Hello 2021, you have 12 months that are yours. You own them. January to December. All yours. And there are A LOT of people expecting these 12 months to outshine the previous 12 that your counterpart 2020 appeared to completely fuck up. And let’s be honest, so far, it isn’t looking too good is it?
Trump has been getting all trumpity, C19 is mutating like a virus on speed, sandwiches are being turned away at EU borders and my cat got locked in the garden cabin resulting in a half done unicorn puzzle being shat and pissed on. One might say 2021… that you are going to seriously need to sort your shit out if we want to have anything left of the human population. As it stands, homelessness is rising exponentially, the NHS is now in need of its own oxygen mask and the Tories are killing off poorer children at lightening speed by not allowing them to eat anything other than mouldy bananas. In fact, let’s just say that the least you could do in the next 11.5 months is to incarcerate Trump and put Boris out to sea on a slowly deflating dinghy. With a webcam.
Despite this, things in my own life are pretty positive. I have a new job starting next month and I have a new boyfriend. Like a proper one. One who is funny. And creative. And kind. And doesn’t inject heroin.
Other than that, what else is there to say? The kids and I are all good. The youngest is watching inappropriate American sitcoms, the middle one has started growing a beardy moustachy sort of thing and the eldest and I bond over pinning the bearded moustachy one down and squeezing his adolescent black heads. He screams dramatically and we roar with laughter. It’s great.
Let’s be honest though folks, it is probably time we stopped trying to apportion blame to a year and instead look a little deeper inwards as to why the world is apparently going to shit. We can’t assassinate any world leaders but we can take account for our own actions that potentially directly or indirectly contribute to mass farming, jungle felling, world poverty and climate warming amongst genocide, gang warfare and child exploitation (I’ll stop there because there are too many to list). I am by no means a vegan eco warrior who fights for humanitarian causes but even I know that turning off lights, shopping in a charity shop vs Primark, avoiding palm oil or not buying battery farmed eggs are lesser evils. (Oh… and not voting in the Conservatives).
And with that… I’m going to see how long I can sit in the dark for.
In less than a week (6 days to be precise), it will mark a year since I caused a whole lot of pain. In an attempt to escape my own agony I simply added to it by causing a lot of hurt to those close to me. One thing that was said to me soon after I left hospital, was that by trying to escape my own pain, I was just passing it to my children to deal with. That comment struck home and has stayed with me since. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh?
Leaving the house early in morning, as my breath billows out in puffs of steam before me, I trudge to the car and like a slap in the face, the ghosts of Xmas past flood into my brain. They are shit ghosts, they taunt. A song on Spotify; the cold on my face; the drive to work in the dark; walking into the toilets at work; hearing the beeps of the machines in Resus; memories of the cold, trolley mattress under my head as I came around and the concerned words of the doctor I knew asking me what happened, why did I do it?
So little has changed since then and yet so much. There is a solidity. I am still a mother to 3; a nurse; having financial issues; insecurities etc but I now have a foundation that stops me from running. I don’t need to fuel my own ego by trying to save a person who doesn’t recognise who I am, let alone really love or want me. I don’t berate myself for the mistakes I have made and make. Slowly, those little messages I have been sending out for 44 years have started to change. They no longer spell so much neediness, anger, pain. I have, finally, managed to grow a little plant of esteem from within.. it uncoils and unfurls from my base and its tendrils are finding their way to every part of my being. The roots grounding me into the earth and into the universe.
The journey doesn’t stop here. Daily I am reminded of just how much a dickhead I can still be. Ego and fear are such a large part of my psyche but I am learning to accept them and in that, they are slowly taming down like flames of a fire dying.
This is our Christmas. Presents are stacked under the beautiful tree that we chose last week. A most ridiculous enterprise involving all sorts of inappropriate puns. The kids have told me how festive and christmassy it feels here. I have been planning with Mia what to cook on Xmas day and I have been given the day off by my manager due to last year. I have the most, fucking wonderful, second chance to have a proper Xmas with my beautiful, funny children. I feel guilt daily at how close I was to ruining their lives in order to save myself from pain but I don’t, I can’t regret it. Because without having reached such a dark place, I couldn’t have arrived here. Now.
My three children have been inordinately brave. I fear for the damage that has been caused but I can only hope that through the events of Xmas 2019, I have put a stop to the ongoing years of destruction that could have been caused and instead, I can grow with them.
It’s been a fair while since I last wrote. This evening as I got ready for bed, the itch appeared and I realised that it was time to get my thoughts down. Update my (few) readers as to where I am on this, somewhat mental, journey I am on.
Tomorrow marks 9 months without a drink. The times I struggle is when I want to settle down and watch something in the evening. Especially after a shift at work. Or at the weekend, just to have something demarcate from the usual working weekday. I have set myself the challenge of not drinking until I have done a year. I shall explain my thought process..
I haven’t been to a meeting with the support group that I was part of for over a month. I have struggled for over 20 years to understand the ethos behind the workings of the program and as I am not able to talk in any detail because of it’s acclaimed anonymity, suffice to say there are a few, rather major principles that I can’t get past.
Whilst I was in the treatment centre, living and breathing recovery and the 12 step program – it felt like I was agreeing to things that I didn’t have the power to argue against. And this is exactly what is expected – admitting that you are powerless. Which is fairly easy when you have just devastated your life and loved ones by taking an overdose. I will never, ever forget the amazing support from the treatment centres I went to. It is through their care, understanding and expertise that I am able to sit here and type this, feeling more centred than I have ever done in my life. But.. and it’s probably a rather large ‘but’, the ever-gnawing feeling that I wouldn’t stay with the program became more and more acid-inducing and eventually I had to be honest that I couldn’t (and possibly more importantly, wouldn’t) pretend to myself or others any longer that I was willing to think/behave in a certain way that didn’t resonate with my views.
I have had nothing but love from peers and friends who are also in recovery, although I do wonder if there are wagers being put on how long it is before I am back knocking on the proverbial door, begging for mercy and help. Maybe, I will but for the time being I am sticking to what feels right for me.
I don’t believe that addiction/alcholism is a disease. The definition of disease does not fit as it does other diseases; cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons for example. Interestingly research has shown that alcoholism was named a disease by an American organisation, thereby helping the validation of insurance claims for treatment centres. Which, by the way, are an enormous money spinner in the USA. I would (and could) link the research to this post but if you just type in ‘is alcohol really a disease’ into Google, then you will get the same results as I did. If I still had access to my university research databases then I could probably come up with all sorts of data… but I don’t. And quite frankly, as I am trying to simply my life at the moment that is probably quite a good thing! Equally the figures for relapsers are high. Addiciton/alcoholism has a poor prognosis and that is even with treatment centres and the program.
My idea is that I will protect my mental health. If I am feeling centred and at peace, once Xmas comes, I will probably have a few glasses of wine. I also know that I hate hangovers and anxiety with a passion and if I drink too much then I will have both of those. And if I am honest, it is those two factors that keep me away from drinking. More than the horror stories; more than the looking back at past experiences where I have been an arse.
My life now revolves around the children, work and my mental health. I have so much more insight and knowledge now after months of therapy regarding the factors that have contributed to my (poor) coping mechanisms. My ‘addiction’ is craving love. Especially from those who are emotionally unavailable. Now I know that, I am concentrating solely on the most unavailable person I have tried to get that love from.
At which point did the majority of the world forget that it is both the moon and sun that harness the tide, nurture our crops.. or hell, let’s really throw it out there… keep us alive? How far removed have we become that we no longer hold either of these big, fuck off balls of energy with the revere they deserve?
It’s not like this is a new concept to me. The corona virus lockdown hasn’t suddenly given me some sort of existential breakdown (that was alcohol), but it has given me the time to really ponder what the fuck us humans are all about.
Last night I did my first ever New Moon ritual of writing my intentions for this month and then burning them whilst I had a detox bath. It was cathartic and wet.
It didn’t quite give me the unbroken, restful nights sleep I had been hoping for and when I woke up before 5 this morning I decided to walk to the beach so I could see the sunrise. It must be one of the first times I have done this when it hasn’t been post-clubbing and I can assure you, sober sunrise watching is a lot less messy. And to be honest I’m pretty mental anyway so I still have the capacity to wonder why we don’t have obese birds flying and if we did, would they fly much slower and actually, don’t birds fly quite fast considering? Then I start imagining having a race with a bird and then laughing at how they slow down and land but reminding myself that I can’t actually fly (despite my dreams telling me otherwise) so I should just shut up with my judgementalness. This reminds me of the time I did try and fly. My eldest was only a baby and I had had a very vivid dream that I could fly and if I only flapped my arms down hard enough it would work when I was awake. Needless to say, it didn’t.
It’s time for me to head back home now. ‘Other’ people have started to appear. Yuck.
So at the end my last post I alluded to a more sincere post about how I communicate with my higher power(s). I’m feeling (a little) less silly tonight so shall endeavour to explain.
I have always believed in some sort of higher power, I flirted with Christianity for about a month when I was 8 or something and was given a little book of prayers for children. It never called to me. I liked the idea of the angels but there didn’t appear to be room for fairies. Or ghosts. And I liked them more than sitting in church on the odd occasion I was taken. My church I suppose was my grandmother’s garden. I would spend hours playing there, it was quite magical with a rose garden and apple trees I could climb. A swing that could give me splinters and a hammock with spiders. Or if I were in Wales for a holiday, staying with family, I would wake hours before everyone else and just go for a walk in the lanes and across fields, sometimes accompanied by one of their cats, Bramble. I would moo at the cows and baa at the sheep (something I still do regularly) and talk away to the horses that I came across. Collecting the odd leaf, stick or stone along the way. I loved the country and I still do. I yearn for the trees and hedgerow, for the sounds of the animals and the telling of the seasons. Maybe having been in my mother’s womb as she tended to her farm’s livestock has left the imprint or maybe, like all animals, it is just simply in my blood.
Equally I adore the sea. The rise and fall of the waves as the tide flows in and out. The promise of dolphins not too far away, the shells that adorn the beach and the reminder that we are so very, very small in relation to the rest of the Earth.
So when I think of my higher power. I think of the magic in the trees, the fairies that reside with the dragonflies over the streams, the changing of seasons reflecting where we are in the year. I think of Mother Nature. I think of life and death. Birth and rebirth. I think of the moon and the sun.
For me, science and magic are entwined. There are enough happenings in the universe that we simply cannot explain (yet) and for that I am thankful. When I am feeling lost (which can be quite often), I find solace in knowing that I am just part of a matrix of energy. And now I am finding I have the time to dedicate to re-establising a connection with my higher power, with the Mother Goddess.
This post may seem clumsy, I feel like a toddler taking her first steps. In some ways I already know the path but I can’t quite seem to find my balance yet.
“Let’s have a girlie night Mum. I can wax your face”.
Sorry what? Wax my face? I look at the ridiculously gorgeous non-hairy-faced 16 year old who stands before me all pretty and young, and glare. Wax my face? What do you mean? Wax my face?
Is this what lockdown has resorted us to? I’ll admit if a fine fuzzy look is the worst of my problems then perhaps I am not doing too badly, but still. I harrumphed, threatened imminent death and stomped off incredulously.
To be honest, lockdown for us in a house with a garden in a town with a beach and the Sussex Downs a short drive away is luxury in comparison to those without. Lockdown in early recovery? Not so sweet. I attend Zoom meetings to connect with other recovery fellows and I speak to friends daily but the reality of not being able to physically connect or have cups of tea in their houses is difficult when having an illness that thrives on isolation.
However one’s addiction manifests itself, it really is only symptomatic of a void that has lost its plug. You know the paddling pools with the plug in the bottom? The ones we buy year after year, that only last for a month before a cat punctures it or it gets left on its side until you can’t see past the slugs that have taken residence within it? One of them. It’s like trying to refill a slug-ridden, plug-less void with *insert addiction of choice* and constantly wondering why the gnawing never stops.
I remember sitting in a flat I shared with my EO (Eldest One) who was about 1 or 2 at the time time and wondering why it was I could never feel sated. I always felt like something was missing and here I am 16 years later slowly piecing the puzzle together and a warm glow is starting to build.
These last three weeks since leaving the treatment centre have been a rollercoaster. However, the good news is that this rollercoaster would have been out of place in somewhere like Thorpe Park and more suited to a toddler’s version at Lego World or whatever it’s called. The ups and downs have been more muted and less vomit inducing which for someone who can’t even watch someone else playing racing games without wanting to hurl, is a good thing. (Of note, I have never ever, and never ever will, go on a rollercoaster).
To help with mentally riding my toddler’s rollercoaster, I have been asked by my – let’s call her my ‘human’ guide – to pray and talk to my higher power. Now I have an issue with organised religion personally but completely get that it is a wonderful thing for lots of other people. For me, I believe in the power of energy, Earth, Mother Nature and Spirit. I have my own guides in the ether whom I talk to but I don’t have a particular God. So this makes praying a bit cumbersome. It takes quite a while to go through “Dear higher power, Mother Nature, mother goddess, spirit guides, animal guides, ancestors etc” each time I want to communicate so I decided that I needed a name. I immediately though of Alanis Morrisette who plays god in Dogma and I decided to name my multitude of higher powers the one name, ‘Alanis’. I was very excited about this and proceeded to tell all those who were remotely interested that I was talking to my goddess ‘Alanis’. Even my counsellor took it on board and managed not to laugh during our sessions when referring to Alanis (he did smirk but looked very chuffed at his lack of laughter). The problem I had was that every time I did my morning and evening chats with Alanis, it felt like I was addressing the Alanis Morrisette. And then it all felt wrong. I mean she may well have heard me telepathically, who knows how spiritual she is? She might have been buttering her toast in Canada or wherever she is from and suddenly out of the blue heard me waffling on about how I need to remain sober and could she possibly sort out the leaking overflow pipe…
In case you wondered, no, she didn’t answer.
So with that I have gone back to naming each of my zillion higher powers and just mix up the order so that none of them get jealous of who gets named first.
There are benefits to talking with an entity that you believe hold a larger power than yourself. I will write this more eloquently in another post, for now I am far too glib to describe with any justice. And I need a pee.
It’s her turn to be nurtured. Her time to be reassured. Her chance to have her needs met.
One thing about intensive therapy is that stones tend to be uncovered. The lichen moss stripped back to reveal an intense, constantly shifting dark hard mass of unresolved pain; insecurity and agonising self doubt. The stones can’t be shifted but they can be worked upon. They can be softened, they can be polished so that angry, distorted screams aren’t reflected back and instead a quiet acceptance can be acknowledged. I cannot turn back time. The wounds which were inflicted, etched into my brain can only be changed in time. By me.
Trying to learn to love oneself more than another seems impossible. I can manage it part of the day, in increments. Then the self hate comes flooding back and I search, desperately, for validation and love from another. Yet these links I yearn for are so tenuous that they disappear before I can get a hold on them. These links are made with others who are also damaged. Also broken. They aren’t strong enough to hold my greedy little hands that clutch and grab for a lifeline. Instead I must turn these hands towards my own self and instead of grasping, they must stroke. They must be gentle.
The well of love I have within me seems never-ending yet at the same time empty. Slowly, slowly I am trying to tease out self worth and appreciation. Collecting it and giving it in small sips to Little Chloë. She needs it. I am taking her out to the beach so that we can sit and listen to the waves tumble into the shore. We garden so that she can feel the soil in her fingers and sense the life that is ready to grow. She sits with me as I paint and draw and make rudimentary clay sculptures in the shape of the Mother Goddess. I look at her photos and I tell her that I love her. That she was enough. That she is enough. That the 43 year old woman who looks back from the mirror can finally grow up and stop tearing chunks out of her being.
Tears roll down as I type. This growing pain hurts. It rips my insides apart, I feel the desperation as I wish for arms to comfort me. There are no arms, not only would the ease be short-lived, it would be vacuous. I must use my own arms and my own heart to learn to soothe.
It’s 00:12 and I am officially 60 days sober. Probably the longest time without having ingested an alcoholic drink since I started drinking at the age of 13. That’s 30 years of cultivating an addiction to a substance that both cocooned me in its nectar yet created the opportunities for blackouts, sexual assaults, lying, cheating and putting myself in stupidly dangerous situations.
These 60 days represent a pivotal turning point in my life. I feel a bit like the battered daffodils across the way from my window – still just about standing despite the efforts of Ciara and Dennis. We sit in therapy and what can start out as a jovial session with one of us believing that we have achieved something or regaling a past deed, can often end in anger, shame and (in my case) tears. The counsellors picking apart our words and with an invisible highlighter reveal the manipulation and denial in our stories.
I don’t know who I am. I am not sure what my opinions are on anything anymore. The never-ending layers of an onion being stripped away day by day and the constant weariness at the intensity of the sessions leaves us exhausted. With it however, there comes a lightness and a distinct lack of pretence. I can admit to it all as it arises.
This evening, after I had a bath with my battery lit candles and finished some written work, I attempted to play darts. Bolstered by not being the only female in the house, the new girl (who happens to be particularly good at the game), tried to improve my technique which resulted in my finally getting the sodding dart in the right place, despite at least 2 minutes of not having a clue about what she was talking about.
I am tired and hoping that I can finally manage to sleep through the night and not wake up with a mind like a washing machine as I do usually.
Excuse the poorly written post, my batteries are on empty…