Year: 2022 (Page 1 of 3)

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Eight – Last Christmas

So, this will be the final blog before the end of 2022. I wanted to write a recap of the year and review the highs and lows, there has been a few. This is a very tough time of year for many people and sadly a couple of weeks ago I heard that two young people from Alnwick (my home town) had lost their lives to suicide. I would like to dedicate this blog to both of them and their families.

Christmas bring a lot of pressure, of that there is no doubt. With the current cost of living crisis plummeting many people into further debt have we lost sight on what Christmas is meant to be? It seems that for many it’s getting that perfect picture of everyone in matching Christmas pyjamas is vital. Or posting the inevitable, “he/she done good” posts on Facebook. Parents parading their kids online with all their new presents is more important than enjoying the time with them . For many families this year, having the money to pay the bills and live up to the high expectations of ‘what Christmas is all about’ will be too much. I am no fan of this time of year. Usually that is because I have done something stupid brought on by a alcohol fueled bender, which lasts from finishing work to going back in January. This year is different. This year will be the first alcohol free Crimbly I have had since being a child. This looks like a daunting task sitting here writing this, but I am embracing it as much as possible.  

Last Christmas I gave you…sorry that slips out so easily. Last Christmas I still felt very unsecure. I was only a couple of months on from my lowest point. I had begun therapy sessions but had not yet embraced them in the way in which I do now. I was still drinking, but acutely aware that it was getting to a point where I would have to decide on whether this was going to get a final hold over me. I decided to press on and enjoy one last festive period with friends and family. The new year is a blur, although I was not overly drunk on new year’s eve I made up for this the next day by having a massive session (mainly on my own) with a neighbour. I recall feeling a sense of massive disappointment in myself towards the end of the year. I still felt depressed, and that time was not being kind to me. The problem was the booze. I hadn’t stopped and continued well into the new year before embarking on the alcohol-free life I now lead. I have had one small return to drinking but having now calculated the days since I stopped to today’s date I have drank once in 324 days. I am pretty pleased with that considering where I was beforehand. My plan of course for 2023 is to be completely sober for the full calendar year. A new year’s resolution if you like. Life is full of challenges and mini setbacks, and I don’t for one second think that next year will not include tough times. But I feel stronger for the setback I had and want to continue this sober life not reverting back to my old ways.

There has been high and lows to 2022. I have enjoyed many things but had to deal with life’s challenges that have come my way. But who hasn’t? I know my situation isn’t unique in the sense of facing up to difficulties. However, everyone has their own shit to deal with don’t they and your experiences are yours to combat. The highs have included getting fitter and stronger with Jack at the gym. Something I would never have contemplated this time last year. I have had some really positive moments with work, and I am genuinely looking forward to next year’s challenges in that aspect of my life. I have been fortunate to go on two really enjoyable holidays visiting a new country in Morrocco with Chloe and then going away with friends to Valencia. Two brilliant and very different places. I haven’t written in detail about my relationship with Chloe coming to an end because I don’t feel it would be right to publish this in public. This is down to the respect and love I have for Chloe. I was very sad when the relationship broke down and struggled immensely in those initial few weeks after it happened. Again, I know this is not an experience unique to me and many people go through break ups but it was a difficult time to navigate through. I am pleased that the parting was not a toxic one and we were very amicable at the split. I want Chloe to be happy and flourish which I can see she is already doing starting a new chapter of her life in her new home. I mean this sincerely when I say I wish her the very best because she deserves that. We remain friends and I look forward to seeing her again soon when the time is right.

Christmas will take a new shape for me this year and enjoying the time with family and friends without alcohol will of course be different. I will savour the fresh morning feelings of not being hungover on Christmas day and make better use of the time I have off from work. As I mentioned at the start of this blog, times are tough many people and families will be feeling the strain of the current economic climate so if you are able to – look out for another and be compassionate. Don’t worry if you can’t buy every single present your kids or partners want just love them and be there for them. They will remember that in years to come and not some material object they will forget about by mid February. Christmas should be a time for giving, so if you are able to give generously to your local foodbank or charity who will be feeling the squeeze at the moment.

Take care everyone and have a wonderful christmas. All the very best for 2023. I will be back with more blogs in the new year so for now, goodbye.

Nick Denton
Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Seven – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Sobering Thoughts has enabled me to channel my inner most feelings and thoughts. Opening up fully on issues I have had and continue to have. Thanks very much if you are reading this. If it helps you at all I am so pleased about that. I really appreciate the support I have received from people who have struggled themselves or others who have been affected by poor mental health in a friend or family member. Keep talking to your inner circle and support networks. It is vital that we keep supporting those around us in very challenging times. We are still deep within a mental health crisis, coupled with rising costs for living we need to try and take care of another as best we can. I have mentioned the organisation that I volunteer with, and I want to dedicate this blog to them.

Foodcycle is a national charity operating over sixty projects across the UK. The organisation has three aims which intertwine quite perfectly. Ending food poverty, conquering loneliness, and eradicating food waste. All of the aims are important to me and the other volunteers but what is crucial to this charity is that the guests who come along every week know that they are also contributing to combating the high levels of food waste we have in the UK. We are a community, a group of people coming together for that common cause.

The cost of living crisis is unavoidable. Up and down the country people are feeling the pinch. More and more people are now forced to use foodbanks or other sources of free food. Foodcycle doesn’t ask questions, for anyone who would like a meal, or some left over ingredients they get them. There is no referral system. If you need it there and then, you get it. I am not criticising other organisations one bit. I am setting out what makes us different. I try not to make these posts political but… twelve years of Tory austerity and stagnation has led us to this point. The country is in crisis, breaking point. We are not far from a general strike in my opinion and to be honest this would be welcome. Strikes are clearly a topical issue at the moment. Please please don’t buy the bullshit the right-wing hacks and media want you to bite down on. Nurses, rail staff, postal workers are not striking to disrupt your lives. They are on those picket lines to ensure they can heat their homes and put food on the table for their families, just like you. We need to come together and support one another in the most challenging times because you can be sure that your elected Government will do the bare minimum. It is coming up to the festive period. Please show compassion to your neighbours, your friends and family. If you are in a fortunate position and coping, try to help someone who isn’t.

Do you know how much food is wasted in the UK? Go and research online. It is staggering. And it isn’t just food at home we waste, the supermarkets throw away a colossal amount every year. According to a report by The Grocer, supermarkets throw away 100,000 of edible food annually in the UK alone. In fact, it’s estimated that the UK’s total food waste could feed upwards of 30 million people a year. Shocking right? I had never seen any of this until I started volunteering with Foodcycle. We collect on a weekly basis from supermarkets local to project who are throwing away food that is on or just over its sell by date. The vast majority of these products or ingredients are absolutely fine to use and consume. Have a look at the link I have posted at the bottom of this blog for some ideas on what we can do at home to help combat this issue.

Loneliness among the older sections of society is highly prevalent. With us only recently coming out the midst of a pandemic where the older and more vulnerable people were isolated away from large sections of the public foodcycle acts as a place where locals can come along and chat to one another along with the volunteers. I have to say this is my favourite part. I have met some brilliant characters over at the project I volunteer with. One of the regulars who comes along chats to me on what he has been up to, asking me questions about my life and telling me joke after joke. I don’t know if he is lonely or not. But the impression I get is that he doesn’t see a lot of people from day to day so the project is a fantastic place for him to come along to socialise with local people in his community. There are a number of groups who have now merged together into one and come every week to see one another. That for me is fantastic, and exactly what foodcycle is all about. I am immensely proud to be a part of this and feel very fortunate. I typically try to get over there once or twice a month after work on a Thursday night. On those evenings I will feel tired and for a moment it crosses my mind (selfishly) that I could just stay at home and relax. But then as soon as I arrive and get started I immediately remember why I am there and the enjoyment I personally get from this which I know isn’t important in the grand scheme of things but it does help.

If you are interested in finding out more information on foodcycle then follow the link below. Other similar types of organisations may be operating in your area so keep any eye out if you need to access any of the services they provide or wish to volunteer.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Six – Born To Die

I was really moved this week by the remembrance shown to the passing of Gary Speed. I think I can speak on behalf of every Newcastle fan and for the other clubs Gary played for, to state he was a legend. He came across brilliantly on camera and seemed like a genuinely nice bloke off it too. Dan Walker from the BBC at the time paid a lovely tribute to Gary. Showing us some great clips of Speed chatting to a man working on football focus. Dan commented that Gary always had so much time for other people and showed genuine interest in their lives. A special bloke. I watched the tribute from Dan and also the very emotional appearance from his friend Bryn Law live on Sky Sports the day after it had happened. I found it really tough to watch. Both Dan and Bryn both said there was nothing to suggest that Gary had felt suicidal or was close to taking his own life. I think the point they were making was that there can be no signs at all that someone is struggling. This is why it is so important to check in with your friends, family, partners and colleagues or anyone else to see how they are doing.

It made me think about how my family and friends would have been left feeling if I had taken my own life last year. Suicide is often labelled (wrongly in my opinion) as a selfish act. I can understand why people would think that, but I wholeheartedly disagree. You are leaving loved ones behind who will mourn your passing and that of course is terrible. But Gary and the many others who have taken the tough decision to end their lives felt that there was no other way back. I thought I had reached that point last year on that night when I did not want to return home. I had arrived at a point of no return in my head. But something stopped me, something brought me back and that was still a small desire to live. I wish that had been the case for Gary and the many others who have tragically taken their own lives. In 2021, there were 5583 (ONS records) suicides in England Wales. That’s a shocking number. But why is it happening?

Stephen Buckley from the Charity Mind said this, “Even one suicide is one too many, and men are still accounting for three in four deaths. The causes of suicide are many, complex, and vary from one person to another” Since the pandemic there has been a sharp increase in the number of suicides amongst young women. Young people were heavily affected by COVID 19 in terms of isolation and feeling very lonely when cut off from friends and peers. I discussed the issues of social media in a previous blog (see volume twenty-two) and this plays a large part in failing mental health in the younger generation. Seeing images of unrealistic body types or influencers living ‘glamorous’ lives, in amongst the vile abuse users receive online it can be a real cess pit.

We are in a cost-of-living crisis in Britain. Energy prices are soaring, food prices and every day items are increasing in cost. We are being forced to choose between heating homes and being able to buy groceries. In a country supposedly as “great” as this one, how can this be happening? Strikes are taking place across the country and rightly so in my opinion. I didn’t want to turn this into a political statement, but it is disgusting the treatment of public sector workers matched equally in the private sector not only on pay but also the conditions of their employment. The toll this is having on the mental health of the nation is damning of a government who literally don’t care at all, and an opposition who I don’t feel would be much better should they get elected anytime soon. Buckley goes onto say, “Our new PM must prioritise committing to investing in mental health services, including prevention and early intervention right up to crisis services for people at their most unwell,” I would like to think this would happen but realistically I don’t see it. Morale is at an all time low. I see this when I volunteer on a Thursday night in Byker. There are countless numbers of rough sleepers as well as others experiencing drug and alcohol addiction issues but the help and needed support for these guys is severely lacking. We wonder why suicide rates have gone up, this fundamentally is one of the answers. Families and individuals are forced to the brink and unless major reform takes place we will only see those suicide numbers increase year after year.

If you or anyone you know has been experiencing any thoughts like this then please know that I am always available to talk to or message any time. My contact details are at the end of this blog or you can message me through my social media to arrange any form of contact.

Look in on your friends, take that bit of time to check on your brother, sister, mother, uncle or any family member. Speak to your colleagues. Work can be a stressful environment. Sometimes a chat can make such a difference to someone’s day and outlook on the world. Keep talking guys, it really is so important.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Five – Big River

I couldn’t let the anniversary of Eddie Howe taking over the manager’s role at Newcastle go by without dedicating this blog to the man himself. And to Jason, of course. Whom he couldn’t be without.

There is a more serious note to this blog don’t worry. I know regular readers come along to read something sensible and meaningful, and don’t worry this won’t disappoint. I wanted to compare and contrast the matchday experience I now have going to football. With not drinking anymore, football matches and days have taken a different route. One that I am embracing . I got my season ticket at Newcastle back in 2018. Rafa’s second season in the premier league with us. I started going with a few mates I had made and suddenly ‘going to the match’ became going out early getting a few pints down my neck before the game, having a couple more during and then going out after for, you guessed it. Even more pints. I couldn’t wait for match days because I knew it was an excuse to go on a bit of a mad one. I looked upon it as, well everyone else is going out and getting wrecked why don’t i? I can recall (ironically) having many days and nights out following matches and not being able to remember much from the day before. It is quite sad really looking back at it like that as I wasn’t fully present at these moments. I wasn’t enjoying the football and experience of the day to its full potential which considering how much going to games cost, is a massive waste. Christ, it got even worse when Bruce took over as the football was dire.

One bad night was over the festive period (I hate Christmas) which I seldom enjoy usually because I make a mess of a situation and get into some sort of shenanigans through boozing. We played Brighton the day before New Years Eve and quite a few of us had gone to the game. I ended up walking off from the group too drunk and not remembering where I was. Thankfully one of the lads and his partner found me and returned me home but it was incredibly embarrassing the next day when I saw them again. It’s moments like this I wonder why I never packed the drinking in there and then? Surely, I could see it was not wise for me to be doing it. Evidently not, or more than likely I chose to ignore it and plough on. I mentioned this today in my therapy session, I think I felt a sense of invincibility and arrogance that nothing bad was ever going to happen. After heavy nights I would utter the immortal words promising to not drink again but days would pass and I would think to myself, nothing bad has occurred so just carry-on mate. If you are drinking to excess and blacking out, then seriously talk to someone about it. I was very lucky, nothing too awful ever went down, but I came very close a few times.   

Match days are now very different. And for the better. I will meet friends before the game and not drink. I generally get into town around the same time as I would have done in the past for pre-match drinks. Now I go for a coffee or something to eat. I get into the ground fairly early to watch the players warm up. I never did this previously. It would be drinks until five minutes before kick-off. No half-time boozy beverages are consumed, and I stick to a coke zero or something similar. I appreciate this is really ground-breaking stuff…. But I wanted to describe it in detail to show the difference to myself. I love going to the matches, even more this season. I am present. I remember every game and small moments that I otherwise would have missed. I don’t crave the booze on game days which I am slightly surprised at. I have learned that this is the best way for me to still enjoy something I am passionate about and not let it be ruined by alcohol. There are no longer the pit stops on the way home cramming in as many pints as possible. I leave the games and go home. Unless meeting friends afterwards. To some, this will seem like I am no longer enjoying the day as much, but I can say with honesty that I am. Yes, it’s different but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good if not better.

Next week I am going to write a full piece on Foodcycle. The organisation I volunteer for in Newcastle. Thanks again for reading.

Up the mags.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Four – Ooh La La

When you are really young, all you want to be is older. I know I did. I can recall a memory from my youth when I said this to my mum. She laughed at me and replied, “be careful what you wish for” and she was right. Although there were some challenging times growing up, in general I had a good childhood. Although my parents split when I was nine and that was indeed traumatic, they both loved and cared for me. I was a lot luckier than other families that go through unpleasant divorces. I recorded a podcast with Ross (check out the Aesthetically Trained Podcast) a few months ago and one of the last things he asked me was, what is the best piece of advice you have been given? Having not prepared for this part I rather feebly (I thought at the time ) came up with something my dad said to me when I was young. He told me to enjoy school as, “they are the best days of your life” at the time I will have undoubtedly laughed it off and rubbished this ludicrous claim. But in a lot of ways, he was right and it was very sound advice. Like most kids, I had no responsibilities when I was at school other than to do my work and enjoy my time. I did half of that at least. This blog is about growing older. I am in my thirties now. Which at first, really terrified me. I thought I was getting on and no longer could enjoy the folly of youth. I am learning that with the new lifestyle I have chosen (without alcohol) I am not heading towards obsolescence just yet.

I had a chat with Jack not long ago and with us both now being in our thirties we did a little bit of reflecting. We both concluded that the current position we are now in was better than where we both were back in our early twenties, possibly even mid-twenties. When you have the benefit of being older and looking back, I don’t think I would choose to go back to my early twenties. Yes of course, I was younger and with less responsibility but I was also immature and “not piss wise” as an old boss used to say. I feared turning thirty, it definitely played on my mind. My birthday was in lockdown so it was a very low-key affair but that in some ways that probably made things worse. I didn’t embrace it. If anything, I wanted to run as far as possible away from it. What I should have done and my advice for anyone just about to turn the magic three zero is, don’t worry about it. It does annoy me a little when people will say, “oh age is only a number” that is bollocks. Becoming thirty and leaving twenty-nine behind is clearly different, as I am sure it will be leaving my thirties and entering my forties. But what it doesn’t have to be, is negative. When I was getting ever closer to thirty, I anticipated everything would become bleaker, mundane and less fun which is probably why I went as hard as I did last year. If I could relive one part of my life it would almost certainly be the latter part of last year when I full lost control of my relationship with booze.

Having decided to leave alcohol behind, I want to make sure that my thirties are so much better. I am not saying that I didn’t have many good experiences within my twenties, I just know that better days are there for me to enjoy. I think about all the time and money I wasted on booze. I dread to think what the number is. I had plenty of good nights out and sessions on the razzle dazzle but ultimately, they have brought me to where I am now. I am excited about the next five to six years to see where I land and what happens. But mostly I want to enjoy them fully and be present throughout it all. Not dropping back to old times when drinking as much as possible on a night out was the only thing occupying my mind or making alcohol the centre of my universe. That’s gone now, and left behind. If I had been asked to write this piece a few months ago, I couldn’t have done it. Now sitting here penning this with as much conviction is really great. I feel I have now completely shed my old life and denounced my old ways. It feels liberating.

Focusing on a brighter future full of new experiences and people to meet is all I am thinking about at the moment. My life is in a good place right now with a strong solid balance of work and social time. I feel content and wish to remain in this current state. Not deviate from the routine and structure which has played a crucial role in maintaining a better mental state.

You might think the title to this one is a little strange, but please go and listen to Faces – Ooh La La. All will become clear.

Thanks again for reading, I have enjoyed writing this one.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts  

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Three – Shake It Out

I was at the Newcastle game last night. Another three points for Eddie’s mags. I came away from the match buoyant and happy to be part of another great night at St. James Park. Contrast that with how I was feeling coming away from a Newcastle match just over a year ago indicates how far I’ve come. On Monday, it had been exactly one year since the night where I had wanted to end things. It has not been plain sailing to get to this point, so I wanted to share that timeline with you and also get it written down in the form of a blog mapping out the progress that has been made.

If I go back to that point in time a year ago, I could not have been any lower. As I have mentioned in other blogs I had been drinking heavily and in a downward spiral to a point where days and nights were just passing me by. I was not happy, but I hadn’t appreciated how unhappy I was. I wanted things to end, I wanted to die. I did not feel like I could offer myself or anyone anything worthwhile in life. I was in a cycle of drinking most nights and feeling extremely lousy the next day. The time I spent with loved ones could not have been to any quality. What followed after the night in question over the next three to four months was not much better. Having reached the lowest point in my existence, things didn’t get better instantly. At first, I don’t think I wanted to get better, I wanted to feel down. I wanted to carry on drinking and wallow in self pity for my situation. I wasn’t accepting the help that those close to me wanted me to get. I started therapy sessions and alcohol support in December, but I wasn’t receptive to it. Although now, I was beginning to talk about my problems I wasn’t combating them. I never returned to that very dark place in my mind following that night, but I certainly didn’t start to feel better until I binned the booze.

One of the critical problems I had during this time was that I didn’t care about myself. I knew I was damaging my wellbeing and not getting better but I still couldn’t let go of my liquid friend. I felt it was the most loyal thing in my life, always by my side when I needed it in the dark days not willing to accept that it was contributing to causing those dark days. Reading this, you could think that the alcohol is to blame for all my problems, but it isn’t. I am. I am the root cause of all of my woes, and it is my choices and actions that led to this. I had to take control of myself again. For too long, I had been making poor choices and sliding further down. Yes, alcohol played a large part in my plummeting mental health, but I had not reached a point of no return. I still had the power to take control of the situation and for many months I chose not to. Maybe I am being over critical of myself here and downplaying the hold booze had over me. Not sure, still working that out, I guess.

Fortunately, I was able to regain control and begin to properly get better. Both mentally and physically. When I quit drinking, I wasn’t expecting miracles, but I was surprised how quickly I started to feel better and have more clarity in my thinking. By working with my therapist, alcohol support team and the love of my friends and family I have managed to get to this point feeling a lot more positive about life and the future. Yes, of course there has been bumps in the road getting to this moment but on the whole, it has been a positive life changing experience. I had a therapy session this week and one of the focus points was, what is the end game for this treatment? At what moment can I walk away from that fully ready? I think the answer to that, is never. I don’t think I can ever completely leave therapy and conclude I am no longer needing that support. Yes, the sessions may become less frequent but still vital to have some contact for my wellbeing. Knowing that avenue is never closed off will also be a positive for me. I was thinking back to why I started going. The generic reasoning was to feel better. For it to assist in that process and of course it has but it is so much more than that. I want to talk about therapy in an upcoming piece, so I won’t get into a lot of details just now. My physical health is a lot better now. I still enjoy the occasional cigarette or junk food but on balance I am healthier now than I have ever been. Going to the gym with Jack has been so important in my stronger mental health. My mind is stronger now because of it and I feel in a very good place at the moment which is nice. A couple of months ago I had a setback which I dealt with quickly. In a much speedier fashion that if this had taken place last year. I am now stronger because of that setback. I know that challenges will come, and I will look to draw upon this experience to combat them. Not revert back to normal coping mechanisms which ultimately don’t work.

I would never have been able to reach that better point without the truly amazing support I received at the darkest times. I want to thank my family, friends, work colleagues and Chloe. All of whom were there for me when I needed them. Although Chloe and I are no longer together, we remain friends and I want to say that I will always be very thankful to her for being someone I could rely on during what was an awful time.

As always, thanks for reading this if you are. If I can ever be of help to you or someone you know who needs help, then please get in touch. My details are on the contact page on the website.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts  

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty-Two – She Works Out Too Much

No blog last week as I had been on holiday with the lads and their partners in Valencia. Seventh wheeling was actually not bad at all. We had a really enjoyable time and it was great to get all of us together in one place away from home.

Blogs will now be returning every week so I can focus my attention back onto my writing and most importantly my self-development.

So, Monday was world mental health awareness day. How many people knew that? Probably quite a lot as I personally saw a lot of posts online from individuals or organisations discussing the topic and hammering home the message that it is ok to talk about this once taboo subject. This is great. As more and more people feel comfortable in speaking out about their own experiences and issues surrounding their own mental health the stigma will eventually evaporate. Obviously, with myself included in the form of this blog. But has social media played a key role in forming the crisis we are in? In this blog I would like to explore that and identify how it has affected me.

Let me set this out right from the start. I love aspects of social media, well mainly twitter. It is a big part of my life. I can spend hours on twitter (not so much latterly) looking at everything from silly stuff to serious political goings on back to checking who Newcastle are going to sign in January – Maddison please. It is my main source of news and believe that on the whole it is a force for good. Maybe. Hopefully Elon doesn’t get a hold of it and wreck it for all of us although I think it may be too late for that. Instagram and Facebook I can really take or leave. Yes, I have them and they are certainly a decent platform for getting this blog out there for people to read but on the whole my life would not be worse off if I didn’t have them. Does that stop me from going on them more often than I should? No, sadly not. I have tried over the last couple of months to limit the time spent on these apps. Do I feel better for it? Maybe, a little. Would you be able to give these things up if you were asked to right now? We have all seen those posts from people (ironically) telling us all about how they are going for a long walk in the countryside and will be switching their phones off so they can be at one with nature. I genuinely hope they do and are not tempted to open their phone whilst out doing this activity. It is actually liberating to switch it off or leave your phone in the car/at home so you can enjoy the time whether you are alone or with someone else.

Smart phones have undoubtedly changed our lives. Things are totally different in how we communicate, how we date, how we socialise, how we work with one another. Is it for the better?

Social media and technology played a key role in enabling people to contact one another during the pandemic. If you had access to the internet then you could facetime, zoom, teams people from other areas in the country that you were not able to see or even members of your family and friends that lived close by. That is obviously a good thing and should be celebrated. As I said, there is strong advocacy for the use of social media and it came into its own during a time when people were feeling very isolated and cut off from the world, myself included. One of the many positives of starting this blog is the ability it has had to reach more people than I could have ever expected it to. I have spoken to strangers I would never have met, reconnected with people I may have never spoken to again. That is surely a good thing, isn’t it? People have the power to be very supportive to one another if they want to and we do see this on social media.

Online global apps like Facebook and Instagram have the power to connect people that may never have had the chance to had they not existed. We live in a very fast paced society where everything is wanted now and to wait for tomorrow is too long. We see advertising all over these sites, algorithms targeting us with ads that they know we will be interested in. We can be sent an ad for a pair of trainers, and they can be on our feet the next day. Again, is that a good thing? I will let you decide for yourself. On the flip side of that, how businesses operate is totally different to how things were fifteen or even ten years ago. Small organisations can flourish with the help of social media and are not relying on word of mouth to grow a business or brand. It has its positives, that should be acknowledged.

Looking at it from other side, is social media a toxic and vile place? Well yes of course it is. It is now easier than ever to write hurtful things to people you may not even have met before. I have to admit that over the years I have been guilty of this myself, some of which I am ashamed of, other stuff not so much. It is very easy to write a comment on a picture or tweet some nonsense about someone else. Psychologists would state this is for many different reasons such as feeling better about your own situation or something you are unhappy with. It may be designed to gain more attention or followers. Ultimately, some individuals will write vile things because they are vile people. Simple as that.

Facebook and Instagram came in my late teens and early twenties, so I think I escaped what the youth of today have to endure. But anyone is a target on these platforms. One of the weirdest things to go through on socials is a breakup. One minute you can see a couple very happy together posting pictures of themselves and their lives or on holiday etc etc and then next bang, gone are all these photos and memories after the couple have split up. Now I get why people do this. They want to cleanse their lives of the person that is no longer in it and that is fair enough. I haven’t deleted any of the pictures I have with ex-partners on my social media because I believe that although that relationship has ended the memories with that person are important and part of my life. I guess everyone is different and there isn’t a right and wrong formula to that.

We see a lot of fake reality content online. I am taken in by it as much as the next person. We can see a happy couple, someone on holiday, buying a new house or new car and think that I don’t have that. My life is rubbish. I am learning more about this at the moment because I think about how I have thought about my own social media profiles in the past. As strange as this may sound, in some instances I have been jealous of friends when they go away on holiday and posting their pictures because I have thought that makes them look more interesting than me. Or if friends have gone away on holiday together and I haven’t been there then I will be jealous of firstly me not being there and then secondly people not seeing me there with my friends. I would create scenarios in my head where I would think other people would notice I wasn’t there and think I wasn’t friends with my best mates anymore. Writing that down and looking back at it, it is totally fucking stupid. Because who would care about that? I mean come on, that is some serious self-conceited shit right there.

But this is what I am trying to get at. The illusion that people want or feel they need to create or be a part of can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. It is ridiculous of me to have felt like that about my friends. I am glad that I do not in anyway feel like that now. I love seeing my mates away doing stuff together and I am totally at ease with not being there. I know that they care about me and if I am not there this time, I will be the next. Valencia was really good in that respect because it brought us all together, nothing better. Touching back to the relationship side of things, seeing a person move on can be tough. Having social media allows us that ability to see this playing out in real time and for the other person that can be tough. I broke up (sort of) with someone in my early twenties and struggled to come to terms with seeing them move on with their life. Coupled with heavy drinking self-medication and regular scrolls of profiles that was not a good way to get over it. But we are all exposed to that unless you of course are blocked and removed. Which again in itself is a horrible process to go through. Social media can be bittersweet for us all in navigating through all aspects and areas of our lives.

Would better regulation help save the mental health of many more people? Maybe so, will that happen? Doubt it.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts  

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty-One No More Sad Songs

Music can play a big part in your mood. I have always listened to sadder songs when I have been feeling low. With hindsight this is not the best practise, so I don’t recommend it one bit. A couple of weeks ago when Lizzie passed away, I went into the office on the day after the tragic event and had to leave earlier than usual due to the depressing songs that every radio station was churning out that day. I am a big fan off Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, but I am not sure if I will ever listen to it again following its multiple plays that day. It was as if the media had wanted us all to feel this immense sense of loss for an old lady who had never impacted our lives in any way. Now, I know this may alienate some readers of the blog, so I apologise to you right now if you’re offended by those comments about someone you never met and who didn’t care about you. I think I felt more loss towards the death of Marisa Cooper on The O.C – see earlier Jeff Buckley reference which quite frankly, is an incredible link.

Controversial start….

The charity Key Changes have said, “Music can play a valuable role in recovery from mental illness. It can stimulate emotional and aesthetic responses, develop creative, technical, social and vocational skills, improve expression, communication, confidence and self-esteem, and facilitate positive changes in behaviour and wellbeing,” which from researching their charity is clearly yielding very positive results. The charity is designed to help promote positive mental health for musicians and music enthusiasts suffering from any mental health conditions. They help the least represented communities affected by the mental health system looking to dispel the discrimination that still exists around this subject. I will post a link to the website at the bottom of this blog for anyone that might be interested in finding out more.

The power of music is quite remarkable. According to the University of Central Florida, listening to your favourite tracks can; improve your immune system, evoke better memories, make you a better communicator, assist in repairing brain damage plus much more. Studies were carried out with sufferers of dementia. The results of these tests found that patients respond better to the music they grew up listening to. Memories associated with music are emotional memories which don’t disappear even amongst patients with Alzheimer’s.  

So why have I listened to sad music when I have been feeling sad? It doesn’t make any sense to me now writing this blog. It is obviously not conducive to feeling better. I think from my own experiences there is a sense that wallowing in the current position can be the right thing to do when it clearly isn’t. I am fairly certain I can recall an evening of self-reflection involved a bottle of white wine and Lewis Capaldi’s first album. Fucking hell that isn’t good, it is? You can jump onto Spotify right now and find many different playlists that are titled ‘sad songs’ for you to listen to. Are they going to improve your mood if you are feeling low? For many people (including myself) wallowing in a bad situation can be the default reaction. One of the things I am hoping to learn from the last few months is to try and combat this reaction and not let myself be drawn into the default position. This is something I must work on. In the past it was easy to say to myself oh you have had a bad day, grab a bottle of wine from the shop, stick on some sad music and that will make you feel ‘better’. Then I would get into the cycles of having more bad days because of the amount I was drinking the nights and days before which could only be offset by, you guessed it more booze.

Now, I am going to flip this on its head and look at it from the other viewpoint. There are professionals who tell us that listening to sad music can be cathartic experience. I read an interesting article in the build up to writing this blog on the ‘psychology today’ website which explains that listening to gloomier songs can induce feelings of nostalgia and develop vicarious emotions or help to regulate a mood. By disconnecting the brain from reality and being lost within the music this can help the person listening. That last one interested me when I was reading. According to Shahram Heshmat, “Sad music produces psychological benefits via mood regulation,” and “lyrics that resonate with the listener’s personal experience can give voice to feelings or experiences that one might not be able to express oneself,” it is definitely an interesting hypothesis but not one I am totally sure I agree with. I am potentially looking at this only from the way in which I have experienced sad music in the past. Possibly, now looking at this from a different perspective I can use it in a more beneficial way. Maybe. However, at the moment I still have the belief that listening to sad tracks will not be the best remedy in a negative situation, but this has certainly made me question that notion a little.

Thanks for the lovely comments received on last week’s blog. The feedback and messages were very kind and I appreciate them all.

Thanks for reading this one, bit of a different tone this week but I hope you still enjoy.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty – Bad Life

Well, it has been a while since I have written a blog on Sobering Thoughts. For all the die-hard supporters out there, I apologise for the silence. I have not felt able to write anything with any clarity and needed the time to work on a few things. From the title of this piece, you may think this is going to be a depressive blog. But stay with me I think it’s going to be a good one. If you actually listen to this song by Sigrid and Bring Me The Horizon – Bad Life you will understand the ‘vibe’ I am going for. The lyrics sum up perfectly the lesson I have been learning over the last couple of months. The song, (which I have listened to probably around five hundred times now) encapsulates why it is important to tackle emotions head on and work through them as best you can, through any method possible that works for you.

A few weeks ago, I was in a depressive cycle and struggling to get my brain functioning for the easiest of tasks. I stopped taking care of myself – going to the gym, eating properly and application to my work suffered. I also didn’t write any blogs or undertake any therapy (she was on holiday so maybe that’s not my fault) and subsequently I was not tackling how I was feeling in the correct manner. I have stated (some might say preached) so many times on these blogs – speak to your support networks, professionals, or anyone you are comfortable with. In some respects, I was doing that. But I was also keeping some of my emotions and feelings to myself. Folks, this is not the way forward when you are feeling depressive or low. I am hoping that as this was the first real episode of poor mental health since I was poorly last year, I will learn from the experience and move forward a stronger person. In fact, I know I will.  

As part of this minor collapse in well-being I unfortunately had a slip. I am ashamed to admit it, but it happened, and I need to address it. I have spoken with family and friends about what happened, but I need to write it down to move past the moment. I went out for a walk in the local area, feeling down and the demons from the past were circling like sharks around a bloody carcass. I gave into temptation and entered one of the public houses I used to frequent. I bought a drink and sat there for a good fifteen minutes looking at it, contemplating what I should do. Eventually I drank, and in the moment yes it felt good. I knew what I was doing, there is no excuse for it. But it is done, and I have to get on and move forward. Reflecting back on it, in some ways I am glad it happened because it was one night in over two hundred in which I hadn’t touched a drop of booze. I have not wanted to drink since and have no desire to go down that avenue again. The experience has taught me that when things get tough, turning to that old source of escapism isn’t the right road to take. I am now stronger for the experience and feel I need to embrace it. Some people who may read this will think, wow weak guy. Going got a little bit tough and he slid back to the old tried and tested method of drinking. That is fine, it’s potentially a correct viewpoint to have. However, I am not interested in that opinion. The level of support I received from friends and family in the short moment of darkness was amazing. As I have stated before I am very fortunate to have an amazing network of people around me. I appreciate not everyone has that. I was really touched that a lot of the people that had come to me for advice or that had got in touch regarding Sobering Thoughts were there for me as well. Thank you to everyone for your kind messages and support, it is honestly really appreciated.

The main take-away I wanted to get across in this piece was advice that my mum and various other people drilled into me during this time. How you are feeling now is temporary. Better days are ahead. When you are locked in that moment that single bit of wisdom sounds like bollocks and in some ways you don’t want to hear it. But honestly, it is true. One of the key lessons I want to take forward from this is to remember where I was all those weeks ago and where I am now. I feel great and content with myself once again. Keeping busy and getting back to the methods I was using to feel better beforehand have returned and I am ready to move on in my life.

Of course, there is much to work on, but this is a long process (can’t bare to say journey) which is still in its infancy. There were always going to be bumps in the road and minor blips like this. But it is how we come back from them that we should be judged. I know that diving for a drink the first sign of hard times is no longer something I wish to do. It really doesn’t help, as I have stated before.

So if you are feeling low right now or in a cycle of depression you can’t break then please reach out to someone who you feel comfortable talking to. It may not fully evaporate the feelings you have inside, but through discussion and listening to the advice of those who have infinitely more experience than you, will help. I promise.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts Volume Nineteen – T-Shirt Weather

If I could describe Morrocco in one word, it would be…hot. Of course, it is, it’s the height of summer and just north of the equator so you should expect that when you go. Forty-seven degrees was the highest temperature we endured when we were there. Let me tell you my friends, if you aren’t used to the heat then you are in for a shock. However, I seemed to cope pretty well with it. I have been to Dubai, Turkey and other hot places so maybe I knew what I was letting myself in for. The weather did not detract away from the experience of the holiday which was excellent. Slight issue coming home and getting through Manchester Airport but other than that, it was a perfect trip. A little tip, you have no doubt seen the stories coming out of Manny Airport. They are true. I think we have this idea in our heads that it won’t happen to us or if we are flying with a decent airline nothing will go wrong. Avoid that place this summer if you can. I don’t intend to rush back if I can help it. I have nothing but sympathy for the working staff there who are clearly lacking in support from their employers who are desperately trying to recoup some of the money lost during COVID.

I have been on holiday just in case you didn’t read my last blog and wondering what I am wittering on about. We had a great time, stayed in a lovely hotel with great staff, facilities, and the best thing ever… a family of cats living in the hotel looked after by the staff and guests which included us for the week we were there. I had never experienced a holiday abroad and not drank. I had never not been one of the first people lining up at the all-inclusive bar when it opened, that is if I was up from the previous nights heavy sesh. I woke up fresh every single day. Maybe skipped a few breakfasts but that was because I was enjoying good quality sleep. When you next plan a summer holiday or any trip away whether it be home or abroad, why not try a few days not drinking or maybe even the whole holiday? I think you would be surprised how much more you benefit from the experience. I always laugh at people saying “they need another holiday” when they get back from their official one. That is possibly the case if you are hammering the booze when you are away. Your sleep pattern will be shot, and you won’t actually recuperate at all. I am not sure I would have been able to handle a hangover in forty degrees heat. I think that would have been too much. At the hotel we stayed in, there didn’t appear to be what I would call heavy drinking. Yes, people enjoyed themselves but there wasn’t any drunken escapades, that I can recall seeing anyway.

Marrakech is a vibrant city, with lots of dodgy little markets you can go and buy cheap tat from if that is your thing. If you like haggling with street sellers then this is the place for you. The main square comes alive in the evening with more street traders, performers, and cool places to sit with a drink to watch the world go by. Thousands of people are visiting this area in the evening making it the go to place in the city. It is definitely somewhere I recommend visiting, no matter what your usual choice of destination is. We did a couple of lovely excursions whilst we were there including an amazing hot air balloon ride watching the sunrise over the Atlas Mountains. That was absolutely mesmeric. We also did some quad biking around the desert which was a lot of fun, and something that I had not tried before.

One of the main things I wanted to get from the experience was to completely switch off and remove myself from the day to day realities of home life. Exactly what you want to achieve from a holiday. In the past, I have sometimes brought my home troubles along with me or pressures from work. I left my phone up in our room during the day and only would use it at night to check for any messages, not to look at work emails. If you don’t do this when you are away, I highly recommend it. One of the other things I wanted to do whilst being away was get stuck into a few good books. Ross very kindly lent me five or six to keep me going and I flew through this fascinating book on psychology called ‘The Courage To Be Disliked’. I won’t do a full book review on it but it was a really thought provoking read. Check it out if you are into that kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed. I also started a couple of others which I am flying through at the moment. I really must read more. I read a little now, but it is far too easy of an evening to get lost in some rubbish tv series for a few hours rather than something more worthwhile. I am not saying don’t watch tv though don’t worry. We all need to unwind and sometimes watching some trash is the only way…. is Essex.

I guess to summarise this blog, I wanted to make clear that you can enjoy any holiday without alcohol. Reading these blogs, you may get the misconception that I am anti-booze. In some ways, that maybe true now. However, I accept it is embedded in our culture and society, it isn’t going anywhere soon. The message I have taken from this experience is that you can enjoy your time with or without it.  I hope you can too.

Oh and I did manage to train a few times in the gym at the hotel. I actually really enjoyed it and it was a great addition to the day’s activities. Only do this if you genuinely want to of course. If you want to relax and give yourself a break from training than that is ok too. Only you can make that decision. For me, it was all part of keeping my head in check whilst being away from home and my normal routine.

As always, if you are here thanks for reading. It means a lot.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

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