Busy

I’ve been on annual leave this week and very busy with a combination of settling the puppy back home ( he is transformed in all the best possible ways) working with him and Lola to reinforce that training , cleaning out junk from the house and sorting things out.

I’m physically exhausted. We have CLEANED the boys den – untold sacks of rubbish there, cleaned out the cellar , reboxed stuff to keep and disposed of the rest. I have cleared out the eaves of the house , again retaining what I need / want to keep – providing space for ‘things’ that don’t need to be out but hadn’t a ‘home’ away somewhere. I have reorganised my bedroom – removing every trace of my ex partner- and orders new bed linen and a new mattress so it really feels like mine again. I have done 3 runs to the dump with ‘stuff’ that domestic waste collectors won’t take , got a new bed assembled in son 1’s room (thanks to my brother who lent it to me) and generally organised my life. 

Mentally I feel Good. Clean sweep. Sorted all the tools ex P left (they are mine now) and put them away. 

Have spent some time with sons 2 & 3 – and generally maximised my awake time … 

I also attended the funeral of a 19 year old boy- the awful pointless waste of his potential and the suffering etched on the faces of his family – I have no words for this. I went because I was asked, to pay my respects and to demonstrate by my presence that though I can do nothing to alleviate their pain, I acknowledge it. It was unspeakably dreadfully sad, but I had to go and I’m glad I did. 

I could never have achieved this much if I had been drinking . Never have cleared cleaned and sorted with demonic energy, never have found words – or no words / to onbey my heartfelt empathy to the bereaved parents. I wold have had to have been at least a bit drunk to face the raw emotion in that church , and worse the extreme vulnerability of the young mans parents.

I did a better job sober, all round , a much better job. 

cognitive dissonance

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort  (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values. I describe it more as doing or not doing something that YOU believe to be wrong. It can be a small wrong, like eating chocolate when you have given it up for Lent; or big wrongs like living with a man who you believe is damaging your children.

The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person’s performing / accepting an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and can also occur when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values.

The above is partially lifted from Wikipedia (with my own inserts.)

I’m writing this post because the Absence of cognitive dissonance in my life now is one of the most positive aspects of my sobriety and of my separation from my ex partner.

I have lived with the psychological stress of this for 16 1/2 years. Sometimes I think its no wonder I drank.

But my drinking cause untold stress and cognitive dissonance too. because I KNEW I was not a ‘normal’ drinker I worried about it constantly. The mismatch between what I believed – drinking excessively is bad for your health, bad for your kids and just bad. was totally mismatched  with the bottle of New Zealand Sav blanc that I drank every night, or the pissed person I was at the weekend.

My ex husband used drugs. When I met him, it was no big deal.  He didn’t drink, but had a spliff in the evening. My son no1 was 18 months old, so asleep in the evenings when ex H came round and not exposed to it. I’ve never really bothered with cannabis (thank God) but I had no real problem with this. Lots of his friends had the odd spliff too. We were in our mid 30’s ; It didn’t seem so weird. Or wrong,

Fast forward five years. By now we have three young children and he is smoking weed morning noon and night, and in front of the kids, and most of his friends (all of the ones with children) had stopped using weed because they realised it was a bad influence on the kids. Cognitive dissonance , being forced to live with something you feel deeeply uncomfortable about. That was easier in a way, everyone knew he took drugs, and everyone had seen his aggression to the kids in one form or another … so I had support from the beginning.

Same feeling, different issues, with ex partner. On the one hand “love” or at least “perceived love /need” and on the other “I’m afraid of your temper, I’m afraid of your anger, I don’t think you treat my kids right, etc”

Again my solution was to hide from those feelings in a bottle of wine. I was not the perpetrator of emotional abuse of my children, but I sat by, with my bottle, and Let it happen….

Dissonance increases with:

  • The importance of the subject to us.
  • How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict.
  • Our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.

Dissonance is often particularly strong when we believe something about ourselves and then do something against that belief.  E.g. I believe it is very important to me to be “the best mother that I can”  but then I allow my partner to live with my children and treat them in a way that I think is wrong – then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive dissonance. Very strong and very uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

On the positive side Cognitive dissonance a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting beliefs or actions. This reflects how I felt about my ex partner – torn between supporting him or supporting my children. (And sometimes son #1 did things that were so wrong it was impossible to disagree with ExP’s evaluation of his character) hence more dissonance . The discomfort felt like a massive internal tension between the two opposing thoughts. Something I could NEVER talk of, never reveal, try not even to THINK about, and so of course never resolve.

To release the tension we can take one of three actions:

  • Change our behaviour
  • Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting cognition.
  • Justify our behavior by adding new cognitions.

Dissonance is seen to be most powerful when it is affects our self-image. Feelings of shame, immorality, affecting my self image as a mother …. are dissonance in action. And it was so strong it drove me to the edge of my “sanity”. I can see this now, but I could not then. In April 2013, when I was really Mentally unwell with intrusive suicidal thoughts, it was because I was sober – and therefore could no longer ignore the feelings of dissonance (the issue at that time was between ExP and son1 – he didn’t start picking on son 2 till a bit later) – and I could not

  • change any other persons behaviour
  • justify either persons behaviour
  • add new cognitions to justify either persons behaviour

So I was stuck: being stuck , seeing it, and seeing no way out – I just dissolved myself.

I did not see the psychological dissonance clearly, and I did not / could not dissect it as clearly as I have above.  Although I saw the option of splitting with ExP , I could not imagine actually doing it. I don’t know why, I could say I loved him, but that would not really be the truth (I HAD loved him certainly, but actually I quite disliked him by then) I think it’s closer to the truth to say I believed I needed him…. and I thought he would still turn back into the lovely man he had been when we first met  if only I could solve ‘this problem” (son1). I considered trying to send son 1 to boarding school, I considered lots of options, but none were possible. Above all I could not change any one else’s behaviour, how ever hard I tried.

Looking back, I’m not surprised at all that I broke. In fact I’m astonished I managed for as long as I did. And of course getting “well” again involved medication, rest, and burying my head in the sand bottle again….

Dissonance increases with the importance and impact of the situation / decision along with the difficulty of reversing it. Discomfort about making the wrong choice of car is bigger than when choosing a meal from a menu… e.g.: I want x car but it’s more than I wanted to spend … if you buy it, you will experience dissonance, but will probably change your beliefs to justify it .. e.g. Well I can just cut back on coffees out etc , I can manage that, it’s worth it etc …

I wonder how I changed my beliefs to accommodate the horrors in my home ? Or how I tried to change them..? Or why I did that? Why I allowed myself to carry all that burden without unloading it anywhere.

i will need to think more about this. One thing I do know, the absence of dissonance right now is a massive, enormous relief and I will never go back to it again.

 

How very far I have come

Its is now 12 months almost to the day since I ended my relationship

I have come a LONG way since then

Back then it was a huge burst of frustration and anger: the culmination of several years of unhappiness, increasing frustration, and inability to communicate that drove me to change to lock on my front door and call time on what I had hoped/ believed would be my relationship for life. I knew it was right, a bit like stopping drinking, but It had been very hard to do.

I surprised almost everyone with that decision. Even my closest friend K, who had listened and held my frustration and anxiety over the destructive elements at home had not expected me to be so abrupt and determined; I think my brother (perhaps) was the only one who was less surprised. He knew, to some extent, all was not well and he knows that I can be pushed a LONG way, but that eventually I will snap.

Back then, I was so sad about it. Back then I thought I had a loving partner who although he had some problems with my children; problems with his business / earning a living; problems with his relations with his own children; was basically a lovely man who I just couldn’t get through to.

I see him very differently now. Now I see what others saw. I see what K saw, my brother saw, and bless them for their diplomacy in not ever trying to force me to see what I could not, until I was ready.

Now I see a bullying, insecure man who at least borders on narcissism. I see a man with delusions of grandeur and arrogance that mean that he listens to NO ONE, talks a LOT about respect and integrity but has none himself. Now I see a man who probably had such an issue with my eldest son because he saw reflected back at him some of his most deeply unattractive traits. I see a man who had so little regard for me, that despite the fact I had 100% financially supported him for 5 years, refused to even TRY and support himself financially when I struggled to service the debt I had incurred by taking on HIS responsibilities. I see a critical, unkind, self absorbed person, unwilling (or unable) to compromise on anything, and I shudder.

The best decision I made in the immediate aftermath of the split was to find a therapist I could work with. I saw one, who I am sure was perfectly competent, but I felt no empathy. Then I saw Angela, my current therapist and knew that here was someone who could ‘cope with’ me (Because I recognise that I’m not the most straightforward, with my alcohol addiction, eating disorder, propensity to attract men who are damaged / damaging) – but ‘cope with’ me in a kind and supportive way. I knew I needed this support and space to be honest, to be able to hold on to the decision I had made.

In retrospect I can’t believe I was only about 24 weeks sober when I did this. Of course I was committed to being sober, and of course I had negotiated the very hard early days.. but 24 weeks ?? That seems very early in sobriety to me now, to make such a big change to my life and expect me to see it through. Reflecting on it, I’m proud of myself that I did it, and prouder that I a) stuck to it and b) stayed sober.

For several months I struggled with the decision, I ‘knew’ in my heart it was right (at least for the children) but struggled to recognise or accept that I too had been badly treated, that I deserved better. With patience, lots of conversations, reflective discussions, and time –  I came to see exactly that. That he treated me very badly – the emotional abuse he dished out was not confined to my children ( not by  along chalk); that expecting to be ‘fully funded’ by another adult rather than pulling your own financial weight is a form of abuse in itself (if not a negotiated and shared decision between a couple), I tried ‘seeing’ him a bit in the early part of this year –  coffee here and there, the odd day out / walk with the dog. One part of me enjoyed this, but there remained a part of me that felt uncomfortable; and eventually at LAST I recognised that there were things done (or actually not done) that I could not forgive. More than that, it was ok that I could not forgive them. That I had a right to my own boundaries and he had crossed them, I had a right to say ‘no’ that is not acceptable TO ME.

Oh yes, I have come a LONG way. And this shows in many other aspects of my life. I dont always find it easy, but I’m learning to set my boundaries with my kids, my mother, and my work colleagues. Im learning (about 30 years late) that it is healthy to respect yourself, your time, your person, your beliefs.

Angela said to me, early in my therapy with her that she had heard a good expression, that when you are psychologically ‘well’ with good boundaries and a healthy self respect ‘What is not good for you wont LOOK good to you’. All through the Winter and Spring I wondered why ExP still ‘looked good’ to me… it was because I was focussing on his negative features with respect to my children, not with respect to ME …. once I “got” the latter – he no longer looks ‘good’ to me in any way, shape or form.

 

Life is immeasurably better now. I have learned to be more open with  people close to me, and to ask for help when I need it. I have been on a couple of dates, and decided I can’t be bothered at the moment! My kids are happier, my home is calmer, I am restarting painting classes next Month. I will continue with my therapy – I don’t know how long for, but you don’t correct the poor self esteem from many years in a short year… I will stay sober and I will build myself, am building myself, a contented, safe, peaceful home.

I do, actually genuinely feel proud of myself for achieving this. HE said I would never cope without him… well I have, I am and I will continue to do so.

bleeding eyes

Not any more……

 

 

Settling / passing / calming….

The last few days gave been hard. This evening I see my therapist and I will try to pick this apart a bit more. Can I find a trigger ? Why are the mood swings still SO extreme ? That kind of stuff…

Today I am much calmer. Thank goodness.

I can think of a couple of reasons for this: but like the ‘reasons’ for irritability and ‘poor mood’ earlier this week , they are very ‘external’…. I’ll come back to this.

First, because it helps me, the calming things:

  • Son 1 made an unexpected call home on Monday evening, all the participants were allowed a call home, and it was wonderful to hear him and how positive he sounded. He said there had been ‘down days’ when he felt homesick, but that he was really enjoying the experience, loved Scotland, loved the wilderness and was finding the therapists helpful. Reflecting on that call has deeply calmed me; a feeling that despite the uncertainty, his initial reluctance, the cost, my gut instinct about what was right for my son seems to have been correct. And that he (has already) and will gain a lot from the experience.
  • I have mentioned a few times that I damaged my right hip during one of the several falls I had from my bike whilst training for an intended charity bike ride. Since November I have had daily pain in my right hip. Not life threatening, not life limiting, but annoying, persistent and at times tiring. My exercise capacity has been significantly limited, I could neither run nor cycle and had to take regular analgesia before walking the dogs. I’ve been through the process of investigation and yesterday saw my Consultant again for the final scan results. The good news was that the hip joint itself has only some extra fluid ( caused by inflammation) and that the problems are /were inflammation in some tendons inserting into the top of the femur and an inflamed bursa. My consultant offered to inject these areas for me with some steroid and lidocaine. I accepted immediately and he did so there and then. This morning I am pain free. I can’t quite believe it, but I can walk without it hurting, even up and down the stairs: like I said, it was not ALWAYS bad, and I was aware it was not “serious” , but it was annoying and it seems to have gone… 😀😀😀😀😀
  • A had a quick 90 mins meet with a friend last night. She lives in France, so we don’t see one another often, but she was over for a few days and came down to see me. She had no idea I had stopped drinking ( had only realised at lunch on Saturday) and asked me about it yesterday. When I said it was almost 18 months since I had taken an alcoholic drink, she was amazed! She also said that In France, many people don’t drink, that it’s a much more socially normal position, and in that simple acceptance, kind of helped me “normalise” my decision. It didn’t feel so weird any longer, she didn’t ask “why” , or if I intended to drink in the future , just accepted it …
  • Tonight my youngest comes home, tomorrow we go to collect the puppy from his training ( he’s almost 1 now) and next week I’m on holiday.

I do feel better, this is undeniable. The horrid twisting anxiety has settled, life feels ” manageable” again; but it concerns me that I am evidently pretty volatile. On the positive side it has been some time since my mood has been quite so low and the alcohol absence quite so hard; but it worries me that there still seems little “internal” stability. That how I am depends quite heavily on how things are going … I will talk to Angela about this today… the other small problem, that I would prefer to ignore but I know I can’t – is that as I got ‘better’ over the last couple of weeks (before this weekend) my appetite returned… and so I gained a little weight. And I hated it. I ate all weekend, well. And gained more weight. And I hated that too. And so I’m back to intentional (this time) calorie restriction ….

And I think this ‘control’ (tipped the scales at 57 kg again this morning- so lost those 5lbs) helps my mood. This is weird, I recognise it, I do not understand it, and I don’t want it. ( or I don’t want to want it, or I’m ashamed of it) But it’s true…. and I cannot, by will power alone, change this behaviour; and I guess only by admitting it and facing it head on , will I make progress….

I hate this

I doing this weird anger cycle again. You would have thought it would have settled down by now.

KublerRoller

I’m in the most vile mood. Angry, frustrated, irritable, demotivated, bored (yet have 5000 things to do)

I feel like I’m right back at the beginning of this bloody roller coaster

I want to see people, but I don’t want to. I want to go out, but I want to hide at home. I want to be with my kids, but then they annoy me ( I had the most wonderful phone call from Son1 yesterday from Scotland which was totally unexpected and lifted me hugely as he sounded so happy and positive) I want to declutter and sort the house out, but I cant be bothered. I want to achieve things at work, but its such  struggle.

And all this because i ‘want’ to drink ? normally ? like a normal person does? Because I want back the sad, desperate, messy, deeply unhappy disaster of my life before I stopped drinking? REALLY ?

My lucid mind says ‘Of COURSE’ not . but I’m still angry, and feel crap. and lost and unsure of my direction or even of the POINT of my life any more. If i’m not ME then who am I?

This is self indulgent drivel, but it so real to me right now. My little pendant I had made after about 6 weeks sobriety (God I was naive) has the word ‘serenity’ on the largest disc

img_0306-1

I’m holding on to this bloody pendant right now, alone with two key rings given to me by my sober sister. I’m telling myself to bloody snap out of it…. I’m telling myself that it never ever stops at one (drink, or one day), that all the positives of never ever regretting NOT drinking, never worrying about drink driving, never ever having blackouts is REAL. and this yearning for the familiar messy crap that goes with alcohol is pointless

It should be over by now. I’m angry about that too. GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Right now –

I have managed another weekend without alcohol

This weekend, in contrast with many others has been HARD. I have had to make conscious decisions that I don’t WANT to drink several times a day; I have been more tempted to drink that I can remember for a LONG time.

This has disappointed me. I didn’t drink, and I’m bloody glad I didn’t, but I’ve had a more social time, and therein, I think lies the problem

On Saturday lunchtime I went out with a group of friends to a lovely restaurant. I have known these people for 15 years or so, and I consider them all friends. Many are also ‘friends’ with my ex husband, and indeed I met them through him. Most didn’t know I stopped drinking 521 days ago. Most will remember the BBQ’s and parties we had at my place where there was ALWAYS lots of alcohol and I was (almost) always drunk.

I drove, which was partly because I could then give a lift to J & K as J is not that mobile, but also partly because it added a layer of protection to my ‘alcohol free armour’ and provided an excuse (should I have wanted to use it) as to why I was not drinking. I actually didnt bother, just said ‘I dont drink’. Everybody else was drinking; red, rose and white wine. It looked delicious, intoxicatingly tempting, the looseness of people’s conversations as they imbibed was obvious to the sober one. I hated that,hated feeling left out, hated feeling different, hated the bloody Diet Coke I was stuck with – wanted to drink (a LOT) -… by the end I was pretty desperate to leave despite the lovely food, and the genuine pleasure of the company of people I love who I don’t get to see often enough…

In the evening a friend came to see me. I knew him when I did my GP training in rural Wales; he was married to a friend of mine. I guess I had a bit of a crush on him at one time; but I would never have done anything about it, as I said he was married to a friend. We used to wrangle cheerfully about politics and as virtually the only two English people in a very Welsh community ,  support one another a bit.

We lost touch when I left Wales, although I knew that his marriage had subsequently broken down. Last year he found me through Facebook and we met on Saturday at my house. It’s silly to say people haven’t changed in almost 20 years, but that is how it felt. We slipped easily back into the friendship we had shared and talked and chatted about our subsequent experiences.

He knew me as a heavy drinker. There is not a lot to DO in rural Wales except drink – and we all did. Saying it out loud ” I don’t drink anymore” was hard. I wanted to drink, I wanted to get a bit pissed, drop my guard a bit, I felt safe and comfortable and I wanted to share the wine – for what reason I don’t really know- but I did so want to.

I’ve done 521 days sober. I’m so proud of that, and I’m so pleased that I didn’t blow it, either time at the weekend. But I’m left feeling  little sad.. moderation doesn’t work for me, I know that. I tried every way. The only answer is to be sober. But I felt the loss of my former self this weekend which I have not done in a while. I felt the loss of sharing wine, or being part of a group, of letting go. I felt the stigma of knowing I CANNOT drink. And oddly I felt the weight of responsibility – knowing that I can never again blame ‘being drunk’ for making unwise decisions. That all my decisions are now made sober, they are undoubtedly better decisions, but its somehow a bit bloody boring.

sorry. I AM glad i didn’t crack. I know what I have achieved through my sobriety. I just feel a bit nostalgic for the impulsive, messier me … which makes no sense at ALL !

 

 

 

Just Me

This is quite weird

On Wednesday my therapist remarked to me that that session was perhaps the first time I had just come ‘with myself’. Not with my problems related to my children, or my ex partner, or alcohol or disordered eating or work or anything. And I have been attending pretty much every week for a year.

Just me. Not a mother, a partner, a friend, a sister, aunt, daughter, a work colleague, a doctor, an employer. Just me.

I don’t even know who that is.

If I describe myself, I can do it with  a positive, or a negative slant. (I expect most of us can) I can list things I like to do, I can describe certain values I believe to be important, I can identify aspects of my personality that are generally congenial, and a few that are less so.

But who AM I? without all the other roles to define me? who is this person who lives inside my body? What is she, truly like ?

I don’t think I even know.

I know some things, and more things than I knew a year ago. When I review where I was just 12 months ago, I can see I have come SO far. Tomorrow I am meeting a friend for supper who I have not seen for almost 20 years, we ‘found’ one another on Facebook and I’m looking forward to catching up. We first made contact about a year ago, and I deliberately did not make arrangements to meet up because my friend is a man. My Ex P would not have allowed that. Or liked it, and I would have suffered for it. Its quite liberating to know I can now go out with whomever I choose, whenever I choose.

I feel like I am at a real turning point. There are some real things I need to find out about myself, there is a lot to look forward to – small things like resuming my oil painting classes next month, and bigger things like planning a holiday to Africa with my kids next Summer.

How can one get to 52 without a clear sense of self? Or do others also feel that they are quite defined by their roles? … something to think about

 

To rent or not to rent …

This is a ‘thinking out loud’ post…

My son is going to Nepal soon. He will be away for at least 6 months. I am skint. My room is the converted loft room of an old Victorian house with a small ensuite bathroom, two sets of double doors overlooking the garden ( and suburbia) and a good amount of storage space. Its at the top of the house and has a lockable door.

Son #1 who will be away has the largest room on  the first floor ( the original master bedroom) and shares a bathroom with his brothers.

I COULD move into son 1’s room for the duration of his trip – a pretty big moving exercise- but I could, and rent my room out. For about £650 / pcm for one person or perhaps £725 for a couple. for 6 months.

I had found a ‘perfect’ couple … he was a little older than me, she a little younger. They seemed quiet mature professional and sensible… all good. we met twice, agreed the ground rule, and yesterday they pulled out. Dont know why.

Am torn between irritation , frustration, relief and indecision.

For renting

  • money coming in
  • potentially another adult in the house – not for ‘baby sitting’ but incase of fire etc
  • one might be able to come to an arrangement whereby lower rent = help with dog walking /

Against renting

  • having someone in my house
  • leaving my sanctuary room
  • exposing the kids to another person in their home
  • more mess / other peoples habits / loads of things that I havent thought about

Its not THAT much money. Im tempted to scrap the whole idea ? …

what would you do ?

Banshee

I’ve written previously about the role of domestic abuse in my family. I’ve written about my ex husband and his paranoid, violent outbursts, and about my ex partner and his undermining cruelty to my two older kids, his physical intimidation and his refusal to support himself.

Now I have outed, named and considered this, it’s time to review my part in the whole dynamic. And this of course is hard, it involves examining and revealing a degree of unattractive behaviour from me, and an honest appraisal of some of my actions. Without wishing to remove responsibility for their behaviour from either of the men I have lived with, domestic discord often has two sides.

The person I am NOW, would not have allowed either situation to continue as it did. The person I am now, 514 days sober (had to check that because I forget) with boundaries (at least some) and a small but developing sense of her own self worth would never ever have let so much of what happened, happen.

I married my husband because I loved him. I had a small child, he accepted that and appeared to want what I did, more children an a stable, normal suburban life. I think he loved me too. All good. Except that he loved cannabis much more than me, my son or either of the two subsequent children we had together. More than his home, more than his role as a father, more than anything or anyone. As I am now I would never have married him. I would have seen the warning signs and known that you cannot change a person. Oh I saw the warning signs, but in my arrogance and in my naivety and my wish for a ‘happy ending’ I believed I could ‘make it right’. It was no good for either of us. My sheer force of character and determination made him feel emasculated; his inertia and lack of ambition frustrated me. Our marriage had its best moments when I was weak, for example in late pregnancy or with a newborn child. When he could feel that he was the stronger.

But thats not me, weak. And I don’t accept things lying down, I try to achieve things I want, and I am ambitions – not so much for ‘things’ but for opportunity, for experience. I believe that commitment and hard work gets things done. He does not.

Quite soon I disliked him, and when his paranoid drug fuelled aggression spilled over into our home life I was both afraid, furiously angry, bitter, resentful and I think I often treated him with contempt. Not nice really. I was not nice really. I tried to talk – we went to 18 months of pointless couples therapy – during which the therapists realised much earlier than I did, that this was not going to work out. … I told myself I was trying, but I could not reconcile myself to his lack of motivation or ambition – could not accept his drug taking. I was not REALLY trying, because what I was being asked to accept in my husband were aspects of his character that I could not respect….And I drank. A lot. Until I saw a way out. and took it.

With Ex P it was different. It took a long time to lose respect for him, he demands respect, By his presence, his voice, his decisions. Instead, when several years in, the frustrations started to grow and I was completely unable to get him to engage with me as an adult, I turned in to a banshee, A shouting, screaming banshee. Like if he wouldn’t listen to me calm, I would MAKE him listen to me loud. Of course he did not. Like the picture at the top of this page, I felt desperate, furious, almost mad with frustration and anger.  But the banshee behaviour spilled out into my interactions with my kids, some days I felt stretched so tight I could have yelled at everyone the minute I walked through the door, And some days I did. Not good. Not consistent, not calm, not supportive, and not constructive. Just an ANGRY drunk middle aged woman so frustrated she didnt even know WHY she was so angry. I struck my middle son across the face – I am so ashamed of that. My temper was so close to the surface, I too was losing control.

Thank God it is no longer so. I am so so much calmer now. I rarely raise my voice at home. I am consistent and measured, I do find it hard sometimes to make clear boundaries and stick with them, but Im working hard on that with my therapist.

I was not a very nice wife, and I was not a very nice girlfriend; but much more importantly I was not always a very nice mother.

Im better now. Much better. And you can see it in the kids. They are much calmer, much less volatile. Less angry, less aggressive.

No more Banshee. Banished because I am no longer angry. I am no longer dealing with the unmanageable inside my own home. Who knew.

Why do I never expect this?

Yesterday I went with son #1 to Scotland for him to start this Wilderness therapy programme. I am so pleased I went, although the day was exhausting – left home at 5am, returned at 11pm.

Those who gave read some of my posts about my son will know how difficult the last couple of years have been. In truth I have been counting the days till he went …

But now he is not here – and has no phone / internet access for 3 weeks …. I feel crap. I miss him, I'm afraid for him, I want to give him a hug… I want to know he's ok…

I seem to be finding it hard to let go

I'm grieving. I feel agoraphobic, diminished, small, lonely and scared.

Sigh. I expect this too will pass, but it's really not very nice right now.

Top bottom alcoholic

This is something I have been musing on pretty frequently since my friend posted this

When I stopped drinking I still had a job, a partner a home, an income, my professional position, my health and my friends. I was not an abusive or angry drunk, and had never been in trouble for drinking. I never drank at work, I never knowingly drove over the limit, I never missed work because I was hungover.

But, I drank in excess of 70 units a week. I was not 'there' emotionally for my children, i avoided the unpleasant situation in my home by drinking, I was regularly hung over and struggled to do what was expected of me.

I felt anxious all the time that one little error could bring the whole thing tumbling down. i was terrified that one morning i would have a small car bump, be breathalyzed and be over the limit. i would be disqualified from driving, my regulatory body would suspend me, i would lose my job and  income and the house…

I felt anxious that I was not a good mother because I was not parenting my children as I should, not only settling a terrible example by drinking every night –  but by allowing my ExP to be unkind to them. My kids regularly saw that I was drunk, I put my self in vulnerable situations countless time – the last time, being very rink at Kings Cross station ( for those not in London its not a nice part of town) with no idea what train to get home. I put myself at risk by falling over, by some extraordinary good fortune I never seriously inured myself.

I cried a lot. I cried when I was drunk because it released the pent up anger and desperation inside me.  One Christmas I cried all over my lovely sister in law, who tried to ask me what was wrong. I had no answer, just kept crying. Drunk crying. Desperately unhappy crying, to someone I love, who I know would have supported me, but I was unable to confide in.

Lonliness actually permeating every aspect of my life, all my relationships, because I could not be honest. Alone, with my anxiousness, my worry about drinking, about my children, about my shitty deteriorating relationship. Just alone. And wine as my only solution.

Is this a "top bottom" drunk ?

Last week I saw a patient I know well. I am conscious that although i write under a pseudonym, I must not break confidentiality, so I will change some details and be brief to make my point. My patient (gender unspecified) has multiple addictions. They are younger than I and have been intermittently very engaged with trying to control / stop their habits over the time. Have known them. I have supported as best I can and directed them to fellowship organisations which that have engaged with, again intermittently. About 4 weeks ago my patient hit " rock bottom". The addictions had spiralled out of control, leading to exactly the consequences I had feared might happen to me. Nit for the first time, we had a blunt conversation – the patient sees that I too am an addict , and knew this instinctively because of the way I spoke to them. They are now, I believe in a highly recommended residential rehab unit, which I sincerely hope will provide a good chance of sustained sobriety.

I cannot help but draw parallels. This was a "low bottom drunk" – though it could have been worse. I was one little step away from the same. Not better, not less of an addict, not wiser, not anything, just an addict who grabbed the chance – by luck- sooner.

I used to talk to fellow addicts ( via then internet) about the "train" of addiction. How we are all on the same journey. The terminus is death, on the way are stations "debt" ; broken relationships; lost career; fractured friendships; shame; injury etc …. but you can get off the train at any time – it's a choice; but if you do not- ultimately you will die.

I, with my professional job, my secure home, am no Better ( and no worse) than my patient, or he other patient I care for with end stage liver disease secondary to alcohol abuse. If I get back on that train, I will go there too. I'm just lucky I was able to get off earlier.

I am no less an alcoholic because I did not. Overtly show signs of such. Because no one "knew", I was an alcoholic from the day I was born and certainly from my first encounter with alcohol aged 14 or so ( disgraced myself at a Church Harvest supper by being drunk) I have been LUCKY, though I also live with the shame of many many things I did whilst drunk.

"Top bottom drunk" – the key word is drunk … and that's it …. and I must never forget it,

 

Saying Thanks

This is a copy of a letter I posted to my local Police station. I wanted to thank them for the fantastic way that all the Officers I encountered managed the DA in my home during my marriage. Its quite a long time ago now, but this has been playing on my mind , so I wrote it, as its probably never to late to give praise …

Dear Sir /Madam

I am writing to convey my sincere thanks to all of the police officers who have been involved with my family during incidents of domestic abuse, of which I and my children were victims.

There is often negative portrayal of the Police response to domestic abuse, but my experience was completely different.

The incidents I refer to are now several years ago, but I am sure that the good work continues.

Police officers were called to my home several times between 2003 and 2010, due to incidents of domestic abuse by my ex-husband. On each and every occasion the response was prompt and the officers were extremely kind and supportive to me and my children who were very traumatised at the time. They dealt professionally, clearly and with authority in respect to the situation and removed my ex-husband without escalating the situation.

I was offered follow up support and at a later date when I had to report a further incident at the Police station, although I was tearful and again traumatised, the Officer dealing with me was kind and calm and gave no hint of the time pressure he was under. He took a comprehensive statement from me, taking time to clarify details.

On a further occasion, some years later, when my ex-husband assaulted my then 13 year old son, we once again became involved with the Police. Once again the Officers dealing with my son were gentle, kind and professional. They arranged for him to give evidence by video and were reassuring to him throughout the process. My ex-husband received a caution, which clearly signalled to my son that his father’s behaviour was unacceptable.

I work in the NHS as a general Practitioner, I know how often complaints are received and I wanted to write to you to express my thanks for the extremely quick response to my call for help, serious way the Police Officers viewed the abuse and the kindness, gentleness and support offered to myself and my children

It maybe that all involved have moved on, in which case perhaps you could share this letter with Officers who may currently be called to incidents of domestic abuse. Those abused may be too traumatised o express their gratitude at the time ( as I was ) but I can assure you that those involved will be so reassured and able to feel safe again, given the excellent service the Police offered.

In my work as a GP I do not hesitate to recommend to victims of abuse that they call on the Police for support, as due to my own experiences I am confident they will receive a quick, appropriate and sensitive response.

With Kind regards

Yours faithfully

Lily

What do you think ?

 

 

 

Boundaries

I was reflecting on This post that I wrote some months ago.

And I have been reflecting on what happened when I tried to rekindle my relationship with my exP (in a limited way) back in February /March.

In the latter case, even though, in some ways I really wanted to be with him, and I felt ‘love’ for him, there remained a huge cognitive dissonance in my heart / gut that I was aware of but could not identify. This led to some mood swings on my part, and baffled him. To be honest it rather baffled me. I know now what that was about. It was about my boundaries. I had supported him for 5 years, and run up significant debt doing so. When I begged him for help to sort it out – ie earn his own money; he refused. I can and could never get past that. I tried to stuff it down but it remained in my heart and reminded me – in an oblique way that seeing him, being in any kind of relationship was wrong for ME.

Now i know that is my boundary. he crossed it, and I can never forgive it.

In the post above I refer to I was trying to sort out how to respond to an apology from my ex husband. I was trying to capture my feelings about the apology, and how I could react in an authentic way. I recognised that my former ‘way’ – accept the apology and move on, burying my feelings of hurt, anger and resentment, was not the answer, but I did not know how I could manage my feelings and respond in a constructive but truthful, again authentic way.

I am very aware that my relationships with these two men have many similarities, in that in both cases I was a victim of domestic abuse, and in both cases I tolerated unacceptable behaviour for far too long. The difference is that I have children with my ex husband, and for their sake I cannot completely sever relationships and never communicate with him again. So how to set a boundary.

Now I know.

Now I feel it would have been completely appropriate for me to send him an email, expressing my anger, and to some extent my resentment. It would have been completely acceptable for me to say ‘ I will not tolerate you abusing me in this fashion’. I would not need to be insulting or abusive myself, merely clear about what I will and will not accept from him. I can set a boundary, and expect it ( no demand it) be respected.

This s very interesting to me. Its a huge personal development. I can set MY boundaries, I do not have to just accept what others do or say TO me. I can say that it is not acceptable to me to be called a F*** C*** . Thats it. Clear, and set the consequences.

I have mentioned my eldest son has been aimless and smoking drugs, in the kids den at the end of our garden. I did not mind him having friends to stay, I accept that many of them smoke cigarettes and weed ( although I dislike the latter intensely) The boundaries I set , with each guest – so that they knew the rules were MINE and not on 1’s were

  • No smoking IN the Den. It is a wooden structure and vulnerable to fire. Smoke outside
  • If you smoke drugs, clear UP your detritus before you leave, I have two younger children who also use the Den and I do not want them to see / be exposed to your drug taking.

Two weeks ago, I was in the Den with son no 3 who was having a friend over., There were cigarette butts stubbed out on the floor, rizla papers, tobacco and bags and bags of empty weed packets.

So I  told son 1 that none of his friends were welcome to say again. End of. I gave them my boundary, explicitly. And they disrespected me. So no more. It feels good. He is disgruntled, but cannot complain.

Son 2  ran up a huge bill on his phone ( data roaming) I told him, again explicitly, if it happened again I would take away his phone and give him one with no internet access. Today his bill arrived, again grossly over the 7 GB data he has available. So When he returns on Saturday this is what I will do.

Boundaries. What will I accept and what will I not? I am 100% calm about the whole thing, there is no shouting, no anger, just clarity and consequences. In fact when you ARE very clear, there feels no need for anger.

I am growing up. Growing into myself as an adult woman.

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My son

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about my eldest son. You can see it  here

I’m want to write about him again. Once again, don’t read if your kids are perfect, or you never have had a moment’s worry about them. Don’t read if you need to judge my parenting – I’ve made mistakes, and there are definitely things I would do differently If i had my time again, but i LOVE him, and I know he loves me, and through all of the trials, we have a strong, enduring bond.

This last year has been an up and down one for him, and for me as his mother. After his success at the NCS programme I wrote about last year, he ditched his unsuitable girlfriend and had a lovely girlfriend for about 3 months. He got a job, as an apprentice at the local University. He paid rent, attended work regularly and all seemed to be going well.

BUT, son 1 is bright, he’s articulate, he’s clever and the job was very dull. He quickly got bored, and although he stuck at it for 4 months in February ( without discussing it with me) he gave in his notice.

At the same time, his dream, had been to join the British Army. We started the application process, and he started to try and improve his fitness. I think I wrote how we attended a recruitment centre which filled him with excitement and enthusiasm. He hoped to join that Army air corp after basic training and become a helicopter mechanic.

He received a flat rejection from the Army, on the basis that he had had a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. The letter said that we could appeal, if we could get a letter from a psychiatrist who could confirm that his condition was mild and did not affect his activities of daily living. I paid to see a private psychiatrist who wrote such a letter, and we resubmitted the application along with other supporting evidence. The Army website says if you do this, you may be offered an appointment with THEIR specialist to see if they feel you will be suitable for training. This was what we had hoped for.

Sadly we again got a flat rejection. With a code S8 , which means not suitable at any time.

This was a big blow, and I don’t think, at the time, I realised HOW big a blow.

Son1 got himself another job, at a warehouse packing boxes in the evenings into the early hours of the morning. It paid well, but was hard work, played havoc with what social life he had and was extremely regimented ( timed loo breaks etc) He didnt like it much and after about 6 weeks started not turning up – lying to me that he had a day off. He got fired.

The then got a job at a paintball centre – because some of his friends worked there – friends who are at college and do it as a weekend job. They took him on, but he quickly realised it was a zero hours contract, not regular, it was very poorly paid and he was not ‘with’ his friends at all… That lasted about 2 weeks

So since April he has been unemployed, directionless, started smoking too much weed, hanging around with people who do drugs, not helping at home, creating mess, doing nothing constructive. he decided he would like to join the Police force, great idea, but you need English GCSE which he does not have ( I also don’t think he’s mature enough yet tbh)

I have been very sad, stressed, disappointed, concerned, alternatively frustrated and despairing.

The ONLY positive thing about this time, is that there was no ExP going nuts and being abusive in the background, so I could set my own rules and boundaries…

Then, probably as a result of having no money, he stole something from me. Something valuable, and tried to sell it. I cannot express how disappointed, desperate and worried I was. Two years of slow trust building destroyed, once again this habit emerges.

So I decided to act. His life as it is, is going nowhere.

Next Saturday he will be going to Scotland on a three week wilderness / therapy trip. You can read about it here 

When he comes home, we will have a week at home together and then he will have one further week to get stuff together and then he is leaving for a 6 month volunteer trip to Nepal, Nepal

He will live in a volunteer youth hostel, be fed three times a day, and expected to work rebuilding community amenities destroyed in the Nepal earthquake of 2015. He may go on to do conservation work in the Himalayas, he may then travel independently for a while.I dont know.

He will be away for at least 6 months.

I have many hopes for this trip – and a few fears. But its time. Hes almost 19. he needs to grow up and see that most of the world is much less privileged than he is. He needs to learn to work, he needs to learn life skills away from home. I hope , though he leaves as a boy, he returns a man.

I will miss him, It will change the dynamic in our home, but he needs to DO something, and for better or worse, this is what I have decided to do with him. He agrees and is actually quite excited now …

Watch this space …