The Ebb and Flow of Petals and Thorns

It has been quite some time since I last posted. About a year. In some ways life has changed dramatically, in essence, however, it has remained the same. Fault lines that run through my soul, emitting warning tones that increase with frequency and intensity. Now at least I am in a position to address them despite the change in circumstances.

I look out of the window and see council flats. I’m sitting in the TV room in a treatment centre in South East England. The place is both alien and familiar.

Almost 7 weeks ago I took an overdose and thereby, inadvertently threw myself off of the train that I had unwittingly boarded years ago. The train that was speeding through events and problems on a loop, going back over and over again on itself with me at the helm, unable to apply the breaks or take a different route. The only way that seemed possible to disembark was to derail the train. And that is what I did.

And the landing was hard. I woke up on the hospital trolley and felt immediate humiliation and shame at my failed attempt. The guilt at the pain I had caused rose like the water in an empty sinking vessel and indeed, that is how I felt. Empty. Devoid of anything substantial other than the knowledge that I had fucked even this up.

Within a couple of days I was in a private local rehab centre trying to come to terms with the damage I had caused to those close to me; to my position as a newly qualified nurse; to my life as I knew it. The admission that I was a functioning alcoholic who had wrapped herself in denial rather than admit defeat and hold her hands up to the unmanageability of her life. It stung. A million wasps stings attacking mind and heart; my core was squirming and withering whilst I tried to think my way out of the shit storm I had created.

Now, a month and a half later, the pain is still there. As my various masks get stripped off via the counsellors, like a steady swell, the tears rise up and then fall away. There are small steps forward followed almost immediately by a trip and stumble backwards. My love for another alcoholic and addict still burning despite the the hoses of water trained on it from so many different sources; family, friends, therapists, peers and myself. Knowing that my self worth must overcome the agony of rejection and loss which follows the declarations of love, the lying and manipulation. Knowing that despite the rosy future I had imagined, the reality as it stands was likely to be more thorns than petals.

Photo by Jack Hawley on Pexels.com

The laughter in here though, is infectious. The residents move in and out depending on their treatment time and whether or not they relapse. We currently are ten men and two women. The amounts of times I have squealed and had to immediately cross my legs whilst hopping about in fits of laughter are unquantifiable. The different personalities in the house emerge as time allows and there is a general feel of camaraderie. Although this can be upset by the arrival of someone new or the departure of a well-liked housemate… or the failing of a house member at their ‘therapeutic duty’ *… Actually, poorly thought out meals (i.e. anything meatless it appears) are a proper recipe for disaster and spark a flurry of outings to the local fried chicken shop.

All in all though, I feel that I am in a good place despite the unease at knowing what I have to face combined with the aching and longing to be with my children. Another 7 weeks to go and I am in no doubt that I need to grasp the ethos of recovery with both hands and absorb everything if I am to have a fighting chance at both sobriety and being the best mother I can be.

*Therapeutic duty – basically a cleaning or shopping chore.

Spin 1400

abstract blur bubble clean

As you listen, as their tales unfold, you slip into a revery. Neural pathways in your mind sorting out what is relevant to you. Picking at my nail varnish, crossing and uncrossing my legs, shifting in my seat. Busy little synapses, ‘scrap that’, ‘nope, no recognition there’, ‘fuck sake that’s not me’.. until there’s a whir.. a little shake up, ‘Got one!! Got one! Store that shit!’.. excitedly the recognition is put into a little box, ready to be used later. There were a few tonight. The metaphor of the mind like a washing machine, except mine is stuck on spin.. 1400 rpm. As I walk home, it’s slowed but there is a definite residue slipping out of the soap drawer. I realise that these past few months, I haven’t cleaned my mind. Mould and gunk building up, slowing the release of the water to clean the insides of the machine. But still I poured more detergent, more fabric conditioner inside, in the desperate hope that those clothes would still smell nice and good and everything that they should. Until the machine broke. I feel like an excited washing machine purchaser who has just been to a conference about buying new washing machines and fixing the ones that can be fixed. I have a little skippity skip home clutching my new manual that has been so kindly bought for me and I, for the first time in months, can see a future that is not only bright but fucking luminous.

It is tinted with a sadness, so deep it aches. My insides churn at the thought of their pain. My pain. I have left someone behind, their machine is still broken and as we spoke tonight about remembering those with broken machines, tears slid down my cheeks. Apparently you can’t fix other peoples machines, they have to do it themselves. I don’t like that. In my Utopia I would be the Ultimate Repair Woman.. fixing machines with abandon.

But instead here I am, alone with Tarka And Qara, 2 of the Greatest Cats Known to Catkind, sitting in silence, recording my feelings about going to the first ever washing machine fixing conference where I acknowledged that I, Chloe, had a broken washing machine. Strength is building and whilst I know that there is a long road ahead, I am hopeful and grateful to be walking it.

Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

3 days later..

I have been found out. Yep, no longer able to hide behind functioning alcoholic… now just alcoholic. Intervention has been staged and I rattle inside my house as my mess is mopped up behind me. The MO’s birthday ruined by the dry retching he can hear and the tears that steadily fall. The kids still here but being looked after by a ‘sound’ adult. A GP review has confirmed I need help and I await to self refer on Monday to a local organisation. I can’t face an AA meeting tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I tried to discharge the brakes as I landed but they wouldn’t budge. The final blackout too much for my fragile mind to contend with. Like sailors on the dockside, watching their boat submerge “she’s going under chaps! She’s going under!”, my brain cells giving way. I can’t speak these words. Only write them. I can’t stop the tremors or quieten the heart but somewhere, in between those clouds, a glint of light catches my eye. This is my rock bottom. I have found it at last.

Surviving Tofu

I did it! I bloody well did it! I have eaten tofu and lived. I didn’t actually know that it was possible to almost (note the ‘almost’) like the damn, weird, curdy bean.. beany curd… stuff…

The featured photo is indeed featuring an entirely plant based lunch. AND I am drinking soya milk in tea now.. like all the time. We’ll conveniently forget the cheese pizza we had last weekend because I just can’t do pizza without cheese and right now I am not ready to forgo the lot. So, I’m proud to present myself as an almost-teetotal-nearly-vegan. I reckon it’s got a ring to it.

I have definitely skipped a lot today… mentally and physically. I am very pleased with my efforts to embarrass the MO at the docs as he needed his trillionth skin issue sorted out (he must have weak skin). We sat for far too long in the same spot and that’s when I began to fidget.. we both realised that we weren’t going to be leaving before I had done some damage, although maybe telling the doctor that once he had to sit on a cushion because the boil on his bum was sooo sore, was a little too far. To be honest, he usually proudly carries said cushion around with him but maybe it was all a bit too early in the morning.. and yes, constantly holding his fringe back so that the GP could actually see his face, was probably irritating but I like to think I made my point. And maybe reading the sight test card thing, with my head upside down, wasn’t necessary but I was getting bored.

After that I skippity skipped – ok, drove – to the gym where I tried to suck my belly in whilst using the bike machine and nearly passed out as a result. Lots of young, fit and nubile people walked past and I tried not to dribblglare, meanwhile repeatedly  forgetting that bouncing one’s head to the drum ‘n bass playing in my earphones was probably very un-cool. It is however, imperative.

I then returned via Tesco to home, where I am now sitting at the dining table which needs tidying (as does everywhere), writing this and not sitting in the garden office planning my next assignment.

The very, despite invisible, point to this post is to say, that one can come out of the other side of the doldrums.. even when nothing essentially has changed. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe it’s self-love (not masturbation, just to clarify).. maybe its listening to my instinct.. who knows but today is a good day. IMG_1612.jpg

Where am I?

The tension mounts but the pressure drops and the sky darkens. Gusts blow post-winter debris along the ground and birds stop singing. I know that from somewhere deep within I am going to blow. Where’s my blue sky?? Where’s my fucking blue sky?! I am stuck in dark clouds, they are everywhere. Under my feet, above my head, they are suffocating. As the heart rate quickens, the tears prick the eyes and I feel caged within my own mind. I can’t penetrate the bubble that everyone else is in, the laughter so loud, so shrill. I can’t laugh. I don’t know how to laugh. What happened? How did this suddenly arise? At what point? Which comment? Which thought? And like a train bound to crash, I know I can’t get off. I grab at a passing reason. No, not that one.. that one doesn’t fit.. that’s not why.. what about that one? No, although it might be plausible than the other. Is it hormonal? Is it overwhelm? Am I tired? I feel anxiety and anger, I feel resentment, I feel fear..and at the same time I feel numb.

At this point I would reach for a drink. Drink through it… ‘just keep drinking, just keep drinking’; not sure Dory would approve. The paranoia continues to mount like some determined mountaineer. ‘Take a break’, I whisper, ‘take a fucking break’.. ‘Oh no young Chloe, no breaks for me.. we’re on a roll!!.. We are going to reach the peak!’. I don’t have the energy for the peak. Not enough sustenance inside of me, I didn’t pack enough protein bars. I panic, I run home and I hide.

These moments punctuate my life in fits and starts. Hard for anyone to understand, including me. I know from past experience though that this is my ‘me’ talking. This is gut instinct yelling at me that something is wrong. That I am not listening. I think I know but I don’t want to hear it. It used to be come-downs from alcohol, or not getting enough sleep, or pride, or ego. So how do I know what it is this time? Which me do I trust?

The more I strip back, the more I face, the more raw and vulnerable I feel. The problem with not self medicating like I used to, is that now I have to face all the Chloe’s in one. And that is no mean feat. I want to line them all up and remove the ones I don’t like. Slowly, I hope to merge the others I do like into just one. Like bits of mismatched play doh… all the same substance but different colours… moulding them together. Making a version of me that I love and am happy with so that in time, others can be happy with me too.

Long, dull evenings..

I drank on Monday evening. I kid myself that I ‘like’ the taste of red wine. Yeah.. I do but as I drank it I realised that it is so obviously not just simply the taste. I like the taste of orange juice but I don’t drink glass after glass after glass. So, if it’s the zoning out I am after, those glorious evening hours of ‘fuck it’ land whilst I would watch tripe on tele and finally feel the muscles in my neck relax.. then I can honestly say, I am struggling to replicate that with anything else.

Up until about 3 or 4, I feel great… la de daa great… I’m killing this shit, great… then I start to panic ever so slightly.. ‘oooh noooooo.. I have hours before bedtime… what will I doooooo? How will I sustain this gleeful skipping? I have mundane crap to do.. and how will I turn off? How well I tune out?’.

A bath is great… for maximum half hour but then you have to exit said bath and find something else to do! Languishing in tepid water does get a little dull after the billionth night. So maybe reading a book? Yesssss.. but even that can get tiresome when it’s night after night. And sometimes I don’t want to be productive.  I just want to relax. I might not want to crochet, or draw, or plan, or sort.. I just want to switch off. I want my mind to get a bit fuzzy and to not care so much about everything. Meditating for hours may well achieve this but try doing that with kids coming downstairs every half hour complaining they are hungry.. it’s not possible.

So please, someone out there… have you got any magic solutions? Will this restlessness ever ease?

Shifting.

Some rather monumental changes have been occurring in 2018. I didn’t plan any of this; there were no pre-meditated goal-setting sessions or  earnest  recordings of my 2018 resolutions (which are never stuck to anyway). This has happened almost accidentally, but not quite. I planned to do Dry January and in doing so cemented the fact that I was seriously damaging my mental and physical health if I continued to drink as much as I was in 2017. To date I have drunk alcohol on 13 days out of 85 and as already established in previous posts, this is something short of a miracle for me.

During this time I have found the head space to meditate more. Still needing my hand held by using guided meditations, but nonetheless, learning to be more mindful is helping me in situations where I would normally let rip and decapitate someone, mainly my family – so at least they are appreciative of the new, sparkly, 2018 model of Chloë.

They may be less enchanted by my very new vegan status. This has been bubbling on the surface for a couple of years but due to my complete inability to maintain grand promises of change, I have – to date – been a proper shit vegan. As evidenced in previous blog posts, I have a tendency to fall of my various wagons on a regular basis. The vegetarian and vegan wagons appear to have particularly lose bolts and I tumble from them.. well… daily. I then run as fast as my legs will carry me, desperately trying to scramble back up, clinging onto my dreams of a more humane way of living, clutching at the sides of the wagon, hoping that perseverance will finally pay off.

I am a source of huge entertainment to my friends – they seems to simultaneously despair of and yet, almost appreciate these efforts of mine. For most of them probably, they think I am just making my own life (and possibly my family’s…) too difficult by trying too much at the same time and that if I only just calmed down and gave myself a break, then life would be a bit more peaceful. So, maybe I can explain what drives me:

There are two Chloës. Fuck it Chloë and Peaceful Chloë. We don’t get to see the latter very often because the former gets in the way. Peaceful Chloë often seems Frantic in her quest for Peace. But bear with, this is how I work:

know that ultimately there are things I need to do in this time on earth that will fulfil my spiritual expectations of myself. Often ego gets in the way but this is not what is happening here. I am not on a VeganTrain – this isn’t about fashion. Since I was a child I have tried to go veggie. I failed miserably because I literally kept forgetting and didn’t have the willpower to do it successfully, which is interesting because I was basically brought up a vegetarian in that my mum would only seem to cook quiche, pasta and omelettes. And all were without meat. In excitement on my school lunch breaks I would dig out a 50 pence piece and buy a sausage roll. I wasn’t given lunch money and was expected to go home and have a cheese sandwich instead. However, this wasn’t deemed cool and as we know, being cool has never been my go-to status but I at least needed to appear willing, so shop bought sausage rolls were bought and I nonchalantly ate them as if this were an everyday occurrence, forgetting about proclamations of being a vegetarian. I was a member of Animal Aid by about 12 and once pinned a horrific picture of a sheep in a slaughterhouse on the wall of my room so that I could macabrely remind myself and my friends of the horrors of what went on to produce the meat we ate. Since then I have tried and then failed and for as long as I can remember I have only eaten free range chicken and eggs and veered away from any caged or intensively farmed animals, clinging to the promises that the RSPCA assured us, in their blue stickered meats.

It wasn’t until I watched Earthlings last year that it was so effectively drummed into me that I was practising specieism. I loved my cats and my two chickens (but not all the other chickens I ate) and I wouldn’t eat that cow but I might eat that pig. Since watching Land of Hope and Glory last night, I kept myself in a joyful little bubble of thinking that UK slaughter houses were different. They are not. They beat piglets that aren’t thriving against the walls until they die, it’s the most cost effective way of culling. This isn’t hearsay. It’s filmed. Farmers are shown kicking the shit out of ‘free range’ pigs and torturing them for fun and a new born calf is kicked repeatedly whilst being called a ‘little fucking cunt’ and a pregnant cow kicked whilst lying down as she is ‘fucking useless’. These farms are in Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Kent.. up North, down South, along to the East and not forgetting the West of the country. These are the free-range, organic farms as well as the intensive ‘shit’ ones.

This makes my heart bleed, the tears that fell as I watched this, were angry tears. Tears that, we as humans, are plundering this earth,  in a bid to push ourselves higher and higher up the ladder of our preconceived ideas of grandeur.

I am not jumping aboard a vegan wagon in a bid to be fashionable. Just the same as I am not moderating my alcohol intake to prove a point to anyone else. This is my journey and there is an inherent need to calm my disquieted mind and soul. You see the frantic me is the scared me. If I want to see good in human beings then surely I need to see good in myself first? In order for me to make changes about mine and my family’s lifestyle, I need to have a clear head. So not drinking and practising mindfulness faciliates this. Without the ups and downs of hangovers, anxiety and depression, I can start making decisions and actually sticking to them. We don’t need to eat meat. We don’t need to contribute to the torture that animals are subjected to daily. We don’t need to drink milk, it’s not for humans, it’s for calves. Yes I will miss cheese. God I will miss cheese but I will get over it and if somehow I can also bring up children that might follow this train of thought in the future, then maybe we can contribute to lower levels of carbon emissions and less flooding and just maybe, we won’t be using as much water because the food we eat doesn’t need as much as the ‘free-range’, grass pastured cow, pig or sheep.

The Peaceful Chloë is actually starting to emerge and I want my children to feel this peace. They, too, love animals. They, too, want to live in a world that feels safe. We can’t control what everyone else does but we can control what we do. The EO watched some of the films, the youngest two didn’t. However, they  solemnly agreed as I announced that I wouldn’t be bringing anymore animals products into the house.

The Frantic Chloë is calming and the kids can sense it.. Fuck it Chloë is slowly being pushed to the side and, just maybe, some will start to call me Sanctimonious Chloë 😉 .. meh… whatevs… I am sure in time they’ll get used to my levitating ways ;-)…