Just sitting with pain has been one of the hardest things to do n recovery. I would always have vodka on hand to anaesthetise the feelings that gripped me and frightened me. Now, I have to sit here, feeling the pain and the darkness and it’s really hard. It seems counter intuitive to sit still when you’re scared; why not run?
However, I do it because I know I have to and each day I see that I’ve made it through and it’s a cause for celebration. I won’t say it gets easier because that’s a lie. It never does. It’s always hard. But as yet I haven’t died and you won’t either.
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.
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.
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.
Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.
So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.
Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.
Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.
It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.
Removing yourself from the situation
That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!
The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.
Remembering that you are not bad
My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.
Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.
People just aren’t thinking about you all that much
One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!
So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.
Stop trying to be perfect
Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.
Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.
If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.
I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.
Crikey! Where do I start? I remember my last drink like it was yesterday, and then at the same time it seems so strangely long ago. And that’s because I’ve grown; something it’s impossible not to do when you sober up and start living a real and fulfilling life. In reality, I’m still a newbie in sobriety terms. Three years is nothing next to the thirty to forty years that I have seen others achieve. But God willing, I will continue on this road and get there too.
I just wanted to write a little bit about what drove me to take that scary step into sobriety because I think that it’s an important message to carry and the purpose of this blog is to inspire, uplift and help.
So, my journey began in August 2016 when I was pulled into yet another HR meeting because I had acted out. I was never malicious but my social faux pas were slowly mounting and this just ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was so humiliated and angry and frustrated and depressed although I spent every night drinking to blackout so I had no idea what these feelings were, let alone how to articulate them.
I ended up getting into a total mess after this quite traumatic meeting and I needed to be signed off from work. Yet again, I found myself at the doctor’s office, crying over my anxiety and depression. I admitted that I was having trouble with my drinking but I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even get help with my mental health problems because no services would touch me with a barge pole, knowing how much I drank (and quite rightly so, not knocking them for that in the slightest!)
This doctor that I saw turned out to be the person who would save my life from being the shit show that it was slowly becoming. She pointed me in the direction of an NHS drug and alcohol service and told me not to come back until I was sober (she wasn’t quite that blunt, but she was pretty straight to the point).
I went to the NHS place and it was terrifying. I was frightened and ashamed but they gave me a handful of tools and sent me off to AA. I didn’t go for quite some time because I knew that I had an all inclusive holiday coming up and there was no way that I was going to get through that without alcohol. I slogged through the holiday and then I decided that enough was enough. But midway through the following week I caved and bought another bottle of vodka. I was shaking, I needed it so badly. I realised that I had officially come to the end of the line. The next morning I woke up at about 3am feeling really sick. I was living at my parents’ house because I was too much of a wreck to look after my own place and I was so embarrassed to let them hear me being sick that I ended up vomiting in the sink in the utility room. That was my moment. I wouldn’t say it was my rock bottom. That was unfortunately still to come. But it was when I knew that I could never drink again. It was 3rd November 2016.
Life since then has not been easy but the changes have been amazing. AA promises you that you will have a life beyond your wildest dreams and at the time I thought that meant money and ‘success’. Now I realise that it’s something far more subtle than that. Now I realise that it means that I’ll have a much better chance of living to watch my son get married and to enjoy grandchildren. I have the money to go on an extra holiday or buy something nice for the house. I can actually live on my own and not run the place into the ground like I did before. I can pay my bills on time and I can be a much more reliable friend, family member and employee.
I still have anxiety and I’ll always take tablets for my depression but I’m constantly growing and learning so much about myself and the world that I live in. Now I just hope and pray that others can enjoy what I have and that hopefully I can inspire somebody who is struggling to reach out for help. Go to the doctor, speak to a friend or send me a message if you like! We’re all here to help if you are struggling so don’t squander this wonderful thing called life.
Much love ,
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