Month: June 2022

Sobering Thoughts Volume Fifteen – Holding Back The Years

I really enjoyed writing last week’s blog. I had quite a tough week with work last week so being able to pen something like that was a really positive experience. Being able to express myself on this platform is a great release and coupled with my other methods of therapy, I believe this to be a very positive thing for me to keep doing week after week. I said from the outset this blog was for me and my pathway in recovery but being able to help anyone along the way is a fantastic bonus on top. I am still overwhelmed by the kind response to Sobering Thoughts and enjoy talking about it to anyone who is interested. The focus last week was on my dad. In typical Simon (Denton) fashion, the review I got which normally comes on the day after I post was, “I read your blog…. very interesting”. I took that as a five-star review understanding the subtle undertones of appreciation that can sometimes be lost on others.

This week, it’s my mums turn. Lucky her. Mum is the correct shortened version of mother. Not mam, she isn’t a high-ranking female police officer. Although, every year I write that on her birthday card as she really enjoys it… You can call your mum mam if you want to, I’m just messing. My mum is a terrific woman. Very caring, considerate and has always been there for me throughout my struggles. Without going into too much personal detail she had a difficult upbringing being estranged from her parents until her late teens when she reconnected with my grandad. I think it would have been perfectly normal to have accepted that some of this experience could have affected her own parenting skills. But it didn’t, far from it. She has been everything that her mother and father weren’t to me and my two brothers. Yes of course, there have been some up and down times as I alluded to in my last piece but overall, my mother is an excellent parent, and I am very lucky to say that. She now enjoys being called Granny with her two grandchildren adoring their time with her. I have only recently come to understand why your parents become such doting grandparents. They are effectively getting to relive their lives again enjoying the best parts of being parents but without the day-to-day hassle and drain us kids put on them. I have only come to realise this since seeing my nephews come into our family. Makes total sense now.

After my parents separated and eventually divorced, I lived with my mum. She had to take up the role of being the ‘nagging’ parent making sure I was doing my schoolwork on time and not lying-in bed all day at that age when all you want to do is that. Evaluating this time now again as an adult, I was very fortunate to have this. I am talking about experiences with my parents and family that not all children get to have. I appreciate that more now as an adult than I did then. I probably made things hard at times, actually not probably I know I did when I was an adolescent.

Like my dad, my mum has been there to witness a lot of my fuck ups. I have kept some hidden from her probably not wanting to let her down or disappoint her. For instance, she only found out about me being arrested (see earlier blog for context) a few years ago. I can’t remember how she found out. I should really ask her. I said last week that I always turned to my dad for help in difficult situations, and that is true. That’s not to say I couldn’t have counted on mum. She would have helped as much as she could I am sure of it. I have always felt like I could talk to her about most things, even very personal details about relationships or difficulties I may be having with work. I recall that when I was going through a very bad patch in my first job, she would always be the person I would talk to the most for advice. I have always felt like my mum has had faith in my abilities, when I have struggled to maintain the confidence, I have needed to succeed whether it was at school, university or in the workplace she has always been there to tell me I could do it and to never stop trying. Whatever limited success I have had, academically or outside of education I would attribute a lot of that to my mum.  

I don’t think my mum knew I had a drinking problem. She has seen me drink but as I have alluded to in other blogs, but I got good at hiding this from everyone. I think of my mum as a fixer, she always wants to find a solution to a problem. Whenever I have an issue, she is always offering advice on how best I can sort myself out. I am not always receptive to this and have sometimes been dismissive to her trying to help. That is the only thing she is trying to do. Help. When I was feeling at my lowest point last year, I think my mum realised that she couldn’t fix that, and I can imagine it was hard for her to try and process. I don’t know whether she has ever felt that way herself, I hope she hasn’t, but I know for a fact she has had a complicated life which has not always been easy. She’s had to bring me up for a start, that’s bad enough for anyone to have to deal with.

I have chosen a Simply Red song title as the sound of Mick Hucknall’s voice is etched into my memory with my mum playing his songs on repeat throughout my childhood. I actually like Simply Red now, I think she brainwashed me from an early age. The song is set in a moment of time, specifically for the narrator, where he is on the verge of leaving his tumultuous teenage life behind. But it also describes an absentee mother and the person having issues with their dad. Possibly resonates with my mum more than I ever realised.

I usually finish with a conclusion befitting of the piece I have just written but I will simply just say mam, I love you and thank you for everything you have done for me.

Thanks again for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Fourteen – That’s Amore

Well guys I am back. I am sure you have missed me. Fear not I have some excellent new ideas percolating for my next few blogs and have begun writing a couple already including this one. As it was Father’s Day last Sunday, I felt it was only right to pen a new piece about the old man. Now he doesn’t know I am doing this, so I imagine he has got this far and started to panic but fear not Simon, it’s all good.

Our relationships with our parents shape us in lots of different ways. Some people can be exactly like their parents, for good and bad reasons. Others can be polar opposites which again can be positive and negative. I know many people as I am sure you do too that are like this. I am aware that not everyone grows up knowing their parents which can be for a number of different factors. Our adult lives are formed based on experiences we have with older people that are around us as we grow up. I have had a good relationship with both my parents for the majority of my life and the only down moments have more than likely come from something I have done rather than them. Well apart from their divorce but hey ho can’t all be my fault right?

My parents separated when I was eight and I recall this being a very traumatic experience for me and of course the whole of our family. Looking back over these memories, to which I have been doing over the last few months in therapy sessions I hadn’t appreciated the effect it had on me. I am sure it would have been a tougher struggle for my older brothers who would probably recall a time when they saw my parents in a happy marriage. I can’t honestly say I have any memory of this. The relationship I had with my mum and dad moving forward from the divorce generally was pretty good. Yes, there were some bad times in my adolescent years when things were rough but on the whole, I think my parents handled their divorce’s impact on us quite well. Maybe my brothers would say something different I don’t know? Although there were some bad times I saw as much of my dad (as I lived with mum) as I wanted to. There was never any custody battles or issues in that sense that I was aware of which meant I still maintained a good relationship with both of them through frequently seeing them both.  

I have always found my dad to be supportive as a father. Although he may not articulate that in ways, he and I would sometimes like I always feel like he has my back and has done from day one. Over the last ten months I feel our relationship has got stronger and we can be far more honest about things we would not have been prior to me feeling mentally ill last year. I have mentioned in a previous blog that he calls me everyday without fail to check in on me to make sure I am ok and not feeling down or depressed. Since stopping drinking, things have definitely got better, and he can see that in me. So, I hope that some of the weight he’s likely been carrying around with him about me in his head has been lifted a little. I certainly don’t want to make him worried about me, but I know that is in him and he cares about us all very much. On the night of feeling fully suicidal my dad was the first person I reluctantly spoke to. I don’t know why that was. I said at the time and have done since that I thought he would understand and comprehend how I was feeling. Although I do believe that to be the case, I could have just as easily spoken to my brother, mum, girlfriend, or a close friend. Something made me take his call and not others. To clarify, I don’t want that to sound like I didn’t care about the people trying to reach me that night. Evidently, I was not thinking with any clarity.

When I have done something stupid whilst intoxicated, it has usually been my dad (not in all cases) I have turned to for help. I can remember one stupid night where I had been walking home and banged on a window, yes that again. Learn from your mistakes Nick come on. The window had broken, and I had cut myself again. Although this wasn’t as bad as the time my fist went through the window it was still a cut, I shouldn’t have managed to get. I have never hurt anyone (to my knowledge) whilst drunk, but I have sustained many an injury and embarrassed myself countless times. I called my dad the next morning explaining what I had done and although he was angry with me and rightly so he still sorted the aftermath of my mistake by finding out who’s window I had broken and getting it repaired whilst I sloped off back to university. At this moment in time, I was still reeling from ‘Teenage Dream’ heartbreak, but I can’t attribute this action to that. I was being a twat, no excuses. Maybe my dad recognised what I was going through, and I knew that subconsciously and that is why I turned to him for help. By the way, if you don’t get the teenage dream reference then you need to go back to that blog. If you haven’t read it yet, all I can say is where have you been??

I share a lot of commonalities with my dad. We both love sport. Anything really, we have watched them all over the years, but the main ones are cricket and football. Our political outlooks are very similar and our general takes on life are very alike. Not that stops us from arguing about them all the time. He also has a very good taste in music, old and modern. I know dad has had his battles with hard times over the years and at times has felt very low. I hope he hasn’t felt the way I did last year because if he has, he hasn’t shared this with anyone, and I hate to think of him feeling that way alone. He seems very content with life at the moment spending his time operating a very busy bar at the cricket club we are members of as well as spending time with his family. I can see how happy and proud of his grandchildren he is and how he loves being with them as much as possible. I do feel I can be a lot more open and honest with him about how I am feeling about everything in my life and not just certain things. Our relationship has advanced and for that I am very pleased.

I usually finish with a conclusion befitting of the piece I have just written but I will simply just say dad, I love you and thank you for everything you do and have done for me.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts Volume Thirteen – Last Night (Beer Fear)

I haven’t done a piece solely on alcohol for a few weeks, so I thought as I land on four months of being booze-free this was a good moment. Over the weekend I actually felt the urge to drink for the first time since I stopped. I saw a lot of people enjoying the bank holiday and that included many Instagram photos of beers, wines, and other drinks. This shows, that even though I am four months sober I still have many hurdles and challenges to overcome. But I didn’t succumb to the temptation. I ignored my cravings and did not allow myself to get into a position where I could have a drink. Of course, I could have gone to the shop or local pub and drank but I didn’t. I chose not to. I was strong and resolute in my decisions and feel better for it on the other side of the urges I had over the weekend. What I didn’t do well was talk about how I felt. I kept the feelings to myself and that wasn’t the best course of action to take. Moving forward when I have similar thoughts, I need to make sure that I speak to someone about it. If you are feeling like this yourself, then I am telling you the best thing to do is address it and speak to someone close to you who understands how you are feeling.

This week, I am looking at ‘beer fear’. If you are reading this and don’t know what I mean by that then simply, it is the feeling of deep anxiety one gets when they are hungover and not recalling the previous night’s events. I have to say that I am an expert in this particular subject, unfortunately.

I can recall a lot of instances where this has occurred for me and the anxiety you feel is palpable. To wake up and think, hell what have I done the night before? What have I said? Who have I embarrassed? Not just myself. It is one of the things I enjoy most now about not drinking. Waking up on a morning and thinking, what a relief I haven’t got anything to worry about. I have made countless mistakes when being drunk, that is not exclusive to me but that still doesn’t negate the feelings you have about yourself. There would be so much self-loathing and thinking of why I have put myself or anyone else through this again. This paranoia would set in for at least two to three days after a heavy night. I would be scared to look at my phone and receive messages from friends, family or girlfriends telling me of my previous night’s exploits. After a few days had passed and maybe nothing too serious had happened I would think I was once again invincible. In reality, people may have been kinder to me to not make me worry. I would think that I was fine to do this again and nothing bad was going to happen, but I was just incredibly lucky that nothing serious did ever occur. That being said, from an earlier (controversial) blog I told you about how I had punched a window out and had caused damage to myself and the property. I had a few visits to A&E over the years and in a couple of weeks’ time I will tell you a story about a New Year’s Eve night that went seriously wrong. The truth is that I was kidding myself for years that I wasn’t damaging myself or relationships around due to excessive drinking.

In 2018, I went on holiday with my girlfriend at the time plus five other friends. On one of the first nights, I got so drunk that I needed to be escorted home. This wasn’t an uncommon end to a lot of my nights, but I was on holiday, so it was fine, right? Wrong. The next day Ross gave me a dressing down (he wont mind me mentioning his name here) and rightly so. I had likely ruined the night of the people I was with. He may not have put it across in a way that I particularly liked but looking back he was right to do it. I think for too long no one had actually laid it out plain and simple for me that what I was doing was selfish and affecting people around me. I didn’t view it like that at the time and certainly resented the way in which I had been told. But he was right, I see that now more clearly than ever. My only regret is that I didn’t have the epiphany earlier. Maybe less damage would have been done after because I didn’t stop making mistakes after that holiday. They were ever present for the next three and a half years.

So why did I carry on drinking after the many times I had messed up? It is a really good question and one that I am only beginning to understand and be able to answer. I guess one way of looking at it was that I wasn’t prepared to give the alcohol up because I felt it had become part of my identity. Friends would know I was going to get fucked up on nights out I thought this was almost something that was expected of me. I was in no way a big drinker, but I could consume a fair bit and go past the point of knowing when a good time was to stop. This wasn’t the case on every single night out or day drinking session but near enough. When I was drinking at home, I felt a lot safer in the knowledge that I was less likely to do something stupid because I wasn’t going anywhere. Yes, I still had a phone and could write stupid tweets (I do that sober) or regrettable messages, but my physical actions were under more control. The beer fear was less existent when I drank at home that was for sure.

I want to discuss one other case of major beer fear with you but first let’s look at a bit of the science behind it. Tammy Richards who is an expert on the subject wrote, “‘Beer fear’, is often used as a throwaway term however, it is very real. It is all chemical related and a lot of the time, we have no control over it,” as our liver processes the alcohol, and it begins to filter out the system there is a chemical imbalance left within us that leads to the fear aka anxiety. The chemical Glutamate, which is in our brains, plays a role in the learning and memory functions. When we drink this is lowered, hence the memory loss you get after a heavy night. The suppression of Glutamate will lead to black outs and periods of time we cannot recall. This is obviously a very unnerving thing to go through when you are also feeling dehydrated and hungover from your night out. When we try to recall the night’s antics, we will go to the worst-case scenarios and in some cases fabricate in our minds what has actually happened. Higher than normal levels of anxiety will then lead to, you guessed it beer fear. Knowing that it is a scientific process that in a lot of cases can’t be controlled I find is quite interesting. If you are a heavy drinker like I was then this was inevitable and unavoidable to some degree unless you were able to control your intake. But as we have already established this wasn’t the case for me. I would estimate there are varying levels of beer fear for different people.  

Last year I went to my friend’s wedding. It was a lovely couple of days spent with some old school friends. On the first night (before the wedding) I probably had two or three drinks too many and went hard at the booze. But my attitude was that it was a wedding and a very joyous occasion and likely everyone was getting hammered. On the day of the wedding, I had my first drink around midday and carried on into the afternoon. I recall at one point going for a lie down for an hour or so to try and pull me around for the evening session. I went hard at it again like most of the people there but don’t recall getting back to my room that night. There are a few hours that I don’t remember at all. I woke up the next day full of fear. What had I done? What had I said? Had I embarrassed myself. i made my way sheepishly down to breakfast and a few people had made comments about me being pissed the night before. I felt ashamed and horrified that I could have potentially embarrassed my friend on his wedding day in front of his family or new in laws. I made my apologies and got out of there as soon as I could. For days after I felt horrendous not wanting to contact anyone from the wedding in case, they told me something that I didn’t want to hear. I eventually messages my friend to apologise for my antics and hoped that I hadn’t ruined any part of the day. He assured me that I hadn’t, but was he just being nice? I don’t know. Another episode from a catalogue of regrettable stories that I could have gone to here.

Leaving the alcohol behind was a tough decision. But enjoying the clear conscience the next day is something I really recommend dipping your toe into and experiencing. I have made a multitude of mistakes that I have to live with. However, knowing that I won’t do anything I regret whilst under the influence of booze is very liberating.

Thanks for reading. Still getting loads of messages weekly regarding other people’s experiences which is great, and I am always happy to chat to anyone about anything I have written or if there is something you want to discuss then drop me a message.

Lots of love.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts