Month: December 2022

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