items laid out ready for packing for a recce of the Northern Traverse

Of course we had to buy a tent, a rucksack for me, a tiny stove, a new coat, freeze dried expedition rations and a poo trowel before we were set to go. I researched and studied maps like my life depended on it (I take my role as 2IC very seriously), made notes, and a book of Wainwrights route that a friend had lent us became bedtime reading. Be prepared. This is a good time to practice my own navigation too. I got out all the warmest layers I could find that wouldn’t weigh me down too much – never has my packing been so minimal and organised… and then….

Cue the hottest weekend of the year so far.

Ennerdale Water in the morning sun

DAY 1

My anxiety was a little through the roof as we set off on the Friday morning – I can catastrophize better than anyone I know and if anything could go wrong on this kind of trip, I will have dreamt it up as the worst case scenario. I put my heavy rucksack on, breathed deep, pretended all was going to be OK and trundled along behind John, who was full of his usual enthusiasm and already 10 spaces in front, even though we’d only been going 5-10 minutes. We set off up Angler’s Crag (on Wainwrights advice, rather than trying to shimmy round the very dangerous shale at the bottom) and I instantly realise that I’m in a bit of trouble. I can’t breathe going up the hill, I feel slow and sluggish, but more than that – I’m in excruciating pain in my shoulders (and neck) with the rucksack. I don’t think I can walk 20 minutes, never mind 20 miles. John recognises I’m struggling and insinuates I may need to adjust the pack.

“I can’t do anything with the pack – it’s just really heavy.” I think I’m going to cry.

He finds a couple of straps at the top that I didn’t know existed, pulls them tight, which brings the top of the pack into my shoulders rather than dangling/dragging 3 inches away.

“Oh…” that’s a little better. FFS Jenkins.

The journey becomes a little easier after that, although we are picking our way through stony ground initially, so it’s not fast going, and of course it gets hotter and hotter as the day goes on. As we hit the forest path on a steady uphill, I start to become a little conscious of how much water we are (or aren’t) carrying and hope to god we find somewhere to fill up.

Black Sail YHA hut in the Lake District, Cumbria
We reached the Black Sail Hut YHA after about 3 hours or so of walking non stop in the heat. Wainwright describes it as the loneliest of all Youth Hostels in Lakeland. Not on this day. It was like heaven on a hill, and there were loads of other people who clearly felt the same. Not only could we fill up our water bottles, there is also an honesty shop where you can make your own cups of tea, coffee, etc. and buy flapjacks and crisps.

We had a rest, a cuppa and a bite to eat (crisps to get the salts back in and some delicious flapjack). This set us up in fine form for the climb up Seavy Knott, which is a very steep, stepped hill and a challenge with a heavy pack on your back (weight distribution – lean in). Steady away, take your time, rest when you have to.

Over the top we were treated to some magnificent views. The bonus of the hot weather was that we could see for miles and as John says, “your eyeballs just aren’t big enough to take it all in”. As we headed down to Honister I knew we had done the worst of the work for the day and started to relax a little bit. John bought me an ice cream at the Honister cafe – bliss.

View from the top of Seavy Knott in the Lake District

Seatoller was the next marked stop point in the notes, but there’s not an awful lot there so we headed straight to Rosthwaite, at which point we had covered about 14.5 miles, and walked for 7 hours or so. We stocked up with more water for camping and treated ourselves to a well earned pint.

Enjoying a pint of cider after a hot days walking in the Lakes

 

I have to admit it was tough to leave the pub. Feet were sore and hot and we still had a little way to go. John had earmarked a spot on the map a couple of miles away in Stonethwaite, but we had to walk past a campsite to get there – fields and fields (literally HUGE campsite) full of Bank Holiday revellers, relaxing, enjoying the sunshine, drinking beer, eating barbecues, children playing in the river…tempting.We found a lovely quiet spot, and then the next challenge – putting up the tent together – the maker and breaker of relationships. We make a pretty good team – John tells me how he would like me to help, and I do as I’m told. Saves millions of arguments.

It went up quick and easy and once happy with the tent we cooked our freeze dried expedition rations, drank a little Benedictine from the hip flask, had a baby wipe wash and settled into our sleeping bags before nightfall had even arrived.

DAY 1 – A HOT BUT TIRING SUCCESS

Day 14 sober – Sunday stress

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a tough weekend as far as sobriety is concerned. I feel like I’ve hardly slept and my fuzzy head is reminiscent of a hangover. This is not how it’s supposed to be! Foggy, anxious and tired. Bleurgh. I’m supposed to feel fresh and clean and full of energy!

The other half has been away since yesterday morning. I have avoided all invites (and all intincts) to party in his absence. I know he has been partying hard, however, and somehow this has taken me very close to pressing on that ‘fuck it’ button. I could drink alone, no-one would know…although hardly anyone knows I’m sober, so who cares except me?

I decided to make a beef stew and was contemplating buying red wine to cook with, and wondering if I could resist the urge to drink the rest. The shopping list started with ‘red wine’ and then promptly got changed to ‘red wine stock pots’. Stay strong. Breathe deep. I purchased pretend alcoholic beverages on my shopping trip in case the urge got too great over the course of the evening but they are still sat in the fridge.

Alcohol would normally fill the gap when the other half isn’t here. I don’t sleep well when I’m alone, hence the reason I feel so crap today. But, if I had succumbed to the drinking I’d likely feel a hel of a lot worse today. In ‘normal’ circumstances, I probably would’ve started drinking Saturday afternoon to fill the void, probably by myself, and probably more than a few glasses of wine.

I went to see my sister in York yesterday. I contemplated getting a drink for on the outbound train (1.30pm). My sister is pregnant so not drinking. I contemplated getting a drink at the train station before returning home, contemplated going to the pub with friends when I got back, contemplated buying tonic or lemonade to mix with the half opened bottle of vodka that sits in the wine rack and looks lonely. I woke up this morning contemplating a drink, contemplating going to the pub later, buying Guiness as it’s St Paddys day. I contemplated popping to the off licence for some bottles of strong cider, starting the day wrong. It’s only just 10am.

I think about alcohol a lot and it feels like a lot of effort to stay sober when I’m so tired. Kind of an oxymoron I know.

So, I am taking myself back to bed instead. I will meditate but I shall let myself drift off  if it happens that way. Hopefully I will have some thing else to think about when I wake instead of alcohol!!!

Day 9 – Why I love Sober Mondays

When your boyfriend (or ‘partner’ maybe a better word – as we’re grown ups and not 12…) suggests that you have another sober stint, but then it gets to the weekend and he needs beer to watch the rugby… what do you do?

Do you fold and join in?

Do you get cross and agitated at the beer betrayal? (B*st$#d, we had a deal!)

OR, do you remind yourself that sobriety is an individual process and any vows should be taken to oneself, not as a commitment to others.

I chose no.3. I made no fuss over his choices. I reminded myself that alcohol would not enhance my watching of TV, but bought myself some non alcoholic beers in case I got any irritable alcohol  envy … and watched the rugby. I passed the first test.

I love waking up on a Monday morning feeling completely fresh. I feel a bit virtuous and smug, and love that I have had my self care at a maximum. Any rest has been proper rest. In contrast to the last time I had a sober stint, I was really looking forward to my first sober weekend, instead of dreading it. I knew what to expect and I welcomed it. Rather than viewing it as deprivation, I now see it as giving myself something back.

Monday went quick this week. I was in work early, meaning I get to leave early as I work flexi hours, and the whole day went pretty smooth. Cooked a healthy tea, went for a workout and genuinely feel this is how all weeks should begin.

By the time Tuesday comes around, instead of just feeling like I’m returning to normal after a heavy binge at the weekend, I am quite literally buzzing with energy.

The difference is remarkable, I just cannot quite workout why I’ve not chosen this as a lifestyle. Who wouldn’t chose this over the hedonistic party animal that takes half a week to recover?

Life in HD, or life in a big fuzzy whirlwind?

Time to fly without being high

Day 1 of sobriety – again.

I had a few drinks yesterday to clear the fridge, get rid of the booze and dull the hangover. I am therefore not waking on Day 1 with quite as clear a head as I would wish. I could’ve poured the drink away, or donated it to someone – but I opted to spend my Sunday afternoon slightly pissed watching films and hardly moving from the sofa.

I have recently been longing for that smug sober Sunday feeling, waking with a fresh head and a clear mind. I am looking forward to all those feelings that come with being sober. Will I find it hard to ditch the booze this time around? I don’t know. I’m kind of looking forward to being free of it at the moment.

I’ve started reading over all my blogs I wrote during the Sober Eighty challenge last year which is quite interesting. I am excited as to what the next 3 months have to bring.

Day 1 of 112.

 

Going out with a bang

We’ve decided to give up alcohol again (that’s me and the other half). Last year we challenged ourselves to give up alcohol for 80 days and I felt absolutely bloody amazing. The clarity and feeling of smug, cleanliness that comes with sobriety was eye opening. I lost a bit of weight, felt extremely productive, my skin was great – I felt (and looked) fresh and bright. I was rich (had spare money) for a while. I loved the 80 days so much that I almost committed myself to a life of sobriety… but, for whatever reason, I didn’t. I think I just wanted to be like everyone else for a while again. Fear of Missing Out. It took a while for alcohol to creep back into our lives but after some festive bingeing and seemingly lots of social events, it’s well and truly found it’s way back. Too many bad habits have returned and it’s slowly but surely impacting our lives, and not in a good way. There is a lethargy that comes with drinking, even just a small amount, and it’s not something we can afford or have room for in our lives. Also, we’re training really hard and alcohol totally affects the recovery process. It’s not wise to head to the pub after every run as a ‘reward’.

Needless to say, we don’t like to do things by halves and last night we had our last binge for a while, which included a very expensive bottle of champagne. What an oxymoron! Let’s celebrate our decision to be sober with a bottle of fizz!

I am writing this with a horrendous hangover. I feel sick, have a fuzzy head and have some vague recollection of talking complete shit to random strangers. I haven’t slept very well but the anxiety is too ferocious to be able to sleep the hangover away. It seems like a good point to be giving the booze up. I’m not sure if it’s for good this time or not but the other half has a 100 miler (run) in June – that’s 112 days away. So, for now, that’s my target. 112 days of sober. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as the Sober Eighty challenge but I’m viewing this as more of a lifestyle choice than a challenge.

Wish me luck.

The book isn’t going to write itself

I’m 42 years old this year and I haven’t got a bloody clue what I want to do with my life. I mean – I thought I might’ve found my life’s purpose by now. One thing I am sure of, is I hate my current job and I have no idea how to get out. I feel trapped. Sure it pays the bills, but if it were a competition between the job and watching snails race… or paint dry…or any other of those synonyms that explain how excruciatingly bored I am at work… How do you start a new career at 41 if you don’t even know what you want that career to be?

I have tried many ways to work this out. I have delved deep into my soul. What makes me happy? What am I good at? What can I do with my one wild and precious life? This soul searching resulted in a massive heart to heart with my partner last night, who cuddled me as the tears fell and the frustration came pouring out. He asked of me the same questions I have been asking myself. I do not know the answers. Yet.

As we followed my ideals and dreams, we ended up taking a journey to live in the Lakes (for the outdoors and running and hills) with a hippy shop selling crystals and beautiful jewellery and books. There was a room for holistic treatments and also a big space at the back (with a wooden floor) for Yoga, meditation, art classes, creative writing workshops, etc. He said dream big. I don’t think he was expecting that I have got to 41 and my big life’s dream is to be a hippy.

I think I have been waiting for some divine inspiration, something to fall out of the sky so I can say, “yes, that’s me, – I want to do THAT”. I am happiest when my brain is active – or the opposite – when I can lose myself in the creativity. I love writing, but have been suffering huge writers block from the moment I decided I wanted to write. I love painting and drawing – and yet I have not picked up a pencil or a paint brush in years. These are things I need to remedy, not least as they are the things that make me most happy.

I have realised that I cannot wait for the magic opportunity to land on my doorstep. Hoping and dreaming is not enough. I need to take the time to create the life I want to lead. I need to take steps to start. After all, the book ain’t going to write itself.

 

Flu perspective

So this week I had a couple of days off work with a feverish virus and chesty cough – meaning bed/sofa rest. I just love it when people “soldier on” at work and bring their germs in to share with everyone else. Yep, well done Shirley, you’ve earned brownie points for coming in while you’re dying of flu.. sure the bosses were very grateful. Maybe not so much for the wave of the next 9 people in the office getting sick from your germs and then having to take time off work.

I thought I had got away with it. I was quite smugly wandering around life, safe in the knowledge that I’m fit, I sleep well, my diet is good, and I take lots of vitamins. “This flu ain’t getting me.” And then it appeared, out of nowhere and struck me down in a flash. Teach me for being flu cocky. This one’s a beast!

My eyes were too hot, and the headache too harsh, to read. Even phone scrolling social media was tricky.  Bright lights. What to do then, to fill the gaps between fever induced snoozes?  I hate daytime TV, so I was drawn to Netflix and Amazon Prime for company. I must’ve been pretty out of it on Day 1 as (after at least 20 minutes of flicking through) I managed to pay £4.99 for a film which I now own but will never ever watch again. I only made it through the first viewing by sheer stubbornness as I had paid for it and was determined to get my money’s worth.

Choices got a little more careful after that – “free” being the first prerequisite for viewing. But I’ve also been doing a lot of soul searching of late, feeling at a strange transitional point in life where, I quite simply do not feel fulfilled in my work/career and am not sure which direction to turn. What’s the next step?. #midlifecrisis. I also have my first Ultra in 3 weeks and am quite frankly shitting my pants but trying to remain positive. So these were my good choices to lift my spirits from my poorly bed;

1. “Eat, Pray, Love” – I love Elizabeth Gilbert as an author and don’t think this is a bad representation of the book. I have seen some totally good books ruined by films. This one’s pretty good though. And, yes, who wouldn’t like to spend a year travelling to Italy and India and Bali and write about their experiences. If I didn’t have any financial obligations and my other half wanted to come too..

2. “Running for Good” – a documentary about Fiona Oakes, a remarkable story of a Vegan runner with no knee cap (this astounds me) who has broken world records. The film is about her journey on the Marathon des Sables but to be honest I was more awestruck by her selfless nature and loving, giving kindness than I was her achievements. Don’t get me wrong, the lady has done some amazing things, but she does it all to raise awareness so that she can fund the animal sanctuary that she runs. She cares more about the animals than she does herself. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have purpose.

3. “Fyre” – the greatest party that never happened. The moral of the story – don’t believe all the hype you see on social media. This just confounds my opinion of how easy it is for people to bullshit the rest of the world via the means of social media. How easily we are “influenced” by crap. How do we decipher what is real and what is fake anymore?

I wanna go where the people go…

Wish that I could be like the cool kids….

Maybe not.

4. “Made to be Broken” – tale of Ultra Runner, Karl Meltzer’s attempt to break the world record on the Appalachian Trail. That’s 2,188 miles (3,523km) in less than 46 days, 8 hours and 6 mins. He smashed it!

…So my first Ultra attempt at 35 miles (in 3 weeks time) would be less than he would cover in a day…

You don’t get to see an awful lot of the AT in the film, and it’s difficult to feel a connection to the man. Perhaps as it’s so far ‘out there’ it’s difficult to understand. They did interview some people walking the trail though. A through hike takes an average of 5-7 months. Now that would be the adventure….

And finally,

5. “Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru”

Yes you bloody are Mr Robbins. Motivation and Inspiration personified. It’s a good documentary to watch, not least if you’re feeling a bit sickly sorry for yourself and disappointed that you are not fulfilling your soul purpose in life because you don’t know what it is, and frustrated that the Universe has not yet given you a clear sign. This woman stands up after he asks if anyone is suicidal (because statistically something like 12 out of 2500 in the room are!!). And she tells this tale of how she was raised within the “Children of God” which, in my humble opinion, is a sick cult that brainwashes people to believe that in order to spread the love of god, you need to express your devotion through sexual acts. From the age of six, she was required to have sex with other members of the cult. Six years old. And here I am moaning about the flu and feeling frustrated with life. Perspective.

It’s all about perspective. More on my life lessons from Tony in the next blog.

 

I sell headstones…

Part of my daily work consists of dealing with the bereaved. I sell headstones. No wonder I’m such a cheery soul. You’d have thought that during my 4 years of service this would be something I’ve become ‘conditioned’ to. Only I haven’t. If anything it gets worse. There is nothing wrong with thinking, or talking, about death. In fact, I would say that most people avoid it – almost to the point where we avoid it too much. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing, or just a people thing, but some of us just seem to think we’ll live forever. Hope? Or perhaps it’s just too horrifying to contemplate our own mortality. Bury your head in the sand, pretend it will never happen. Faced with the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve realised, any which way you look at it, it has all become too much for my sensitive soul. I seem to absorb the emotion of others, feel things that don’t belong to me. It’s not MY sadness, my awkwardness, my anger, my grief… so how does it end up becoming mine? Sometimes I love that side of me – the ‘white witch’, the sixth sense, the gut instinct – always one step ahead. I am the person who struggles with huge crowds, has developed an awesome bullshit radar and has learned to cut energy vampires out of my life as quick as they walk in (there is no worse a person than those who try to ride on the back of others ‘goodness’. I hate Fake).

I have become wise. But I have also become sad in the process. I have no idea what to do with all of this emotion of death. It plagues my dreams and I constantly worry about how I will cope. Would cope. I have a lot of precious people in my life, as we all do. What would I do if they weren’t there anymore? It is always on my mind.

The angry, awkward customers are not so bad. I can deal with those. Be annoyed with me because I told you the church rules and it doesn’t fit with your ideal of a headstone. This I can cope with. I know you’re not mad at me (or the church) you’re just mad at death. Fling it, I’ll deflect it. I can cope with that.

Then there are the hopeless ones (in the nicest possible way). Delicate and fragile. Death makes us so. Mostly this seems to be those who have lost a life-long partner, their lives forever intertwined, people who have to relearn life skills at the latter stages of life because they have relied so heavily on someone else to do these tasks for them. Those who don’t know how to pay the bills, drive, shop, cook, clean. They tell me their troubles and I automatically want to help, but this is not my job. And sometimes, I know, the best thing for these people is to very quickly learn how to do all of these things they’ve never been able to do. Tough love, I guess. But hang on… Not my people, not my problem… right?

And then I worry about my Dad as I’m not sure he can make a sandwich [just a side issue. No-one has died].

Then there are those who still cannot utter the words they want to leave on the memorial because they are too consumed with grief. They choke on the words and cry uncontrollably and I wonder, which stage of grief is this? Are they ready to order the headstone? are they thinking straight? are they going to be OK? Only, I pass a tissue and hope they don’t stay too long at the ‘memorial sales desk’, for I’m about on the brink.. and if I burst into tears too then it’s all curtains (pardon the pun) and I really haven’t done a great job. I wait ’til they’ve gone, wipe away my own tears and find my stiff upper lip from wherever it went. Pull yourself together my love.

I see lots of very brave people. Death is heartache. There are many lives taken too soon, but then, what is too soon? It’s all subjective surely? But the show must go on. Where’s that Stiff upper lip?

Then there are my favourites. These are the people who talk fondly, and quite often with some hilarity and mickey taking, of the deceased. These are my favourite… but also the ones who affect me the most. Oh, to be remembered with a laugh and a smile – you can literally see the essence of that person come back to life in the eyes of the loved ones – and this brings a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat more than anything else. “Can we get an etching of a bottle of gin and a pack of Embassy on the stone, as they were the only hobbies he had?” Or “Can we put the dogs names on the stone with him as I think he loved them more than his wife?” OR “Can we leave a space for his Mrs.. something like ‘ AND ‘ER INDOORS’ will do.” This touches me mostly, I guess, as it reminds me of my own family. I hope people take the mickey out of me when I’m gone. The big, tall, ginger, socially awkward weirdo I am. The perfect epitaph.

So, I’ve made the decision to walk away, as I just can’t be forced to comprehend death on a daily basis. My time is up (selling the headstones – the rest I shall leave up to fate) and I’m moving on. Life is for the living and I am not ready to be permanently amongst the dead just yet (and yes, we literally sometimes have dead ‘Boris’ ashes in the office).

What do you do for a living?… “I see dead people.” In the pain of the deceased.

And, on this very cheery note, I shall leave you with some inspiration. One thing being around death has taught me is this – it ain’t no dress rehearsal. Cliche. Truth.

THE DASH

by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears,

but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth

and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash.

What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more

and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,

would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

I dreamed a dream

But what the f#$k does it mean?

I read something the other day about how to get started with creative writing and the article made a point about keeping a pen and paper at the side of your bed, as dreams can be a way of unlocking some ideas for creative writing. Not sure the other half would be best pleased at this (being woken in the middle of the night as I rush to pour all my thoughts on to paper), but thankfully my dreams are so vivid I can still remember them in the morning!!

Don’t get me wrong, as I’m sure this is a good idea for many, but since I stopped drinking (not completely sober but very rarely partake anymore) my dreams have become so wild and unfathomable that I’m not sure they even come into the realms of ‘creative’ anymore… more just really weird! I would love someone (a dream specialist) to sit down and attempt to interpret them.

There is lots going on in life at the moment, exams coming up, new job starts next month, training, the side hustle, the other half’s business.. so my already overactive mind is crazy busy, busy. This dream in particular though – truly Bizarre.

So, the dream begins in a portacabin (as all good dreams do). At the end of the cabin there is a hugely out of place expensive dark wood desk with a grandiose high-backed chair behind it (think Oval Office). The floor is a green carpet of fake grass. The desk is facing the doorway, which I am stood in, waiting. A man comes in behind me, I am expecting him, but nervous all the same. He is wearing a black suit, with a red spotted tie and carrying a brown briefcase. He says nothing as he brushes past but sits down in the chair and opens the briefcase on to the desk. The briefcase is empty. He opens the top drawer of the desk and silently pulls out a piece of orange card, about A5 size. He waves it in the air, then places it in the briefcase in a manner somewhat akin to a magician about to perform a magic trick. He snaps the briefcase shut and winds up the combination locks. He stands, and then he speaks,

“I will be gone some time. Until it’s all passed. And then I shall return. I will keep it safe.”

He stands and as he walks past me to leave, he stops and puts his hand on my shoulder,

“Watch out for the snake, for it grows bigger by the day. It will try to kill you all.”

And then he’s gone.

I run to the swimming pool where the snake is thrashing around in the water. It’s huge. There are other people there, who I don’t know, trying to control it with sticks and fishing nets.

“We need the Goblin!” someone shouts to me, and I rush off to find him.

The Goblin is actually Gollum from Lord of the Rings and (apparently) if he can manage to swallow the snake whole, it will be banished for good.

The snake is now so big it would be impossible to get your hands around it, but somehow it is drawn to the Goblin’s mouth. He sucks it all down whole but I am having a problem with where it’s actually gone as it would’ve filled the stomachs of 10 goblins, never mind one. The lack of scientific/logical explanation is baffling and bothering me. I need to know how it worked…where has the f$%kin snake gone?

Then my son Jack appears by my side, only he’s about 8 again. He holds my hand and tells me not to worry about it. “The snake has gone Mum. That’s all that matters.”

But we are now on a boat, and the waves are crashing over the side. We are struggling to stand straight as it rocks from side to side. There is water coming in everywhere and we need to get off. I grab Jack’s hand and we move to the edge of the deck. I need my backpack but am struggling to get my arms in. I need both arms in so it doesn’t fall off. The zip is open and I’m going to lose stuff out of it. I have to take it off again to zip it up. I check my purse is in there. My purse and my woolly gloves. I put it back on quickly. We are running out of time. Luck is on our side and we are getting closer to the shore. If we get the timing right we can jump off before it sinks. I take a deep breath, my spacial awareness is rubbish and I’m praying I get this right.

“Are you ready?” I shout to Jack, who has a hold of my hand again, he nods, smiling, seemingly unbothered by the trauma. “One, two, three…” and as we are ready to go for the biggest, most mammoth jump of our entire lives, the boat runs aground and we safely do a tiny hop onto the sandy beach below.

My brother appears behind us, after also jumping off the boat (and having lost several stone since last time I saw him). He is wearing skinny black jeans and his Doc Martins like he used to at 17/18. He grins at me, “it’s always easier than you think” he says, and then he runs off into the forest.

How on earth this dream could be the start of a creative writing piece, I’m not entirely sure. I don’t know who or what the snake represents and I’m not sure my brother has really run anywhere since PE at school, let alone into the forest. And the orange card? Who knows?

I lay awake for ages after, trying to analyse it, wondering what it all meant. Then I realised that half the message in the dream was to stop analysing everything.

The mind is a curious place, but my sober mind is even curioser. Screenshot_20181102-103350_Google

 

NAILED IT!! – SOBER EIGHTY (SOBRIETY) CHALLENGE – “JUST THE TONIC” – Complete

Could you stay sober for 80 days???

3 months ago on a holiday in Northumberland, after a few weeks of contemplation and some serious insight into what alcohol was doing to me, I came up with the idea of going sober for 80 days.

When I say “what alcohol was doing to me”, there was no major situation, no collapsing in a heap, no mad night out with an alcohol induced coma, no waking up with a million regrets.. it just hit me steady – like, my casual weekend drinking is making me feel like shit about myself and doing bad things to my body and I am relying on alcohol for far too many things.

Today marks the end of that challenge and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned and also the changes that have occurred. It’s pretty weird to sit the other side of the fence after spending years and years with an alcoholic beverage in hand.

So here we go;

1. Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol is poison. Alcohol is therefore a toxic, poisonous substance. Like really, not being dramatic with words, this is actual scientific truth. Actual poison. Worse than that, we drink poison to have a ‘good time’. This irony is totally mind blowing to me.

2. Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify not taking, and the only drug people will try to persuade you to continue to take. No-one would dispute it if you said you were giving up cigarettes, cocaine or heroin.

3. Alcohol is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Truth bomb.

4. If you go Sober people automatically suspect you may be an alcoholic. Grey area for me. I’ve never been physically dependent, but pyschologically?? – for sure. It’s just a sliding scale from tee total downwards and where you sit on that scale is most often not where you’d like to be. No-one wants to admit they have a problem though.

5. Most people who drink alcohol are dependent on it to some degree. And if you think you’re not, you are probably kidding yourself. See point no.4.

6. Alcohol is that cleverly packaged and marketed and such an intrinsic part of society that we have all been brainwashed to believe;
a. It is necessary to have a good time – life must be so boring sober.. right?
b. It is a reward, hard earned and deserved (who treats themselves with poison? – “mummy needs wine”)

7. We are therefore all sheeples – everyone else does it so it must be ok. I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by people who drink – a lot. I think there is an underlying reason for that.

8. In becoming sober I have found clarity of thought, I have managed to stick to a fitness program. I have more energy, more motivation and I have found my waistline again. My eyes are brighter, my skin is smoother and I genuinely feel a lot happier. I eat better and I could win competitions for sleeping.

9. There is a sober movement out there which I never knew existed. Sober parties and festivals. People enjoying themselves without drink. It is an evolution that is finding a voice, collecting supporters, and steadily growing.

10. I have missed so many things throughout life by being too pissed to be present, too wasted to appreciate the moments. I have spent lots of money, and hidden myself behind alcohol. Days wasted hungover. This makes me sad.

I have gained so much from being sober and lost nothing, apart from that which is better to lose.

So, challenge complete and I am super proud of what I’ve achieved (along with my partner in crime who’s had his own tests over the last 80 days and been awesome support).

What happens now there are no self imposed restrictions? Are we drinkers or are we non-drinkers?

For now, I’m not quite ready to give up on all I’ve attained, not willing to return to old habits. I have life goals, fitness targets, focus – and alcohol will not help me achieve any of these.

It has been a life changing experience.

Could you stay sober for 80 days???

Well done to all the others who joined in our challenge too!! 20180919_081450hangover-photo