Validation

Yesterday I spoke to the former wife of my ex Partner.

I’ve been struggling with the feeling that I am remembering things falsely, that I am, in some way, placing blame on him where none exists. Underneath that is disbelief that anyone could actually do the things I believe he did, so therefore maybe I am going mad.

Good friends have listened to me going over this stuff and supported me with their memories and experiences. They have helped me, and offered me support. My therapist has confirmed that people like this, narcissists, do exist… but still, still I have struggled.

Until now.

Speaking to her, she who lived with him and knew exactly what I was talking about. Knew intuitively what had happened, why I had been sucked in, how I had questioned myself. She had experienced EVERYTHING that I did, (and worse) . Through talking with her I now know that the worst is true. That he is truly a liar, a narcissist and a deeply damaged and damaging human being. I know that it’s not me, that I didn’t cause it. It started long before we met, and it will never change.

By talking to me, she says I helped her too. She has been divorced from him for 20 years, but she said that talking to me was the first time she felt that someone truly understood. And of course I did, and do.

It’s hard to explain why this means so much to me. I still need to think much of it through, but the validation from another woman, the triangulation, the understanding that he lied to her, stole things, was violent and aggressive, intimidated and frightened her, and gaslighted her too … I don’t have to doubt myself any longer.

Maybe I’m weak to need that validation, maybe it’s a symptom of my own low self esteem that I needed another woman to say ” yes, he did that to me too”. …. right now I don’t care. All I care about is that finally I feel I can be comfortable with my knowledge…. and form that point I can truly start to heal.

Calculated destruction

Do people actually DO this ?

Are there people out there in the world who work out how to get what they want by manipulating people and situations? And then actually DO it?

Do some people actually deliberately (rather than by accident, or inadvertently) set out to discredit someone they dislike?

I’m really struggling with this in relation to my ex partner. I know I cant get answers from him (and actually I’m no longer tempted even to ask)

Thinking about things in our relationship that I couldn’t find acceptable , they seem to fall into three categories…

  • casual disrespect (or not so casual) e.g. staying out all night and not texting me to let me know; walking off from me on Waterloo station and getting on a train without me, small things that just showed he didn’t have any respect for me at all and didn’t care about how I felt.
  • Intransigent position against all logic – e.g. refusing to get any kind of income thereby forcing me into debt. I used to spend ages wondering how I could MAKE him understand why this was not ok, but this was quite the wrong tack – he understood very well indeed, he just wasn’t prepared to do anything about it. he didn’t care about me enough, about what might happen to me, or the consequences to me, to do one single thing that was not what he wanted to do
  • and then this. Maybe. Deliberately causing rifts (or trying to) between me and my sons by MAKING THINGS UP? between me and friends , between me and my birth family… lying, falsifying things that were said or done to lead me to believe that son1 had done things he had not.

Do people actually behave like that ? Causing untold damage to others. By deliberately lying to me (if he did) he caused huge problems between me and my son, between son 1 and his brothers and enormous anguish to me.

I know he lied to me about some things, I know there are several occasions in which he manipulated facts and swore that black was white even though I knew it had not happened as he said. I know he stole from me (and I’m not talking about the thousands I gave him voluntarily) I’m talking about taking my bank card and spending my money on something I has specifically said I was not prepared to buy. I know he stole from others (a life preserver mysteriously found its way into his bag on return from holiday – no accident) I know he ‘borrowed’ money from lots of people he had no intention of repaying (and no means to do so) I know his girlfriend prior to me chased him very hard for £14,000 she ‘lent’ him… never got repaid.

BUT, to deliberately make up stories about something son1 had done. To lie, actively maliciously lie with the aim only to damage him and break our parent child bond.  Really? Do people DO that? Honestly is that person I loved and lived with for more than 5 years really not only capable of such evil, but actually did this?

I feel physically sick and ill when I think about this, when the possibility comes into my head. I thought about this at the time, because my gut instinct was that son 1 had NOT done these things, but I allowed my ‘rational’ adult head to believe that no-one, surely, would make such a thing up. Now I really, really wonder. What does that say about him? what kind of a person does that ? And if there ARE people out there like this, who think nothing of deliberately lying, fabricating and deceiving … if HE is one of them…

Its that picture again, that I talked of before, coming into clearer focus. the fog is lifting and what parts I can see , they look distorted. My reality , my memories of the past are shifting, and it no longer feels like something happy and nice, but a sick, twisted, frankly evil relationship with a man devoid of compassion, decency or integrity. A man who spotted my vulnerability and intrinsic honesty and exploited me in every way he could.

no wonder i feel ill.

I don’t KNOW this of course. I have no proof. and I wont get proof. Probably I don’t NEED proof, I have all I need … and I have to find a way to live with it

 

Pause ..

The last few days have been quite difficult.

Examining my motivations for contacting me ex partner, and the subsequent reflections on how deliberate our Interactions with others actually are, has opened something of a Pandora’s box for me.

All of a sudden a load of ‘incidents’ that I have not really thought about for a while are crowding in to my consciousness, and with the new knowledge that my therapy has opened up for me, they are assuming quite sinister implications.

I’m not describing this as a ‘set back’ because that’s not really what it is. I know that to fully heal, to protect myself against making any further destructive relationship I need to recognise what happened, need to appreciate the significance of incidents and behaviour. I need to learn to trust and value my own judgements, and to do that I need to see and understand where I have not done so in the past.

I’ve had a relatively quiet few weeks on the emotional turmoil front, the enormous boost that seeing son1 in Nepal gave me, has carried me forwards and filled me with optimism for the future. Planning for our family holiday to Africa a natural mood booster.

However, there is no denying that the past few days have been emotionally difficult and I came close to a panic attack yesterday – the first time in several months.

I do believe it’s better for me to pull these things out into the open, expose them to the light of day, and muse a little about their meaning. My ultimate aim is to rebury them, divested of their emotional significance, somewhere deep in my subconscious. Accessible if I need to refer to them, but otherwise not reaching the surface of My conscious thoughts…

so, having said that …

a couple of things that happened, that deeply upset / disturbed me… that I now believe were either accidental nor unconscious, but instead intended to undermine me, to make me less confident, designed to confuse and wrong foot me. There art truths which I was persuaded to believe were lies, completely reasonable actions from me that I was taught were deeply unacceptable and disrespectful to him ….

Quite early on, one Friday, we were planning to go out in the evening. In the afternoon I had invited a friend, the woman who used to be a nanny for my children, over for tea. For a at catch up and for her to see the children. She cane over for a couple of hours, we had some tea and cake, and then a glass of wine. He was at home, and went upstairs quite early on in the afternoon. I didn’t think much of it. Later in the afternoon, say 5 pm we had a glass of wine, and my friend left about 6. Writing this is giving me palpitations and making me feel anxious. When she had left, I went upstairs to see exP and to get ready to go out. We had a babysitter booked at 7.30pm. He went mad, a huge tirade about how disrespectful I had been how I shouldn’t have people. In ten house, how I disgusted him, how he want repeated to spend any time with me because I was spending time with others (or something) he refused to go out that evening and didn’t speak to me for 3 days. I was utterly bemused. And I never invited her over again, and rarely anyone else .. I felt like I had missed something awful that I had done, the strength of his reaction, I must have deserved it ?

wrong. Him not me. Wrong WRONG WRONG . My having a guest in the afternoon had NO impact on our evening plans, it’s not unreasonable to have a friend over for tea, and his reaction was just one of the things he did to try and isolate me from my friends, it was MY house FFS … but vulnerable, un self confident and in love, his outburst scared me, made me resolve never to do such a thing again, and redouble my efforts not to upset him. Classic abusive behaviour.

Early on in our relationship he visited my, stayed overnight and left his bicycle in the house. The next day he said something was broken and that one of the children , son1, had fiddled with it and broken it. He got very angry when I tried to probe further about what was broken, so I was never clear. All the children denied fiddling with it, and actually, I believed them. This because an enormous issue, I offered (and did) pay for the ‘repair’ but from the on he became obsessive about protecting his ‘things’, refusing to allow the children in to the living room because his books were in there, refusing to allow son 1 to travel in his car, hiding things form everyone so that no one could use or have something he thought of as ‘his’ even if it was not. And yet, he took my car out one day, made a huge scrape down the entire side of the car, both doors and the bonnet panel, and didn’t even tell he he had done so,

I don’t believe (now) anyone touched his bike. I think it was a deliberate lie, to divide me from my kids, to get his bike repaired paid for by me, and to test how far I would back him. He talked a LOT about having respect for possessions and people, but it was ALL one way. Everyone else had to respect him. But he treated others and their possessions with casual contempt.

Writing this makes me feel shaky, tearful and frightened, I feel sick and have palpitations. The physical reaction to the memory is very strong, considering it’s several years ago. I think I’ve only been able to look at this stuff recently, as it’s only recently I’ve been strong enough.

What I’m seeing clearly, without obfuscation, is a systematic narcissistic abusive person, deliberately gaslighting , deliberately sewing doubts and discord in my family. No wonder I feel ill.

I still struggle to believe this. I find it so hard to believe anyone would actually DO this, I contacted his ex wife earlier this week (by email) to ask for help, I feel like this just CANT be true,and yet…. she is probably the only other person who would be able to confirm or refute my thoughts … she hasn’t replied (which is disappointing, but perhaps nor unexpected) ….

Sigh …

Motivations

I find examining the motivation behind why I feel or act as I do very interesting. Its also pretty useful in helping me understand some of the feelings that I have, when I can’t regard them as logical.

Since I have been sober, I’ve done a LOT less things on impulse; still some things (like the very beautiful sculpture I bought on instinct on last year’s holiday) but much less. I generally pause, get less carried away by emotions and employ a cooler more rational and analytical thought process. In general I think this is a good thing, but occasionally I still do things impulsively – I guess the habits of a lifetime are hard to modify.

Since Christmas I have sent two emails to my ex Partner.

The first, sent on an impulse, was the photograph of me paragliding, far above the Himalayas. The second, which I sent last Friday was a considered gesture – I heard via my mother who does voluntary work at the local hospital that his mother has a possible serious diagnosis. Being an only child, whose father is dead and estranged from his son and somewhat from his daughter, he and his mother are close. I know that any such diagnosis would be devastating and frightening for him. I considered whether I should acknowledge this, and in the end sent a short mail expressing sympathy.

He has replied to neither.

This bugs me a bit (as no doubt it was intended to) and yesterday I discussed this with Angela my therapist. She, from an outsiders view point, asked me why I had sent these emails, and pointed out that they send very conflicting messages, that although the first contained no words, and the second only the briefest of sentences, there was a wealth of hidden meaning in both posts, that would have been obvious to the recipient.

The first was a “fuck you” message. In that one image, of me flying high, in Nepal with son1 (whom he loathed) excited, experiencing new things (that my regular income can buy) it was a real ” look how great I’m doing, despite the fact you thought I couldn’t manage without you, look how fantastic my life is now” It was a message of defiance, confidence and condescension. I can honestly say I didn’t think all of that when I sent it, but now I reflect on it I can see what was behind the sending – and I’m sure that’s what he picked up too …

The second message was one of sympathy. I thought long and hard before I wrote it, but eventually decided it was too pointed NOT to acknowledge the information my mother had passed on to me. Angela suggested that this is the exact opposite of what I sent in the first email. Sympathy, empathy, compassion, caring. All the kindness that I genuinely felt, but of course it sends an entirely different message about how I am feeling to the one I posted 3 weeks before.

After discussing this, I concluded that it very much mirrors exactly how I DO feel about him. Confused (still). Alternately free, independent, following my own path, building my relationships with my children, being the best mother I can be, excited about the opportunities that await me, and on the other hand vulnerable, kind, anxious not to see him hurt, thoughtful. Angry, and then sad; Optimistic and then vulnerable and lonely.

The fact that he hasn’t replied probably just reflects that he doesn’t know how to read me, that he’s fed up with my conflicting messages verbal, written and in person,  or he may have moved on to the next mug, or he may be angry or …. well , It doesn’t really matter does it. I meant it when I wrote a few days ago that I can accept its in the past and that nothing, no words or actions can repair this broken relationship. But Angela pointed out to me that it’s ok to be ambivalent sometimes, its ok to falter, it merely reflects the depth of emotions and the strength of my feelings. They don’t go away or resolve overnight and that this is a process, a path that I’m following. I’m a great deal further on than I was 6 months ago, but the emotional attachment takes time to wither and die.

The take home point for me about all this is that we convey a huge amount of meaning and emotion in the small, non verbal things we do or don’t do. That the majority of small things; ‘forgetting’ to send a text, not responding to a comment or reacting to situations in a way that is out of proportion, convey a huge multitude of meanings. These things are not  unplanned, they are deliberate manipulations to wrong foot someone, they are designed and engineered to gaslight and confuse.  I’m getting a glimpse of a deeply unpalatable and thoroughly disturbing outsiders view of that relationship, Its still shrouded in fog at the moment, still obscured by my naivety .. but the fog is lifting a little momentarily and small acts are now assuming a much greater significance.

I think that view, when its clearer, will be a much more accurate picture of the reality than the fairy tale and guilt I’ve been carrying around with me.

 

 

Africa

In the summer holidays the boys are I are going to Africa for 3 weeks. Its a treat for us all, and I’ve told myself that it is mostly funded by the money I have not spent on alcohol since I quit drinking in March 2016.

My little counter tells me that so far I have saved almost £13,000 (although that doesn’t take account of the money I spend on alcohol free beer!)

It’s been a year in the planning and developing the specifications. I actually booked, through a small specialist company, last August. Now its 23 weeks (165 days) away and I’m busy planning the details. I actually LOVE this part of holidays. I love investigating what options there are , developing an interesting itinerary, thinking about the destinations, the likely weather, the participants and what they would enjoy. I love rooting around on trip adviser for different options and pencilling in plans for different days.

A significant part of the trip will be spent on safari in Botswana, in 4 different locations –  camping in big east African tents, including one night out under the stars…. but towards the end we have 6 days in Cape Town, and its these days I’m specifically planning for. We will be staying quite centrally, in an apartment for added flexibility, and I want to use our time as actively as possible to see as much as we can. Following the stay in Cape Town we are heading to the Coast for a couple of days Whale watching – and possibly diving for sharks !

It’s very important to me that I introduce the boys (well the younger two) to the side of Africa that we will not really see, in our Western bubble and high spec safari jeeps. The part that is poor, and hugely disadvantaged, the part that I saw in my early 20’s when I went on an elective trip to Tanzania for a few months. The part that saw women, three to a bed in hospital (top to toe and one – the healthiest one – underneath) the part that saw women trek 3 days to hospital to give birth, women with obstructed labour whose babies died and who often died themselves. That experience has stayed with me my whole life, that and the kindness and sociability of the Tanzanian people as we travelled around the country with backpacks on a student budget! This trip will be considerably more comfortable – but I don’t want to lose ALL of the ‘real’ Africa – I want to find ways to explore it.

Finding this part of South Africa is not easy – particularly given the security concerns, I don’t think its a good idea to just walk into the Townships ! I have discovered Uthando, here , an organisation that promotes community projects and uses funds raised from responsible tourism to plough back in the poorer communities development. It looks fascinating and I’m proud to have booked  a tour with them. I’m hoping that such a unique glimpse into the cultural aspects of South Africa that would usually be closed to tourists will encourage a questioning mind and provide an alternative view of this rich and diverse country. Its also in my mind that we could, as a family make a regular donation to one of the projects we visit, and in this way I hope to interest the boys in philanthropy and consideration for others who are less fortunate than we are.

I dragged all the boys to see the film “Long walk to Freedom” about Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and I’m intending to visit Robben Island, the prison and museum to help them to appreciate and understand the suffering that took place – within MY lifetime. I’m hoping that this opportunity will open their eyes a bit to the privilege we enjoy just by being born white, in the UK.

The one things we will NOT be doing is visiting Cape Towns vineyards and wine tasting sessions – which would have been nice, but … !

I’m tremendously excited by this holiday. Having travelled with son 1 so recently I know hes a fantastic companion, and son3 (who’s ambition is to be a vet) is already wide eyed with anticipation. I’m looking forward to the time we will have together – far from Wifi and computer gaming, where evening activities are likely to be card games and chatter, where the days experiences can be discussed and savoured. I hope I’m not building myself up for disappointment.

If any of you have visited Cape Town, or Hermanous, or Victoria Falls where our trip starts, please let me know any recommendations !

A bit worried …

Next month I am going abroad, to Italy for a weekend. It is a very close friends 50th Birthday. Her husband is taking her to Venice and Florence for a few days break – they will spend the first days alone and then her sisters, and some friends (including me)  are joining them for a surprise weekend party in Florence.

When I was first asked if I could attend. I was really pleased and excited. I quickly asked my brother if the children could stay with them for the weekend, and booked a flight. But as the time draws nearer I’ve started to feel really apprehensive, and I’m not quite sure why.

The obvious answer is that I arrive late (11pm) in Bologna and then have to get myself somehow to Florence… either by car , or by public transport, or by taxi perhaps? But feeling anxious about this is nonsense. I’ve navigated myself around Kathmandu, and a little planning and organizing will sort this one out.

I’m not worried about the kids, they will be fine with their Uncle, Aunt and cousins. I’m not worried about work – I timed the flight to fit in, I live reasonably close to Heathrow, so I’ll drop the children and have plenty of time to catch my flight.

I know three of the other attendee’s very well, apart form the birthday girl and her husband. Two are amongst my oldest and closest friends. I also know the host’s sisters who will be there, so I’m not anxious because the weekend will be spent with strangers.

I know what it is.

It the spectre of alcohol. Its knowing that others will be drinking whilst I cannot, that because its a celebration, a stolen weekend in a foreign city, some people will drink a lot. And I can’t. And so I will feel edgy, anxious, left out. Uncomfortable in one way or another, sitting in the evening at a table whilst others slowly get drunker, with a rictus smile on my face, feeling exhausted and bored with the conversation because people who are drunk are boring unless one is also drunk. I really, really don’t want to be in this position, edgy, anxious and feeling conspicuous. I don’t want to talk about my abstinence, certainly not to people I don’t know well. Its private. Unfortunately, my previous reputation, and their former experience of me, as a ‘party girl’,  will mean that my ‘not drinking’ WILL be noticed and potentially commented upon, questioned ….

It’s been quite some time since I was in this position. Last Summer I went out for lunch with a large group, a long boozy lunch, that the end I was pretty keen to leave… not since then. The last time I went out to dinner with a group, my brothers birthday, others were not drinking, ad i was driving so it was no problem… No one will be driving in Florence, no-one has work the next day, or a babysitter to get back for. There is even mention on the Whats app chat group of ‘clubbing’ and ‘Karaoke’…

This whole thing sends me into a panic, but if I calm down and appraise the situation carefully I might feel better. So …

Friday evening I won’t be there for dinner. This is a shame, since (although I didn’t realise it initially) this is set to be the ‘main event’. However my flight doesn’t leave ’till 8pm… so I will arrive very late, and just go to bed

Saturday will be sightseeing – and probably a leisurely lunch. I expect that some others might opt for soft drinks, but if not, its hardly unusual to avoid alcohol at lunchtime. I absolutely DO NOT want my abstention to be a ‘BIG ISSUE’ – I can’t imagine anything would hate more than having to explain why I don’t drink to a crowd of people ..

No, the problem will be Saturday evening…. so what options do I have?

I could not go out with the group –  whether I tell the truth, or obfuscate, claim an headache / tummy ache etc…and at first glance this seem the best option. Removes me from temptation (although that’s not the main problem) and I’d be quite happy with my kindle for the evening … Or go out for dinner, and plead a headache after dinner before any club / dancing ( because I am NOT going to do that) I never liked clubs even when I was drinking, sober its just my idea of hell…

Or i grit my teeth and ‘do it’ so as not to draw any attention to myself, just put up with the whole entertainment as agreed by the whole group.. this risk there of course is that I get the ‘fuck it’ moment ….

Sigh .. Once Sat night is done, I will be ok; my flight  home is late afternoon Sunday …

I think now that I’ve ‘named it’ and recognised it, the anxiety about the whole things is assuming (slightly more) reasonable proportions. I have quite understandable concerns, and I need to do what is acceptable for me to deal with them …. I just need to decide what that is. In my worry I’m falling back on some of my earliest sober strategies … plan, plan, and then plan some more !

Or I could just not go …. right now, that looks appealing (which gives some indication of how worried I am )

On the positive side, no matter how much I am stressing about this weekend it has not ONCE crossed my mind to just have “one drink” .. this has to be a good thing! 

 

 

 

700 days

Today is my 700th day of continuous sobriety.

Pretty cool? Yeah, I’m happy with that …

The last night I drank was also a Friday. And somehow I just knew I had reached the end… it was an unremarkable Friday in many ways, and I was not expecting it to mark the end of my drinking days. I was drunk at the end, but not excessively so, and there was nothing remarkable about that !

When I woke up this morning I was conscious of the date, and aware f its significance. This is unusual, I have largely ‘forgotten’ that I don’t drink, and apart from my “soberversary” looming on the horizon I don’t keep a check on the number of days dry very often.

However, since I HAVE noticed that this is day 700, and it seems worthy of a small pat on the back, I looked back at some of my blog posts over the last (almost) two years. I can see I’ve come a LONG way. I am so very much more content that I was, so very much less stressed by intolerable frictions and unmanageable problems. Yes sure, there are problems, but nothing that makes me wants to hide to escape it, and nothing tha feels too overwhelming.

I’m quite glad that when I quit I didn’t realise HOW long it would take for me to feel ‘ok’ . I had thought that about 100 days should do it! Obviously I had been avoiding looking at so many aspects of my life which were a lot less than ideal, and i hugely underestimated how much upheaval the decision to stop drinking would cause.

I’m very pleased I stuck with it though. Everything that has happened needs to happen, and the changes have ultimately been for the positive. I’m not “there” (wherever “there” is) yet, but I feel that Im getting there …

There is  a lot to look forward to at the moment; next month I am going away for a weekend and in April we have an extended family weekend trip. In the Summer the boys and I are going to Africa for a 3 week holiday… yes, there’s a lot to look forward to.

700 days … that’s just over a million minutes !  99 weeks that I haven’t been pissed… Honestly, it has been hard at times, but even in the hardest times, I haven’t seriously doubted that it was the right decision…

 

Confidence

I’ve always been confident in my role as a doctor. I have a knack for pattern recognition, a well developed 6th sense (after 25 years in practice) and a natural curiosity and empathy for people, all of which make me good at my job. As an educator and appraiser I seem to have good professional judgement and in my leadership role, I try to set the tone by taking on jobs that others don’t want to, and demonstrating by example the standards and behaviour I expect from my employees.

I’ve been much less confident in my instincts as a mother. From the earliest days with son 1 I’ve not been sure I’m particularly GOOD at being a mother, and I’ve had so much self doubt and insecurity that I’ve not always been able to follow my own instincts. Both my ex husband (with his drug abuse and erratic, impulsive nonsensical behaviour) and my exPartner (very strict Victorian, hypercritical and emotionally bullying) have overridden me many times, meaning that I have not always behaved as I believed to be best in respect of my children.

On Saturday night son 2 (he’s almost 16) went to a party at a school friends house. I spoke to him at about 7 pm, when he sounded fine and said he should be home by 10. At about 8.45pm I got a call from my ex husband saying son 2 had drunk too much , had been collected from the party and would stay with him that night.

Son2 skulked into the house at 9 am the following morning, he stumbled upstairs to where I was still in bed, fell down on the bed and burst into tears. After I had given him a cuddle, I asked him why he was crying. He was very ashamed of how drunk he had got, and very worried about what might have happened. I had a vivid memory of facing my mother’s tight lipped fury when I had done similar and felt instinctively I should play it differently. So I asked him for some details, very calmly and then he went to have a shower. After his shower he called the person whose party it was and filled in the gaps. We then took the dog for a walk. Son2 was still very upset and I encouraged him to look at what had happened in a realistic light. Yes he had got drunk (apparently the host’s mother had gone out, leaving 15-20 kids on their own, several people had brought alcohol and they were drinking vodka and Heineken (YUK) ) Yes he had vomited (in the bathroom thank goodness) BUT he had not insulted anyone, got into a fight and he had had the common sense to call someone when he realised he felt unwell.

We talked about why he had been drinking (social anxiety) and why he had felt the need to go along with the drinking games (peer pressure) we talked about how rubbish he felt that morning – both physically and emotionally. How embarrassed he felt that he’d had to get his father to collect him and how ashamed of himself. We talked about whether the ‘social anxiety relieving’ effects of alcohol outweighed the consequences? He felt they did not.

We talked about the way alcohol has an insidious effect, leads to blackouts and poisoning in excess. he told me that several of his friends don’t drink at all, and why that was. he knows that his father has very severe multiple addiction problems and that I no longer drink alcohol. We talked about how one can make plan before drinking, about having only one, or just beer etc, but that these good intentions seem to get eroded as soon as one has a drink.

As we walked, on the cold bright Winter morning, watching Lola the dog chasing sticks and snuffling through the undergrowth, we talked on about various things and son2, who is in a rather non-communicative phase, shared a lot of thoughts with me. He has always been the most sensitive of my children and one who reflects on things spontaneously, but I was pleased to hear the results of his musings about his recent past. They indicated to me a developing maturity and capacity to accept people’s differing opinions which was pleasing to hear. I tried to encourage him to look on the previous nights episode as a learning opportunity, by getting HIM to reflect that he felt dreadful the next day, by ensuring that I reassured him that he was not BAD – but had just drunk too much, that tbh most people have done at some time – I feel he gained confidence in me as a loving parent, setting boundaries but accepting him as an individual.

At the end of the walk he said he felt better, both physically and emotionally. I felt pleased that I had behaved as I felt was right – and that I had in a way been rewarded by a little glimpse in to his thoughts and feelings.

I’m gaining in confidence, very slowly, as a woman; as a person worthy of a good partner, and now I feel I gaining in confidence as a mother after that fantastic trip to see son 1 and now the opportunity to support son2 when he needed me. His father had found it funny to draw on his face whilst he was unconscious from alcohol intake – and I think he was rather disillusioned with this approach.

I’m not stupid enough to think he will never drink again, and I’m aware that he, like son 3 has an unfortunate set of genes when it comes to addiction, but I hope by lovingly accepting that he had been foolish, but pointing out that this did not make HIM a bad person or a failure or inevitably doomed to a lifetime of disaster, I have opened up the lines of communication just a little, and shown that I can be loving and compassionate and not judgemental, as my mother was to me.

Which leads me to a further thought. Its just possible that I will manage to have a better relationship with my children than my mother has with me. Its just possible that my very well developed reflective skills (from a lifetime of reflecting on my practice and unconscious drivers) will enable me to be a less judgemental parent, a less judgemental adult, able to support without criticising.

That’s quite a comforting thought.

Coming to terms with the past

I’ve been ‘in therapy’ for 18 months now. Almost every week I see Angela and pick apart some aspect of my life and troubles that has been particularly bothering me.

We have reviewed in detail my marriage, my relationship with ExP, my family life and my experiences as a child. I think Angela identified very early my crippling low self esteem and vulnerability that led me to form relationships with men who were not able to treat me as I deserve,  leading to anger, resentment and ultimately to the breakdown of both relationships. We looked at the unconscious drivers that led me to start these relationships and the hidden anxieties and self perceptions that prevented me from recognizing how very destructive they were for me.

We have explored the role that alcohol played in my life, from very early on, the role of blotting out difficult emotions and paradoxically increasing my self loathing and despair

We have examined the presence of of shame and the deep feelings of inadequacy and self contempt that have been so prominent in my view of myself, cutting me off from true communication and further isolating me from people who care and can support me.

When I review my progress, I can see that I’ve come a long way. I have come to terms with many things I thought I could not – and ditched a lot (not all, but a lot) of the shame and self disgust I have been struggling with for so long. I can view myself as forgivable for the mistakes I have made, learn from them and move on – leaving them in the past.

In the past few week I have made enormous strides in recognizing and feeling that the chapter of my life that included my exPartner is now closed. I no longer yearn for it, nor view my intense, profound love for him as something I will miss forever. I can see this relationship more in the context of my whole life, as an episode, not one that must define me in the future. I can clearly see how I was deluded into thinking that he was ‘the one’ and how sad and unhappy I became trying to hold it all together. I’m not so angry with him for failing to listen to me, nor for doing what he though was best for my children. I can’t summon up that intense emotion any longer – he’s just someone I used to know; like others, in the past. This has happened very slowly, I’ve inched my way along this path, not really believing I would ever get over the loss, but somehow, with help, support and a lot of talking with non judgmental loving friends and the encouragement of my therapist, I seem to have got there. It’s what I have known MUST happen – the absence of strong emotion is what defines the recovery from a failed relationship, but I had no faith I could actually achieve this.

I feel ready to move on. Not into another relationship, but on with my life, alone (but not alone in all the ways that matter right now). On with being the best mother I can, on with shaping my career as I want it to go, on with developing my interests and future.

Hate is not the opposite of love, hate and anger are just the flip side of love, part of the same spectrum. Feeling hate/ distress/ anger only shows that a person still has the power to stir you, to touch the core of your self worth and emotional center. Indifference, allowing oneself to let go of bitterness, sadness and anger, is what happens when a failed relationship is allowed to die.

I have nothing to be ashamed about really.

I loved him.

I loved him more than I have ever loved another man, more than I had ever experienced, but I look back and reflect that I loved an illusion, a person I wanted him to be, perhaps the person he presented himself as; not the real person. And I’m past blaming myself for this, I was so vulnerable when I met him, so utterly unsure of myself, afraid, emotionally battered by my ex-husbands drug abuse and cruelty to me and the children. I never allowed myself to feel the intense sadness that my marriage had failed because I was so angry with my ex-husband for ruining the hopes and dreams I had had for a happy marriage and family. In this state of extreme emotional distress, whilst having to hold everything together for my children, having to work full time, having to fight for my home and all I have striven for, I’m actually not surprised I fell head over heels for a (seemingly) strong protector.

Could I have done differently ? Yes, of course. Perhaps if I had sought some personal therapy earlier, perhaps if I had been less afraid of being judged I would have spoken earlier about the things about him that bothered me. But perhaps not. Perhaps all that happened needed to happen, perhaps I was just not ready to face all the things I have had to face, before this time. Certainly I’m pretty sure that if I had not stopped drinking I could not have done this, undoubtedly correct, thing.

And of course, I HAD stopped drinking for several months a couple of years earlier. Did I start drinking again because I felt unable to take the next inevitable step (ending my relationship) at that time? Not consciously, but maybe …

I think all that matters now is that I did it. Eventually I ended it, eventually I recognised that although I loved him still, he could not be what I needed and deserved. For whatever reasons, that don’t really matter now, however much we loved one another (and I do believe he loved me also) we could not reconcile our differences, and are better off apart (At least I am)

The journey is not over yet. Perhaps it never is, I know now that I must embark on altering the relationship I have with my mother. It stresses me and makes me very unhappy. I know that I cannot change anyone else, I can only change myself, my reactions to her, my attitude to her. This will not be easy, but from a place of a bit more self belief and self esteem I am starting to realise that she is NOT always right. That just because she thinks, or believes something about me, this does not make it true.

From that place will come. I hope, the capacity to shrug off her comments, her negativity her criticism and disapproval. If I can believe that I am a good enough person, a good enough mother, doctor, friend – a good enough daughter .. then I think it will happen.

At least I hope so.

Vices

I wrote in one of my very early posts about how much drinking too much made me hate myself. The self hatred was, at times, very profound. It was toxic like weedkiller, burning through me, seeping into every facet of my life and poisoning my fragile, seedling, self esteem…

I  hated being out of control, feeling that I may have said or done something embarrassing, I hated looking ‘messy’ ; I hated the act that I was often hung over, and unable to do very much during some days. I hated the anxiety that drinking generated in me but most of all I hated myself for not being able to control it. I never worried particularly that I had been aggressive at all when drinking, but I was often over emotional, weepy and oversharing. I had quite significant stretches of time that I could not remember at all, and how I hated myself for allowing that.

Once I realised (and it took a LONG time) that the way out of this trap (vicious circle ; have a drink, drink too much, feel embarrassed, hate yourself … repeat) was NOT to drink – and just continue NOT to drink, and then I DID IT ….  …then very slowly, quite a lot of that self hatred went away. I was no longer doing something that I knew was wrong for me (emotionally & physically) and wrong for my family… so I didn’t have to hate myself (so much) any longer.

Once I had removed my ExP from my children’s lives, I didn’t have to hate myself for making them live with him either .. so, after the obligatory period of hating myself for ever exposing them to him at all (and that’s largely worked through now) I find I’m carrying around a LOT less self hatred …

I’m left with the cigarettes as the only thing I inconsistently do which makes me hate myself … I was a smoker in my far youth, social predominantly – and stopped completely in my early 30’s. I picked it up again in the stress of my divorce 7 years ago, and have been smoking on and off since then. I have quite long periods NOT smoking (several months at a time) I think I’ve managed to quit permanently; then something triggers me off and I buy a packet and within a couple of weeks I’m smoking again. I don’t smoke heavily – about 6-7 a day maximum but I HATE it, and more importantly I hate myself for doing it.

Yesterday evening in therapy session I had been talking about my recent trip, It had been a very nice review of the relief I felt at seeing son doing well and the decisions I had taken which had helped him get there … all very true and nice (not engendering unacceptable painful emotions). Towards the end of the session the narrative turned toward my relationship with my mother … immediately I found myself reaching for  a bottle of coke, feeling anxious and wanting a cigarette. It was SO obviously a psychological response to something stressful that both Angela and I noted and commented on this. And the recognition that I smoke and drink coke zero now, in much the same way (and for much the same reasons) as I drank was a pretty clear conclusion. The difference is that drinking coke zero does not make me hate myself, but smoking does….

And hating myself is now NOT the daily background noise in my life. Quite often I don’t hate myself at all, which makes the times when I do – such as when I am actually smoking, quite noticeable.

I hate myself when I smoke because a) its expensive and a waste of money b) it’s disgustingly bad for your health c) its crap example although I don’t smoke in front of the children d) my friend J is dying slowly and painfully from a cancer he had /has no control over and I’m recklessly endangering my health with cancer sticks – how could I be so stupid and ungrateful and disrespectful e) It reminds me that I don’t have as much self control as I should have …

I am perfectly able to stop. It’s tough for 2-3 days (with cravings etc) and then it gets better. I’ve done it loads of times. By about 3 weeks the psychological habit is also broken and I start wondering why I EVER did this stupid thing … until I get triggered the next time 6 weeks or 4 months later, and I WANT a cigarette… so i buy just one packet – and off we go again …

But I HATE hating myself too. I really do. and I’m so bored of it, I want to feel proud of myself, I want to not have this endless nagging dissonance in my head. And I know what the answer is ….I just need to actually do it AND stick to it …..