Mindfulness

“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

I’m interested in this.  As a principle, a technique, it’s very attractive. A non drug based treatment for anxiety / stress management and an uncomplicated process to follow, with the ultimate result of improving well being, Supporting calmness.

I have used these techniques before. During a period of acute anxiety back in 2014, when I could barely function, I found the concentration on immediate physical symptoms; the feel of the sheets on my skin, the hardness of the chair  on the back of my legs, the feel of wind in my hair or the smell of coffee for example, both soothing and grounding. But back then I used the techniques purely to lessen my anxiety rather than to promote well-being.

I attended an awayday about 18 months ago, in which there was a short seminar about mindfulness in the consultation, and how it might be useful for some of our patients. In a group setting, an experienced, serene woman guided us though some simple techniques. I was as impressed by her stillness, self possession and gentle unhurried demeanour as by what she imparted. Perhaps, I remember thinking, if I were more mindful, I too would be less harassed, calmer,  more poised and tranquil.

The key message from the seminar was this: Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says.

“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

“Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.

“It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”

So how do we practice mindfulness?

  1. Set aside some time. You can practice anywhere, at anytime.  You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access  mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space, ideally without obvious distractions like the TV / radio / computer
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm (at least that’s what they say, I think this IS in fact the longer term, overall desired effect…) In the moment however, the goal is simple: you are aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. Its sounds easy, but actually I find this hard.
  3. Let your thoughts  roll by. When we notice thoughts arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge or critisise yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognising when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
  5. Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest.
  6. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.

That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results should (!)accrue.

A growing body of evidence has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, with the UK Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending mindfulness based therapies for the treatment of recurrent depression. Research also shows positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others.

So, I’ve been toying with the idea of adding ‘Do 5 minutes mindfulness a day’ to my New Year resolutions list. I can’t see any reason NOT to do it, It can’t hurt me, and it might help.

I took this On line stress test on a mindfulness website. Rather alarmingly I scored 30/34. A (validated) burnout test for doctors put me at ‘high risk’ of burn out, and that was when I was on holiday. Much of the stress in my life I’m not able to alter, so perhaps I need to alter my response to it.

I’ll let you know how I get on….

pece

 

 

 

Denial

Today I had a consultation with someone I have previously mentioned in my blog, here

The person concerned is very ill physically. Huge swollen belly, jaundiced, stick thin apart from swollen abdomen.This is end stage alcoholic liver disease

The child protection proceedings continue.

They are slow, but inexorable. The parent has been unable to stop drinking, they have not engaged with the local alcohol support services. They remain in denial, telling everyone that they are ‘sober’ or drinking only a glass of wine a day. This persists, even when it is clear to professionals that the individual is intoxicated in meetings.

They refuse to see that there is an adverse effect on their child from being forced to live with an active alcoholic.

The family home is now for sale. If the home is not sold in a ‘reasonable time frame’ the social services will go to Court and seek an order that prevents this person from living in their home. They may remove the child since the other parent is also in denial and colluding.

The consultation was very blunt. They do not see that ALL of their misfortune; arrest, inpatient stay in a psychiatric ward, children’s social service involvement, being forced to sell the family home, being in intensive care, not allowed to spend anytime with your own child unsupervised etc etc – ALL due to alcohol. Still they will do nothing to alter the situation. …

I explained, bluntly, that it may seem as if SS have ‘backed off’ but its temporary. And they will not go away. They will ensure that the child does not continue to live with an actively alcoholic parent. Nothing will change.

Denial is a desperately powerful thing.

It’s amazing how we forget. And not in a good way. Here is an extract form a journal entry I wrote back in April 2013 after I got drunk at a family lunch that ExP  and I hosted. I don’t remember much of the later afternoon, as I was drinking from mid-day and cooking…I went to bed at about 7 – before my children – drunk – and woke at about 2 am sweating, sick and head-achy. This is what I wrote

“Sweating, Anxious, barely slept. Strong suicidal thoughts, imagining hanging myself, intrusive, persistent thoughts. desperately ashamed, amnesia, what did I do, say ? alone, isolated, twisting like a fish on a hook. fear fear fear. and stuck.”

I stopped drinking for 3 days after that. THREE days. I honestly wanted to kill myself because I was so ashamed, but THREE days later I was drinking again .

Denial is a desperately powerful thing

I don’t judge my patient above. That could have been me. I remember how difficult it was to think of a life without drinking, and I and so thankful that I had the strength and conviction to just do it anyway, and trust that it would be ok… I’m lucky; my patent is still mired in the gutter due to alcoholism .. what a bloody waste

Denial …

Breathe in ; breathe out

This piece is written by Danielle LaPorte, and was kindly posted on my site. I am reproducing it with appropriate credit to the original author.

When I first read it, I was too distressed to properly take it in. I read it again today, calmer, and it resonated strongly with me. I coloured it green, because it seems life affirming to me.

Are you hanging by a thread?
It’s hard. It’s wrenching. It’s incredibly painful and it’s difficult to feel lightness.

Or to see clearly.

Hanging by a thread can be really disorienting. What you’re going through undeniably sucks.

Listen to me: It’s going to be okay. You’re going to get through this. You can do it. Baby, you ARE doing it.

You’re getting through this. Right now your cells are plumping up and your heart is beating and you have your breath. *In breath. Out breath.* It’s really okay if you have to get that basic about getting through it.

In breath, out breath. Sun’s gonna rise. It’s going to be okay.

Take encouragement from strangers. Like me. Go ahead. Take it. It’s free and I don’t feel karmically entangled. So listen to me: It’s going to be okay.

This will not kill you.

Do you believe in angels? If you don’t, just believe in them for the next twenty fours. There are a hundred thousand angels by your side.

You’re probably feeling devastatingly alone, like an iceberg drifting. No one can hear you cracking. It’s cold. But, just like an iceberg, you have so much beneath the surface. Years of layers and lifetimes of experience and strengths to call on — skills of expanding consciousness that you didn’t even know you had. You will not sink.

People have been through what you’re going through right now. Thousands of them.

Really and truly. Your picture of heartbreak, your strain of pain is part of the human fabric, and that tapestry is holding you like an Eskimo blanket. Other people have survived this and when they got out of the hole, they left a morphogenic popcorn trail out of the pain. You can trace their steps.

It may be hard to believe right now, but not only will it be okay, not only will you get through and over this, you will thrive again. You will be clear and vibrant and INCREDIBLE.

You will not only have more character to pull out at parties and wisdom to offer the world, but you will feel more joy than you think is possible right now.

You will.

You may walk with a limp. You may wince when you look back (understandable) you may cry unexpectedly in the book store, but you’ll be more alive, and more You. You will be strong. And you will feel a curious sensation of being more useful. And it will feel really, really fantastic.

What you’re going through right now is so difficult.

And it’s going to be okay.

More than okay.

Love,
Danielle

What does a woman who loves herself do?

  • The last few days have been emotionally very tough. In truth  they have been the culmination of months of increasing anxiety, stress, and frustration. As I realised at the weekend, I was being made thoroughly miserable by the behavior of two people; and I had no control whatsoever over it. As I know very well you cannot MAKE people change, or do any thing except change ones own reaction to it.

    It made me start thinking about behaviors I have observed in emotionally string people; people I admire. Behaviors an attitudes I would like to try to adopt. Strong, mature , sorted women, who look great , well dressed to suit their figure, women who look well groomed and have a well organised productive fulfilling life….

    In some literatures I’ve seen this described as  “a woman who loves herself” and that’s the  image I’m trying to think of …

    Strong women move on. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves, holding grudges, dissecting imainary slights. they look at whats happened, learn from it and MOVE ON. They accept responsibility for their errors.

    I think Im quite good at accepting responsibility for my behaviour. Probably less good at moving on

    • They embrace change. They welcome challenges, they adapt and change. They have a ‘can do’ attitude rather than moaning ab0ut what they have lost.

    I do find change challenging and some times cling on to the familiar

    • They stay positive . They don’t complain about problem. They don’t waste energy on things they can’t control. They focus on the bits that CAN be controlled and work with that.

    im getting much better at this. I don’t waste energy ftretting about the weather for example; I make contingency plans if required

    Strong women who love themselves are kind, fair, and unafraid to give their opinion. They don’t worry about pleasing other people. They stick up for they bullied, and they stand up to be counted. They dont seek conflict but don’t avoid it either.

    I admire this quality greatly and I am working towards it. personally I HATE conflict . I hate challenging people even what I know they have not behaved well.Not drinking has helped me here as I am able to tate my position less emotionally, more calmly and factually.

    • They are willing to take calculated risks. They weigh the risks and benefits before taking action.

    I can do this. Actually I do it every single day at work and part of my role is supporting and mentoring those who can’t.

    • They accept full responsibility for their past behaviour. They don’t make the same mistake over and over.

    hmmm – took me a long time, but I don’t drink any more

    Im sure there are more. But it help me to look,at where I need to work on my attitudes and behaviours,

    tomorrow we go on holiday . All looks like it’s going ahead.i am looking forward to it very much. I am anxious for my sobriety, but I have my sober toolbox , and 152 sober days behind Me…

Breakdown

In April 2014 I had a breakdown. Not a fully fledged, admitted to hospital, breakdown, but an acute episode of anxiety and depression that rendered me unable to cope with day to day life.

I snapped one morning in clinic. I had seen two well known patients and dealt with their concerns. The next was someone I didn’t know. I suddenly felt completely unable to think or make decisions. I felt that my brain was breaking apart. I developed a full blown panic attack, and despite knowing that it WAS a panic attack I was terrified and completely unable to get control of myself.

I was rescued by my dear friend and senior practice nurse, who calmly phoned my partner, cancelled the rest of my clinic, and got me an appointment to see an experienced GP.

The next few weeks passed in something of a blur. I was extremely anxious – at times it was hard to go out at all; I couldn’t THINK – and for someone who has always been decisive and relied on a sharp intellect and quick grasp of complex problems, this was truly terrifying. I was suicidal, in that I could see no way out of my problems other than jumping off a high building. I went only as far as planning which high building, and the rational part of my brain knew that suicide would be devastating for my family – but I still could see no other way out. I achieved very little in those first weeks. Lola, my dog, was a 3 month old puppy and I managed a short walk with her most days. That was about all.

I was well cared for, by an excellent GP who provided just the right mix of sympathy, support and direction; and by a fantastic service for physicians that was set up a few years ago in London. I was medicated and allowed to recover.

So far, so pretty normal to be honest. It didn’t feel like it, when it was me, but I had a fairly standard period of mental ill health and made a pretty good recovery. I was off work for 8 weeks.

The thing that struck me yesterday was that I was sober when this happened. The first time I stopped drinking was October 28th 2013 – so by April I had been largely sober for 5 months. (two evenings slip in that period) I had always thought that I broke down despite the fact that I was sober.

Now I wonder if it was because I was sober.

And that scares me. Because I feel truly awful right now. Anxious, irritable, flat, despairing, trapped and a bit desperate. My concentration is shot to pieces. I lack motivation to do anything at all.  I’m exhausted but struggling to sleep. And I am 5 months sober next Friday. What has alcohol been medicating all this time ? Currently I take an SSRI, which i was not doing last time… but …

I don’t know what to do

Loss

I am absolutely terrified of “loss”.

Most things in life I can accept with a degree of equanimity. At least I can face the prospect of them with a fatalistic composure. Loss / Ending, especially of relationships, fills me with fear. Actually its not the loss, its the intense grieving reaction that I have afterwards.

I think this dates back to when I was 18, and my first serious boyfriend dumped me. I grieved for several years, for the loss of a 6 month relationship. I was literally broken hearted. I told NO-ONE how desperately unhappy I was, because I was ashamed that I loved someone who didn’t love me, and I don’t think it occurred to me that this lengthy, intense grieving was abnormal. I was literally consumed with the loss. I couldn’t enjoy anything, I thought about HIM every single minute of every single day. My first thought on waking and my last before sleeping. Of course my thoughts and yearning were for what I thought I had lost – my image of a stability, a happy relationship, rather than the reality – I made lists of things about him that had annoyed and upset me  (and there were quite a few !! )- but this made absolutely no difference whatsoever to the depth of my suffering. I could not rationalise or think myself out of the enormous well of pain.  My yearning continued through my initial university years, probably until I was 22 and fell in love again. I can still remember vividly the aching void and the pain of the loss.

This happened again when I separated form a more serious boyfriend in my early 30’s. Although we were clearly unsuited for each other, I was not at all happy with him, and I ended the relationship, once it was over I entered another protracted period of intense grief. Same thing. Intellectually I knew it was best that the relationship was over, that I could move on, that it was going nowhere and giving me nothing …  by the end I didn’t even LIKE him much. But I was stuck grieving, keening, yearning for something that I felt I had lost. Bonkers. This time I DID recognise that the depth of my despair was a) ridiculous and b) not ‘normal’ ; but , possibly because I still couldn’t bring myself to speak of it to anyone, I never worked out why I reacted like this, or how I could respond more healthily in the future.

This intense aversion to loss, or fear of going through THAT disconsolate mourning process again, keeps me in situations I would be better off leaving. Or would I  ?  How much effort do others put into maintain relationships that are not making them happy ? With adult children? partners ? friends? How long do you go on trying to fix things ? when do you know that things just will not work out in a way that you can find acceptable, when and how do you walk away ? Or does everyone hate loss this much?  does everyone else compromise and bury what they need in order to ” keep the peace”.

These feeling too I drank to avoid. These hard questions are easier avoided, ignored and not aired….buried in a fuzzy head full of  wine … But they are still there, and one day, somehow they need resolving

 

PAWS

Again. At least I think so. Or hope so ? Because if it’s not …. .

I’d never really heard of PAWS before I became a non drinker; when after the initial difficulties and emotional roller coaster of withdrawal, I didn’t exactly enter the happy calm space I was anticipating … No, I found myself still subject to mood swings, unexpected bouts of depression, sudden onset of anxiety symptoms, insomnia, and emotional uncertainty …

Then kind members of the sober community enlightened me, and I started reading about PAWS.

After acute withdrawal, the next stage of sobriety includes symptoms known as the Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). This stage has fewer physical symptoms, the manifestations are more emotional and psychological.

As I understand it,  Post-acute withdrawal occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain recovers from being regularly poisoned,  the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new normal equilibrium, and this fluctuation causes PAWS.

Over the past decades, much has come to be known about the long-term effects of drugs of addiction, especially on the neurobiology of the brain. Most substances of addiction, like alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, and stimulants lead to lasting changes in the brains handling of learning, motivation, and pleasure. Primarily, these drugs hijack the brain’s “reward” circuits, a critical part of which is dopamine. In the case of alcohol (and drug) abuse and dopamine, the brain not only becomes tolerant, but it also gets used to, and “expects” an excess of dopamine, meaning the newly sober user  experiences a simultaneous lack of dopamine (which is unpleasant) AND increased brain craving for the trigger that provides dopamine. In other words, not only does an addict feel bad without the drug, his focus turns solely to it to make him feel good again. Great ! Cravings explained in one easy sentence ….

There are several other key neurotransmitters involved, as well as dopamine, including serotonin ( mentioned here https://wordpress.com/post/alcoholfree2016.com/2097 )

While different drugs of abuse seem to lead to different sub-sets of PAWS symptoms, PAWS that occur from alcohol and benzodiazepines are generally more similar because they’re pharmacologically more similar in mode of action – key things are irritability, anxiety, and sleep difficulties. I have read that how long people experience these paws symptoms is typically a reflection of how long they were using  the drugs as opposed to how much.  great . So my 30 odd years of alcohol excess is definitely going to come back and haunt me here ….

The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:

Mood swings  (triple tick)
Anxiety. tick
Irritability. Tick
Tiredness. Double tick
Variable energy, double tick
Low enthusiasm. Triple tick
Variable concentration double tick
Disturbed sleep tick

Im utterly fed up right now. I’m stressed , fighting with Mr Lily over problems that are insoluble, anxious about the responsibility I’m taking on in our upcoming holiday, worried about no 1 son – and totally alone with no support in this one, I feel fat, sluggish, lazy and unmotivated. So unmotivated I even missed my favourite yoga class this evening.
This feels like a total rollercoaster of symptoms. At the beginning; the first two weeks were really tough – my symptoms would change minute to minute and hour to hour. Then I had a period of pink cloud – when I felt AWESOME …. I enjoyed that 🙂 But in the last 3 months of so, I don’t feel I’ve made any significant progress . I get these awful low moods, then they will disappear for a few days / a week , only to return again. I hoped that  the good stretches would get longer and longer, I’m not sure that’s happening and the bad periods of post-acute withdrawal are just as intense and last just as long.

Thank goodness I’m not craving alcohol right now, as I’m feeling so very vulnerable ….

What’s next ? 

Since I have been sober lots of things have got better; some were things that I had expected or hoped for, other things have been a surprise. The sobriety itself has been both easier and harder than I expected.

One thing I had really hoped for, once I stopped tipping alcohol down my neck every day, was a bit of weight loss. Just a bit, a reward for the denial, a positive, tangible, physical demonstration of the healthy choice I have made, I felt I DESERVED it. 

So , I am today 144 days sober, And I am three fricking pounds HEAVIER than I was on March 11th.

FFS .

I’ve got this little app on my phone , called “I’m done drinking” (I found it on the App Store) .. You enter how much of what you were drinking, and how much it cost. The app does the rest. So, I have apparently saved 157,007 kcals. Just from not drinking alcohol….

If I use the well recognised equation which tells us that 3,500 kcals = 1 lb of fat, then I have saved myself a staggering 44.9 lbs of fat. That’s just over THREE STONE’s worth of calories I have not drunk… But , am I lighter. No. I. am. NOT. which in turn means I have eaten , on average 1,163 kcals MORE (EVERY DAY) than I was eating previously, more than I needed to eat, to not only maintain my body weight, but actually increase it.

This really depresses me. But if I’m honest, I have not paid any attention whatsoever to my diet since I quit drinking. I have eaten shed loads of chocolate, cake, sweeties, ice cream, biscuits and pretty much anything sweet, fattening and unhealthy I could find.

It occurred to me today as I glowered at myself in the mirror again that my attitude to this self indulgent food fest is not a great deal different to my attitude to alcohol when I was deep in my petulant alcoholic denial.

Quite a lot of “I deserve it”; “just one won’t hurt”; “it won’t do me any harm”; a rather obstinate refusal to look at the realities, a head in the sand – self defeating “tomorrow will do” attitude.

Now maybe that shouldn’t matter, after all, I’m not vastly overweight, and surely a bit of laxity with cream buns is allowed in the initial stages of getting sober… Maybe. But what does matter to me is how lousy I feel in myself. The lack of self control and the burgeoning waist line makes me feel every day like a failure.. I want to feel in control of myself, not a slave to whims and greed…

I’m really not sure what to do. I’m not sure if this is a full scale cross addiction , whether being ‘strict’ with myself is likely to be counter productive, whether I should make a proper diet plan and follow it … I’d been sort of hoping that a natural rhythmic eating pattern would emerge once the alcoholic / sugar highs and lows had evened out – that I would want  to eat healthily and nourish myself … That hasn’t really happened yet…..

I slightly feel (and I don’t want to think this) that my addiction tendencies, are finding another outlet …and that unless I deal with whatever is underneath, I will continue to have one issue or another ….

Bugger. Not a great couple of days really

Emotions

I don’t know about anyone else but I always subscribed to the view that alcohol reduced inhibitions and “allowed” me to express emotions / feelings that I otherwise kept suppressed. As I am a bit of a master at suppressing emotions and avoiding conflict, it’s perhaps not surprising that after a few drinks a torrent of rage and frustration would, at times, burst out of me.

There have been many, many such occasions over the years. Many evenings that ended in tearful recriminations, many stand up arguments, many outbursts triggered by innocuous comments that spiralled into full-blown raging conniptions. Afterwards, the next morning, I would piece together who said what, what I remembered, and cringe a bit. Underneath though, I always believed that I had some justification for screaming and yelling – letting my feelings out – MAKING someone understand how I felt. Whilst I understood and accepted that alcohol had a part to play in the genesis of these episodes, I always firmly believed that the alcohol didn’t manufacture the feelings – these were there already – alcohol just lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to say what I thought. And thats a good thing, right ?

Wrong.

I’m still early on in this journey, and this is part of a half formed thought process, so I’m not 100% sure about this, but despite my ongoing (though less frequent) mood swings, there seems to be less RAGE in my soul.

There are several things in my personal life that make me very unhappy. They did result in pretty regular outbursts whilst under the influence. Mr Lily has taken quite a few verbal batterings over the years. Did anything change ? No. Did I feel better having let it all out? . Not really. Did I learn ? No. The next time, or the time after that, the same argument would ensue, again with no resolution. All that has been left by that enormours emotional carnage are scars and fear and damaged trust.

What role alcohol? Its certainly true that sobriety has not erased the problems. It hasnt changed the things I think or the position I take. It hasnt made the hurt of certain circunstances less intense, or provided me with an acceptance of things I really struggle to accept. I’ve not morphed into some complient doormat who has no problems. BUT, it seems to me now that just maybe, being sober has firmed me up a bit, in a non confrontational, calm, solid kind of way.

To explain. I spent a LONG time ANGRY about certain things, really deep down angry and hurt, but I felt unable to express those feelings when sober. So they all burst out, exploded out when I was drunk, Nothing changed. Now, sober, I dont feel any happier about those things but I am beginning to accept that I CANNOT CHANGE THEM. And in that acceptance, comes the next thought that what I CAN do is either;

  • state what I want, calmly and clearly, why I believe its right; Ask for others to change, and make a plan for what I will do if things remain the same
  • accept that life isn’t perfect and that I have no more right to what I want than anyone else.

That saying – known in AA as the serenity prayer, feels very apt.

grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It looks so simple. But it isnt.

I am less sure about how aspects of my life will pan out now, but what I do believe, is that I will be taking responsibility for my own emotional wellbeing. That I am, or will be, strong enough to do that – and that after years of being too befuddled to accept that personal responsibility, I can now see it in front of me. I’m not there yet, but I’m closer.

 

 

Serotonin

 

I’ve been really struck in the last few days at the number of blog posts I have read from people struggling with guilt and shame at having to take, or being recommended to take, antidepressants / medication for anxiety.

I work as a General/ Family practitioner and I see this so often. People struggling with crippling anxiety and debilitating anhedonia, who somehow believe this is a sign of ‘weakness’ or  a character flaw. That if they could just “pull themselves together’ it would all go away.

This is just NOT the case. Low mood / anxiety are two sides of the same coin and they are both due, in part at least, to low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is FACT. An individual can no more control their levels of serotonin than their levels of insulin. Ergo, will power alone will NOT , CANNOT manage anxiety and depression.

Anxiety / Low mood is very,very, very common. Probably about one in three people will visit their doctor at some time with this complaint. Sometimes its presented as fatigue, sometimes as somatic symptoms. But the underlying low serotonin, if treated, will improve all these symptoms

(and before any one jumps on me, not everyone with fatigue is depressed, obviously, but its very common)

This is a somewhat simplified version of the role of neurotransmitters, as my aim with this blog post is not to discuss the finer points of neurophysiology, but offer evidence that might make someone who is low, feel less stigmatised about being offerred / taking antidepressants.

NEUROTRANSMITTERS are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body.  They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons”  The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which affects mood, sleep, concentration, weight, anxiety, appetite, memory and learning, temperature, and behaviour. Norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphines and oxytocin are also involved in various aspects of mood.

Lots of things, obviously affect mood. Social circumstances, relationships and thousands of other things. But low serotonin levels- are definitely one of the factors that affect mood and one of the factors that we can modify. The diagram below shows the overlapping relationships between some of the neuro chemicals involved

7346353

We can ‘help ourselves’ with exercise and a variety of other techniques, we can try to manage stress levels, and we can avoid substances that deplete serotonin – eg alcohol… BUT, for many people, medication is a very useful tool to improve mood and reduce anxiety. I will often explain to my patients that lifting your mood allows one to create a ‘virtuous circle’ – when you feel a but more motivated, you are likely to exercise more, get more done – this makes you feel better – and so on…

so please, if you are low, depressed, anxious, unmotivated, exhausted, struggling with mood disorder, please recognise that this is an illness; Its not under your ‘control’ and there is treatment that can help.

DOI. I take a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and I believe it has, if not saved my life, helped me beyond measure.

Holiday – how to cope…?

In 12 days we are going on holiday. As previously mentioned Mr Lily and I are are going away with my two younger children, our friends J & K and their son.

I’m really looking forward to it.

BUT I am worried about my sobriety.That might sound a bit bonkers – I have 140 consecutive days of sobriety. I’m proud and pleased.

Why should I be worried ?

I’m worried because I KNOW ME

  • I will be on HOLIDAY. I DRINK on holiday; everybody drinks on holiday, because it doesn’t matter if you have a headache or don’t get up till lunchtime, or drink at lunchtime, or exceed your weekly units in a single day..Units drunk on HOLIDAY don’t count. This is, and always has been, my expectation of a NORMAL holiday
  • The other adults are ON HOLIDAY. Ditto the above.
  • The last time I was sober (2014) I went on HOLIDAY (to the same place) And drank. A lot. And I couldn’t get sober again for 22 months
  • Me not drinking might make Mr Lily, J and K feel uncomfortable drinking, which might spoil their holiday. which will make me feel GUILTY
  • Mr Lily, J and K might drink a lot every night, and why not really…; I will feel bored, left out and frustrated, and irritable, these are all HUGE triggers
  • I wont be able to access many / most of my AF substitutes
  • I’m actually struggling a bit anyway… I’m tired and don’t feel well. I’m stressed and pretty anxious. I’m not CLOSE to “fuck it give me a bottle glass of wine”, but I’m not THAT far off either. I’m an Alan’s Drink Con 3 I think.

What can I do? I absolutely KNOW that drinking would be a BAD idea. Lets get that out of the way first. I cannot have ‘just one’; and its not the one day’s drinking that scares me, it’s that I will drink again the next day, out of despair and disgust and shame. And before I know it I’ll be back to a bottle a day and have to go though all this again – or worse I wont be ABLE to get sober again.

And NOT going is not an option.

My ideas so far ….

  • I will share with Mr Lily, and he has already said hes not intending to drink much.
  • I will send some Seedlip in a parcel ahead of us..
  • Also some sketching stuff, which will occupy my hands if others are drinking
  • Load up the Kindle – although that could be sen as antisocial
  • pack my yoga kit

Any other ideas sober friends? I’m really quite anxious about whether I can manage this…

What would you like to drink ?

I’m quite sure I’m not the only relatively newly sober person who has fretted a LOT about ‘what to drink’ now that wine, beer, cider, spirits, cocktails and pretty much everything else I liked to drink are permanently off the menu.

As I have mentioned before I am a big fan of ‘planning’ any occasions at which I might be tempted to drink. That’s pretty much every occasion if I am honest, whether alcohol was actually appropriate or not. Over the last 139 days I’ve built up a reasonable repertoire of drinks I LIKE and enjoy, which significantly cuts my feeling of resentment, at having to stay alcohol free.

I thought I would share them.  I always choose things at less than 0.05% alcohol, and you have to be careful especially with AF beer and wines; there are quite a few at 0.5% or even 2%, which to my mind is ‘low alcohol’ not ‘alcohol free’

Starting with the simplest...

BOTTLEGREEN GINGER AND LEMONGRASS WITH FIZZY WATER,

This comes as a premixed bottle, or as a cordial to which you can add your own water. I LOVE the ginger bite in this one, its not too sweet, but less bitter than some of the other ginger drinks. You can add a dash of lime which is also nice

BECKS BLUE LEMON

To my taste this is much better than the plain Becks blue. Like its straight cousin, the lemon Becks Blue is < 0.05% alcohol and the last of lemony sweetness cuts through the lager taste. Very refreshing when really cold !

EISBERG WHITE WINE

This is my favourite of the AF white wines. (I haven’t tried any of the ‘low alcohol ones’) Its not wine, but it comes in a wine bottle, it looks like wine, and it tastes ok. I REALLY like this when guests come round at home and I’m feeling like I want to join in – is that cheating ? I don’t know, but it helps me. Also Eisberg spritzer with ice is nice.

BOTONIQUE

Marketed as a  sparkling wine ‘substitute’,  I’ve included this, although I’m actually not THAT keen on it, because it is completely AF and has an interesting flavour. The slight aniseed taste is not something I really enjoy, but I know many people do…

Slightly more complex drinks

SEEDLIP

This is a complete revelation to me. Its a distilled alcohol free spirit. The taste is adult and complex. There are now two different types, the original is woody and rich, and the recent addition smells of flowers and grass. I mix the former with good quality tonic water with a slice and a squeeze of pink grapefruit. It is just lovely and tastes properly ‘adult’, The No2 seedlip I mix with bitter lemon and a little mint or cucumber, The ONLY downside to Seedlip is the price – its about £30 a 70cl bottle which is steep. But as a treat ? unbeatable. I’ve given it a plug at the top of this page as I love it so much!

 

Things that really need you to make a ‘few’ / proper mocktails

I like cocktails, and here are a couple of ‘mocktails’ I’ve tried. The recipes all originate from other people, but Ive adapted them a bit for my taste. I don’t like sickly sweet things – so you might want more simple syrup.

Blackberry Mint Spritzer

Ingredients
For the Simple Syrup (makes enough for 4-6 drinks)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
For the Spritzer (makes 1 drink)
  • 5 blackberries
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1.5 oz simple syrup (a little less than 1 shot glass!)
  • 1/2 cup sparkling water
  • Ice
  • Garnish (optional): extra mint leaves, 3 blackberries, lime slices
Instructions
  • For the Simple Syrup
  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot and bring mixture to a boil. Stir when needed.
  2. Once it boils, turn down the heat to low for about 2 minutes and let simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. This can be stored in the fridge for quite a while ( I’ve done about 3 weeks with no ill effects! )
  • For the Blackberry Spritzer
  1. Combine the blackberries, mint leaves, and simple syrup in a cup. Squish everything together, squishing the juice from the blackberries and mint leaves. You can use a liquidizer depending on how smooth you want the drink  ( similarly you can strain the liquid if you don’t like seeds)
  2. Then add the sparkling water and fresh lime juice. Adjust to taste
  3. Fill the rest of the glass with ice, garnish with some sprigs of mint, a few black berries, a slice of lime and serve immediately.

VIRGIN MARY

really simple or really complex –

  • tomato juice
  • worcestershire sauce
  • back pepper
  •  celery salt
  • BIG squeee of lemon / slice of lemon
  • tabasco (if you like it HOT)

personally I don’t serve it over ice, but that’s just a matter of taste

ORCHARD MIST

Ive used apple puree for this (made myself with apples on the stove) but the pear puree I bought from the baby food section of the local supermarket ! You can mess about with the relative proportions – I have also made this with ginger beer and ginger ale… and with the above mentioned bottle green ginger and lemongrass instead of elderflower.

 

  • 60ml. Schweppes Citrus Blend
  • 25ml. Pear Puree
  • 15ml. Lemon Juice
  • 10ml. Sugar Syrup
  • 15ml. Elderflower Cordial

If you have any favourites, please share. I also love coke zero, or citrus diet coke, but I’m sure the caffeine isn’t that great for me!

 

 

 

Dark Mood

dark mood

What if I had succeeded in my first attempt to stay sober ?

Today would be day 1,001. Instead I only have 136 days. This is because I am useless. I will fail again. see what I should have achieved? Others could have done that. Its just you, 

This is me today. That narky voice in my ear that moves from contemplation of the potential 1000 day celebration, to the critical, to the blaming and personally nasty … I’m in that kind of mood today. Self critical, nothing quite good enough. Irritable.

In this mood I am a FAILURE. As a person, as a mother, a partner, as a daughter, sister, friend, doctor, colleague, employer, blogger and student. Just NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

I’ve kind of got used to these mood swings. If I am honest they are less frequent than they were. These days of intense self loathing come along less often, but the depth of personal chastisement and feeling of displacement is not any less intense.  And  I remain at a loss to deal with them effectively, terminate them, or harness my feelings in any useful way at all. Its almost like a thunderstorm – you just have to wait for it to pass. I have also failed to notice the developing signs, anticipate it, or mitigate it in any way at all.

What I most hate about these black moods is the accompanying feeling of agitation and inability to settle to anything . For the rest of today I will be padding back and forth, fretting about things that need doing, fretting about money, finding fault with everything internally, (I probably wont say anything except perhaps to hapless son No2 who is the only one home at the moment). Nothing will distract me enough to calm me, ‘nice things; like sketching / painting will be dismissed because “there’s no point, I can’t do it”; planning and making lists – which normally soothes me – will seem too much like hard work. Anything useful like cleaning the floor / doing the washing will be angrily rejected.

No, probably what I will do when I get home is sit in a corner of a sofa , fret and seethe until I drag myself off to bed and seek some oblivion in sleep. Mr Lily might ask me what’s wrong and I will glare at him and say ” NOTHING”, even though its perfectly obvious something IS.. But I am quite unable to articulate the depth of despair that is gnawing at the bottom of my soul and the chasm of anxiety/agitation/irritation that opens up on days like that.

Sometimes I think THIS is why I drank. To get rid of THIS. But its not. I know that drinking WOULD get rid of THIS (at least for today) but It wouldn’t solve any other issues,and THIS would return tomorrow.

Today, actually NOW as I am writing this post, I am wondering if THIS mood is actually the clarity I spend a long time trying to avoid. If it actually comes along when I can no longer ignore the internal debate.

Naturally I’m an optimist, and reasonably good tempered, I also ignore things I don’t want to face. Demands I don’t want to make. Ultimatums I don’t want to issue or confront, or even think about. Things I want so desperately, from other people, but feel I, little worthless me, has no right to ask for or expect. Then a little defiant voice inside says ” why NOT you?” Why DON’T you deserve these things ? Why should you settle for things that make you unhappy ? (I’ve coloured my little inside voice orange, for no reason other than that I like it) Things I don’t have explanations for despite asking for them. Perhaps this mood comes from the recognition that I’m tired of having MY FEELINGS and needs treated as less important that everyone else’s, and fed up of just giving way to it for an easy life….

Maybe this black horrible mood comes from recognizing that I stuff down my anger and resentment and frustration for an easy life.

Maybe if I look at it that way, at least some of THIS mood is both understandable and predicable. Still no idea how to deal with it. These are the habits of a life time

 

Amy

I watched this ‘movie’, or more accurately documentary about the life of Amy Winehouse a few days ago. Of course we all know the tragic outcome of Amy’s addictions, but the film shocked, saddened me in several ways I didn’t expect.

I completely accept that we are being shown a version of Amy’s story, that others will have different perspectives and that the “truth” of Amy’s life is different depending on your place in the story. But …

  • She was SO young. And vulnerable.
  • Neither of her parents were really engaged with her as a person. Her mother seems shadowy, her father blind to the reality of her addictions, interested (and I’m sorry if this seems brutal) only in her fame, pleasing her public and making more money.
  • She had really good friends, from childhood, who tried extremely hard to help her
  • No one in her management / publicity team seemed able to protect her from herself. The shambolic appearances on stage when she was too smashed to even stand up were painful, embarrassing and simply should have been stopped. Cancelling a gig, at short notice, is bad… This?  this was carnage.
  • She could sing. My god she could sing. What a voice, what a talent.

Amy Winehouse started off as an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent, the early videos and stills of her life seem very “normal”; she has great friends, she plays music, she’s a bit wacky, but she’s ok. And it all fell apart as she became increasingly famous, and was introduced to drugs.

I know my recovery is from alcohol addiction. I’ve never taken drugs, but if you are as famous and wealthy as Amy, the usual barriers to drug taking don’t apply. And Amy was vulnerable, insecure, in love with a man who then left her (and she herself said “I’ve fallen in love with a man I would die for”) she had eating disorders and couldn’t step outside the door of her flat without being mobbed.. It’s not that surprising she found something to “take the edge off ” … And then of course it spiralled. The man she loved introduced her to hard drugs and she couldn’t stop … Amy was shy, she described her anxiety before performing,

Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home in Camden Town, north London, 5 years ago last Saturday. She was 27. Amy died of acute alcohol poisoning . Alone.

I’ve vomited in my sleep before. Unconscious from alcohol poisoning – there is no other word for it really . By great good fortune I was sleeping on my side, not my back, or I might not be here today either.

I felt so sad watching that film. Amy wanted attention and love, she needed someone to love her unconditionally and stand firm with her. Watching her get thinner and thinner, more shambolic and reading the increasingly cruel, critical and personal insults in the press – I can’t help feeling that I would have coped no better than Amy and that her death was inevitable… What a terrible waste.

I don’t know why she didn’t go to a proper rehab, maybe it had something to do with the awful stigma that still exists in relation to addiction and the fear (at least amongst her management and family) that if /when it was discovered her career would be damaged. So they left her, alone and struggling till she died 😟 I don’t know if there are lesson to be learned here, on a wider scale, I expect there are. For me, I will remember to reach out and offer a supportive hand to my fellow addicts, maybe if Amy had had access to the sober support I do, she could have kicked her demons .

So what’s different when you are sober… 

Sunday morning, cocooned deep in the soft luxury of our hotel bed. My only significant decision for the next few hours is what to chose from the extensive breakfast menu ! And I am appreciating being clear headed and having a bit of time to think…

I did “miss” drinking yesterday, in an esoteric kind of way, as we sat outside and ordered a lunch platter, I did envy Mr Lily’s glass of sav blanc, and I noticed how droplets of condensation collected on the glass, and could imagine the ….. Ok ;stop. It’s not helpful. Suffice it to say, I would not have stopped at one glass , so I  played the tape through and stuck to Diet Coke.

So, Mr Lily is taking a swim, and I’ve been looking at my list of definite sober benefits – I’ve been compiling this list for a couple of months….

  1. I am not  attractive when I drink a lot. This is particularly bittersweet, of course, because I FEEL more attractive. There are plenty of photos to prove otherwise  The smeared eyeliner, the vacant look, the staggering to the bathroom: and worse, falling over. Not pretty, not classy. A woman in control is much more attractive. And I feel more attractive.
  2. A LOT of people have told me how well I look. Mostly my patients, many of whom I have known for a long time. That’s nice.
  3. People who pay attention to what’s in my glass are generally people with alcohol issues. I’m not judging them – but it’s true
  4. It’s surprisingly easy to talk to people when not drinking. I used to fret that without liquid courage, I wouldn’t be able to manage at social events. What would I say? How would I make people laugh? Sober, I manage quite well, actually. What I notice is that most people are also struggling a bit with social anxiety , and they enjoy it when you laugh at their jokes and ask about their lives.
  5. Conversations without alcohol can be astonishing. Without the distraction and numbness of a bottle (+) of wine, I can string an argument together, debate, and LISTEN!
  6. Related: Drunk people talk much louder than they need to, and their jokes are not nearly as funny as they think, and they tend to repeat themselves a lot.
  7. I have noticed how easy it is to leave. I have no guilt about driving home or unattaching myself if I’m bored or tired or have to work the next day, instead of staying until the bottles have all been drained and suggesting we make a beer run for more.
  8. Not drinking is also an amazing way to halve the dinner bill. A nice dinner without alcohol is so much cheaper ! Who knew!
  9. When you’re sober, it is a sad fact that there are some people  you feel comfortable around, and some  who make you itch for an open bar.
  10. There are many less arguments in our house, especially between me and Mr Lily. I have more patience and perhaps more tolerance. I can wait for things to be resolved, as long as there is some movement in the right direction. This is the subject of another post I think.

Against that lot, and the promise, and expectation that there is more good stuff to come … What’s the value of a glass bottle  of wine ?

Nope, day 135, and I’m keeping on…

Space

This weekend Mr Lily and I have gone away. Son’s 1 & 3 are away, and son 2 is with his father. We have a (very) rare free weekend and decided to splash out and book a spa hotel for two nights. The hotel is not too far from home but in the countryside and when we arrived I could feel myself relax immediately. A very lovely dinner, followed by a long deep sleep, and I’m already feeling the benefits.

Dinner last night was weird from the non drinking perspective. This is another first for me, a sober holiday (even a mini one). Like most heavy drinkers, a holiday was always one massive excuse to drink – at times that might usually be unacceptable , and more heavily than at home. After all, “I’m on holiday, I deserve it.” I’m not worried that I will relapse this weekend, I’m with Mr Lily and feel very safe;  more I’m worried that I will be agitated / edgy because I’m not drinking, and that will interfere with relaxing. So, last night; the range of non alcoholic options was very uninspiring, so I settled for sparkling water; the food was delicious, and it was lovely to have dinner, prepared by someone else ! , with Mr Lily. I WAS very aware of alcohol around me: of the couple opposite, where he poured more wine for HIMSELF and not for his companion and then ordered port with dessert; of the next table where the woman was heavily pregnant and not drinking; of the waiters taking bottles through the dining room. I was aware of this, but it didn’t disturb me, and at the conclusion I ordered a peppermint tea to our room, which was THE best peppermint tea I have ever had 🙂

As a slight aside I have come across Alan’s “Drink con” -an emotional self rating tool that can be used to gauge your risk of relapse, by assessing feelings against a scale. I think it’s great, I’d be about a 4 right now, and you can find it here . 

Alan’s Drink Con
I feel great this morning physically, and so pleased I didn’t crack.. I was going to say Mr Lily wouldn’t LET me,  but that’s wrong, I hope he would try to dissuade me if I ordered a drink, but he’s smart enough to know it has to be my decision. 

So, this post is a bit meandering, but I think what I really want to share are my fears about the health of our dear friends J and K. As I previously mentioned, J has had a diagnosis of advanced, incurable prostate cancer for about 15 months now. Despite this, and through a variety of unpleasant procedures and treatments, J has been working, and managing OK.  I think this period of relative normality is almost over. J is on a trial drug. It’s early days, but he is less well. The details don’t matter, but the emotional impact does. K, my dearest friend, is struggling. I’m scared.  With my background – and I have worked in cancer hospitals, and cared for many patients through terminal disease, I am all too aware of a variety of horrible  potential scenarios. And however it goes, this will be tough. I’m scared for J , for the pain, but more for the loss of independence, the slow creeping loss of physical capacity, the increasing dependence on others, the physical indignities of a failing body. I’m afraid that this descent will be slow, painful and cruel, devoid of hope, without respite and that emotionally he will be frightened and angry. 

K too, she is in unstable employment, in a stressful, top management position. She is working full time, caring for J, supporting their 16 year old son, managing the home. As J deteriorates, something will have to give. 

We have a holiday booked together, in just under 3 weeks. It’s in the UK, and despite my (at best) shaky faith, I find myself praying hard that j will be well enough to go. It might be the last holiday, it’s in a beautiful place… They so need the break. We just need to get there…

I know I just need to take this “one day at a time”, not look too far ahead, not worry about what has not yet happened. Mr Lily and I need to support each other, and we will do whatever we can to ease the pressure on J and K.

one day at a time

         This often quoted phrase is a bit of an addicts mantra; and as such has been very over used. I’ve got this on my sobriety pendant – but I have very mixed feelings about this innocuous little maxim.

In one way, when I initially felt compelled to quit drinking (because I didn’t do this voluntarily !) the very thought that I would not be able to drink again, at all,  EVER, was so horrific to me that I literally felt paralysed. How on earth would I manage Christmas, girls lunches out, celebrations, disasters? How would I cope with disappointment and frustration with out a bottle glass of wine to help me calm down. This was back in October 2013, when I hadn’t seriously tried to quit drinking for at least 15 years. The thought of NOT having wine was seriously scary to me (how completely fucked up is that ?) At that time I literally clung to the “one day at a time” .. Pretty often it was reduced to one hour (or less) at a time …

It saved me, I know, not looking too far ahead. The anxiety at having to cope with Christmas sober for example , freaked me out so much, if I had looked at it, I think I would have caved in right then. So I grimly refused to think about anything further than 24 hours ahead and navigated the initial acute withdrawal and the persistent, intrusive thoughts about alcohol, by coping in the minute.

As the days turned to weeks and the occasions I had been so afraid if passed despite me not drinking, (-and oddly seemed to be better sober) I still found myself unable to picture myself long term sober .. So I kept on with the “one day at a time” and that was ok – until it wasn’t.

It took me 22 months to get sober again. And again, this time I started, 132 days ago, by taking each small chunk of time and planning to say sober in the minute. But I think to achieve long term sobriety you have to let go of that at some point. I genuinely feel I am now able to do that. I do not consider drinking again to be an option for me, no matter what situation I find myself in. I can’t envisage any circumstance that would be improved by my drinking alcohol, and so, whilst I still plan, I don’t any longer feel I am lurching unsteadily from one fragile sober day to the next.

Which brings me to the negative connotations of the phrase. To me, it implies that every day will be a struggle, that there is no peace and no security in the choice to be sober; that the decision has to be revisited each day, that even years into sobriety it’s a hard thing to do. I disagree. I’m not expecting it to be always easy – but then nothing at all (worthwhile) is always easy. I anticipate days and events where I would like to drink alcohol, just as there are days when I struggle with my exciting, demanding stimulating job … But it doesn’t mean that the initial decision to take the job was wrong, or that I regret doing so, or that each day I consider again the decision to remain there… And so it is with sobriety. I chose it. And I will stick to it, for good …. Not just “one day at a time” …

Random thoughts about being Adult 

Looking back over the last 8 weeks or so, when I have been making a point to blog regularly, it’s quite obvious to me how my thinking has developed as I have more sober time ‘under my belt’ …

Some of my more esoteric posts about yoga or karma represent initial thinking about subjects I have not previously given any ‘air time’ – probably because far too much space in my brain was taken up with the emotional paraphernalia and fall out from drinking. Now that I am sober, and my mood swings have definitely calmed down, I seem to have a lot more ‘brain space’ for some of these more philosophical musings. At times I don’t think they come out clearly, and my own belief system seems very much in its infancy … But I’m interested, enquiring and reflective, and this represents progress to me.

In the last couple of weeks it has been the end of the school year, for sons no 2 and 3; and we have been to assemblies to celebrate the children’s achievements. Son number 2 attends a local state school with an “outstanding” Ofsted report (those in the UK will understand this, for other readers it’s a government assessment of the quality of education the School provides – or it’s supposed to be ! ) Attending the end of year assembly it struck me how consistent the messages were coming from all the staff. There were prizes for effort, achievement and attendance; some children’s musical or oratorical talents were showcased, but again and again the messages coming from staff were about respect (for yourself, peers, staff, property) hard work and commitment  (academically, in sport, in all endeavours) and self confidence.

Similarly, the leavers assembly at number 3 son’s school, was full of consistent messages promoting respect, reflection, responsibility, resourcefulness, resilience and reasoning (6R’s)

All of this has got me thinking about the role of adults, and particularly parents in promoting the values and attributes we wish children (especially our own) to adopt: not in a passive way – which to be honest is far to often how I have parented- but actively, firmly and consistently. About how to BE an adult who has a huge and direct influence on the way our children develop. I’m beginning to beleive it’s not enough to passively get on with ones own life alongside ones children, expecting them to somehow absorb the lessons we want them to learn. I have always fed, clothed,washed and loved my kids, I have supervised homework, taken them to clubs and parties, taught them to ride bikes and tie shoelaces. I am, at least, a good enough Parent..

BUT… have I really been present? Have I known what consistent messages I needed to deliver to bring up worthwhile adults, have I consistently made them complete tasks to the best of their ability, developed their potential, attended to their moral education? Yes at times, but consistently ? No. Because I have been drunk, and too drunk to do this , or even really understand that this is what needed to be done.

That’s shame. And there is NO-ONE to blame but myself, and no excuse , and it’s probably too late for son No1; but it’s not too late for son’s 2 & 3 who may now find their slightly easy going, lackadaisical mother has  developed some clearer ideas about effective , directional parenting, which might make their lives initially harder, but will, I hope, bear fruit in the end.

I need to think some more, about what I believe to be important. And then take steps to actively, consistently and clearly Instill those behaviours by accepting nothing less. Can I do this? Along with everything else I have to do ? Maybe it’s actually more important than anything else I have to do, and should be prioritised.

That will have implications, but …..

Karma

Following on from my post about yoga a couple of days ago, I’ve been musing about that attractive concept of “Karma”. At least I find it attractive – believing myself to be fundamentally nice, kind,honest and helpful I beleive(d) that my karma would be good, and some people who have hurt me, or wronged me would, at some point get their just “comeuppance” Very satisfying, natural justice delivered by some all seeing deity or force of nature …. And then I discover that the philosophy of yoga incorporates this universal spiritual concept of reaping what you sow: the law of Karma.

What’s not to like !

Since I’ve been looking into this a bit more, well it’s not quite as simple as my atavistic vision of (essentially) hell and purgatory for the bad, and heaven for the good …

Yes, simply put, Karma is the future consequence of one’s current behaviour, but not JUST your Behaviour- also your  intentions, thoughts,  and actions. Hmm, so all those angry thoughts also get weighed up on the giant karmic scales ? There is also the slightly sticky thought that a big chunk of your karma comes from how you behaved in previous lives (for faiths that beleive in reincarnation) which you will neither remember not be able to add to your internal karmic scales … Meaning our lives are controlled completely by our own self-created karma; the actions we do in this lifetime, (as well as what we have done in all our previous lifetimes, which are many in number). However, much of our karmic influences lie hidden in the subconscious part of our minds, which is where all our karmic actions are recorded. So it’s past lives and subconscious thoughts that are the main influences  …. Hmm , the theory goes that these actions, or karma, determine what happens in our lives today, especially as these actions have been repeated over many lifetimes.

So if all of our actions, both current and past, determine what happens in our lives today, this also means that if we act now in ways to improve our life, those actions will have an influence as we move forward. Our so called destiny is of our own making, and we can influence how life turns out for us – quitting drinking anyone ? Is life better now as a result of our sobriety ? I say yes.  Is this karma ? No idea

So, while the Karma you currently create (with your thoughts, actions intentions and behaviour) influences your future life experiences, (the theory goes) your Karma is not your fate. 

It’s central to the idea of karma that one has the ability to consciously choose how you respond and react to Karmic generated events, thus reducing the current impact of your Karma and reducing or eliminating future Karma. Got that?

This is what yoga is supposed to do –  free  you from the accumulation of more Karma, good and bad. Good Karma is good, bad Karma is bad, but attaining any kind of Karma is undesirable. The goal, through the practice of yoga, is to stop the cycle of Karma by ceasing further Karmic accumulation. The yogis tell us the only way to not produce Karma is to act selflessly, without ego, without the desire for any reward. Yoga , and the meditation involved helps us to achieve this goal..

The more conscious we are about how we live our lives and the choices we make, the more we will be able to guide our lives in a particular way. But it is only when we begin to choose the spiritual life that we finally find the fulfillment and happiness we have sought in all of our previous lifetimes.

Like yoga, this is both a psychological and physical practice, with the mental attitude much more powerful than the physical deed.

Liberation from Karma is known as Nirvana, and is a highly esteemed spiritual state. But striving to attain a state of Nirvana is not a necessary goal; any reduction in Karma will improve one’s life, well-being and happiness. So, doing yoga will reduce your karma, good and bad … And mean you are closer to Nirvana …?.

I want to believe this – like I said I find the idea attractive, and of course it means that we can and should let go of negative thoughts, feelings and emotions, which is better for us however you look at it… However I’m really not sure I’m getting the connection between an unsupported half moon and a better life.

I probably need to study some more ! But I do like this below ? You see what I have learned is that the first image is, in itself bad karma – because it is associated with mean thoughts …. Can’t help thinking the world might be a better place if met people adopted this kind of philosophy …

Sharing

I was quite inspired by my friend Tori’s post on “Shame”.. You can read it here.   http://sothisissober.com/index.php/2016/07/19/shame/. In this post Tori looks at the feelings so many drinkers have recounted, of shame, cognitive dissonance and anxiety surrounding their drinking. Most people, myself included, had these feeling at least intermittently for a long time, years probably, before they stopped drinking. I though it was just me ..

Read that again.

I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME

The commonest, most widely described feeling amongst people who drink too much (and let’s not forget the huge number of people that applies to…) One in six women in the UK … Estimating population of 65 million of whom half are women, that’s more than 5 million women in the UK alone, feeling like this .. And I though it was just me … And I bet I’m not the only person who though it was ‘just them’

How can this be ? How can I have got to the age of 51 carrying this enormous burden of shame and disgust with myself and never worked out that OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT FEEL LIKE THIS TOO … I Honestly thought I felt like this because of my upbringing and my mother’s disapproval of my drinking (to be honest, anyone’s drinking) but it’s not that is it – or only a small amount. The majority comes from the internal critical voice, that says you could be ‘doing better’ , that knows you are harming yourself with alcohol , and sets up this shame and self loathing .. And we don’t share it.. We don’t share it…

Tori makes the point that ‘connection’ with others is vital, and honesty is necessary for that connection. I completely agree, but honesty makes us vulnerable which is why we keep the truth, and out shame to ourselves. I am determined to break this cycle of fear and shame, and reach out in real life as I have done on line.

So I told  Mr Lily about my blog.

I have been hesitant about this, because once it’s said I can’t take it back, and the blog is public, and raw and honest in places. To let Mr lily in means exposing aspects of myself that may mean he will run away, and I don’t want that. But by keeping this important part of my life away from Mr Lily, it occurred to me I’m not really being as open and honest with him, as I would like him to be with me… And I should have faith, and trust … Because without faith and trust… Well problems lie.

I hope I don’t regret the decision, it’s a first step in sharing how I really feel. I’m not suggesting I will be sharing my inmost thoughts with all and sundry, but I come back to the phrase ” if you want things to be different, you have to do something different”.. This is fundamentally different. A planned, sober decision to share how it really is .. With the hope of increasing communication and connection.

yoga, Yoga, YOGA

yoga

Yoga. Almost every recovery blog, sober website, or poster on dry threads seems to have got into yoga. I am no exception. I’m a 51 year old, stiff woman with a BMI of just over 25 and I’m contorting myself 4 times a week into the most extraordinary poses, and I LOVE it. Really, I LOVE it, I can’t get enough yoga; I snuck out of work for a 10.30 yoga class this morning (admin day) and claimed the time as my lunch break ( I never, ever get a lunch break – that’s a different story) … I’m planning and plotting to try and get to 5 classes a week, as I feel too clumsy and uncoordinated to practice very much at home at the moment.

Yes, I’m a new convert. I had literally never considered yoga before I got sober this time, I don’t even think I’d given it much thought to be honest, and if in passing I’d wondered about ‘yoga’, I think I imagined a bunch of earnest, vegan, tree hugging people squatting on the ground and meditating. I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I would fit in…, or that the practice of yoga would become a crucially important cornerstone to my life.

So, just in case ANYONE reading this doesn’t already know, and most of you on that sober journey know MUCH more than I do… what is yoga? whats the point ? and how come it’s suddenly become so important to me (and it seems countless other recovering addicts)

Literally yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in ancient India. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old old. Yoga’s spiritual side has its roots in the Hindu faith, with some input from other ancient religious traditions. The main philosophy of yoga is simple: mind, body and spirit are all one and cannot be clearly separated and so basically yoga is a collection of techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe

Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga are used nowadays to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple, and the joints and muscles strong and flexible.

Central to the postures is breathing. For most poses the breath is slow and steady, breathed in and out of the nose and down into the belly. This focus on breathing helps induce a kind of meditative state.

The practice of yoga poses and meditation prove to be a powerful combination. With consistent  practice the wobbly body becomes stronger and steadier and the stressed, over anxious mind becomes calmer, I think this is the main reason why so many people have fallen into the practice of yoga

 

 

So what do I, personally get out of it ? When I quit drinking I started to attend several different type of classes at the gym, but yoga has been the one that stuck. Why ?

I think its

  1. progress – I can literally feel progress. I’m already much better balanced, more flexible and bendy than I was. I like this, It makes me feel like I actively inhabit my body
  2. Its FEELS good – stretching and expanding muscle groups just feels good. Its feels especially good when someone else adds just a little pressure and takes it one stage further!
  3. Its inspiring. My favourite yoga teacher is a woman at least 10 years older than me, who is SO strong and flexible, I find her very inspirational
  4. it is relaxing. It takes practice, but that breathing and mindfulness type exercise does calm the mind and provide some kind of sustenance.

And the lessons I have taken from Yoga so far ?

  •  Flexibility and strength are equally important

I walked into my first yoga class convinced I would be the most uncordinated, useless , weak student. And at first I was, but alongside me was a very strong, muscular youngish man, who equally couldn’t hold the poses… he’s learning  alongside me…

A healthy body needs a balance of flexibility and strength.

Flexibility is good in all aspects of our lives. Learning to go with the flow and adapt to the circumstances is key to stress reduction. We also need to find strength: strength to stand up for our values and strength to keep to our commitments

  • You need to know your limits

Through yoga we learn to listen to our bodies. We try hard, but we don’t push it if it feels painful. I am no where near being able to lift myself into a crow pose… so I dont, I wantch and try to learn, and develop some patience and trust that one day I WILL be able to do this…

(That’s not me !)

This same respect for our limits, patience and trust is important in day to day life. If my workload is overwhelming and I’m feeling stressed, I SHOULD respect my own limits by saying no to more tasks!. When I feel anxious or stressed about drinking, its ok to turn down social invitations..

3. I / You CAN do it ..

When I think I simply CANNOT physically reach the floor, or catch my foot? when I am afraid that standing on one leg means I will fall ? Actually, with help, I CAN do it

Fear, in all aspects of our lives, holds us back. It keeps us from applying for that job we want, stepping in to the unknown, or falling in love. Its a good feeling to get past the fear…”Feel the fear – and do it anyway.” isn’t that the title of a book ?  It is only by acknowledging, accepting, and moving past fear that we can fulfill our potential.And now I CAN do a Warrior balance !

(sadly that’s not me! )

Namaste

Am I an alcoholic?

Oh that word… ALCOHOLIC.

What do most of us think when we hear that word ? I’d pretty much bet you wouldn’t think of me. Middle aged mum of 3, with a respectable life; responsible professional job (should know better); nice house … Not smelly, dirty, unemployed, vodka swilling , wobbly woman who looks 10 plus years older than she is, lurching from off license to supermarket sipping on strong cider from 10am. No, I look like someone “in control”

As in my last post, I felt lost for words when asked why I couldn’t break my sobriety for a special occasion – part of me wanted to say “Because I’m an alcoholic” – but then … Maybe I’m not.. Does it matter ? Again one day I hope I will really not WANT to drink, but that day is not here yet …

The Royal College of Psychiatrists wo do a lot of research into this kind of thing suggest that

  • About 1 in 3 men and 1 in 6 women will develop some sort of health problem caused by alcohol
  • Around 1 in 11 men and 1 in 25 women are physically dependent on alcohol.

That’s a hell of a lot of people. So maybe one in six women are alcoholics … In which case we all need to rethink our definitions, because one in six are not lurching around stinking of stale wine and missing work due to hangovers …

Becoming dependent on alcohol

Alcohol can be a very effective way of feeling better for a few hours. If you are depressed and lacking in energy, it can be tempting to use alcohol to help you keep going and cope with life. The problem is that it is easy to slip into drinking regularly, using it like a medication. The benefits soon wear off and the drinking becomes part of a routine. You start to notice that:

  • Instead of choosing to have a drink, you feel you have to have it
  • you wake up with shaky hands and a feeling of nervousness
  • you start to drink earlier and earlier
  • your work starts to suffer
  • your drinking starts to affect your relationships
  • you carry on drinking in spite of the problems it causes
  • you find you have to drink more and more to get the same effect (tolerance)
  • you start to ‘binge drink’ (see below) regularly
  • other things have less importance than alcohol

Pretty much all of these applied to me – so I definitely have a problem according the RCP. But, like the government guideline, we all know doctors are a bit “pofaced” about drinking – and those things are not that that bad … Are they ?  this

I found this quiz in Caroline Knapp’s “Drinking: A Love Story”, which I found an engrossing, compulsive and disturbing read … I’ve reproduced it here, with my answers …I find this quite a ‘convincing’ quiz, because it comes from a woman who has been there… 

  1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone? YES
  2.  Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink? YES much
  3. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out? YES and increasingly frequently
  4. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it? YES, I never knew anyone else did this, but I did it often
  5. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available? YES, to the point that I would sometimes avoid going
  6.  Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be? YES
  7. Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking? YES not sometimes , always, constantly
  8. Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking? YES
  9.  Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently? YES see 3
  10.  Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough? YES pretty much always
  11. Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily? NO, no excuse needed
  12. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking? YES when I can remember them
  13. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking? YES, I have tried to moderate so often and in so many different ways
  14. Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking? YES always
  15. Have you ever had a DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking? NO, luckily
  16. Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking? NO, except my mother
  17. Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking? DEBATABLE
  18. Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking? NO, but only because I never told the truth
  19. Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking? YES, alcohol or food? Alcohol wins every time
  20. Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a “little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?  YES , not alcohol but painkillers with codeine
  21. Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to? NO
  22. Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time? NO
  23.  After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there? YES, I THINK SO. I sometimes saw flashes of things out of the corners of my eye, like a mouse or something moving – I don’t any longer
  24. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking? NO
  25. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking? YES
  26. Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol? NO (that I know of)

That’s 16 yes, 2 maybes and only 8 no’s.. I believe even 2 yes answers indicate a problem with alcohol. So that’s pretty conclusive then… Having said that, you won’t find a bunch of two glasses of wine a month drinkers TAKING a quiz like this, so maybe just taking it means you have a problem …

Maybe, I should just get over myself? It doesn’t really matter does it, if I call myself an alcoholic or not …

Perhaps the best definition of a problem drinker, is someone for whom alcohol causes problems … Sigh – I quite like this little venn diagram below … Says it all really…

Explainations

It’s Sunday morning here, amazingly all the kids are out, and judging from the noises from downstairs, my partner is chopping  wood. I’m in bed 🙂 which is really unusual past 8 am … And feels fab ! 

Ive got loads of thoughts running round my head on this peaceful morning, but not in a stressful angsty kind if way, more a  reflective, questioning kind of way. 

I’ve written a couple of draft posts, about the deeper thoughts I’ve been having; but what I’m really thinking about is ‘ Explainations’ 

Yesterday I went out for the day with my closest friend – K. K and her husband J live down the road from us, and they are our best friends. We do lots together, as couples and families. We’ve done a lot of drinking together over the years too. About 15 months ago J was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer. The emotional fall our from that is for a later date, suffice it to say it’s been huge.

So, K knows (obviously) that I’m not drinking and yesterday, being a special day out for us both I think she was expecting me to have a couple of bottles glasses of wine, and she asked me “why not?”

What to say ….

The truth?

  • In the last year I had countless blackouts and many many unexplained bruises
  • I had abnormal blood tests
  • I was drinking well in excess of 70units a week
  • I missed work due to drinking
  • I wet the bed when drunk – twice
  • There’s more but I’m too ashamed even to write it ..

I settled on “once I started, I just can’t stop”. Of course she let it go, but I could tell she didn’t really get it.. 

What do you say? 

What conveys the importance of the decision, and that it is absolutely essential that I am successful, it’s non negotiable. Without ‘oversharing’; without seeming to be over dramatic … Without making others feel ‘bad’ …uncomfortable or judged for continuing to drink ..

Sorry


Sorry For yesterday’s “post of rage” – I was not in a good place.

Yesterday evening I went to a gig. See above. A tribute band. I went with a friend and colleague who is having a tough time at the moment. Given how I was feeling yesterday, and how vulnerable to lapse I was, I would have probably stayed at home if I had not asked R to come with me. Given her troubles, I really didn’t want to let her down.

There was, as always, lots of alcohol outlets at the venues. Pretty much everything I had been lusting after earlier in the day. There were a lot of middle aged folk, with bottles of wine, having picnics and getting drunk in the sun.

I Had said I would not be drinking, because it was a ‘work night’, and if R was disappointed, she didn’t show it,

We found a spot on the lawn, got a coffee (and I had a HUGE cake) … And relaxed. I honestly didn’t feel the need to drink, and I wasn’t seriously tempted.

As the light faded and the band came on I found myself just as caught up in the nostalgia, singing along just as loudly, dancing just as badly unrestrainedly, and just as entranced with the sheer energy in the audience as I ever was when drunk.. And I have been VERY drunk as such events in the past, work night Or not…

We had a great evening. R was able to relax and enjoy herself;  we sang and danced and waved and shouted and cheered with the best… I feel I did something good and thoughtful in offering R the extra ticket, and that also cheered me.

I didn’t drink, I didn’t need to.

And to quote the Swedish pop quartet

The sun is still in the sky, and shining above you,

You’ll be dancing once again, and the pain will end, sing a new song, Chiqitita”

The 4 Emotional Stages of Sobriety

I love this- This is ME ….I’ve blogged this from the Sobarista’s website because it resonated so strongly with me right now. I see myself stuck (at the moment) between stages 2&3. Its hugely reassuring to know that

  • I am not the only one to feel like this,
  • It will settle
  • I’ve passed through stage 1, and part of stage 2
  • It will settle …

My journey, from wine lover to sober and happy...

I stopped drinking in April 2011, embarking on a journey that began in the early hours of one spring morning and which has taken me on a convoluted and emotionally turbulent ride, finally allowing me to climb off into a place that resembles contentment and emotional stability. For anyone who has recently ditched alcohol, I have written the following; it outlines my experiences of the different emotional stages I travelled through in the 23 months between my last drink and today, and I hope that it might help those of you who are new to sobriety by giving you a bit of a heads up of what to expect in this new and exciting chapter of your life.

alcoholic

Stage 1 – the joys of the natural high

As an alcohol-dependent person who had felt terribly out of control of her own life for many, many years, the first few weeks and months of living…

View original post 1,128 more words

Struggling

This is weird. Today is my 125th consecutive sober day. That’s more than I have had (consecutively) since I was 18 years old. I feel better. I look better. My drinking app tells me I have saved approx £1,250 and 140,000 kcals. I am (fractionally) slimmer. I am definitely healthier. I sleep better and I’m no longer anxious about what I might have said/done when drunk. I’m not ashamed of myself any longer.

SO WHY AM I STRUGGLING TO CONVINCE MYSELF THAT I DON’T WANT TO DRINK ?

I do want to drink. I really do. I want to sit outside and open a bottle of wine and RELAX. I want to get tipsy and escape from the relentless activity of my brain. I want cocktails; I want vodka and gin and big bright mixed drinks with cherries. I want Limoncello and cider and cold Cava. I want to feel drunk. and released from tension, frustration and disappointment in myself.

I bored. I’m frustrated. I’m scared of never reaching that contented sober place that I see other posters have got to. I’m angry , I’ve done everything RIGHT. I’ve reflected and prioritised my sobriety. I haven’t pushed myself, I haven’t cheated, I haven’t taken on too much and exhausted myself (or maybe I have).

I don’t know what to DO.. I can not drink today, I can deny myself for a while, but if this persists this tactic will not be successful long term. I don’t WANT to go back to that place where I was guilty and ashamed, where I was slowing pickling my liver and stultifying my brain with poison. Where I was stressed and anxious, preoccupied with alcohol and how to get enough .. 

But I don’t want THIS reality either. This, where I can’t concentrate at work, and feel like I’m wading through treacle trying to organise myself; where I’m constantly pushing a  boulder uphill to get anything done at home. Where the landscape is grey and relentlessly dull with sentient consciousness. Where the futility of my attempted interventions with son#1 are brutally highlighted every single day and I can’t escape from it. Where I’m stuffing a packet of chocolate biscuits down to satisfy sugar cravings or a ‘need to eat’ and then hating myself. Where I can’t be bothered to exercise and instead spend money I don’t have (how much I don’t know because I can’t be bothered to check my credit card statement, but its in the £thousands rather than the £hundreds) on stuff I don’t need even if I want it. This where I am SMOKING again because I ‘need’ something to manage by stress level… FFS I stopped smoking YEARS ago. I feel bloody rubbish about this – full throttle cognitive dissonance

This is pretty shit too. 

I want to STOP. concentrate on myself for a decent amount of time. Stop working. Stop having to endlessly meet the needs of the hundreds of patients who come though the door every week. Stop having to manage staff disputes, problems, and domestic upsets. Stop listening to my partners with their agenda’s. Stop fretting over tasks done/ not done / the direction of the business. Stop trying to predict the next twist in the story of the NHS, with the implications for funding. Stop listening to the petty whining of the salaried doctors. Stop juggling all the things different people want / need from me. Stop having to shop, cook, tidy, organise, wash clothes, stop juggling finances, stop pacifying my mother, stop organising dog walks, school stuff, …..stop stop STOP.

Maybe the truth is that I drank because I couldn’t cope without drinking. That actually , just maybe, nobody could cope with what I expect of myself, maybe the life I have fashioned for myself is actually unmanageable, especially now I am 51 not 31.  Not one of my female doctor friends with kids works full time. Add to that that I am a single mother – (ok, I live with my partner and he does help, but not with the THINKING, and only with the practical stuff that suits him) and maybe its not surprising I feel I’m am going nuts. 

Maybe the purpose of all this is to MAKE me take a long hard look at my life and work out what is sustainable. But that might mean some VERY big decisions and I’m SCARED of them too … no  wonder I want to hide at the bottom of a bottle.

FFS this is NOT what I expected to be thinking / feeling at more than FOUR MONTHS SOBER. Where is my serenity? my calm conviction that I have made a good decision. ? Where is optimism, peace? where is a better life ??? Maybe its NOT going to happen for me and I’m doomed to either life as a drunken sot or a demented harpy with a fat bottom and rotten teeth and stinking breath…. Maybe the end is cirrhosis from drink or lung cancer from fags ….

FUCK BUGGER BOLLOCKS. That’s all folks 😦

 

 

 

Day 124

Bleugh.

Thats it really. Tired. Ennui. Poor motivation. Disordered eating – binging on munchy seeds anyone ? This is probably the subject of another post. Substance abuse and eating disorders are linked right ?

have a million things to do. Can’t be bothered. House topsy turvey, dust from the builders in every corner of the house. Work not getting done efficiently. Finances in disarray – too anxious to look properly. Just feel like I can’t get a handle on anything properly. Can’t be bothered to paint or sketch

need to exercise, can’t be bothered. Can’t find anything I want to watch, can’t concentrate on anything meaningful to read. Bored, but also boring.

I hate this; I am sure this feeling is one I drank away. I feel I need a ‘hobby’ – but if I had one, I’m sure I’d be too fed up to do it anyway. All I feel up to is mindless internet surfing, which makes me feel even more crap.

Sorry. Should be seizing the day, not wallowing in self indulgent nonsense. I have NOTHING to be sad about… So why do I feel so miserable ?

Carpe Diem

Image result for carpe diem

Seize the day.

Usually attributed to Horace as part of the longer carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero, which can be translated as “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future)”. The ode says that the future is unforeseen and that one should not leave to chance future happenings, but rather one should do all one can today to make one’s future better.

It may be that I am just more aware of it, but since I stopped drinking – and its 4 months ago today that I started this latest and final sober journey – the ravages of alcohol, and the unpredictability of life seem brought into sharp focus.

The senseless brutal killings in Orlando and Dallas, the pointless waste of innocent lives – snuffed out because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – are just two examples of the haphazard nature of life. In one moment, everything changes, and nothing can ever be the same as it was. In a more intimate way, the intrinsic fickleness of existence is brought home to me by the terminal illness of one of our dearest friends. SoberMummy writes movingly of the loss, from a sudden heart attack , of an old, much loved compatriot.  One moment everything is normal; humdrum but safe and predictable, the next tragedy rips all comfort from under us and we are faced with a bleak reality.

The fear of this ‘moment’ stalked me when I was drinking. The fear that I would do something stupid and dangerous, put one of my children in danger, be caught DUI (never ever deliberately but perhaps the next afternoon); fall down the stairs, put myself in danger that would be realised… It wasn’t enough to stop me drinking, but it was very real, and a constant gnawing foreboding – sometimes I think I drank to dispel it.

And then around me I see lives ravaged by the effects of drinking and drug taking, families ripped  apart in the face of a loved ones addiction they can neither control nor cure. More than 21,500 deaths a year are directly attributable to alcohol – like my patient yesterday. Only a few years ago he had a successful career, a family, a home. He died alone in a dirty room, found by paid carers many hours later – all because he could not stop drinking.

And the deaths are only the tip of the iceberg – think of all the families, the children, living with alcohol misuse and the distress, anxiety, uncertainty and mental anguish they live with every day.

So yes, seize the day, be passionately grateful for every day we have alive and free from indiscriminate acts of of fate and the destructive power of addiction. Random events, illness and accidents are just that, and I don’t know of a way to be sure to avoid them; illness can strike any of us at any time – we cannot escape the inevitability of anno domini and the cruel fate that gave my friend terminal cancer when he has so much to live for and so many people who love him. But I am well, and should be celebrating every day, seizing the happiness and building positive loving memories, not drowning in a vat of wine, becoming incoherent, numb and allowing time, precious time, to pass me by. My ex husband sent me a photo yesterday of our children when they were about 11, 8 and 5 – it seems like yesterday- and yet, that time in their lives is gone forever.

It takes courage and determination and perseverance to live alcohol free but I’ve wasted enough time, allowed enough opportunities to pass me by. I don’t know how long is left to me, but I feel today that I have a duty (if that doesn’t sound too poncy) to make the most out of the opportunity I have to live today productively and positively (read sober) out of respect for the many, many people who do not have that chance.

Carpe Diem – “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow”

 

Medics

I have been musing about the rates of addiction in doctors. I was taught, many years ago, that doctors had a higher rate of alcoholism and of suicide than the general population.

The BMA estimates one in 15 medics have a problem with drugs or alcohol at some point in their life-time.

Doctors, as a group, are reluctant to face up to their problems, most are good at hiding it. The ever present fear of the regulatory bodies taking away someone’s livelihood is a strong motivator for doctors to keep quiet and not seek help.

Certainly as a medical student there was a culture of excessive drinking, which I saw mirrored in the qualified staff I was working with. Misuse of prescription drugs is common in health professionals, but alcohol is still the most commonly misused substance.(BMA)

Doctors are known to be at least three times as likely to have cirrhosis of the liver than the rest of the population. This is second only to publicans and bar staff.

There are a number of possible reasons for this

  • Occupational risk factors

Doctors are routinely faced with breaking bad news, and are in frequent contact with illness, anxiety, suffering and death. In day to day practice we deal with many illnesses that cannot be cured, but there are also high expectations from which can put unrealistic pressure on doctors. Aggression from patients is an infrequent, but unpleasant experience. The emotional demands of working with patients can be a major stressor.  Do doctors turn to alcohol (most commonly) or other drugs to relieve stress just because it’s very stressful – rather than because innately people with addictive tendencies choose to be doctors?

For junior colleagues, when maybe the patterns and habits of dealing with stress are formed, you can add heavy workload and long working hours with long shifts, weekend working and sleep deprivation. Quite often there is lack of cohesive teamwork and social support, leading junior doctors  to work individually (whereas working in teams is associated with being better able to cope with stress). Many of these occupational risk factors are intrinsic to the job.

  • Individual risk factors

Some studies suggest that the difficult and emotionally demanding job of a doctor frequently leads to doctors being self-critical. The typical personality traits of many medical professionals, such as perfectionism, can lead individuals to become increasingly self-critical which can increase stress and lead to depression. Some practitioners have unhelpful coping strategies (e.g. emotional distancing, rather than actively dealing with stressors) which may add to psychological distress. Other psychological vulnerabilities common in physicians have been identified, including an excessive sense of responsibility, desire to please everyone, guilt for things outside of one’s own control, self-doubt and obsessive compulsive traits.

Mental ill health in doctors cannot simply be due to occupational stressors, as if it were, a much greater percentage of healthcare professionals would be mentally ill. It may be the case that workplace risk factors can lead to mental ill health in vulnerable individuals – in other words, occupational risk factors combine with pre-existing personality factors to create psychological distress.

Alcohol is a ubiquitous tranquilizer, it’s there in every social experience, Do I think I have an alcohol problem because I am a doctor – No. In fact I think during my early career the fact that I worked every third night, and every third weekend probably capped my drinking because I have never drunk before or whilst on duty. Do I think the stresses of my career have added to my tendency to drink excessively? Yes, but I don’t think it’s unique to medicine, I think If I had been a lawyer or a teacher I would have had the same characteristic traits and the same inclination to drink. I think the ‘lack of an off switch’ is inherent – and would be there whatever occupation I had chosen to follow.

If my alcohol dependence is related to my career its in the character traits that make me a good physician, that also lead me to self criticism and being poor at self care – that leave me vulnerable to substance dependence

Much more to read, and much more to ponder on. Just as a last, today we had notification that a patient, aged 44 was found dead at home. He was an alcoholic who failed, despite numerous efforts, (residential rehab included) to quit drinking. When we run an audit of premature deaths in our practice approx 2/3 of all deaths below 65 are drug or alcohol related. Sobering statistics.

 

 

 

 

Poorly

Not much blogging from me today as I am unwell, and have been in bed sleeping most of the day. I don’t really know what’s wrong, but I came over very tired and shivery about 8pm last night. I left the family to their Saturday evening and retired to bed. Slept 13 hours and woke with puffy face, streaming eyes and feeling wiped out. Hopefully it will settle by tomorrow, this day of enforced idleness (I didn’t even make it to yoga) is most unlike me !

In between sleeping I’m conscious of being SO HAPPY I did not drink yesterday, just so relieved and thankful that my continuous sobriety is intact and that my withdrawal from my family today is not self inflicted.

I’m going to take real note of this feeling, examine it, reflect on it, and really THINK about it. I want to be able to use today’s feeling of relief in my ‘sober armoury’ next time I think having a drink is a good idea …