Shitstorm brewing

This is a mind dump. I have learned in the last couple of weeks that meetings are a great place to get this stuff out, but I can’t get to one today so its here.

I’m reciting the serenity prayer to myself, and trying to accept that these are things I cannot change BUT …

My ex husband. The father of my children. Something is up, and given the propensity for the past to be a good predictor of the future, I’m pretty worried…

A couple of small clues to start with … the monthly maintenance money arrives late, in cash because he’s got “trouble with the bank”; my former sister in law cancels a lunch date because she ‘doesn’t want to rock the boat right now’; the boys tell me his car has “died” and hes got a new one. Small things. But concerning.

Then the bigger things; Today son2 is in a complete state. He has had pretty bad anxiety for the last few months but this morning he crawls in with me at 5 am, hes sobbing and shaking and trembling. he cant /wont tell me what is worrying him, but hes ‘too scared to go out of the house’. He saw his father last night. I cuddle him and soothe him like a small child , but my mind is racing. I get a text message saying that my xH is ‘babbling’ – (this is a sign I recognise in him associated with heavy drug use; he often has mild pressure of speech and flight of ideas which make is conversations very one sided and illogical, but babbling and extreme randomness is not a a good sign) …

Now I’m really worried so I call my ex SIL who is a very sensible, pragmatic woman with whom I have maintained a good relationship. She tells me she is really worried; at the weekend he was very aggressive with his brother (her husband) and kept ‘nipping out the back’ – but no cannabis or tobacco smell .. My mind is now in complete overdrive and I’m 75% convinced he’s back on the cocaine.

This would explain the babbling, aggression, the money problems and son2’s concern (not that he would know about the cocaine, but he will see the babbling, randomness, and aggression) The reason ? He doesn’t actually NEED a reason but we think its connected with our mutual friend J’s terminal prognosis and slow decline. As my SIL said “he will take any excuse and we have been worried this was coming for a while”

So , what to do ….

Deep breath.

God (or whatever is out there) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (his behaviour) the courage to change the things I can (his access to son2 ? maybe. son2’s opportunity to get support from somewhere ? where ? I am the obvious person, but he dislikes telling me because he feels disloyal to his father) And the wisdom to know the difference.

I hate this.

Curveball

This morning I went up the road to see my friends J and K. Because I was away last weekend, I haven’t seen them for 2 weeks. It was good to catch up, and take them an apple pastry I made this week.

When I arrived I was talking to J, he handed me a hardback book with a central cut out revealing a picture of a shell. My heart started pounding, I felt the sweat prickle and my hands tremble as I opened the book.

It was a photographic record of the holiday we went on in August 2016. J and K and their son, then 16. My ex P, myself and my two younger sons, then 11 and 14 went to an island paradise for a weeks break .

This was my first sober holiday when I was about 5 months into my sobriety.

The day after we got back I ended my relationship.

the book was created for J and K by my ex Partner and delivered to them via a mutual friend.

In the last few months I have made great progress in closing the door on the past. I have not seen my ex since early December 2017, and I have not replied to the last email he sent me in February. I have not replied because there is nothing for me there.i can never forgive the things he did, and I do not need someone so toxic in my life. He cannot accept his part in the relationship failure, and my conversation with his ex wife confirmed the behaviour patterns I experienced were long standing, deliberate and the results of a manipulative dishonest personality with no integrity.

The book was beautiful. So thoughtfully prepared with photographs of us doing stuff, swimming cycling, eating, there are pictures of the flora and fauna of the island and all carefully curated to tell a story. The last photo of J and K together, brought tears to my eyes, it’s so poignant.

So why has he sent this book to my closest friends at this point. And why am I so thrown by it?

The straightforward answer is that he said at the time he would do this, J is very ill and likely to die soon, it’s a nice thing to have done.

But it brings up all sorts of emotions in me. It shows off a kindness, a consideration for others. It demonstrates keeping a promise and fulfilling a commitment even though he hasn’t seen J and K for at least a year. I don’t want to be reminded of these qualities. I had been quite settled in my decision to cut all contact, certain that it could not benefit me in any way … and then this.

However, I have learned something in the last months. I have learned that shutting off my emotions, keeping them to myself is the road to greater problems. So I summoned up courage, confided in my friends how confused and difficult I found this gesture, and we talked about it. In the exchange I saw the courage, compassion and connection that Berne Brown identified as key to wholehearted living, I felt the care and love from my friends, I heard their thoughtful counsel and I talked much of my emotion out. By stepping outside my comfort zone and allowing them to see my tears and discomfort, I was rewarded by their compassion, genuine empathy and good advice. I felt less alone and more able to cope with the temporary ripples Caused by this book

The cynic in me, and I expect my brother and my therapist would take this view, says that he has noted my complete disengagement, and used this opportunity to present the better side of himself to try and re-establish contact with me. He will have known that J and K would show me that book, and he would know that, soft as I am, it would move me. Not just the gesture of creating the book, but the memories of the holiday and the reminder of his creative talents.

J had already made the decision not to invite my ex Partner to see him, and his view, as another man, was very valuable to me.

So a few hours later I have partly regained my composure. I have resisted the urge to contact him, and I believe the emotion associated with this incident will settle, as long as I don’t close it down.

I do feel unsettled, he is on my mind again, and a small part of the intense love I had for him has been reignited … a small part of the hope I carried, and a lonely lost part of me has woken up … I believe this will be temporary if I do not act on my impulses. But it has taught me a salutary lesson; I have come a long long way since August 2016: but I’m not over him yet.

washing machine brain

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

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

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

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

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

Others include

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

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

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

fruit

Happy 12th of April everyone

Lily xx

 

Emotional space

We came home today. The boys were keen to get back to their familiar environment, especially son2 who is struggling with some social problems at the moment. I made my peace with my mother, thanks to a timely intervention from my sister in law.

When I got home I fell asleep for a couple of hours and when I awoke I decided I would go to a meeting this evening. One of the women I met last week had offered to meet me, and I was surprised to find that I really wanted to go there. (It’s a long way from the stubborn refusal of only last week isn’t it !)

So I went. A meeting at 6.15 for 75 minutes. It was very powerful. The chair spoke very movingly, and powerfully about his experiences and the sharing felt very pertinent. It occurred to me that though I just sat and listened, that my brain was quiet in that space. I was absorbing comments and hearing stories, recognising similarities , but my thoughts were not racing at 1000 Miles an hour, and I did not feel a) alone b) stressed or c) anxious.

And then I saw one of my patients.

Obviously I knew this was a risk. The meetings I have been to are not in my town, but one quite close. Many people go to lots of meetings. I am a GP to 27,000 patients, by the law of averages there are several hundred addicts in the list …. at first I recognised the person, but could not place him. Then I realised that I have seen him several times, in fact I’m Probably his primary physician. I know that he has had past addiction problems. I’m not sure if he saw me, if he did he would know me. Am I worried? I’m not 100% sure. My gut reaction is no. For several reasons

1. I’m sober, and there is no shame in being sober. If there were fall out, in terms of being reported to any authority, there is nothing to find – and my 2 years + sobriety means I’m no risk to anyone now.

2. The anonymity is taken pretty seriously, as far as I can see. Certainly at each meeting it is reiterated.

3. This particular person has been clean for a while. And with sobriety in general, comes acceptance, accountability and responsibility. I hope that means a capacity to recognise that alcoholism is not discriminatory. No one, lawyer, bin man politician or doctor is immune.

The lady who met me there has more than 5 years sobriety. At some time I will need / want to choose a sponsor. I have a tendency to rush at things, so I’m giving myself a couple of months to go to a few meetings , meet a variety of people, and see what happens.

When I came home, in time to have dinner with the kids I felt good. Calmer, centred and ready for work tomorrow.

Unexpected but good. Who knew?

I’m really wondering why I was SO resistant to this fantastic resource and source of non judgemental support from people just like me….

Emotional stress

This is a bit of an emotional dump.

I do not know why my mother pushes my buttons so effectively. This evening, at the end of a family weekend, I lost my cool with her and walked out of the restaurant at the end of the evening, clearly annoyed with her. I regret that. She is elderly and my mother. I “should” have more patience… but I don’t.

There are so many nice things about being at centre parcs… about being with family, about having the opportunity to spend time with my brother, sister in law, nieces and nephews- about doing stuff with my boys, and even yes, doing something that pleases my mother.

So given that my intentions are honestly genuinely good, why does it end in a cross exchange, hurt feelings and irritation?

I don’t know.

I could speculate that at a time of great stress for me; some from very obvious sources, some more personal and opaque, I’m on a shorter fuse than normal. I could postulate that the shield of alcohol is missing, leaving me more vulnerable; I wonder if my mother’s slowly failing mental and physical health, whilst not awful, upsets me more that I realise; if the absence of my eldest son feels more significant on such a family occasion. All these things may be contributory factors- but I think the biggest is that I have not yet accepted that I will not get from her what I actually want. What I want, what the inner child wants, is validation, acceptance and love. And I don’t get it. I won’t get it (I didn’t tell her I’d been to AA – honestly she’s not really interested) and that hurts.

It hurts all the time if I think about it, but mostly I don’t- I just get on with my life . On occasions like this, spending 3 days in close proximity – the lack of any genuine interest in anyone or anything not directly related to her … that bugs me.

And now I’ve written that down I need to reflect on it a bit .. I feel unfair and unkind writing it about my mother who “does so much for me” … but … It also feels like my truth.

Center parcs

Here I am again. This is the third year my family, my brothers family and my mother have come to Center parcs for a long weekend in April. The s is the third year I will be doing it sober.

The first year I hadn’t told anyone I was not drinking. I was about a month sober and although the acute withdrawal symptoms had settled, I was very vulnerable scared and apprehensive. My not drinking at communal meals passed without question, although given my usual Propensity to drink a LOT with any excuse, I doubt it passed unnoticed. My exP was with us, and once again, out of the house he was protective and solicitous – sitting next to me, holding my hand in encouragement, at the end of the break he was angry, wanted to leave and created a bit of a bad situation by demanding we left earlier than planned.

Last year, just the boys and I came, and it was a much more relaxed weekend. We knew what to do and how to get the most out of the activities. We knew where things were, and of course I was much further along in my recovery which enabled me to be much more relaxed and open at group dinners.

And now? Now I feel GOOD! Now I feel I can really enter into the spirit of the thing and be fully present. This afternoon I am going pottery painting with my sister in law and my two nieces, some female company and I really enjoy spending time with them. As young women they are full of fun, very technically up to date – last year they tried to teach me to use snapchat- and very lovely. I have a spa with my mother tomorrow, contemplating telling her I’ve been to AA, and lots of other activities booked. All good, and all wholesome !

I have a really positive vibe right now, since I have made connections. I haven’t really known what has been wrong the last long glum humdrum weeks. I had begun to think that was as good as it got; better than my life drinking and with ExP, but somehow drab and bleak. It was RL connections I was missing and I am so grateful and pleased to have taken the plunge and been so rewarded 🙂🙂🙂

Men

I have become very anxious around Men.

The only men I have been able to be around and be ‘normal’ (socially) have been my eldest son, my brother, my best friend K’s husband J, my friend T and another person I have known for many years and who is extremely nonthreatening. I’m ok at work, in a professional context, although not so much with men I work with.

I am fairly sure this is, in part, a reaction against the extreme ‘maleness’ of my ExP. Although I felt ‘safe’ with him outside the house, and more than safe, protected ( A random man was once pretty rude to me on the bus and my ExP swung round and was actually rather excessively defensive of me) inside the house I was afraid of him. I was afraid of his unpredictability, aggression and cutting remarks. I walked on eggshells so as not to provoke any kind of outburst. This simply reinforced my earlier experience with my former husband who was also unpredictable (due to drug taking) and had absolutely NO boundaries. On one occasion when I fled the house, leaving my children asleep, I had to return very quickly because I was afraid he would kill them to get at me. That sounds ridiculous, but the fear of his completely unboundaried behavior and non logical or rational thinking, made that fear very real.

I am also afraid to be around unknown men because I do not trust myself. I know that I have dived into relationships in the past to escape the unbearable feelings I have to live with. The newness of reciprocated attraction, the delicious excitement of the early phases of falling in love are the perfect way to avoid all the uncomfortable emotions you do not want to face. My head knows perfectly well that were I stupid enough to embark on a relationship with anyone right now, i would almost certainly fall right back into those old behaviour patterns that have caused so much trouble. I doubt my baggage and tortured soul would be very attractive to the kind of man I SHOULD be looking to make a relationship with, no, the vulnerability and poor boundaries I still have would make me a nice target for a further abusive partner. And despite all my work and reading and reflection I’m pretty sure it would go right out the window if confronted with the heady rush of limerance.

So avoiding ‘men’ is also a defense mechanism. My gut and my head are clearly screaming at me “Just don’t go there, don’t even allow a tiny spark or flicker of interest to distract you from the stuff you need to deal with”

Having said all that yesterday evening it was really odd,  When I met the man who took me to AA on Wednesday, I felt very at ease even though he was a man. I didn’t find him threatening in any way. It wasn’t a sexual thing, it was more a ‘safe’ and contained feeling from him. That he knew and trusted himself and so I could therefore relax. Odd. But quite nice. However despite my relaxed feeling with that one man I did find some of the men at that meeting a bit ‘uncontained’ and that felt threatening and scary to me.

That’s why I’m went to a women only meeting last night. I feel safer with women.

it was awesome. I don’t really have the words yet to describe how amazing the connections felt. All that fear, over a group of people who have the same problems, the same experiences and the same wish to be sober…. women like me. A lady , very early on in her recovery said to me “your one of those amazing people – (who have been sober for ages)” and my reply “no, i am just like you ” was 100% sincere. I am just one drink away from the same anxieties insecurities and horror that are so recent for her. I know that all the things I am feeling better about, all the stuff I have been working on a reflecting on and trying to assimilate. All that depends on my sobriety.

And I have one more thing to stay sober for !

Parenting

My second son is almost 16, and much the most sensitive of my children. He’s kind, quite thoughtful (for an adolescent boy), and passionate about social and political issues. Hes articulate and personable when he wants to be, and he’s creative. He plays the guitar (self taught) and thinks deeply about personal and social issues.

He is also extremely anxious, very negative (I’m waiting for an assessment for depression /anxiety disorder), unmotivated, and rather lost. I have struggled at times with his relentless negativity (“I don’t know what it is to feel happy”) and complete refusal to engage with any self help stuff.

And I have really tried.

I have bought books for teenagers with anxiety and low mood, I have bought a CBT based programme for teens and tried to work through it with him, I took him to a hypnotherapist for a couple of sessions,  I found him a psychotherapist – at his request – and then another when the first wasn’t the ‘right fit’. I have offered gym membership, boxing classes, to walk the dog with him every day now that the evenings are lighter, I have procured Maths tuition to support him and arranged for him to attend a residential revision course next week. I take him in to school for early booster classes when I can get him out of bed in time…

At times he is angry, blaming and hostile. The onslaught of his furious frustration and anger that has lead him to smash cupboard doors is almost as hard to deal with as his vomiting every morning,  shaking and physical stress response to attending school.

Last night when I got home from my AA meeting he was obviously ‘not ok’. The kids are on Easter holiday from school but he had attended a Science revision session organised by his teachers during the day. I thought he was quiet before I went out, but I was a bit pre-occupied with my stuff and anxiety about attending AA.

I returned home to sulks and sighs. He was mooching around obviously stressed and unhappy but completely unwilling to engage in conversation, mindless occupation or anything else. He refused to tell me what was bothering him, got cross when I asked open questions, got angry when I just sat in silence…Any questions were answered angrily with ‘you just don’t understand’ My attempts to connect with that, by sharing my on experiences – that non addicts simply don’t ‘get’ how I feel (unless i explain it – but I didn’t add the last) and that this was a difficult position to be in. I agreed that I might not intuitively understand, but that I was willing to listen and try. I asked a variety of open questions, such as ‘ do you feel physically unwell?’ and ‘what might I be able to do to help?’ I offered some emotions for him to pick from to see if we could identify how he was feeling – I know it can sometimes be difficult to pick out exactly what is IS that bothering you when you just feel ‘meh’. For example, angry? afraid? anxious? frustrated? etc. All were met with a grunt or an angry “NO”

Then I tried empathetic silence. That made him really cross. ” Why do you keep staring at me ?” ( I wasn’t). I suggested a mindless distracting occupation such as watching a TV show. This was not acceptable.

So you know what, I just said to him that I love him, and I’m here and i happy to listen or talk or just be, but I won’t be shouted at and berated for things I cannot alter ( we had run out of milk; considering I had been at work all day and the kids are at home for the Easter break, and the shop is 200m away, they could have got milk themselves or even texted me to let me know we had run out). I said that I am not a mind reader, but I do have experience of feeling very agitated and I am willing to share my experiences if he would like.

I was extremely calm, and extremely unrattled .. and it felt bloody good. I felt like a fucking adult and a parent. A-Maze-Ing.

The chair at last nights meeting had shared something of her parenting struggles. Ironically she has less sober time than I and when we talked after the meeting I was able to just say to her that i understood how hard it was for her, but that just by being sober, she was helping to create order out of the chaos. She smiled and suggested we meet for a coffee before this evenings Women’s meeting. It made ME feel better about my chaos and struggles to know that a) others have this too b) I can offer support as well as receive it.

The boundaried calmness of my responses last night (refusing to be shouted at) is EXACTLY how i want to be, exactly the role model I want to provide. To be there, to be kind, to be open and honest, but maintaining my boundaries (no shouting at me) This is a million miles away from the chaotic, emotional, un-manageability of some of our previous interactions. I think he felt “contained” by that security and clear guidance – that he could feel shit and be angry, but that I was an adult who could manage it and respond with love… within my clearly stated limits.

This is a big new chapter for me. and the possibilities are suddenly opening up. I have seen that I could make huge strides now to becoming who I have always wanted to be. An adult woman with love compassion and empathy, who knows her limits and knows how to take care of herself an thus take care of others ….

 

The fellowship

I never ever thought I would write this post.

Tonight I went to an AA meeting.

Holy shit. I did it.

And I survived. Better than survived: I connected.

Earlier today I wrote that I had contacted someone from the British doctors and dentists group. He suggested I meet him this evening and attend a meeting….

So we met for a coffee, and then we went to the meeting.

And although there were all kinds of different people there, and there were lots of experiences I have not had – all I heard was the similarities. All those people (maybe 30) spoke a truth that I understood. And although I did not share “my story” I could have simply taken others sentences and rearranged them to be my narrative. The same themes, the same emotions, the same shame, guilt, horror and chaos.

I “got it” and I know they would have “got me”…

how amazing.

I needed this.

I do wonder whether just now is exactly the “right time” for me to have done this. It was hard for me to go, hard to listen to the pain that others shared, hard to recognise the character traits that I share .. it might be that I simply could not have done this earlier. Now? Now it feels good. It feels right.

So, tomorrow night I will go to a women’s meeting ….😊

Connections

I did it.

I emailed a very old friend who lives in California last night. I just couldn’t bear the isolation any longer. She is a recovering addict and a very loving compassionate and thoughtful person. Like many she urged me to attend AA and I resolved to do that on Thursday.

Today I got to wondering if there were any groups for medical addicts. So I googled, and I found the British Doctors and Dentists group.

And I called them.

And he got it. Of course he got it.

And this evening I am going to an AA meeting with the secretary of the London group. He lives just across the river from me.

And I wont be alone. I’m scared, but I have to do this.

Shame 2

What is “shame’ and why is ‘being ashamed’ such a painful experience?

I realise that I have felt much of my life that I am ashamed of myself in one way or another, and that this is profoundly unhelpful to me moving forward. Angela and I have unpacked some of the baggage associated with some aspects of my shame, but it is not yet fully expunged.

Wikipedia defines Shame as “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”

I can relate to that. The burning humiliation that is worse than guilt or regret. The sheer awfulness of reflecting on something you have done and feeling deeply ashamed of yourself. For not foreseeing the consequences, for not acting differently for being foolish or stupid or childish or DRUNK….

Ugh, I recognise it now for what is is, and that is progress.

Sitting in my audible library (and on my Kindle) has been Brene Browns work on Shame. I have not really been able to engage with it until now. I’m not sure why. Maybe its just been TOO overwhelming, or opened up too many unbearable emotions as I look at things that I have done / have happened and allow my self to realise just how much impact they have had on me…

Over the weekend, as I cleaned first my bedroom and then the communal areas of the house, I listened to the book “I thought it was just me… but it isn’t” which is essentially a book by Brene about the work she has done on Shame in women. The book is full of stories and illustrations, but it also offers some tools to boost ‘Shame resilience’. Having worked out, through her research, that Shame serves no useful purpose at all, is almost universal and that women all over the (at least Western) world suffer Shame about the same things  …. The work goes on to explore how we might reduce the amount of Shame we experience and develop empathy, compassion and connection as an antidote to the corrosive and secretive influence of Shame …Brown calls this ‘Shame resilience’.

The website is here

On the website there is quite a useful worksheet here, which encourages us to look at and name the things we are ashamed of. I realise I have made quite a lot of progress that I can

  1. recognise shame for what it is
  2. face it
  3. realise that quite a lot of my shame is unnecessary
  4. being to appreciate how isolating and absolutely closed off it, the deep shame,  has made me …. wait I’m going too far, I do begin to get glimpses of this, but I have some way to go before I can embrace it. I feel less awful about myself than I did, but still not exactly good ….
  5. begin to recognise where my personal Shame comes from: from society: from media: from my birth family (parents): from cultural expectations ….

Eliminating alcohol from my life has meant that there are many less shaming experiences to add to the list in the last 2 years. MANY less, and I am no longer ashamed of my drinking. I do wonder how much of my shame about drinking was really because I was drinking too much i.e. a real and appropriate perception of  ‘the consciousness of bad behaviour’ and how much was ingrained into me by my mother who expresses extreme disbelief and distaste, (almost disgust) at ANYONE having more than two glasses of wine on ANY occasion (especially women) …

I’m going to complete that worksheet, if I am able to (because its actually VERY hard for me to do this) … and see where I get to. Looking through the sheet you do really need to listen to the book as well for it to make sense….but I feel more proactive in trying to wrestle with these issues.

I reflected today on a post I made almost a year ago Unanswered questions, 

The quote I had discovered is reproduced below

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not look now for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day,

I genuinely think this process is weirdly like an unfolding story. What I look back I can see the progress and the development of my understanding, resilience and courage. At the time it feels exhausting, baffling, tedious and painful. But looking back I can see that when I first discovered Brene Browns work I literally could not deal with it. It was too enormous a shift for me. Now I am able to start.

Angela is back tomorrow. I don’t think a short break from therapy has been a bad thing, its interesting how one reflects and its hugely reassuring to me that I don’t turn into a demanding, needy client stamping my foot (as some people do to me) when my therapist takes a well deserved holiday. But I’m pleased I will see her tomorrow.

Because on Thursday I am intending to go to that AA meeting I keep thinking about….

Isolation

It’s quite easy to feel isolated.

I think most of this is due to not reaching out, not being honest with people about how lonely or sad or broken we feel. Most of our friends and family want to help, want to be supportive and kind. But they are not mind readers, and won’t know that we need support unless we ask for it.

Yesterday I met up with three of my oldest friends from University. We met on the Southbank in London and visited the ABBA exhibition there. As young women we danced and sang along to ABBA at full volume in our dingy student flat, and over the years our regular meet ups, (frequently alcohol fuelled) were great excuses to relive our carefree youth along with its soundtrack. Of my three friends, two are married with children, all are working doctors and one has just fallen in love 😊. The two with daughters were accompanied by their children, and we were a cheerful party of 7 who experienced this immersive , hour long tour.

I enjoyed the day, we had lunch afterwards, and spend a couple of hours at the restaurant catching up. I felt really exhausted afterwards, not helped by another cold wet day (and inadequate clothing!) and also somehow separate. It wasn’t about alcohol. No one was drinking, I felt almost so damaged and scarred, so cynical and anxious that I had no business being amongst the happy innocence of the girls or the unbridled excitement of my newly loved up friend. I just felt very separate, and detached, which is the opposite of what I want. I tried to bridge the divide, clumsily, by mentioning that I learned that Benny Andersson had stopped drinking in his 50’s. This is strangely important to me – for reasons that I previously explored.  Here and here   The cue was not picked up, I guess to those who drink (or not) normally, this information is NOT interesting. They will simply not get how enormous a role alcohol played in my life… and thus cannot grasp the complexity and enduring consequences of sobriety for me. That despite my 750 days sobriety, it’s still new, still huge and still current.

So today, I’m a flat as a flat thing. It’s raining (again) cold (still) and miserable outside. Son 2 has gone to his fathers till tomorrow (no study then) son3 is surgically attached to his PS4, and son 1 messages me from Nepal to say he’s stuck at 3,900m with a headache (acute mountain sickness) and what should he do … counselling patience and acclimatisation to a fit, frustrated 19 year old !

my sober sister reaches her two year soberversary today 🌟🌟🌟🌟. I’m seeing her at the end of April , I wish it were today. She gets it, just as I get it for her …. back to the question of other connections via AA or similar. I havent yet taken the plunge, despite having identified a possible meeting, women only, a short distance away …

sigh. I’m so bored of winter, I’m bored of cold and rain, I’m bored of sobriety (but I don’t want to drink), I’m bored of being “bored”,I’m bored of being responsible for my children,., Actually that’s something to think about …it just came out as I was writing …. I AM bored of being the nagging parent, when nothing I do is good enough (or produces results I can be proud of) … I’m bored of endless cleaning up, sorting out, for grunts and bad temper ….

This is probably something worth exploring a bit further when Angela gets back from her holiday. It’s shameful I expect to be bored of being a parent …. but bugger that …

Being single

Several people have suggested to me that its time to get ‘out there’ and start dating, and I know they mean well and want to see me happy.

A while ago I would have said I definitely don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, but now I’m not quite so sure ! Having spent the last 18 years of my life (pretty much) in one relationship or another, I have now been resolutely single for 18 months. I have been on a few “dates”; one with a nice chap who came to interview me about an insurance claim – we had a nice evening , but no real spark; and three dates with a divorced man who lives locally. I enjoyed his company, but had no desire for any physical relationship; partly because my alarm bells were ringing when he told me he had little contact with one of his kids, partly because I detected more bitterness about his marriage breakdown than I was comfortable with and partly because I just didn’t “fancy” him.

I have always wanted to be in  happy relationship. And never managed it for any length of time. Indeed I have never been more miserable than in my marriage or in my last relationship. That awful feeling of being utterly trapped with no way out, the endless ‘trying to make him understand’ the unacceptable compromises (one way compromises) the self doubt, the questioning, ugh. Utterly soul destroying and made me much more unhappy than I have ever been on my own

There are a number of significant advantages to being single.

1. You can do what YOU want….

Now I am a bit limited in that I cant just decide to bugger off for a weekend because I have the boys and Lola the dog to consider, but I can decide to attend a cookery class or a mosaic workshop on a Saturday just because I want to. I can go for a walk, or meet someone for lunch without having to fit in with a partner’s needs. I can see whom I want, when I want. I can spend MY money how I want to. I can plan my life how it suits me … and although I have to consider my children… its a lot easier than considering the needs of a partner who never considers mine …

2. You can work on yourself.

It is awfully tempting to get complacent when you have a partner. Not only does change seem to take loads of effort when there is someone else to consider, they may have a vested interest in things not changing. At the moment I need quite a lot of time for ‘reflecting’ and developing my sober life. I’m pretty happy there is no-one around me pestering me to have ‘just one’ drink, or getting pissed in my space. Now I know a kind respectful partner wouldn’t do this BUT …

3. You can save lots of time.

Relationships take effort and time. Especially in the earliest days of dating. I actually don’t HAVE that much time, and whilst I could of course MAKE time if I wanted, such time as I do have is currently better invested in my children, my friends and family, my home, my garden, my work and developing my interests.

 4. You can sleep in peace and quiet.

I Do really, reallyREALLY miss cuddling. I miss someone to give me a hug. I miss affection and reassurance from an adult. But I recognise that being with someone does not always mean this will happen (no intimacy at all from ExP for 2 years really) and living with someone, sleeping with someone and NOT getting any cuddles is much worse than being alone. The boys can be persuaded to hug their mum, and I get to sleep alone. In my great big lovely bed with a new mattress. The room can be as dark as I like, I can listen to the radio all night if I like… no snoring, wriggling or duvet pinching. I can make the room warmer or colder as I choose. This is definitely a luxury !

5. You become more self-reliant.

My last breakup was so emotionally devastating that I couldn’t function for  months afterwards. I’m really only just beginning to pick up the threads of my life and LIVE – and I know I am still very raw and vulnerable.   This has scared me and reminded me that love is a chaotic force that can be both beautiful and terribly destructive. I’m not sure that the risk of falling in love again is actually worth it. The fall out from failure is SO awful. But I am coping alone. I’m lucky that I can pay people to do what I can’t in the house, and I can rely on myself for pretty much everything I NEED

6. You can build relationships with friends.

I have reconnected to quit a few people  since I have been single. Old friends, who fell by the wayside when ExP blazed into my life, (He didn’t like ‘people’ around and wanted me all to himself) and a few new people.. such connections bring me pleasure. Its a quiet type of pleasure, but its genuine and honest… and it has potential

7. You can avoid settling for a bad match.

This is the biggest

More than 1/3 of marriages in the UK end in divorce. Of the remaining many, many are unhappy. People stay for ‘the children’ ; because its impossible to manage financially if they split; due to inertia; for religious reasons; for social reasons… still unhappy with no potential for anything to improve. Ugh. Being single is 500x better than being in an unhappy marriage/ relationship. I’ve tried both and I KNOW this is true!

It would take someone VERY special to make me interested again. There is a LOT to lose and someone one who have to offer something pretty amazing for me to consider letting them into my life …

So. I’m not ruling it out. I might meet a really nice person… but I’m not going looking. And if I don’t ?

Life is ok on your own.

It really is.

Cautiously optimistic

The days are getting warmer. The clocks in the UK have switched to BST which means the evenings are longer. The buds on the trees and plants in the garden are forming, and my mood is improving slowly, slowly.

There is a lot of ‘stuff’ going on; son#2 has very bad anxiety at the moment, to the extent that hes vomiting every morning before school and closed and withdrawn much of the rest of the time. Last week he disappeared for the day, causing me huge angst and worry about his whereabouts. He has public exams coming up soon and the worry about his performance (and entry to the next stage of education) is definitely not helping his low self esteem, negative perception of the world and fretting about his future. I have been very worried about his lack of commitment to study, but on the day he went missing, when all I wanted was to find him safe, helped me to see that , in the end, his well-being is far more important than good exam grades. If he needs to he can always go back to formal education – but right now he needs loving, attention, soothing and support. We have an appointment with the adolescent mental health services, and I have found a highly qualified, kind, woman psychotherapist who will see him weekly from today .

I have been surprisingly successful in expunging my ex Partner from my conscious mind. Since I decided that further reflection / rumination was unhelpful to me, and begun making a conscious effort NOT to dwell on past hurts, I have managed to largely draw a veil over the ‘what if..’ questions. I seem to have, at last, accepted that this is who he is, and at least partially forgiven myself for not seeing it sooner. My reflections nowadays are more about myself, what I need or want, both in the present moment and in the future. I feel that this is progress

I seem to have more headspace as well.

I’m beginning to see how much my capacity for good parenting was undermined, that the constant struggle to ‘protect’ the kids from exP’s ill temper and bullying meant that I was unable to put in effective strategies to manage some behaviours because I felt so guilty that I allowed him to do that. A chance comment from Angela has been running round my head, that the “kids know that I love them”. I think I have been under the impression that they would not KNOW that I loved them, and therefore any conflict / boundaries provoked by me could lead to a catastrophic breakdown in our relationship. That me not letting them largely do what they wanted would lead to a permanent estrangement. Of course this is what I saw as a child (I was pretty estranged from my emotionally absent and critical father and I am certainly not able to be emotionally open or vulnerable with my mother) This is also what has happened to ExP’s kids who avoid him as much as they can, because the critical, overbearing, bullying parent is not someone they enjoy spending time with. But of course, I can set boundaries and expectations calmly and still have fun with and support the kids. This is a bit of a work in progress, but as my mind slowly clears of its overwhelming, all encompassing heartache and preoccupation with my failed relationship, I am more emotionally present, and more able to parent effectively. It will never be easy for me to be stern / consistent with sanctions etc, but I think I can do a better job than I have been.

There is also the brain space to have a bit of fun and engage more. The kids don’t want to spend much of their leisure time with their mum, but I’m trying to find stiff that we CAN do to together so son3 and I made lots of cookies and decorated them on Sunday, and I have a plan to take son2 to the theatre during the Easter holidays … small things to make connections. I’m trying to get away from the rather flat, self absorbed introspection, coupled with mindless TV that has occupied much of my non working time.

I do feel cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping its not another ‘false dawn’, but I feel like the boys and I are doing better, I’m finding my feet again and regaining my confidence; there is no need to let anyone else into our bubble and every opportunity for us to do well in the future.

I am SO happy that I decided to stop drinking. I really really don’t want to drink now, which is something I could never have imagined feeling 2 years ago. I can only see alcohol as the route to more trouble and quite definitely not something I want to risk again.

Hallelujah!

 

 

Married at first sight

Don’t all groan!

This ridiculous programme has just had its third series aired in the UK. Reality TV at its most intrusive. For anyone who has not seem this, the participants are ‘matched’ following a series of psychological emotional and spiritual examinations by ‘experts’.  They then meet at the alter in full wedding regalia and legally commit to marriage within 2 minutes of meeting each other. The only criteria for participation I believe is that you must have not been married before, have no children (and be a bit desperate). Apparently thousands of hopefuls sign up for each series, and the final selection of three compatible couples is the subject of the first programme in the series. The programmes follow the hapless couples though the selection, pairing, wedding,honeymoon and 6-8 weeks of ‘living as man and wife’ before asking them to decide if they wish to stay married, or seek divorce.

The programme airs in The UK , America and Australia, and it’s interesting to compare the cultural differences and expectations in participants from different nations. To some extent they seem to conform to stereotypes- the Australian weddings and more informal, often outside; the American couple relationships with the ‘experts’ are much more involved, the Brits seem closed and superficial in many ways. Maybe it’s just produced like that.

The most interesting h part of this programme for me is watching the relationships develop, positively and negatively. I’m aware, of course that what we are shown is a tiny  snapshot of thousands of interactions both on and off camera, but there is a wealth of ‘stuff’ to interest me.

1. The ability to articulate your feelings in the moment is really valuable. If you can do it in a non critical way, using I statements, even better. Watching the build up of unspoken resentments is quite painful, and extremely damaging to developing relationships.

2. Knowing who you are, what you need and what you will not tolerate – this is essential. More than one union crashed at least partly because one partner was not honest in the beginning about what they needed. The woman who said she “didn’t mind if a man smoked occasionally” turned out to mind very much indeed. The man who said he would be happy to relocate for a partner – well he wasn’t. End of relationship right there.

3. If you keep your ears and eyes open you can spot an emotionally abusive man almost at the beginning. In the American show, a man who called his wife’s tattoo ‘trashy’ ; I saw it straight away – not in that comment, but in the way he reacted when she said that the comment had upset her. This cheered me a LOT. Not of course that he turned out to be a volatile, abusive, cheat, but that I’m pretty sure if I was ever in such a situation again, early in dating, I would walk right away. I have learned something !

4. Happy relationships develop when both partners are generous. With their time, their thoughts , their effort. When both partners are honest, kind but honest. Another relationship portrayed a man , trying so hard to connect with his aloof spouse who bleated how she felt ‘awkward’ and ‘uncomfortable’ (what do you expect if you marry a stranger and refuse to talk to him? I know, judgey pants, and I don’t know all the facts) That one went down the pan very quickly . Sadly another woman who took blisteringly honest communication to the other end of the spectrum alienated her husband so completely that, although she ultimately fell in love with him for his many qualities, he decided not to stay with her.

Trash TV? Definitely. Unrealistic – yes of course. But I have learned quite a lot from watching – and that’s all good

🌷🙂

Onwards

Sorry to have been quiet for the last week. A lot has been going on in “real life “, and I’ve been pondering ..

last Monday, March 12th, was my two year sobervesary. It’s a really good feeling to have achieved this, in a low key kind of way. I’m not shouting from the roof tops, but I feel very secure in my decision not to drink , and both grateful and quietly happy that I really don’t WANT to drink again. Somethings are hard without alcohol, perhaps they always will be, but these things are far outweighed by the massive advantages. Clarity of thought and loss of self hatred being the two most obvious benefits. I think I will take the boys out for a burger this weekend to celebrate. Quietly, and without necessarily telling anyone, I will raise a glass of coke to the future. Sober.

So, last weekend I went to Florence. After my travel adjustment,it all went pretty well. I arrived on Saturday morning at the hotel where we were all staying, and joined in the days planned activities. My friend, who’s birthday we were celebrating was totally surprised and touched by how many made it over to see her, and Florence is a beautiful city. I really enjoyed connecting with my oldest friends (from medical schooldays) and meeting some people I hadn’t seen for years. Saturday night we all went to a restaurant. I will draw a veil over some aspects of that evening, alcohol related. I came home early, but it taught me a couple of very valuable things. Listen to my own intuition, be very clear what my expectations and boundaries are, and be true to myself. I was sober, so no harm done …

in the last couple of weeks, since I decided to put ‘him’ behind me, I have been more successful that I expected. In my heart there is a peace that I had feared I would never reach, and I can honestly say I have not wasted much time on fruitless speculation. I know what I know, I believe the whole thing was a fabrication on his part and nothing I could have Done would have changed that. End of. Before I came to this conclusion I was searching desperately for answers, I ordered a few books from amazon about narcissistic PD, I joined a forum for others who had been in such relationships. Now I find I don’t need them, the books I AM engaging with are the ones that focus on me… on how to strengthen my self worth and boundaries.. so that I am not hoodwinked again. I think this is a much better use of my time and energy.

One of my oldest friends, who has been single for 10 years recently met someone. She is excited and giddy with the hope and optimism that goes with a new relationship. It was heartwarming to see, and when we talked about it, we were sharing a room , she reflected that although she is happy to have met someone , her own life is now so fulfilled and busy, she is not too worried if it doesn’t work out. Over the 10 years she has built herself a network of friends, family and activities that she loves. A partner is only worth it if they can add something to that package. A good starting point I think!

The days are getting longer, the end of the financial year is nigh (always a very busy time at work) but after April 1st, I will have time to draw breath and start to build more of a life for myself, within my limitations. I feel quite optimistic about this, and in a nebulous intermittent way, vaguely optimistic.

Boundaries

Eye opening , jaw dropping moment of clarity last night.

Woah ! 👏👏👏

Moving on, and deciding to focus on the future I bought myself this book.

It’s very thin, about 50 pages of wide spaced type, I read it in an hour. But 😮.

All those of you with good boundaries will be like “duh”, but this is stuff I have never considered. And it’s so obvious. And so important.

So, that list of characteristics I have had in my head that I would like to find in a partner? Those are not ‘I hope he will be like this’ , those are, or will become, a list of essentials, in other words non negotiable boundaries.

I have seen this in action, but not recognised it as such. For example, a long time ago my friend K and I were discussing cannabis use by our husbands. My husband was a LOT heavier user than hers, but having recently had a child she was adamant that she did not want her son growing up to normalise drug use. It was clear from the discussion that she was considering the future of her marriage if her husband was not prepared to stop his recreational use. She asked me what I thought, and I remember my answer. I said “I’m not prepared to risk my marriage over cannabis”. She was clearly surprised, and the conversation moved on.

Why did I say that? I hated it just as much as her, I could see just as clearly the potential impact on growing children,

My brother once told me that, early in in his relationship with his now wife, they were discussing children. His then girlfriend laid something out about the way in which any future children would be raised, a a non negotiable. He considered it, was ok with it, and so the path to the future had not met a dead end.

These are boundaries. Deal breakers. They are not optional behaviour patterns like preferring beef to lamb, or leaving the loo seat up. Fundamental stuff … and by setting the boundaries you save yourself a whole heap of heartache further down the line.

I have been doing this the wrong way round. My sister in law set this dealbreaker early on in her relationship with my brother, before they were engaged, living together, or married. If it had not been acceptable to him, they would have both moved on. I see now, don’t laugh- I know it’s fucking obvious – meet someone, get to know them. Observe their ACTIONS, note , be clear if your boundaries are pushed , set out a consequence, and see it though.

No wonder I have been terrified of ever risking a relationship again. Taking a chance that someone will subconsciously understand my boundaries, and finding out that they don’t when you are living together is a sure fire way to relationship hell. I fell in love first. Failed to be clear about what was and was not acceptable to me when I had an opportunity to get out easily, failed to even realise how miserable I would be if I were forced to accept things that are contrary to what I believe.

This is pretty huge for me. But it’s SO obvious.

I know where it comes from too.

1. I never saw this behaviour as a child. My mother tried to set boundaries with my father but he ignored them and there were no consequences. Of course I thought I would too be treated like this.

2. Huge fear of being alone and unloved, “no one will be able to love me as I am, so I’d better accept whatever behaviour is dished out to me or I will be alone”

So.

I have some work to do. On my shiny new set of boundaries. This will take some time, and learning to ‘defend’ them, may take practice, BUT for the first time in ages I feel quite excited and positive.

A line

A line is drawn today.

I had a very helpful therapy session last night. Angela reads my blog, and it was a good day to go!

She picked up on the triggers I had identified in my post yesterday and we discussed some of them. The practical ones I have sorted, but the emotional ones needed some picking apart.

She encouraged me to dig a bit more in the my triggers around this email, around the feeling that’s it’s arrival and my decision not to respond evoked.

I have come a long long way since August 19th 2016 when I finally lost my temper and changed the locks on my front door. A long way in understanding the destructive dynamic, the personality and behaviour of the narcissistic person, and a long way in recognising how my weak boundaries, poor self worth and past experiences set me up for that relationship. I have worked hard on forgiving myself and trying to treat myself with the kindness that I would show to anyone else in my position.

But now it’s time to move on.

This is obviously a symbolic decision, because I’m not so deluded as to think I can just decide not to think of him again and it will just not happen. But a decision to accept that I will not get the answers I want from him (I already saw that back in December) and that I am unlikely to aid my recovery by poking over the carcass and ruminating endlessly about the past.

So, from today I am going to make a conscious effort to put the ruminations out of my mind. To consciously replace those thoughts with others as far as I am able. To accept that this relationship was destructive, damaging and painful in so many ways. But it’s over now. I gave him 5 years of my life, I will not give him the rest of it by being unable to move on. There are no ties, no reason I need to be in touch.

Today I turn my back on him, disengage and move forwards.

And now I’m going to make a fish pie.

.

Self care

Thank you all for you kind, supportive and helpful comments yesterday.

I’m pleased to say I managed to incorporate some of your ideas and thoughts, reached out a bit to friends and I’m a bit less anxious today.

I saw my own GP this morning and have been told to take these three days off work, that’s quite hard for me to do, but it would be stupid to ignore that advice, so I now have three days at home. Actually that’s something of a relief; not having to mange the demands of work leaves me more brain space and time to practice self care.

I have decided to spend Friday night at a hotel in Bologna airport rather than trying to drive from there to Florence in the middle of the night. I realised yesterday afternoon that the anxiety about driving on the continent, at night, to a place I don’t know, that is in a restricted part of the city so no parking, when the car hire company cannot guarantee me a sat nav, was increasing with every day, and so I will travel to Florence on Saturday morning on the train.

I have also ordered a couple of books from amazon about narcissism & recovery from relationship breakdown. Part of my anxiety stems (I think) from being terrified I will NEVER get over this, and maybe further understanding / and knowing that I am not alone will help me feel more settled. I want to believe this is just another ‘phase’ and will pass, but it’s been a long time ..

Several people, IRL and online have urged me to seek support from AA or similar, something I have strongly resisted thus far. Reflecting on my aversion, and the reasons behind it, I realised that’s it’s a) being recognised and b) I do not feel comfortable being vulnerable around men. The fear of recognition is not because I am ashamed, after all I have been sober for nearly 2 years, it’s because if I were known as my professional role, I would not be open, and I would find it impossible not to present my professional front. This would negate the whole point of trying to connect with others. So, I have found a women only meeting in a nearby town. I’m thinking about it. It might be good …

lastly, considering why this has happened right now, I can only think it’s because I received an email from him earlier this week. This is not the only cause, i was very stressed out before that, but I think it might have been the last straw. The communication itself was innocuous, simply a belated reply to a sympathy note I have send him about 4 weeks ago. But it definitely stirred something and more significantly, the decision NOT to reply has been a trigger I think.

There is nothing to be gained by replying. He is absolutely unhealthy for me, and our relationship was destructive and toxic. I am sure there was a reason why he replied so late, and just as sure there is a reason that he chose to do so now. But I need to not engage, not reply, just withdraw. It’s not logical, but that decision feels huge emotionally, and I expect that has been the straw that broke the proverbial camels back.

I will see my therapist later, take some time, read a bit, and I hope that I will soon be feeling more stable.

Thanks all

I don’t know what to do.

I seem to have hit another emotional crisis. I do not know why, but I feel dreadful. I’m anxious, I’ve lost my appetite (a sure sign of emotional destabilisation) I’m struggling to function. I can’t sleep, I’m ruminating and my concentration is shot to pieces.

I feel on the edge of a panic attack several times a day. So far, it has not materialised. But work is piling up because I can’t attend to it, the house is a mess, my friends are neglected and I’m really really anxious.

I have no idea why. And worse no idea what to do. I cannot cope, but I have to.

Pretty crap

Sorry folks, I’ve been trying not to write this post, trying not to feel how I do for a whole week now. It’s not working.

I remind myself of all the positives; son1 is doing good, we have a great holiday coming up, I’m going to Italy in 4 days, in the Summer my older brother is planning to visit from Australia, yesterday an old friend contacted me from the USA to let me know she is visiting the UK in the Summer .. soon I will be TWO YEARS sober …

but ,… but …

I’m just so low.

In fact I’m a horrible combination of agitated, restless, sad, frustrated, angry, defeated. I hate this.

I cannot stop thinking about that man. Missing him? No, I don’t want to go back there… and he has nothing to offer me. But I think about him incessantly, round and round my head go these repetitive, pointless thoughts. He is the last thing I think about at night, the first thought in the morning.

Im so fed up with it. My head KNOWs , my heart also knows … but my brain … my brain regurgitates endless emotion, endless memories, endless want if’s. Anger, sadness, longing, loss, sadness, loneliness, fear chase tirelessly round my head … no answers, and no resolution seems possible.

Alongside that I HATE myself for this. I berate myself for feeling this way, beat myself up for still being stuck in the past when I know there is nothing for me there. Is it that I miss the misery ? Is it that I got so used to being churned up and battling against despair that the absence of that extreme emotion ?

and I hate that too.

I want this OVER. I want to move on. Leave the past, the sorrow , the hurt, the pain … just leave it behind and move forward. And there should be no reason why I can’t do this … logically . But it’s not happening… I have been separated from this man for more than18 months … why why why can’t I just put him in the past and STOP rehashing stuff ?

He hurt me. He used me. He lied to me, he stole from me. He hurt and damaged my children. He abused me so much, emotionally and verbally, financially and by trying to physically intimidate me (and succeeding) .. how can I be so unbelievably DUMB as to still allow him space in my head ?

What the fuck is wrong with me? And more importantly how can I move forward?

i just don’t know. And I’m SO tired of it ….

Validation

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

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

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

Pause ..

The last few days have been quite difficult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

so, having said that …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh …

Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bit worried …

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

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

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

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

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

I know what it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

700 days

Today is my 700th day of continuous sobriety.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s quite a comforting thought.

Coming to terms with the past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have nothing to be ashamed about really.

I loved him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least I hope so.

Vices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going home …

I’m on my way home today. It’s time to attend to my other two boys, my Home and my work.

A very fierce series of hugs for son1 and I this morning – I don’t feel sad, because I know he is on a journey, and he needs to walk alone at the moment, but I am acutely aware that I will miss him (this new grown up version of my son) more – now that I have met him!

He says he loves me, that he has really enjoyed our week together, that he is really aware of and values my unswerving support. He says there is nothing to forgive me for with respect to ExP, and nothing that he blames on me. I believe that right now at least, he means that …

I’m still a bit overwhelmed with the whole experience, although my feelings and thoughts are beginning to make connections and arrange themselves so that I can draw some conclusions and lessons from what I have experienced.

Just one other whole thought stream that has arisen from this week …

I have had sone small exposure to Buddhism and the Buddhist philosophy. I know very little at the moment, but I am intrigued and intend to learn more.