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