Desire to Drink

There have been some pretty tough days of late where I’ve come so close to succumbing to my Addictive Voice and feeding it alcohol.

For context (not that I’m using it as an excuse or for approval to drink) my oldest daughter who is 7 years old has been in hospital for around one month now. It’s been a very traumatic experience for her and whilst me and my wife have been strong for her, it is naturally taking it’s toll on us too. We have another daughter in nursery school so the juggling act has been tricky.

During this time our family unit has been split in two. Me and my wife only see each other when we are at the hospital swapping ‘shifts’ between daughters so that in itself is an odd dynamic. Our oldest daughter has her own struggles and long road ahead but we need to be acutely aware of keeping routine for her little sister too. It may feel like an afterthought but the mental health of both me and my wife is so important because if we break we become a burden, not a help to the family.

That’s where I wanted to go with this post – my first in a while. It’s not appropriate or important to share the finer details of my daughter’s condition at the moment and blogging about our day to day in the four walls of a very busy and overwhelmed NHS hospital won’t do any of us any good so I’ll give you an update on me instead.

As you may know if you are a regular reader of Happy Daddy, I’m a man with diagnosed and long standing mental health issues who for 17 years was a binge drinker turned alcohol dependant boozer. Throw in life events like my daughter’s illness and I won’t deny it tests my metal despite the progress I’m making in recovery.

It’s very much about pragmatically using the tools I’ve come to rely on or have successfully utilised in the past to ensure I can keep myself in the strongest mental and physical place whilst also appreciating we are not super human and there is a likelihood that despite all of our best intentions and efforts there will be kinks in our armour during periods of high stress and disruption.

Tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion, agitation, irritation, anger, self pity and despair are just some of the buzz words that pop into my head when describing the last 5 weeks or so since my daughter’s health took a pretty sudden nosedive.

I even reacted immaturely in Tesco tonight. I’d just popped in on my way home from Hospital and was walking down an aisle browsing the shelves. I could see a bloke walking towards me and assumed he’d walk around the outside of me as I was pretty close to the shelf but he didn’t move. We had an awkward few seconds staring at each other before I nudged past him and said “you weren’t going to move were you?” – He replied “nah” so as I walked away I called him an obscenity which he most definitely heard.

Why do that? I didn’t have right of way as much as he didn’t. I could have easily walked around him and carried on with my day but I’m finding that I’m spoiling for a fight more of late. It’s like the old me in the height of my depression (not always drink related) where I would get angry so easily and use any excuse to get into an altercation. I used to have really bad road rage for example, and that has increased again of late despite a good few years of being a zen driver. When I got back to my car after paying for my bread and chocolate I told myself off and accepted I was pathetic. That’s the difference. In the past I would have justified my behaviour and let it wind me up for hours later.

I suppose it’s all a way of saying I’m under a lot of stress at the moment and in the past I would have used alcohol as my go to relief yet all it would do is fuel even more intense anger and irritation further down the line. I know deep down that I’m not a bad person but I also know I have unresolved deep rooted issues which need to be addressed by a Therapist or Psychologist.

In the past when I had counselling or a psychologist I wasn’t being fully truthful with them because I was hiding the severity of my drinking. I think I’m in a unique place in my life now where I can address my issues clearly and without alcohol blurring and undoing any work I achieve through therapy.

I’ve made the first steps to accessing said help.

I’m off now but I just wanted to thank everybody for their kind words and thoughts. I’m still active on Twitter (albeit maybe not as much as normal) and the majority of interactions I have in the Recovery Community are positive. Focus is of course on my little girls and wife but it is so imperative that I recognise my own struggles before they become something more uncontrollable. I think I’ve done that successfully just by writing today but the next important step is applying solutions to the problem.

The Joy of Absence

I took a week off blogging and social media (a black out of sorts) whilst I went away on holiday with the family. I think it’s important to step back from talking about mental health, addiction and recovery every now and again due to it being such an emotive subject. With my Happy Daddy Twitter account slowly growing in numbers it has brought a small element of abuse too which can hit a nerve depending how I’m feeling in myself. It would appear there are some radical sorts in recovery (often North American) who take exception to some of us talking about our method of abstinence which doesn’t align to the Big Book of AA.

Anyways, the week away was lovely in the main. We booked a cottage in a small Yorkshire village which was close to the Beautiful Coastline. Trips to Filey, Robin Hood’s Bay (which apparently has no official link to the medieval hero of the same name) and Scarborough. I enjoyed a 10km morning run one day where I managed to run out of the village we were staying in and ended up on a Nature Reserve. I got lost but embraced it and managed to find my way back to the cottage in the end! It just meant my planned 5km run was doubled. My addictive voice was quiet in the main – I tend to find that it is anyways when I’m with my children and wife so most of the holiday was easy in terms of staying sober. I had a few alcohol free beers on an evening or with lunch when out and about which as I’ve said previously, is something I enjoy and don’t see as a negative in my sobriety.

I did start to get fatigued, anxious and suffering with low mood towards the end of the week and that started to play with my mind a little. I think there was an element of being tired from a full on week of entertaining two young girls and being out on our feet in the sun each day. I started getting more agitated and maybe a little resentful of not having a ‘proper holiday’ whatever that is meant to be?! I was maybe comparing it to the break I had with my wife back in April when we had a long weekend resting in the Portuguese sun (child free!). It isn’t the kid’s fault though and I’m just being honest. I’m sure most parents have these feelings at times on holiday when they have young kids sucking the energy out of you each day. On reflection though, they had a great time and so did I – it’s just a different type of holiday isn’t it?!

Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

I was meant to go out for our ‘monthly meal’ with my mates on Friday evening (which was the same day we arrived back home from the holiday) but based on the above mental feelings twinned with feeling wiped out I threw the towel in. I felt bad cancelling as I was the designated driver and it’s just one night per month but what I’m learning in recovery is that I need to listen to myself and I wasn’t in a great place. I was even getting whispers from my addictive voice which would have intensified had I then gone into an environment where my mates were drinking alcohol around me. I think they understood in the main and still went out. I’ll be there next time.

I went to the football on my own on Saturday and that helped a lot. It was some alone time after an intense week. I listened to a recording of the weekly Twitter Space meeting me and some of my good friends in Recovery run each week and that gave me a lift. I listened to a new album released by my favourite band ‘Embrace’ and went for a coffee pre-match. The football itself was a nice distraction from how I was feeling (despite us losing in the end 1-0) and I enjoyed the quiet stroll back to my car in the sun afterwards.

So on reflection it’s been a week of emotions. The highs of holidaying and enjoying time away from my screens. The frustrations of parenting and no let up from it whilst on a ‘break’. One of my favourite runs of the year because it was unpredictable and I managed to find a hidden nature reserve. The beauty of the Yorkshire Coastline and the kind weather we had with it. The ‘beast’ remaining quiet on this holiday compared to when I was in Portugal with no real desire to drink and my sobriety in tact once I returned home. The anxiety build up by Friday and cancelling on my mates snowballed for me and made me feel worse in the short term but I know it was the correct decision and I’m slowly getting back to a good head space.

So anyways, back to work tomorrow. It was the first holiday where I’ve not peeked at my work emails. Progress. Got Thursday off for childcare as the schools are still closed for the Summer Break so it’s a short week at graft and I’m off to see my favourite band for the first time live on Friday night with one of my best mates. My fourth 10km race is on Sunday in Middlesbrough. I’m also at the football again on Wednesday evening. So lots of me time and plenty opportunities to practice my addictive voice recognition technique if the beast decides to pipe up.