Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Year No. 7

Tonight is my seventh New Year’s Eve. The seventh I will wake up recalling what I did the night before, and the day before that and yes even the weeks leading up to it.

It will be the seventh New Years Day I will wake up not wanting to die, just so that it will finally be over. The seventh New Years Day I will be safe & reassured in the knowledge that I won’t be back in a bar again in a few hours time. The shaking under control. The panic numbed and medicated into submission by the glass in front of me, and the one after that. And the one after that.

Girls aren’t supposed to be alcoholics. Not really. And when we meet one that is, we tend to humour them. Nod at them affectionately. Placate their admission whilst privately assuming they are referring to having a white wine spritzer too many and making a bit of a fool of themselves. Refusing to give credence to the actual truth of it. The cuts, the bruises, the scars. The fights with bouncers and police. The hours and days that are a gaping black hole of nothingness. The jobs lost, the friendships destroyed. The want and need that will burn through everything it touches to get what it wants. Until there is nothing left.

There were many New Year Eve’s I spent surrounded by people, I do recall them vaguely through the haze of my weapon of choice. What I do remember is the terror of absolute loneliness. Of feeling like no one could reach me or penetrate this prison of addiction I’d spent my entire adult life in. Of pretending to say good-bye to one year with one final drink- and swearing the New Year would be a new me. A version of me that wouldn’t let this happen anymore. Who would live a life like everyone else, with responsibilities and order and reason. That this would be the year I stopped lying to myself and everyone around me and actually got sober.

I did get sober in the end. Finally I reached the point where I was more scared of dying drunk than I was of living sober. And it’s been 7 years and sometimes I forget I ever lived like that in the first place. Alone. Afraid. Abandoned of all hope.

Except on a night like tonight. A night I can quite happily spend alone knowing that loneliness and horror and ugliness of addiction are a thing of the past. Thankful that sobriety actually happened for me. Sad for those I have lost along the way, the faces who will be missing come the stroke of midnight. Those who were lost by the decision to die drunk instead. And praying that those who still haven’t quite decided which is the path for them will take solace from a daft lass in a pretty dress who has stood in their shoes and lived to tell the tale,

I pray this is your year, I hope beyond all hope that it will be. And I’m going to make sure there are all the resources in the world at your disposal to get you there. That’s my 2013 resolution. That’s where we’ll all be by New Year No. 8. Not hiding behind the shame of something we have so little power over. Not afraid to be seen as damaged or weakened by addiction. Open, honest, loud. It really is time we started talking our way out of this. Together. Bonded.

Cx

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Just Get Over Here

Remember pen friends? In my experience they were poor buggers forced to write to me from far-flung, exotic locations such as the next catholic middle school down the road. We would laboriously converse about ground-breaking subject matters such as what our pet rabbits were called and how we liked our rucksacks-but disliked libraries (questions I luckily already knew the answers to despite my ropey French skills as I’m from the largest family known to man- and so would inevitably be writing to a cousin. Good times.)

I have lots of pen friends now. People who write to me from all over the shop. Luckily in English. And we’ve yet to discuss how we like to spend a Friday at the discotheque. Or sing dodgy songs to each other about sleeping monks. Thank god.

The lovely lads and lasses who have found my website are at so many different stages of recovery from Chronic illness. There’s a sort-of sliding scale to it. At one end is those who feel generally under the weather, get sick easily, have food intolerances and not-so-great energy levels. Then it moves through to those who cannot walk or stand, to those who cannot leave the house at all, and goes through varying stages until you reach those who are completely paralysed and being fed through a tube. Not nice. Any of it actually. But always there is hope. A way to move from the part of the scale you may find yourself at, until you are right where you want to be. I truly believe that. I’ve seen it so many times. I’m experienced a lot of it personally. We will all get there step-by step.

I’m so lucky I get to witness all of this progress. To meet so many wonderful, kind, brave people. Because really you are, all of you. It’s a privilege to watch you start your own Life After. Every time. And because you are so good, so kind, as soon as you start to feel incremental improvement, you want to share it with others who you have met on this journey to wellness. You want them to experience some of the magic you have going on. To see this place you suspected would elude you forever. Whether it’s helping a friend face to face, in online forums, or starting up a blog encouraging others to do the same as you are doing. Just to give to others and feel of service.

Don’t.

Honestly don’t do it. I’m so proud of each and every one of you and how badly you want to help those you have met that are still struggling in the darkness. We all know how bad and scary and lonely a place it is. That hell is a place- like an actual physical place right here on earth, That it’s usually a small room you just exist in for years. Obviously we want to get everyone out of that room. That the thought of anyone having to endure it is just unbearable. I know, I get it. But honestly don’t do it.

I have a blog I started writing that I never really thought anyone would actually read. I didn’t start this blog when I was well. It began from a very scary, uncertain place. I was not okay. I was not in a position to help anyone. I was basically surviving. I could not even begin to see where okay was from there. I think what I was really doing was trying to find comfort and consolation when I couldn’t see any proof of it wherever else I looked. I needed someone to tell me one day it was going to be all alright. Even if that person was just me. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and hoping it would be okay one day. Luckily I was right. When I see some of the entries people are reading from those days I have to shut the computer screen down. Because I remember too well what’s in there. And it’s not good. And if my lovely pen friends out there did not specifically reference the entries I hate the most so very regularly I’d have deleted them long ago, trust me.

I couldn’t have helped anyone from over there. Two people in the dark can’t pull each other into the light. It’s just not going to happen. It’s going to take time. Time to feel strong and safe and certain and normal again To put all of this well and truly behind you and get on with living life fully. If you try to help others from a place of still feeling vulnerable, then it not only slows your own recovery down, but it reinforces your still-active belief that the world is a scary place full of unwell people. And you don’t need that. Not when life will be handing your ass to you on a daily basis whilst you are simply trying to master the basics. It will destroy you. Again.

So just get over here, blog if it helps you make sense of your feelings But leave everyone else and their own recovery out of it. You are no use to them yet, or to yourself unless you are outrageously well and ridiculously happy. It’s not selfish, its vital.  We are neither use nor ornament unless we really, truly, honestly have our shit together. Until we’ve mastered the art of consistent wellness. consistent feelings of safety and certainty. And when you do get there? Then help any bugger you like. Work way. Fill your boots. Get together and sing Frere Jacques til the cows come home.

If we can all do that, just make recovery about us and no one else. Just until the horrible work-in-progress part is over and we are whole again. Then we will all get each other well. I know we will. Then there will be no one on any part of this god-awful sliding scale of symptoms. No illness, no fear, no tube feeding. No more living in hell. Please just get over here first.

Please.    

Coming Out of the Dark

How will I know when I’m better?

I had a lovely wander around Central London one evening this weekend. I’m a big fan of pretty lights and it really doesn’t get much prettier than the view of the buildings by the river on the South Bank. Everything is covered in light. Everything is illuminated on the outside and seemingly lit from within on the inside.

How will I know when I’m better?

On the surface it probably seems like a bit of a strange question. Some people feel silly for even asking it. Don’t. It’s something we all wonder about. Chronic illness can last months, years, or even decades. Most people struggle to remember what life was like before. And we learn to put blinkers on our vision of other people fairly early on. We use it as a coping mechanism to deal with how crappy our own life has gotten. So if we’re avoiding looking at the people who are well, and sticking our La-La fingers in our ears and having a good old sing-song whenever someone tries to tell us how awesomely full their own life is, well, we become somewhat self-absorbed don’t we? Nothing wrong with that. It’s just a case of doing what has to be done in order to survive, mentally intact. But when we ignore other people and fixate on ourselves, it’s hard to collect any information on how a well, fully functioning individual conducts their own life.

How will I know when I’m better?

I’m not talking about the basics here, I’ve covered those a lot in other posts. I’m sure we are still all in agreement that being able to feed and dress ourselves is a good indicator things are on the up. Leaving the house everyday is also a bonus. Leaving the house everyday and going to work is also a strong indicator you’re doing fine.

How will I know when I’m better?

So you can do all of the above, and on the outside you’re even starting to look like everyone else right? How weird that the same question is doing the rounds in your head. Still needs to be asked. Still bears repeating. Why is it that you can do all of these things, and more, yet still know something isn’t quite right. That you aren’t there yet. Even when you can’t quite place what there actually feels like. So how will you know when you are well? Really well? Finally at that place no one has a map to?

How will I know when I’m better?

You stop existing.

It is entirely possible that you will spend the first 18 months of being out in the world again just existing. just surviving. Going to work, coming home and that is it. I know it too well. I did it myself. Step-by-step you will make progress, seeing the odd friend here and there, (clock-watching the entire time, looking for the first excuse to leave, counting the amount of steps from where you are sat to the nearest exit so you know what is physically required of you when you are allowed to go. Faking a gossamer-thin veneer of calm whilst you pretend to listen to them talk) going through the motions of being with them. But then going back to the safe, known, normality of doing the bare minimum. Back into the dark place of simply being alive. Getting through the day. Only just. Putting one foot in front of the other. Step-by-step

How will I know when I’m better?

You”ll know you are better when moments become wonderful again. When you are in a conversation and really in it. When you are able to finally become absorbed in an activity without constantly stopping to check you are coping. When surprises are a moment of sheer delight, instead of panic at the thought of the unknown. When you can work as many hours as you want to- and then spend the hours you don’t work playing. You’ll know you’re fine when the only time you are in your house is to sleep before the next day begins and you do it all over again.

How will I know when I’m better?

When life becomes exciting and full of variety, new people, fresh places and things. When the people that surround you are also excited by life, by newness, by dreams and possibilities. That’s when you know you’ve come out of the dark. When you make plans in advance, When you are the one to actually instigate days out or activities. Then you know you are okay. When life is varied and easy and fun. Then you are okay. Then you’re there. Then you’ve come out of the dark.

Then real life begins.

How will I know when I’m better?

I had a lovely wander around Central London one evening this weekend. I’m a big fan of pretty lights and it really doesn’t get much prettier than the view of the buildings by the river on the South Bank. I felt covered in light. I felt illuminated on the outside and seemingly lit from within on the inside.

That’s how I know I’m better.