In October 2018 I was drinking heavily every single night to the point it was affecting my physical health, mental health and even my work. I had been drinking daily for a number of years and since my dad passed away in 2016 I used it to numb the pain and treat stress. This never worked! The more I drank the more anxious and stressy I become but I was too embroiled in it all to see this. Also, the more I drank the more I missed my dad and cried, all of the time – this wasn’t helping anyone, and my Dad would have been fizzing at me!
I had seen my GP, undertaken counselling read lots of self-help books on stopping drinking (cutting down would not work for me) listened to audio books, joined an online forum called club soda and followed anyone who wrote about sobriety including the wonderful Sober fish story.
One day after a few cross words with my Mum, where she was telling me the truth about my drinking spiralling out of control and I of course didn’t like it! I cried! But it made me realise it was the right time to stop before it was too late. So I did, it isn’t encouraged to drink so much and then just stop, but I had all the tools and advice and support networks and I had check-ups to make sure I wasn’t suffering from side effects. I had tried to cut down previously and failed so this for me was the only way.
The following days, weeks and months have flown by with the support of my partner Pete, online community, my sons and close friends. I actually would go as far to say it’s been life changing for me 😉 So many people have asked me for advice and guidance on cutting down and I point them to the tools I used and hope that if people are inspired by me to cut down that they find the tools useful.
Even whilst drinking I ran regularly, I belonged to a local ladies running club and ran every Wednesday and then met regularly at the weekend for a social plod or to run a 10k. I was doing this whilst drinking heavily and now can’t believe the strain I would have been putting on my body doing this after drinking numerous bottles of wine the day before. How was I even functioning?
New Life – New Challenge
So when I became sober, I really wanted to undertake a new, much bigger challenge to celebrate my sobriety and effectively my new life. Now I’m not the best runner, so when I saw a set of challenges on an Action Challenge website that meant I could complete an ‘ultra-marathon’ walking, that actually caught my attention! One such challenge was the Jurassic coast ultra, 58km of the most beautiful coast line in Dorset. The challenge started in Poole and stretched for hours and hours over steep hills and cliffs all the way to Weymouth. When we were kids we used to go on holiday to this area and this meant I could take on this challenge whilst reminiscing about my childhood holidays and be close to memories of my Dad.
So I signed up, and fast forward a few months, the realisation was sinking in that this was the toughest of the series of UK challenge available on this website and I quickly realised that I actually had to put in some serious training to be able to do this. So I either rounded up my running friends for a hike on the hills of Bury or roped Pete into some serious miles on a Sunday! For both I’m eternally grateful. It was mentioned that I had ‘changed’ because I spent my time researching hills, blister plasters and socks every day! I spent a fortune on bloody socks! But this was a massive challenge that I needed to be physically and mentally prepared for. It became all I thought about for months!
Originally I signed up for this challenge alone and now I think this was a little crazy, this is such a mammoth challenge that you certainly need a partner in crime. Sandra is one of my close running friends who I regularly met at the weekend to run 10k’s or a Wednesday night plod. We got talking and she was considering doing a crazy challenge this year elsewhere, we decided rather than us both doing separate mad ultra-challenges separately, let’s do the same one!
Sandra immediately signed up and booked the hotel and started fundraising, she was raising funds and awareness for the MS Society as her younger brother Jimmy had suffered from this cruel debilitating illness for some years now. Sadly, Jimmy passed away a few weeks before we took part in the challenge, which made it all the more sad and poignant, yet Sandra was more determined to do this and ‘smash it’ in memory of her brother Jimmy. I think she did him proud!
Training consisted of 3-4 times a week hill climbing, long walks, and the odd run and for me some yoga and swimming thrown in. We certainly put the miles in training for this challenge. Albeit the most we had walked was 18KM in one go, we had to do 3 times this on the day.
No Going Back!
So on the 7th June we travelled from North Manchester to Poole to register for the event starting at 7am the next day, we got excited and nervous as we saw the marquee’s ready for the 3,000 people who were to take part over the weekend. Our challenge was 58km walking in one day, some people were doing 100km continuous (through the night too) and some people were doing 100km over the 2 days (they got to sleep in a tent) – our challenge of 58km was due to take 10 hours (for runners) and 16+ hours for walkers. This was going to take grit, determination and focus against miles and miles of hills and cliffs. The weather warnings of 50mph winds and rain were not helping the nerves at all.
On the day, it actually turned out to be windy but really beautiful, perfect walking conditions for me – we were in my eyes, very lucky. The coast line was absolutely stunning, the beaches and Turquoise Sea – it felt like we were abroad not in the UK. We did some face book live video’s to keep people posted, we had such huge invaluable support on the day from friends, family, fellow running buddies and the charity’s we were both walking for. It was extremely emotional for us, and as we found out both of our mums, they had been shedding tears too.
The first 15k was fairly flat and included a ferry, lots of jellyfish, rolling hills, a castle, a rest stop with food, drinks and Medical attention if needed. After this it was constant endless cliffs, the steepest inclines and downhill tracks I’ve ever seen. We walked as fast as we could throughout the daylight hours as we didn’t want to be on those cliffs in the dark, I know for sure I’d have sat there and cried if we were still on cliffs in the dark.
We did meet a gentleman who had injured his knee and got chatting to him, I was doing the whole ‘you can do this’ but ‘see you at the top’ because the only way to do this was to drive at the challenge with full force. Sandra meanwhile, was handing over her walking poles and medical equipment to enable this stranger to finish his challenge. We later found out that he did in fact finish his challenge and he has contacted Sandra to pass on his thanks for her kindness and saving him out on them brutal hills.
We walked and walked, ate and drank, had my blisters treated by medics, chatted and walked and walked some more and then sunset came. It was beautiful and we could see Weymouth! This meant we were ‘not that far’ 8km – doesn’t sound much. But this last 8km was almost 3 hours of woods, fields, stiles, and single file tracks all in the dark and was actually incredibly tough and lonely. It’s weird to say lonely as hundreds of amazing people were walking in convoy but it was so tough you had to concentrate, you couldn’t stop to rest as you’d have stopped the convoy. It was the toughest section by far, tougher than the bigger hills.
I called my Mum, Pete and my sister Emma at this point – I didn’t want anything other than to hear voices. The encouragement and comfort I got out of those calls were an absolute godsend. I kept calling my sister to ask her to update my face book status as I couldn’t stop and so many people were getting in touch with us both I wanted them to know how much their support was keeping us going.
So at 12:10am after 16 hours and 55 minutes of climbing and trekking 58km over treacherous cliffs and coastline we made it to the finish line. Action challenge events are brilliant and well manned with a huge array of food, drink and medical assistant and support at every rest stop – I really would highly recommend them. We crossed the line and I could have cried, dropped to the floor, shouted at someone – I didn’t know how to react at all, I was the most tired I have ever ever been. I donned my medal, got some fizzy pop and watched as everyone else ate, celebrated and recovered. Me, I didn’t want speak or interact with anyone; poor Sandra…. I was a little stroppy and wanted my bed! We were 0.9 miles from the hotel and no bloody way was we walking back – I was also most un-amused when the taxi driver didn’t come to where I wanted him to pick us up, we had to walk to find him 😊 I do realise now how ridiculous my behaviour was!
The next day we had breakfast overlooking the beautiful Weymouth beach and set off on the long journey home. Getting home was emotional too. I came home to well-done Cards, flowers, Chinese, blister plasters, do-nuts & cupcakes! I’m going to do this every day for this kind of treatment 😊 on that journey home we contemplated doing another challenge and instead of the expected ‘never again’ we maybe stupidly have agreed to do the 52KM Isle of Wight challenge next year, which is equally brutal and hopefully just as rewarding.
My challenge was to raise vital funds for Sarcoma UK as it’s a charity that we feel so passionate about. My sister Emma in 2012 was diagnosed with Sarcoma which is a bone and soft tissue cancer which is very rare. Emma had a 7.5lb (size of a baby!) tumour in her thigh and was treated for this and then 2 subsequent years for Sarcoma in her lungs. Having Sarcoma 3 times and being free of it for a number of years now has been life changing for Emma. If I can give something back to Sarcoma UK for the research that saved my sister, then I would walk this challenge every day to make that difference! Just don’t hold me to that. During the challenge, Emma and the struggle she faced was in the forefront of my mind in the sense if she could be strong, then so could I. www.sarcoma.org.uk
Improvement in My Mental Wellbeing
I suffered from anxiety for years, we have since discovered probably since I was a child, but this had got so bad over the years I had panic attacks and was on medication. It’s only now I look back at how much worse it had got, and it was certainly worse when I was drinking more, I had never really linked the two things. I thought the drinking was helping me to deal with the stress and anxiety. I now know it was absolutely exaggerating it.
After 8 months sober, I now deal with what life throws at me completely differently, if I do get a bit stressy, I may go for a walk, yoga or run, I don’t seek stress relief at the bottom of a bottle of wine. I no longer have panic attacks; I don’t wake up with that horrendous shame and feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, frantically checking social media or my mobile phone for me being a dick the night before. I wake up with energy and zest for life and I am really really happy! I feel all shiny and new! Hiking, running, yoga and the massive ramping up of self-care prior to this event has meant that anxiety for me is a thing of the past. I do still need to have a word with myself about the self-care, I think I’m now superwoman and can do a million things at a million miles an hour. That does come back to bite me, I’m still human J just a better one than I was.
A lot of people have got in touch during this journey of sobriety and taking on this ultra-challenge and told me how inspired they are by me and the positive steps I’m taking to change my life. I became sober and had energy and vitality, I wanted to celebrate and push myself further and do something amazing! I feel I have achieved this and so if I can now help even one person by sharing my story, consume less alcohol, deal with anxiety differently or take on a life challenge then I’ll be happy to help!