washing machine brain

Someone the other day said to me that addicts have ‘washing machine brains’ – by which she meant that there is so much activity swirling about that it can be hard to pin down any one feeling or thought. That’s certainly how I feel at the moment, quite caught up in so much ‘stuff’, thoughts, feelings reflections and new connections that I hardly know where to start.

I’m very ‘into’ the work and writings of Brene Brown at the moment. Her work on Shame and imperfection feels like to could have been written for me – and I have come to realise how absolutely my life has been dominated by feelings of shame. From a young child, made to feel ashamed of things I did (my mother uses shaming very effectively) to an adult unmarried mother, to my divorce and my subsequent relationship with an abusive man, I have been so deeply ashamed of myself.

The alcohol problem was just one more thing to add to the list, one more shameful, disgusting, weak, failure. I think that one of the key motivators to stay sober for me is recognizing that I have not done one thing that I am ashamed of since I stopped drinking. Not one. On the contrary, my decision making is getting better and better, I am significantly more conscious of the consequences of my decisions and more considered and thoughtful in my behaviour. Not always, I can get angry at my children and yell at them, but I do it much less, and I can often catch myself before I yell, and identify why I am so cross….then i can explain it in a clear way, no shouting.

Brene’s work, discussion the antithesis of shame – courage, compassion and connection, and the development of shame resilience rings so many bells for me – and although I am at the beginning of my journey down this path, it feels really important to me.

So this is one of the items in my washing machine brain right now.

Others include

  • my feelings about my mother – hugely complex; and complicated by my realisation that she is getting older, more frail and may well require more practical support from me in the future. how will that be ? how will I respond? How will I ensure I maintain effective boundaries and offer help without becoming overwhelmed and resentful?
  • my second son and his anxiety, poor academic performance and general unhappiness. How can I help, what should I do, am I doing right or wrong by my cations and decisions
  • my eldest son, shortly to travel to Vietnam, where he will be staying with someone I met in 1990 in Tanzania – this circle of life, the value of connections and karma (my friend arrived in the UK with £10 and no job, and crashed at my place for some time !), is another seam of reflective thinking;
  • my friends; since i wrote a heartfelt email when I returned from my first AA meeting, I have arranged to meet with two of my oldest friends for a one to one catch up. Their perception, compassion and unconditional support has been really lovely and I’m wondering why it has been so hard for me to reach out and ask for the help I need; this makes me think about
  • perfectionism and the culture that encourages self reliance, and you-can-do-it-all. have-it-all attitude that I somehow swallowed whole … because of course its not realistic which feeds into
  • feminism and the whole societal attitude to women, mothers, professional women and how ‘success is defined’ This is SO HUGE that I’m only scratching the surface … what I find is so profound and has such implications both for me, my sons and the whole world that we live in …
  • connections with women I have met at meetings the value of non judgmental peer recognition from people who have ‘done that’ and survived, and thrived …
  • self love – and the critical self that prevents me believing that I am ‘good enough’ with all my imperfections and errors, that I , just me, am ok and deserve love and respect. which feeds into
  • a small, subtle but significant change in the way I perceive myself and the way that I treat myself… I’m observing this as well as ‘feeling it’; I’m trying to take care of myself better, as I would try to take care of another person. I’m trying to feed myself better, get enough sleep, take more exercise – not because I should, but because I’m worth it. Worth expending energy and effort on. Worth caring for. I have caught myself a couple of times when the familiar refrain starts in my head – the one that goes ‘you are SO stupid because …” and automatically thinking “no, not stupid ….” This is just absolutely HUGE for me, and a real real step forward …

My brain just feels stuffed FULL of thoughts and feelings… I barely have the brain space for work or general domestic trivia and I’m exhausted every night from all this revelation and reflection.

I don’t want to complain, actually a of of these things are quite exciting, and I think that the fruits of 762 days of sobriety, and 86 weeks of therapy are beginning to ripen …


Happy 12th of April everyone

Lily xx



  1. Brene Brown is amazing. I have all her books, either in paperback or audiobook form. Her work has been pivotal for me in recognizing and healing shame and perfectionism, and cultivating compassion. I agree with you…since I have quit drinking, I have not done a single thing that I am ashamed of. Drinking keeps us stuck in that awful cycle. xoxo


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