Tag Archives: time

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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FOMO

I heard that acronym for the first time in years last week. FOMO: Fear of missing out. It struck a chord with me. A great big major C. It was the social disease that I had been living with since my teens. Always the good time girl, always at the party, always the life and soul ( as long as I was hammered), always the one that couldn’t say no to a drink out or a smoke, always just there, always frightened I was going to miss out. Although none of all that was ever really fulfilling. It was all just emotional and spiritual empty calories; unsustaining leaving me hungry and needing more and more to fill the void. A void that had no bottom because the fast burning energy was eating it up. 
I still had it though however much in denial I was about it. The fear of missing out. The FOMO. My week is split into two distinct parts. Four days full on single mum. Three days child free single woman. It’s quite an odd way to live. I’m not going to deny that three days not having to negotiate the logistical hell that is my Wednesday from 5pm to Sunday 10am is very welcome but it also makes for the arrival of the kids each week that little bit harder and the manic momentum which has slowed down for a few days is back up to full pelt again not to mention the loss when I say goodbye to them on a Sunday. 
It is during those child free days that the FOMO strikes. I suppose in the time I have freedom to do my own thing without having to check what the kids are doing first I want to fit in as much as possible. Meeting friends, going to the theatre or cinema, if I’m invited I’ll go. If there’s nowt happening I’ll create it. Even if I’m exhausted. And I am a lot of the time. Exhausted!

Then I heard it. FOMO. I heard it loud and clear and although I realised it still struck that old familiar chord for the first time I wasn’t frightened anymore of missing out on a party, a drinking sesh, or even just meeting up with people for a coffee I was frightened of missing out on me. By feeling the need to fill my child free days with activity it was stopping me from having time with myself and to recharge after the craziness of the other full on days. So I thought about the plans I had made that day and really checked in with myself. When I stopped to listen I heard it loud and clear, ‘ I want to go home’. So I did. I listened to what I really wanted and acted on it and didn’t feel frightened of missing out. 

Life goes by in a instant and before you know it another week, month and year has passed you by. I always burn the candle at both ends never stopping to take stock of where I am in my journey and what I need. What I need is time. Time for me. Time to just be. So saying goodbye to a lot of the old patterns of behaviour and feeding needs that were not healthy for me I will slowly but surely sense and believe that I don’t have the fear of missing out anymore. What I do have is something positive and much more empowering. I have the hope of finding me. 

Nighty night x

Ps 775 days 

Out with the old…

  

So here we arrive at the end of another year. Hogmanay has always been a huge event in Scotland and certainly one in my family. When I was growing up we always had an open door party policy and would still have people in our flat till light was drawing in. I remember one year when I was about 23 a rather cute Aussie guy standing in our kitchen and someone asked him who was it he knew here he replied, ‘ No one. I was at the Tron and someone suggested this address if I wanted to go to a party’. We lived so centrally that it was about a fifteen minute walk from the Tron so a popular place for people to come to. My Mum always did a huge spread of food and there was every alcoholic beverage you could think of. Yes she catered for all tastes and heartily encouraged much drinking. There was music, sometimes romance ( well maybe an inebriated New Years snog with some equally  drunk person), party pieces where I was always encouraged to sing at every opportunity by Nana and my Dad but the one thing I really remember was the sound. It was so noisy with chatter and laughing – so much laughing. It was one of those nights that was well and truly a green light to getting totally shit faced. I lived for Hogmanay. In many ways the excitement for it outshone Christmas for me. It was always going to be the night of nights! 

Truth be known it never was any better than some of the other nights I had out at totally random times of the year. There was always a sense of anti climax after it. A realisation that all the stuff you promise to do once the clock strikes midnight that will change your life forever and make this next year truly fantastic is all wishful thinking.  Life doesn’t really fit into periods of twelve months and we can say well that’s that done now and the next twelve will be totally different. How does a happy New Year fit if a loved one dies at 11pm on December 31st, or your battling illness over months or years crossing over yearly timelines making it different to differentiate one year from the next. We have a tendency to look back at the negatives that happened in a year and maybe by trying to box it into this twelve month period it will somehow be gone on the stroke of midnight ready to start a fresh?

 For me truthfully it never really was. 

If I look at the last year it has been full of ups and downs with some significant downs I have to say. However, most of these were not just confined to 2015 and actually had been carried over from the previous year, years or decades in some cases. In some ways though it was during this twelve month stretch that some of these challenges peaked. There were some unwanted intrusions in my life by certain individuals who need to do a lot of work on themselves but sadly never will.  There was pain, anger, anxiety, worry, dissapointment, self loathing, feelings of failure and underachievement. In Spring someone took their leave from my life who had over the course of 18 months become a constant. That departure only clarified their meaning to me. That meaning will always remain special to me and held with much affection. On the back of that another person took their leave from me but for different reasons. Their proclaimed ‘disappointment’ on reflection only led me to realise that the only thing I would say to them now would be ‘Right back at ya!’ 

Yet without these downs, these lows, these emotional challenges I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t be looking inward to myself and learning to accept me and all that entails and by making sense of it in a totally sober world that what I give outwardly will be more honest, accepting, self assured and open. Too often I haven’t listened to how I am feeling  for fear of rejection but if you can’t hear what yourself is saying and respect that and give yourself  kindness then how do you expect to give it to others? Alongside the more challenging aspects there has been much wonderful joy. My constantly surprising relationship with my parents is one that is growing richer by the day. All I will say is thank you ❤️ My children make me feel blessed and full of love like no other way. Being a single parent has its obvious challenges but it also creates a unique bond and trust between us. The love they give is totally unconditional and the bond between us will never be broken. They have shown me how to love and how to love myself. Sometimes I look at them and they take my breath away. My life is immensely rich in true friendships something I cherish greatly. I have learnt so much from my very close friends and their understanding, lack of judgment, love and support is a life force to me. I love you all dearly. 

The older I get the more I am becoming comfortable with who I am and as the seasons come and go and life’s patchwork quilt grows and takes on an ever changing shape and scale I understand that each portion had its part to play in creating my journey to this point but people and human interaction are vital to that story too.  I cannot change what has been or predict what the future will be but I can be here and present in what is now, not just for 2016, or on the stroke of midnight but at anytime. My little girl said something today after we’d had a falling out. She said ‘Mummy, let’s start a fresh. We can choose to start anytime so let’s start now’. We are only where we are now. 

The previous years, the years to come? 

It’s now that you truly feel the sun. 

So stop and truly listen to yourself,

Inside you’ll find so much wealth.

Time arrives too soon and departs too fast,

Hold on to now before it becomes the past. 

So for the first time on Hogmanay I am sitting alone, writing this, with a cup of tea and you know what? I’m perfectly content. May the rest of your life from this moment on continue to challenge, inspire, cherish and surprise you. 

Nighty night xx

Ps 638 days 

An Extra Hour

The clocks went back last night. Well to be precise at 2am GMT. Just out of interest the Daylight Saving Bill was introduced in 1909, the year my Nana was born although it wasn’t fully put into practise until 21st May 1916 three weeks after Germany had formerly introduced it and by the looks of this photograph it wasn’t always in October. I wonder though with all those years of forwards and backwards what is the actual time had we not been saving? I suppose if it’s just back and forth we’re either here or an hour forward? Argh! The movement of time always bamboozles me. I mean don’t get me started on ‘ Back to the Future’ or ‘Twelve Monkey’s’. 

Yesterday was a day when I wish there had been an extra hour. That hour would have allowed me so much more calm, patience and usefulness. It could have been time well spent. As it stands the extra hour was not afforded me or anyone else for that matter. I mustn’t feel lone persecution in my time lacking anxiety but so often I do. When I feel pressure (usually time related) I change pretty quickly into John Cleese in ‘Clockwise’ striding  through the house in a demented fashion and giving orders out to the kids like a sergeant major. Trouble is the more I bellow like Brian Blessed on acid the more they go into slow mo and give me the ‘ I couldn’t give a figless fuck’ attitude. Yes it can be quite frantic and so predictable in many ways with one striking factor – time. If I had more time we wouldn’t be getting stressed. Sounds plausible doesn’t it but really that extra hour wouldn’t give me much at all because I’d only get up later or find other time wasting activities to fill it resulting in the usual wearisome meltdowns about buses, timetables, school bags, packed lunches, work, homework, appointments, forgotten play pieces, signed forms, money, match attax, loom bands, unofficially borrowed toys to be returned, missing uniform items, football training, football games, brownies, dance classes, play dates, sleep overs or even endless requests for teeth brushing to commence. 

Now that I don’t sit of an evening supping vino collapso and slipping into a numb fuzzy state (where any coherent thought cannot reside because my brain’s addled terrain is not conducive to its existing there) I have much more time to think and reflect on what has passed and it’s quite revealing and sometimes  hard to take. To really look at a given situation and what part you have played in it takes honesty and courage because sometimes you might not like what you see about yourself. When I am panicked, pressured or under acute stress I look to source the blame to make sense of how I’m feeling. It’s because the water wasn’t hot enough, or because you didn’t do as you were asked even after the 8th time or because too much was attempted in too short a time scale. I feel thwarted with a huge sense of injustice. Therein lies the answer to my own dilemma –  I try to do too much giving myself monumental mountains to climb and a self fulfilling prophecy to fail. With that expectation piled upon myself by yours truly I am bound to. I try to keep everyone happy. I try to prevent upset. I try to give the kids as many opportunities as I can because I am their Mum and I want them to participate in stuff that inspires them and makes them happy but in doing that the pressure I put on myself is immense resulting in time wasted by deconstructive means resulting in stress and frustration. I mean they are only with me four days not a whole week. I know I need to let go. I need to give myself a break. I need to be kinder to myself. 

Something I am learning is that it doesn’t make me a bad Mum or a failure if I say no to certain things or prioritise. At the end of the day when the kids have a strop about not getting more football cards or not having their friends over on a particular day are they not just pushing the boundaries and quite frankly being unreasonable at times? At the end of  the day when I have a personality change because ( deep down) I know I’ve not allowed enough time to give the best possible start to the day and I’m cross with myself am I not pushing the boundaries and being unreasonable by taking it out on them?  I know when the domestic storm hits that I am culpable as much as anyone else if not more for at the end of the day I need to show them that I am in control for then they feel safe. It’s hard sometimes when the pressure hits but if I’m not in control neither will they be. They look to me to show  them the way, to guide them, to make them feel safe and loved. I have no doubts that I give them all of those things in abundance and I beautifully and honestly receive them back in full but the kindness, compassion and love I am seeking  in these situations needs to comes from me. It’s not a bad thing to love yourself. It’s not egocentric or selfish, it’s acknowledging when you’re feeling vulnerable, weak or scared and allowing yourself to be honest about those feelings and be kind and generous emotionally to yourself  rather than burying them inside feeling the need to be punished for the stressful situation. None of us are perfect. Each and everyone of us is flawed and full of contradictions and we all need love, kindness and compassion. Let’s try not to forget to give that to ourselves too. 

Nighty night x 

P.S. 573 Days 
  

My Awesome August : Day 9

So week one over for the festival. The last time I was in the Edinburgh Fringe was 1995. I had been in shows from 92 up to 95 but up till this year 19 years had elapsed. An enormous amount has happened in those years. Drama school and living in London for 6 years, moving back to Edinburgh, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, nana dying to name the biggies. In that time the fringe has probably doubled in size but so has my impatience with negotiating my way around the city centre at this time of the year. I tried to remember what it was like then. What I was like. The excitement and expectation of every new day and the fun to be had. The lack of sleep, the smoking, the drinking. The glee at securing my fringe club pass which allowed access to the somewhat grubby student union like club at Teviot for fringe performers which had us partying and drinking god knows what till around 3am then dragging ourselves round to Negociants for yet more drinking till chucking out time at 5am. Sloping off home bedding down around 6am only to arise early afternoon ready to repeat it all again. Oh and somewhere in there I’d be in a show too. In a way that was insignificant. It was the whole party atmosphere and excessive abandonment that was enticing to me.
This nonsense went on for the whole bloody fringe. Weeks! Yes I know I was considerably younger then but I was always there. Could never say no to going out – again! It was as if I was frightened I’d miss out on a fab night if I didn’t go but in reality every night was much the same as the one before and the one before that.

This year it is a very different experience. Of course I’m older and wiser now but this kind of event and being part of it would have been my green light to excessive drinking. It seems very natural for me now not to drink. I hardly think about it and have very little urge to knock one back for a quick fix. I feel and am thinking as a teetotaller and I am pretty content with that.

Tomorrow I am going to see a recommended show called ‘Blackout’ which was devised around interviews with recovering alcoholics. I am really interested to see it and although I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic more a person with problem drinking I’m sure there will be moments of connection with some of the feelings and thoughts, maybe even stories conveyed.

I am very happy having spent the evening down the beach with my kids gorging on the most ridiculously mustard/ketchup smothered hotdog with onions ever and later once home enjoying a cup of Earl Grey, a Freddo frog and twister ( come on it is Saturday after all) listening to the bangs outside of the Tattoo fireworks and feeling glad not to be in town right now.

Yeah I know a lot of that is partly down to my being on my way to old fogeydom but it’s also a choice. Last year whilst my kids slept I would be sitting here drunk on a Saturday night through choice but this year I choose not to and as time passes it stops being a choice and more just who I am. Back then drinking foolishly made me believe that I would be more popular but I forgot that when I was sober people liked me too. It was more a question of did I like me. I don’t think I did then or refused to believe I was likeable without the social relaxant of alcohol now sober I see myself and my life more clearly and am learning to like myself and more importantly be kind to myself. We are too ready to give ourselves a hard time. Constantly beating ourselves up. Eternally self critical. I acknowledge that this is human nature to do so but rather than wallowing in the self pity that alcohol gave me leaving me to emotionally abuse myself in the morning at how awful and weak I had been I am now kinder to myself. More rational and allowing myself time. Time to feel; time to heal; time to live.

Nighty night.

Ps 131 days

My Miraculous May: Day 12

Six weeks without alcohol. Six weeks!! On Saturday Beelzebub asked me how many weeks she has been alive. Kids have the knack of making the macabre sound normal. I quickly calculated in Carol Vorderman style – 362. Looking smug that my mental maths were still in good shape she then asked me how many weeks I had been alive. Hmmm… A little trickier and I may need to call on some papyrus and a quill.

* some minutes later *

Here we have it. To date I have been alive for – drum roll please-

2,307 weeks.

So out of that this 6 week period amounts to – 0.26007802% of my life thus far. Feck! Hardly seems worth it considering roughy 1,456 minus roughly 96 weeks for pregnancies ( no I don’t hold the crown for the longest gestation period known in a human- think about it) I have been actively and regularly drinking alcohol. Who said numbers were a beautiful thing?

However, that small percentage at this moment is everything. It could be the largest most infinite number in the universe. That 6 weeks- 42 days- 1008 hours- 60,480 minutes- 3,628,800 seconds is my present, my here and now and with every letter that I type it gets bigger and more infinite.

Time can be a tricky concept in how it can move both fast and slow. Young children have no real understanding of the passage of time although at times they can be obsessed with it. Every day last week Beelzebub asked me if it was 3pm yet so much so that I though I was in a KLF video ( albeit 3 AM!) – sheesh showing my age again. I would have been approximately  1,140 weeks old when that single was out.

Talking about ages and time it reminds me of a tale involving my Nana. It was about four years before  she passed away so she would have been ….. actually I won’t bother …. and we were all playing a family game which the “ex” had invented called The Birthday’s Game. The idea was that he had a list of 20 famous people that are now dead. You were to guess as to how old they would be if still alive today. So it involved a rough historical knowledge of the time they were alive and then a guess as to how old. Some were obviously easier than others and some not so. If anyone managed to get spot on they got 10 points, within 10 years 5 points and then 0 for anything other. Now one of my Nana’s catchphrases ( as she had more than Bruce Forsyth) was ” I know everything about history” a statement which I challenged her on relentlessly much to her chagrin. In this particular game there was one character from history which when she gave her answer I nearly aspirated on my gin. The said person was Joan of Arc. My Nana conferring with herself hummed and hawed and finally came up with her answer of ,

‘Joan of Arc? She must be at least 96’.

or 4,992 weeks old. Funnily the same age as herself. Always the eternal egocentric.

Nighty night x

Ps day 42