Thursday patterns

It’s been an interesting Thursday! I got up early and went for another run. Thursday runs on my marathon programme get longer every week, but I’ve got into a good pattern of doing them first thing in the morning, so I’ll be getting up at the crack of dawn once I get into the really intense part of training in a couple of months’ time. Hopefully the daylight will be more on my side by then!

Afterwards, Geth came with me to Slimming World this morning so that he could join the group. We’ve been working out what would be best for him to eat on the plan, and it sort of feels like starting again for me because I’ve spent two years falling into particular habits in terms of what I eat. We’re having jacket tatties tonight, which I honestly don’t think I’ve had since long before I started Slimming World.

I had a quiet afternoon, which is becoming another Thursday habit, followed by Pilates class. I’d have preferred not to have to go out so much today – it snowed heavily this morning and then froze, so it’s really icy out there – but Pilates is really helping with the overworked muscles at the moment.

OOTD 17th January 2019
OOTD: my favourite jumper is becoming a Thursday habit too. It’s so cosy for when I’m out and about! Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Carlo Colucci (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
Duran Duran – Union Of The Snake
Eddie Murphy – Party All The Time
Rick Astley – Together Forever
Cass Elliot – Make Your Own Kind Of Music
Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
Dusty Springfield – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
Katy B and Ms Dynamite – Lights On
Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin – I Like It
Zara Larsson – Ruin My Life

A long Tuesday

I went for another run this morning – finally starting to speed up after the winter slump. My muscles have stopped protesting now as well, which is great – I think my legs have accepted the fact they’re back running again.

The rest of the day has been a mixture of work for clients and getting on with my own writing. Looking forward to another relaxed evening!

OOTD 15th January 2019
OOTD: the girl in black. Top LK Bennett (2018), skirt unknown brand (2005), shoes Vivienne Westwood Anglomania for Melissa (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Men Without Hats – Safety Dance
Bros – I Owe You Nothing
Florida-Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha – Meant To Be
Duran Duran – Late Bar
Bros – When Will I Be Famous?
Marshmello and Bastille – Happier
Howard Jones – Life In One Day
A-ha – I’ve Been Losing You

Sunday morning running, Sunday evening eating

I went for my first long run of my marathon training plan this morning. I’m feeling a bit worried about the fact that I’m still having a lot of muscle pain and it’s really slowing me down, but hopefully this should ease off over the next few runs. I’ll see how it goes over the next week.

I don’t usually run on Sundays (unless it’s a race) but I can understand why so many people do. Traffic is quiet and there’s lots of other runners about for solidarity. It was also a mild, sunny morning (it felt more like spring than winter), so it was quite pleasant apart from the muscles fighting me all the way!

Geth was out boardgaming at a tournament this afternoon, so I had some quiet time to myself before we went out for a meal this evening. The meal was a late birthday treat and involved us discovering an Italian restaurant we’d not been to before. I will definitely be going back, though, as there’s a lot I want to try on the menu.

OOTD 13th January 2019
OOTD: discovering all the nice things that sober people can drink in restaurants! Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), scarf Matalan (2016), hoodie Sonar (2006), t-shirt Katharine Hamnett (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Little Mix and Nicki Minaj – Woman Like Me
Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
Adam & The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier
Duran Duran – Come Undone
Wham! – Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)
Spandau Ballet – To Cut A Long Story Short

Attempting an actual weekend!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to take weekends off, i.e. not have a giant to-do list that makes it feel like I’m still working all day Saturday and Sunday. This week, I have been…semi-successful. I do have a few things that fall into ‘really should do that this weekend’ territory, but I’m trying not to stress about them.

Geth and I intended to go to parkrun this morning, but after he came back really tired from his London business trip last night, we decided against it. My marathon training plan has parkrun as an ‘optional’ Saturday run, so it doesn’t matter if I do it or not in that sense, but I do want to get back to it soon.

As such, I’ve instead spent today catching up with BBC music shows on iPlayer. I just watched that Bros documentary film, After The Screaming Stops, which is an absolute must-see if you’re into classic pop. It’s absolutely mental (there are some real Spinal Tap moments!), and an uncomfortable watch sometimes, but very much worth it.

OOTD 12th January 2019
OOTD: a milder winter’s day. Scarf unknown brand (gift from Neil and Nikki 2015), hoodie Sonar (2006), t-shirt Campus Crew for Toronto Blue Jays (2018), jeans H&M (thrifted from Steff 2016), boots Moda In Pelle (gift from Geth 2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Tracey Ullman – My Guy
Genesis – Land Of Confusion

A tired Thursday

I’ve been doing really well with getting up early every day this week, and this morning it meant I was able to get a run in before I went to Slimming World. Because I’d slept badly last night, though, I didn’t have a hugely productive afternoon, mostly having a bit of a doze before I had to go to Pilates.

It’s not been a bad day, though – I lost 3lbs at Slimming World, which is a good start to getting rid of my Christmas gain. I’ve now got a nice quiet evening to myself as Geth is in London for work, so it’s just me and the Now! ’80s channel on TV.

OOTD 10th January 2019
OOTD: yup, still loving my favourite jumper – plus bonus Mel & Kim in the reflection behind me. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Carlo Colucci (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

James Arthur and Anne-Marie – Rewrite The Stars
Duran Duran – The Chauffeur
Mabel and Notes – Fine Line
Tom Walker – Leave A Light On
Jess Glynne – Thursday
Jools Holland – Enjoy Yourself
Jax Jones, Mabel and Rich The Kid – Ring Ring
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
George Michael and Aretha Franklin – I Knew You Were Waiting For Me
Duran Duran – Do You Believe In Shame?

The slump is over

I went for a run for the first time since the Town Moor Half Marathon this morning. That’s a 51-day winter running slump this year, which Geth reckons is similar to last year. It’s not just because Christmas gets in the way – I think it’s also because I’m burning myself out a bit with long autumn races. This year, I’m going to finish my season with the Great North Run in September (or possibly a 10K no later than mid-October if I can find one that’s relatively local), in the hope that I’ll still feel up to at least the occasional parkrun in December.

Anyway, it did feel a bit like running through cement, but I know I’ll get my fitness back up over the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been able to spend the rest of the day writing, which I really appreciate at the moment. I’ve also been able to get back into my music practice this week after getting lots of new instruments and music books for Christmas! I played ocarina yesterday and ukulele today. Ocarina is very easy and relaxing and reminds me of music class at primary school, while ukulele is more of a challenge (I’ve never really played any type of guitar before) but also more fun.

OOTD 8th January 2019
OOTD: it’s still chilly out, and I’m looking forward to there being more daylight over the next few months! Hoodie unknown brand (2009), t-shirt Lauren Ralph Lauren (modern but bought from Headlock Vintage 2018), jeans Levi (2018), boots Carefree (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Pinkfong – Baby Shark
Tomcraft – Happiness
David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World
Billy Ocean – Love Really Hurts Without You
Rudimental and James Arthur – Sun Comes Up
George Ezra – Paradise
George Ezra – Shotgun
Duran Duran – Save A Prayer

The last cider

I have a can of Flat Tyre in the fridge for tonight.

This would be a normal aspect of a Saturday night for me, so normal that it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t even bother mentioning on my blog, not usually.

But it’s not a normal can of Flat Tyre, not to me.  It’s the very last Flat Tyre, the very last cider, and the very last alcoholic drink that I will ever have.  I’m going to explain why.

As such, this is going to be a long one.  But then, it’s a long story.

It was late summer 2004 when someone first told me I had an alcohol problem.

A few weeks earlier, I had suffered a complicated nervous breakdown due to a year of undiagnosed mental health problems coming to a head.  The end result was that my parents sent me to the GP, and I walked out with a clinical depression diagnosis and a list of referrals to more specialised mental health services.

There were so many specialists I went to see that it’s difficult to remember them all now, but they were all adamant that I couldn’t be treated unless I also got help for this alcohol problem I apparently had.  As you might guess, I didn’t see myself as having a ‘problem’ at all.

I had been a messy teenage drunk for several years – I had discovered the buzz that drinking too much gives you when I was about thirteen, and as my friends and I started to look old enough to get served in pubs, it became routine to spend the weekends binge-drinking, often to the point we would vomit and black out.  But that was normal, right?  All teenagers did that, or so it seemed.  I’m sure this particular brand of teenage idiocy was ubiquitous at the time, but it was especially prevalent in Scotland, where the culture normalised it so much.  We were Scots, and Scots were notorious for being able to drink all those other nations under the table.  (We were no cop at team sports, so we had to take pride in something.)

When I started university at seventeen in 2002, the binge-drinking weekends became binge-drinking weeks.  University culture involves societies, and societies do all their business on weekday evenings, and all of that business is done in the pub.  Being a shy person, and finding myself in a position of having to make new friends by myself for the first time since I’d started primary school in 1989, I felt I needed the extra Dutch courage.  Furthermore, being wholly in charge of keeping myself fed and watered for the first time, I found I was running out of money earlier in the month than I would have liked, and so I got into the habit of eating less so I could drink more.  I had enough energy that I was just about making it to classes – most of the time – but it became normal to me to feel constantly ill due to the drunk/hungover cycle.

However, I was still immersed in a hybrid of cultures that normalised this kind of drinking, and so when my psychotherapist referred me to the Alcohol Problems Unit at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, neither I nor anyone I knew really took it seriously.  I’d fallen into a comfortable role as ‘the drunk one’ in every friend group, and so I was used to treating the whole thing as a joke.  I vaguely tried to follow the advice I was given – which was to alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks – but as soon as I had one alcoholic drink, I wanted another, and soft drinks just seemed like a waste of time.  I attended the APU (sporadically – I would often miss appointments due to being hungover) between late 2004 and early 2006, and yet my 2005 diary, where I recorded my daily intake (the Bridget Jones influence was strong with me at that point) is frightening.  Almost half of my entries are written in my drunk handwriting, and I was averaging about 100 units a week.

2005 diary
‘V+O’ = vodka and orange. I measured it in eggcups because the APU doctor had told me I needed to measure it out rather than just sloshing it into the glass, and eggcups were the only thing I could find in the house for measuring. I also smoked a lot of cigarettes and weed when I was out, which was almost every night. SO HEALTHY.

After I got together with Geth in late 2005, things didn’t improve.  He liked a drink as much as I did, and he was also fond of big weekends – Six Nations rugby weekends, weekends away in London, music festivals.  All of these basically constituted hardcore weekend benders – there are many festivals and rugby days that I don’t actually have any memory of, and my memory is really good – and that was our lifestyle for a good decade plus.

Post-festival Facebook post
31 Somersby ciders equals 80.6 units in a single weekend, and that’s not even counting all the spirits and mixers we would have as nightcaps. Music festivals were always like that.

Furthermore, when I graduated from university in 2008, I quit smoking (meaning alcohol became my only stress-relieving drug), stopped having a reason to walk anywhere, and so started piling on weight.  This just meant that I had a greater tolerance for alcohol, so I ended up drinking more, and putting on more weight, and the cycle continued.

Coupled with the weight gain, my becoming more of a hermit – I couldn’t find a traditional job after graduation and so I ended up gradually building my own business, meaning I’ve mostly worked from home since then – meant that I became even more shy, and so unfamiliar social situations felt impossible.  Whenever I had to face one of these – such as a job interview, or joining a new exercise class – I would down a few ciders before I left the house to get rid of the nerves.  This was probably the one aspect of my drinking that I knew wasn’t ‘normal’, and so I would hide the bottles in order that Geth wouldn’t realise what I was doing.  When he was away at work conferences, I would switch to vodka so that I could drink late into the early hours by myself without having to worry about running out of alcohol.  On these occasions, I would often get through two-thirds of a bottle per night.

I still didn’t see myself as having a problem.  In 2011, I gave up alcohol for Lent, and I thought that managing not to drink for six weeks proved that I had a healthy relationship with booze.  But every time I had to tell a counsellor or a doctor what my average weekly intake was (which I always deliberately underestimated), they would look at me with absolute horror.  I’m not sure why this never bothered me.  I suppose in your twenties, you’re still hanging onto a sliver of that youthful feeling of immortality that caused you to pick up bad habits in the first place.  Either way, I had no desire or plan to cut down on my drinking at that point.

But in 2015, the year I turned thirty, three things happened.

First of all, after I moved to Newcastle, I (obviously) had a new GP.  I don’t always like going to see my GP in Newcastle, as he doesn’t sugarcoat things.  He’s the first GP I’ve ever had who I think may actually be my age if not younger than me (one of those signs that you’re getting old), and he really makes me work hard to explain why I still need my antidepressants at my annual review, which can be distressing.  The first time I went for one of these reviews and had to estimate how many units I was getting through per week, rather than doing the usual doctorly ‘you know, you should really think about cutting down’, he flatly told me that I’d end up with liver disease within fifteen years if I kept drinking the way I was.  While I still believed that genetics were on my side with that one – my mum has a fairly frequent wine intake and a very healthy liver – it was the first doctor’s comment on the subject that ever stuck with me.

Secondly, I started running.  I run in the mornings, and you can’t run with a bad hangover (well, you can, but it’s not pleasant), so heavy drinking nights before run days were out.

Thirdly, the running – much to my surprise and disgruntlement – was not causing me to lose weight.  I ran (very slowly, due to my near-constant joint pain) all through the second half of 2015, then all through 2016, culminating in my first half marathon in September 2016.  Despite this, in the autumn of 2016 I was back up to my highest weight, and so I decided to join Slimming World in the new year.

Slimming World is the most manageable way of healthy eating I’ve ever tried, which is why I’m still doing it two years later, but it is fairly strict about the amount of syns you’re allowed to have, and alcohol contains a lot of syns.  It quickly became apparent that I couldn’t keep drinking the way I had been if I was going to follow the plan properly – my weekly alcohol intake pre-Slimming World probably amounted to about 400 syns by itself, and you’re only supposed to have 105 in a week.

As such, I immediately cut down a lot.  I saved up syns for special occasions like weddings and festivals where I would ‘need’ to drink a lot of alcohol, and if I planned a weekend evening where I was going to have a couple of ciders at home, I made sure to time the start of drinking so that I would only have time for two drinks before bed.  If I mistimed it, I would end up having more.  It simply didn’t occur to me to stop drinking after finishing the two ciders that I’d planned.  It’s kind of awkward to explain, sitting here typing this out while sober, but when I’m a couple of drinks down, it feels like the most imperative, important thing in the world that I have another one.

(This is another thing that I just never saw as a problem for many years, simply because it’s so normalised – Geth always refers to the state of having had a couple of drinks and wanting to continue drinking as being ‘warmed up’, and so that’s how I always thought of it.)

As I lost the weight, while I felt healthier than I had done in years, I also found that alcohol was starting to affect me more strongly as my body mass went down and my tolerance with it.  Since I’d started taking antidepressants in 2004, I’d been told by doctors that I shouldn’t drink with them because it would negate the effect of the pills, but again, this was just something that went straight over my head.  After I hit target in May 2018, I found that even one or two drinks would often lower my mood to near-suicidal levels.  It’s very hit and miss – sometimes I’m fine, sometimes I’m really not – and throughout the second half of the year, as my mental health declined for unrelated reasons and the bad experiences became more frequent than the times it was okay, I realised that I would have to stop.  Not ‘for now’, not for Dry January, not for a few months or even a year, but for good.

As such, I spent Christmas finishing all the cider that Mum and Dad had kept for me at their house, and observing the way it was affecting me in a safe environment with lots of people around.  I had a lot of unhappy, melancholy thoughts over the holidays, just like I always do, but for the first time, I was able to understand how alcohol was contributing to that.

I love cider.  But my health is more important, and I’ve finally realised that due to mental health issues I’m not capable of functional, healthy alcohol use.

I’m terrified of giving up in some ways.  I’m scared about how it will affect my relationships with people with whom I will no longer be ‘drinking buddies’.  I’m scared about how I will feel the first time I catch sight of a new cider that I never got to try.  I’m scared about all the things I want to do in my life that I’ve always believed I would never be able to attempt without a few drinks in me.

But, because I’ve made this decision, I’m also feeling more positive about things than I have in years.  I’m looking forward to disengaging with all the stress around timing my drinking and worrying about what I said and did when I was drunk.  I’m looking forward to being able to focus in the evenings.  I’m excited about being able to use my syns for other things.

Tomorrow is my first day as a sober person.  I am hopeful that it will be the start of a more peaceful existence.

New Year’s Resolutions 2019

I did sit down and write a very long post about plans for 2019, but it got a bit reflective and overwhelming and kind of un-fun.  Instead, I’ve condensed it into a list of New Year’s Resolutions, which I suppose is more traditional anyway!

So, in 2019 I want to:

1. Finish sorting out the house contents.

Refreshing the actual decor of the house such as carpets and walls is going to be a job for next decade (which sounds kind of scary now I’ve written it down), but finishing sorting out the actual contents of the house is definitely something I can get done this year. Most of the stuff I still need to get rid of is only still in the house because it needs scanning first, so once I’ve set up the scanner and shredder in the study, I’ll be able to chip away at this boring job quite efficiently.

2. Write 500,000 words in 2019…

Among the online writing communities I frequent, this is known as a ‘half milwordy’. I know it sounds ridiculous, but between this blog and all the poetry and fiction that I write every day, it’s actually fairly manageable.

3. …and edit and pitch all the words I’ve already written.

I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was four (so it’s actually going to be thirty years on Thursday, OMG), and that is never going to happen if all my writing just stays between me and my computer. This year, I’m going to edit all my existing projects to a finalised state and prepare ten project pitches for sending out to agents and publishers throughout the year.

4. Take weekends off.

Well, other than running, obviously. Apart from the daily to-do list, I’m not scheduling any chores for the weekends.

5. Buy fewer clothes.

I had to buy a whole new wardrobe last year because I’d lost so much weight. It was really fun, but I have enough clothes now. I’ll allow myself one purchase every time I go to a vintage fair, because vintage fairs are awesome.

6. Run a marathon.

It’s booked, it’s planned, I’ve selected the 16-week training plan I’m going to be following starting on the 7th of January. London, here I come! I am 100% certain that this is the only one I will ever do, so I’m determined to do it properly.

7. Perform some of my poetry in public.

This one is absolutely terrifying and as such is the one thing on this list that is at risk of not getting done out of pure fear. Up until now, this is the kind of thing that would have required a lot of Dutch courage, but as it happens, a more important resolution is to…

8. Get sober.

It’s well past time, and from the 6th of January onwards I’ll no longer be consuming alcohol. I’ll do a longer post about this later this week.

9. Get back into the habit of music practice.

I got several small instruments for Christmas including a lovely ukulele – I’d put them on my Christmas list and Dad did a lot more research into them than I had, so I got better versions than I’d asked for! I’m going to get an hour’s practice in every evening that I can, but more importantly, I’m going to sign up for beginners’ classes at the Sage Gateshead, as I find I stick with things better when I have a group or class for accountability (it also gets me out of the house and meeting people).

10. Actually play some videogames.

I didn’t have time for videogaming AT ALL in 2018. I’ve been sorely neglecting both my 3DS and my Steam account (I’ve still got a Steam voucher my brother Malcolm gave me for last Christmas that I’ve not spent yet!) and I’m really itching to get back into it again, especially seeing as I’ve been watching Geth play so many games on the Switch recently. Maybe all those free weekends I’m planning will give me a chance to mash buttons again!

It’ll be interesting to revisit this post in a year’s time!

Quiet weekend for catching up

Last weekend being so busy meant that I’ve been struggling to catch up with things all week and have not really managed it yet.  I know that once November and NaNoWriMo are over, I’ll be plunged into a whole different kind of hectic with the run-up to Christmas, but I’m ever hopeful that at some point I’ll actually have some time – just a week would be enough – to sit down and get caught up with all the housework and admin that are always the last things to get done.

Geth and I are both fully into the winter running slump following last weekend’s half marathon as well.  It’s okay.  I’ll properly get back into it when I start my marathon training in January, and in the intervening time I’ll maybe manage a parkrun every now and then.

Today was a very late start – in the last few days I’ve got into the bad habit of finishing work/writing around midnight and then needing a couple more hours to wind down before bed – but hopefully I should have a better night’s sleep tonight and be able to get more done tomorrow.

OOTD 24th November 2018
OOTD: in a red mood today. Hoodie Internacionale (2000), t-shirt Punk Masters (2018), jeans Levi (2018), boots Carefree (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up
Leo Sayer – Moonlighting

A non-stop weekend!

Over the past three days I have:

  1. Volunteered at parkrun
  2. Gone to see Fenwick’s Christmas window (a Newcastle Christmas tradition)
  3. Gone to a vintage fair
  4. Gone to an incredible Culture Club gig at the Metro Radio Arena
  5. Run the Town Moor Half Marathon
  6. Recovered in the pub
  7. Eaten recovery pizza
  8. Got a whole load of recorded TV watched and started my annual Christmas TV project
  9. Started a new bucket list project
  10. Got a total of 12,000 words written on my NaNo novel, taking me up to 76,000 words

Tomorrow is busy again as I’ve got lots of admin and a boardgaming evening!

OOTD 17th November 2018
Saturday OOTD: gig-going outfit. Blouse Hermann Lange Collection (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), jeans Levi (2018), boots Primark (2017).

OOTD 18th November 2018
OOTD: post-race recovery outfit. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Jac (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018).

OOTD 19th November 2018
OOTD: busy Monday catching up! Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), hoodie Internacionale (2000), t-shirt Gildan for Beat:Cancer (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Taylor Dayne – Tell It To My Heart
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – Shallow
Arcadia – Election Day
Duran Duran – Girls On Film