Be kind to yourself ….

Warning – this is  a bit of a winge / let out of negative thoughts / frustration dump. Please CLOSE this page if a) you are feeling a bit crap yourself b) you are bored of my whining c) you are someone who never feels rubbish…

My friend Tori captured it EXACTLY in this post Cloudy …..

Me too. Day 294 today. I don’t know what I expected but not this. This restless agitation, frustration, anger, loneliness; Back to poor sleep (the last 4 nights have been shocking); headaches (why ??); sweating at night – probably the menopause but miserable; mood swings, (yesterday I SCREAMED at the kids for not removing their huge muddy boots and treading mud all over the house, then I cried and cried because I felt bad for screaming and frustrated beyond belief that two kids of 18 and 14 cannot remember, or don’t care enough, to remember to take their bloody shoes OFF at the door; then I cleaned and hoovered AGAIN, because they had stomped out to meet their dad)

THIS is no better than day 14

Yuk, yuk, yuk.

So I know the classic self soothing, motivational stuff. I know to focus on the positive, I know to give myself time. … I just CAN’T right now. I don’t know where to put myself, what to do, how to feel better. I feel anxious ALL the time; anxious about mess, dirt, illness & death, finances, the kids futures, my future; the only respite is, ironically, being at work where its so busy I have no time to be anxious. (and I guess the focus is on other peoples problems) As well as anxious I feel ANGRY again. Angry with myself, angry with life, angry with ExP. I gave SO much and tried SO hard, and for what ? for him to be in the same position , only with a load of expensive equipment that he gets to keep; and for me to be staring at the wreckage of another relationship; my eldest sons adolescence gone, and a pile of debt to repay. I know its pointless: he didn’t rob me. I know I should have wised up earlier. But this ongoing legacy is bothering me a LOT at the moment…And there is no way to resolve those feelings other than to feel them, sit with them and wait for them to pass. Eventually they will and I won’t be angry any more. I just wish I could hurry the process on a bit

I’m trying to repeat the “mantra” above… I just don’t believe it right now.

Is this PAWS? previous post on PAWS

Is the the menopause? ( menoPAWS ha ha)

Just Christmas Blues ? New year anxiety?

Maybe it’s part of a realisation that my children are growing up and away. Last time I looked (It seems) they were all dependent and ‘here’ for the foreseeable future. Now they are all in secondary school or working, pretty independent and I barely see them.

Somebody send me a magic wand please. Make it all go away.

 

 

Death

Sorry to be a bit gloomy.

The recent deaths of George Michel ( 53 FFS) and Carrie Fisher (60 – not THAT far away) have been something of a shock to me. I know there are suggestions that George Michael was using a lot of drugs (including  heroin) and Carrie Fisher documented publicly her struggles with substance misuse (in the past) but 53 ?? and 60?  Added to my friend J being terminally ill in his mid 50’s Im starting to be very aware of my own mortality.

And all of a sudden it frightens me. 

I may be 52, but I don’t feel it. I feel about 30. I hope that there is so much left for me to experience in my life, there is certainly a lot I want to do – a lot of places I want to visit, a lot of things I want to learn about. I’m not ready for the end of my life yet, and I don’t suppose George or Carrie were either. I have three kids, who practically have only me to take care of them. They have a father, but with the best will in the world he’s absolutely not able to be a FT parent and provide what they need, if anything should happen to me. Son no3 is only 11 years old … 

then I try to think rationally. I come from a family of reasonably long lived women. My grandmother was 86 when she died, and was a lifelong smoker. My mum is in pretty good health at 78. I heard on the radio this morning that 4/5 uk residents in their “middle years” ( they mean 50-60) are overweight, drink too much and don’t take enough exercise. So I’m in the 20% that are not overweight, don’t drink too much and do take exercise … should be a good thing, right ? 

I can’t seem to shake the uncomfortable feeling that it’s downhill from here on in. That I will become frail, unwell, dependent … that I might die in my sleep (like George) or have an unexpected heart attack (like Carrie) … or get some fucking evil disease like J. I might get Alzheimer’s, or motor neurone disease, or any one of a variety of horrible life limiting illnesses hat get commoner and commoner as one ages … 

I don’t want this. I don’t want these thoughts. 

I think I have stumbled on my first NY resolution… prioritise my health. 
 

The bit in between …

So Christmas is over for another year. It’s been a quiet one for us, an easy one for me. No cooking, no hosting, no juggling, very few house decorations, minimal stress. And no alcohol. We went to my brothers home for Christmas Day, a lovely calm, homey day with my extended family. No hassle (for me) and no ‘just have one’ with regard to alcohol. My brother even managed to take the piss out of my not drinking … 🙃🙃

I loved it. Sober in the morning, sober all day, remember everything I said and did, didn’t; a) fall over b) cry c) overshare d) embarrass my self and e) was able to drive home at 8.30 pm with complete confidence … honestly what’s not to like !

Have had a couple of days at home now, trying to get on top of tidying up… walked the dogs, saw my friend K today, all very civilised and just nice. Proper relaxing, not that awful hungover, alcoholic excess that The festive period has been for so long..

I’ve been doing a fair amount of thinking too, it’s that time – when a New Year is on the horizon- that encourages reflection and a review of what the last year has brought. For me, when I look at this time last year, I cannot believe how much has changed. Literally I am changed, quite fundamentally, and that’s something one can’t say about most years…

So when I look forward, as I think this ‘middle bit’, between Christmas and New Year, is meant for, I can’t really see what’s ahead. I only know I’m on some kind of journey, that I can’t turn back:  I don’t know where or how it will pan out, I don’t know when it will end, I don’t even really know what I’m looking for… but what I do know is that I’m going forward with a feeling in my heart that this is a ‘good thing’ .. I’ve lost the cognitive dissonance that has plagued me for so long, and thus I have also lost a ton of anxiety  and worry. 

Speaking of cognitive dissonance, being on the radio show started to bother me, that I’m exposing myself to potential censure, and given my professional position, potential significant harm. I do not believe my practice has ever been compromised by alcohol consumption, but my regulator might take a different view – or at least might well feel I should be subject to an investigation. After a couple of sleepless nights and consultation with others, I have withdrawn from the radio show. I’m disappointed, but it feels like the sensible , and the right thing to do at this time. In 5 years, with sustained sobriety under my belt, I will be in a better position should I want to publicise anything, right now it feels too risky. I’m following my gut instinct here, and I’m loath to go against it. My apologies to you all,who have been so supportive about the idea. 

So, the middle bit: this year has no answers,no clear resolutions, no definitive plans … perhaps more of the same; sobriety,  reflection, following my gut instinct, singledom, supporting my children … and see where I am in 12 months time …

Friends

I don’t have loads of friends. I have a few close friends, some of whom live quite a long way away from me, and lots of people I interact with on a daily basis (in a friendly way – colleagues I guess).

I’m quite busy. I have a FT job, three children, two dogs and a house to keep. I think I’m more of an introvert than I was – or perhaps I’m just freer to be how I really am, and I need space to relax, a bit of me time to recover from the hectic pace of the weeks. I find small talk quite tiring, and feel anxious in big groups. I much prefer small groups of people I know, or one to one.. Part of the reason is, I think, because most of my days are spent in consultations., meeting peoples ‘needs’; being empathetic; listening; sorting things out. Once I have come home, sorted out the boys’ needs as well, I just need some down time..

I have stopped doing one or two social things since I have been sober, initially because they were in the pub, and latterly because I have felt too insular.

Yesterday I made a new friend. I met with a woman I have communicated with a lot over the internet. She is sober like me, and has quite a similar story ( good job, stable social situation, too much wine). I think we were both a little nervous (what if shes NOT a she! ) and maybe a bit worried that we wouldn’t get on, or would run out of things to say…

It was great! Right from the off we chatted and laughed and shared thoughts and experiences. It felt so normal, like we had known one another for ages.Looking at her, bright, energetic and full of life, it was hard to believe that she, like me had struggled to stop drinking. We met in a bar (!) at lunchtime, and watched the other customers drinking a LOT of alcohol with wry smiles. We drank the place out of Becks Blue I think (6 bottles !)..

It was a really nice afternoon and such a positive experience, towards the end of our meeting my friend gave me a beautifully wrapped package. It was the bracelet you see above- which matches the one she was wearing, it has an infinity symbol in the middle to symbolise a commitment to staying sober.

such a lovely thing 😀 And such a thoughtful gift 😀

And I feel like I made another friend, to help me on my way, as I hope I can help her.

Publicity

I’m going to be on the Radio. On National Radio. Next week.  SHIT !

On Radio 5 live, next Thursday 29th December at 11pm.. Talking with two others about sobriety, abstinence at Christmas and the issues that brings.

I feel quite excited and also quite nervous. I responded to an invitation on SoberMummy’s blog, to contact a Radio 5 journalist about appearing on such a programme – and after we had chatted about it she confirmed today that I have been chosen to be part of the programme.

The BBC will pick me up from home in a cab, take me to New Broadcasting House, and return me home later. As the name ” Radio 5 live” suggests, It will be a live show and not pre recorded.

I have some broad idea of what we will be asked about, and she asked me if there was anything I was NOT willing to talk about.. but I guess it’s a ‘go with the flow thing’ and will be managed seamlessly by BBC production- I hope so anyway.

So, what are my feelings ? My overwhelming hope is that I can offer some encouragement and remote support to others, particularly health care professionals, who are struggling with drinking too much, and know they want to stop, but can’t imagine how that could happen. If one or two people hear this broadcast and think, ” If she’s done it , so could I” then I would be delighted. Alcohol overuse is so ingrained into our society and in particular amongst health care professionals, (for reasons I have previously explored, but might revisit)  The shame and stigma of any kind of mental ill health, let alone alcohol dependence –  is alive and thriving amongst many in health care. The opportunities to seek help are reduced due to fear of recognition, sanction and punishment, and this includes attending AA meetings, local drug /alcohol support and every other kind of medical intervention. The programme will give my blog a shout out, so that people have a way to contact me IF anyone should wish to.

I am a bit scared. well apprehensive. My regulator, the GMC, is well known for its punitive and long drawn out investigations into matters drawn to their attention, and whilst I very much doubt they would be interested in a very sober GP at this point, It’s still a fear. Then there are the normal concerns; what if I dry up ? what if I ramble and talk nonsense? what if I sound like an idiot?

On balance, I think reaching out, being open and honest, is the right thing to do. Maybe it will help someone else, maybe not. But I think it will help ME, still tentative and apprehensive, to get back out there and engage. I have butterflies in my tummy at the thought, but the feelings are easier to manage than others and on balance I’m excited and looking forward to this….Tune in or catch up on the BBC Radio iPlayer …

 

Mixed feelings

It’s been a stressful couple of days. The fallout from ExP’s new circumstances and visit to collect his stuff is still reverberating . I feel like my carefully created composure has been rocked, and the insecure foundations of my new life are being tested. I have not drunk alcohol or smoked, I have not done anything foolish, but I did allow myself to get drawn into a fierce angry exchange with ExP yesterday.

It troubles me how quickly I get sucked in, how passionately angry I become and how much time I waste exchanging pointless emails trying to ExP, to see my point of view. I know that he does not understand – or doesn’t want to – why I have ended our relationship. Whatever I say or do he will never ever get it. I know this, but I still keep trying. It’s like I cannot believe this person, in whom I invested so much love and trust, is so far from the person I believed him to be.

This IS happening  less and less often – prior to this weekend we had not exchanged anything more than the odd practical mail since December 1st. Initially it was almost every day. Once he has got his stuff out of my house, I can block all contact. I need to. I don’t know why He still provokes such strong emotion in me, and I am very aware that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference: and that the very power of my rage and frustration with him indicates how very much I still care.

I don’t know why I care, I know and believe intellectually that he was bad for me; self centered, entirely focussed on what he wanted, critical, bullying and unkind. But I still react with fury when I get a message from him, telling me that I was loved and cared for, telling me that he tried his hardest. Some hurt part of me cannot resist flying at him verbally (or in writing) listing all the reason and ways I felt unloved, unappreciated, not listened to,  not valued. It’s as if I want him to say,”yes, you are right to feel those things and I was wrong to treat you this way” , but I know he never will. I have to remind  myself to judge him, as I would others, by his actions, and not his words.

The only way to indifference is through no contact. There are no short cuts and no way to make the process quicker or easier. I need to have faith that life the other side of this relationship will be better, calmer and more fulfilling.

It’s  a bit like quitting drinking. I loved drinking, I loved the feeling of confidence it gave me, the release from anxiety, the escape from insoluble problems. Giving it up was unthinkable. But, I knew it was bad for me, causing me more problems than it solved and stopping me from being properly happy. It was a leap of faith to quit, but on that has rewarded me a thousand fold. I just have to have faith that cutting ExP out of my life completely, and forever, will be similarly beneficial. I’ve gone to far to do anything else, and my sons would neither forgive nor ever trust me again if I were to renege on my decision.

Its hard, that’s all. It’s hard to admit, fully admit, and believe, that my future is not with him. The person I adored and loved. So so much.

The fact that I even feel that tells me my self esteem still needs working on.

The hardest day

Funny how life turns.

My upbeat post from this morning looks hollow and like so much fluff tonight.

ExP contacted me today, wanting to collect some stuff. I asked son #1 to be home at the appointed time. He arrived. Is he in the slightest bit grateful that I have stored his stuff for free for the last 4 months? What do you think ?  No ,he’s moaning because this and that is missing (he thinks) – bearing in mind the sheer volume of the stuff I fail to see how he can KNOW this after 1/2 hour packing clothes. He is vituperative and accuses son #1 of being a thief and the cause of all the problems. I argue that he has no proof of such and that son #1 is worked g, paying rent and generally doing much better

It becomes apparent that he is living somewhere else. Given that he has no income, this means he has found another woman to live off.

he takes the things he has collected, two suitcases worth and a few jackets / suits. He leaves.

I am devastated.

Devastated.

I knew this day would come and mentally I have been trying to prepare for it. I knew it would hurt, and it does. I am in extreme emotional distress. I know this is illogical. I ended the relationship. I am clearly happier without him. My children are happier without him.  But I once loved him so much, and had such trust and belief in the future. It’s bloody painful to have been replaced so quickly. Inevitable, but bloody painful.

Instinctively, my poor addled hurt soul starts thinking about what I can ‘take’ to get through this pain. And of course there is nothing. I have to face this without alcohol, or any other mind altering substance. I have to live through it, process it  and recover from it. Just to be safe, I have bailed out of a planned trip to the pub to see friends – I don’t trust myself in a pub tonight. This is the closet I have felt to “fuck sobriety, I need alcohol” since I quit.

I am also really really really fucking angry again. I feel like I have been completely and utterly used. I am using that anger to get him OUT. I have told him I will start to get his stuff out on January 1st. And I will. I will eBay anything that potentially has value and the rest – to the dump.

And I am sad, tearful and heartbroken.

but I WILL NOT DRINK, I will not let him break me.

 

 

 

Christmas Parties

This is one of those posts: the ones that are trying to encourage newly sober people to believe that they CAN manage without alcohol, which I read, early in my sobriety, and thought – ” Yes, but ….”

This post is honest. I’m not going to write that its easy going to a work Christmas party and drinking Alcohol free beer. I’m not going to say that I felt as relaxed, as much part of the festivities, that I felt ‘included’ in the camaraderie as much as I used to. I am going to say that it is a) possible b) rewarding and c) I feel fab this morning !

So my advice… plan. Plan, PLAN. Assuming you cant avoid a party / gathering (which to be honest, in very early sobriety is almost certainly a good idea)… how to survive sober…

For many non drinkers this is ridiculous. They will OFTEN not drink at a party / gathering , for a variety of reasons; or they will have one drink, or two maybe, but always stop / drive home etc. This advice applies to people like me who NEVER missed a chance to have a drink – and never ever stopped at one … The very idea of going to my works Christmas Bash and NOT drinking would have seemed as stupid as it was impossible… but this year I am 280 days sober and this is just another first… ( the last Christmas I was not drinking , in 2013, I didn’t attend the party)

  1. Where is the party ? It helps me if I can visualize it; I don’t know why, but just knowing where I am going to be I find useful
  2. who is going ? allies? friends ? previous drinking buddies? people you may have been drunk in front of last year ? The list of attendees is very important
  3. do any of them know you are sober ?
  4. what ‘kind’ of do is it ? sit down ? buffet, drinks only ? This will influence how you ‘play’ the evening … how long do you HAVE to stay ?

Are you intending to say ‘ I don’t drink’ or are you planning on making an excuse? If the latter, practice in front of the mirror, ” No wine for me thanks, I’ll just have a coke” or whatever. Practice. I know this seems like  a ridiculous overreaction – and it may be – but it helps when standing there and someone offering you a cold glass of wine – and the temptation is just to take it… and the habits of a lifetime are hard to shake off….

5. What ARE you going to drink. Think about this one carefully, think of a first choice and a back up, just in case your first option is not available. Again, it helps when you are put on the spot.

6. Plan an escape route for if it all gets too much. This can be a strategic trip to the ladies for 5 mins respite, or making excuses and leaving early. Either (or both) are FINE.

7. I suggest intending to leave early. When you are sober, especially newly sober, drunk people are not fun, and being in that environment its all too easy to say ‘sod it’

Remember what’s important. Being sober is important to YOU. No one else. YOU matter and You must act in your own best interests (listen to me, I sound like I know what I’m talking about) – because none else can or will.

So last night I went to our work Christmas Party. I am one of three partners in a medical practice in the UK, so effectively I am the boss. Not attending was not an option. No one knew I am now sober, Its not a topic for work. We have about 110 employees and had booked a section of a local pub for a drinks/ canapes  evening. As partners we put £2,000 behind the bar. I knew from a previous quick attendance at a leaving do, that the pub serves Bitburger AF (0%) beer. Good: ok to drink, and easy to hide. No questions. As a partner I’m generally ‘buying’ / getting others drinks, so can stay incognito with respect to what I order for myself.  I volunteered to work the late surgery (6-8pm) so that my employees could go to the party when it started, arrived at 8.20. Got my AF beer, circulated, assisted my partner in distributing gifts / awards to staff. Got another AF beer. Circulated some more, at 22.30 I decided I’d had enough, made my excuses (genuine – puppy at home alone, and had offered to do the early Saturday clinic , again to spare another having to) and left. Sober. Phew.

And guess what, It was ok. Not fab, not easy, not, as I said above, as jolly as some others – BUT this morning I went for a walk with K and my dogs at 8 am, came to work. Clear head. Feeling good.

Another first.

 

 

Davina

This morning I listened to Desert Island discs as I rushed about doing housework. For those who dont live in the UK, this is a long running radio show in which notable people are ‘castaway’ to a desert island and asked to choose 8 pieces of music to take with them. They are interviewed and asked about their life and the relevance of the music they have chosen.

This mornings castaway was Davina McCall. Again for anyone who doesnt know of he, she is a 40 something TV presenter. She’s also a recovering addict, and daughter of an alcoholic chaotic mother. She spoke freely and movingly about her childhood and the experience of living with an active addict as a parent; and also about her own drug addiction and recovery.

Now, Davina may not be everyones cup of tea, but she’s a bright successful woman who has done extremely well in life. She has a 16 year marriage and three children. She has done amazing feats for charity (500 mile triathlon anyone) and is patron of a residential detox charity. I was impressed with her enthusiasm and honesty; and truthfully I felt quite inspired by her example. Yet what she described of her early life, could have had such a different outcome. When she talked about her closest friend sitting her down and telling her bluntly that she had a huge drug problem, the opportunity was there for Davina to close her ears and mind to reality and carry on taking drugs. That she didn’t, got clean and made something if her life is testament to gritty determination and courage.

I’ve never been ‘that bad’; that someone has had to spell it out to me that I’m a drunk, I’ve never not noticed my children almost drown in the sea (as Davina’s mother did) but I could have been. I have that addictive nature, same as every other addict. I lack an ‘off switch” when it comes to alcohol (probably fortunately, being adolescent / young adult in the late 70’s and 80’s I never really had the opportunity to try drugs !) I think that I, probably like Davina, also gave a pretty strong self preservation instinct, which saved me from what I SO often see in people who just can’t stop.

Im feeling upbeat today, motivated and enthusiastic. I feel like a switch has flicked in my head in the last week or so, all of a sudden life looks interesting and a bit sparkly again, I feel much less tired and more energetic that I have in months, I can see opportunities ahead of me, I feel ‘in control’ , and ready to meet the challenges of 2017. I don’t know what has created this sense of well being.  my therapist suggested it might be releasing some of the anger … but I like it and I hope it continues.

I don’t see myself completing a 500 mile triathlon, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to smash that 100 mile ride in July and raise lots of money for prostate cancer research.

 

Christmas 🎄

It’s a funny old time of year, Christmas. So much expectation, families trying to get on well, fulfill one another’s wishes. Kids wanting Things , too much rich food and (for me in the past anyway) too much wine.

every year for as long as I can remember I have overspent at Christmas, every year it’s been a hugely stressful event. ExP made it crystal clear at Christmas that he wasn’t kart of MY family and would do exactly what he wanted, no matter what the effect on anyone else, or how much stress it caused me. His children would never ever commit to any specific time to visit us, which frankly was extremely rude; this meant that he would refuse to commit to anything outside the house, go anywhere, see anyone,have anyone over just in case they decided to pay us a visit at that time. What a load of shit.

The whole ‘drinking thing’ would just get silly at Christmas; not that I needed a great deal of encouragement, but at Christmas it acceptable to start drinking at 11am, get pretty plastered, try and get dinner on the table, keep drinking and pass out at 7pm.

This year is already different, I’ve made a budget and stuck to it; despite the fact that I’m working all but the statutory days off, I’m feeling quite relaxed and enthusiastic about  events.

the boys, dogs and I have been invited to my brothers house. I know we will have a lovely day, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole family. I will not be drinking so a) won’t get over emotional b) will be able to drive home and c) will remember everything.

I haven’t made that much effort this year with decorating the house etc.. partly a big tree with low hanging baubles is an invitation to mayhem with a 3 month old puppy, and partly, until now,  I have felt very ambivalent and rather low key about it all. Next year I will have the opportunity to take leave at Christmas , and I already have plans for more lavish celebrations.

I hadn’t realised, really hadn’t realised, how much ExP’s bad temper, grumpiness, lack of support and criticism brought me down and made everything 100x harder than it needed to be. I’m still working full time (and some) , I still have three kids but somehow it’s just so much less stressful right now ! I love it 😍

am I worried about not drinking this Christmas? No, I’m not worried. I don’t WANT to drink alcohol – I’m so much happier than I was, I don’t want to sabotage it..

onwards and upwards …