i chose the bottle over the most simple of things.
i loved nothing more than to slip under it’s spell,
and leave this world that made me unwell.
i’d ignore all those things i was meant to do,
head in the sand so I could avoid the view.
but now i’m stepping out from that haze.
i’m doing it all by myself.
and whether you snort at my efforts
rolling your eyes at the fact that i’m boasting
about such a small, insignificant thing.
it really doesn’t matter to me
because i’m living my dream, of that i am sure.
today it’s just parenting but tomorrow it’s more.
that i can promise with my hand on my heart
because now that i’m sober i won’t fall apart.
today it’s just glasses that i’m lovingly buying,
by tomorrow i know that i’ll truly be flying.
I bought my son his glasses this week and it’s the first time that I’ve ever done it. We’ve lived with my parents for his whole life and they have done everything for us. Mum has always taken him to the opticians and had his eyes tested. I’ve never even set foot inside that shop because I never had to. It was always easier to get drunk and let her shoulder the responsibility.
But now we are on our own and I had to step up to the plate. I was terrified of something that most parents would just take in their stride. I didn’t know how we got his eyes tested or what to do about trying on and selecting frames because I’ve just never had to do it.
We did it though, like a little team. And it may seem like such a tiny thing but to me I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’m growing and learning after a decade in the fog of alcoholism. I feel like I’m finally learning how to do all the things that I watched other grown ups do so easily. It was mystifying to watch them go about their business when I had no clue. But now I’m proving to myself that I do have a clue! I’m doing it and I’m damn proud of that!
I’m not proud of the mess I’ve gotten myself into though. I’m in my mid thirties and I have a teenager and I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. I feel like I’m about twelve and I’ve just been thrown into the deep end. It’s all my own fault that I’m here and that is heart breaking. But rather than be miserable or ashamed and wallow in those feelings, I choose to celebrate my little victories.
So today, I hope that you can also really bask in the nice feelings you get when you do something that either frightened you, or just plain bamboozled you. You deserve to enjoy every victory, no matter how small. For some people it might mean running a marathon while for others it might mean just going to the shop or doing a shift at work without crying. We all have our battles and nobody can tell you that yours is insignificant. You are loved and special and I say a prayer for you today if you are struggling with any of these issues.
One of the things that you hear most when you are recovering from an addiction are the words ‘Let go and let God.’ It was only as I traversed the difficult path that is sobriety, that I realised just how difficult that is. At the beginning, I thought that it was just about letting go of the drink, then I thought it was just about embracing a God as I knew Him. But there was so much more to it than that.
Letting go is such an important part of being human whether you are an addict or not. We all tend to hold onto the things that are least good for us, even though we know that it’s only going to tear us apart from the inside. If we could let go we could solve so many of our problems. So why are we so reluctant to do it?
It’s because it’s scary.
It’s fucking terrifying to let go of all that pain because it’s used to shield us from future hurt. If I hold onto the pain of a broken relationship then I can protect myself from ever feeling that hurt again because I’m not going to get into another relationship any time soon.
But isn’t that kind of like living half a life? It closes off so many avenues even if it does protect you from some pain in the short term. And that is why letting go is so important. What’s the point in even getting sober if I’m just going to sit inside and worry about something that could go wrong? The fact is that it might not go wrong and then we could have missed out on something beautiful.
The ‘let God’ part of it is so important because it can help to ease some of the fear that we feel as mere mortals when we begin to let down these barriers. We have these barriers for good reason. They stop us from getting hurt or even dying. But by putting it all in the hands of God we are handing it all over to a power greater than ourselves. After all, I have no control over most of this stuff anyway, so why not hand it over to the all powerful? It makes sense to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase recently because my anxiety has been running high and that naturally leads me to feel out of control. I get them familiar feeling that I’m clutching at straws and if I don’t grab on tight I’m going to fall to my death. Clutching at straws, by the way, is the very opposite of letting go, hence the reason I’ve been thinking about this so much recently.
Today, for instance, my son’s bus didn’t turn up and he had to catch a later one. My head went into a spin over the impact that would have on both of our days and how it would absolutely ruin everything. But then I just took a deep breath and I handed it over. My brain still felt scratchy and my thoughts were still racing but it offered me an easing of my discomfort to know that it’s all in God’s hands.
A couple of hours on and I’ve now almost forgotten why I was so upset about the bus this morning so there really was no need to get so worked up. If I just keep it in mind that God has it all worked out, then I can just do my best to push things in the right direction and leave the rest down to him. I see it a little like swimming in a river. If I try to go upstream I won’t get very far. It’s much better to let the current take me downstream. I may still have to put some effort in to stay above water and I may not know exactly where it’s taking me, but the journey is a lot easier. And I know that the God that I believe in is a loving one and that means that I trust that wherever He takes me will be just fine.
If you are struggling with anxiety, I hear you. It’s crippling and painful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And I don’t think that it can always be wished away by positive thinking. Sometimes it’s best to go to a doctor and get counselling or medication. But letting go and letting God has worked for so many addicts and I know that if you have the faith to give it a try you can start to feel so much better.
I’m frightened. I’m terrified. And the reason? I’m ending my therapy sessions in just three weeks.
I started therapy when I was newly sober and still really mentally unwell. I was paranoid that my employer was trying to kill me and I even took an overdose and ended up in hospital just a few weeks after commencing my sessions. In short, my life was a bit of a shit show at the time.
Fast forward to almost three years on and I’m still not perfect. Far from it. But I have sat in that room, week after week, and I’ve talked and I’ve been open to learning. I’ve learnt so much about myself and where I was going wrong and where I can improve. And I say ‘improve’ rather than ‘fix’ because I don’t believe that we can ever truly be fixed. Perfection is unattainable and even when I’m ninety I will still be learning so much about myself and my fellow humans.
It has been an interesting journey, to say the least. And I’m nervous about where my life will take me after I leave the ‘care’ of my therapist. It’s the weirdest relationship that I’ve ever had with anyone, both close and distant all at once. I sometimes find myself wondering how I’m ever going to cope with nobody to hold me accountable in the same way.
I thought it might be helpful for myself and for others to just put into writing how therapy has helped me and just what it is that I’m frightened of in a life post therapy.
Therapy has taught me that we are all just winging it. In a way this is really terrifying because it means that I can never really find all of the answers. There is no instruction booklet for life and sometimes it’s all about a bit of guess work. Sometimes my decisions will be wrong and I just have to bear the consequences.
I’ve opened up to my therapist about some of my deepest and darkest secrets. I wouldn’t even tell my closest friends some of these things so I feel like I’ve let my barriers down in the extreme. Losing that relationship is like breaking up with a romantic partner. That makes me squirm to write, but it’s true, and it’s also a heartbreaking feeling.
I’ve discovered that some of my difficulties stem from past traumas and from my relationship with my mother. This has made for some uncomfortable realisations and I don’t know if things can ever go back to the way they were. I can cope with this, but it hurts.
I don’t have anyone to hold me accountable anymore. I knew that I had to check in with my therapist every week, and now I have nobody. I have to hold on so tightly to the fact that I have people around me who love me. I may not be able to burden them with all of my worries but they would be devastated if I was gone.
I’ve learned that when someone is mean to me, that’s their shit, not mine. People behave badly because they are uncomfortable and not because they hate me or want me arrested or dead. Holding onto this is so hard for me, but it’s essential if I am to stop myself from going down that rabbit hole I found myself in three years ago.
I’ve had to change my goals and my values. All I wanted was to be rich and successful because I thought that this would make people love me and respect me. Actually, it just made me bloody miserable. I need to do the things that make me happy, like writing and art and crochet. I don’t have expensive tastes so why the fuck do I need a job that pays me well but stresses me out to the point that I end up in hospital? I rest my case.
Just chill out. Life is to be enjoyed. If I die, then I die. But why not enjoy it while I have it?
I’d love to hear if you have had therapy and what you have learned from the experience. I think that it’s so helpful to learn what it is that causes you to behave the way that you do. I truly believe that we are all like little computers and the things that happen to us early on in life program us for the future. It’s fascinating and scary in equal measures!
Splitting or black and white thinking is something that we all struggle with to a certain degree. It’s a common ‘symptom’ of borderline personality disorder but it can be something that we all do from time to time as a coping mechanism. It’s when it starts to ruin our lives that it becomes a problem, and ruin lives it does.
My experience with splitting
I’ve never been diagnosed with borderline personality but my addictive behaviours have meant that I can identify with a lot of the traits that sufferers have to endure. And splitting is the one that has caused the most destruction in my life.
I have probably done this throughout my whole life but it really became obvious to me that it was a problem when I was in my late twenties and I was struggling to deal with bosses; particularly female bosses.
I would start a job and invariably the general manager of the site would be a woman. I would start to befriend her as much as I could and I would try to get myself in line for any kind of promotion I could lay my grubby hands on. I’m a straight woman but I would almost find myself falling in love with this person and my whole life would revolve around being noticed by her and being praised by her. In short, she was being idolised and put up on a really high pedestal.
And the story would always follow the same narrative. Once this woman was firmly in place on her pedestal she would do something to shake my faith in her. She would call me into the office because I’d done something wrong or she would overlook me for a promotion and then our love affair would be over. She was suddenly the worst person I could think of in the entire world and I wouldn’t have one good word to say about her. Eventually I’d hate her so much I’d have to leave my job and the whole charade would start again.
How big a problem can splitting become?
When my drinking was at its worst and I was in a place where I knew that I needed help, it was this problem that drove me to the doctor. I was convinced that the female boss that I had at the time was plotting to kill me or have me put in jail. Just a year earlier I had been pining for her attention; the process was swift and brutal.
Splitting caused me to end up missing work and hiding while I was at work because I was so terrified. I started self harming and at one point I took an overdose just so that I could stay in the hospital and be away from this woman. It was crazy behaviour but it still makes me feel anxious thinking back to that time so I know how real it was to me.
Some people will only fall out with a succession of people and then move onto the next. This is obviously not as frightening for the person but it’s equally as destructive as they are leaving a trail of broken relationships in their wake. These don’t have to me within the sphere of employment either, that just seemed to be prominent in my life. Many people have a string of friendships and romantic relationships that end in such a way.
So how do I stop splitting?
It might be worth seeing a doctor in the first instance because you may have something like borderline personality disorder and they will be able to help. Counselling is the best treatment if it’s a really serious problem for you because there are obviously some underlying issues that can be resolved by talking.
Here are a few other tips and tricks that I have learnt during my years in recovery and that have helped me stop this really damaging behaviour:
Don’t get over friendly with management at work. They are there to look after the business, not pander to your ego.
If you like somebody romantically, tell them. At least you can find out if they feel the same and move on if they don’t. I would make up stories in my mind about how we would get married and have babies and then they would get a girlfriend and I’d get angry at them. It would just trash a good friendship and leave everybody feeling angry and confused.
Remember that nobody is perfect. The person who you are putting up on that pedestal is going to make a mistake but that doesn’t make them nasty or evil, it makes them human.
Try to find your part in arguments. We sometimes forget that for something to go wrong in a relationship of any kind, we need to have played a part in it somewhere along the line. If we can accept our part it makes it easier to accept where the other person was coming from.
As I have said, this behaviour almost killed me so it’s important to seek help if you are getting worried for your own safety. But always keep in mind that people are complex and come to you with baggage of their own. Most of the time they don’t even realise they’ve done anything to hurt you so don’t let one slip up ruin something that could be beautiful with just a little bit of work and understanding.
Remember to show everyone the compassion that you would like to receive yourself. And have the most amazing day, you beautiful people.
There are probably a shit tonne of essays and books and blog posts (and maybe a poem or two) about what people wish they had known when they were 20. Looking back, we all wish we could go back and impart our acquired knowledge upon our younger self.
But I was a little bit broken and it was the reason that I ended up not having the career that my friends enjoyed or the relationships or the posh holidays and fancy cars. While they all grew up, I remained a sixteen year old who downed shots, even on a Tuesday.
Now that I have put my drinking days to bed and decided to make a real effort at getting my brain sorted out I feel like I can piece together something similar to all of those other lists on the internet. But mine isn’t what I wish I’d known; mine is what I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. It’s the stuff I really should have picked up if I wasn’t drunk, or high, or wandering around somewhere dangerous in Africa.
So here’s a little poem with some of the obvious stuff and also some of the things that are only applicable to wonky people like me.
When I was young and left my home,
There was a big, exciting world to roam.
But I did not know how to look
After the girl whose world was shook
When she found that drink was nice,
It’s just she didn’t know the price.
I wish that she had understood,
That letting go was what she should
Be doing when those heavy woes
Pushed her deep into her lows.
Let go of all that she resents,
All it does is swiftly robs and then prevents,
The happiness that could be hers,
But anger seems to be what she prefers.
I wish she knew that money, houses and a car
Aren’t the answer, not by far.
They’ll scratch the itch that plagues her so
But they won’t help her fly or grow.
The joy that they will make her feel
Is transient; it isn’t even real.
I wish that I could tell her to
Try the thing that scares her through
To her core; the thing that sets her heart on fire,
Do you ever feel like you just need to check out for a moment? Ever feel like it’s all just a bit too much and it would be lovely to slip into oblivion? I have felt this so often and the answer always used to be to drink until I was blackout drunk.
To some people, the complete loss of control and not remembering things in the morning is their worst nightmare. But for those of us who are wired a little wrong, that feeling of slipping away is one of the sweetest in life.
I used to love that feeling after about the fourth or fifth drink when my mind finally started to quiet and the scariness that life presents faded away. There was a window when everything was soft and lovely. But that window disappeared quickly, as did all of my memories.
It was such a terrible feeling to wake the next morning and not remember how I got to bed. I couldn’t remember the last thing that I watched on TV, or climbing the stairs to my bedroom. And worst of all, I could never remember if I had texted somebody or posted something on Facebook. The fear on opening my eyes in the morning was crippling it was so intense. The shame I felt was unbearable and I always wanted to just curl up and die. But I knew that I was addicted and so I would be doing the same thing again the next night. I was powerless and it was a living nightmare.
And that’s why it still confuses me that I miss that oblivion. I sometimes find myself sitting at home in the evening just wishing that I could go to that place. I have hard days and all I want to do is escape. But I’m not allowed to because I’m sober and I have to remain sober if I want to stay alive.
I’m writing this because I need to get it out that I do feel this a LOT of the time. And I’m sure there are lots of people out there that feel it too. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
If you are recovering from addiction or you know that you have a problem, it’s OK to feel this way because that’s the way we are wired. I just want to slip away, but I’m not allowed to and that sucks.
As a person who is about as sensitive as it is possible to be, and also lacking in confidence, I have often worried that I’m too shy to be a leader. Is it possible for somebody like me to stand up and lead the way for others? Can I possibly inspire other people? Or would it just be best for me to keep in line and keep my mouth shut?
I think that this feeling that I cannot lead stems from the fear that I cannot possibly have anything worth hearing. It’s a total lack of confidence in myself and what I stand for and I’m sure that there are a tonne of other people out there that feel the same way about themselves.
Where does this lack of confidence come from?
I’m no psychiatrist but I’ve had enough therapy to know that it comes from childhood. I grew up always being told to keep in line. I was an athlete so I had a very strict and structured lifestyle and I just learnt to do as I was told. And I was also told that you can’t be a shy leader.
I’m not saying that this was bad or that it damaged me in any way. My parents were incredibly loving and gave me everything I needed. And my sports gave me an incredible amount of discipline that has helped me later in life. But it also taught me to just shut up and follow instructions.
What I wish somebody would have told me?
So it’s all very easy saying that this all stems from childhood, but how do I fix it? I want to become a leader. I know that I have so much to say and to give and I can’t give it from my place in the audience. What do I do?
The first thing to remember is that a place in the audience is not a bad place to be. It’s the place where you learn from others and the place where you join forces with others to make something great as a team.
But, sometimes stepping up on to stage is necessary and you need to know that you are capable of doing it. It is a scary place to be because all eyes are on you, but you need to tell yourself what you should have been told when you were a child.
I wish that somebody had told me that my voice does matter. Because it really does. Even if I feel like I have nothing to say, I actually have a whole lifetime of experiences that could help another if I just had the courage to step up to the microphone. Even if my voice is shaky and uncertain, there will be at least a handful of people who will need to hear it.
Do our insecurities make us shy and unable to lead?
I have always suffered from anxiety and in my twenties I used alcohol to numb it. My alcoholism was always something that I was deeply ashamed of and it made me put the brakes on every time I started to excel at something. But what if I could use this part of my story to boost my own confidence and that of others?
Having had some time to reflect on everything that happened in my twenties, I have realised that my difficulties could actually help me to be a better leader. People can relate to that pain and that struggling and it helps me to relate to them. And being relatable is one of the best things a leader can be. It’s not all about being loud and gobby. It’s about having something important to say, that can help people, and can inspire them.
So, next time you are thinking you aren’t good enough, or your past is too shameful or isn’t epic enough for people to want to follow you, remember that those bumps in the road are the thing that will make you a great leader.
Confidence is all you need and it only comes from really knowing where you come from and really believing that none of it can stand in your way. I believe that any one of you can get up there and inspire others. It’s just a case of finding your tribe and the cause that really sets your heart on fire. I wish you luck in finding it because I know that it will lift such a weight off your shoulders and that is something that everybody deserves.
I am going to write a full blog post about this because it was such a hard part of my drinking days to deal with. I lost so many good friends who I ended up having some kind of misunderstanding with. I just felt so disconnected from the rest of the world and I didn’t understand the way that it operated. This made it really hard to hand onto the special people because I just couldn’t understand their reasoning and they couldn’t understand mine.
When I was in active alcoholism, the drunk dial was the bane of my life. I would wake up in the early hours of the morning feeling like I’d licked a carpet and having to reach for my phone immediately. My first thought was always about how terrified I was that I had texted a guy or emailed my boss. It was a humiliating and scary time.
But these days I am free of that and I’m really keen to help others who are struggling with the same issues that I did. It is a big part of the reason why I started this blog and I hope that it will also motivate me to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s a serious illness and it needs to be treated like one.
However, the drunk dial does have some comedy value and I think that everybody needs some fun in their lives so this is my take on a subject that used to bring me out in cold sweats.
I didn’t mean to grab the phone,
I heard the sound of that ominous tone,
But I won’t recall this when I wake,
I’ll forget the mess that I can make,
After one too many pints of beer,
When life’s all rosy and full of cheer.
I won’t remember that awful text,
Or the old flame that I rang next.
I’ll see it there upon the screen,
The words I wrote that were so mean.
The dawn will bring an awful pain,
And towards myself I’ll feel disdain.
I’ll wish that I could take it back,
And I know that I will get some flack,
For what I said when I’d had some wine,
and thought that texting would be fine.
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