The Lessons

This is a post that has been stewing in my mind since I realised that I have changed, even in the last 3 weeks, and just hugely since the day 889 days ago that I woke up and realised that I HAD to stop drinking. Or is it since the day, 2 years ago on Sunday, that I called a halt to my destructive, abusive relationship?

Of course the two are inextricably linked, but I can see now the fruits of the therapy. At times I have felt mired in the fallout and the personal recrimination, and the restless ennui of the recovery process, struggling with self confidence in almost every area, paralysed by indecision and fear of more failure. Insecure in the love of my children, afraid to set boundaries, beset with worry about not being a good mother, daughter, friend, sister, doctor, person ..

I feel differently today.

It’s been coming, in my peripheral vision, for a little while. I’ve been subtly aware of a shift in my self perception for probably 6 months now. Little shoots of fledgling confidence, shafts of positive thinking, a growing awareness that I have nothing to be ashamed about.

And in another one of those ‘big jumps’ of enlightenment I have experienced before, I suddenly feel, in my bones, that “I am enough”.

Imperfect certainly, (human) but good enough.

And with that feeling, that conviction, comes a new surge of energy and a sense of purpose. No more putting off till tomorrow, no more drifting and aimlessly hoping that things will turn out ok, it’s time for planning and building the future that I want for myself. The internal locus of control is returning, and I feel that I am in control of what happens to me, not external people, forces or circumstances. That I cannot predict everything, but I can plan, build and live with purpose in mind.

This feeling has also come from a recognition of mortality. That time is not endless, and that we none of us know how long we have. The best life is what we need to aim for now, not at some undefined point in the future, and if I have say 25 good years in front of me ((God willing) then I had better make the best of them!

Shoes

Bloody shoes.

Son one wants me to buy him shoes. Not just any shoes but shoes that cost 2500 Rand. That’s about $200 or Β£160.

I’m not willing to do this. Despite the fact that he says these shoes are cheaper in SA than the U.K.

if (and it is still if) he goes to college in September (full time) I am willing to support him for the basics… but if he wants shoes for that price he can get a blinking job and pay for them himself.

And that is final.

He is most seriously displeased.

But… I don’t care. And this is huge progress. I no longer feel afraid that I will lose him if I don’t do what he wants, instead I feel free to act as I think best. And he is 19, full of talk about earning …. but it is just talk. So tough love, no shoes until he can pay for them himself …

A review

I’m sitting on the balcony of our room in a small guest house, overlooking a beautiful bay (as seen in photo) about 2 hours drive from Cape Town. This is a whale watching Town, and as the waves quieten I’m looking forward to some whale viewing from the deck.

This is also an opportunity for reflection as our time in Africa draws to a close, we have been here nearly 3 weeks now, and fly home on Saturday evening.

To say this has been an ‘experience’ fails to give weight to each of very different and important, educational and recreational things we have done. From white water rafting to visiting Robben Island, from learning about the persistence of witchcraft in Botswana to tracking wild dogs, each and every day has brought something precious and valuable to remember, digest and learn from.

I have no idea what the kids make of it all, we have talked about a lot of it, but like me I think they are too overwhelmed with new sights, sounds, smells and cultural differences to begin to absorb what they have seen and done, I think, for us all, it will take some time to digest and consider the impact of our immersion in Africa.

The holiday has been in several parts, and as each chapter closed there has always been something else to look forward to. We have spent time at most destinations, sufficient to scratch below the surface and get some insight into the real life of indigenous people and the animals we saw. The great beauty of a 6 night mobile safari was the opportunity to spend one whole evening drive watching a leopard; just prowling, looking and then resting. Rather than rush to try and see the ‘Big 5’ in 2 or 3 days, we had time to observe the animals behaviour and habits.

I general we have all managed well living in close proximity to one another 24 hours a day. There have been a few arguments, but nothing serious, and we have had some practice at resolving disputes! I have been super calm 95% of the time, and have only really been ruffled by pointless squabbles between the boys. Only once have I seriously felt I wanted to drink, and in the beautiful sunny climate of the Cape Wine-lands where every second driveway promises ‘free wine tasting’ of cheap (and no doubt delicious) wines, I am quite proud of that.

Here IS hard though. We drove here this morning, along an astonishingly beautiful coastal path and now I’m sitting in the sun on the coast … the sea is crashing against the rocks and there is temptation to help myself to the FREE white wine From the well stocked fridge. I don’t have to drive anywhere else today …. but… I won’t. I can’t and I won’t… I’m not going to sabotage 887 days continuous sobriety. So I’m writing this, having a Diet Coke, and then I will go and watch the kids in the pool.

It’s hasn’t all been easy. I realise how much time to myself I actually need …. with 3 kids relying on me for every decision there is very little opportunity for silence. I have been sharing a room for the past 3 weeks … I have craved solitude and peace, my daily gratitude list is overflowing, but I have had too many distractions to properly reflect, to pray and to find peace with unresolved questions in my heart.

It’s been a wonderful wonderful trip, and I hope will have generated many positive memories, some new friends and a deeper compassion for others. I hope also we have become closer as a family and more tolerant of each other’s foibles …

time will tell

Holiday

This will be short as there is only very very slow internet here.

I love it. I’m happy πŸ˜ƒ boys are happy. Everything is just fine. I’m sober.

This is really fucking hard

That’s it really. Its all in the title

Its hard. I know, no-one ever said life would be easy, and in the grand scheme of world issues, I am just SUCH a first world problem. (That makes me feel guilty too)

I think the main problem is, now that I am actually having to DO it, I realise how very hard it is to be a single mother to three teenage boys.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them all fiercely, protectivelyΒ  – and one thing I DO know, is that they know this. Deep down for certain they know that I LOVE them.

But its hard.

In the last week son 2 chucked at me that “You’ve spent the last 10 years engrossed in the computer and not looking at whats going on under your nose’; son 3 shouted at me that “You can’t remember ANYTHING” and son 1, yesterday, blisteringly accurately told me that “Β You just side with who ever is there at the time”.

ouch, OUCH, OUCH

I’m trying to tell myself that this is a process, that we ALL of us are learning how to express ourselves in an environment where no-one is bullying us, or frightening us into keeping quiet. That this expression of frustration and anger is quite normal and that my floundering around in the anxiety of parental alienation is so common as to be almost Universal.

But it hurts.

It hurts because all those comments above are, to some extent true. I HAVE buried myself in an alternate reality at times, because ‘being present’ and FEELING the feelings has been so hard; I AM forgetful and uncharacteristically disorganised ; and that character defect of ‘people pleasing’ does creep into my interactions with the kids.

sigh.

One other thing that I know for sure is that I don’t hide behind defensiveness, I’m quite prepared (perhaps too prepared) to admit to my shortcomings, and to apologise for them when necessary. I am learning to be vulnerable, and maybe I’m too vulnerable and open to my children’s’ criticism.

In 11 days we fly to Africa. we will have 9 days with no mobile signal, no internet access and no-one else for company.

Could be interesting.

Loss of control

During the work I have been doing with my sponsor S, a few themes have come up.

One of these, that arose this morning, was a fear of “loss of control”, or perhaps more accurately a fear of doing things that I know deep down are a bad idea, a fear of finding myself self doing things against my instincts.

This is evident in the occasional drinking dreams I still have. In these dreams I have had a drink, usually not more than one, and I am aghast, desperate, uncomprehending as to how I could have taken a drink. Its as though I have drunk alcohol against my own will. I think this is reflecting a deep fear inside me that I’m not strong enough to actually DO what I know is right, and that at any moment for reasons unknown I’m going to do something that I regret, because I’m not strong enough to resist. Or more specifically Im going to do something that I KNOW is wrong for me, to please someone else.

There is a big element of this in my relationships with other people, especially men. Its the “people pleasing” part that I have come to recognise is such a strong part of my character. I think part of the reason I’m so cautious around men is that I am afraid I will end up in some kind of relationship, whether I want to or not. That somehow I will get swept away by emotion and what someone else wants, that the people pleaser in me will end up in a situation I’m not sure about …. or worse, a situation I actively DON’T want, but have been too spineless unsure to avoid.

Basically I’m a chronic “people pleaser”.

Now that I have come to recognise this, I can see this character defect trait, in many of my interactions. At work I have to tell one of my employed doctors that it has been commented on that she consistently leaves early from an on-call session, and that others are getting fed up with picking up the work she leaves behind. I have been avoiding this task for 3 weeks now. And it is because telling someone else that they have done something wrong is really really hard for me. …

I see it at home with the kids, Im far to much of a people pleaser and let them get away with things I should not… the result is that I appear to be a pushover, inconsistent and slightly unreliable. Sigh

I’m like this with my mother, outwardly compliant but inwardly seething; revealing nothing because I don’t want criticism (read I cant cope with criticism) but unable to be honest and tell her that her visits are too frequent, too long and too stressful.

WHY I am such a people pleaser I don’t yet know. How on earth I am to fix this deep seated character trait I have no idea. But once again, now that I have seen it I cannot ‘unsee’ it, and so I will have to try to unpick it, and devise a way to change it….

Today I am 851 days sober, and I have been separated from my ExP for 691 days (I track both because both were necessary for my recovery) That Lily seems a thousand miles away from the Lily I am today… all the changes have been in little steps… so I guess this is just one more step along the way.

 

Art journaling

As I recover, I’m rediscovering my creativity. Stifled inside me for many many years, I denied I even HAD a creative part to my soul.

All that’s changed.

If you have read my blog, you will know I’m an amateur oil painter, something I greatly enjoy and find hugely relaxing. I can genuinely say that my aim in painting is not to produce perfect pictures, but to enjoy the process, hopefully improve and benefit from the relaxation along the way.

The idea of Art journaling has been raised a couple of times, and this morning I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately the course I really want to do, with BrenΓ© Brown on the Oprah channel isn’t available in the U.K., but Pinterest has given me some ideas.

You can see the start of my “permission slips” project above. Now I need some glitter and glue and crafty stuff to finish it off. πŸ™‚

I just loved doing this , and have been really absorbed for a couple of hours. I’ve had music on and been dancing between painting πŸ™‚ what a wholehearted and joyful way to spend Saturday morning! What is best of all is knowing that all the kids have been to look and ask me about it – and I’ve been able to talk through the importance of self acceptance, courage, vulnerability and self love.

“You can’t give your children what you do t have yourself” so this is for them as well as me … I’ll post a picture of the finished product later 🌷

And here it is …

Uncertainty

Ok, I know now what it was yesterday.

It’s a surfeit of uncertainty.

a state of limited knowledge where it is impossible to exactly describe the existing state, a future outcome, or more than one possible outcome

And that uncertainty comes from all the things on yesterday’s list. Except mess, which I cannot tolerate when the rest of my mind is disordered. I CAN (have to) tolerate it better when there is less disarray and confusion in the rest of my life.

So,

  1. Son 1 – no job. Applied for college, no certainty of place and currently lacks a back up plan. Not eligible for employment support because he has not been back in the UK for 3 months after his travels. Not really looking for work seriously at the moment because we are going away in 3 weeks and he perhaps correctly thinks no one will take him on for such a short space of time. But he is open, transparent not smoking drugs, very communicative and very supportive (as much as a 19 year old can be) too much uncertainty for me about what happens when we get back from holiday … and the potential fall out / consequences.
  2. Son2 – finished school 3 weeks ago. No job. Doing nothing meaningful. Lazy. Again anxiety about consequences and uncertainty about his future.
  3. Practice managers resignation & developing conflict with partners re replacement … I thinkthis was yesterday’s proverbial straw. We had a meeting last night. In the end it was ok, as these things often are, but the fear of not being heard and not getting an outcome I was happy with was probably the difference between calm in the morning and gremlins in the afternoon.

The rest; mess, bills, discordant noise, recovery, mess are just unmanageable when I’m in fear. And that’s what’s underneath it all.

Fear

an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger

Fear that sons 1 & 2 will be living unemployed, parasitic and underdeveloped with me for EVER …

Fear that my partners will insist on employing a controlling, dictatorial manager who could destroy the flexible positive working environment I value so much and have spent so long cultivating.

And in to that I add my character defects (see how well I’m doing) controlling, perfectionistic,

And there we have the perfect breeding ground for the gremlins of anger, frustration and despair.

So, I have had a mindful hour this morning, prayed and I’m ready for the day …

thanks for the support 🌷 I’ll get there (eventually)

The Gremlins

I do not know what happens.

This morning I was ok. Not great because the current UK heatwave coupled with recent emotional disruption is played by havoc with my sleep, but ok.

It’s now 17.40 and I think I am going to explode with rage and frustration. Or is it fear ? Or something else …

but where does that sudden unmanageable emotional torrent come from?

And what the hell is it all about ?

Maybe someone can identify with overwhelming anger arriving out of the blue so that I feel like I hate EVERYONE in my path, my thoughts are completely uncontained and I feel like a fish wriggling on the end of a line.

I literally do not know what to do with myself except that I have to meet my partners in now 15 minutes …..

stressors in order of importance

  1. Son 1
  2. Son2
  3. Mess
  4. Too much to do
  5. No sleep
  6. Huge unexpected bills
  7. Practice managers resignation
  8. Developing conflict with partners re replacement
  9. Mess
  10. My recovery path
  11. Son3s discordant noise in his piano lesson
  12. Mess
  13. No time to do what I want
  14. Mess

Aaaaaggggghhhhhhhh

I am also …

I’m doing my Step 4 stuff right now. It’s hard going, or it is when you do it thoroughly, and I’m struggling to pull out my anger, resentments and Shame …

In the middle of doing this I felt the overwhelming urge to write down all the reasons for self hatred I can allot to myself. It’s a grim list. But it’s also not very mindful and probably not a very accurate snapshot of who I am right now.

Then I wrote on another page … I am also

And this is that list…

  • Brave
  • Loyal
  • Kind
  • Compassionate
  • Generous
  • Truthful
  • I have integrity
  • Clever
  • Resourceful
  • Passionate
  • Loving
  • Hardworking
  • Flexible
  • Unselfish
  • resilient
  • creative

I’ll take that list. I actually believe that. I wrote it and I believe it.

I think that’s progress ?