60 Days..

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…

Leaky Vessel

Sitting in my room on my bed in between lunch and a workshop. Reflecting on a) how much I cry and b) how I might be able to pull a sudden sickie and be excused from another excruciating hour of ‘let’s pull the addicts apart and bare their souls until they howl for mercy’.

Yes I am feeling a little dramatic and if I were a cat (which alas I am not.. I have never seen an alcoholic cat before so can safely assume I wouldn’t need to be in a rehab if I were one..), I would be painstakingly licking my fur so that every strand of hair was laying in the correct direction and then would sprawl out and knead my claws into the soft blanket under which I am currently hiding. Right now, being a cat would be the ultimate solution for my weary brain that has had enough of the constant barrage of therapy.

The thing is that I am fully aware that out of this pain comes growth. It’s just it hurts so fucking much. I struggle to sleep when I go to bed and then can’t wake up in the morning. My first thoughts as I stir are muted and fuzzy but within seconds negativity bombards the mind, like shots being fired from a gun. The idea is that I pray first thing and meditate. Unfortunately the fatigue is crippling first thing and I struggle to get down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea let alone pray to my higher power. Ideally I would pray to my higher power whilst simultaneously receiving a cup of tea but I feel that asking for tea and serenity might be pushing it.

Relationships throughout my life are fast becoming an obvious issue and I witness from my mind’s sidelines how I play out my role in relationships now. In fact I almost feel like I have just been thrown back to being a young child and I am having to relearn how to be a friend, a daughter, a sister as well as a mother. And god knows what hell being in a relationship now would manifest. Almost 6 weeks in and I have realised that not one of my past relationships have been healthy. Blood red ‘Codependence’ is stamped condemningly on each one, as I file them into the ‘LOVE – archived’ cabinet drawer.

With shocking clarity as I sat on a bus coming back from the Portobello market, I realised that each time I envisioned being with a partner, I was looking for someone who had the same values with a shared sense of humour, who liked the same things, adored animals, listened to the same music.. In fact, I was looking for me. I don’t actually need anyone else to fulfil me or make me whole.. I have already found that person. It is me. I have everything I need and now I just need to love her. The tears that threaten to drown me also come from the stark realisation that there is no person alive who can save the little girl who resides within, that critical time has passed. The loneliness and fear that stemmed from instances of neglect needed to be addressed between the ages of 0 – 16. They simply cannot be fixed now by anything external. That boat has most definitely sailed. Love, material objects, new hair styles or multiple piercings and tattoos.. it is time to accept that they are nice-to-haves. The only way that this vessel can be repaired is via a self-care manual that incorporates the instructions to fixing one’s container so that it is supportive, can bear rough seas and doesn’t leak. And to do this I assume I need to do a bit of work on self-love, self-care and self-esteem.

Through drawing and painting, meditating, writing and (my latest addiction) collecting house plants, I endeavour to create a safe space whilst I am here. My essential oil diffuser puffs out therapeutic steam whilst changing colour and the salt lamp exudes a warm glow. Fuck knows what the cluster of healing crystals are actually doing by my bedside but I do seem to think that shoving a different one down my bra each day may help with something. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

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.

Bird Bath

So by far the nicest thing that has happened to me today occurred an hour or so ago. I, (very excitedly) decided that I was going to, not only have a bath but I was going to have a bath bomb in it and some 0% pink fizz to drink (Friexenet 0.0% – really lovely), with M&Ms in the light of a candle and then… wait for it…. I watched Bird Box in the bath! 

Now for some, maybe this isn’t quite the rollercoaster ride you expect to either experience or hear from me… but if I am brutally honest.. it was so fucking nice that I can’t wait to do it again. In fact, if I wasn’t so bloody clean, I would go and do it again. I even used a Xmas gift of a body scrub from the EO. There was a bit of writhing in the water as I realised that it’s difficult to hide during scary bits when you are in the bath.. well at least not without deluging the whole sodding bathroom.. I forget that as a (slightly overweight) adult.. one quick move in the bath is like creating one’s own miniature fecking tsunami but aside from that.. not one M&M was dropped and the laptop didn’t explode from steam exposure.

I bounded out like an eager and overexcited puppy… declaring to the EO that I had such ‘ A LOVELY bath’ and then told her how many of her Xmas gifts I had used, so that she thought I was extra-amazing. She lounged on her bed, her phone practically stuck to her cheek in case it dared to leave her sight and I decided due to one’s amazingness that she ought to give me a back scratch so that she could earn having my presence in her room. Bramble (small witch kitten) lying on the wicker chair in the corner, opened an eye and looked at me with a really horrid expression. Like pure evil, she glared (with the one eye) as if to say ‘pathetic human, I don’t have to do any amateur dramatics to get massages and back scratches.. I simply exist’. I foresee another accidental kick off the bed tonight.

Other than that, today has been a good day. I paid an exorbitant amount to have the car cleaned badly, spent more than I would on alcohol on alcohol-free-pretend-alcohol so that I could pretend I was still drinking alcohol; did some boring HouseShit and caught up with one of my besties. I even printed ‘things’ for my leadership exam.. and put them in piles and then moved them about.. and did an impression of studying.

Who knows what excitement tomorrow could bring? (Well, I do actually, a 5 year old’s birthday party.. There is NO stopping me!)

 

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.

Its been a funny old day. A lot of ruminating to be done, which to be honest is pretty difficult as you are running around on a poorly staffed ward full of patients that are anxious, in pain and some with a little bit of dementia thrown in. At one point we ran out of commodes and that is never likely to be a good situation to be in, surely?

I haven’t had all that much time to think about the fact that it is our 8 year wedding anniversary today and I appear to have lost my husband by the wayside. I didn’t expect to be a single mother again either but with the addition of two more children. Our LO was adamant he wasn’t staying with me last night. After two nights at his father’s he was determined to stay every night with him. But eat at mine. (Possibly not such a good idea, as his father is a trained chef and I clearly, am not). He clung on to his dad who tried and failed to extricate himself. The horror reflected in our eyes at the screams and tears. Eventually I managed to stop him from following out of the front door but instead he tried to launch himself out of the front room window. I held him as he pushed and pulled away from me. Eventually he flung his little tear stained arms around me and buried his head into my neck, sobbing. the MO went out into the garden unable to cope and the EO fled upstairs, enveloped in her own PMT misery and anger at life. Tears silently fell down my cheeks as I told the LO that I knew, I understood and I was sorry.

 

Being sober has been my main weapon – I feel like a somewhat fatter and less fit Xena – belly bulging under my breast plates – wielding a shield purposefully. Being sober has been a godsend. An unknown strength has manifested inside and whilst I wobble from time to time, as some of the reality ekes out like a poison, I seem to have focus. My heart aches and I feel winded – how can I be without my best friend; my soul mate? – yet I somehow put one foot in front of the other.. and keep walking.

The Inflatable Pool Toy

I’m feeling lacklustre. There are plenty of valid reasons why this might be but equally there are just as many that should be reminding me of how privileged I am..

However, I feel like an inflatable pool toy – one that is deflating slowly despite all the joy around it, splashing away.

think I know the cause of it.. if I picture it like a missile that has crashed into the pool toy.. but like a really tiny, tiny missile.. and then.. the shrapnel is the other causes?.. Right! Here I have it! So this is what happened……

There was once a shiny (bit drab), happy (reasonably cheerful at times) pool toy bobbing around amidst the screams and ‘yahoos’ of the pool people.. and quite often the toy would get submerged but would always eventually bob back up to the surface. Then one day a (tiny) missile struck and pierced the pool toy and very slowly it began to deflate.. the missile was caused Abstinence and could be a bugger. The Abstinence had hurt the pool toy and made resurfacing a little bit harder for it. The Abstinence was helped by pieces of shrapnel that were called AnotherHeavyPeriod, BulliedDaughter, TooMuchToDoGenerally, NursingDegree and MentalShit. So despite the current heatwave affecting the pool’s locality and the fact that really life in the pool was by many standards, pretty fecking awesome.. the inflatable pool toy started to sag and take on water. The End.

So basically the crux of all of this is that it is a wonderfully warm and sunny day and I would normally be doing everything that I am currently doing but would be doing it with a glass of beer/cider/G&T/fizz in my hand. This is unchartered territory, this not drinking in the sun malarkey.

For those that aren’t UK based, the Brits don’t see the sun very often. Not proper blue sky sun with heat. So what we like to do is use alcohol to celebrate it. In beer gardens, or with bbqs on the beach, or sitting in our gardens attempting to do stuff that slowly gets forgotten (the more we drink). It is unfortunately just part of our culture and like a fish trying to swim up stream, I am abstaining, albeit ungracefully.

By moderating alcohol, I haven’t yet got to the point of feeling completely 100% happy as a non-drinker. People who I have spoken to who are completely alcohol free say that eventually the restlessness lessens and the more comfortable you are with your sobriety, whatever the situation. I feel like I don’t know how to be if I spend time with drinking friends. I am frightened of losing my spark and being bored and boring if I go out with my husband. I feel like pressure is put on my relationships as I continue to look in at myself, like a kaleidoscope the image morphs again and again. The scariest part, not knowing where the journey is taking me and who will still be with me as I tentatively pick my way on stepping stones through the coursing stream.

The pieces of shrapnel have definitely taken their toll these last few days but I guess accepting things for what they are, taking some deep breaths and not giving in, will prepare me for (some sort of) success!

 

 

 

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.