Monthly Archives: March 2015

Taking the Lady out of Ladies Day

Torn dress. Broken shoes. Body covered in bruises. A black hole where memories of the afternoon should be. 

Welcome to Ladies Day at The Races.

At one time synonymous with grace and glamour. Now little more than a glorified Hen Night without the wedding to look forward to. I love a day at the races. But I’d truly rather chew my own face off than attend Ladies Day. Though I used to, of course…

Sliding down the door of the loos onto a nest of broken glass. Momentarily thankful you’re at the stage where you can’t feel anything. Knowing the pain will be waiting for you when you wake up tomorrow.

There’s a special type of vitriol reserved for drunken women. Especially a drunken women in a pretty dress. I should know: I was a seasoned drunk and so on the receiving end of it regularly.

Smashing your phone into pieces during yet another botched attempt to call someone so they can come and get you because there’s no way you can control yourself enough to get home alone.

It’s one of the biggest double standards we have in Britain. Yes it’s okay to get as drunk as we like, as long as we can hold down a job and keep it. Yes it’s fine to lose control and do things a bit out of character, as long as not too many folk see it. Of course it’s okay to drink enough to put our health at risk and skew our judgement enough to put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations. Just don’t do it on a day named for women. When everything should be beautiful and feminine and bright.

Because then it becomes offensive. Doesn’t it.

There’s been concern in Australia for a while now over the way women behave at the races. Concern for their safety in regards to alcohol abuse. Because, contrary to popular myth, Australia, (and in fact Ireland believe it or not) both tackle alcohol abuse incentives staggeringly well compared to the UK. Australians understand what we still cannot grasp. That alcohol is not Equal Opportunities. That alcohol does care whether you are a man or woman. That alcohol does indeed hurt women far more than it hurts men.

That we as women have the right to earn as much as a man. Dress like one if we want. Have sex like one if that’s our bag. But drink like one?

No. We can’t. It hurts us. A lot. Physically. Mentally. In ways we refuse to even acknowledge. But still we struggle on, trying to keep up with the boys. Still we insist it is our right. Still we keep harming ourselves.

I have no right to judge any of the ladies at Ladies Day. Even on their worst day they still won’t be as bad as I was during my dark days of drinking. What I do reserve the right to judge is the way UK Racecourses are handling the drunk ladies of Ladies Day.

This week it was announced that ¬†Grand National organisers wanted to counteract the behaviour of messy drunk, (paying attendees) by making sure they didn’t appear in any publicity photos from the day. Not a Ladies Day mind you, but the start of things to come? Almost certainly. Because it won’t be the behaviour of the drunk male attendees that riles them. It never is.

Because that’s how we solve the ugly problem of our drunk women in Britain. We make unsightly things disappear. Not the carnage. Not the violence (and there is violence at Ladies Day and it’s horrible.) not the injuries, or the stomach pumping. Just make sure we don’t capture it for posterity.

After all, if none of us can remember it the next day, and there’s no photographs to prove it-it didn’t happen, right?

Ladies do deserve their own day. a day to dress up, feel beautiful and enjoy something as lovely as a day at the races. They also need to know that they deserve more from this day then alcohol abuse, injuries and blackouts. We all collectively are responsible for lowering women’s standards to the point where they are told to expect so little from their hard-earned days out.

It’s up to us to come up with more effective measures for tackling this issue than our friends at Aintree.

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Is that why they call it Memory Lane?

I went to a mates house on Sunday. She lives very near the place I used to, back when I was someone else.

I spent a few hours with her at her place. We did some work, drank some tea, had some laughs, just being the person I am now really.

I left to go home. But I didn’t go home. Instead I ventured down the road. Back to the place I hadn’t set foot in for well over a decade.

It hadn’t changed. But I knew it would be that way. It’s one of those rare parts of London that isn’t constantly under redevelopment. So it felt the same as soon as I got there. Even if I’m still not quite sure how to put into words what that feeling is.

I got out of the tube station and the first thing I see is this road I used to stagger down on my way home. The area is still fairly rough to be honest. And the first thing that hit me was fear. Because I used to stagger and crawl and fall up and down that road. Alone. In some god-awful states. Incapable of caring for or protecting myself. I’m so lucky the only harm I ever came to was self inflicted drinking injuries. Lucky beyond belief really.

Down from that road is a main road. A road I passed out and lay on in the early hours of the morning one time when a taxi driver found me and cried and took me home to my Flatmates. 

What I didn’t remember until going back was that this road was right outside the drama school I was attending. And that to me was really sad. Because it was the biggest example I had of how badly I f*cked up the opportunities given to me back then. Here I am at one of the best drama schools in the world. And instead of going inside and learning, I’m getting off my face on drink and lying in the road. 

Just so much waste.

I went into the pub I also mention in talks I give. It’s a fairly dark place where pretty bad things happened. It’s not somewhere I would go and revisit even when finally in the old neighbourhood. But at this stage I’ve just sat beside a main road and cried for half an hour, so I figure that nothing else can set me off. 

I walked in and realised that some things do change. The place looked so nice inside now. Really bright and clean and welcoming. The same landlady was behind the bar. I liked her back then because she never barred me despite my behaviour. And she never judged me for the fairly terrible way I used to allow my boyfriend at the time to treat me, in her pub and right under her nose. 

I bought some drinks and we chatted. She told me she’d always liked me and was glad I was alright. Again she didn’t pass comment on the soft drink I had. Or when I pointedly told her I was single and inferred there would be no man walking in to drag me across her tables of glasses anymore. 

I think we were both quite relieved by that.

Then I asked if I could use her loo. And I sat in there for another half hour and cried for the girl who wasted her early twenties drinking in a dark bar, consumed by dark thoughts and accepting any dark behaviour thrown her way in that place.

Then I left. And I went home to my part of London where I make sure everything is covered in light. All day, every day.

I’m not one for looking back often. When I do it’s for a reason, I knew that I couldn’t keep speaking about these things in a bid to help others until I went back to that place as the person I am now.

I f*cked up a lot in my life. I wasted a lot of opportunities. Time I will never get back. But it wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t all bad by a long shot. I had friends. I was loved, I had a life. A body that actually worked without me having to prompt it. And I had forgotten that bit. And that’s what the tears were really about, I think. Because I had demonised the past so much that I had refused to acknowledge the good memories that became consumed by the ocean of darkness.

Is that why they call it Memory Lane do you think? Because we make the past so narrow by filtering for it what suits us to remember? My drinking days were not all bad. Even in my worst of times. It’s wrong of me to pretend otherwise. 

It’s also a source of massive confusion to people in early recovery when they hear seasoned former drinkers paint their past as All Pain. As All Loss. Because it’s not true. It’s huge slices of darkness and wasted opportunity and despair, but it’s sprinkled with love, and laughter, happy days. People who still like us despite our appalling behaviour.

If we can widen our trips down Memory Lane a bit. I think we could help those still struggling in darkness to make their way into the light so much easier.

It’s a destination worth the journey. I promise x

How Undereating is F*cking Up Your Recovery

If my life has taught me anything then it is this: Doesn’t matter what we are recovering from, all recovery is just a bridge. The start of the bridge is a location we find ourselves that we don’t want to be in. The end of it is the place where we will feel normal again.

It’s always preceded by change. Sometimes this change is trauma. Sometimes it is loss. The recovery can be a physical recovery from illness or accident. An emotional recovery from addiction or an eating disorder. It honestly doesn’t matter.

We all still must cross the same bridge.

The problem is that this bridge has no signs telling us which way to go. It’s usually covered in fog so we can’t see the end, Or notice if we end up going back in the wrong direction. It’s rarely a straight line. There is no Sat Nav. When we fall on this bridge, (and we do, all of us) then the ones who stand more times than they fall will be okay. They will reach the end. But those who choose to stay fallen, or don’t realise their feet are no longer on solid ground? They will stay on that Bridge of Recovery indefinitely. I don’t beleive that once a person chooses not to be stuck any more that they can ever go back to a state that is not Recovery. I don’t believe anyone who puts at least one foot on the bridge can ever go back to a life of refusing to try. It’s an ongoing journey that you cannot undo and cannot un -know.

Recovery from anything is a scary process at first. Because most of us either have no clue how to go ab out it, or we take bad advice from so-called experts. Recovery is not supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be testing. But once we decided that it is? Then we became entrenched in the idea that it is going to involve a lot of pain and reap very small rewards.

Which is a bit sh*t.

And if we can’t go backwards to the land of No Recovery? But we don’t believe we have it in us to get to where we want to be? The end of the Bridge? Then stalling is our next best game plan.

People in Recovery are experts at two things: stalling and isolation. Anything that can either slow the world down so that we can cope with it, or block the world out so we do not have to participate in or see it are the ideal goals. And one method every single person in Recovery from anything uses without realising is Undereating.

People in physical recovery use undereating because along with physical illness and accidents comes a total loss of appetite. I personally did not feel hungry for nine years. Not once. and I didn’t even realise it. People with eating disorders stop acknowledging hunger signals so they may feel hunger but their brain stops being receptive to the signals and cannot interpret them. And for people who are overcoming addiction? It’s actually a combination of both.

I did eat because I knew I was supposed to. But rarely full meals. And definitely small amounts spread out throughout the day, when I felt like l was about to keel over if I didn’t. I was always sick and always tired. It was so confusing to me. Except if l went home. With hindsight that’s because my mum would force me to eat regular meals. And when after 9 years my appetite did finally kick back in? I instantly got well. Instantly realised it was the one thing holding me back all these years.

When we undereat we are able to control so many factors. Our energy levels can stay low enough for us to not to have to see people socially. People who undereat tend to have awful immune systems, so it seems logical to be afraid of mixing with others, letting them prepare our food, or eating out anywhere. We seem justified in our decision to not choose a job that involves people, or even work at all in some cases. Undereating is a huge payoff for anyone who feels they want to stay exactly where they are and progress no further.

And really? There’s only one question that anyone in any type of Recovery needs to ask themselves to check whether they are using undereating as a tool to isolate or remain unwell:

Can I act spontaneously? 

If a friend calls, can I pick up my keys and just go see them? If work calls unexpectedly, could I go where they tell me to right now? If someone asks me to go exercise with them? Would I be able to right this second? Or go on a date? Or for a walk? If I had to leave the house and stay out for the next 5 hours-would I be able to just take off this second and go?

if the answer is YES? Then you aren’t undereating, and you are on that Bridge of Recovery, heading towards the end. If the answer is NO? Then you are undereating. And your task is to figure out a way you can rectify this right now and start to move forward.

Because we must move forward. We have to. It’s heartbreaking to see people stuck in a place they refuse to leave out of fear. Because the fear of fear itself is always far worse than any physical form it may take. And a life without the freedom of spontaneity is no life at all. As anyone who has been there will tell you.

Please keep putting one foot in front of the other. Please keep trusting you will reach your destination. Please keep searching for answers and asking for help from those have stood where you stand.

Please stand up more times than you fall.