Claire Hickey struggled with alcoholism, smoking, loss and depression. This is her story…
Once upon a time, I would use this phrase all the time: “One more glass of wine wouldn’t hurt… would it?”
But then I’d find myself waking up on the sofa in the middle of the night, freezing cold, unsure where I was. It just became the norm.
I would get up in the morning, drop my two young girls at breakfast club and childminders, then work a full day as a teaching assistant. Later, I’d pick them up at teatime, get them home, fed and quickly to bed, and then it – once again – it was wine o’clock.
After the breakdown of my marriage in 2013, I thought I was doing alright. I was holding down a full time job, I had childcare for my two younger children, and my two older children had stayed with their dad, a 40 minute drive away. I would see them as often as I could, but I found myself coasting through the day until… wine o’clock.
This was okay though, wasn’t it? Everyone enjoys a glass of wine at the end of a hard day, don’t they? I didn’t have a problem…
In January 2015, my Great Aunty Norah – the matriarch of our family – was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and after a short battle she passed away in late February. My drinking accelerated, and now thing were beginning to spiral.
I was signed off work, and my doctor diagnosed depression. Along with anti-depressants, my wine became my way of coping. It made me feel better.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, and time became one long, drunken haze. But I was still okay, wasn’t I?
One day, I found myself hiding wine in the cupboard. Another day, I asked a friend if she could bring me some more, because I had none in. I was drinking a bottle before 7.30, and topping it off with 20+ cigarettes a day. What on Earth was I doing?
I began to pile on weight. I had no energy, and I became snappy with my two young girls. I hardly saw my boys at all. I was staying up late, waking up early, taking hungover naps between school runs… I was a mess.
I had to change.
I had been sent leaflets for giving up smoking, which was something I had done sine I was 15 years old. I had stopped during my four pregnancies, but had always started again. This time I wanted to stop for good, so I made an appointment at my doctor’s surgery and began a 12 week programme.
Then, I thought if I’m quitting the fags… why not the booze too?
I ditched the wine and the takeaways, swapping it for healthy food. I joined a gym, and the wight began to slip away. In June, my brother signed me up for the Darlington Park Run, a free 5km timed event that took place every Saturday morning. I stepped up my treadmill training, and began to enjoy working up a sweat. I felt like I was doing something really good.
On the 20th June 2015, at 9 o’clock, I arrived at South Park. Lo and behold, I completed three laps of the park in a respectable 33 minutes. What a feeling when I crossed that finish line!
Running became a passion. I continued with my Stop Smoking programme, I stayed off the wine, and I lost 3 stone in weight, dropping from a size 18 to a size 10. Nothing happened overnight, but I enjoyed the journey. My running went from strength to strength, and in August I completed the Darlington 10km. Somehow, I even completed the Great north Run in September!
I had found a new addiction.
Today, it’s nearly a year since we lost Aunty Norah, but what a year it’s been. Who would have thought that after her death, I would be able to turn my life around. I often think that it was her way of helping me. It was the push I needed to sort myself out.
I was determined not to slip back to my old ways. For the sake of my own mental health, and for my children, I decided that I would have to give up the job that I loved. It would give me the opportunity to focus on keeping fit and healthy. It was a big decision, but I now continue to run, and I’ve since completed my first half marathon in just over 2 hours. My aim is to complete four half marathons and even more 10km runs before I turn 40.
I love encouraging other people to go down to the park on a Saturday morning and have a go at the run. Sometimes it’s just the first step they might need.
And when I feel like I need a ciggie and a class of wine? I think about how far I’ve come, and how great I feel now. The craving soon passes.
I still have bad days when I feel down, but I’ve surrounded myself with beautiful friends and family, and I’ve ditched all of the negativity that was in my life. I love life again, and my confidence is at an all time high. Throughout my journey, I’ve met some truly remarkable people, and I’m proud to have started my very own running group for ladies. #TheseGirlsCanRun.
Who knows? Maybe running can change their lives too.
These days – whether it’s a mile or ten miles – my motto is #ThisGirlCan. If I can, any girl can.
So one more for the road? No thanks. I’d rather go for a run.