Month: May 2022

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twelve – Work From Home

Christ, I really hope Monkeypox is going to be a thing. We don’t need another pandemic ever again but so soon after COVID I am not convinced we could all cope, let alone people with mental health struggles. I can’t foresee that anyone would be as compliant and how could they be? Unless it started wiping people out by the tens of thousands each day the public will not comply to any restrictions this time. The government, in my opinion got so many decisions wrong during the early stages of the pandemic. In fact, that isn’t an opinion it is totally accurate. Anyone who argues otherwise is either doing it in bad faith or fails to understand the enormity of what has happened over the last two years. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, we have all seen the reports and inquiry findings of how the people who we put in charge (don’t get me fucking started on this) were behaving during lockdowns and all of 2020. Whilst we the public were adhering to the rules and restrictions, the government partied on. Again, if you or anyone you know is happy to defend those actions then seriously give your heads a wobble. We are all being told to move on now, but just go back to that time and remember what you couldn’t do. Families, friends and loved ones unable to come together for funerals, celebrations, or anything with more than a few people outside and yet Johnson and his colleagues carried on like nothing was going on outside of Whitehall and Westminster. I said I wouldn’t get political but come on.

It is crazy (there’s that word again sorry) to think COVID-19 has been in our lives for over two years and will likely be amongst us forever. Think back to how your life was pre-pandemic. So much has changed for us all. Some things for the better and then some not so good.

Christmas 2020 was a strange affair for us all, we were told essentially not to mix to try and limit the spread of the virus. I spent Christmas day with Chloe and her family which was nice then saw a few people over boxing day. To me, it didn’t feel like a normal Christmas holiday. I am not the biggest fan of the festive period anyway as something usually goes wrong, but its normally of my own making. I saw friends on boxing day, but it wasn’t how we usually would have spent it. We all had to make the best of it and ultimately things could have been a lot worse. So many families would not have been able to spend it together having lost loved ones to the pandemic or being out of the area and unable to travel to their homes. I remember feeling incredibly low around this point but masked it as much as possible. I felt guilty for feeling like crap, so many people had it worse than me and yet that didn’t help. I was thirty on January 2nd and that was again and underwhelming affair. I mean, the second is literally the worst possible day of the year to have a birthday but it was certainly compounded even further by the restrictions. Again, we made the best of it.

In the new year, unfortunately Chloe and her family contracted COVID which meant I had to isolate as well. This meant I was unable to see her or anyone for a few weeks as the positive tests kept coming one after the other. Although, I didn’t test positive myself I kept to the rules and isolated. This led to me working from home which at first, I enjoyed. The novelty of getting up twenty minutes before work and rolling out of bed to my desk certainly didn’t wear off for a few months. Even after the isolation periods had ended, I carried on working from home which my employers were happy to endorse. As long as I was doing my job effectively and producing the results, we both saw no reason for me to return to the office. I am still working at home currently and don’t plan on returning full time to the office. However, now I make an effort to go in at least once a week.

As the months ticked on and I was working at home, coupled with the strict training and diet regime I was doing with Ross I think in my head I was in a bubble that I thought was working for me. In some ways, it was. I was training and eating well and losing weight which was very positive and got into the best shape I have ever been in by the end of the summer. Reflecting on this time now though I can see that working from home for all that time had a negative effect on my mental health. I became cut off from human contact for large parts of the week. It was certainly safer for me to not go to the office, but I think if I had gone in I may have not ended where I was back in October. I was sometimes going for days and not seeing anyone or leaving the flat. I would get up, work, and then exercise after. If Chloe wasn’t coming over to stay, then I wouldn’t see anyone in person. It really isn’t healthy to be like that for someone like myself. But I didn’t recognise that whilst immersed in this regime I was in.

Summer came and the cricket season began but things still weren’t back to normal. We couldn’t socialise like we normally do before and after games. Things just didn’t feel the same. I started to think would they ever go back to how they were? Would we ever go back to the lives we had pre-covid? Towards the end of the summer, I recall seeing many articles and news items talking about another potential lockdown for the winter or harsher restrictions. I told myself that if this happened and we couldn’t see friends or family then I wouldn’t make it. I wasn’t going to go through that again and carry on. If this was going to be the never-ending cycle of lockdowns, then coming out for a few months then I couldn’t face that. I know that I would have still been able to see people, but it wouldn’t be a proper life. I decided that if we were to go back to lockdowns then I would end my life. After my training plan ended and I had drifted back into bad habits of drinking too much and not exercising coupled with the potential of going back to restrictions, this is when things ultimately came to a head on that night in October. I keep going back to that night in my mind and assessing how I got to that state and through writing these blogs I am learning more about it. I hadn’t considered the working at home aspect until more recently, but it definitely played its part. Each blog isn’t a continuation of the story, it is more a reflection and consideration as I examine myself. I may from time to time contradict what I have said in a previous edition but that isn’t by accident. Thoughts and conclusions will change over time as I seek to find what it is that makes me who I am. Through the blog writing and other forms of therapy I hope to understand fully one day what makes me the person I am today.

One of the things I changed about the working from home scenario was making sure I go to the office at least once a week. I work with some great people who share different life experiences and outlooks to myself. I believe person to person interaction is paramount to having more positive mental health. Humans thrive on it. I am glad I stopped working solely from home and got back in there to enjoy the company and colleagues I work with. I still feel that working from home is a good thing for me and I can be more productive in my working week by doing so.

Next week, the focus will be on ‘beer fear’. We have all had it. I want to look at it in more detail and look at a few examples of my experiences. Thanks again if you are reading this and if it’s helping in any way, I am genuinely chuffed to bits with that.

I hope everyone enjoys the platty joobs when it comes. Nice to see the Queen and Royal Family being of use for once.

Lots of love.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Eleven – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Covid-19, the pandemic, lockdowns. We have never seen anything like that before in our lifetime. And yes, COVID is still present and not going away despite how little the media wish to report it. But we are certainly not under the strict restrictions we were placed under back in 2020. Everyone was affected by the pandemic. Whether you believe it is a real disease, or part of a wider conspiracy to control the world’s population, or even both, you were still affected by it. Unless, of course you worked in Downing Street where things pretty much carried on as normal. Reflecting upon that time it’s bizarre to think about what happened and what people went through. So many people lost mothers, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers, their own children it’s absolutely harrowing to think of all those poor families and friends of the deceased who’s lives would never be the same again. I have been fortunate so far, no one from my family or friends has passed away. So many people didn’t make it. From my own experience I can only write about the lockdowns and how they affected me, my family, and friends. Over the next weeks I will be looking at the pandemic in more detail from day one up to where we are now.

Those initial first few weeks of not knowing what was happening, what we could and shouldn’t do was very unclear. I mean it never really got any clearer from the government did it. The were a litany of mistakes made time after time which I could easily write two to three blogs on but I will refrain from bashing them, for now.. I remember coming in from work having been sent home with the factory I worked at closing down. There was no plan from them, they took the decision that it could no longer function as a business and dressed it up as sending people home to keep them safe. They didn’t really care about that, I am fairly sure of that. I came home panicking and extremely anxious about the immediate future. There was a deadly virus spreading which looked like it was going to shutdown not only the economy, but the whole world. I thought about what would happen in the short term, was I going to have to isolate on my own? That filled me with deep anxiety. I love Nigel to bits, and he does offer companionship in some ways but not quite on the same level as other humans do. We had no idea how long this situation was going to last. Were we going to be in a lockdown where you could literally not leave this house? We had all seen those videos coming out of Wuhan and it was terrifying to think that we could be put under similar rules and restrictions.

All the uncertainty for everyone was incredibly daunting. I began to think about the economic impact on my life. Would I have to leave my flat and lose everything being unable to work? All these questions I had like everyone else, could not be answered.

In those first few weeks of lockdown, it was a very surreal experience. I was furloughed from work. Yes well done Rishi Sunak, you did something right for a lot of people but of course not everyone was covered by the scheme. P.s that was a labour proposal he introduced, just saying! And from the good Labour, not the car crash of a party that it is today. Told myself that this wasn’t going to get political. For those of you who don’t know me, my politics very much fall on the left side of the spectrum. And just to clarify, the left. Not centre left. Coming back to those first three to four weeks I think for many of us lucky to be furloughed and not either forced to work or essential to it felt like a holiday. I am not going to pretend it was anything other than that. The weather was unbelievably good, and it was probably just as well. Almost like it had been planned to perfection… the Qanon, anti-mask/lockdown crew will love that little twist. After those initial few weeks were over and the enormity of the situation began to unravel on everyone I think this is when the mood of the majority of the nation changed, but not to the same place. The kindness to one another and general feeling of being in it together all went out the window. People went back to being the same as they had been prior to all of this, sadly in my view. Empathy was again lost and the divisions we had seen began to raise their ugly heads again. As with most things now, it became a binary topic. You were either for lockdowns and measures or against them. I don’t think there was much middle ground. I became embroiled in the debate, constantly reading and watching videos online.

Not seeing people had a massive effect on my mental health. I was lucky to spend the initial part of lockdown with Chloe and her parents. Then Chloe and I returned to my flat until the summer. I didn’t see my parents, brothers, and friends for a long time. I played by the rules, and I am not embarrassed to say that. I felt it was the right thing to do, and I still do. Other people will have made other choices different to mine and I respect that now, maybe not having done so at the time. It was a totally unique situation for us all to be involved in.

Chloe was called back into work but working from home (more on working from home in part two next week) which left me in a bit of useless state. Chloe returning to work made me feel very indifferent. We worked for the same company, and I probably felt a little bit of jealousy and resentment that she had been called back and I hadn’t. Colleagues in my department were called back. I wasn’t. I mentioned this in another post about how much of failure this made me feel. I wasn’t in a good routine. I was staying up late, and you guessed it drinking heavily. What else was there for me to do? Or so I thought. I really should have devoted that time to better use. I had near enough eight months of not working. However, I did find something amazing during this period and that organisation is Foodcycle. They are a charity who take surplus ingredients from shops, wholesalers, supermarkets and cook them up into a fantastic community meal. I am going to do a full piece on Foodcycle in the next month as they deserve a full blog just for them. I was volunteering three days a week and it did give me some purpose and structure to my week. This was vital to help my mental health at the time but in reality, like so many I was still struggling. I have read so many articles, tweets, posts about how despondent people became during this time. I felt so guilty for feeling bad, I hadn’t lost anyone. Why do I get to feel sad about everything? I give myself more of a break on this now, it was a dreadful time and feeling that way was actually very understandable.

I began volunteering and began to feel useful again but as time went on and I was still unable to see so many of my friends and family it was really weighing me down. I was lucky to have Chloe with me throughout this time as I don’t think I would have made it through lockdown one without her. I owe her a great deal for looking after me in that time. I know that many people would have been feeling like this during that initial lockdown and for some time after. When we came out of that first stage things did get a little bit better. I was able to play cricket which was deemed a COVID safe environment thankfully. Again, without this I think I would have really struggled to cope. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was unfortunately made redundant in the September of 2020 which was a very hard time to get through. I still feel a lot of resentment towards that decision not just for myself but for the other people who lost their jobs. With my current job I am still indirectly involved with the old company so maybe that is why I haven’t fully let it go. Getting that final letter through in the post confirming the termination of my employment is still very firmly in my mind. Those feelings of rejection and inadequacy that I had in other experiences in my life were back and at the forefront of my consciousness. I knew it was coming, but I don’t think that made it any easier. The months kept passing and furlough kept getting extended. I felt that I could have been brought back into the business to try and help get things restarted but I wasn’t. I am still processing that despite moving on to a better job with better employers.

Next week, I will be recommencing this story from 2021. Despite this being a more relaxed year for the restrictions in place, it is the year of my mental collapse. I have of course spoken about it in other blogs, but it certainly won’t hurt to dip in again from another angle.

Thanks again for reading. I would love to hear your lockdown stories and how you coped during this time so please drop me a message anytime to chat on it.

Peace and love.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Ten – Closing Time

So last week was mental health awareness week. Did you do your bit and ask someone how they were doing? Fear not, the next opportunity is right now as every week should be mental health awareness week. So why not do it today? Right now, get out your phone and give someone a ring that you haven’t spoken to in a while or drop them a text. I know that I need to get better at this as well so it’s a work in progress that’s for sure. I guarantee you will feel better for talking or the person on the other end will. Looking back at last week’s blog it was quite an impersonal piece not really offering much in the way of experience, but I was really keen to examine in more detail the fascinating relationship we have in Britain with alcohol. I had a conversation with someone today regarding this. When you choose to give up alcohol like I have, it isn’t like other drugs. Although cocaine is very easy to come by and used regularly in the UK it isn’t as easy to get a hold of as alcohol and of course booze is legal to buy in the shops unlike coke (for now). We are surrounded by alcohol. I was at the football on Monday night and the beers were flowing and the atmosphere was electric, with everyone having a good time. What I am getting at is that it is very hard to avoid booze, it is everywhere which makes not drinking I believe a little bit harder than kicking other bad habits.

So last Friday, I made it to one hundred days with no alcohol. This has led to me having some pretty strange and very vivid dreams the last few nights. They have involved me breaking my sobriety and waking up within the dreams (proper Inception shit this) feeling hungover and guilty. I then properly wake up with overriding sense of relief that it isn’t real, and I haven’t made that mistake. I am hoping that over time this will pass, and these recurring dreams desist. I said last week that I don’t miss drinking and that is true, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t on my mind. It was described to me today as something that I will have to make a conscious decision on every time I am in an environment where drinking is possible. Sounds pretty overwhelming when you put it like that but with the support structure I have in place I am confident I can win this battle and ultimately the war.

In this week’s piece I want to focus specifically on the dangers of drinking alone in the house. Reading that opening sentence, to a lot of people this will be an alien concept to them. I know many people who don’t drink at all in the house and would never consider doing it. One of the issues you face at home is that you are the landlord, there is no closing time. No last orders. This was very much the way I looked at it. Whatever I bought was there to be drank no matter how much that was. On some nights I could stay up the majority of the evening and drink until the early hours of the morning. Then sleeping in the next day waking up and feeling horrendous from it. I think for those of us who have drank at home it’s a very easy cycle to get mixed up in. You can find any excuse to have a drink. You have had a bad day, or you have had a good day. It’s Thursday night so it’s Friday tomorrow. It’s the weekend so I can have even more because I don’t have anything to be up for in the morning. Honestly, you can find any reason you want, and we can justify it all in our heads. When I was feeling especially low towards the back end of last year and early stages of 2022, I was drinking every night at home unbeknown to anyone else. That is the problem with it, it is very easy to hide from people when you live alone. My advice to anyone who is thinking that their drinking habits are maybe at the wrong end of the scale is to stop drinking at home. Limit yourself to only having a drink when you are socialising with others and don’t become a solitary drinker. That is my advice given from my own experience. I don’t believe I am capable of moderating my drinking hence taking the decision to give it up completely. If you want to drink responsibly then I think cutting out those midweek beers or glasses of wine are a great step to achieving that.

If you are a regular drinker at home, then this could be part of a larger issue that needs to be addressed. I think a lot of my use of alcohol at home was sometimes through boredom and then it became very habitual. I would regularly think that by doing this I would be enhancing my downtime in the evening whereas in fact, it was the opposite. The negative effects of the next day would be the usual feeling tired (hungover) and not functioning as well as I could do throughout that day. My moods would be low, and my mental health would continue to slip. After a heavy night the next day my sleep pattern would be shot to pieces. I would always feel tired by the evening time and unless I drank again, I would not be able to get to sleep. I think a lot of that was down to the negative thoughts I was usually experiencing about myself and my life because of the depressant I was guzzling down my neck. I remember back in 2013 after going through quite a traumatic break up (yes another one – more on this soon) that I was drinking up to two bottles of wine a night and then getting up and going to work the next day. I don’t even know how I was doing it. Probably being a little bit younger the hangovers weren’t as severe as they were latterly. Two bottles of wine, looking back that is just horrific. I felt low from the break up and medicated heavily with Barefoot Pinot Grigio, a lovely drop of wine to be fair. It isn’t the answer of course, drinking is not the answer to any problems which I think we are all acutely aware of, but it is the easiest substance we can get our hands on.

Another key issue caused by home drinking is the tolerance you have to alcohol increases. You need more of the substance to reach the high you are looking for. Towards the final stages of my boozing, I could have five to six pints of strong lager followed by maybe a couple more beers at home and then I would hit the wine. If there was a bottle of spirits kicking about then I could always finish the night off with two or three of them. Adding all that up, it really doesn’t make for pretty reading. I wasn’t drinking that much every night but maybe a few times a week and I was having at least a couple of drinks every night. I knew I had a problem with the amount I was drinking but I was in the cycle that I spoke about a few blogs ago of not caring enough about me and anyone else. I am determined to not ever go back to that state and be in a situation where I feel that is the best course of action. Unfortunately, life will throw some curve balls and how I react to them will be important to the longevity of my sobriety. Since stopping drinking, many people have said to me, “you didn’t drink at home though, did you?” and that was a real wake up to my problem. It was so easy to hide what was going on and when I drank in social occasions, I would likely get drunk, and people would think that was the extent of my issues. I was lying to them and myself for a long time and that has been something I have really needed to get over. I have found since going sober that I am a lot kinder to myself. Because of the amount of self-reflection I have been doing this has been important in my recovery. I have needed to give myself a break and try to move on. That was the old me and although I have to learn from every single bad experience, I also have to accept that they are done now, and I can’t alter them in any way.

If you have read this and think maybe, you have an issue with drinking at home then seriously don’t ignore it. I am in no way judging anyone for doing this and as you can see from the levels of honesty in my admissions above that I was at the wrong end of all of this. If you would like to contact me for a private chat with full privacy, then please feel free to message me on any of my socials or if you have my number give me a call or a text. I want to hear from you and help in any way possible. There are also organisations you can talk to about all of this and through my own experience with an alcohol support arm of the NHS they really helped me in getting my shit together and have supported me through the whole process. I can put you in touch with them and you can potentially begin your own sober journey…..

I said right from the beginning that I was going to be as honest as I could be about my experiences with booze and I feel the above is a good reflection of that. There are so many stories of drunken escapades to get into and I will cover more of those very soon.

Thanks again for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Eight – Happy Hour

I have been looking forward to writing this one. As I approach my one hundredth day alcohol free, I wanted to explore in more depth our relationship with alcohol as a society here in Britain. I have talked at length about my own experiences and dysfunctional courtship with booze but this time I will be exploring what it is we love about drinking alcohol. It in entrenched in our culture, our DNA and is the most common substance to be used daily by society. Drinking alcohol takes many different forms. There are the casual drinks, the out out sessions, the after parties, the drinks at the airport at 5am when you go on holiday. Alcohol is championed like no other drug, but why? I firmly believe knowing now what we do that if it was created today, alcohol would be classified as a high-risk drug like cocaine or heroin. Yet it is far more deadly. According to ‘In England in 2019/20, there were 976,425 hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption, a rate 12% higher than in 2016/17’ that is a lot of hospital staff taking care of us all due to our use of alcohol. Now don’t for one second think I am sitting on any morale high ground here just because I am now not drinking. I have had my fair share and someone else’s in terms of drink related hospital visits. I mentioned one in my blog a couple of weeks ago. If you have some free time, have a look online for some key stats on drinking culture in Britain. I will cover some more of these as we go on through this piece.

So, what is it about booze we can’t get enough of? Well firstly there is the price and ease at which we can access it. Go into your local supermarket or nearby shop you can get a hold of high strength drinks for a few quid. The offers are always advertised around the aisles. When you next walk into Asda or whatever shop you go to, you’ll notice that big boxes or crates of booze are sat waiting for you on your arrival. Twenty-four bottles of Peroni (other lagers are available) for a tenner, sounds like a good deal to me. Or so I used to think. Over the last two to three months, I have been trying to recalibrate my brain and my outlook towards alcohol. It hasn’t been easy but sitting here today I think I may have cracked it. I don’t miss drinking, nowhere near as much as I thought I would. And believe me, you would too if you gave it up.

Secondly, we are conditioned to think from a very early age that drinking is cool, its sophisticated and something that you just have to do. When you next have the tv on watching Emmerdale, Coronation Street or whatever shite you enjoy notice how many adverts within those commercial breaks are about alcoholic drinks to buy. Alcohol will never be outlawed of that I am 100% convinced. They tried that in the US in the twenties and it created more problems than solutions. But thankfully for us it meant it created superb dramas like Boardwalk Empire and Lawless so it’s horses for courses, I guess. The adverts we see on tv are usually depicting a setting where they pick a beautiful celebrity to endorse the brand. We as the audience react in exactly the way we are meant to and aspire to be as cool or sexy as those people on screen. Its basic marketing and it works every time. Another key focus of these ads is to show how everyone is enjoying themselves with a drink in hand. You never see the next morning when that person on screen wakes up with a banging headache, a hazy memory of what went on the night before and in some cases a stranger potentially lying next to them that they can’t remember. It should show all the outcomes, shouldn’t it? Of course, it never will because we don’t want to think about that. They know that and we know that but it’s just a non-spoken agreement between us the consumer, the manufacturers, and dealers (barkeeps). In the same way when we see McDonalds telling us about their new release in our head, we think how great that looks when in reality afterwards you think was that even that nice? Well, I do anyway. How often after a night out have you uttered the inevitable words “well I am never drinking again”? We have all done it, but after a couple of lousy days we forget about the hangovers and anxiety we have felt and go back to thinking alcohol is our friend again.

We have now reached a point where there is no longer a recommended weekly allowance of alcohol units. Doctors and medical experts now tell us that any amount of alcohol consumption is damaging to the person. But to be fair, what do they know about health? Your Auntie Karen on Facebook has become more qualified to talk about these matters than individuals who have studied for years to become experts in their chosen fields. During the pandemic we know that alcohol consumption went up considerably especially in those early few lockdown months. Mine did, I was drinking nearly every day because in my head I was thinking well what else is there to do? The Nuffield Trust tells us that “alcohol-specific mortality rates increased 19% from the previous year in 2020,” that’s a hell of a jump. I am going to cover the lockdown months in more detail in another piece as I think it’s an important time to reflect on as it affected so many people and their mental health.

How many of us have associated good times in our lives with booze? I know I definitely have. Speaking to a friend on this recently, he remarked that he could not envisage himself not drinking when socialising out with friends. His view on this was simple, I can’t enjoy the night as much unless I am drinking. This is fine, I am not anti-drinking and if you can have a successful and functional relationship with it then I applaud you because I can’t. I have just explained that any amount of alcohol is good for you, but you could say the same about some foods and fizzy drinks. I guess that the key is moderation. What I don’t believe now having examined this more over the last few months is that you need to drink to have a good time. If we look at the social parameters we have grown up in, a majority of events are based around drinking. Whether it is the venue, type of event or people we are with everything points to having to drink to have the best time possible. For me, I just don’t believe this is the case now. I may be wrong, it does happen sometimes. Having experienced numerous days and nights out with friends or other social and work events these past few months I enjoy the occasions more because I am far more present in the moment. I am not thinking about how many drinks I can cram into a small window of opportunity. This would occupy my brain when I was sat with friends drinking pint after pint and getting more drunk but not enjoying myself and becoming a liability to those around me.

One of the really great things about going out and not drinking is how responsible and respectful my friends, family and partner have been. It’s never been an issue. They respect my decision to abstain and I respect their decision to have a few drinks. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own decisions and choices but not once has my choice been questioned and I thank them all for that. I have read books, blogs and listened to many podcasts where stories have been told of friends or colleagues describing them as boring or no fun because they are not drinking. If you are doing that, please stop. Chances are they will be much better company to you and won’t become an irritant after a few too many sherbets.

Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost the NHS £3.5 billion per year and society as a whole £21 billion annually. Let those fingers sink in. Staggering I know. What drinks companies and the government would likely argue that the VAT receipts collected on alcohol massively offsets this, which it probably does. However, is that a good thing? It isn’t all bad news. The youngers seem to be drinking less according to Nuffield Health who reported that, “The largest decrease occurred in people aged 16-24, from 29% drinking heavily in 2006 to 15% in 2019,” they must be too busy making Tiktoks or whatever else they do these days. Yep I am sounding old right now. So why are young people turning away from alcohol? Economic factors possibly. We are currently twelve years into Tory rule and are still reeling from the austerity measures inflicted on us by that pig shagger Cameron and Giddeon Osbourne. Younger people now have less disposable income and do not wish to use it on alcohol. Social factors have also changed and the way younger people interact through platforms like Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook etc. They don’t need the environment of pubs and clubs to meet up with their friends. They are able to do this all virtually. I believe that my generation are the last group to be enamored by the local pub. This does not mean that younger people will not turn to alcohol later in life, we don’t know this yet. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I have been overwhelmed by a number of people getting in touch with their own experiences and I really do appreciate hearing from anyone. The overall reception to the blogs has been great and I can’t thank people enough for their support. Please keep getting in touch, I want to hear from you. It is important we share all our problems and solutions with one another so we can all be stronger.

It is mental health awareness week this week so if you can, check in on someone who you maybe haven’t spoken to in a while whether it’s a friend, colleague or family member we all can be doing more, myself included in that.

Thanks again for reading folks.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Eight – Moving on Up

Well last week’s blog was certainly a tough one to write but on reflection I feel it was a good one for me write and get out of my head. I may have summarised it with a bit of anger so it is something I will revisit at a later date having reflected on it again. I would like to write a piece on that maybe in six to twelve months and see how I look upon that time again.

In this week’s post I want to look at alcohol again. I have been speaking to quite a number of different people about their own experiences. It is really humbling that people are coming to me and sharing their own accounts whether it is personally or with a family member, close friend, or partner. Thank you for doing that, it is incredibly helpful to me as well. Today marks the 90th day of my sober journey. This is always talked about as being a milestone to hit so I am chuffed to get there relatively unscathed. It has been tough in parts but generally I think I have managed the transition well. As I mention in a previous blog, I was not the typical person with alcohol issues. When I say typical, I mean the stereotypical alcoholic that everyone who doesn’t understand this issue thinks you must be. I wasn’t that. I am not that. Thankfully I didn’t progress to that stage, but I think it’s definitely a possibility I could have done. When I have been talking to my alcohol support therapist, she has stated a few times that I got ahead of the curve with this and made the right call to seek help when I did. If you feel like your alcohol consumption is getting out of hand, then I implore you to talk to someone. I am more than happy to point you in the direction of the service I have used, and they have honestly been superb. Claire is supportive, empathetic, and kind but also not afraid to tell me things straight when I need to hear them. She has always got the balance exactly right and I am extremely grateful to have been supported by her.

Over the last ninety days my focus has very much been on myself. I think it’s had to be. I have made positive changes to my life that will firstly benefit me, but then also in time other people around me as well. That is certainly what I hope to achieve. Over the last three months I have made the following changes to my routines and seen the positive effect this is having. By going to the gym at least five times a week I am getting in better shape. This leads to better food choices and not over consuming junk or bad food which you will do more of when you drink. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed nice food and fun experiences. For instance, Chloe and I ate out on Sunday and Monday evening. It is important to have rewards for yourself and I certainly did on those two nights. I highly recommend both places actually.  ‘Above’ is a cracking little spot in the centre of Newcastle with amazing views of the city. On Monday night we went to a fabulous Turkish restaurant called Turknaz in Whitley Bay. I have mentioned in a previous blog the changes I have made but I wanted to reinforce the positives I have seen come from this and ultimately the zero consumption of alcohol. My mind is clearer, happier, and more focused. I want to achieve goals that I set at the start of the week whether that is for work or for personal endeavors. My cricket season has started now, which is another good activity which I not only enjoy but it also provides good social interaction from the mates I have within the club. My therapy on Tuesday afternoon is also progressing well. We are exploring many different parts of my past, present and future. At the moment, I can honestly say life is good and I am thrilled to be writing that.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on the last three months and how this has been affecting those around me. My partner Chloe has borne the brunt of my worst times prior to giving up drinking and I think that our relationship has also struggled to adapt to me changing my routines over the past three months. I have been keeping myself busy, not standing still to make sure I don’t drift back to the booze. As things are now starting to settle down, I need to focus on my relationship with Chloe ensuring she is getting what she needs from me and vice versa. It has also been a tough time for my family. My dad messages me every morning to check that I am ok and then usually calls in the afternoon for a chat. My mum also messages frequently and calls too, to check on me. She doesn’t do this everyday as to not bombard me with questions, so I appreciate that from her just as much as my dad’s daily check ins. I speak to my brothers regularly who I know have been worried these past few months. Jonny and I talk near enough every day despite him having a busy work and home life. Dave, my stepdad has also been another great pillar of support alongside my mum. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am thankful to all of them for the love and support I have received over the last few months and although things are a lot better now, they have not relented in their level of care. I am very lucky to have them all. My closest friends who I mentioned in a blog a few weeks back have again been amazing. Ross is currently travelling but regularly checks in to see if I am alright as does Mikey too. Jack and his girlfriend/carer Jo have been great inviting me around to their house at least once a week giving me that essential bit of social interaction that I need. Jack and I go to the gym a few times a week as well, so I get to see more of him through that. I have also been fortunate to catch up with other friends from back home in Alnwick. They too have been incredibly supportive along this recovery road I am on. Scott, Stephen, Dom, Dan, Tom, and I share a group chat which is pretty constant for stupid chat and sporting related trivia. We all met up (except Tom sadly) last week and it was great to see them all again. I have a wider support network than I ever realised. I know that I must repay them all for their wonderful support not just in the dark times but also in these better times when it would be easy for them to pull back and let me get on.

One of the key things I have noticed during this transition period is how little I am missing the alcohol. Yes, those early stages were tough, but I think that was more down to how habitual my drinking had got. I really thought that I would miss it more. Not waking up in the last ninety days with a hangover, beer fear or anything to regret I have to say has been liberating. I never want to go back to those days, but I am acutely aware that I can’t have a ‘normal’ relationship with booze. But what I want to ask is, what is normal? What do you consider normal? My own definition would be someone enjoying maybe a few beers at the weekend or a glass of wine or two in the evening. Is that normal? Health professionals tell us now that any drinking of alcohol is damaging to our health. There is no longer a weekly recommended unit allowance anymore so does that mean people should not drink at all? I do not judge anyone for enjoying alcohol whether that is responsibly or irresponsibly. We are all free to make our own choices and I respect that fully. A really powerful and informative documentary to watch on alcohol intake is ‘Drinkers Like Us’ with Adrian Chiles. I mean he isn’t the most dynamic or charismatic fella out there but that is a superb documentary. It highlights the culture of drinking in UK society. This is something I am going to examine more next week in greater detail. I want to look in depth at our relationship with booze as a society.

As I pull this piece to a close, I want to thank everyone for all their wonderful support. Please keep getting in touch about your own experiences or how you feel about any of mine. No matter what you think and your feedback I want to hear from you!

Thanks again for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts