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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

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‘A little bird told me’

White noise. It surrounds me everywhere. It’s in my head the whole time. It’s constant burr surging through my consciousness yet I never really notice it until I close the gate behind me and step into the peace of the wild things. With its natural delicate sounds filling my ears it brings with it a sense of calm, reflection and peace. I don’t think I realise the clutter in my head until I hit the ” please empty” button in there but do we ever truly empty our heads or do we just shift stuff around to make room for more? Sitting there in wondrous serenity I contemplated my nearing immersion back into that other world, one full of noise, commotion and impatience. Back to the white noise burring there constantly in the background like static. 

I do find that the universe has a knack of highlighting things to you or showing you a different way. Whether we choose to see it or not might take time, maturity and an open mind but I do believe the signs are all around us. Even if it’s just my interpretation I am finding meaning in things that shows I have questions that I hope can be answered. On Saturday 24th May last year (see last years blog entry) my daughter found a baby starling on the paving stone outside my mum and dads house. It was no more than a week or two old and was struggling to breathe. We called the RSPB and they told us what to do till they got there. A hot water bottle, blanket, some sugar water and lots of tlc did the trick although a couple of times I honestly thought we had lost the poor mite. The RSPB woman arrived and reassured us all that we had saved its life and that it would most likely be ok. We were all very happy and felt something special had happened. That day also marked another significant event for me. Someone I thought I’d never see again reappeared in my life. Something that you thought was over found life again. It was a good day. 

A year on from that I found myself once again in the situation of having that person take their leave from me, albeit differently, but gone all the same. At what point do we truly let go? Do we ever or do we just shift the memories and thoughts around till we make new ones and the old are so far removed from the forefront of our minds that we think on them less and less. I could think around it all endlessly however sometimes I find my interpretations can change from day to day depending on what ending I need. I suppose we do rewrite our own stories at times when forging a path through unchartered territory can be quite difficult. But time truly is our best friend and my trust in it has developed far more since not drinking. 

Saturday just past my daughter mentioned the baby bird from the previous year, asking me if I thought it was still alive and was it having a happy life. I reassured her that I was sure it was and that she had helped in making that happen. We reminisced about the incident and my thoughts naturally fell upon the other more personal significance of that day. Later that evening the three of us travelled home in a taxi. It was quite late so was dark outside. When we stepped out of the car and I went to put the key in the door my son called me back to look at something on the pavement just in front of the three steps leading up to the front door. I could not believe my eyes. There on the pavement peaceful and still was another baby starling only this time there was no signs of life. My daughter became upset and insisted that we should still care for it and make it comfortable. We did so using some tissues and an empty tea box. The care and emotion she showed was so pure and honest that it quite moved me. What a strange and yet familiar coincidence. Why were we meant to find this again? It of course could just be merely that a coincidence but what if the universe was telling me something. Guiding me through nature to find my peace with that other significance. Last year it wasn’t over, it still had life, a story yet to be continued. This time there was no life left in it. This time it couldn’t be revived. This time I must close the book. 

So the white noise continues, the everyday hustle and bustle, life must go on yet the peace of the wild things is always there inside and it comforts me. There the starling swoops and flies, singing strong, heart beating fast, wings glistening in the sunlight. Happy, peaceful and free. 
  
Nighty night x

Ps 474 days 

A New Axis 

An axis a straight line, sometimes seen sometimes not that is important in maths, science, art and our survival. Silent, strong and steadfast it steers us through allowing life to just happen somehow managing  to keep our momentum going and keeping us on track…. most of the time. Taken for granted we always manage to brush ourselves down and get on with life…. most of the time. Relying on that inner core to keep it together … most of the time. The position of the straight line is vital for life. Take Earth our home, it’s axis on a tilt of 23.5 degrees allows for perfect sun position resulting in moderate seasons with no extreme temperatures. Without this life would not exist. The earth’s axis is essentially constant which is crucial for the advancement of life but what happens if it shifts? You know that expression ‘ to feel off kilter’ well that’s it. That’s me. Somehow my axis has shifted and I feel my rotation has gathered a pace into an erratic super spin. It can take hundreds even thousands of years for tectonic plates to move, planets to alter positions or asteroids to reach earth so 45 years for a polar side step is nothing. A blip even. It must all be relative because right now I feel like a seismic change is occurring within me and this ain’t no blip. Perhaps I have felt like this at different stages of my life but I most likely self medicated with alcohol but this time there is only one trajectory and that is straight through it feeling the full force of nature and all its complexities. I know I have to stay with this until the spinning stabilises and my axis is secured. I know I have to stay with this until I find my way back to me. I must trust in the spin. 

The universe is changing all the time both in what we can and can’t see. With every cataclysmic occurrence on Earth our planet, there is fundamental change, reshape and in time regrowth. Sometimes all we can do is listen to Earth and let her do what she needs to do. Maybe we need to listen to ourselves more and let us do what we need to. How often do we stop and stay in the present truthfully? I know I don’t enough but I am learning to do it more. Alcohol didn’t allow me to do that. I realise now that I was petrified to be in the moment because then I’d have to feel the pain or happiness and it could be overwhelming. I am not going to lie in saying that I feel sad. I am going through a sad period in my life one full of uncertainties, confusion and loss. We are conditioned to dust ourselves down, brush ourselves off and start all over again and there is some useful advice in that sentiment but it also stifles recuperation, healing and forgiveness. Recuperation needs time, healing needs kindness and forgiveness needs courage. Forgiving someone can release you, empower you and give you peace but first of all maybe we need to forgive ourselves. Maybe my axis has always been “off kilter” and as the degree increased the rotation gathered momentum until the spin was out of control. I feel like I have been seeking a fixed axis point for forever but can only really see that now. The spin is gradually losing momentum after reaching crisis point and once the prolonged orbital free fall has ceased I hope to find my fixed point to which I can move freely to and fro but nothing will ever be the same again. It can’t be. It shouldn’t be. 

Allowing myself to really stay with this no matter what is the only way through. If I feel happy rejoice in it. If I feel sad acknowledge it, let it have voice and breath. If I want to laugh do so heartily. If I need to cry let it out until the tears stop… for now. I can’t speak for others although I have tried mightily in the past and I can only guess at what they think, do or feel so why let others presumptions or assumptions dictate my view of the world and me. I can’t control their actions, beliefs of thoughts, I can only control mine and trust in the process. Only I know my story. Only I know my truth.  People can project what they want or what they think they know and again I can’t control that. When my axis stabilises (and I have faith that it will) the seismic change that has occurred will bring with it new form, re growth and acceptance in me. Never apologise for feeling after all only then are we truly alive. 

Nighty night x

Ps 453 days 

   

Never forget 😘 

My Delightful December: Day 3

I have had an epiphany. Not my predicted Scrooge style one dancing through the streets with a new love of the festive season but a more personal, kind, understated one. Tonight I have just felt a huge overwhelming sense of relief, security and peace within me. No matter what life throws I feel I have strength, dignity and self worth.

When stuff happens that is tough and difficult to navigate through I eternally hope for sensitivity ,grace and kindness between each other but sadly that is not always the case. I know in the past when faced with a challenging situation I always felt I had to be the one that changed. The amount of times (usually after some heavy drunken angst ridden night where the marital arguments of the night before were a blur) I would get up and say to myself, ‘ Right! Today I’m going to be different! Today I’ll get it right!’ Truth was that was to please someone else. A someone that didn’t like me as I was anymore and wanted to shoe horn me into what they felt they wanted me to be. I remember the first awful counselling session the ex and I had when he was asked what had attracted him to me in the first place. He answered, ‘ she was funny, confident, I fancied her, she was clever, I’d never met anyone like her before, she was firey’ The counsellor then asked what he thought of all those things now to which he replied, ‘ those are the things I hate about her now!’. Sometimes when all the gloss has worn away and you’re left with a matt finish you realise you are just two brushes sitting in separate paint pots. I should really stop with the painting and decorating analogy but I must be my fathers daughter after all. Not that my Dad has ever used an analogy in his life but he was a painter and decorator.

I don’t want to reinvent myself. I think I actually quite like me just as I am. I used alcohol to try and be what others wanted or what I thought they wanted and in doing that lost myself a bit. I think it’s easy to say that there is a part missing in yourself and I have claimed that all too often but we are who we are. I am as complete a person as I could ever be but in the light and shade of myself I have sometimes hidden bits away or let them be smothered in the shade of self doubt and fear only making the light more difficult to find. What I found alcohol slowly but eventually instilled in me was the inability to find the switch. I got so sick of floundering in the ever increasing shade, moving along narrow corridors with my hands outstretched grabbing in the fog until thankfully, wonderfully my hand hit the switch. I had found me with all my complexities, contradictions and irritations and as I’m the only me I’ve got and I intend to make the most of her. So my sense of relief I think has come with realisation that I don’t need to change. I just need to accept all of me and let the light in and out.

Now with a clear sober head coming up against the tough times can be just as hard and painful but with honest self reflection and a good grace I am finding my way through and I am never losing me again.

Nighty night x

Ps 246 days

My Miraculous May: Day 9

Here I go again. Going to start up a self help group called – BA: Bloggers Anonymous. Wonder what my ( non religious if you please) 12 step program would be? Suggestions welcome.

A friend sent me a link to an article by a young woman who abstained for a year and has decided to continue to do so. It was great to read it and gave me a new found sense of almost excitement at living a sober life. She focuses on the 7 things she learned whilst abstaining. A couple of things were clearly personal to her but the other 5 I can completely relate too.

1. Alcohol wasn’t fun anymore – no it was slowly but surely becoming self destruction.
2. My life is more manageable – being more alert and having more energy promotes a more focused life.
3. I am worthy of love – it supported, encouraged and justified bad decisions in past relationships and didn’t allow me to really honestly feel what was wrong. Instead I drank a lot, couldn’t remember half of it all then just made decisions I regretted cause it was easier.
4. I’m not perfect and that’s ok – no one is.
5. I’m just beginning to understand who I really am – this for me is a biggy. I come back to this a lot. I am living my life with me. I am eating with me. Sleeping with me. Laughing with me. Crying with me. Parenting with me. Loving with me. Going to the toilet with me. Brushing my teeth with me. I am being me; good, bad and other. Rather than sensing a difficult time; whether it be obviously negative or an insecurity clouded in a social event and using alcohol to help quickly get me to a place that I can feel more carefree, I am using me as the crutch. I am getting me through life. I know where my supports are but I need to be able to support me.

Anyway enough about me. It’s time to arrange yet another visit from the tooth fairy. This time it’s for Maximus who had a tooth extracted today. He coped brilliantly and I was very proud of him. Now I’m all for following the tooth fairy tradition of swapping the tooth with a monetary replacement but as I open my purse I’m not sure I’m keen to place a fiver under his pillow. Feck! Why didn’t I get bloody change??!!

Oh well, looks like I still have a way to go before I reach total clarity. 😉

Nighty night x

Ps 39 days

My Angelic April: Day 30

I have reached my target of abstaining from alcohol for 30 days. Hoorah!!! The past month has truly been insightful, fulfilling, soul searching and at times bloody hard but I’ve done it. It will be interesting to read over the past 30 days and will help to inform where I am now.

So where do I go from here? One thing’s for sure I don’t feel I want to or really can drink at this point. I think if I were to drink alcohol tomorrow I would slip back in no time to the old habit and need. I don’t think I want to risk it. So where does that leave me? Am I now a teetotaller? On the wagon? Does this confirm that I indeed have a specific drink related problem? One thing this past month is helping understand is the importance of the here and now. It helps when the cravings take hold and helps me focus on what is happening at that time that is making me feel the need to drink. So let’s have a look at the good and bad points about having abstained for 30 days.

BAD

• cravings
• sleep pattern change
• feeling like I won’t cope without it in social situations

GOOD

• quality of sleep improved
• saved money
• skin clearer
• haven’t given in to knee jerk reactions ( I refer to Day: 11’s 1980’s bullet point song list yet again)
• I feel in control
• I’ve got more energy
• I can remember more
• generally look healthier
• lost a pound or two

Looking at these lists I can see that the good definitely out ways the bad. It’s a no brainer on paper but in reality to sustain it will be the difficult thing. I still feel unsure about drinking alcohol again as I truly feel moderation isn’t the answer for me , well maybe not at this stage. I set out to abstain for 30 days, for the whole month, My Angelic April and I’ve succeeded. I’ve not had a single drop ( unless the amaretto coffee I had at work two weeks ago I’d cheating) and I am really pleased with myself. In fact I would go so far as to say I’m proud of myself. I don’t give myself enough credit. In my 44 years thus far I’ve:

Been born, in total so far lived in 16 houses ( one on 3 different occasions so 18), attended 4 schools, had two big loves, lived in London 6 years, went to drama school, had 11 jobs, had two miscarriages, had two children, been divorced, had a domineering grandmother, never passed my driving test, been diabetic, broken two toes, gained my independence, depression, wore an Olympic medal, won £10 on the lottery on it’s very first Saturday, almost had a third big love but had a narrow escape, been a bridesmaid twice, sung in workman’s clubs, and been sick into my handbag. The last one I might add was down to copious amounts of alcohol. So not all plain sailing.

So if I make it what will the next 44 years bring and more importantly how do I want to live those years. I want to watch my children grow up into young adults full of opinions, choices and to feel confident and know how much they are loved. That always. It is so important to know that you are loved. I want them to forge their own way in life and never to feel they need to cover up who they are. I want them to understand the meaning of true friendship and how wonderful and fulfilling it is and can last a lifetime. I want them to listen to others and really hear what it is they are saying. I want them to acknowledge anger as a part of the human condition but not let it take them over.  I want them to be fiercely loyal and courageously principled. I want them to respect themselves and others. I want them to smile and laugh every day of their lives and embrace fun. I just want them to be.

 

And as for me? Well in order to see all of those things I need to just be me too, one day at a time.

Welcome Miraculous May!

Nighty Night x

My Angelic April: Day 27

I really am not sleeping that great at all. Staying up far too late then not staying asleep once I finally drift off. Maybe this is part and parcel with this whole thing. You would think that your body would just react positively to abstinence but I suppose when you have become so acclimatised to drinking that your body needs to find its own way back. Sometimes I think is it possible that I am being over dramatic about the whole  thing. Hey its no big deal! This has all been relatively painless so to speak! However, today 27 days in I had two feelings of need for a drink. Correction need to feel drunk. Just after the kids had left I had a feeling in me that I wanted to feel wasted, tipsy, drunk. Was that because I felt sad that they had gone, or that it was freedom to let loose, or something deeper?

My delete key on my laptop isn’t functioning properly and is making me feel a tad irate. Maybe it means something. Alcohol can be used like a liquid delete button. It helps you temporarily forget stuff you feel you want to shelf or not deal with. The trouble is it still exists in time. Now I am not going to go all Doctor Who here ( particularly as I don’t cope well with time travel as it confuses the hell out of me) but everything has existed at some point in time. Every feeling, every word, every breathe, every heart beat is there in time.  It can’t be ignored or deleted. Drowning or numbing with alcohol is like pressing the pause button. It stops whatever it is you are trying to forget or not deal with at the time but once it wears off it’s all still there but even worse you have to face it with a hangover. You can’t go back and change things as much as you would like to. If I did have a time machine could I make it all different? Well first of (and I refer to my Day:11 1980’s bullet point song list) I would go back to December the 8th 2013 and make a very different choice. Go back to 2002, 1999, 1985 back and back and back to lots of times and make different choices. Again its choice and decision. Simple! The trouble is that you only want to change certain things because of what you know now but if you went back and changed fixed or significant points in your life they would only be replaced with some other decision that would have a knock on affect for your life and no doubt lead to other things in time you wish you could go back and change. You could back and forth that much with your magic sonic delete button changing all the things you are not happy with that eventually you lose sight of what reality is and who you really are.

Every second that passes in my life has led to this point in time. This moment. This truth. I can’t change what has been. If I did then I would change who I am now. Being completely sober at ALL times doesn’t take away the fact that I can feel let down, angry, hurt or sad but it makes me look at these feelings and understand that they are real emotions and I am feeling them for a reason and I am allowed to feel them. They are valid. I am valid.

Being sober at ALL times for me is like finally pressing PLAY.

Nighty night x