Year: 2023

Sobering Thoughts Volume Thirty Three – Tyrants

Well, where to begin? It’s been a while since I wrote anything. It’s been a rough time to say the least, and it continues to be. I am not going to talk about why in this blog. I don’t feel ready to unpack my thoughts on that just yet. The main reasons for doing this are primarily to see if it helps me feel the slightest bit better. Secondly, all my previous posts have been written from a place where I have felt in control and content with life. I wanted to write this one knowing that isn’t the case. I’m currently experiencing poor mental health. Which, in some ways is being fueled by a very unhealthy, unbalanced relationship with alcohol. Of course, for me they are intrinsically linked.

The previous posts in some cases have been offering advice based on my own life experiences and past mistakes. But at this current time, I am struggling.  I am writing this post nursing a really awful hangover. Something I have not done before. At the point of when I last wrote a blog, I was just over six months sober. On the 25th April, my resilience was broken. And since that moment I have not had many days away from alcohol. I have done everything I am not meant to. I turned to the one thing I had spent the last year banishing to my history. Writing many blogs saying that drinking was not the answer, it would bring me no comfort. And yet, here we are. I’m disappointed in myself for doing this and yet at the same time, sitting here I don’t know what else to do. I thought by now just over five months on I would have got things back under control. I had managed to have two sober days this week. Both Monday and Tuesday, but last night I got caught up in the moment of being at the football, and afforded myself a few beers. The problem has always been for me that it is very rarely a few beers. I don’t have an off switch. My threshold for booze has risen back to the heights it once had, and I am able to drink like I used to. That is a problem, for so many reasons.

I feel I have lost control of something that I was very much in control of. Sobriety had been working. I was physically and mentally in a much better space and, genuinely thought I had mastered this. But then I was smashed into tiny pieces by something so traumatic, I don’t believe I will ever be the same again, I fell back into habits that I thought I had left behind. Going to the pub on my own for a couple of hours then coming home to continue the drinking, on my own. There is a pub at the top of the street where I live which I have been frequenting quite a bit recently. One night, a very nice chap came up to me asking if I was ok. He said that he had seen me in the pub a few times, drinking on my own and wondered why. We had a chat, and it was nice to converse with someone who had been recently going through some issues himself. Usually however, I am a solitary drinker and feel more comfortable that way. The effects of these last few months have taken their toll on me physically and mentally. I have put on weight through the booze, poor diet and not going to the gym. Mentally, I feel this is one of my lowest points. Not quite at the point of not wanting to be here, but very much on the precipice.

Of course, I know that drinking is not helping me long term. It is a short term high with many downsides. So many, as I have outlined in numerous previous posts. I have continued with therapy despite drinking and returned to the alcohol support team I had used previously. I have had support from those around me, but nothing seems to make me want to stop. When I had stopped previously, I felt I had a good enough reason to. This time feels different. I don’t have that same desire to end the thing I know is making me feel worse long term. I have dug myself into a crater sized hole where there appears to be no ladder or way out. I’m in the vicious cycle I have spoken about before. I know that some would read this and think, well why not just stop? He is not drinking all day, every day so surely, he can just stop. I can some days. Then others I can drink so much I pass out at home waking up in the early hours crashed out on the sofa or on top of my bed. I have pain rooted deep inside of me that I look to escape from, and at the moment the only way I feel I can achieve this is by drinking. For large chunks of my time, I can feel completely numb, unable to feel anything. I feel nothing. Empty, and at times completely lost and detached from daily existence. Some days I am ok, I can function and do what I need to. They have usually come after nights of no drinking. Then something will trigger me to go and buy some booze that evening or have a few pints in the pub, sometimes both. Previously, I had been stronger not to cave into any cravings. Now, I don’t think twice about it and fantasise about how nice the booze is going to taste knowing full well what lies in store for me tomorrow and the hangover I will have to endure.

As I said from the outset, I wanted to write a piece from a position of not looking back, but addressing where I am now. Alcohol seems to have its talons locked around me once more.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Thirty Two – Time To Pretend

I want to start this one by advising, if you are taking any form of long term medication do not forget to order your repeat prescriptions. I made the mistake (for the second time) of not reordering my Sertraline this week when I was running out. I ordered it on Tuesday and it didn’t arrive until Friday, going three to four days without it was not good. By Friday morning I felt pretty awful. Physically not mentally. It’s a very odd feeling. If you haven’t had this type of medication before I am not sure I can describe it coherently enough to put you in the picture. It made me feel as if someone had thrown Harry’s invisibility cloak over me, and yet I could still be seen. A wave of exhaustion and fuzziness proceeded to surround me. I went into work on Friday but didn’t feel right, I couldn’t wait to leave. Slightly bad timing for this to happen as I have started a new job in the last couple of weeks which requires a one to one meeting with my new Manager on a Friday morning. All this, I have to say is my own fault. I had forgotten to reorder my prescription so I can’t blame anyone other than myself. I came home on Friday from work and got into bed, a waste of an evening really. Not good, must do better Nicholas.

So if you follow the blog, you may have seen that I recently was involved in a podcast with my friend Ross from Aesthetically Trained. It was a really humbling experience being asked onto my friend’s show, which he uses primarily to talk about fitness. To feel that he was able to trust me to do that with him is a really nice feeling. I know how important his business and brand is to him so being asked onto that platform to share my experience was great. I hope anyone who is out there thinking of making a change with alcohol can get a chance to listen or watch it. Taking that first step to confronting a problem you may be having could be to listen to this podcast. It was very much like that for me. I watched a number of the ‘Sober Clear’ episodes and knew that I had to change. Watching the episode back it has reinforced why I made the decision to stop drinking completely last year. I have discussed in previous blogs how it has made a huge difference in my day to day mental and physical health. Check them out for more detail.

One thing both Ross and I said was we didn’t want the podcast to come across as preachy or judgmental. It is the same for this blog. I am not here to pass judgement over anyone or proclaim that you should be living your life in a certain way. All I am hoping to do is share my thoughts and experiences with you. What you choose to do with that information is entirely up to you. No judgement or condemnation from me, either way. Because ultimately no one can help you better than yourself. I had to make the decision that I no longer wanted to drink booze. No one could do that for me. Yes, I had family, friends and Chloe around me at that time, but they couldn’t be there 24/7 to hold my hand or watch over me. I had to make the choice.

Today is Sunday, you may have had a big night out last night or on Friday. You may have had a great night, no drama and feel fresh today. But if you have over indulged and maybe had that one last too many drinks, how do you feel now? If you are feeling lousy, you know I have been there. I have talked so many times about having the ‘fear’. The anxiety of knowing I probably did something stupid but not knowing what. But that’s ok. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The question to ask yourself is, well what am I going to do about it? You can make a change right now. If you want to. One of the key points I wanted to get across on the episode was that your time needs to be occupied. To fill the void when you cut down or stop drinking. You need to, believe me. Most people have a finite amount of willpower. They can go without something for a short period of time before eventually giving in to the devil on the shoulder. Certainly, I was no different when it came to stopping drinking. I would always say next day after a big session that I wouldn’t drink again. But I knew I would. The people I was saying this to knew as well probably. I had a great chat with a good friend recently who has started his sober journey. He hasn’t quit forever but he wanted to trial going sober and examine the results over a period of time. He has just passed the hundred day mark and has noticed a considerable change in his life. Firstly, his output at work has increased and he is currently in line for a promotion. Secondly, his sleeping habits have improved contributing the upturn in his work results, Although I haven’t asked him, I imagine his physical health has improved too. It really is fantastic to hear about these new experiences and relationships people are having with alcohol and drinking. I can’t stress enough the importance of sharing to your support network if you can or anyone you feel comfortable talking to about this subject.

So as I said, it could be you are reading this today (Sunday 16th April) and you decide to make your change. Why not try a week with no booze? maybe two? See how you feel. No one is saying you have to give it up completely but hey you never know you might want to after a short experiment like this. Everyone has a different relationship when it comes to alcohol. How you continue with yours is down to you. I had mentioned in my last piece that I had felt a couple of wobbles. However, having watched the podcast I think is has re-centred and refocused my mind as to what I am doing and why. I don’t want to go back to where I was all that time ago. Yes I know there are going to bumps in the road and I am in no way perfect. But I can try to remain as committed to this as possible with the support of my family and friends. Knowing full well that it is for the best for me and for them.

Thanks for reading. Please get in touch if I can help you in any way with regards to your mental health and drinking. I would love to help.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Dedicated to Joanne Blenkinsopp

Sobering Thoughts Volume Thirty One – Everything I Am

Sobering Thoughts has recently celebrated its first birthday. I want to say a big thank you to all of the people who have supported the blog since its inception. Whether you read it, recommend it or champion it in any way I am very grateful. As I have said since blog number one, I wanted to be able to express myself in a way that I had not tried before to help assist with my ongoing mental wellbeing. But, it’s also a privilege to know that Sobering Thoughts has helped other people too. I had a wonderful message recently from someone I had been able to assist. They had managed to pay that forward and help another person they knew. By discussing their recent news, the topic of alcohol had come up which had led to some self reflection on weekly and regular consumption. In my experience I don’t think in some cases people realise how much they may be consuming until they have that initial discussion. One way to start this conversation is by taking the alcohol survey that is easily accessible online. I will post a link at the bottom of the blog.

Now there is likely a number of reasons people don’t know how much they are drinking. One could be that they don’t want to know. By inputting numbers (honestly) into a survey it may force them to address things they don’t wish to think about. Second could be a real absence in counting how many units you are consuming, however subconsciously I think people generally have an idea. Complete the survey below on drinkaware and let me know your findings. Units add up over the course of the week or rack up on that weekend binge you have.

I have struggled to consistently write blogs since the start of the year having only posted two since January. I am trying to work out why this might be. In the last piece I was trying to deliberate on whether I was and am a good person, or not. I am still working on that if I’m honest. It’s a conundrum in my head that I am trying to examine myself as well as talking to my therapist. Last time out I mentioned about coming off my medication and it is something that I am considering more. My hope is that it would allow me to feel more again. To enable my senses to be heightened and hopefully enjoy the experiences in my life. There is of course trepidation when it comes to making this decision. Can I cope? Will I cope? I am about to start a new role at work which will push me to new limits and come with more added pressures. Maybe it is worth holding back the withdrawal of my meds until I am settled into this new role and routine.

I want to talk about a couple of recent experiences I have had with booze and discuss them in more detail. I have had two days and nights out recently with firstly work and then with mates. The first night out came a few weeks ago when I was attending a work event down in Birmingham. I met up with all my colleagues and on the evening time after our sales meeting we went out for food and drinks. At first, I felt very comfortable having been in this situation before but then as the night went on I felt myself feeling like I wasn’t involved in the night everyone else was having. This was something I concocted in my head as no one was purposely trying to exclude me from the evening. So why did I feel like this? I had been on many nights out with friends and family and not felt these emotions come up. Why am I now suddenly starting to miss alcohol? Is my conscious bias towards not drinking wavering? It shouldn’t be. I know why I don’t drink anymore. I felt the same way again last Sunday when out with friends for the Newcastle game. I was among maybe fifteen or twenty lads who were all boozing and my head went straight to I wish I was part of this. I am slightly disappointed in myself for feeling like this, but it was inevitable.

Alcohol was such a big part of my life, it controlled many aspects of what I did and who I interacted with. This is going to be a constant battle for me, until my dying day. Easier at some points like it has been in my sobriety and then harder in other moments. But hopefully the harder moments will become less frequent as more time elapses. I want to stay sober. This is a choice I am making for the good of my physical and mental health. That is what I need to tell myself every time that little fella sits on my shoulder and says, go on Nick have a beer mate. If you are reading this and have a similar relationship with booze or you are trying some time away from drinking then please let me know. I would love to hear from you and understand what methods you employ to keep the devil from taking over. What I am accepting of is that I now have a different relationship with alcohol and socialising as a whole. As long as I am able to go out and act responsibly whilst not drinking then I will reap the benefits of this long and short term. My mental wellbeing will continue to grow, and I will not have those dreaded hangovers that I see friends and colleagues suffering from the next day.

I have to stay strong in my convictions. Try to be the man I want to be and then hopefully I can get to a state of mind where I ultimately know that I am a good person. Sobriety will help with this I am one hundred percent sure. I also need to keep up with my blogs, whether it is weekly or fortnightly. Bringing that constant back into my life and discussing these issues will help combat those feelings of doubt I had been experiencing on the nights out.

Thanks for reading. Take the survey below, it might make you think about how much you are drinking and whether that is healthy.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Thirty – Man In The Mirror

The second of February should have been my one-year anniversary from quitting booze. Although it didn’t quite work out, I am still pleased with the progress made over the last twelve months. Excluding the one moment of weakness I had not drank in that whole period of time. Of course I regret that day of self-pity and my inability not to succumb to the devil on the shoulder telling me, that to break my sobriety was ok. But it happened, I can’t change that or hide it. I told you guys about it straight away. My close friends and family knew about it too so there was no way I could conceal what I had done. But undoubtedly that was a positive. If I had been able to hide it, I would have done it again and again. I was able to put it quickly behind me and move forward. I don’t want to do that again. Yes, it will be great to reach one year of no alcohol but does the time elapsed explicitly matter? Ultimately, they are just numbers and days counted nothing more. That was one of the key lessons I took away from that moment. 

Changing the subject, in this blog I want to consider one key question. Am I a good person? It’s a very ambiguous question and not easily answered. But it is a question I have been asking myself recently. I am sure that I am not alone in deliberating this. It’s an internal examination (sounds uncomfortable) I have been undertaking, but I did bring this up in a recent therapy session. I know that I want to think of myself as someone who has morals, thinks of others and is a caring person towards loved ones and friends, but am i?

Let’s examine further. We all carry around insecurities and exhibit flaws to the world on a daily basis, that is undeniable. I know I have many. Please see earlier works for a full back catalogue!! But flaws don’t necessarily make you a bad person and being able to recognise them is surely a positive trait rather than fully negative, right? The society and culture we are a part of has also exacerbated the morale dilemma of whether we consider ourselves good or bad. Social media can be a driver of this. Appearing to do something good on Instagram isn’t the same thing as being morally virtuous. I myself have definitely been caught up in that. You think if people can see you are doing a positive thing whether it be for yourself or others then it will potentially fill a void, but it doesn’t in my experience. I am sure this will resonate with people reading although they may not want to admit it to anyone (yet).

So, what is or makes you a good person? It’s a difficult question to answer. How do you quantify it? There will be undoubtedly varying versions of what it takes to be either good or bad. Ideas and concepts of this will come from factors such as your childhood and how you were brought up. Or where you learnt your values from. What is your definition of positive or negative behaviour? Do you know people whether it be friends, colleagues, acquaintances or anyone who lives up to your idea of what is good?

Answering this question for myself is challenging. I don’t know whether I am a good person, and that terrifies me. By asking this question it has released new levels of anxiety I hadn’t discovered before. I have always cared (too much) what people have thought about me so have naturally made a conscious effort to present myself in a certain way. Does that make me sound disingenuous? Maybe. I can be selfish, self-absorbed – Christ I am writing a blog that’s literally all about me and how I feel. Am I a narcissist? I have met a fair few in my time. Maybe there are different levels to this as I wouldn’t have considered myself in the same bracket. I worry sometimes that I am emotionless to some situations that require more thought and attention. I compare myself to those around me and see how they respond and my mind doesn’t react in the same way. One point to raise in combat to this could be the medication I take, the side effects of which can be sense numbing. But I experienced similar thoughts and feelings prior to taking any form of anti-depressants so I am unsure as to whether I can use that. Part of me would really like to come off the drugs to see how it affects life. I want to be able to cope with it but another side of me thinks that I should keep them because they are a crutch to keep me upright and correct.

We all have a past, and I have written about some of the episodes I am not proud of from my own life. When I’m reflecting on some of these memories and ones that I’m still not comfortable sharing I think well am I ok? Do I deserve to be happy? Will I ever feel completely comfortable in my own skin? I wrote an earlier blog discussing impostor syndrome and this is definitely related. I have good days, bad days, and indifferent days but more good ones now. thankfully. Although, there is always that seed of doubt in my mind thinking that a bad day is only a short turn away. I think that ultimately I want to be a better person so that should count for something. Would bad people think that way? But then again, if I am overthinking it, am I genuine? So many unanswered questions here I am really uncertain about everything. I know this one is going to need a good proof read before posting as its tumbled out onto the page rather than flowing coherently like other pieces have.

I write this blog having had a bit of a rubbish day so maybe on reflection in a few days’ time I may feel differently. It’s been a tough one to write but hopefully a good one to read. I am going to continue this next week as I don’t think all aspects of this can be explored in one blog.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts

Sobering Thoughts Volume Twenty Nine – Keep Your Head Up

A happy new year to anyone reading this. I wish you a safe and successful 2023. Christmas and New year were as predicted a quiet affair. As I mentioned in the last blog, I am not a massive fan of that time of year. I’m usually glad when its over and this time was no different. However, it was a lot better than some of the previous years I have had with dubious behaviour usually clouding over any positive experiences.

For the first time in probably fifteen years (approximately) I didn’t have alcohol over the Christmas period. This resulted in the time off from work taking a different shape than it normally would. Christ, I even trained at the gym on boxing day! I certainly wouldn’t have seen that coming if you had told me that was going to happen this time last year. Training has become such an important part of my day-to-day life. I don’t think I could go back to not hitting the gym a few times a week. The mental clarity I am able to reach after an hour or two of lifting or cardio has become something I crave and want to have in my life every day. Last Tuesday was my first session back with the therapist since before Christmas and it was a grueling ordeal. Afterwards, I went straight to the gym. I knew it would make me feel better and distract me from what I had just been discussing. Previously, that distraction would probably have been a few drinks and a late night. This time, it was leg session. Madness how far to the opposite I have gone. The session with my therapist was a real unburdening experience. I had nearly a month’s worth of life to cram into fifty minutes.

My therapy sessions are extremely valuable to me, I would not be here today without them that’s for sure. They are part of the process of maintaining positive mental health mixed in with exercise, blogging and a full schedule. If you are going through something right now, my advice would be firstly, take the time to talk to someone in your close family or trusted circle. If that isn’t possible or you don’t feel you can, then talk to a stranger. Someone with no preconceptions of your life. Occupying my time is another key part of the ‘success’ I have had in transitioning from someone with poor mental health to where I feel I am today. A stimulated and occupied mind has a better chance of not letting those demons in. I appreciate this all sounds very simplistic when I list the above and of course it isn’t. There are people who are just not able to begin the process without help from those around them. So, if you aren’t in a bad spot at the moment check in with your nearest and dearest as well as colleagues or even strangers if the chance arises. I am not saying walk up to strangers in the street or start randomly chatting to people on the bus but if the opportunity presents itself, speak to someone. Ask them how they are. And then ask them again.

My session on Tuesday comprised of two main topics. Work, and my dad. Work is going well at the moment with some really good opportunities potentially coming up for me over the next few months which I am very excited about. I am fortunate to work for a very forward-thinking business who look after their staff and push for the development of its employees. One of my main aims in 2023 (more on this to follow) is to really drive forward my career with Summit Platforms. I have many goals and there’s many mountains to climb….sorry I was attempting a summit related play on words there. But yeh, driving forward with work is a real area I am dedicating focus to this year making sure I am reaching my full potential.

The main discussion and talking point of my therapy this week was my dad. He has unfortunately been diagnosed with a recurring illness, which he fought brilliantly back in 2019 and 2020. Without disclosing too much information on this, it has been a real area of concern for us all over the last few weeks. I am not sure if I can describe how important my dad has been to me in my recovery over the last year. He is someone I heavily rely on in my day-to-day life. I wrote a blog a few months back about my dad and the role he has played throughout my life. I know he will be reading this which makes me hesitant to say that I am terrified of losing him. We all are. We have definitely become closer since his diagnosis and my illness last year which has been a positive for both of us. I know ultimately that everyone passes on, and loss is something everyone has to deal with, but I am not ready for that with him. He has so much more life to live so I am hoping and wishing for him to react well to his current round of treatment. This may come across as a bit of a morbid blog but tackling this subject head on and not shying away from it is important.

It has been great to write this one and get back into the swing of blogging again. I know how crucial it is for me and my wellbeing.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts