To love yourself

Once we love ourselves, people no longer look good to us unless they are good for us”

This quote, attributed to Richo, was given to me by my therapist earlier this week. I’ve been musing on it quite a lot since then.

Why did “this man” exP , look so very good to me for such a long time – when the evidence that he was NOT good for me was staring me in the face? What exactly was he providing to me, that I wanted? What fears was being with him, covering up? What needs was he meeting ? And if he was meeting those needs then, what has changed? Him or me? Or both?

And why am I still not sure of these things aged 51?

I think he looked attractive to me because he is outwardly confident and strong. He obviously didn’t tell me he had no income, and our early relationship was mainly conducted at my home when the children were asleep – because it was hard for me to go out. And he didn’t seem fazed by the kids at the beginning.

And now, I know he is not good for me because he doesn’t share my values, doesn’t respect me or my relationship with my children,

i find it really hard to believe that there are any relationships that ARE good for both partners, I guess I’ve never had that. I believe my brother and his wife are truly happily married, my friends J & K  genuinely are a team together, and I’m sure some others are. I do know I have never really been long term supported or cared for by a partner who was good for me.

It makes me feel sad. And pretty bloody despairing, because it’s a bit bloody late now  😟

However, one thing I am quite certain of, is that it’s better to be alone than badly accompanied … And would rather be lonely than unhappy, frustrated and with no prospect of change.

200 days

Today is my 200th consecutive day of sobriety.

this morning I showered early and dressed up a bit. I wore nice, co-ordinated clothes and make up. I wore matching high healed Autumn boots.

in 200 days I have achieved a lot, and a lot has changed.

I am now 7lbs lighter, and single. I’m fitter and more flexible since taking up yoga and increasing my exercise. I’ve started individual therapy for myself.

My boys are ok.

actually I’m ok. It’s not easy at times, and there are still a lot of things to sort out… But I think I’m on the right path.

 

Dear ExP

It was good to talk to you yesterday and I glad that we did not end up shouting at one another too much. I’m pleased you have some plans and some possibilities of work in the future. I hope things do start to ‘come good for you’.

The experience did however cement in my mind that however much I might miss you, I cannot go backward. We clearly can’t live together whilst my kids are at home. Your rules and expectations are so very different from mine, and what I regard as a normal and relaxed family atmosphere – something which is desperately important to me, makes you recoil in horror.

My Children – anyone’s children – are not objects to be shunted out of the way because they are annoying. They are young adults who I am responsible for and that means interacting with them, talking to them, watching TV with them, cooking with them, spending time mooching with them. To me that’s normal. Everyone has some private space – its called a bedroom. Adults have a TV and a private bathroom in that bedroom. children do not.

Its clear that even after 6 weeks living apart , and knowing what the consequences  are, you still can’t be even vaguely civil to B. You are angry that you are living in unfavorable circumstances, but can make no compromises that might mean things could be different. You are quite certain that B is a ‘bad ‘un’ and will fuck up my life but you don’t seem to see that I have responsibilities as his parent, that do not stop just because he behaves in a way I do not like, and those responsibilities are certainly not void because you ‘think/ know’ that he will behave badly in the future.

What you seem to miss in all that is that I could not live comfortably with myself if I behaved other than the way I believe to be right, with respect to my children. I would never know peace of mind again if I treat them in a way I believe to be wrong. Literally. (I don’t believe you could be easy in yourself if you knowingly treated your children in a way you believed or KNEW would be bad for them. Luckily you haven’t had to make those choices) . …I could never, ever truly know peace again, because I would know I had done a great wrong. Like if I killed someone. How would I ever have contentment again. My life would be wrecked. so it is not a  CHOICE between you and B. It’s between right and wrong. And I cannot knowingly chose to do wrong.

So by your persistent, unrepentant and completely rigid view of how it is appropriate to treat B / all the children, you have put me in an impossible situation. I either treat my children in a way that I believe in my heart to be wrong (actively wrong) , or I lose my partner (sad, and painful and difficult) . And nothing has changed has it ? nor will it change

You don’t see your role in it. You don’t / won’t (not sure which) see the totally impossible situation you put me into.

I think I was Hoping, almost expecting that you WOULD see that, would be willing to change, and that there would somehow be a way back, but it has not really happened has it ?!

I know you ExP. I’ve lived with you for almost 6 years, I know your insecurities, your anxieties, your scars. I know that you are damaged by things that have happened in the past, and where you are hurt.  That where you find yourself is not where you want to be. I know trust is hard for you. I know you don’t always mean to come over as harsh and critical as you do.  I know you are embarrassed and ashamed of having no income. I tried to help. I really,really did. But I cannot be the only adult. I cannot carry the whole weight of knowing this, making allowances for it, not being allowed to discuss it, knowing you will see our relationship finish before you will demean yourself to get a paying job, knowing you will insult abuse and frighten me before you will discuss these things.  I’m carrying all that. I’m seeing all the unfinished jobs, I’m seeing how much Netflix you watch. I’m seeing that you do not have – or did not have the fire, the motivation to DO anything; that it was too easy, too comfortable to digest for an hour after lunch every day. And after almost 6 years I just cannot do it anymore.

and yes I do have my lazy days. And days when I do fuck all. But I pay my bills first

NOW you will do a decorating job for someone, NOW you will do stuff that will earn money to support you. But whilst you were living with me it was ‘I cost nothing’ and ‘shut up you stupid bitch’ . That’s just NOT ok. You sound regretful now, as though you didn’t realise I felt ‘that bad’  but I can’t think what wake up call would it have Taken FOR YOU TO do SOMETHING DIFFERENT ?  in the last year you have been told so many times. In words, in texts, in emails. You left the house for two weeks; and against my better judgement I changed my mind about that…But still you change nothing, do nothing different, earn nothing. , just get meaner and meaner to B.  and get more and more vociferous to me about what a waster and a loser he is. Whilst I am trying to get me and the kids out of the door in the morning. you are lying in bed berating me about how shit my eldest child is!  I mean, really ? I have to put up with this REALLY ? why ?

I actually wonder if you behaved that badly to see how far you could push me? to see if I have ANY self respect left. Maybe you wanted it finished but didn’t have the balls to do it yourself so you just treated me worse and worse  – knowing that surely one day she will break. Because truly ExP, your behavior has been appalling. In so many different ways. Just appalling. I loved you anyway. You know I did, and you know that I still do. But I can’t live with you and my children. I did and do appreciate the support you gave me, especially during my divorce – taking me to and from mediation sessions and helping me stay calm and focused. I have tried to also be supportive of your plans and needs.

That girl you talked about who sells paintings. Who is at her studio from 8am -12 midnight. That’s commitment and dedication. Yes, she will make it, because she puts her soul into it and works bloody hard. That’s what it takes to make it as a self employed artist. Not 26 series of Dexter and a set of vague plans for maybe one day.

so. We cant go back. we have to go forward. It seems to me there are three options. 1, we cut all contact except that related to our mutually owned dog and work out some schedule in relation to her 2. We cut the relationship and continue with sporadic contact as ‘friends’ – 3. we try to make a relationship work living in separate places.

I don’t have an answer. Do you?

Wobbly

I’m  a very wobbly sober person today.

I went walking with my ExP for 2 hours this afternoon. It’s now 6 weeks since we separated. Some of his stuff is in boxes, a very small amount has left the premesis. I don’t think either of us have fully ‘let go’ of one another , or of urbshared hopes for the future.

the talk we had this afternoon , kind of confirmed to us – well to me, that we really have insoluble problems. And that I am just going to have to deal with that, there really is nowhere to go and no possible compromise that will allow us to remain in any kind of a relationship.

i went to yoga, struggled to concentrate and found tears falling down, as we performed  different moves. I feel utterly exhausted, defeated and overwhelmingly sad .

i can’t face getting his stuff out, he has nowhere to put it. And either he packs it, which means he will be here for hours and hours , over several days: or I do, which I don’t have the energy for right now.

Im sober, but fucking miserable.

my middle son. Although he knows I am not drinking , he suggested a gin and tonic might be good for me sometimes…. I dread to think what messages I am projecting.

sad, lonely, and defeated today 😟😟😥😥🌷

New Eyes

I see things differently now I am sober.

Today is the 196th day of continuous sobriety. The last time I drank was on 11th March 2016, on a Friday night. And predictably I got so plastered I could barely walk home. I’m ashamed of being that person – (can you see a theme in my last posts, because I certainly can) who dragged her family and friends out for a pizza and then got completely drunk.

I see the whole social culture round alcohol with new eyes, I see all the things I have missed, and all the unwise decisions I have made through my new sober eyes. With a clarity I have not had for years. I do not feel smug – don’t get me wrong, I’m a whisper away from a relapse, just like everyone else – and I am far from perfect now. But a big source of cognitive dissonance has been removed from my life – I no longer drink heavily , more than I should ( which I always knew was bad for me, bad for my family, bad for my relationships, expensive, bad for my health and generally stupid – a drunk 51 year old woman is not cool – its a bit sad)

I see my children with new eyes, I see their struggles and the support they need more intuitively – I guess it makes sense, if you (I) are fully THERE, I’m likely to pick more things that are important. I still have a problem I think with boundaries with my kids, I don’t for example really know how much to share with them about my relationship breakdown. They are acutely aware of it – how could they not be – and we have talked about it – but how much do they need to know? how much is it appropriate to share ? how much of my internal struggle should they know ? I think its good for kids (teenagers) to know that adults don’t have all the answers; I think its good for them to know that adults make mistakes and have regrets, I also don’t want them to think I regard relationships / love as easily expendable. I don’t want them to think that I ? we didn’t try to work through our problems. If I am to ask for their help – which I need if the house is to keep running – then they have to understand some part of my struggles.. but how much ?

How much to share about the decision to stop drinking? we are planning an 18th birthday party for my eldest son. I will order alcohol for my guests but I will not drink – he asked me if I would as its a ‘special occasion’ and seemed surprised when I said that I would not. how much should I share about my decision that for me. moderation was impossible and sobriety ultimately the only option.

with my new eyes, I am open to my children in a way that I was not before, but I am also aware that I am not their ‘friend’ I am their mother and need to be in ‘authority’. but does authority come more easily when you discuss issues and reach compromise, or when you lay don the law – ” Because I say so…” I am also acutely aware of being seen to live what I say eg put your shoes in the boot room has a hollow ring if my shoes are all over the house…

My new eyes are kinder to me (you might not believe it, but its true and I have invested in personal therapy for me as a way to help ME. Not for anyone else, for ME.

here are several other demons I need to deal with, and many pot holes to avoid in this journey. I’m pleased, I think, with my progress so far. I feel the capacity to love and to care for my patents, my friends, my colleagues has increased since I became dry. I have more headspace although I’m very distracted since ExP left.

My sobriety remains my priority, although I honestly don’t THINK about it much day to day any more. I think. hope, I’m aware of triggers that could derail me, and have strategies to manage them.

Still few people know I am sober (for ever).. but I have an embryo plan to one day offer support to other medical staff / doctors also struggling with alcohol / substance misuse. I believe its a huge hidden problem … With my new eyes, I believe I could do that

 

 

Alone or lonely?

A bottle of sav blanc was always a good companion! I rarely felt lonely in the drinking days- probably because I was drunk. Since I have been sober, there have been some uncomfortable evenings when I have felt acutely lonely. It’s less now, since ExP left, as the kids are around – just around – more often. I used to love reading, and could always bury myself in a book – right now, my concentration is poor and I seem quite unable to concentrate long enough to read any of the interesting books I have waiting on my kindle. My therapist suggested TED talks, which I think might be better, but my concentration seems limited to trashy TV; reality shows and short bursts of favourite films.

I don’t feel lonely as such right now, but I do feel alone with the responsibility for making good decisions for the future; deciding for me and the boys what is the right thing to do. I do trust my instincts, and my decision making capacity in many ways, but there are things that I still struggle with.

My current dilemma, about whether to move, is one such thing. Financially it makes sense, my current house attracts a premium because it’s in the catchment are of several excellent and over subscribed school. As my boys are now settled in schools, I not longer need this advantage, and a new property can be equally convenient, the same size, but quite a lot cheaper…. I also wonder if it’s just time for a change …

Being sober feels normal now, but the weight of responsibility, and the sense of being alone is , or feels, heavier than I remember.

I wonder if this is making me nostalgic for the time when I had a partner – although in reality that provided only the illusion of a person to share the load as we disagreed so profoundly.

And my puppy has been born. We haven’t chosen one yet, but the litter has arrived…

 

Ambivalence 

Having just been to therapy and explored some of my fluctuating feelings more; I am forced to confront my ambivalence regarding my relationship with ExP.

It’s quite clear ( or was when it was pointed out to me!) that my feelings of “it’s finished , for  ever.  Definitely”have been eroded / evolved ? Into “well that didn’t work, – living as a family- so what about another model” … In other words, I’m reluctant to let go completely. For reasons which I don’t fully comprehend, but may have to do with fear of abandonment, vulnerability, codependency, insecurity, Shame , it seems I am still holding the myth of “happy ever after” in my heart. 

This is probably a necessary stage, but it’s a bit scary. My “plan” such as it is involves us living separately but, for example, next door to one another. He does his thing, I do mine. The kids live with me and he has no role in their life. We are boyfriend and girlfriend and see one another as agreed … 

It’s probably bonkers; and probably much more thought would be usefully expended considering why I am even considering any kind of future relationship with a man who treated me quite as badly as he has ,…

But you see, at around this time, my inate sense of fair play is coming along and whispering in my ear that, it always takes two for a relationship to fail, I have been co dependent, I have been complicit in the developing mess… That maybe the moral high ground is not entirely occupied by me, and me alone. .

The dryness, and the developing sense of my own boundaries tells me that there is no way he is living under my roof again whilst my boys are at home. But somehow I’m struggling to fully let go … 

I did discuss this in therapy. At some length. And I do , at least in part, recognise what it means …. And how vulnerable I clearly still am. 

So many thoughts …

And so many wasted on my ex P

i have alluded here to there being more than one reason why we separated. The most significant, and the one I have discussed here previously, was his toxic relationship with my eldest son. That, in itself would have been, should have been enough for me to realise that this was not the man of my dreams. I think in someways, because I did not have a happy childhood myself, and was, at least in part quite unkindly treated by both my parents , I almost accepted this as normal, and did  not react as firmly and decisively to exPs behaviours as I should have,

this is something I need to review and think about with my therapist.

the other reason that my relationship failed was because my exP does not work , has not worked and does not earn a living. He is an artist, of a certain kind, and does not make any money from this, I have been solely and completely financially supporting him for the last 5 + years.

He refuses to get a paying job. Literally refuses. This arrangement was discussed once, about 3 months into our relationship when it became clear to me he did not have much money. I agreed to “help him get back on his feet” , an arrangement I stipulated was to continue for ‘no longer than a year’.

It is now almost SIX years later. He has watched a lot of Netflix box sets. He has also built my boys a den in the garden – a wonderful structure where they can have sleepovers and play games – he has also done some DIY – he is very good at it; but being a perfectionist rarely completes what he starts.

And I can’t take it any longer. I am in debt despite earning a good salary. I bought my ex husband out of the former marital home so that the boys would stay in their home, but the divorce calculation was based on me supporting 3 children and myself. And still he refuses to consider paid work.

I do not understand. But what I do know now is that he would lose his relationship, and everything else he owns before he will face reality – reality is that he is talented but disorganised and far too poorly motivated to make a success of self employment.

i did not intend to write about this. Because it’s shameful. I am ashamed that I allowed this to go on for so long. The I concealed it from my family, and friends. That I carried on doing it ? Even though my debts were growing and he WOULD NOT discuss it with me, just carried on living here, eating my food and taking from me.

I have been reading Brene Brown a little ( my concentration is still not great) but the powerful messages about Shame, and how we all feel it, resonate with me. Why should I be ashamed? I have been generous, loving, giving and hopeful. He has been the user, the abuser, the one who took advantage.

what the hell, no one knows me in reality. This is the truth.the truth about my dysfunctional life, my deeply fucked up relationship. It took getting sober, and staying sober to get the courage to stand up for myself and my sons and say NO MORE.

and I’m still afraid that somehow I will renege on this, won’t be able to resist his persuasive arguments, and charm. Bit like alcohol really. The gloss on the outside leads you to believe it’s a good idea, the reality is that it’s poison.

I loved him. I loved him so very much. And he used me. And he would have used me forever , alienated me from my children and taken,taken, taken from me.

I Should not be afraid. But I am.

Day 190

Today is the 190th consecutive day I have not drunk alcohol. Coincidentally it is also 3000 days until I can (theoretically at least) retire from my partnership and Full time working.

Now that I am sober, the future I see has infinite possibilities;

  • there are a variety I’d skills I would like to learn / develop – knitting, quilting, baking / cooking (I do the latter two already, but would like to attend a professional course and get really good at it ) painting ( develop further) ; take up gardening –
  • i desperately want to travel. I’ve been nowhere really, and I’m so curious about other cultures and civilisations. I would love to travel a bit with my children, but accept that a ) they might not want to and b) I might not be able to afford to pay for us all.
  • when I am no longer working full time I would like to donate my skills to an organisation such as VSO and work overseas as a doctor for 6-12 months- it would have to be quite soon after retirement, whilst I’m still useful as a doc.
  • At home I would like to be involved in active charity work, or one form or another
  • and I want to cherish my friends, my family and build and strengthen relationships,

sounds quite cool cool doesn’t it.

If this is my 10 year plan ( realistically it’s likely to be 62 before I can stop, due to funding kids in education) then I need to break it into smaller,manageable goals to get me there …. This is a task I will undertake over the next 2 months…

Sobriety brings clarity of thoughts, it brings a sense of purpose to life that was previously lacking, it brings a sense of optimism and ‘point’ to the future that I have not felt before. Looking forwards, planning for my older age and hoping to have the opportunities to complete at least some of these ambitions, gives me a sense of true enthusiasm and confidence – almost elation, that despite more than half my number of years being complete on this earth, it is quite possible that the best ones are yet to come. There is SO much to anticipate with excitement.

ive lost my partner. The man I hoped to grow old with. But I haven’t lost my future – in fact, on the contrary I may have afforded myself a different, but equally exciting and fulfilling set of opportunities.

My family and other animals

I want to write about my kids. The last 4 weeks we have pulled together, not always without tensions, but been closer than we have been for some time. My growing boys, and about the impact I, my drinking and my relationships have had on them. And lastly , something someone wrote yesterday really resonated with me “Have I asked them what THEY feel?”. And I have, collectively – and a bit individually – but the poster was right to call me on it, because although they are a collective ” Lily’s kids”, they are also individuals, totally different from one another, with different relationships with me, with each other, with their father and my recent ExP.

I have written about B, son#1 before. Last night,when the others had gone to bed we chatted – about topics as far ranging as ; how would it feel to kill another person in battle ? What evidence is there that there is a God; his own origins and how he feels about seeking out his father when he is 18 (in one months time); to telling ME I should not blame myself for ExP’s treatment of Him; to saying he felt guilty that He (B)had wrecked my chance of happiness because ExP and I had separated because of him (B). We talked about HIS relationships with young women, and about his shame in having overeaten, gained weight – but the determination he feels to get back into shape. I thought what a positive relationship I have with my son, despite all the difficulties, despite all the strains and educational ‘failures’ . despite his Aspergers; what a thoughtful, kind and supportive young man he can be.

He probably has seen more of my drinking than the others, and he is of an age now where he can almost drink legally in the UK. He saw a lot of my Ex husbands drug taking, and he suffered a lot of criticism and borderline abusive behavior from my ExP. But hes forgiving. he says he doesn’t blame ME, he hugs me and says he loves me. I am blessed.

soon he will start work, and I need to guide him, teach him how to budget, plan and structure a life that includes a rigid working pattern. Help him recognise his strengths and weaknesses, and build on these for his future career.

Son#2 – J – is in the throws of adolescent angst, he is 14, taller than his older brother and still growing. He is thoughtful, sensitive and impulsive. He struggles to control his frustration and sense of injustice – from the number of times he is asked to empty the dishwasher to the  basic incursion of human rights, and the horror of genocide in Rwanda. He has struggled to find his ‘passion’ or to stick to any hobbies or sports. He is both isolationist/introverted, and seeking approval and company. he hugs me a lot too – and I think he worries about me. Much the most ‘homebody’ of my children he can express his disquiet only by shouting at the moment (mostly). He writes beautifully, using language and grammar creatively and with purpose. he struggles right now to argue constructively or to understand that an intellectual disagreement can be stimulating (and indeed heated) without being personal. His current irritation is with feminists, as he believes that (at least in the UK) women ARE treated as equal to men – my membership of the Women’s equality party remains a source of disbelief and incomprehension. He needs some one to one time, walking Lola is good for that – oddly I think he misses ExP the most – I say oddly because he is the closest to his father – and the most sensitive to ExP’s relentless criticism. J hated me drinking – he hated the ‘out of control mum’ ; he hated me behaving in a way that he say as risky, and he remembers almost every incident where I have been drunk in front of him. It make me feel bad that he saw that, and that I subjected him to the worry about his mother – an adult. I need to discuss this with him some more…

My youngest son, L now 11 and a half. Quick, intelligent, driven, self contained and capable. I can see him, how he will develop as a man, easier than the other two. I know how he will be,  because hes like me. He’s friendly, makes connections easily; energetic and up for a challenge; not afraid to try anything; bold and curious. In many ways hes more adult in his organisational and decision making capacities than his brothers, and yet he’s still  little boy; snuggley, looking for comfort love and support when hes tired or overwhelmed. Not afraid of hard work, fiercely loyal and independent, L has made the most success so far of school with academic achievement coming easily to him. he’s organised (if messy) structured (if lazy at times) and confident. He plays the trumpet and piano,  slipped into the local super selective grammar school (as well as all the independent schools he sat for) with comparatively little effort. I will lose this son, earlier than the others because he needs me less – or he soon will. I’m treasuring the last few months of his childishness because as he slips into adolescence and then adulthood his horizons will expand exponentially and he will grab the opportunities as they arise. I’m excited for him, but tinged with a little sadness.

im so lucky, so privileged that they are my children, that I have had the opportunity to be involved in and shape their young lives. I hope they know they are loved, and cherished for their individual strengths and talents. I have not been the best ever super mother, in some ways I’m a better parent to adolescents because I can deal with them as almost adults. I hope they know that despite MY failings I love them unconditionally, and that they will forgive me the errors I have made- as well as the ones I have yet to make.