Monthly Archives: August 2016

Thanks Drew!

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Thanks Drew!

 

drew barrymore regret quote

I remember years ago when I first read the above quote by Drew Barrymore. I’m guessing it must have been the response to a question which inferred that she ought to;  that a history as colourful as hers could be a cause for shame. I decided on the spot that I too was going to live regret-free. Sod everyone, I thought, I will do what I like, be who I like and eschew apology.

It doesn’t quite work like that though. I think, unless you truly believe in yourself and the road you are travelling regret is impossible to shake off. Back then, I was still partying hard, as I believed all self-respecting twenty-somethings should (and of course did in the circles in which i found/put myself). I  was unhappy with my weight, figure, boyfriend, lack of boyfriend, job, state of unemployment etc. The world, life, was not working out as I thought it would or should.

A low point was my wonderful flatmate having to walk a disheveled and hungover me to the hairdressers to fix my self-shorn locks after a break-up. To this day I cannot listen to The Corrs without turning the colour of a beet (or type it!). Mega cringe worthy (and expensive). With binge drinking there will always be such stories. Sometimes they might even seem funny. For a while.

Fast forward a few years: family life is well and truly bedded in, pretty much every day begins and ends with the mayhem that is trying to get three brothers to do anything, be it getting to school or sports or bed. See Mummy (and Daddy) reward themselves for getting through another day of chaotic mundanity (yes it exists!) with some large glasses of wine. An acceptable two or even three is enough for one, for the other it flicks off the brakes, allows an escape, a quick volte face from responsibility to enjoyment: me time.

Living like this for years, day upon day takes its toll. Most of the time having no extreme hangover symptoms was a win. Showing up for my life was a win. To expect any kind of achievement on top of that felt greedy, I got used to enough, just enough.

I didn’t realise just how crap I felt all of the time until I felt better. I had become so used to operating and existing below par that it felt normal-ish. Then the guilts would come to call, that inexplicable morning-after anxiety would rush in and, POW!, I was felled. Those days spent ticking minutes off until I could drink the horrors away.

Through all of this I promised myself no regret, I would just start again and again and again. But I did regret. I hated it, hated the feeling of helplessness, the knowledge that I was unable to stop, to resist. For as long as I was drinking, I would regret because regret was happening, was future as well as past.

Eight weeks sober and my regrets are giving way to curiosity. Naval gazing I may be but the constellations I am finding keep surprising me, keep changing. Discovery about myself, genuine, authentic awareness without judgement means I think I finally get what Drew was getting at. Once you forgive yourself, accept yourself and are happy with the path in front, you really can let go of regret, and it’s the most liberating feeling in the world. Thanks Drew!

reach-for-the-stars-because-at-the-very-least-youll-air-out-your-armpits-CnT

This just made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

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Enough.

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Enough.

Pretty much everyone who is getting sober or overcoming an addiction will talk of the battle waged over the long term before there is any sign of peace, of even a glimmer of success. Much like the Leunig cartoon, there are ups and downs as the journey progresses, such as in life.

leunig up and down life

Imagine though the lows gradually deepening, the highs becoming less frequent and you have a picture of a descent into problematic, dispirited living. Combine this with everyday stresses and pressures nice brew for dependency on one or other of the many legal, acceptable substances conveniently awash in our society. Support for chemical support is constant, unwavering.

We have all known the day from hell when wine o’ clock cannot arrive fast enough; the weekend when it’s never too early; the party where it’s never enough. This is the normal face of booze, and it is, it can be, fun. Unless you are one of the unlucky ones who like it just a little sooner, a little more.

The day comes, whether with a loudspeaker, billboard and fireworks, or simply with a shrug and a sigh, when the drawing of the line is no longer optional. This is the day where the presence – or not – of support will make the difference between stumbling and soaring.

Embarrassingly, I can think of at least two occasions in the past where I have proclaimed, even written down, “This is the first day of the rest of my life.” Thank god, the audience began and ended with myself (until now). I have shameful memories going back decades, times when I knew that for some reason, I was unable to join in like normal people. Oh how I wasted time longing to be one of them.

The difference this time is in the planning. Not the kind researched from books though, plotted methodically on a to-do list. Rather the organic, authentic, learn-the-hard-way kind. In between the extremes, and sometimes during them, I have gradually amassed a collection of resources I can tap into depending on mood or need.

I will share these soon in a new section on the blog in case the things that work for me might work for others. That however is the nub: what helps me will not help everyone. It is crucial to remember that it is a journey, a process and each is as uniquely different as we are. 

There are, frequently, still times where the only choice feels like opting out; climbing into bed on a mockingly sunny day and sleeping until the hard feelings pass. I am incredibly grateful to have a reason, three actually, who make this impossible. (They should have been a reason against dependency too, sadly it doesn’t work like that…)

Those days, conversation remains at a high level, the smile plastered on while I interact in shops, welcoming chores, revelling in the basic requirements of living. The need for food, for clean clothes, for bags packed and unpacked, somehow satisfies the huge part of me that needs to be needed. I have achieved, by simple means I have kept going. There need be no depth, no soul baring, no breaking down. On those days I fake it till I look like I’m making it and remind myself it is only one day. That is enough. I am enough.

enough bb

Faith and hope

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Faith and hope

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Having hope makes us human. Gives us reason to get up in the morning, hoping that the sun is shining and that today will be a good day.

We are encouraged to hope throughout life, hoping we get this teacher or that, that we get a spot on the team, a part in a play. We go on hoping for many things: a good job, nice friends, invitations to parties, pregnancy, promotion, recognition, fame, fortune, a luxury home, a safe home, the ability to make good choices, feel comfortable in our own skin, be appreciated, be loved.

It is perhaps central to life that we have hope.  But in order to have hope we need to have the belief that our hopes might come to pass. So we need to have faith. Faith gives substance to aspirations, allows us to believe in our dreams.

Faith isn’t always placed naturally or obviously. It is hard sometimes to know where to rest your soul. When it feels as though the world is demanding more than you can give it is especially so.

Some people, perhaps enviably, have an unshakable religious faith. This certain belief in someone being there through good and bad must bring strength. And comfort when that strength falters.

Some have faith in the universe; in forces beyond the realm of understanding but perhaps present nonetheless.

Faith in our family and friends, our practices, our ideas are paramount. The knowledge that people have our back, are in our corner, are rooting gives us confidence, gives us hope.

More than anything though we need to maintain faith in ourselves. We need to believe in our value, our worth. No-one else can give us the ability to say ‘I am great, just as I am.’ (Unless you are Bridget Jones in which case Mark Darcy seems to get close.) In this digital age, no number of likes or clicks or shares can equal the moment when we hold our head high with love.

This is so often what depression robs us of – remembering that. Faith and hope can get bound-up, buried so deeply beneath a blanket of fear, memories of past failures, guilt, remorse, indecision, self-consciousness, that it becomes an endless cycle of negativity from which emergence feels impossible.

But there are moments when the impossible recedes, the fog clears and our eyes are bright. These are the moments to hang on to, to file away and revisit. They form a kind of internal library and if we cherish them they can become building blocks, a staircase by which to haul ourselves out.

step ladder

Thank you to my wonderful friend Heidi for sending this picture featuring the amazing work of Nathan Sawaya. She knows me well. (I wish I’d been there to view it with you.) The caption reads:   ‘Sometimes when you’re looking for a step-up you don’t have to look any further than yourself. We’re all capable of more than we think.’

First Step

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one step

In taking on Dry July this year I thought I would give myself an easy intro to change. The idea was that by making myself accountable to others my path to sobriety would be smooth (ish). I chose not to tell people that the month was just the beginning of a longer term plan, a pretty radical plan to alter my lifestyle in a big way.

What I perhaps misjudged about Dry July was the obvious – there was an end point. That I haven’t been guzzling wine in celebration of the month of August seems to have surprised some people.

In an important way the first month helped; it reminded I can do it, I am strong. But I have been here before (not least for three pregnancies) and it has never taken long for the sensible couple of glasses I have gradually allowed myself to creep up to being too much, too often.

I have long known that the medication I take for mental health was negated by alcohol consumption. It has felt like a chicken and egg scenario for the last couple of years, my moods lurching between highs and lows often depending on chemistry. This has affected every element of my life, little, or none of it, positive.

I need to try and create a blank slate where I can rest easy in the knowledge that I am doing my best for me, my family and my future.

The last week has been tough. I haven’t had the safety net of Dry July to catch me; I have understood the concept of ‘one day at a time’. On top of dealing with this it has rained and rained, our car has broken (badly it transpires), my husband is enduring upheaval at work. It has been seriously ‘meh’. Managing cravings while looking after children is hard work. It hasn’t been pretty. But we’re through it. I’m looking forward to next week.

Yesterday, for the first time I admitted that I have ‘management issues’ with alcohol to a friend I haven’t seen for ages. Her beautiful reaction has given me encouragement to be honest, to own and accept this part of myself that I am beginning to realise I am stuck with.

For a long time I felt like I was waiting to hit rock bottom when in reality I was already scraping along it. I am grateful to have the support and resources to embark on the upward journey.

dandelion stages