Lost Footing

I got lost. I stumbled and lost my footing. I faltered. I strayed from the path.

I’m not going to hide it. I can’t. I can justify it. I was and continue to be in pain. A pain that interrupts sleep. A pain that causes you to hold your breath. A pain that is relentless. I was struggling and I gave in. I reached out in genuine need but straight away old habits became the focus and drive. I automatically fell into justifying mode with a big scoop of denial and a sprinkle of self pity.

Trying to convince myself that it’s only for short term use. It’s only for the recommended three day usage. I’ll stick to the dose. It’s because I’ve got no choice. Thing is there is a choice. There’s always a choice. I chose to give myself permission to use again knowing full well that they don’t even help the pain when it’s there. Within the first day I was taking them in what can only be described as a secretive and recreational way but it’s ok because I’ll just stop again I told myself. When will I stop and stay stopped? So once more day one awaits on the other side of sleep. I just have to keep on going and if I stumble and lose my footing again then I start once more.

I must not give up finding my way.

Night night x

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A tough gig

This weekend has been a tough gig. It’s almost broken me emotionally, physically and spiritually. Struggling with pain, a needy puppy, a daughter with attachment issues and a son struggling to find his place in it all I have found myself limping the dog round the block sobbing in despair with what the fuck to do. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with others needs that I don’t take care of my own emotional health or in the case of my daughter I’m not allowed to.

I can’t yet begin to process this week but safe to say I can’t wait till it’s over. What is quite remarkable though is I’ve kept clean. No matter how close I was to buying Solpadeine Max today or accepting the locum gp’s suggestion of prescribing me codeine I didn’t do it. I stayed resolute.

Yes it’s been a tough gig and something tells me that’s not the tour over but if I can stand on stage and sing in Bilston Workman’s Club whilst the local audience chat the whole way through then I’m made of tough stuff.

I might be feeling washed out, vulnerable and in pain but I didn’t take anything. Not one thing.

Night night x

Creeps Up

You’d think after almost 5 years of alcohol abstinence that I’d be past any significant craving, however, the drive was strong on and off for about an hour tonight.

I’m operating substance free. Well if you don’t count Oil of Evening Primrose, anti inflammatories and antidepressants as substances. What I mean is no mind or personality altering substances. I make myself sound like an automaton devoid of human emotion and working methodically without sense but that’s not the case. I have to focus, keep busy, change my routine somewhat to break habits at the same time treating myself with compassion and kindness when the struggle manifests itself; allowing myself to feel the surge of craving a quick fix. To feel the warmth ripple through me as I glug back the alcohol accompanied with the carefree liberation of giving less of a fuck or the euphoric hit after around 15 minutes of popping 60-80mg of codeine along with 3 or 4 paracetamol. Or the crazy hazy daze of doing both!

There was one solitary can of lager hidden in the fridge vegetable drawer left over from a family gathering a couple of weeks ago. I had never really given it another thought and felt sure it could just stay there and would stay there until at least Christmas 2019 but tonight the drive to crack it open was strong.

I found myself starting to weigh up the pros and cons if I drank it but quickly made a snap decision to remove the temptation. I did crack it open but poured it down the sink.

I’m not ashamed to say that I gave the empty can a good sniff after and the smell of the lager on the cold metal did conjure up a strong desire. I found myself leaning on the kitchen window sill, resting my head in my hands and staring out the window taking deep breathes and counting.

After a couple of minutes it passed.

After an hour I started to write this.

After tonight that’s another day free.

Night night x

Right here and now.

It’s been exactly two weeks since I last took an opioid. I can try to be blasé about it but truth is this is about the fifth time I’ve been here. This seems to be one I return to like an abused lover who keeps going back because it seems easier to keep things as they are and their self worth being so low makes them believe that they are nothing without the toxic element even though they know it’s destroying them. Cheerful thinking and one way to look at it. I could of course put a positive spin on the past two weeks reflecting on what I have achieved and looking ahead with strength and not predict some relapse leaving me back at the starting block again with high heels on.

On Wednesday I reach the official mark of another year older. It’s funny how we age but so true that we don’t inside our feelings so often. The past two weeks has been full high emotion, great expectations followed by disappointment, many laughs and quite a few tears… in other words life. This life has always been so. What’s different is my coping mechanisms. Today I feel under par; dissatisfied with a certain situation. That’s the difference. I feel. I’m not masking. I’m not ignoring. I’m not denying. I’m feeling. As uncomfortable as it is I am allowing those feelings to come out and I’m treating them with kindness.

I used to think that being kind to myself was getting drunk or almost comatose with medication- in the past sometimes both – but that wasn’t me practicing self kindness at all. Where was the nourishment? The love? The understanding? The courage? The resilience? As much as I sit here and so often have the overwhelming drive to lose myself in oblivion I can see that what I was doing was be on the road to losing myself completely.

Yes life can hurt, frustrate, anger, and disappoint and lead you to question your own self but it is life. It is living. And right here and now I don’t want it any other way. Right here and now it’s love and compassion for the little girl inside this woman. Right here and now is all hers.

She is here now and it’s right.

X

Renewing

Yesterday I couldn’t get my self focussed to write. I got through work and was thankful for being there as it took my mind off the flu like feeling and mood swings but by 8pm I was in bed and zonked out. I woke up around midnight realising I hadn’t turned off any lights, brushed my teeth, sorted stuff out for the full work day ahead and more importantly that the kids and now the puppy were coming back. Self care is all well and good when you only have you to care about the next four days are the real challenge.

Feeling like I’d been hit over the head with at least three rolled up copies of Marie Claire I went about my business and eventually fell back into bed. There I lay and I lay and I lay. The restless leg – hell no – body syndrome began. I didn’t know what to do with myself except constantly move and wriggle and turn. The excruciatingly infuriating necessity to move constantly makes me want to scream. It’s like my veins are writhing and jumping and it’s all I can think about.

Anyway somehow I must have fallen back to sleep as the intense dreaming started. I’ve noticed that before when I’ve stopped taking them that I have very vivid intense dreams that although not necessarily nightmarish can still leave me unsettled on waking and underpin my day ahead. All part of the process and shows what a huge control any kind of opioid has over a person. My understanding from the reading I’ve done is the drug effects certain neurotransmitters in the brain that send pain signals and after prolonged use the cells in the body can’t function without the drug as the brain isn’t giving the correct signals so part of the withdrawal is the cells renewing themselves and your brain learning to send the correct signals again – kind of like rewiring. So once your mind and body need the drug to function the tolerance to the original dose becomes higher so you require more and more.

It’s actually quite incredible how are bodies naturally function and astonishing that we seem to look for artificial ways to alter that natural awesomeness or in my case and with countless others abuse it.

So welcome day 3. The physical feelings of withdrawal I will try to see as my body taking care of me and renewing itself. That’s the easy part. The rewiring of the brain is the real long term work.

X

Day 3

A New Mountain

The 1st of April this year marks my 5 year anniversary of stopping drinking alcohol. It is hard to believe and sometimes I still get the overwhelming desire to throw alcohol down my throat, get pissed as quickly as possible, not give a damn but I sit with it, I let it be, then I let it go. I trust in myself, the process, the recovery work and the universe. Being teetotal has become me, who I am but as I have written before (naively thinking I had cracked it) alcohol abuse is just one string to my addiction bow.

It’s not the first time I have “come clean” about this but it is the first time ( like alcohol back in 2014) that I am writing openly about it holding my hands up and putting it out there. Even though I attended SMART recovery meetings for 18 months and eventually stopped I still started to reuse and stop again and again. Each time more fervently and physically and psychologically controlling probably under the illusion that ‘ hey I’ve stopped before. I can do it again’.

Having my mum act as a drug supplier isn’t fair and puts her in a very difficult situation. Doing the rounds of pharmacies so as not to be “too regular” purchasing the highest strength tablets containing codeine I can get and letting myself into my parents home when they are unaware with the sole intention (and there’s no easy way to put this) steal medication to keep my supply topped up is unacceptable. Being aware that the amounts of paracetamol and ibuprofen that is mixed with these preparations is at least double the recommended daily dose and it’s only a matter of time before my liver and kidneys become affected and my tolerance to the opiate higher resulting in my craving more and more. Knowing that ‘it won’t happen to me’ just won’t wash anymore.

So this is day one of a new peak. It doesn’t matter if 1 or 100 people read what I write it’s getting it out of me and owning my addictive behaviour. I’ve not had any codeine since 10pm last night and started with mild withdrawal symptoms around 1pm today. The usual – upset stomach, diarrhoea, shivering, dizziness, goosebumps etc but I know I can get through that. It’s staying off that’s bloody hard but I really bloody want to. I bloody have to.

So kindness to myself and early to bed.

Night night x

Day 1

A-Z

It’s been four years today since I became alcohol free and one year since my last post. Writing had been such a help during my journey into sobriety giving me the space to work through the mix of emotions I felt whilst letting go of my coping tool but also dealing with so many emotions that before I had anaesthetised with alcohol. It was revelatory but also at times terrifying. The idea that all there is was me made me feel at times isolated and fearful. What this past year has shown me is that in stripping back the one thing I used to cope with the highs, the lows and the flatlines left bare the wounds that were not healed and bloody hell they stung. I thought that by leaving a toxic situation or by no longer having a person who’s influence could be at times both loving then in a nanosecond destructive was enough to move on from but it wasn’t. It wasn’t because I never really dealt with any of it. I only numbed myself, then talked through it in an addled way not even remembering half or most of what I had said, done or thought. The following day was spent popping codeine to take the hangover head away leaving me with a different numbness and just a focus of getting through the day hour by hour then come evening, most nights, drink again. Granted I didn’t get wasted every night. I could locate the off switch at times but that was only safe in the knowledge that I could give myself permission to lose it the following night. I knew the way I used alcohol was taking me down a dark path. Drinking alone in the house mostly, carrying alcohol in my bag when going out to top myself up in the loo, having sneaky shots at the bar, glugging back ready mixed mojitos and pina coladas in public toilets before meeting people, drinking wine alone in parks, necking vodka and tonic in Sainsbury’s loo before meeting my ex and going to pick up the kids. It’s not easy reading that back but it’s true. It’s my truth and I have to own it. All the while I functioned, I kept going even whilst drinking all that I was taking codeine on top.

Something in me sparked the fire to change my life and even though I am now four years clear of alcohol and I still have an on/ off battle with codeine I realise that this wasn’t the sum total of moving my life forward letting go of anger from the past but only part of it. Removing one heavily relied upon substance didn’t solve anything but it did let me see more clearly.

I always knew that feeling unsettled, displaced since a child and growing up with (however perhaps unintentionally meant) conditional love I had developed an outward appearance that bared no resemblance to how I felt inside or could begin to make sense of. Truth is I got me. I absolutely understood what was going on underneath the surface, deep down but naming and acknowledging it is only the start of the healing.

This last year has been difficult but only because I started to truly feel the weight and strain of the load I had been carrying for decades. A load layered on top again and again and all I could do was keep on carrying it until I felt something I hadn’t really ever felt before. Sadness. I felt genuinely sad. I was use to anxiety, stress and anger but not sadness. I felt myself sinking more into dark thoughts, feelings of despair, helplessness and a sense of pointlessness. These feelings felt different and I couldn’t seem to control them.

I’m very good at being my own worst critic maybe it’s the actor in me or growing up and later being married with criticism of who I am but something I can do which I see now is a strength is knowing when I need to seek help. Maybe my openness with myself does leave me more vulnerable to others negative words or judgments but it also shows I know who I am. Sometimes I wish I learned to not give so much so soon but a life apologising for being me is no life at all. I suppose when I was drunk I could absolve myself of the responsibility of my character and now with nothing to excuse it I am left with just who I am.

Me.

And I don’t need to apologise anymore for that. Being me is just fine.

Through that dark period I am beginning to see that I was eventually going through the sadness I felt as a child, a teenager and a woman. That I had buried the parts of my emotional self that could leave me vulnerable under lock and key and had never allowed myself to feel sadness, loss, disappointment or even true happiness. I just brushed myself down, dusted myself off and started all over again or didn’t indulge myself in congratulations. That outwardly I showed strength and sassiness but inside I was lacking in self worth. I am beginning to let myself feel and that isn’t just in my head but my whole being. Today I got up and thought. Right. It’s the 1st April, I’ve not had a drink for 4 years, the kids are away, it’s sunny therefore I should do something. I should go out. I should go for a walk. I should go to the cinema. I should treat myself to something nice. I should, I should, I should.

Towards the end of last year I did a mindfulness course. One of the many things that struck a chord with me and has become very apparent in how I am feeling now is how much we live in our heads. We are disembodied beings running around mad, never stopping to actually make sense of how we feel and what our bodies are trying to tell us. I had been living in my head for so long I saw my body as a separate entity that I had to drag around with me. Getting wasted brought the two together but only in a kind of gooey play dough numbness.

My body was telling me so much that my head wasn’t listening to. It was only when my head started to get sad and thoughts of not existing anymore came in that I think my body said ‘ That’s it! Enough!’ A dose of the flu and confirmation of now being perimenopausal in this case was just what the doctor ordered. I was forced to stop and do absolutely nothing but focus on my body. Bless her she has carried me this far for 48 years so best give her something back. So today I looked out of the open window, listened to the birds sing, felt the sun shine through the glass on my face and felt how my body was feeling. I wanted my own space, with only me. I wanted quiet, peace, maybe a little music, a favourite film, some chocolate, nice tea, an afternoon nap, to write, to just be me and that was fine. That was good. I saw this drawing today and it has stayed with me all day.

The rose at the surface but underneath the thorns. Not thorns to hurt but to protect. One couldn’t live without the other. We are complex in all of our emotions but we try to hide so much or deny ourselves the right to feel. Nature shows us that we can be all things if we just look and allow ourselves to just be in all our complexity.

Maybe this all sounds a little new age hippy but I am finding myself more grateful each day. I am grateful that I can admit when I need help. I am grateful that we have the NHS who have helped and supported me. I am grateful that I am blessed with people in my life that never judge just love. I am grateful that I have the capacity to love unconditionally. I am eternally grateful for the two human beings that are my children. I am grateful for every path I cross with a person who struggles because we learn from each other if we listen and expect nothing in return.

My alcohol misuse for me as for most wasn’t the cause of my sadness, anxiety or anger but a symptom of a deeper emotional issue. It gave me a false sense of worth but my actions when drinking only exacerbated my lack of self worth when sober. It was like a self fulfilling prophecy. You are told you are x, y and z so therefore you are x, y and z.

Well no! I’m the full bloody alphabet and I’ll write how I want.

Four years and counting xx