Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Blog from 21st to 29th December. Roll on 2015!

21st of December to the 29th December Blog I survived my first Christmas abstinent from my trigger foods. I have to be honest and admit that I over ate, not massively and certainly not to any type of standard set in previous years, but I did indulge in a few mouthfuls more than I should have. I’m trying to be kind to myself about it. I had an unfortunate episode with a tube of Pringles on Boxing Day, the triggers were all there, I was alone in the house, with the TV and instead of doing something to help like phoning someone, reading or distraction, I scoffed the lot. The mental obsession was present, they were sat on the windowsill and I let them call out to me. Back and forth I went ramming handfuls in my mouth, feeling guilty as I was doing it but not being able to stop until they were all gone. The advert says “Once you pop you can’t stop” I think I used that as a license. I also used it to laugh at myself and not to beat myself up. Yes it wasn’t my finest hour, but hey ho it wasn’t chocolate, sweets, biscuits or cake. I cannot allow myself totally complacency though and that is why I need to look and learn from my behaviour and realisze that I cannot keep food like that in the house, it’s too distracting and can become too much of a fixation. Work was surprisingly difficult in terms of not being able to control the food around me, tins and boxes of chocolates, boxes of biscuits, sweets, cakes, the list goes on and on. Whatever room I entered they were there staring me in the face. There was no escape and I had to just accept that I could not eat any of them. That led to a few awkward exchanges with staff. People find it odd, weird and are totally puzzled that you refuse sweet treats. If I had money for every time I was offered or told “Go on, one won’t hurt you” I would be rolling in it. One bright spark even cut a slice of red velvet cake and wafted it down right under my nose. I had to grit my teeth and chuckle along even though I wanted to plunge my face into it like Boris Bogghopper in Matilda. (Red velvet cake used to be my favorite) I got fed up of trying to explain after a while. It was also embarrassing when patients offered me a sweet, they have learning disabilities and can see it as a personal rejection when I refuse, so I just have to side-step and say I don’t eat sugar; they then automatically assume that I’m diabetic and get upset on my behalf! All in all though I wasn’t as resentful as I thought I might be, so I am making progress. I did find it strange going for 6 days without a meeting over Christmas (the longest I’ve been since being in recovery)and by Sunday I needed one and was so happy to attend family group in the evening. As I had been out of routine I had not been able to write my blog and Wyn rightly pointed out how important structure and routine were in my recovery. In the past Christmas has always been an excuse to stray, overindulge and have one of those “Oh, sod it! It’s only once a year” moments that lasts 3 months or more; but this year it didn’t have to be that way. I was reminded in a kind way to get back on the path. My family were kind and supportive, no one ate sweet stuff in front of me and when I went to my Mum’s on the weekend before Christmas she provided cheese and biscuits for my desert which was very thoughtful of her. I’m looking forward to welcoming the New Year in, we are going to the Living Room for a party and I will be able to spend it with my extended family in a safe and loving environment. In the New Year I have a one-to-one booked with Wyn to revise my eating plan; the foundation is laid and I’m accustoming and becoming more accepting, so it might be time to make some changes. I’m also going to start my OA work-book based on the ‘Just for today’ meditations and re visit the steps in relation to my eating. I can’t take my eye of the ball though; tonight I wandered into the Lounge, sat on the sofa and, without thinking, ate 2 cheese straws; straight into active addiction without even realizing it and I’m over 3 months into my eating plan regime. I was then annoyed with Owen when he suggested I go to the kitchen to eat; I became sulky and resentful. I did later feel slightly smug, however, when he admitted that he himself had eaten a vat of mince pies - 30 of them between Christmas Eve and today 29th Dec. Horrible as it sounds I was rather pleased at his lack of self-control. Anyway roll on 2015 and working towards maintaining a healthy body weight and maintaining my ongoing recovery. Julie

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

14th to 21st December - I reacted like a four year old.

Blog 14th to the 21st of December 21, 2014 It’s been another pretty full on week. On Monday I went down the Living Room in order to volunteer to be filmed having a counselling session as part of the Reaching Out project. I learnt a lot from that session - not immediately but after it, when I was thinking about the themes that we had touched on and my rather extreme reactions regarding revisiting my food plan in January and making some alterations. Wyn had suggested that I may have to look at cutting out takeaways for a while as these seemed to trigger some upsetting self-loathing feelings every time I ate one. When he suggested this my reaction was out of proportion, I felt a flash of anger and this most certainly showed in my face as he noticed it and commented on it. I was furious, I was angry at him for daring to even suggest it, I felt like a child again, criticized, hurt, feeling denied, punished ever so slightly self-righteous and dramatic. Hand to head “had I not suffered enough? “Had I not given up enough in my life?” I went straight in to the inner child. Wyn challenged me, rightly so, and we agreed to look at my eating plan after Christmas. This gives me some time to process the information and also to come to terms with the fact that this suggestion is the right way to progress. Wyn is not my parent, he makes these suggestions because he wants me to get well, not to punish me or put conditions on me. That is all it is, a suggestion, if I want to take action the suggestion is there to help me. I can clearly see from unpicking the last two meltdowns I have had that takeaways are an issue. So therefore it makes sense to accept that they may be causing some adverse reaction and how can I stop this? By avoiding them for a while. Broken down its simple, if I let it be. If I accept. I had another mad moment this week, they are getting less and when I think back to my early days with drugs and alcohol I had far more of them. The periods between episodes of unreasonable behavior are getting less and now I can chart them and the antecedents are more visible as I get to know myself better. It was Tuesday evening and I had sat in the lounge planning the meal list for the next two weeks over Christmas. I had to plan this with almost military precision. I had food in the freezer that I had batch cooked that needed to be used and I know I needed to keep safe, not over buy, not buy any trigger foods for Christmas and have a plan of what I was going to eat on what night so I was not tempted to go off my path. I showed the list to Owen and he looked angry. “I would like some say in the meals we cook too he said” I was mortified, horrified, and angry and felt totally out of control. How bloody dare he? Did he not know how important this was to me? Had he missed the last few months totally? I felt in turmoil. Instead of trying to discuss this in an adult fashion and try and patiently explain, I reacted like a four year old. Drama queen kicking in “I am so disappointed in you” I said “You know how important this is to me, It has to be done like this, I have to control it and plan it” He didn’t seem to get it! I never get a chance to cook he said, I like cooking too, I never have a choice in this. I was evil, I wanted to slap him, I could feel the anger bubbling up, there was no way I could compromise on this, and this meant everything to me. We can do our own thing then, I snapped, cook separately. Oh no, he didn’t want to do that! By this point I was feeling really disempowered, overwhelmed and distressed and I did the only thing I know what to do in this type of circumstance. I burst in to tears and sobbed. (Which was very good for me incidentally as I never do that.) I think Owen was both confused and taken aback by this reaction, I tried to make him see, I tried to make him understand what a big deal this was to me, how much he had hurt me by this mere suggestion and apologized for my reaction. He was very sweet and came to give me a cuddle and explained that he was not criticizing me just simply asking to be a bit more involved. I explained again that he can’t be not at this early stage. This is a lifelong disorder and I have to control it myself for the time being. Perhaps he needs to accept this himself and perhaps this is part of his codependency that he cannot let go of. The rest of the week passed uneventful enough. I enjoyed the Christmas meal at the Clink, the food was delicious my vegetarian main course was amazing and I was able to laugh at myself when the others had their very fancy puddings and I gazed down at my cheese and biscuits. Really missed some absent friends and they have been in my thoughts and prayers this week. This week is going to be both a learning curve and a test of my reserve and will, it will give me a chance to really put everything I have learnt in the programme together. My reservations oddly enough are more around work than home, I can control what comes in to my home food wise, I can tell friends and family not to buy me sweets or chocolate as I don’t eat them anymore and I feel safe within that plan. Work is slightly trickier as temptation abounds, there will be boxes and tins of sweets given by grateful relatives, patients and staff. It’s a day for indulgence if you let it be. In the past Christmas was always a great excuse for total over-indulgence in every aspect of my addictions, I would really take the statement ‘eat, drink and be merry’ to the edge and back. Now I will accept that it’s not an option for me anymore. I can’t do “Oh, I’ll just have one” I never have been able to and I never will be able to. I still have that addict thinking, “What’s the point of having one?” So the plan is Food plan Don’t take the first bite Follow the programme Share Go to meetings Blog Stay safe, walk away Phone or text someone And remember that this too shall pass Happy Christmas xxxxxxxxxxxxx Julie

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Punters urged to think twice before gambling Christmas away

Punters urged to think twice before gambling Christmas away Sparkling lights, tempting retail offers and easy credit are part and parcel of today’s festive period. However, the desire for a perfect family Christmas can often lead to a crippling debt hangover in the New Year. For anybody who has a serious gambling problem, the temptation to risk everything to try and pay off these debts is the wake up call needed to seek help for gambling addiction according to the Living Room Cardiff’s Beat The Odds initiative. The first in a series of Beat the Odds focus groups with people experiencing gambling problems has already been held in the run up to Christmas. More are planned across Wales in the New Year, but anybody looking to find a way to turn their lives around are being encouraged to contact the Living Room Cardiff to help it tailor a bespoke package to help those dealing with problem gambling in Wales. Wynford Ellis Owen, Chief Executive, Living Room Cardiff, said, “Wales has a serious gambling problem with spending on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham, for example, being on a par with the more populated cities of Bristol, Coventry and Edinburgh. Gambling is a major cause of indebtedness and while Christmas is a wonderful time of the year it has the potential to light a devastating debt timebomb for any problem gamblers. “We are all guilty of overstretching our finances during the festive period, but with problem gambling on the rise in Wales many more will consider gambling after the Christmas period is over as the only way to pay off debts. “This is delusionary of course but when you have an addiction reality is not a consideration. You first need to accept that you have a problem and this is extremely difficult to admit to. “With betting on gaming machines equating to £675 for every Welsh adult each year and more and more debt collectors on the prowl, Beat the Odds is working to find a solution to problem gambling, which is becoming a major problem here in Wales. “Through Beat the Odds we want to establish an effective service for people with gambling problems. In order to do this well we need the input of problem gamblers so that we can offer the right help and support.” The Living Room Cardiff has also launched its Tree of Hope, located in Living Room Cardiff. The tree offers an opportunity to attach a star enclosing a message of hope as a way of celebrating freedom from addiction, honouring persons successfully achieving recovery, to dedicate rays of hope to those still struggling in their illness and those working in the field, and to commemorate lives lost to this tragic and misunderstood disease The idea for the Tree of Hope came from a visit to a ground-breaking Philadelphia Treatment Centre by Living Room Chief Executive, Wynford Ellis Owen, as part of his Churchill Fellowship in America. The concept of the tree is to demonstrate recovery from addiction is a reality and does happen. Bev Haberle, on behalf of Philadelphia’s Recovery Community Centre, Pro-Act, said, “It’s great to know the Tree of Hope has crossed the Atlantic as a positive beacon of what is possible if we all pull together. I would encourage as many people as possible to take a minute out of their day in the run up to the Christmas celebrations to help those who are recovering whilst also remembering those who were not so fortunate.” ENDS For further information please contact Rhodri Ellis Owen at Cambrensis Communications on 029 20 257075 or Rhodri@cambrensis.uk.com Editor’s Notes Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in Wales FOBT statistics 2012 (source: the Gambling Commission) There were 1450 FOBT machines in Wales in 2012. Based on these figures, the average staked on each machine was just over £1,000,000 per year or about £3,000 per day. Pre-tax profit per machine was about £34,000. Amount staked Amount lost Amount staked per adult* Wales as a whole £1.62bn £51.5m £675 England £37.2bn £1.18bn £877 Scotland £4.22bn £134m £995 UK (not incl. N.I.) £43bn £1.37bn £867 Cardiff (pop. 325,000) £274m £8.7m £1053 Newport (pop. 128,000) £122m £3.9m £1191 Wrexham (pop. 70,000) £62.8m £2m £1121 Bristol (pop. 430,000) £376m £12m £1093 Coventry (pop. 325,000) £185m £5.9m £711 Edinburgh (pop. 485,000) £421m £13.4m £1085 *The adult population is estimated as 80% of the total population. As can be seen from the above, gambling on FOBTs in Cardiff, Newport and Wrexham is on a par with other more populated cities in England. Living Room Cardiff is a community-based recovery centre and is based in 58 Richmond Road Cardiff. It aims to offer support for anyone experiencing difficulties in relation to alcohol, drugs (prescribed or illicit) or any other dependency or harmful behaviour. The Living Room Cardiff Concept (LRC) is like no other rehabilitation service currently offered in Wales. The community-based day-care Recovery Centre will provide a safe, easy access, non-judgemental space offering a range of interventions including peer-based individual and group psychosocial support. More information on Beat the Odds can be found here http://www.livingroom-cardiff.com/beattheodds/beattheodds.html

Blog 7th to 13th December 2014. The highs & lows that constitute Recovery

Blog 7th to the 13th of December 2014 What a roller coaster of a week. It started badly and ending triumphantly ever reminding me that things do pass. Last Sunday I was in a foul mood, really beating myself up and giving myself a hard time. I felt fat ugly and useless. I had tried on various items of clothing that made me feel like orca the whale and was having a miserable old time torturing myself, criticising myself and generally pulling myself apart. I stood in front of the mirror grabbing rolls of fat feeling what only can be described as rage and revulsion. And I just couldn’t seem to snap out of it. In short I was giving myself a very tough time. I tried to inject positivity but was just not getting it. I think the trigger could have been that I ate a Chinese takeaway on the Saturday night. We had returned from the Living Room trip to Bath and decided to get a takeaway. I didn’t particularly over eat, I ate at the table, I just had this creeping guilty feeling that I didn't want to have. I batted it away on the Sunday night but then it came roaring back on the Sunday. I shared it with my partner who was wonderfully patient and understanding as always. When I feel like this, it helps to share deep insecurities - not for reassurance or flattery but because to keep them to myself is very damaging. It’s also damaging in that I can go from this rage to a binge. Not rational at all, totally insane but that’s addiction for you. Monday was slightly better, I continued to feel a bit iffy and went to OA and shared honestly which was helpful. Tuesday I was able to share at the Living Room; that meeting did me the power of good in terms of humility. I sat and listened to some of the others and recognised and realised that insecurity and self-loathing are at the root of this illness and I have to take action to change this. The Tree of Hope was on Wednesday and I felt so grateful and happy to be a part of it and see all my other mates in recovery doing well and expressing their love and compassion for our second family and second home. The curry was delicious and I was able to eat it without panic or guilt or even thinking too much about it as I felt content and safe. We had an inspection in work this week which went fantastically well, so by Thursday I was up and running again. It was lovely to receive some positive feedback as we have worked so hard to develop the hospital. Friday I had another test. It was the company’s Christmas do, and the first time I had been able to attend a work function since getting into recovery. I was so nervous beforehand - again trying on about five different outfits, getting into a fluster and self-doubts creeping in. I kept talking to myself, reassuring myself and telling myself it was all going to be alright and that I would enjoy myself. I also had a firm chat with my higher power and asked to be helped to just to be myself. I decided to drive to pick up a colleague so she could have a drink and I could take her home. This was a great action plan as she was thrilled and I felt good helping someone out. I ended up having a good night. I was able to happily refuse drinks even though we were offered loads (there’s only so much lemonade a girl can drink). I didn’t think too much about drinking but it’s incredible how many people comment on the fact that you’re not drinking, offering sympathetic looks and nodding sadly saying “Driving eh? Bad luck” and “Oh, your working tomorrow are you?” I felt remarkably calm when I was there and remarkably glad that I didn’t have to go through all that malarkey. At the end of the night people were loud, inappropriately touchy-feely and being very boring. Instead of feeling jealous that I was missing out, I thought positively, I didn’t have to go through all the embarrassment the indignity the shame the hangover the avoiding people and the stress and worry that follow a binge. I wasn’t constantly up and down to the bar. I could just sit and be me. That is the greatest gift of all. I was me and I was OK with that. My other concern is my daughter, she’s been going through a tough time recently and she’s smoking cannabis heavily again. I cannot stop her. She has to take responsibility for herself. I have to hand my frustration and anger over. I cannot fix this. I have to accept that it is her life. It hurts, it hurts to see her suffering the same way as I did, struggling with life, sensitive, wanting to forget and push those awkward and horrible feelings away by eating and taking drugs. One thing I am sure of is that I am not going to enable her. Her life’s her own responsibility. For that I need to be strong and use the love and support that Living Room Cardiff's Family Support group offers. Julie

Monday, 8 December 2014

29th to 6th December - Retreats than changed my life

Blog 29th Nov to the 6th of December Retreat I have just come back from my third retreat with the Living Room. The retreats are amazing experiences that enhance and strengthen my recovery, I also learn to look at things in a different way and embrace new ways of thinking that require willingness and an ability to challenge what you think you know. All this in the company of like-minded individuals in a safe and loving environment, that is non-judgmental humbling and very healing. The first retreat I went on I had such an outpouring of emotion that I was quite overwhelmed. On return I was exhausted it had been one of the most enlightening and freeing experiences of my life. I went consumed with shame and guilt, but with the help of the group and Carol in particular I was able to leave that in Trefeca. For the first time I was able to be honest with another human being about the past, whilst continuing to feel safe to trust and to feel the power of unconditional love. I returned from that retreat with the strength hope and courage to face step 4 and 5. The second retreat in St Non’s was cathartic as I was able to examine my relationship with my mother a relationship that had been strained and difficult for as long as I can remember. The sense of fellowship on that retreat was amazing, the group bonded so well and so much as there were tears there were many, many laughs as well. One member of the group remarked that you could go for a walk and no matter what member of the group you met on return you felt comfortable and safe, there were no chiefs everyone found their place and fitted perfectly. It just worked. I was told in the early days that recovery was like peeling an onion removing layer after layer to reveal the person underneath the personality. This statement is very true, as each layer is peeled off you discover more and more layers underneath. In St Non’s I learnt all about my eating disorder where it originated from and how I could be free of it if I took action, accepted it and surrendered. I was unable to do this until September when comforted by a year in recovery from drink and drugs I decided to take that leap of faith and deal with the elephant in the room - the food. For a year I had white knuckled it “take the drugs take the drink but you’re not taking my food”, all the time binging, getting bigger, clothes not fitting, feeling fat, hopeless and enslaved by that compulsion to binge on chocolate, cake, biscuits and sweets. I had experience with the 12 steps; I knew they worked. If they worked for drugs and drink they would work for food too. In order to do that I had to surrender, to recognise that one day at a time my trigger foods had to go; to me those foods were my alcohol and drugs. I could eat anything savoury as I did not binge on savoury foods; sweet foods, however, were no longer part of my repertoire and I realised that this was actually OK with me as I could not use these foods in moderation. I am incapable of eating 1 bar of chocolate, so my daily simple plan is don’t take the first bite, follow your eating plan, be honest, eat at certain times and in certain places, go to meetings, daily contact with your sponsor, do some service, prayer, reading, hand it over, and always stay close to the group. On the third retreat this weekend (again in Trefeca) I had two aims, the first was to learn how to make contact, comfort and love my inner child, the second was to build a solid recovery to boost what recovery I have and to trust that I would be taken care of, and to plan my action over the festive period. Planning for me is key when it comes to food. I was fearful about breaking down and being overwhelmed by emotion. I don’t know why I fear this so much; I think it’s to do with being vulnerable. I dislike crying in front of others as I see it as a display of vulnerability and not being able to cope. I know this is utter clap trap and if someone said this to me I would laugh. Challenge those negative thoughts. Crying actually hurts me, I can get so far, tears will fall down my cheeks but it’s silent. Totally silent and really painful, the pain is in my throat and jaw, no sound just a pain and a block in these areas. Weird! I had an epiphany moment on retreat when we looked at active and passive signs of seeking and looking for love and pushing love away or pretending that we were self-contained and did not need love anyway thank you very much. I realised that my confusion came from trying to be different things to different parents, active with my mother and passive with my father. For the first time in my life I saw my father as a human being, I brought him down off that pedestal and began to feel some real feelings for him. I could see that he was not a saint nor was he perfect, my great protector; I had made him those things. I had wanted him to be those things, so I had created this fantasy world where he became them. It was a huge step in my recovery. I wrote him a letter and the resentment poured out, it also helped me see my mother in a more compassionate light and I wrote her a letter of apology. The third letter I wrote was to me as a child apologising for everything that I did to hurt, damage and poison the child within and resolving to look after that child and listen to its needs from now on, to comfort that child. I am the adult now and I can take care of it. I felt a huge sense of relief when we burnt those letters. I was beginning to get to the core of who I am and why I was behaving the way I was. Finally, I learnt that I had to love myself, that this is the most important thing for me now. No one else can or will ever love me the way I want to be loved, so I had better jolly well learn to do this for myself, and to realise that it is possible. The end of the retreat was a beautiful experience; we had an interdenominational service in the little chapel where all of us, in different stages of recovery, took part and read, sang, recited and gave thanks. Some of us read verses from various texts and poems that had inspired and helped us in recovery; some of us chose songs that had special meanings for us; some told their own personal stories and expressed their gratitude for recovery. It was a moving, humbling and very special occasion and I felt privileged to have been a part of it. Roll on the next one! Until then, one day at a time. Julie

Monday, 1 December 2014

Blog 22nd to 29th November - The Damnation of Weighing Scales.

Blog 22nd to 29th of November Weighing scales I hate them. I have spent years either ignoring them and denying their every existence or leaping on and off them with gay abandon five or six times a day. I succumbed again to the lure of the weight machine on Monday. Over the last few weeks I have been feeling lighter, fitter, leaner, better about myself, a little spring in my step and a shake of my tail. Ego taking shape nicely. The scales were out in the office in work one of the other staff (a chubber ) like me, clambered aboard, I was stood there and against my better nature pride took over and I thought “Well if she can do it so can I” comparison and ego were next “ I wonder if I’m the same size as her?” I jumped up looked down and bang it hit me, I expected it to register much less, I was pissed off angry and resentful then filled with fatness and self-loathing. At that moment I could have happily walked around the ward beating myself senseless with a birch twig. I looked at my friend “What were you?” feeling nasty hollow and bitchy for even asking. “Considerably more than you” she tried to laugh it off. There we were two women with eating disorders who had just put ourselves through the torture and indignity of a public weighing and I assume feeling the same things without sharing. Embarrassment, shame and guilt. I felt uneasy for a long time after doing this. It’s fatal for me, the scales never show me what I want them to. I’ve followed my eating plan religiously, so the scales should cut me some slack and show up as 10 stone right? Wrong! When I’m on my restricting spiral, scales and exercise become my obsession. I know this is really bad for me. I know I need to avoid them and measure my health on clothing and the way I feel inside alongside my daily mantra; ‘I am the right weight for me today’. I had to really work hard to try and quash the negative thoughts following that weighing. My head was screaming, pig, fat cow, lump of lard, porky, ugly, birthing heifer. I was beating myself up good and proper. Thought you’d lost weight did you? You’re no good; you can’t even do that properly. Sharing what I felt with others is hard as people try and make you feel better by stating that it’s not true, but you don’t believe them as you don’t believe in yourself. All these negative thoughts need to be challenged, adult me knows these are lies built from years of criticism. Little frightened child me feel’s those feelings and it’s dangerous and unhealthy for me to feel them as they become self-perpetuating and have led in the past to that “ sodd it” moment and a binge. That’s exactly the type of behavior I need to arrest. So no more scales for me. I can share it in my blog with no fear of reprisals and I feel I can express it better on paper than by talking about it. On Friday I am going on retreat with the Living Room. I’m looking forward to it and fully intend to blog when I’m there. My hope is that it will strengthen my recovery and give me a powerful boost to manage and cope with Christmas. Just hope there’s no scales there! Julie

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Blog 17th to 22nd November. 'When someone tells you that you're a walking disaster area, it's inevitable that you eventually become one'.'

Blog 17th of November to the 22nd of November I had a very strange experience on Sunday. It showed how distorted my own body image is. I think that I am gargantuan, enormous, I see myself as a hulking clumsy giant of a woman. We were talking in work about buying clothes for one of the patients who is fast running out of them. I informed the staff that I would go out and buy the clothes then stated “She’s about my size” The staff stared at me as though my head had fallen off. One of them finally responded “How big do you think you are? She’s twice the size of you” I laughed and said “No she’s not, she’s about my dap” I didn't say this in the way that some females do fishing for compliments waiting for someone to say “Don’t be ridiculous you’re teeny tiny” I said it because I truly believed it. The poor staff were baffled “She’s about a size 26 Ju’ll your nowhere near that” I was baffled “Is she? She looks the same size as me” There was more laughter, then real curiosity “Do you really think you’re that big?” I’m sad to say that I do, I really do. It made me think about how I see myself and how others see me. When I watch Miranda Hart on television I feel her pain, she’s awkward, freakishly tall and big and has learned to laugh through her pain. I recognize this in myself. Get the laughs in first before someone makes them at your expense. I learnt how to do that from early in life, it deflected from the hurt and the embarrassment of feeling different. Different, because I was taller and bigger than all the other girls and most of the boys as well. I was told that there was nothing graceful about me, that I was clumsy and accident prone. As a child I would run in to my Nan and Grandpa’s house where my Grandfather would shout “Jesus Christ Dolly, nail everything down here she comes”. When you are told that you’re a walking disaster area I suppose it’s inevitable that you eventually become one. My school nickname was Julie Jumbo. Looking at the photos today I would not even class myself as fat, big yes, tall yes, but no fatter than anyone else. Yet due to that cruel nickname and my mother’s obsession with my weight and dieting I grew up thinking I was the size of a small bungalow. School nicknames hurt, I hated that nickname, I dreaded going to secondary school with the thought that it would follow me there when I wanted to make a fresh start, and it did. So you learn to cope the best way you know how, so you want me to be the fat girl, do you? Then I’ll develop the big loud brash jokey personality to go with it. You want gobby? You got it. Yu want the cheeky class joker? Here she comes large as life and twice as brazen. And I do it myself, how often have I referred to a woman as “Big…….” Compared myself “At least I’m not as big as ………..” - Sneering, passing comment, sitting in judgment, forgetting the hurt, scared person underneath the mask. Defining people by their size. When you are an overeater you can’t hide it. You can hide being an alcoholic a drug addict and a gambler up to a certain point, but you can’t hide being an overeater. The world can clearly see it; overeaters are fat and the outside world can see that and point it out with gay abandon. Fat people are considered greedy gluttonous weak-willed and useless, they are ridiculed by society. They are not considered, useful, beautiful or given much credit. If they are lucky enough to achieve success in their chosen field, their weight is still mentioned. In the case of Dawn French: “Oh! She’s so pretty, if only she wasn’t so fat”. The media does not like fat people as a rule, they scare “normal” folk. My friend Julia and I used to joke that we were anorexic as we had read that anorexic people look in the mirror and see fat people staring back at them. Another favorite joke was to tell people that we walked over drains with our arms out stretched to stop us from falling in. To hide that shame and the pain we laughed it away. Fat folk are jolly. We allowed people to make fun of us and we mocked ourselves right along with them. We once went to see a drag act that pointed at us and said, “Oh, would you look at that pair, they’ve been to weight watchers, to watch.” The audience howled and we laughed along with them shrugging it off, cat-calling back, pretending it didn’t matter. But it did. Would the drag have pointed at someone in a wheelchair and made jokes about not being able to walk or told a racist joke? Probably not. But fat people are fair game and we learn to live with it. I never thought there was a way out of this - God knows! I’d tried everything or so I thought: diets, excessive exercise, diet pills, laxatives, fat binders, tea, vomiting and, dramatically, surgery. None of them worked. They were never going to work. As Wyn says, “The way out is in.” I need to go inwards to solve my problems not outwards. The key to changing my thoughts and feelings about my size and my body lies in learning to love myself. I repeat the mantra everyday “I am the right weight for me today”. This coupled with my food plan, my 12 step programme, my meetings, the group and my one-to-ones are helping me become the person I was always meant to be. It’s a process. It’s a journey. And I’m well on the road….. Part Two: Blog Nov 23rd 2014 "Private Hell" Closer than close - you see yourself - A mirrored image - of what you wanted to be. As each day goes by - a little more - You can't remember - what it was you wanted anyway. The fingers feel the lines - they prod the space - Your ageing face - the face that once was so beautiful, is still there but unrecognizable - Private Hell. The man who you once loved - is bald and fat - And seldom in - working late as usual. Your interest has waned - you feel the strain - The bed springs snap - on the occasions he lies upon you - close your eyes and think of nothing but - Private Hell. Think of Emma - wonder what she's doing - Her husband Terry - and your grandchildren. Think of Edward - who's still at college - You send him letters - which he doesn't acknowledge. 'Cause he don't care, They don't care. 'Cause they're all going through their own - Private Hell. The morning slips away - in a valium haze, And catalogues - and numerous cups of coffee. In the afternoon - the weekly food, Is put in bags - as you float off down the high street The shop windows reflect - play a nameless host, To a closet ghost - a picture of your fantasy - A victim of your misery - and Private Hell Alone at 6 o'clock - you drop a cup - You see it smash - inside you crack - You can't go on - but you sweep it up - Safe at last inside your Private Hell. Sanity at last inside your Private Hell. Paul Weller from Setting Sons I went to a concert on Thursday and was instantly catapulted back in time. The song above transported me to my teenage bedroom with its posters of the Mod Father Paul Weller. Lying there in the dark listening to my teenage fantasy spit the bitter lyrics of a woman who was deeply dissatisfied and dead inside. At the age of thirteen I thought the song was a predication of what my life would turn in to, perhaps that’s what all women were destined for? I looked at my mother, was she going through her own “Private Hell”? I could see the effects of my mother’s generation, married for duty, trapped in domestic drudgery, whitening door steps , stuffing mushrooms, buying hostess trolleys, feeling as though they had missed out. I certainly didn’t want to end up like that. Eventually of course I did enter my own Private hell but it was one of addiction. Similar to the Valium haze of the woman in the song, to take the edge off life, to soften the edges, to run from reality. I wondered what made the eighteen year old Paul Weller write a song like that? How could he possibly know what goes on in the head of a forty something woman? Was he looking at his own mother? Did he have such a jaded view of women and marriage that he imagined that this was our fate? Did he fear that that would be his lot trapped in the suburb’s peeping out from behind the nets? Arrogance or clairvoyance? Who knows? Perhaps I should write and ask him? I am now a forty six year old woman whose kids have left home and has a bald (a bit chunky) but not fat man who I still love and he never works late. It could be someone’s idea of a private hell but I’m quite content with it today thank you very much. Addiction is private and sometimes very public hell. It saps you, it takes everything, it is a living breathing parasite draining the life blood out of you. All consuming, preoccupying, repetitive and revolving. Unsafe and insane. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Existing. Like the woman in the song. Julie

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The stresses and strains.... 9th to 16th November

Blog 9th of November to the 16th of November My son is an addict and he’s still out there. He still uses daily. In early recovery I dragged him along with me hoping that he would be cured and that the recovery process would be absorbed and filtered down to him like a bizarre type of osmosis. I wanted him to get well so badly I neglected my own recovery, totally missing the point and becoming preoccupied with trying to stop or control his using. No one can get another person clean. I failed to grasp this. He was not ready, he didn’t want to stop and didn’t know how to stop, he had not fully comprehended his true condition. I live in hope that one day the miracle will happen for him. The old timers have told me the seed is planted and I hope and pray that he will be brought to his knees by this illness that has swept like a tsunami through my family. I also have to accept that this may never happen and that he may be one of the few who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. My son is a massive trigger for me, I can see so many traits of myself in him that it scares me; he knows how to push my buttons. When I’m with him I can swing from love to frustration to hate to fear to anger and back again in the space of a minute. I love him but loathe his behaviors. I should know better but I continue to expect rational behavior from an irrational person. When the phone rings and his number pops up I immediately think the worse, what’s he done now? What does he want? Where is he? Hospital? Police cell? Who’s he hurt/ upset/ robbed/ hit/ hiding from/ upset or who is after him? It’s the same with a text, a seemingly harmless “How are you Mum” results in that fear, what does he want? What’s the ulterior motive? For it seems there is always one. He and I are cut from the same cloth, you can’t kid a kidder. He’s a rubbish liar yet he persists in doing so. He lies when there’s nothing to lie about - it is so ingrained it is second nature. He has no sense of self and no idea how to just be, he is not comfortable in his own skin he is like a chameleon changing skins to fit in. And I being his mother feel so many different emotions when I think of him. I explored these feelings a little in family group on Sunday night and my main feeling is fear. Fear of what he is capable of, fear of his death, a fear of failure as a parent and the fear that he has the ability to make me so angry that I lose control and that dagger inside me jumps out. Fear of the dagger inside him. Ours is not an easy relationship. I heard another piece of sad news this week, a young woman who I nursed in a past job died, she committed suicide when on home leave. It made me think how fragile life is. Sometimes, for these girls, life is too painful to live. This young girl had a desperate life full of abuse and pain, as Wyn said the other night, sometimes people like her turn to drink or drugs as it is the only way to cope, to come through the emotional pain. She didn’t have any support. She felt totally alone, un-nurtured and unloved by those who were supposed to protect and care for her. I remembered a day on the ward when the hard snow came a few years ago, the patients had really enjoyed themselves making snowmen having snowball fights with staff, she ran in breathless grabbed me and another staff member and said, eyes shining “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE”. It was the happiest I had ever seen her and I was so glad I could share that with her. There was an incredible sad inevitability about her short life. This week has been a difficult one, it’s been overwhelming at times and I have felt stressed snappy and doubted my ability to cope. My work is very stressful at present we have had 4 new admissions over the last month and the ward is now full. Staffs are finding it hard to cope and the patients are going through the stormy period as it’s been a massive change for everyone. Everyone reacts differently; some people put their heads down and get on with it, others complain and can’t see a way through and are negative. I’ve been trying to hand it over, I know I’m powerless over people places and things and that this too will pass but it’s quite difficult when you’re in the thick of it. It seems that everyone wants a piece of you, you walk through the door and everyone accosts you. I accept it comes with the territory but it feels as though I’m being bombarded. I have to be careful; stress is not good for me at all. The eating plan has been followed this week. I had one instance of over-eating a little on Thursday. I came home from group on Thursday, my partner had gone to a gig and I was looking forward to my tea, a chicken pie, when I got back I had been left a tiny piece of pie and I was really hungry. My partner’s brother had come over and he had offered him some tea as he was dishing up when he arrived. I was rather perturbed about this, and felt angry, it meant I was hungry. I over-ate at supper I had 4 crackers instead of 2. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re following an eating plan its significant as you have deviated from it and this means you are in active addiction. I can try to rationalize it by saying I was hungry all I like. This, combined with stress at work, made me feel restless, irritable and then I start beating myself up and the negativity creeps in “You’re useless, you’re hopeless, you may as well just eat, you’re big fat and ugly, you should be ashamed, you can’t even do this properly, you’re a failure; then I start loathing my body. I have to repeat “I am the right weight for me today” and trust to believe it. It’s hard when I feel like this. Work today was again difficult, lots of challenges and another new client thrown in to the mix, coupled with staff feeling the strain and finding it hard to manage the shift. You try and support best you can but I do recognize that I need to keep myself safe and try not to personalize the negative comments, they are not directed at me they are directed at the situation that we are placed in. I need to look for solutions and put the processes in place to try to keep the team and the patients safe. I need to ask for help and not be too proud and accept that I cannot change the current situation. I snapped and swore at a colleague on the phone this afternoon when we had a visitor in the office, I apologized instantly and admitted I was in the wrong, I also apologized to the visitor for my unprofessionalism but it was a warning to watch myself. I haven’t done much step-work this week so feel I need to up the program and start looking at step 1 in regards to my eating. It’s time now. I’m looking forward to going on retreat as that helps cement my recovery and always gives me a boost which will help me in the run-up to Christmas. I have a one-to-one on Tuesday so that will help too. Julie

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My reply to James's email that accompanied his blog 'A New World'.

My reply to James's blog who, in his email to me, said this: ' funny I did a writing group today on faith and fear, I wonder where my faith is in this time of my life'. My dear Jim, Faith is a doing word. We have to meet God half way. If I ask someone to do something for me by Friday I have to trust that that guy will do it, and let go. Likewise with God. But whatever is going on in your life, I know one thing: that it has everything to do with your recovery. No matter how bleak or hopeless a situation is, there’s ALWAYS something positive lurking underneath. So look for that positive continually, and you will ALWAYS find it. And once you’ve found it – as you always will if you look long and hard enough – you will have found the solution to your problem. This is the practical way of doing Step 3. If you don’t yet trust God, trust what I say. My love and thanks for the piece. I’ve put it up on our blog. Who knows who will read it!

A New World

A New World August 8, 2014 Jim McGovern Pulling up out in front, I saw a couple of little black kids and a white one playing on the steps at a recreation center in Port Richmond. By their interaction, you could tell they were buddies. There was a time in the not-that-distant past where such a thing would have been unheard of. Growth, diversity, change, tolerance. Attitudes that can change a neighborhood…and a world. On yet another beautiful non-humid August night, having heard on the radio driving up about the massacres going on in Northern Iraq that were fueled by religious fanatics, la grande difference, struck me. Then there was the news that the bombings back’n’forth in Gaza, started up again moments after the 72-hour cease fire. About 45 minutes later, our 12-step meeting began. The topic and chapter was about the spiritual solution to our deadly disease. Eventually the literature makes it very clear that the Higher Power that will tear us away from the hell of our addicted lives is one of our own understanding. The practical step-by-step method to become aware of and then do - the will of our Creator, is what the steps and program is all about. Never is it far from my consciousness how world-changing it would be for a Shite, a Sunni, an Israeli, a Palestinian, a Christian and a Kurd to sit in a meeting together and to practice the 12 steps. The will of God, the will of Allah, the grasp of our Destiny that the sanctity of open-mindedness can lead us to, IS A MEANS to change our world. 14 years ago this very night was the first of the rest of my life without a drink or a drug. 8/8/00. Eights are huge in my life. My mom was 88 when she died. 1988 was when my dad died. On 8/3/98 a spiritual experience had near a minutes worth of pins and needles cascade my body as the thought ‘you will be insulated and protected because you believed that I love you’ stammered through my brain. 8’s – lay them flat and you have the Infinity sign. My wonder of how to pay back for that love, evolved into the taking of those steps to the world. Unfortunately I have not gotten very far. My book “12 Steps to Change the World” has not made much of a splash…my sloth and despair and lack of marketing focus or know how, get in my way. May my Higher Power guide me to and my world to overcome.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Blog 2nd November to the 9th of November The next Step in becoming a well person

Blog 2nd November to the 9th of November When I get stressed I get bitchy. I find it hard to be upfront and honest with people and tell them that their behavior has upset me (unless they are one of the patients) I think it’s a combination of different feelings and emotions, fear of the unknown, fear of the reaction, fear of having to deal with their anger, fear that they will tell everyone what an evil old harridan I am. It does not come easily to me. In the past I have either avoided it totally and hoped it would go away, or I’ve discussed my anger and my self-righteousness with half a dozen other people in a very unprofessional manner all before half past seven in the morning! When I was in active addiction that is just what I did. Now I’m in recovery that doesn’t work anymore. Maybe when I was in active addiction I did so many other dreadful things that the bitching and the backbiting didn’t seem that big a deal. Now in recovery I don’t make the dreadful mistakes of the past so the mistakes I do make are being recognized. I didn’t acknowledge this behavior before I just thought it was part of my personality. It’s not it’s a nasty character defect and it doesn’t sit well with this recovery malarkey. I know what I have to do it’s about plucking up the courage to confront in a sensitive and kind fashion as I would like someone to do to me and accept the other persons reaction without trying to justify sooth or apologies (no mean feat) My other big problem is self-righteous indignation. When Wyn first mentioned that to me I had to go home and look it up in the dictionary. I was furious and called him a few choice words (not to his face but behind his back).The cheek of it! Who did he think he was! After reflection I realized that he was bang on right. I did it a lot; in fact I did it without knowing I was doing it. Judging others, do as I say not as I do. There was me, life a mess in active addiction but I was ever so happy to tell others where they were going wrong and what they should do. I ministered to all and sundry, sound solid advice (or so I thought). And where did it get me? Absolutely nowhere, as it leaves you feeling angry resentful and quite delusional. I’m trying not to dole out the advice now unless I’m asked for it and then try to give it as a suggestion or advice through my own experience, as that’s all I have to give. My own experience strength and hope. This situation arose in work this week, one of my nurses had a close family bereavement and another nurse had swapped a shift with her. I informed the one nurse of the sad news of the other and the first words out of her mouth were “What about the shift swap” Well………………… I was shocked, upset, angry and amazed that someone could be so insensitive. So shocked that I had to discuss it with several people instead of the person herself! I shared it in group and again those words, those bloody words that have begun to haunt me I was accused of “self-bloody righteous indignation” This time I didn’t have to look it up in a dictionary. It was true; I was putting my values and beliefs on to another person. Instead of addressing it there and then, I let it fester and things that fester bother me and play on my mind and before I know it I’m preoccupied and the cycle of bitchiness and talking behind someone’s back starts again. God, this is a learning curve. I learn lessons every day and some of them are quite hard to swallow. I have an action plan, she’s on leave and I will speak to her honestly when she comes back, tell her how her reaction made me feel and how I felt it came across and listen to her response. That’s the right way to deal with it. The other dilemma this week has been visiting my mother. When we go down to see her she normally makes a big Sunday lunch, I’m on an eating plan and not to follow it means active addiction. My mother is a big enough trigger as it is without throwing food in to the equation, but I don’t want to upset her by refusing her food which she sees as a mortal insult. I shared this in group the suggestion was take your own food, stick to the plan. I asked my higher power to guide me when I was doing the sitting with my feelings in an empty room exercise. I know the group is right. I text her and told her not to cook for me as I would bring my own and she text back saying that was fine. Planning is the key. I can’t do ad hock when it comes to food. My 1:1 session was cancelled this week as Wyn had to go to Cardigan. I felt as though I had been given a get out of jail free card as we were going to discuss my Dad. My Dad died eight years ago on March the 9th. I loved him very much, and for some odd reason when Wyn asks me about him I get very tearful. I talk about him a lot but not as part of my recovery. I talk about the funny things he did and said when he was alive. I have talked a lot about my mother and her influence on me but not at all about my father. I am aware that he is on a pedestal and this has also transferred on to my children who talk about him and remember him in almost sainted and reverential terms. He died at the age of 63 of leukemia, he asked me to look after my mother and the children as he lay in hospital dying. I think he knew the fractiousness of my relationship with my mother and was scared that the tie would be severed after he went. He was a good man and I feel disloyal talking about him. My greatest fear as a child and as an adult was that something would happen to him or that he would cut me off and disown me if I did something that displeased him. I was never really honest with him for that reason. I just stopped telling him things or communicating with him on any deeper level. I know that he loved me; I was scared of disappointing him. It’s hard for a child to live like that so you begin to lie or avoid telling the truth for fear of disapproval. I also know that at some stage I have to explore these feelings and knock him off that pedestal. I presume that’s the next chapter in becoming a well person. Julie

Monday, 3 November 2014

"5th October to 1st November. Sanity returns.

Blog 25thOcotber to the 1st of November After the trials and tribulations of last week, things have finally calmed down. I went to OA on Monday and it was good to share with like-minded individuals. When I was there it struck me as rather amusing that I had let something as trivial as a pizza become such an enormous big deal. I was thrilled to bits when someone else shared their obsession with oven chips. It made me realize how all these items food, drink, drugs are the symptoms not the cause. It was not the pizza that was at fault on Saturday night it was the person who felt that need that craving and that desire beyond all other desires to order that pizza. Putting down your chosen substance or poison as a friend of mine likes to call it is the tip of the iceberg, its delving deal in to the murky waters and discovering why you feel the need to cope in that way that really counts. I have followed the food plan this week to the ticket, no negotiation, no substituting and no playing around with it, despite being invited to two gatherings both with food. I’ve had a busy week (and not busy in the look at me I’m so busy I’ve not got time to stop as I’m so important week) it has been one of those what I call “ bitty” weeks at work, where it seems as though your getting nowhere fast. Consequently this had led to some frustration, lots of saying the serenity prayer and lots of reminders to self that I am powerless over people places and things. I’ve been trying to bring myself in to the moment when I feel overwhelmed by it all and reassure myself that I can cope and this too will end. Trying to see the funny side also helps. I had an interesting afternoon this week, in my old job I felt that I was bullied, I had never experienced this in over 20 years of Nursing and it came as a shock to me. Somehow when you’ve never experienced bullying before you think you’re immune to it and when I was actually in the middle of it I was trying so hard to just keep afloat that I doubted myself and wandered if I was losing my sanity. This week a few people from the head of the company came to speak to me about it, I never reported it but my name had been given as someone to talk to regarding a culture of bullying in the hospital that I worked in. I had forgotten how much it had affected me and I found it really cathartic. As a result of this programme the 12 steps, I was not frightened any more, and I was totally honest. I gave them a true reflection of my experience strength and hope and I felt validated. I had total trust that I was doing the right thing. Prior to this I would have been plagued with self-doubt, fear and overwhelming panic. After they left, I found myself slipping into old habits, I began to have to good old “bitch fest” with another staff member who had also experienced the same thing. I had to stop myself and look at my behavior. Carrying resentments is no good for me, it causes me pain anger and preoccupation, and having any expectations of the outcome of the investigation would be just as bad. I just have to trust that justice will be served I the right way and as long as my side of the street is clean, I have nothing to fear. The end of the week has been lovely. I attended a Halloween party on Friday night, before this we had a ward party where all the staff and the patients dressed up for Halloween and had a disco. One of the staff nurses who is also known as the Legend burst in to the office in full pirate regalia carrying a fake cutlass shouting “ARR Jim Lad” She then announced “I can see really well through this eye patch” It’s fantastic when someone makes a real effort to brighten the day of others and all the staff on the ward really threw themselves in to making it a special evening. It’s tough being in hospital but I really think that little events like that make a difference and boost everyone’s spirts. A great time was had by all. The party was fun, there was drink but I had an action plan, I was on call and also I left when it started to become a little louder to go home. I was even able to sing some Karaoke without liquid refreshment (apart from tea) Tonight was fireworks in Coopers field. It always sounds best when you say “Sparks in the Park” in a Cardiff accent. My best friend and her children and grandchildren always make it a date and it was a real joy to see the look on her little granddaughters face gazing in awe at the fireworks. My bestie then bought her a light-up Mickey Mouse that she kept thrusting at people saying “Look what Nanna got me” she is just so cute. So different and so much better than the year that I took 2 bottles of brandy hot chocolate to the same event!!!!!!! Chaos reigned, and that is the insanity of this illness, thinking that was perfectly acceptable. And so I plod on, working this recovery, onwards and upwards to the next week. Julie

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Blog 24th of October. We didn’t plan what to do when we returned. There was nothing waiting for us. I should have thought.

Blog 24th of October 2014 I’m typing this on the mega bus to London. It’s been an interesting week. A week on annual leave. I’ve always found holidays difficult especially when trying to stick to a food plan, there’s something inside me that thinks holidays! Yeah! Reward yeah! Do what you like, please yourself, eat your body weight in crispy cremes, go for meals, rules do not apply. Of course I can’t do that now, I signed the contract, not to follow that would make it a bit of a sham and a mockery and who would I be trying to spite? Just myself as per usual, self-sabotage. I’ve done it all this week, all the negative thinking, the bargaining, the, it’s only a rice cracker, I’m eating it standing up so it doesn’t count. Well I’m not eating my binge foods cake, biscuits, sweets and chocolate. I’ve noticed the justifications, the ohh my God this is it for ever projection. Why am I still running? People have complimented me this week, well-meaning good people, people I love, people I trust then why do I want to punch them for doing it? Is it because I think that they didn’t like me before? That I wasn’t good enough, too fat, too big, too heavy? These are all the things that my recovery needs me to look at, and look at it I have to do or I will end up with my hand in the cookie jar. This week I have been in active addiction, whether I like it or not, I broke the contract and made up my own rules. I always find it easier to be organized when I’m at work, I have a routine I have structure, therefore I have identified a trigger. Holidays and the feelings and emotions they carry for me. I’ve often become really ill on or following holidays, it’s like my brain and body keep going, keep running then bang, I crash. It happens time and time again. Most people wind down on holidays, for me they both excite and scare me. Another identification that hit me this week when having a one to one and exploring the first chapter of my life story was to examine the two feelings that leapt out at me in chapter one and they are loneliness and fear. A year ago if you had asked me if I was ever lonely, I would have laughed in your face or become quite angry. How could I be lonely? I always made sure that I was surrounded by others? I’ve got four children, I work with people. I’m never on my own. And why am I never on my own? Because I fear it, because I can’t cope with it. I used to think I loved it but now looking back it was an opportunity for me to act out, I did the bulk of binging on my own, I used cannabis on my own, I indulged in harmful behaviour on my own because I couldn’t sit with myself and my own feelings. I push them down, I eat them away. I distract myself from them by losing myself in something else, anything not to let them in. I used to say I threw all my memories in a box in my brain and locked it, that’s how I dealt with my Jekyll and Hyde behaviour’s almost justifying them because that person wasn’t really me. I developed an alter ego when I was drinking, I would even say “I’m going over to the dark side”. There was a point in the evening when my eyes would glaze and my friends would know they had lost me. Perhaps that’s when I entered blackout. I was asked to do an exercise and that was to sit on my own in a room with no distractions and just sit with my feelings. The thought of this did not particularly thrill me to be honest. I was to try this for 10 minutes every day. I tried it, I sat there and it was horrible, I was eight again on my own in the house, scared, waiting, back and forth to the cupboards to look for sweet things when the adverts came on, thinking of food watching TV, back and forth, back and forth. Lonely, bored, angry, upset. The feelings came flooding back. Memories and feelings that I had not allowed myself to feel for a long time. There were lot of distractions there too, my whimsies, my teddy, drawing, reading, coping mechanisms. I did what was suggested I tried to comfort the child within. I put my arm around her, told her it would be all right, put my hand in hers, suggested nice things to do, healthy things to do and I told her that I loved her and I would look after her now. After this I felt as I always do when I go back there, either by memory or talking disassociated. It’s a feeling that I’m looking at life from behind a screen or a TV set. One of the first times I noticed it happening was after I found my inner child in the Living Room; I was confronted by someone I love in the family group and I went straight in to the inner child. I wanted to run to scream to hit out and it scared the hell out of me. I disassociated after that episode and it took a week to finally feel that I fitted back together again. It’s my defence mechanism, my default setting, and when I look at it I’ve done it for years, another unhealthy coping mechanism. I’m not always aware that it’s happening either, I’m finding out and discovering it. The aim is not to do it, to be able to comfort that child myself so I don’t have to go to that place where you can’t or don’t feel. Following the sitting alone with my feelings session 10 minutes that felt like an hour. I decided to do something creative to get my feelings down on paper, so I made a collage. Trying to create something out of this process is important to me, as I will be able to look back and chart my growth. I also wrote two letters this week saying goodbye to drugs and alcohol. I enclose them in this blog as I want to share them with you. Saturday night. I want to record exactly what happened so I can get an angle on it. It happened so quickly so naturally I wasn’t even aware that it was happening. As reported above I had played with my eating plan this week, I was on holidays, all the excuses, it wasn’t always practical, difficult to plan, wanted a lie-in, eating out, not letting other people down, couldn’t be bothered, feeling angry (sitting on the pity pot) why couldn’t I just be normal around food. I think that I was setting the seeds. In London I did pretty well considering, I followed the eating plan until the afternoon, missing out my snack (time constraints) or so I justified, I then went for a meal before the show and faltered ordering a starter and main course in a Thai restaurant. It was delicious, and I did all the bargaining and justification going. I’m on holidays, I deserve a treat, and it’s only a small starter (I didn’t have my snack this afternoon) I enjoyed it, but again after it came, the vague sense of uneasiness - for the second time this week I wanted to self-induce vomiting, the urge was strong, to get this food out of me. The first time it happened was earlier in the week when I had played with my food plan again and gone to Miller and Carter for lunch (making this my evening meal) swapping the two, in active addiction, defying my food plan. I shared these feelings with my partner, I also shared how now I felt fat ugly rubbish and uncomfortable as I had eaten too much. I didn’t vomit; the urge lasted for a few minutes. I did feel guilty and shamed and pissed off. The concert was fab, the next day the food saga began again, breakfast at the hotel, again couldn’t control it, and diverted from eating plan again, not by much but it’s enough. I ate an extra piece of toast and some cheese and ham. Then no snack in the morning, before getting on the coach we stopped in a shopping centre, I went off to get some perfume for my daughter who was 21 that day and my partner had a coffee in Costa whilst he waited for me. I waited to save the table as he got his coffee and as he walked back I was mighty miffed to see a caramel shortbread on his plate, at least he had the grace to look a bit sheepish, “I’m sorry” he said, “That’ OK” I replied, although it can’t have been really, can it? I want it to be; it’s not my responsibility what other people do, who am I to say you can’t eat a caramel slice. I suppose it reminds me of what I can’t do and why. I was back on track in the afternoon, I bought a salad to eat on the coach and a nakd bar and managed that well. On the coach I had an idea, it came to me, order a Pizza on line when I get back and slob in front of the sofa watching crap TV. My daughter was having friends over as it was her 21’st; they would be using the kitchen, how lovely, what a treat, what a cwtchy evening. I was made up and excited. We got back, I sat down, read a little, turned on the TV and then ordered on-line. And I ordered enough for a family of 4. It was actually called feed 4 for 5 pound each. It comprised 2 large pizzas, wedges and garlic bread, I also ordered 6 dips. It came, I was delighted. My daughter picked it up from the door and piled it on the table, she asked if she could have some, I was mortified, pissed off and annoyed. This was mine, I ordered it (even though I could have fed the street). My look said it all, she said “For God’s sake!” and walked out. I opened the box, the first one was a large bacon and cheese, I was just about to stuff it in to my mouth when my partner intervened (for the first time in this entire ordering process) “Should you be eating that in here?” I was furious; I could feel the rage, the helplessness, the being caught out. It dawned on me, for the first time, I was in active addiction and though the entire process I had not acknowledged it once. I was in free-fall, automatic pilot, as Wyn says, I had by passed the” intellect” and the “conscience” and gone straight across to the “will” (action). It was frightening I was really not even aware that I had done it until those words fell from my partner’s mouth. And then I felt rage towards him, why hadn’t he stopped me? Why did he have to say that then? Why was he interfering? Why was he taking control at such a late stage? Why was he so cruel? I blamed him, I made it about him, I see myself and him joined together, he took my responsibility and made it his but he did it way, way too late in the process. Straight in to inner child, panic, hands to face, feelings and emotions out of control, what to do? I’ve bought it, I have to eat it, and there was nowhere to go. My partner insisted we turned the TV off, again I was angry and upset, spoilt my plans of having a “nice” evening. My head was spinning by this point, I felt totally overwhelmed. Point of no return, so I ate. I ate 4 pieces of pizza, some wedges and 1 slice of garlic bread. I dipped everything in a sour cream and chive dip. Then my poor partner wanting to make it better began his own method of justifications, “We couldn’t have gone in the kitchen, the girls are in there drinking alcohol” “We didn’t plan what to do when we came back, there was nothing waiting for us” “I should have thought” Again, after the event the shame, the guilt, the wanting to go to the toilet and throw it up. The sense of failure, I’m useless, I’m fat, I’m a pig, I’m vile. I wanted to pull at my fat to torment and beat myself up. I wanted to punch my fat. I hated my body. I hated the fact I was so useless. The thoughts come in, bad thoughts, “I’ve done it now, fuck it, this eating plan is stupid, it’s too hard, I can’t do this, and recovery is taking everything I love from me. It calmed down a little and after I finished my partner tool the plates and the leftovers, of which there were loads, into the kitchen for my daughter and her friends. When he came back he asked me why I ordered so much. I had never thought about this before, but it’s so true and it always happens. I order far too much, I could never eat it all. I over-order in restaurants, I over-buy in super markets as I’m scared that there will not be enough to meet my needs. I am frightened that I will not be satisfied, that someone will have more than me. Sharing a plate is torture, I am constantly aware and watching what the other person is eating. Panic rising, what if there’s not enough, what if I’m still not satisfied, then the anger if they take too much, there won’t be enough for me. I used to do it with alcohol too and woe betides anyone if I ever ran out of drugs. I could sometimes have 2 ounces in the house at one time as I had over- ordered due to the fear. If there are two people I will order double. I needed to get this down on paper whist it was fresh. I needed to look at it to explore it to understand it. I lapsed so quickly, so easily, it scared me. I woke this morning feeling wretched, angry, defiant, blaming and avoiding. I avoided going downstairs as I knew the kitchen would be full of remnants from last night’s party. Dregs and smells of alcohol and fags. I knew by avoiding I was in active addiction. I was angry at myself; I felt like a child, I felt I had let everyone down and most of all myself. I felt very sorry for my predicament. Then I began to blame my partner and felt hostile and angry towards him. I went downstairs and I shared my feelings with him, then I burst in to tears. I was angry because we had not planned; angry for the late intervention; angry for being angry with him. We went upstairs and lay on the bed, the cat came to lie beside me, “See I said, she loves me whatever size I am” My poor partner sighed and said “So do I” I don’t believe that, and that’s what I need to work on - loving all the bits of me - good and bad. The Not the food - that’s just a symptom. I needed to share this with you, and to be as honest as I could about it. I’m going to a meeting later. I have a plan for today. I intend to stick to it. Julie Goodbye to Alcohol October 23, 2014 Alcohol Dear Alcohol It’s taken me a long time to be able to write this letter, one year one month and one day of recovery to be precise. I was ready to stop back then, now I am finally ready to let you go. We had some good times, some fantastic, amazing times. It was at those times that I thought I could only truly be myself with you inside me. In the beginning our relationship was fractious and exciting and it remained that way throughout. You made me confident, I could speak my mind. I could be brutally honest. You took me higher than any mood, any drug, you made my ego spiral, I was on top of my own pedestal. With you by my side I could sing like Adele, dance like Madonna and look like Catherine Zeta Jones. I was the most extraordinary beauty, and you were lucky to be seen with me. With you I cared about nothing, I was generous to a fault, with no responsibilities. I could do what I wanted with who I wanted when I wanted. With you I knew no fear, together we would fight the world, take them on. Fuck ‘em and chuck ‘em. At the end of the night I was happy to be alone with you, you me the music and a mirror. I loved us both so much. When we were good we were amazing, you made me feel sexy, desirable and desired. We were a wild outrageous partnership, dramatic, theatrical, rock and roll, cool, unpredictable, playful and never ever boring. I loved you; I loved the euphoric highs you gave me, the craziness, the tales of debauchery, the madness and the badness. I never learnt through the mistakes we made together, I kept returning to you time and time again. I couldn’t imagine my life without you. I had tried being apart from you once but I just couldn’t, my life had been angry, cold boring and empty. In the cold light of day, after the binge, I was wrecked. My life was narrow, in my wake a trail of chaos and destruction. Hurt people wherever I looked. Memory loss, hangovers that lasted for days, black eyes, hospital beds, police cells, family and friends driven to distraction. We were playing Russian roulette but I was the lucky one - by calling it off I dodged that last bullet. You gave me secrets, lies, layers upon layers of lies; misery, humiliation, loss of dignity total loss of inhibitions. I ended up scrabbling in the dirt, knickers round my ankles. I was a bully; I was harsh, pathetic, needy, desperate, sly, silly, unreliable, hedonistic, irritating, horrible, nasty, and capable of anything, immoral, crude, lewd, vicious, boring and hopeless. And through all that I still clung to you, totally under your spell. Knocking you back, drinking you down without a second thought. Then there came that dark time when I was incapacitated by you, when you would have taken everything if I didn’t lie down and surrender to you. You had beaten me. I changed into a monster the minute I was with you, a menace to society, we created a monster together. So farewell: my husband, my lover, my friend, my once-loyal companion. No longer do I remembering through the rose tints. I remember it as it was, a bloody nightmare I was a bloody nightmare Julie x

Sunday, 19 October 2014

13th - 19th October - I've no control over those first thoughts.

Blog 13th to 19th of October I’m sitting here reflecting on last week and in my tired state I find it hard to remember a great deal. It seems to have gone quickly, I’ve followed my eating plan, the times of my meal plan went a little askew on Wednesday as I went to the theater, the show started at 7.00 so I was late 10pm having my evening meal and I missed my cheese and crackers. I used to find it difficult when something like that happened and I would not have eaten at all or stopped off and bought a takeaway on the way home then binged in the car. I didn’t have to do that. I went to OA on Monday (a bigger meeting this week) I get a lot of association in listening to the stories of experience strength and hope in their lifestyle sampler book (an OA version of the big book). Sharing openly also helps, I’m getting used to being honest about my problem instead of minimizing it or trying to hide it. Let’s face it you can hardly hide the fact that you’re an overeater (the world and its wife can clearly see that) I still have cravings, Friday and Saturday night are difficult as they used to be my binge nights, I would get loads of chocolate, ice cream and cake and scoff in front of the TV. I used to hope that everyone would be out so that I could indulge myself without fear of retribution or disgusted looks, or I would entice everyone else to take place in the binging, by bringing it in to the lounge and putting it on the table for us all to share. If I was binging so was everyone else, that made me feel less guilty that made it all right. I taught my daughter a lot of my behaviors in that way, I conditioned her in to seeing food as a comfort as a reward and as a treat for a busy weeks work. Consequently she developed a weight problem. I knew from my own background that I could not pass comment on this as I was so conscious of how I had hurt when my own mother constantly reminded me, so I ignored it, the proverbial elephant in the room. This week again has helped me to accept that I am powerless over people places and things, there are major changes in my work place that are going to happen no matter what I say or do. I could waste time and energy trying to fight them but for what gain? Or I can approach them proactively work with them and try and make the best possible outcome for all parties. That’s how living the program helps me. The week ended on a happy and positive note my eldest and youngest son returned home for weekend. It’s my eldest birthday on Sunday, he will be 24 and he’s bringing his girlfriend back to Cardiff to meet the family. On Saturday evening we are going to have a little party, I continue to feel a little nervous before these events as they used to be the scenes of a lot of my drinking. I’ve held about 4 gatherings since being in recovery and I’ve really enjoyed them, probably as I can remember them. It’s lovely to wake the following day with a clear head and no creeping feeling of dread as I wander who I may or may not have hurt upset or embarrassed. This time all I have to worry about is the buffet, I have a plan not to buy any sweet items only savory therefor avoiding my binge and trigger foods. I’m also going to try and relax and enjoy myself. I have the week off next week and I plan to use it productively by doing some more step work and seeing a few friends. Next Friday we are off to London to a concert and I’m also going to put a plan in place to cope with that. Forearmed is forewarned. Onwards and upwards as they say. Saturday night went well, oddly it wasn’t the food that was so much of a problem, I ate some buffet but did not binge just picked a little. I’ve had 2 nights that have involved a lot of people drinking in the house. On Friday night my eldest son returned home with his new girlfriend for a long weekend, he asked if he could have a gathering in the house which is fine. There must have been about 14 young adults who invaded the kitchen as we sat in the lounge watching TV. As the evening went on they got louder and louder and it made me feel a little nostalgic, so I took my self-off to bed to try some meditation. On the Saturday night I walked in to the kitchen to find my friend trying to pour a drink of vodka hiding the fact from me. It’s my problem not yours I said so there’s no need to come out here and pour one in secret. I felt like Father Jack. I wandered if I should lunge towards her shouting drink? I enjoyed the night but again I had a sense of nostalgia of missing out, would I be more fun if I was drinking? Now I and everyone on earth knows the answer to that and it’s a firm NO. That’s where this illness is so sneaky, it creeps up on you and places those thoughts in your head and when those thoughts come you have to kill them. Was I the life and soul of the party last night, no I wasn’t, but do I need to be, no I don’t. I didn’t feel on top form but that’s all right as well. I was myself as I didn’t need to hide behind anything. My partner got in and he had been drinking after watching the rugby again it was a reminder, he can, I can’t. I would never begrudge anyone else a drink but being in close vicinity to someone who has been drinking and smelling drink on breath and clothes can be tricky, that’s why I shared it with him. And that’s why I wanted to share these thoughts through my blog. I know if I share them it takes the power out of them, it was not surprising that I has a drinking dream in the night. I have them now and again that I relapse and decide to keep it a secret, it’s such a relief to wake and find out that I’ve been sleeping. I’ve also got nothing to hide behind anymore, no drink, no drugs, no food, just me trying to deal with life without using anything outside of myself. It’s as easy or as difficult as I want to make it. Julie

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Blog 5th October to the 12th October . Abstinence Rules!

Blog 5th October to the 12th October I recognized some triggers this week, some things that really make me tick and bring out my impulsive side. One of those triggers is rudeness. Now call me old fashioned but I do appreciate a bit of common courtesy and some people I encounter fall far short of it. People who send emails in particular, it is easy to sit typing furiously behind a big box everyday barking orders at all and sundry in an I’m so busy and important fashion, but not so easy to speak to people face to face. This week I received one of these emails, not a please not a thank you, not a kiss my big fat Welsh arse, just a series of demands followed by question marks and exclamation marks. I was not a happy lady. And everyone in a 10 mile vicinity knew this “Have you seen this……….. who does she think she is…………. Talking to me like that…………… she’s only about 12 ……………… cheeky rude ………….. needs to learn some manners” The staff in the office were all in agreement, choruses of “They are all rude at head office, and don’t stand for it Jul” spurred me on, so I fired one back. Mine was polite and proportionate I told her how I felt and asked her to be more mindful and professional in future correspondence. Then spent a few hours preoccupied and fearful I was going to be in trouble. Inside the mind of an addict ehhh strange place to be. Why had this bothered me so much? What was it about the tone of that email that had riled me? I don’t like criticism as I’m a sensitive soul, I’ll only take it from certain people (and they are people that I trust implicitly) and I can bristle with self-righteous indignation even then ( I had to look the meaning of that up in the dictionary not so long ago) And I really can’t abide rudeness, why do people think it’s their God given right to point out to you every mistake every personal observation about you and expect you to sit there and say “Thanks for that” I have to challenge rudeness, I do it impulsively and often become rude myself. What is it that angers me so much about it? I think it stems from the past when family members think it’s for your own good to point out every flaw, every freckle, every pound lost or gained and every aspect of you that they don’t like. Rudeness and public humiliation go hand and hand for me and I have to watch myself when they are about. My eating plan is plodding on, I’m happy with it but this week the thoughts have been creeping about restricting, I’m looking at the food on my plate and wandering is it too big a portion? It clearly isn’t as I have my own plate and I’m a 46 year old woman who is perfectly capable of regulating a portion size. I also found myself looking up diet pills on the internet but I shared it in OA and the Living Rooms. It’s my illness whispering in the background but I’m not going to listen to it, they are thoughts they can’t hurt me. I’ve also worked out that I am amazingly sensitive about being told that I’ve lost weight. I then think well I’m not good enough as I am as they keep mentioning the weight loss, they must want me to be smaller and it’s a self-perpetuation prophesy cycle of negative thinking. No scales or weighing either as I become obsessed and leap on and off with gay abandon 20 times a day becoming demoralized and angry if I haven’t lost 7 stone in a day. I know it’s not going to fall off over night, it took a long time to build up the surplus so it’s going to take as equally long a time to get it off. It will happen but slowly gradually and sustainably and it’s not a diet. If I keep repeating I can eat anything savory and I am the right weight for me today I will be fine. Wyn also said something that resonated with me last week, he said that our bodies were the work of God and by being so self-critical and damning of myself I was really being disrespectful to God as our bodies are amazing feats of creation. I liked that and it and I have thought about it a lot. My week has been good, a week of insights and dawns of realization. I have tried to help others and be of service. I have realized that there is no point sometimes in getting angry and fighting the world sometimes you just have to face facts that no matter what you say or advise events are going to occur anyway and you have to find a way through and at the same time cause the minimum amount of damage limitation for all concerned. When you accept you can stop fighting and get on with the task in hand. I attended OA and shared for the first time, it felt quite liberating to say the words bulimia out loud and the full magnitude of the daily battle that has been playing out in my mind and body for years exposed and laid bare for everyone to hear. I feel that way with all my addictions now no hiding, no denying who I am or what I am, no point in lying , I don’t care who knows, and that’s not out of bravado it’s a fact. The other miracle that occurred this week was that I had a reply to my amend letter and it was so gracious and loving that it made me quite emotional. I attended the Making Minds art exhibition on Friday in Llantrisant with two friends, what a lovely evening, it was great to meet some of the artists and chat with them about their work. There were some great exhibits done by people who have or work with people with mental health issues. I will be in to my third week on Monday 13th, the process started on the 24th so 14 days free of sweets, chocolate, cake and biscuits. I did put myself through the torture of the bake off this week but only as it was the final and I wanted to see who would win the completion. ( thats a lie I really wanted to swoon over Paul Hollywood and his buns) but I do not think I’m alone in those thoughts of Paul draped in puff pastry kneading a focaccia. And with that thought I will bid goodnight……………………………………. Julie

Monday, 6 October 2014

Blog 29th SEptember to 5th October - How my eating disorder is becoming ordered.

Blog 29th September to 5th October Autumn is now well and truly upon us and there is a definite nip in the air. This week I attended OA for the first time, without being dragged kicking and screaming in to the room. I’ve resisted it for a whole year but I know it’s the right place for me. I wasn’t at all nervous as I know the format (just substitute being powerless over alcohol or drugs to being powerless over food) They read a passage from the OA big book and then its sharing time. I must admit there was a lot of association, it made me feel hopeful that there is a way out. Some of the people in the room had been attending for years and it was evident from their shares that this program had really worked for them. I made a decision to attend weekly from now on, I feel I could do with the extra support network of a group and next week I will share. My friend attends and early on in her recovery I advised her (tongue in cheek) to avoid saying the words “My names …… and I’m an odor eater “instead of an overeater. I’ll try and make sure I don’t make that error next Monday. Work has been busy this week, lots of ups and downs. I’ve been quite fearful about not being organized. My food plan involves a lot of prethinking preparation and planning so I need to stay focused. The plan is easy to follow but I have to be in a structured routine. In the past I’ve been able to sustain one for a week or so and then it all degenerates and I find myself with nothing in the house and the Indian takeaway on speed dial. At the moment I feel in control of it but I have to be careful that needing to control doesn’t spill over to my work life. When I try to do that I become stressed and overwhelmed and that’s when I’m in danger of acting out. I was angry this week as Wednesday did not go to plan, I was supposed to go on assessment to Devon with a colleague and they forgot to ring me to tell me plans had changed. I found out at about 10 after cancelling all plans for the day. At first I was quite annoyed and frustrated. I found myself being short tempered and wanting to say derogatory things, thankfully I didn’t but instead I ploughed my energies in to tidying the office. I suppose positive came out of negative and I got a clean office. I’ve also been projecting, we are going to London on the 24th to see a band and I’m already focusing on what I can eat, and thinking about binging. When I’ve been away before its binge city as I feel I have to treat myself as I’m on holiday. I almost feel I deserve it and talk myself in to it. I have to put a plan in place to avoid this from happening, such as google a restaurant in Camden that would be suitable and avoid becoming too hungry angry or tired. The other ridiculous thing I did this week was tune in to the Great British Bake off. Mistake! Mary Berry is the devil in a floral bomber jacket, I nearly wept as it was the French patisserie challenge and the bakers had to produce afternoon tea cakes. They were to die for. I started to feel irritable and crave. I was still obsessing through Scott and Baily and well in to Wentworth Prison. Even the bright blue eyes of Silver Fox baker Paul Hollywood could not placate me. I have been texting my sponsor every morning and telling her that I followed my food plan yesterday and I am going to follow my food plan today, that makes me focus and feel more positive. I had a 1:1 this week too to talk about the food plan, we decided not to change it as it seems to be working well and I’m not hungry. I have also made time to go to Chapter and see the new Nick Cave film 20,0000 days on earth, I loved it. In early recovery I went to Brighton to see Nick Cave in concert, I was petrified as it was the first time I had been to a concert clean and sober. I had to attend an AA meeting in Brighton where I met a wonderful woman who was 45 years sober. She really was an inspiration and I got through it and was able to relax and enjoy. I have not attended a concert since as I’ve been a little scared, but I’ve bitten the bullet and booked myself two concerts on November, both in a little venue The Globe and both artists that I really love. I need to test myself out in that type of environment as I do miss listening to live music. Again I have a plan, arrive just in time for the band to start, ask my other half to go to the bar and get the drinks (lemonade for me) and then just enjoy the music. Recovery is also a bridge to normal living and there’s a whole word out there that I want to make the most of. I did an amend this week too, I wrote a letter to a woman that I telephoned many years ago to give her some news that was not mine to give her. I have always regretted what I did so I put pen to paper and as honestly as I could apologized. I also typed up a step 10 list of questions to ask myself at the end of everyday like a virus checker to promptly identify any old types of behavior and act on them straight away. I’m looking at step 11 now, and I guess I am searching. At the moment as Wyn says I am meeting God in his kitchen. I did try to go back to church in early recovery but at the time I did not feel as though I belonged there and my old thoughts and feelings towards the church returned. It just wasn’t my God and it made me feel uncomfortable. I think I’m ready now to explore and more open to ideas of what and who my God maybe and I’m praying that I will be guided to the path that’s right for me. I’m just going to enjoy the search. Julie

Sunday, 28 September 2014

21st - 27th September - My Eating Plan works!

21st September to the 27th September blog On Sunday evening I attended the Living Room Family group where I was presented with a card and a beautiful box of toiletries to celebrate my first year in recovery from the amazing support network that I feel privileged to call my friends and second family. There is so much strength and love in that room. On leaving the Living Rooms we headed home to find out that Downtown Abbey was back so I went all lady Mary and sat down to watch. Second week back in work this week, I eased myself in last week but this week I decided to start my new healthy routine with a swim before work. I have done this since early recovery and really enjoy it. It clears my head and I am able to plan my day. I go early now as they open at 6.30 when I started going last October it opened at 7.30 and instead of swimming with dolphins my new hobby became swimming with pensioners. The only problem with this was that although they were lovely they were also really chatty and nosy so I never actually managed to get any swimming done. They were all hard of hearing and all called me “Suelee” I would arrive at the pool side to be greeted with a cheery chorus of “Good morning Suelee”. I miss them. There are some real characters Danny who would do 2 lengths stop look at me and shout “Faster, faster; mind the speed camera” Carl a lovely old man who loved a chin wag and Bob who kept them all in order. I have surprised myself this week; I have been disciplined organized and industrious. I have followed my eating plan to the ticket. I have enlisted the help of all my colleagues in work who have been amazing. After outing myself publically on Facebook I expected a certain amount of curiosity regarding my recovery status. The first person who mentioned it was the house keeper on Monday. “I hope you don’t think I’m being nosy but why have you got 2 birthdays and what was the life changing event?” “I’m an alcoholic and I have an eating disorder” I replied. The response from the staff has been humbling, helpful and encouraging. A few people have approached me and shared stories about their own families and it’s opened up quite a few discussions. Some of the staff have thanked me for being honest and not hiding in the shadows. The fact is I am not ashamed any more, I’m an addict but I’m getting help and the help is working. The staff are actually stopping me in the corridor or ringing me at meal times and telling me to eat, that could be down to the fact that I gave them all permission to slap me if they saw me eat anywhere other than the staff room. Monday evening was special, I was able to collect my first year clean (glow in the dark no less) key ring from NA. I have coveted this for a whole year and now it’s all mine. It gave me a chance to share my gratitude to the fellowship and the good friends there who have supported me over the last year. The 12 step programme does work. I love the key rings the slogan on them says (clean and serene for…….however long you have been in recovery) My sponsor left a bunch of flowers on my door-step and gave me a sobriety coin chip. Tokens like the key ring and the coin chip mean a lot to me, I carry them with me to focus on the fact that with help I have achieved what I never thought was possible. In the early days I used to have terrible dreams that I had drunk and used drugs and NA and AA asked for them to be returned. I would wake up quite traumatized. The rest of the week has been busy but I have made time to eat. I have eaten at the table for my main meals and stuck rigidly to my plan and it’s actually been a lot better than I anticipated. I have not been hungry and not been particularly craving sugar. I have started taking a product called clean greens in my orange juice in the morning, it’s a 5 a day supplement and contains all the goodness of green veg, I don’t know if its psychosomatic but it seems to be keeping the sugar cravings away. A member of the Living Room told me to try it and so far so good. The one thing that did surprise me was the headache I had on Monday night. I think it was due to sugar withdrawal. I am fortunate in that I never get headaches so this little beauty came as a shock, it only lasted for the evening and in typical drama queen style and panicked and thought I was having a stroke. I’ve decided to pick up working on the steps again. I’m looking at step 8 “We made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all” I’ve procrastinated for long enough with this step; it’s a list for God’s sake, not the magna carter! How hard can it be? I’m willing to do this step now. My main amends are to my family, friends and my work and I can do those every day simply by not resorting to my harmful behavior and dangerous and destructive old coping mechanisms. There are some that will require a letter or a wait-until- the-occasion arrives and there are some people that are best left alone, as to seek them out would be detrimental to my recovery. The week has been good, I feel positive and optimistic, onwards and upwards, bring it on October. Julie

Sunday, 21 September 2014

September 14th to September 20th - Julie

September 14th to September 20th 2014 And so it begins: It’s been a busy week. A week in which I returned to work, saw the film Pride and met with Wyn to devise my contract and eating plan. A week that I was able to be totally honest with my cousin about my problems and a week where I had the privilege of attending a creative arts group in the Living rooms in the company of some inspiring people. I am a year clean and sober tomorrow and have so much to be thankful and grateful for. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect.This time last year I was lost, frightened, hopeless, felt useless and had hit rock bottom. When you hit rock bottom you can either stay there, die or surrender. Thank God I chose to surrender. I didn’t intend to surrender, I didn’t set out to surrender I had never really entertained the idea of surrendering before as before I never really wanted to stop. I was in denial. This time it was different I knew I actually wanted out but didn’t quite know how I was going to manage it in the long term. Short term sobriety yes, I could do that but long term (three months was the best I’d managed) was a whole new ball game. I knew I had to find support and a whole new way of life opened up beneath my feet. I first sought help in the fellowships and then as I have multi addictions I was recommended to try the Living Rooms. The first three months of recovery I found the hardest, you need to eat sleep and breathe it, you need to surround yourself with others in recovery who you admire and think “I want what they have” You need to take on board the suggestions they give you and like a small child trust what they say and just practice them without questioning. What do you have to lose? You have to put away your pride and become willing to explore break down, and in some cases, smash your old thinking. You have to find your spiritual side, pick through your past, good and bad, forgive, accept, let go of blame, find trust, and tell the truth. No more lies, no more cheating, no more hurting others, no more hiding. You have to be brave, see yourself as you are and most importantly learn to love yourself and have a relationship with yourself. You find that you have emotions, you have fought and flown from feelings for years and all of a sudden they come back and you have to face them and deal with them. And the good people around you in recovery will support and help you through this process and every day it gets a little easier. I am relying on this trust love and support to carry me through the first few weeks of my eating plan. I’m approaching it with a positive attitude, I no longer want to be a slave to food and I no longer want or need to rely on external substances to make me feel whole. My recovery and my trust in my recovery and my faith in my higher power can do that from now on. My life today is so different from the way it was a year ago, recovery has given me back my mojo. I enjoy life, I have quality relationships with my family and friends. I have met some amazing new friends and gained a whole support network that I had no idea was out there. I am much better at coping with work I am less overwhelmed by life. I have the 12 steps and I have finally realized the key to contentment is to give not to take. I’m also conscious of not being complacent and realise that I need to follow my suggested recovery program one day at a time to remain well and carry the message to other addicts. It has been one hell of a year, a rollercoaster in the early days, there have been tears, tantrums, (but no tiaras) there have been times when I’ve felt I couldn’t do it, times where I’ve sat on the “pity pot”, times when I’ve resented others in the group or blamed others for my behaviors. Change is never easy but it was certainly necessary as this was the year that I finally decided to “grow up” and take responsibility for my own life. And I am so glad I did. I truly feel I’ve been given two lives, one in which to make my mistakes and the second one to learn from them. (not many people get the opportunity to do that) people in recovery do. Lastly I want to thank everyone who has helped supported loved and been patient with me over the last year. They are my family, friends, work colleagues, fellowship friends, my sponsor, the fantastic team and members of the Living Rooms. You rock! 21st September 2014 It has begun, the day has dawned and I realise how defensive I am over this addiction and how touchy I can be. I woke up at 9am and realized that I had 30 minutes to eat breakfast. This was manageable and my eating plan is healthy and gives me a lot of choice, I will not go hungry, not that this has ever been a concern to me as my problem is with the types of food I eat rather than the quantity. When I met with Wyn on Thursday it suddenly struck me how unusual my eating habits were. I had absolutely no structure around eating, no guidelines or no limits. I grazed continuously through the day on foods I considered to taste “nice” and avoided anything I considered hard to eat, things with texture that had to be chewed were rarely eaten ( I was too lazy to sit and plough through) typical quick fix addict thinking. I never consciously thought about what I was eating unless I was binging and then I would secret eat, eat in the car, hide food, pretend to do something in another room in order to ram hidden chocolate in to my mouth. When I was eating a meal I would always do something alongside it to distract myself. I would watch TV, work on the computer or read, so I was never consciously aware of what I was eating. And when I was eating I was often thinking about binging on chocolate after, often I would get half way through a meal, break to get a piece of chocolate or something sweet then continue with the meal, only to go on and eat more sweet stuff later. Some days I would graze continuously. Work was really difficult due to the nature of my work I would often not eat as I would be so busy and distracted I would not find the time then by six I would be starving and binge or would grab sweets cake or chocolate as I dashed by. I needed to make time to eat, concentrate on eating and focus on the act of eating itself. I was using eating to distract myself just like any other addiction. My binging would go wild when I was alone (no one to judge me, or look at me with disgust or pity, or criticize) I would plan binges when I knew no one else would be in the house and become really resentful if plans changed. I would justify my food consumption, I’ve had a hard day, it’s a reward, I’m pissed off I’ll cheer myself up with chocolate, it’s a celebration I’ll treat myself! I treated myself each and every day of my life. I am so defensive and secretive about food, when I told my partner I was going in to recovery for this eating disorder he said” I’ll join you” I was furious, this is my problem, stop muscling in, its personal to me. I find it hard to talk about it, too discuss it, I feel trapped by it, I am repulsed that it has got this far, I hate my body, and yet I felt helpless to do anything about it and it gets worse over time. I have dieted and lost huge amounts of weight 5 stone in 5 months once! I then become obsessional about losing weight, I restrict and lie about the amount I eat and feel guilty for eating one teaspoon more than my allowance says. I have exercised to collapse doing 4 classes per day. I have been a size 12 and I have been a size 26. I have yoyoed up and down with my weight for 40 years and have a wardrobe of clothes of all shapes and sizes. I have taken food from bins to eat. I have lost my temper when my children or partner have found my secret stashes hidden like a squirrel all over the house. I have hidden food inside shoes, the car, my sports bag, casserole dishes, airing cupboards (you name it, I’ve hidden it there) I have put my body through gastric band surgery which then caused me to become bulimic. Most of my eating comes from my childhood I have eaten like this since the age of about six. I eat out of rebellion ( a don’t care rebellious streak) I often eat out of boredom and oddly enough fear of being alone, I think it comforts me when I’m frightened I think it nurtures me in the way I was not nurtured. All this I’m sure I will explore in good time as I go through this process.