Saturday, 31 October 2015
Being true to nature What have addiction and free market capitalism got in common? They are both symptoms of a spectacular failure of imagination. Jean Paul Sartre argued that the traditional religious view of the origins of mankind, that a creator god had the idea of man and then created the human race, should be inverted. Sartre, an atheist, argued that in the absence of a god man existed physically first and then had to invent himself. What Sartre, the great existentialist meant was that human beings only really became fully human when they decided who they were and what purpose they would exist in the world to fulfil. Similarly, the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm stated that: “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” The pressure of this need to find purpose, meaning and identity in part explains the emotional appeal of alcohol, drugs and other addictions. The challenge of being authentic and finding a purpose in life, in straying away from a herd mentality that clings to values that are both absurd and damaging is overwhelming for a great many of us. Instead, the temptation to self-medicate and to use alcohol and drugs to resolve these pressing questions is overwhelming. A person who retreats into addiction retreats from the moral, existential and spiritual questions that life inevitably presents and returns to a childlike state where there is no responsibility or pressure to participate or assert one’s own values. At present, the world is buckling under the weight of the ultimate addiction, the addiction to a fantasy, a utopia. It is the utopia of the market, one which was a lot more convincing before 2008 and is now held together, Heath-Robinson style, by capitalism’s chief advocates, the main political parties of the western world. The advocates of free market capitalism, most of the mainstream media, initially frame any discussion by telling us the audience that ‘there is no other way’, and that societies based on competition are harsh but fair. Those who rise to the top through hard work and initiative deserve to be there and those that sink, well that’s their own fault. Private vices, consumerism and vast environmental degradation are all a price worth paying because they yield public goods, i.e. without enterprise with its creativity and destructiveness, there would be no one to pay taxes and keep the NHS going. The power of addiction over the addict can often be so strong that they will continue to consume their drug of choice long after the body is capable of recovering and the obsession that the drug user can control their behaviour will take them to an early death. The same is true with our addiction to capitalism, there is only so much the biosphere will withstand and the fantasy that the earth was created to exploit for the vast riches of a small few is a massively overpowering delusion that may well make the 21st Century humanity’s last. For addicts and the adherents of free market capitalism the imagination must be re-ignited. Not only is it essential that we individually and collectively strive to see that there are alternatives, that another world for all of us is possible and must be fought for, but the conscience of the individual addict and the conscience of the world must be engaged. Deep questions about our place in the world, our values, beliefs and responsibilities must be sought by addicts and the wider society instead of the vapid, meaningless bilge that consumerism consistently reinforces.
Friday, 4 September 2015
NEVER SURRENDER “We shall not flag or fail, we shall go on to the end…we shall never surrender.” Perhaps the most stirring words ever spoken by an alcoholic. Winston Spencer Leonard Churchill was in his own words, born to greatness but he had every trait necessary for addiction. Emotionally abusive parents, the abandonment of being sent away to boarding school at an early age and the problems of a prodigious intelligence confined by critical teachers and house masters. He grew into an adult who was plagued both by terrible self-doubt and delusions of grandeur; historians look upon him as a controversial figure, a hero to some and villain to others, but alcoholics and addicts can learn an immense amount from his words. In many ways, the Living Room (which partly owes its existence to the Churchill Fellowship), encapsulates his rhetoric. It is often said in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery organisations that ‘one must surrender in order to win’, and this means that to beat one’s addiction the belief that it can be controlled and measured ‘sensible’ drinking can be achieved must be abandoned. This is a view that is supported at the Living Room, but there is also a powerful fighting spirit here too, accepting our powerlessness is an essential part of recovery, but simply giving in to active addiction, accepting it as an inevitability is not. In June 1940 a few weeks after Churchill came to power and the British Army had been rescued from Dunkirk, an anxious nation looked to Churchill. They were waiting for someone to step up as leader and give a clear picture about what Britain was going to do. The war was being lost and many feared a German invasion in the coming months and believed that Britain would need to surrender or negotiate. Churchill told the nation what the plan was in one clear speech: We fight. He explained that it would be a long fight, it would have a high cost in lives, money and destruction but it would, absolutely, without question, be won - no matter what. For many addicts, simply acting out unconscious patterns time after time, their leader, their Churchill is sat on the benches, unaware that it is time to step up to the dispatch box and inspire the world. When they finally awaken to the reality of their illness, the struggle ahead, their leader arrives to take charge. This awakening happens on the sofas of the Living Room time after time, addicts awaken and instead of seeing fear, chaos and defeat they embrace recovery and scent victory over the most invidious enemy they have ever known. The counsellors and staff at the Living Room know that they are really just the support staff in this great drama, helping the addict to find themselves, their courage, resolve and strength. We know something else as well: We are going to win. The road may be hard and the struggle with addiction is not localised to Cardiff, to Wales or to Britain, but it is a worldwide phenomenon ensnaring much of humanity, but the certainty that we are going to be successful is so powerful because: We are not alone. A great, silent recovery revolution is sweeping the world, from small communities to national governments. Old ideas about punishing addiction out of the addict are gradually being replaced by an ethos based on love, compassion, understanding and solidarity. In the past it has been tempting for professionals in the addiction field to place egos, careers and pride over the real principals of helping others. This has shut professionals away from one another and treated volunteers and lay people as well-meaning encumbrances. At the Living Room we have torn down the walls and fences and want to hear from anyone who can help in the struggle ahead. If you are ready to help take addiction on and are determined not to see others surrender to its power, we would like to welcome you to join us. Addiction thrives when we are isolated, atomised, alone. It has immense power when we have none, when we fail to summon the resolution of Churchill, or we fail to summon the leader within all of us who is waiting to lead. At the moment the Living Room has a range of exciting initiatives alongside our core services to help fight addiction: * The Reaching Out Project: Equipping lay people in their communities with the skills of recovery coaching to make a real impact in the lives of addicts. * Beat The Odds: Wales’ first programme to combat the crisis of gambling addiction. * Cynnal: A bilingual service for ministers of religion across Wales who are encountering problems with addiction and unmanageable feelings. * If you want to join us, whether you are a skilled professional, a person in recovery or a volunteer who can bring energy, enthusiasm and commitment, you can contact the Living Room on: Telephone: 029 2030 2101 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PEIDIWCH BYTH AG ILDIO “Ni fyddwn ni’n cilio na’n methu, byddwn ni’n parhau hyd y diwedd … ni fyddwn byth yn ildio.” Efallai’r geiriau mwyaf cynhyrfus a fynegwyd erioed gan alcoholig. Roedd Winston Spencer Leonard Churchill, yn ei eiriau ei hun, wedi’i eni i fawredd ond roedd ganddo bob nodwedd angenrheidiol i fod yn adict. Rhieni oedd yn ei gam-drin yn emosiynol, cael ei anfon i ffwrdd i ysgol breswyl yn ifanc iawn a phroblemau deallusrwydd aruthrol wedi’i gyfyngu gan athrawon beirniadol a meistri tai. Tyfodd i fod yn oedolyn oedd yn cael ei blagio gan hunan-amheuaeth ofnadwy a rhithdybiau mawredd; mae haneswyr yn edrych arno fel ffigwr dadleuol, arwr i rai a dihiryn i eraill, ond gall alcoholigion ac adictiaid ddysgu llawer iawn o’i eiriau. Mewn nifer o ffyrdd, mae’r Stafell Fyw (sy’n bodoli’n rhannol oherwydd y Churchill Fellowship), yn crynhoi ei rethreg. Dywedir yn aml yn ystafelloedd Alcoholigion Anhysbys a sefydliadau adfer eraill, bod yn rhaid i ‘un ildio er mwyn ennill’. Mae hyn yn golygu bod yn rhaid rhoi’r gorau i’r syniad y gellir rheoli’r ddibyniaeth a dychwelyd at yfed ‘synhwyrol’ rheoledig a mesuredig. Mae hon yn farn sy’n cael ei chefnogi gan y Stafell Fyw. Ond mae ysbryd brwydro pwerus hefyd yma. Mae hwn yn derbyn bod ein diffyg pŵer yn rhan hanfodol o adfer, ond nad yw rhoi mewn i ddibyniaeth actif, ei dderbyn fel rhywbeth anochel, yn rhan hanfodol o adfer. Ym mis Mehefin 1940 ychydig wythnosau ar ôl i Churchill ddod i rym a’r Fyddin Brydeinig wedi’i hachub o Dunkirk, roedd cenedl bryderus yn edrych ar Churchill am waredigaeth. Roedden nhw’n aros am rywun i gamu ymlaen fel arweinydd a rhoi darlun clir o’r hyn yr oedd Prydain yn mynd i’w wneud. Roedd y rhyfel yn cael ei golli a nifer yn ofni ymosodiad gan yr Almaen yn y misoedd nesaf ac yn credu y byddai’n rhaid i Brydain ildio neu drafod. Dywedodd Churchill wrth y genedl beth oedd y cynllun mewn un araith glir: Rydyn ni’n mynd i ymladd. Eglurodd y byddai’n frwydr hir, byddai’r gost mewn bywydau, arian a dinistr yn uchel, ond byddai, yn ddiamau, yn cael ei hennill - beth bynnag ddigwydd i nifer o adictiaid, sy’n cyflawni yr un patrymau niweidiol dro ar ôl tro, mae eu harweinydd, eu Churchill yn eistedd ar y meinciau, yn anymwybodol ei bod yn amser i gamu i’r darllenfwrdd ac ysbrydoli’r byd. Pan fyddan nhw, o’r diwedd, yn deffro i realaeth eu salwch, y frwydr o’u blaen, mae eu harweinydd yn cyrraedd i’w harwain. Mae’r deffro hwn yn digwydd ar soffas y Stafell Fyw dro ar ôl tro - mae adictiaid yn deffro ac yn lle gweld ofn, anhrefn a gorchfygiad, maen nhw’n derbyn adfer ac yn rhagweld buddugoliaeth dros y gelyn mwyaf annymunol a welsant erioed. Mae cwnselwyr a staff y Stafell Fyw’n gwybod mai staff cefnogi ydyn nhw yn y ddrama fawr hon, i helpu’r adict i ddarganfod ei hun, ei nerth a’i benderfyniad/phenderfyniad. Gwyddom rywbeth arall hefyd: Rydyn ni’n mynd i ennill. Gall y ffordd fod yn anodd ac nid yw’r frwydr gyda dibyniaeth yn benodol i Gaerdydd, i Gymru nac i Brydain ond mae’n broblem fyd-eang sy’n caethiwo llawer o bobl. Ond mae’r sicrwydd ein bod yn mynd i lwyddo mor bwerus oherwydd: Nid ydym ar ein pen ein hunain. Mae chwyldro adfer tawel, eang yn teithio o gwmpas y byd, o gymunedau bychain i lywodraethau cenedlaethol. Mae hen syniadau o wthio dibyniaeth allan o’r adict yn raddol yn cael eu hamnewid gan ethos o gariad, tosturi, dealltwriaeth a chydsafiad. Yn y gorffennol, bu’n demtasiwn i bobl broffesiynol yn y maes dibyniaeth roi hunain, gyrfaoedd a balchder dros wir egwyddorion helpu eraill. Mae hyn wedi cau pobl broffesiynol oddi wrth ei gilydd ac wedi trin gwirfoddolwyr a phobl leyg fel rhwystrau gyda bwriadau da. Yn y Stafell Fyw rydyn ni wedi tynnu’r waliau a’r ffensys i lawr ac rydym am glywed gan unrhyw un a all helpu yn y frwydr o’n blaen. Os ydych chi’n barod i helpu gyda dibyniaeth ac yn benderfynol o beidio â gweld eraill yn ildio i’w bŵer, byddem yn eich croesawu i ymuno â ni. Mae dibyniaeth yn ffynnu pan fyddwn ar ein pen ein hunain neu’n unig. Mae’n bwerus iawn pan na fyddwn ni’n gallu galw ar benderfyniad Churchill neu ein bod yn methu â galw ar yr arweinydd o’n mewn ni oll sy’n aros i arwain. Ar hyn o bryd, mae gan y Stafell Fyw amrywiaeth o fentrau cyffrous ochr yn ochr â’n gwasanaethau craidd i helpu i frwydro yn erbyn dibyniaeth: * Y Prosiect Estyn Allan: Mae’n rhoi sgiliau hyfforddi adfer i bobl leyg yn eu cymunedau i wneud effaith go iawn ar fywydau adictiaid. * Beat The Odds: rhaglen gyntaf Cymru i frwydro yn erbyn argyfwng dibyniaeth gamblo. * Cynnal: Gwasanaeth dwyieithog i weinidogion yr efengyl ar draws Cymru sy’n dod ar draws problemau dibyniaeth a theimladau na ellir eu rheoli. Os hoffech ymuno â ni, pa un a ydych yn weithiwr proffesiynol, yn berson mewn adferiad neu’n wirfoddolwr a all gynnig egni, brwdfrydedd ac ymrwymiad, gallwch gysylltu â’r Stafell Fyw ar: Ffôn: 029 2030 2101 E-bost: email@example.com
Tuesday, 4 August 2015
A Letter (Extract) From Albert Einstein to his Daughter There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE. When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals. For love we live and die. Love is God and God is Love. This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will. To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation. If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits. After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy… If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer. Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet. However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released. When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life. deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it’s too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you and thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! “. Your father Albert Einstein
Blog 31st July Good bye July officially the rainiest month ever. Every morning I woke up it was raining. It’s been an interesting week. On Monday I went to Slimming World feeling good. I actually felt slimmer lighter and was sure I had lost a few pounds. Imagine my horror and disbelief as I bounded on to the scales with gay abandon only for them to .....................stay exactly the bloody same. “What” I said to the poor woman recording the weights “How can this be?” instantly suspicious. Her pitying face said it all; they clustered around me, “It happens sometimes” “I feel as though I’ve lost weight “I whelped “Look my clothes are looser” I said in despair, pulling on them like someone demented. “You’ve probably lost inches then” one of them tried helpfully. It was no good; negativity had descended like a mist. I stomped to my seat scowling and laughing at the same time. “I’ve maintained “ I said whispering my plight to another member burning with shame and feeling genuinely pissed off. Glass half empty. “Well it could have been worse you could have gained” he retorted back. “And you stayed for group.” I shot him a sideways evil stare, as he clutched his Slimmer of the week silver sticker. Then it was time for name and shame “Julie stayed the same this week, but all in all a weight loss of 11lbs” thunderous applause from the group. “What’s your aim for next week?” I knew I was being petulant and very childish when I said the immortal words “7 stone” but somehow I couldn’t help myself. I did get a laugh, but inside it wasn’t funny. I take these setback things far too much to heart, instead of accepting it and looking at ways to change it I stew on it and become defiant and angry. What’s the point? Its crap, it doesn’t work. (Clearly it does) Comparison with others then creeps in. What will they think of me? (Who Cares?) Negative thinking, stinking thinking, my disease slinking back in at the first hurdle. Self pity, I’m a failure, I’m useless, and it’s too hard. Ludicrous nonsense, thinking based on bashing low self-esteem and thinking that will make you eat again. Myths not facts. I have tried to impose positivity, shared it, seen the funny side of it and not gone off on a binge. I have to accept it and plod on. I trust that sometimes quickly sometimes slowly eventually I will develop a pattern of eating that is not self destructive and does not damage me. Julie
Monday, 20 July 2015
Blog 19th July 2015 I’ve been out twice this week, to see two interesting but very contrasting events. The first one was a theatre production of the musical Sweet Charity; it was in the open air theatre in Sophia Gardens and was pure entertainment, the all singing, all dancing, feel good, toe tapping, high kicking, thigh slapping caper that some of us know and love. (I always said I should have been a gay man, my love of musicals cements this) The second event was a film documentary called Amy about the tragic and all too short life of the musician Amy Winehouse. I wanted to see this from the recovery angle, to see if they covered it “warts and all” and captured the lonely self loathing confusion and despair of addiction. I think they did. I was also reminded with flashbacks of shame of my own degenerative state at the time. My fiends nicknamed me Winehouse, how we laughed, I even went to a Halloween party dressed as her thinking that being seen as my nemesis was cool and ironic. I was fat she was tiny but under the black comedy of it all we shared more than drug and alcohol addiction, we shared an eating disorder. Think of Amy and you think of drugs, of alcohol, of jazz and soul and a voice, a beehive, Bambi legs, flicked eye liner and a dirty laugh. Amy also had a serious eating disorder she had started making herself sick at the age of 13 around the time of her parents confusing and acrimonious divorce. How we mock those afflicted by addiction, they become the bane of our jokes, we can’t look at ourselves so we point and sneer at them instead. I’m bad but I’m not as bad as her. I wonder if the comedians Graham Norton and Frankie Boyle watched that film and cringed as I did poking fun at a young girl’s painful, long drawn-out suicide mission. Like so many of us her body just gave up, it couldn’t take the battering any more. One quote that was relayed by her friend spoke volumes to me about the way she viewed life and the fact that she was a long, long way from acceptance and recovery. It was at the Grammys; she was clean and in London. She spotted her friend Juliette in the crowd crying with happiness at her success and pulled her onto the stage then whispered in her ear “Do you know, this is no fun without the drugs” Not knowing what to do without them. In the end she lost everything that she had once genuinely loved and became the addiction. It was the only way to run away and hide and she reverted to type. It could have been so different, but she was never ready and those around her with vested interest in her were never ready either. Let’s wait until these five concerts are over then she can have a rest. She’s resting now on - a vacation of a permanent kind. Sweet Charity was a different type of character, manufactured, yes, but there are such women out there. The tart with the heart, eternally optimistic, shrugging off the shoulders and getting on with it, pushed down pulled up, but never beaten, enduring it all with gritty determination and a tits and teeth attitude. Believing in the dream that good things happen and love will conquer all. Even after being jilted for the hundredth time. Seeing the bigger picture and never giving up hope. Becoming a giver not a taker and trusting it will all work out in the end. Living a positive meaningful life. Julie
Tuesday, 14 July 2015
Blog 14th July 2015 I received some very sad news this week a friend and old work colleague committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. A final deliberate desperate act. There was no other way out for this person suicide was the only option. No way forward and no going back. Many of us in recovery have been at that jumping off place but by some divine intervention or reaching out for help we did not fall over that edge. My friend did. No one will know what was going through his mind in the build up to making that decision. He was a charismatic character, a Robin Williams-type, manic, hilariously and funny; an excellent mimic and smart, he had a wicked glint in his eye. He could also be angry, impatient and dip so low in mood that it coloured the room and everyone in it. He was one of us, an addict; he didn’t know it, I didn’t know it at the time (I was too sick and in denial myself to see it) but I know it now. His poison was women, love and sex, and boy what a tangled web he wove! He ducked and dived, lied and cheated, told them what they wanted to hear, smiled and charmed them into bed, and back they went for more and more. We kind of understood each other; I think there was a connection that two damaged people often feel when they are together. You can’t kid a kidder. He was trapped in the veneer of this character that he had created for himself - a tortured soul. As so often happens, what he showed the outside world did not reflect who he really was inside. He could not find his way in this world and be himself, he didn’t know how. I cannot imagine his pain. And for those around him and his loved ones there will be weeks, months and years of “If onlys” I said it myself today, “If only he had reached out” But he didn’t, he couldn’t. And now his family have to bury him. All I know is that this man who found life too painful to live is now at peace. Julie
Sunday, 12 July 2015
Blog 10th July I have had a good week. My eating plan is steady and enjoyable and I’m neither fighting nor obsessing about it. I have to plan and be organised and I have managed to achieve this despite a blip on Thursday when the planned tea was not ready on time. I accepted this and ate something else that was healthy and on plan instead. I find that I’m not craving as I can have some sweet things if I keep it simple and make sensible choices. I’m trying to feed my body healthy nourishing food that I would be happy to give to a child. Food is fuel and I want to fill my tank with good stuff not stuff that clogs my arteries piles on weight and makes me feel sluggish and tired all the time. I need to learn to look after my body to care for it as it’s the only one I’ve got and my illness has spent years trying to destroy it. I need to learn to treat it with respect as it has to last me the rest of my life and I’ve given it a battering over the last 47 years. I also bought a bike. It’s a big old fashioned affair with a basket and a bell. My son kindly put it together for me but teased me by putting a picture of it up on face book calling it a Grannies bike. I’ve carried on with my swimming in the mornings and have had to change pools due to a refurbishment. I now have a whole new set of pensioner friends. I look forward to the group on Monday not for the weigh-in but for the help, support, ideas and recipes that they share. I find that they give me motivation for the week and its non judgemental and kind. All they want is for you to improve your quality and standard of life fitness and health. Whereas I would have been dismissive and defensive, I’m willing to give it a go, I’m willing to put some action in and follow the plan. I’ve got nothing to lose. I have had some freedom from the obsessing this week. Driving home the other day I realised that I hadn’t thought about food since eating my lunch; that was massive for me. Something seems to have shifted, I feel lighter, and I’m trying to install a positive spin on the plan and to enjoy it. I’m sick of fighting this illness. I don’t have to fight it, I just have to accept I have it and live with it as it is part of me, but I must also trust that it can be arrested and it can be helped and managed if I let it be. Julie
Sunday, 5 July 2015
Blog 3rd July It’s been a while since I decided to put pen to paper. I had a period of slipping and sliding, caring not caring, binging not binging and generally feeling quite unhappy and miserable with myself. I started to detach and disassociate, I became angry and resentful at others. I am a star at deflecting my anger, it was never my fault it was all someone else’s. This melancholy and trauma reached a peak a few weeks ago in the Living Room where I actually walked out of a group. Instead of exploring why this was I blamed the other members of the group and the Living Room and ended up in that horrible revolving anger that is so damaging. I could feel myself pulling away, what I failed to recognise was that my addiction was winning. The defiant inner child was stamping her feet; she was rebelling and performing like a good un. It took a Sunday evening family group to release the tension. I was able to truthfully tell the group what had been bothering me and safely let go of some of the anger. I was even able to practise what I needed to say in an appropriate fashion. When I left that group I felt better. I made the decision to tackle this eating disorder. Wyn helped, he suggested that the addiction was winning, the defiance and the anger was the illness inside me and it was in the driving seat. I did not have a chance when that was the case. I was being controlled by the demon within. I had to recognise my true condition and come to see that I could not do anything about it by my own will, I had tried and failed. I was still hanging on for grim death to that control. I needed to accept and stop fighting, every time the demon called I needed to put action in and trust that my higher power would be right there beside me taking care of it all so I didn’t have to. Simple, but why did I keep relapsing? Because I did not fully concede to my full condition, I still believed deep down that one day I would be able to eat as much as I wanted and stay slim. I still believed that food was my friend and comforter and ate emotionally. I still had that need to escape from myself and feed something inside me. Everyone’s recovery is different - what worked for me may not work for someone else. I shared previously that OA although amazing for others and has helped millions was not working for this addict at this time. I struggled with the concept of abstinence. Even the word (it’s just a word Julie) has holier than though connotations for me. I did know that I needed a routine, a structure and a plan that was healthy, sensible, realistic and would fit into my life. So I have joined Slimming World contradicting everything I previously said about diets and clubs. (I’m an addict we change our minds, and I’m a woman). I’ve gone there with an open mind and a sense of humour and I have enjoyed it. It’s another way of embracing a healthy lifestyle and caring for my body. Looking after my body as though I was nurturing a small child. I will use the 12 Steps in sync with the group so my spiritual well-being and my addiction are addressed. I’m almost 2 weeks into recovery now and feel so much better; each time I have a craving I try to see that pang as my addiction and my defiance. I engage my rational mind and decide I don’t want to get into the ring and fight the demon; my higher power will come through and help me if I let it. I’m enjoying the food plan, I don’t feel restricted and I don’t feel angry as I have freedom to choose. Julie
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Forget ISIS, forget Assad, forget Putin for that matter. The dictators, despots, fundamentalists and killers that grace the front pages of our newspapers are a side-show, a distraction from the greatest scourge of our time; addiction. Recent statistics released by the journal Addiction in the 2014 Global statistics on addictive behaviours report illuminate the vast, worldwide scale of mankind’s subjugation by addictive substances and behaviours. It shows that five percent of the entire human race struggle with alcoholism (some 240 million people), and that a fifth of all human beings are addicted to tobacco. There are over a billion smokers on planet earth, each compelled by their addiction to inhale cancerous chemicals that will end their lives prematurely. In addition to this there are 180 million cannabis users. There are thought to be 150 million problem gamblers in the world and a far smaller number of people intravenously inject drugs (a mere 15 million). These are conservative estimates, and they do not show the massive collateral damage that addiction does to the families and loved ones of addicts, whose lives are wrecked and whose own behaviours are distorted beyond recognition in order to cope with addiction in their lives. The statistics do not show the suffering of entire societies in Central and South America, West Africa and South East Asia that have seen a bloody and fruitless war on drugs simply hand unaccountable power over to criminal elites. They do not show the millions of intelligent, industrious and productive people around the world who have been dragged through courts, prisons and recently in Indonesia, in front of firing squads as governments react in the only way they seem to know how to the challenge of addiction. The loss of potential to the human race of this disease is almost beyond the ability of anyone to calculate, but, like global warming, it seems to be an issue that the political classes of the world are constitutionally incapable of addressing. Our cautious, impotent and craven leaders, terrified of ill-informed howls of rage from newspaper columnists who feel qualified to hold forth on any and all moral panics, do nothing more than prohibit, punish and push away the problem. They do a very good job of mimicking the behaviours that are commonly found in homes where addiction rules the roost ‘don’t speak, don’t say, don’t challenge, don’t feel, don’t think, don’t admit’, in behaving in this way, the governments of the world aid addiction every single day. What, then, is to be done? The proponents of legalisation argue that controlling, taxing and licensing drug use is the only way to limit the harm it causes. Perhaps. There is another solution to the problem of addiction, but one which lies far beyond the skill sets of our current leaders. It requires nothing short of an existential revolution, a reformation of meaning to take place across the world. Addiction is the practice of self-annihilation; it is the consumption of a substance or the engagement in a behaviour in order to flee from one’s self. Surely, by posing the question as to why so many millions of human beings wish to escape from the only life they have or will ever know, we can work towards, not only a solution to addiction but a solution to the problem of ‘human-ness’. Life never creates a crisis without also presenting the seeds of opportunity and in addiction lies a potential springboard to the future, its victims are so numerous they present a critical mass and if, together, they can speak with one voice and tell the rest of the world their experience, the results might just be revolutionary.
Monday, 25 May 2015
Blog 24th May 2015 I’m slowly recovering after a three week long relapse which built to a crescendo last Tuesday. I still don’t know if that’s my food rock bottom, only time will tell. I’ve been experiencing every emotion under the sun over the past three weeks and eating furiously to keep them all at bay, but of course eating doesn’t help any more (not that it ever did really). I’ve been jealous “How come all those people at OA can do it and I can’t?” I’ve been angry “Life’s too short not to eat a biscuit” I’ve been pitiful “Why me? Why do I have all these addictions?” I’ve been childish, petulant and resistive “I can’t be bothered, I just don’t care, and it’s too hard” I’ve been lazy and self-loathsome “I’m not doing it, I hate myself anyway, I’m old and ugly anyway, I’m disgusting, just a big fat ugly pig.” I’ve been doubting “I’m never going to get it” I’ve been ashamed and guilty “I’ve hurt, lied and cheated so many people that I love, I’m never going to be able to resolve it.” I’ve been hopeless It’s been a dark, dank and depressing time and I have been out of control acting on my own will and turning my back on others. The self-righteous indignation is creeping back in and I remind myself of my Mother which just compounds my self-hatred even more. I’m slowly picking myself up and with help putting myself back together. ONE DAY AT A TIME I’m going to ease back into it, I’ve gone from binge to three meals a day again and the next step will be re-engaging with OA. This time when I re-engage I need to do it whole heartedly and that means listening and being willing to try another way, instead of resisting. The only way to do this is to do it. I’m praying for willingness, for a sign, for a way in. I know I need a sponsor and I also know that I am so much better when I fully engage with the programme instead of paddling in the shallow end. Even as I type this I’m frightened as it then means I have to put pressure on myself and put some action into my recovery. I can’t do this by myself. I need to leave my pride at the door, stop looking and comparing, ignoring and despising others, as this does me no good. Now I just need to take that leap of faith, what have I got to lose? Julie
Saturday, 9 May 2015
Blog 8th May 2015 My eating disorder recovery has slowed to a very slow crawl. I am barely doing anything at all. I am coasting. My eating is not out of control but it’s not in control either. Every day I overeat in regards to my evening meal and at least twice last week I have eaten trigger foods. The awful thing is I don’t even care that much, talk about a slump in motivation. I didn’t go to OA this week, I could have gone if I really set my mind to it but instead I choose to lie on the sofa watching the box set of Game of Thrones (new addiction) and bemoaning a very bloated abdomen as my IBS was playing up. I was well and truly sitting squarely on the pity pot. The next day to cap it all I went to the dentist and as they say “You don’t get away with anything” All the years of regurgitating and vomiting in response to the gastric band have really taken their toll on my teeth. They are going to look like the cemetery in Dodge City soon. I can’t have a crown or a bridge on my front tooth as there is not enough bone left in my jaw so my only option (bar dentures) is an implant. This comes with the princely cost of two thousand pounds. I nearly choked on the mouthwash when young handsome, perfect-teeth dentist gleefully explained this. “I’m going to refer you to an implantologist!” he said I thought he was joking and laughed. It was no laughing matter. Coupled with that bombshell I needed a root-canal filling and a crown on my back tooth. I’m far too vain and young (cough) for dentures so I had better start saving up. That or look like one of the Clampets. If the situation continues I won’t even have to worry about an eating plan, it will be soup for life! I also visited my Aunty this week, she’s my Fathers last remaining relative and she has breast cancer. She went for a lumpectomy last week and will need radiotherapy. It’s a lot to cope with at any age let alone at 77. What I was struck by was how positive she was and how she managed to find humour and humility in what must be a scary and over-powering situation. It was inspiring. I learnt that your urine goes bright blue following a lumpectomy and that my Auntie has got an incredibly high pain threshold and has only taken 2 Paracetamols since coming out of hospital. When I think of all the drugs I took to block out emotional pain, it’s an odd comparison. I love my Aunty very much - she is witty and sparky, full of fun and can be a little bitchy at times (which to me adds to her appeal) as I find it funny and shocking at the same time. My Aunty adored my Father and misses him; I enjoy talking about him with her as she recounts stories of when they were children and the funny things he used to do. I received such a beautiful text from her when I got home, comparing me to my Father which made me feel all warm inside. Returning to the eating disorder: could someone please kick me up the arse? I know I have to get back on track, I know I have to be willing and I know I have to take action to get motivated. I cannot sit here waiting to be thin, it is not going to happen by wishing or by eating what I am eating at the moment. I will eventually take another leap of faith but the question is when? Monday perhaps? (Try doing it TODAY) W X Julie
Saturday, 25 April 2015
Blog 24th to the 26th April 2015 I learnt a lesson this week. The lesson was: do not send emails when in an emotional state. Some battles are just not worth fighting or indeed even worth entering into the arena. I had to ask myself “Where in the general scheme of life’s events does this one come?” If only I had asked this before demonically pushing the send button then announcing triumphantly “That‘ll teach him” to the bemused staff team. Of course it didn’t teach him anything and he retaliated also trying to be big and clever. This could easily have developed into email tennis wars but fortunately I was called into a meeting, burning with self-righteous indignation, championing my inner child. It was only on refection that I suddenly thought “0h dear!” I went to my boss and explained what I had done “I sent an email when I was in an emotional state of mind”. She face- palmed, “Oh no, who to?” I knew it was wrong, I knew it was childish, non-professional and ultimately stupid. It didn’t even make me feel better. In fact I just felt a bit daft. The conclusion of this was that I had to go and see my boss’s boss (the big boss) I held my hands up and apologised before she even opened her mouth. Honesty is a simple tool. My task then was refection and resolution. I may have to work with the receiver of the email again and I have to be professional. My other rather big and strangely cathartic mistake was to copy-in the Director of the company. Another rather impulsive error on my part! I was instructed, rightly so, to apologise. All of this is a learning curve. It’ll turn into a positive experience in the long run. Prior to recovery I could never have looked at this incident in such a way. I would have fumed for days, evilly plotting revenge and figuratively stroking a white cat in a menacing fashion. The email receiver would have been sworn at and ridiculed and blame, oh so much blame, would have been apportioned. Thank God today it doesn’t have to be like that. I cannot carry resentments: they eat away at my very soul. I have to find the middle ground and remain calm. Wyn calls it “detached indifference”. I am powerless over people, places and things and one snotty-arsed email is not going to change anything, win an argument or score points. I can’t change other people but I can change the way I react to other people - be that face to face, over the telephone or via sarcastic emails. In the words of Disney’s Frozen “LET IT GO” Julie
Blog 13th to the 24th April 2015 It’s been almost two weeks since I last blogged. That sounds a little like it’s been two weeks since my last confession. Sometimes I feel I write my blog like a confession. A confession to myself that these things have happened and by typing them out it confirms the truth and makes it more real. Out of my head and on to the paper. My last blog was very desperate and dark; I was struggling big time and wanted to escape in food. It all seemed inevitable and helpless. I knew what to do, I had the tools of recovery, what I lacked was the willingness. Then something important happened in the form of an OA meeting. We read a story from lifeline which helped considerably. It was about a woman who was bulimic and was vomiting up to twenty times a day. I related to it, in the year before doing anything about my food addiction I had been in the same situation, my gastric band had been tightened to within an inch of its life on my orders and I was regurgitating up to ten times a day, sometimes more sometimes less. It was horrendous; at each meal I was anxious, I would sit there consciously aware that I would have to leave the table and throw up but desperately wanting to feed myself and unable to stop. I would leave the table throw up then return to the table to try and get more food down, invariably being disappointed and frustrated when I couldn’t and I would need to run to the toilet to throw up again. Eating out was a misery, I would insist on eating out then spend the whole experience running back and forth to the toilet. Owen would then get angry (understandably so) which would make me more nervous and it would happen more. I felt guilty as he had paid for the damn band which I perceived meant that he didn’t love me the way I was and wanted me thin. This was despite the fact that I had asked for the money for the operation. Owen didn’t understand my eating disorder, how could he? If I couldn’t get it or understand it what hope did he have? All he saw was that he had paid for an operation out of his grandmother’s inheritance and I was not even trying to stick to the recommended diet that the consultant and dietician had advised. I couldn’t stick to it because I was a compulsive overeater and food addict, but neither of us knew that back then. Owen would then look at me with disgust and anger and I picked up on this and ate more to comfort and reassure myself. It was hell, my physical health was suffering, and my teeth were (and still are) in a shocking state. The only foods I could keep down were chocolate, sweets cakes, biscuits; these trigger foods would slip down past the band with gay abandon. I was getting no nutritional value from foods and my weight remained the same. Looking back it was horrifically unhealthy and madness. When I ate with my mother my trips to the toilet were even more frequent as my fear of being criticised for eating too much became too stressful and I often couldn’t keep anything down. As we read that story in OA I was taken back and instead of beating myself up I listened and actually patted myself on the back. I had come a long way. OK I was not perfect a long way from it but I was making slow but steady progress. I was losing weight albeit slowly. I was eating mainly healthily, I was eating regularly, I had apart from on a few occasions abstained from eating my trigger foods. I did still over eat but it wasn’t through triggers. I had for the most part eaten in the right places. In fact I had much to be grateful for. I had coped. This was my primary addiction and it was not going to vanish in a few weeks. My preoccupation could still be there but it was manageable and it did pass. This is turning a negative around and making in into a positive. I could have wallowed in misery and pity but that would have taken me to the end of the road and a ‘sod it’ moment which would have taken me back into the food. I don’t want to go back into the food. I do not want that emotional attachment with food any more. It has taken too much of my life and now I need to learn to manage it and come alongside it. It can be my ally, it can show me where I don’t want to be, it can alert me to the fact that I am not spiritually or mentally healthy and that I need to take action - change or step up my recovery. Food can be my friend and motivator not my enemy. I may have been taking it a little too seriously, we do not live in a famine-torn country, I will not starve to death, and it is not a life or death situation if I do not get to eat a box of Krispy Crème donuts. I need balance and perspective. I also need to stop comparing or getting jealous of others in OA who get it. The important thing is to keep attending these recovery-oriented meetings. They are on their path I am on mine, we are different. I am different and unique; my experience is going to be very different to that of others. I am where I am supposed to be at the moment. I need to take it easy and have faith that the miracle will happen one day. Julie
Monday, 13 April 2015
Blog 12th of April 2015 I’m just not feeling it or getting it at the moment. It’s like I’m stuck, restless, irritable, I can’t put my finger on it, and a piece of the jigsaw is missing. I am not willing, there is a big wall in front of me and I’m not ready to surrender to it. I’m wishing all sorts of nonsense, angry that I can’t eat what I want to eat, sabotaging by doing things that I know are off plan. I deliberately ate a Chinese takeaway in front of the TV last night using the very pathetic and lame excuses (even for me) that Ninja Warrior was on! I find myself day dreaming about being able to eat what I want when I want and never gaining a pound. I am so obsessed by food. I just want to stuff my face and I’m getting madder and madder about it. My rational side is patiently explaining to me that I feel one hundred percent worse and the addict side is fighting back. I’ve even started buying bags of chocolate for other people. What the hell is that all about? I bought my mother enough chocolate to stun a small oxen for her birthday and my friend, whose just had a baby, half of Thornton’s. As I drove to see her the jury was still out on whether I would actually go through with giving her the box of Thornton’s Premium. My conscience batted with my addiction. In the end I thrust the box at her like a demented person, then regretted it all the way home. I took group yesterday then went to town to look for some sandals. I just wanted to feed myself. I managed to pass the new cookie dough ice cream stand in the New St David’s 2, but only just; I didn’t quite make it past the Pretzel stall and quickly bought and ate standing up a hot dog covered in cheese pastry pretzel. I chowed on it like a cave woman, devouring it, loving it, spurring myself on for more. What the hell is wrong with me? What am I running away from? I look at all the others in OA, the ones who have got it and I think how? I don’t understand it. I don’t take it seriously. I know alcohol drugs and smoking will kill me most probably after one binge if I went back to them. I’m healthily scared of them. I am not scared of food, I love it, I am obsessed by it, I crave it, I want it. I do not see it as a killer. I know it is but it would take years to eat myself to death. And when you talk in groups about relapse with a flapjack people, myself included, find it hilarious. I can’t seem to see the harm apart from when I look in the mirror and hate what I see I want to be willing, I want to take action. I’m stuck at this weight and I can’t seem to find that willingness to take it up a notch. There is quite a lot of change going on around me at the moment and change can bring fear. The Living Room is changing and that has scared me as a lot of the old gang are no longer attending and I miss them. Work is changing and the politics are as troubling as ever. Joe and Annie’s recoveries worry me, and Owen’s been out of sorts. I think another fear I have is the fear of becoming ill again and people losing patience with me as I am finding this recovery from eating disorder so difficult. I managed to surrender to drugs, smoking and alcohol. I know where they take me. I can’t go back. With eating I’m screaming, kicking, and fighting it all the way. I am not making this easy, I don’t know how to. I can’t seem to apply the tools, find the faith to help me. It’s hard to impose the positives at present. I am praying, I am asking my higher power but I seem to be fighting myself. Answers on a post card please? To compulsive over- eater, stuck and raring to binge. Julie
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Blog 29th March 2015 It’s happened again, eating out of control. It all started on Wednesday when I was booked to go away to attend a course on dialectic behavioural therapy with my work. I was so pleased I’d been given that opportunity as I had wanted to know more about this therapy as it’s the recommended treatment for patients with personality disorder (the field I have worked in for many years) I was also interested for my own personal recovery as this treatment has proved successful in an adapted form in the treatment of addictions and risk taking behaviours. I was all set, Owen dropped me off at the station, I went straight in to Marks and Spenser’s and bought some food for the journey as I would be unable to have an evening meal due to travelling to Chester on the train. I bought some sandwiches and a bag of baked pizza chips, cheese and red onion flavour (large packet) I then justified buying a flapjack as it was seeded and in my addict mind healthy! This was the first step in dropping my guard. I did well when I got to Chester, even managing to ignore the biscuits in my room that adorned the complementary tea and coffee tray. The following day was quite torturous, temptation was all around, for breakfast I avoided the cooked buffet session and went for an omelette instead with cheese, onion and mushrooms freshly cooked in front of me (this was off plan, I am supposed to have cereal and toast) Again justification, I’m away, I deserve it, its healthy full of protein, and the killer blow, its free I need to get my money’s worth. I finished with toast and butter. I felt fine, smug almost, I convinced myself I had done very well. The actual conference was a food heaven haven, a thing of joy for an overeater. Yet the first day I resisted all trigger foods. There were even sweets on all the tables, Swizzles children’s sweets in little bowls, drum stick lollies and Palma violets along with other lovelies and they were in the centre of each and every table, no escape. Break times were no different, home-made biscuits, cakes of every descriptions endless varieties. I avoided them feeling strong. My colleague is aware of my problems and was sympathetic, encouraging even. Lunch was a veritable banquet four choices of main, plus bread rolls and butter, salad and a groaning desert table. I did well, I commended myself, shepherd’s pie, and vegetables and a bread roll (small portion) then fresh fruit salad (this was easy) Then in the evening I was planning to go to an AA meeting but when looking on the web site I found it had closed down. My colleague was going to accompany me as it was an open meeting and she was interested, she’s a clinical psychologist and was keen to find out about 12 step programme. So instead we decided to go for something to eat. I had passed a Thai restaurant earlier in the day when I went for a walk so we headed there. It was a lovely night, I slightly over ate but not to extremes. Sadly on my walk earlier I had bought another flapjack from the shop opposite and as we walked back I obsessed about it. I returned to my room shut the door and dived in. Sweet and satisfying just ramming it in, knowing that it wasn’t the right thing to do but simply not caring. On packing in the morning I stuffed the two packets of ginger biscuits from the tea tray (which I’m not even that keen on) in to my handbag. At breakfast it was like my mind-set had changed, I wolfed a cooked breakfast then a croissant, I was in freefall. I knew what I was doing but couldn’t stop myself, justifications I ate two biscuits as they were gluten free, then at lunch I thought that gluten free apple crumble would be perfectly acceptable with cream, then followed in the afternoon by not one not two but four shortbread biscuits an grabbed a handful of drum sticks to eat on the train home. I was determined then, I went to the station shop to buy another flapjack to have with a coffee, then stopped off in Crewe to buy sandwiches a grab bag of walker’s crisps and a packet of fruit tellers. This was alongside the ginger biscuits in my handbag. On the train Owen rang, “Have you eaten?” “Not much, I lied, just some sandwiches” “Shall we get a take away?” I didn’t need to be asked twice, he picked me up and we went to get 2 large Dominos pizzas, where on getting home I devoured 4 pieces! I woke up the following day, resigned but all right, today would be different. It was, until after I left the Living rooms when I discovered the half eaten packet of fruit tellers in my pocket after stuffing them in without tasting them I then drove to Sainsbury’s and bought a bag of walker’s Brazil nut toffees. I just rammed them in my mouth in the car one after the other desperately. I needed to do it. On getting home I confessed. I was in big trouble, we went to Chapter to eat and to watch a film, I made an unhealthy choice hot dog and fries and ate far too quickly again feeding something. I then went to the toilet and brought it up. After the film I was obsessing, I needed something sweet I went to the cupboard and ate cake decorations, again I knew I was doing it, I needed that sweetness that comfort that release from something. Today, I needed to tell you this. Today I want to be honest with you, today I don’t want to lie and hide, and today I want to get better. Going away from home may well be a trigger, when I left my parents’ home at 18 to come to Cardiff to do my nurse training. I put on four stone in a year. I was away from the restrictions the critical eye and voice and felt free. I’m not free today as I feel chained to this disease at the moment. I just can’t seem to get it. I was even thinking of radical acceptance to the fact that I am fat! How mad is that?
Thursday, 26 March 2015
Blog 25th March 2015 Early recovery is exhausting and being with someone in early recovery can also be all consuming and relentless. I am delighted, comforted and relieved that my son has returned to the bosom of a twelve step programme. It’s been a good leveller for me and a healthy reminder of the pain and suffering this illness causes. Going to lots of meetings, being with newcomers and sharing experience, strength and hope helps me as much as it helps others. The flip side to the coin is that I have become totally and utterly preoccupied and consumed with Joe’s recovery. This happened the first time he entered in to the process, so keen was I to see him well I chivvied him everywhere. I took him to meetings, put money in the pot for him, drove him here there and everywhere, tried to control and take over his life. He was not ready; he was using recovery as a means to please me, to shut me up and to obtain money and cigarettes. My emotions would veer from ecstatic to anger to hope and despair in the blink of an eye. I was hyper sensitive to his every emotion when he was happy, I was happy when he was angry, I was furious and when he was low, I would be on high alert looking for signs of the red-eyed relapse. I would constantly quiz him, nag him to ring other members of the fellowship and follow the programme. Looking back I must have been a nightmare. I was in early recovery too and floating on a pink cloud. I realised I was in danger and enabling the other night. I lay in bed and was totally preoccupied with him using. Questions whirled around my head that were impossible to answer. I could not sleep, I kept imagining him using and the fear of him using was driving me mad. I finally drifted in to a fitful sleep where I had nightmares about attacking him physically and verbally. I even took a co-codymol to get myself off to sleep rationalising this insane addictive behaviour by pretending that I had toothache. I was unable to switch off, and unable to see the damage I was doing to my own recovery. Co-dependency at its best! Joe needs a lot of support but he also needs to toughen up stand on his own two feet and find his own way in life. I want to give him a flying start and help him as much as I can, but I have to keep myself safe in the process. If I go under and allow people, places and things to possess me, my recovery is in trouble. Joe is similar to me in many ways, one of his coping techniques is exactly the same as mine and that’s a tendency to talk ten to the dozen about himself and block everything else and everyone else out. Wyn calls it talking your feelings away or verbosity. I do it, and it’s dangerous as you are so preoccupied with yourself and your self-preservation that you don’t listen to others: you can also talk your feelings away which prevent you from actually sitting down and feeling them. I was a master of this and can still be guilty of it today. It’s quite exhausting to the people around you but the addict is oblivious to this and just keeps on and on like a Gatling gun. It generally stops when the recipient can take no more and hollers “Shut up” at the surprised addict. I, self, me. It was all about me when I was addicted and it’s all about me now. It’s one of the hardest things for us to learn to be “givers” not “takers”; I need work on this one daily. I have to take a step back and resist the urge to enable. I don’t help him when I enable and I destroy myself in the process. I hinder his recovery with that thinking, tough love and stepping back does work. Joe is living proof of that but as soon as he starts to do well there I go again treating him like a child, rewarding him, enabling, prolonging his agony; keeping him sick. Wrong things; right reasons. I’ve made some mistakes this week in the name of “love” giving him money, paying his rent, paying off a dealer. All backward steps for me and leading me to those feelings of panic, fear and resentment. Getting the balance right is tough, trust takes a long time to build and action has to be put in by the addict. Openness, honesty, willingness, forgiveness and re-establishing the family relationships are what are required. Compassion underpinned by that bond of unconditional love I feel for him. He seems committed, he’s been clean for three days today which is miraculous, he’s been attending meetings every day, 1:1s, sharing, reading, phoning, using the tools of recovery and the path has started to open. He moved in to The YMCA (I am resisting the urge to do the song and dance routine) he now has a Dr, a support worker, is in process of getting a dentist and is going to see a specialist about his ADHD and Tourettes. He has plans to improve his literacy and numeracy. He looks alive again instead of stupefied by the drugs and it’s like he’s woken up. He’s started some pre step work too and is going to get a sponsor. And I need to learn how to butt out and let him find his own recovery path and standalone to find and become the lovely person he always was and always will be. Joe could go on to help many, many, people. I am so proud of my brilliant son. As for my eating, I have been so wrapped in in Joe, I have not thought a great deal about it. I’ve stuck to my three meals a day with a small snack. I don’t seem so fixated, routine most definitely helps. I’ve also tried to identify my own feelings more this week, generally when I’m lying in bed. When I’m feeling something I’m trying to let it in and work out why it came and what it’s trying to tell me. I was overwhelmed by anxiety the other night, that electrical feeling in my stomach like a jolt shooting through me. I worked out I was worried as I had interviewed seven of the staff from the ward for a senior job last week and there was only one vacancy. I knew that I had conducted the interviews fairly and marked fairly. What I was feeling was fear, fear of disappointing people, and fear of upsetting people. Fear that people would dislike me and say unkind things about me, fear of being accused of favouritism and people thinking that I was useless and hopeless at my job. Deep seated horrible and insecurity gnawing away. I challenged these thoughts then rationalised them, I sat with the feelings and they didn’t hurt me or kill me, they were not very nice to feel but the sky didn’t cave in and I survived. This is what recovery is all about - learning to deal with life. Julie
Monday, 16 March 2015
March 15th 2015 Relapse Life can change overnight, with a relapse it’s rarely like that, there is always a seed, a seed that is planted a week, a few weeks, or a month before hand. It is a slow creeping insidious process. In the weeks leading up to my slip I had become complacent, almost flippant, bored and restless of it all. Playing lip service, using the jargon, doing the programme but not really feeling it. Taking the shortcuts, eating off plan and justifying it, making deals to myself, not sharing or being totally honest. There was a horrible inevitability about it all, life seemed quite flat. I wasn’t communicating with Owen, the connection seemed to be missing, keeping things from him for fear of anger or reprisals. I was becoming distant and paranoid feeling that if his mood was low it was because of me. The general self-seeking addict head that should have alerted me to the fact that the wolf was at the door. We planned a holiday, my idea, no consultation with him at all. I had an itch, it needed scratching. Again huffing puffing justification “we wouldn’t go anywhere if it was left up to him” I don’t think I consciously planned the relapse but the signs were there, not once did I think of planning my meals. We were half board at the hotel with a buffet type meal basis so I figured that there would be something to suit me. On the first night we got there a Saturday evening I slipped, I went over to the desert section and the only desert there I could have eaten staying on plan was technically an orange, instead I chose what I considered at the time the “next best” jelly and peaches. That seemed to go all right, no urges to binge. Sunday we walked past an ice cream stall and Owen asked if I wanted an ice cream (he totally forgot) and Owen does not have responsibility or any type of accountability for my eating disorder. I knew this was off plan, I could have said no but I took my opportunity and was in like Fllin. Then it built and built through the week and by Thursday (this was how quickly it gathered pace) I was binging and the old behaviour came crashing back. The obsession the fixation, the insane thinking. There was a Marks and Spencer’s food shop just up from the hotel. I went in for some biscuits (just one or two with my cup of tea) I kidded myself. Two packets later! I didn’t even want them when I was eating them, I didn’t taste them just that urge that compulsion to cram them all in, not to share them, the overwhelming fear and panic that there would not be enough that I wouldn’t be satisfied. I didn’t even taste the bloody biscuits; I was a free-falling cookie monster, out of control and hungry for more. The other horrible thing was that it really wasn’t working, it wasn’t doing anything for me, and in fact it was making me feel awful, hopeless, ashamed and miserable. Owen could see it too but sensibly kept quiet, silently hoping that I would come to my senses. On the last day I looked through the photographs on my I-phone and then it flooded in earnest. My feelings were out of control, I looked at those pictures and felt disgust, hatred, self-loathing, I pulled at my rolls of fat in the bathroom hating how I looked. Feelings so intense and overwhelming. I could either say “sod it “and go in for total relapse but heaven knows when I would emerge out of that? Or I could make a decision, this stops decision. I decided that it stopped the minute I got off the plane. I decided that I needed to go to three meals a day the OA stalwart. I decided that I needed to get back on eating plan and to take this illness seriously. Still I was unsure if I could, I didn’t trust myself. Go back to step one, one day at a time. Then a miracle happened, Joe my son who is an addict contacted us, he wanted us to move some belongings from his house in Tonypandy, he was being evicted and he asked us to store his things. Of course we said yes and Owen and I drove him up there. Joe was about the lowest we had ever seen him, he had reached his rock bottom, life had never been this hopeless, and he was homeless and living in the Huggard centre. He asked for help, he wanted recovery. This week I’ve accompanied him to meetings lots of meetings. We went in to recovery together initially but he was not ready, he went back out, I stayed clean and sober he relapsed. I recognised my primary addiction was eating and I was struggling, I was yet again out of the lifeboat. The action came from an unexpected source, Joe. Going to meetings with a newcomer has been the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. It has made me think about step one, share early recovery thoughts and feelings and my own eating disorder; head has not been half so troublesome or all consuming. Joe has given me strength and hope; I have looked at him and learnt. It has put my problems in more perspective. It has made me grateful. Today on Mother’s day, I have been given the greatest gift and miracle of all for myself and my family and that is recovery. Without my recovery there would be no family, no work, no relationship, no life. Its early days for Joe, the first few months are hard - openness, willingness and honesty. I need to remember that trio myself to arrest my eating disorder. I have completed a week of three meals a day, no trigger foods has been achieved by working the programme and through the help of my higher power. I’ve used my techniques from the early days of recovery, reinforced by accompanying Joe to meetings and listening to newcomers. Julie
Sunday, 22 February 2015
Blog 16th Feb to 22nd Feb 2015 This week I have mainly been moany, whiney, needy and really championing my inner child. I just showed that sentence to Owen and he was in wholehearted agreement with it! The trigger? having a cold, not plague, not amputation, not life threatening illness, a simple common cold! I am not very good at being under the weather; in fact I am a right royal pain in the arse. When I was using I was on so many drugs that I never really felt colds or ailments. This is the second time I’ve had a cold in recovery, the first time it came as a huge shock, I felt rotten for the first time and didn’t everyone know about it! This time it’s exactly the same, sitting on the pity pot, not following the programme properly, cutting corners, making bargains, negative head and listening to my own will. It all started last weekend when Owen went away, I started to over eat. Then I had issues with two of my children. Then the cold started, the combination of these three factors tipped me into a negative frame of mind. That is not a good place for me to be. Paranoia kicks in, then self-sabotage and self-doubt. Stress over the children affects me greatly, I feel as a mother I should be able to take their problems away and make it all better for them. I feel as though I am responsible for their pain and I need to wade in and rescue them instead of leaving well alone for them to make their own decisions - and then I get angry at them for involving me and being that way. I then didn’t tell Owen as I didn’t want him to become stressed and put pressure on him, then I got angry as I felt I was making all the decisions myself. I couldn’t be bothered to pray (didn’t see the bloody point) skipped a meeting (far too poorly and tired) then deliberately ate two pancakes with butter, maple syrup and condensed milk. The following day I sat and ate my evening meal in front of the TV making the excuse again (of being desperately ill) I have felt restless discontented and bored. I have felt unloved and unlovable and have had more faces than Big Ben with poor long-suffering Owen. I am not proud of this behaviour but I feel I need to share it as it is an honest portrayal of how difficult I can be to live with. Another thing I became angry at is that I want to go away for a week at the beginning of March. When I put this to Owen he didn’t seem mighty keen on the idea. I interpreted this as “You don’t love me and you don’t want to go away with me, AKA you are going to leave me” Tears, anger and “King Baby” behaviour followed. Owen tried to explain that the last two times I have been on holidays I have become unwell and suggested that the ‘joyous occasion’ had not been a bundle of fun for him. I was furious “This means we will never go on holidays again!” Cue Tantrum. “You just don’t want to go on holidays with me!” “You don’t want to spend time with me!” “I’ll go on my own then!” Tears, quivering lip, shouting. I tried to calm down and explain that I wanted to spend some quality time with him; I wanted a break as I felt like I was on a bit of a treadmill and could do with some time to relax and work on our relationship. I could not guarantee that I would not struggle but had an action plan and would follow a recovery programme when we were away, do some writing, step work and share some sightseeing around the area. Owen can choose where we go and it will be nice to spend a week together and become closer as a couple. Owen has agreed to this and I am grateful to have such an understanding and caring partner in my life. This week I am going to climb off my pity-pot and get back on the steps and practising the programme. Not paying lip service but putting the action in and doing the positives that make recovery so worthwhile Julie
Sunday, 15 February 2015
Blog 9th of Feb to the 14th of Feb 2015 I had an interesting and thought-provoking OA meeting on Monday night; the reading from Lifeline (the OA book of experience strength and hope) was in turn both inspiring and very painful. The one sharing was recalling his tale of a crippling addiction to food that resulted in him staying at home for six years eating. Eating himself to death. He could see no way out, it wasn’t a choice for him and he knew no other way. His life was dominated by the thinking, the getting and the eating. What really struck me was the embarrassment and humiliation so acutely recalled by this man - his self-consciousness, humiliation and low self-esteem. Yet through all this, trying to deny that it was happening, making light of it and pretending that he was A OK with it when he was dying of shame inside. He was so large that he could not travel by car: public transport was certainly not an option and whenever he walked or went anywhere he felt that the eyes of the world were on him (which they probably were and most certainly judging). He told the story of collecting an award and feeling mortified standing on the platform knowing that he was going to be spoken about not for his work but for his enormity. He refused a lift home as he couldn’t bare the shame of not being able to fit the passenger seat, and hid behind a bush when the other cars left for fear that he would be approached again. He was stranded miles from home in sub-zero temperatures, too scared to ring a taxi and in a hopeless situation. Just by listening to his experience his shame resonated through me. I think it’s one of the most powerful shares I have heard since attending OA. Although this man’s disease had reduced him to feeling this way, he carried on for a further six years until he found the fellowship. The rest of his share was about his recovery. My identification was one of humiliation, the anxiety the fear of what other people would think. I would be embarrassed on behalf of Owen, always thinking that he was terribly ashamed to be seen with me because of my bulk. When I had the gastric band fitted I would feel guilty and ashamed eating in front of him thinking that he was watching every mouthful I shovelled in to my mouth and anticipating confrontation and a dirty look. I felt ashamed and disgusted but I kept shovelling, thinking it would take the pain away. I thought about the times when I was scared to board a plane as I feared the humiliation of the belt not fitting and the big orange one for the obese or pregnant ones around me. I was once thrown off a roller-coaster in Oakwood as I was too big to secure the safety bar. The shame burned as I had to walk past the other passengers. To add insult to injury I was with a patient who took great delight in telling the world and his wife about the incident. As usual I laughed along with them but inside it was a very different story, one of self-loathing and entrapment. Another OA member shared his fear of plastic patio furniture and how it had collapsed under him; again hilarious (just so long as it isn’t you). And the sympathy from well-meaning people: “Is your family big love?” “But you carry it well, you’re tall see.” I could be 7 foot and I still wouldn’t be the right weight for me! It’s horrible and these are the thoughts that I need to dwell on when I feel deprived or petulant or angry with my illness. I need to think of patio furniture and people who kindly try to make you feel better. Blog 15th Feb to 22nd Feb 2015 Like a sad and lonely creature I went to see 50 Shades of Grey in the cinema on its launch date. I was sat on my Jack Jones like Billy-no-mates surrounded by groups of sniggering girls and yummy Mummy’s. This film has had its fair share of controversy. There were groups of protestors at the premier calling for it to be banned and claiming that it sensationalises abuse. For my part I just saw it as a silly schoolgirl-type fantasy. “And what first attracted you to the billionaire Mr Grey, Anastasia?” What did strike me was the striking beauty both in face and body of the two actors in the main parts. This film worked because they did. Would it have worked if they had employed two moderately averagely attractive, slightly porky people to play the leads? Would it hell! There was something stagnant, sterile and empty about it. Would a young educated beautiful woman sign a contract to hand herself over to be the submissive of a dominant businessman? Well, she did get a helicopter ride, an Apple computer and a car. She also got a very sore backside, humiliation, confusion and a compulsion to keep on going back for more. Only she could change him and unlock the dark secret of why he was scared of intimacy. The ultimate in co-dependency. Dominance is never about love, it’s about exercising total power and control over another human being. It sends out a strong message that you are never going to be good enough. In reality, Mr Grey would never have fallen for Anastasia; she would have been a business arrangement, another possession, a sexual agreement. How many other women have clung on to unsuitable, unscrupulous men such as this, wasting precious years being co-dependent, losing themselves, their dignity and integrity in the process, always coming last? At the end of the film, following a particularly savage and non-erotic beating, she decides to leave him. He has crossed the line, she has the upper hand; the balance of power has changed. This is Hollywood. In Cardiff she’d be in casualty, terrified, ashamed and messed-up. I thought back to another film that I had seen years ago, this film too was sexually controversial but for totally different reasons. The film was German and it was extremely brave in that it featured graphic sex scenes, not by nubile young people but by men and women over seventy. The film was called “Cloud Nine” and unlike 50 Shades it was real. It was moving, it covered real feelings and emotions (the lead characters were embroiled in a heart-breaking affair) and it was beautiful. It was sensitively portrayed and took you on an emotional roller-coaster. It was so powerful it stayed with me for years afterwards; I can’t see the same fascination with 50 Shades. Our body image plays such a huge part in our sexuality; young women are seldom comfortable in their own skins. I was so self-conscious of my body growing up. I was always the one struggling to get changed on the beach with six towels wrapped round me, living in fear that one would drop and I’d be exposed to the world. I can remember being horribly aware of my body as a child, feeling different, less than, non-attractive and gangly, tall, buck-toothed and ashamed. I always felt ugly. I hated school photo day, I was so tall that no one knew where to place me, there would generally be a debate that concluded with me either plonked on the end like a bookend or stuck in the middle like a sore thumb. I never felt at home with my body. And I have always found it very difficult to believe that anyone would find my body attractive. Childbirth, weight gain, weight loss, varicose veins and stretch marks have all taken their toll. Mine is a body that has seen a bit of life that has been neglected and not cared for particularly well. I gained false confidence when I was drinking and using drugs, my ego would reach dizzy heights and any sense of embarrassment would fade. I hid behind substances. Today in my recovery I have to try and challenge this extremely destructive negative though- pattern daily. I must not compare myself to others (especially Hollywood actresses), I must be realistic and not set unachievable goals. I will never be 7 stone; I am six foot tall for god’s sake! I must not beat myself up and self-flagellate as I give all my power and strength away. I must not compromise my behaviour and my sexuality to please others. Sex is not love. I do not need to search for “the one” to make me feel whole. I need to find myself. To recover is to become comfortable in my own skin, to be happy with what I’ve been given, to be fit, healthy, content, to enjoy and marvel at my body, to feel the right weight for me today. To love and to be loved for me and for what and who I am. You can keep your Mr Greys! Julie
Thursday, 12 February 2015
The real cost of the £1 Pub. It is a heresy today to be ‘anti business’ in any way shape or form. Small and medium sized enterprises form the bulk of our economy; therefore to be ‘anti’ their interests is, by extension, to be anti-jobs, anti-wage earners, anti-families, anti-community and anti-everything. The prevailing ideas that shape our economy tell us that no matter how harmful the business or destructive it is to those very same families and communities, as long as it is legally sanctioned it is beyond rebuke. The profusion of betting shops and payday lenders represents choice, not harm, and only ‘do gooders’ and ‘busybodies’ would seek to limit the influence of these enterprises. The language of freedom, choice and self-expression was long ago hijacked by vested interests who sell harmful or addictive products or services to vulnerable and addicted people. It has been used to present the addiction industries as crusaders for consumer rights, preventing the joyless pettifogging bureaucrat from taxing or regulating the nation’s fun away. This rather skates over the fact that this ‘fun’ periodically results in family breakdown, suicide, despair and loneliness; bookmakers, brewers and high calorie food manufacturers all adhere to the flimsiest of industry ‘responsibility’ codes which have little function other than to present them as good ‘corporate citizens’ when the reality is that they are powerful forces of social destructiveness. The argument that all business is good business will no doubt be resurrected in the coming weeks and months as a series of £1 pubs open their doors. The pubs, who sell a pint of beer for £1.50, less than half the average national retail price for alcohol, will start trading at 8am. The very idea that there is any sense of moral or social responsibility at all here is laughable, as only the most vulnerable, addicted and desperate drinkers will be looking to buy knock down price beer as soon as they wake up. Amazingly, someone, somewhere has already thought long and hard about the people they will exploit and in some cases who’s deaths they will hasten. This same individual has looked at the projected profits from this enterprise and thought that the suffering of others is more than sufficient a price worth paying. Raising any kind of moral objection to this gross irresponsibility tends to lead to the claim of being an anti-business heretic, so instead, here is a business argument, should an application for a license for a £1 Pub be applied for in Cardiff. Just as there are economic goods, it is also common for economists to describe certain products or services as ‘bads’. As you might expect, a ‘bad’ is a net drain on the economy, causing a greater loss in material resources to the community than it creates. If a new pub employs ten people at ten pounds an hour (a generous estimate, chosen for mathematical simplicity only) and hires them all for ten hours a day, then pre-tax wages will be £1,000, roughly £800 of which will circulate in the economy. If the same pub attracts vulnerable, marginalised, addicted drinkers, it must add an enormous multiplier of value to pay for the doctors, nurses, social workers, policemen, probation officers, community psychiatric nurses, addiction specialists, drop-in centres, unemployment and sickness benefits and street cleaning workers needed. In addition to this, the loss of economic productivity caused by alcoholism also needs to be factored into the decision to open a £1 Pub if we are seriously attempting to make a business case for it. Last year it was reported that nearly 17 million working days a year are lost to alcohol, which surely makes a business case for closing a few pubs down. It is sad that we must make our arguments in this way and that the rationale that ‘this will harm people’ is not enough. Discount selling of alcohol isn’t a way of putting money into our communities; it’s a non too subtle way of siphoning it off. The £1 pubs that have opened in Stockton and Middleborough will add to the impoverishment of those communities and we must be vigilant that Cardiff does not suffer a similar fate.
Sunday, 8 February 2015
Blog 6th of February 2015 I joined a writing group on Monday night and to my surprise really enjoyed it, there were about 30 people there from all walks of life. Firstly we read a poem then we were all invited to comment on it, then we had to write a piece from someone else’s perspective. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and walk around in them. This got me thinking about my addictions and how it may have seemed from Owen’s perspective. I have not shown him this piece yet; I thought I’d let him discover it for himself one day. I called it 3am. 3am It’s happened again, 3 o’clock, awake in the dark, waiting. I’m not surprised, I expect it. The fluorescent numbers on the digital clock change as I blink. I listen, nothing; just that still, deathly silence. Is she dead? I lie there and plan her funeral. She may as well be dead the notice she takes of us. How will I tell the kids? I get up, padding softly on the cold floorboards to the window, twitch the blind, below the street is empty apart from stray rubbish circulating. Tumble weed. I feel hollow, sick. Then a sound! I go to the toilet, is it her? Anger, blinking at the hall light left on by me so she can find the key to the lock, (If she’s not lost it again). Still nothing! I get back into bed, uneasy, fitful, restless, anxious, flailing about irritable, pathetic. The impending imploding sense of doom! What man would put up with this? She’s done it again the irresponsible, selfish cow. The door! I will not, cannot ask; instead I wait and churn. ********** I suppose the only feedback that’s important is Owen’s. And if it opens a door for Owen to talk, then so be it. My eating plan this week has been steady. I feel lighter on my feet. I am allowing myself to look in the mirror a little more. It’s slow and steady, my diet is healthy. I am buying healthy food that I like. If I am eating three meals a day they have to be enjoyable and balanced and that is my goal. I also need to mix them up now and again so I don’t get bored or develop food fads. Breakfast is samey but that’s fine as I don’t need to think; lunch and tea take planning but I’m trying to enjoy it, incorporate it into routine and not find it a chore. ‘I am the right weight for me’ today helps as does handing my food addiction over to a Higher Power every morning and texting my sponsor. I’m religiously doing my step-work in the Overeaters Anonymous (OA) books daily and I find this cathartic as it allows me some time out to focus on my programme. Julie
Monday, 2 February 2015
Blog 25th of Jan to the 1st of Feb 2015 Goodbye January, hello February. A lot of people I know are glad to see the back of January; my work colleague calls it suicide season and always takes a week off. I did ask her if we were ever going to see her again as she signed out. Fortunately she came back. The months are just passages of time they all bring something with them, a special date, a birthday, an anniversary, familiar predictable weather patterns or sometimes something unexpected, devastating and life changing. Sometimes we put too much power in to them “I always get ill in November” and often we put a huge amount of power into certain dates “My father died a year today” so therefor I must be miserable and hideous to everyone I meet on that day every year. I have nursed many patients who seemed to have an anniversary of some tragic event every day of the year. They were constantly looking backwards re-living all the sadness and keeping themselves in a web of misery and despair, similar to being in active addiction. In recovery living one day at a time we need not do that. Taking each day as it comes, not regretting the past nor choosing to shut the door on it. I can’t close the door on the past, I need to keep it a little open so now and again I can glimpse back in. I need to remember how horrible it was, the nastiest most disgusting parts of my addictions, my shame, my guilt, my excess, and most importantly who I hurt and who I damaged. For me it’s an insurance policy, it’s where I don’t want to go back to. It can also be a positive reminder of how far I’ve come. And sometimes I need to hear it from those I love and harmed however cringey, uncomfortable and toe-curling it may feel. When Owen, children and friends recap on one of my “episodes” I have to listen take one for the team and let them spill it all out. For that is the reality of what I did and how it impacted on them. Neither can I live in the future, hankering and yearning for events that may never happen. ‘If wishes were horses beggars would ride’ goes the old saying. I can make goals for the future and plan to a certain extent, but even the best laid plans can go asunder and I have to accept this. I cannot control the future same as I have no control over the past. So it looks like the only solution for me today is to live in today, one day at a time. This week has ticked along. This week I have mainly found myself being irritated by other people. Self-righteous indignation perhaps a touch! I found myself having dinner with Owen last night having a good old bitch-fest and a moan about the behaviour of other people (that laughably I have no control over) totally powerless. Other people do what they do, I can’t change them, I can only change the way I react to them. The words of the serenity prayer are very apt in this case. I could choose to point out what I think are their shortcomings, but who the hell am I to do that? I’m only just starting to see my own and that’s taken long enough. 46 years! With my friends I have decided to just accept them as they are at the moment, if I am irritated and simmering inside that is my problem not theirs, it is my reaction, as Wyn says even if I feel bad I don’t have to behave badly towards them; just take a deep breath out and let it go. With work it’s slightly more difficult, I have to address problematic behaviour as it affects the team and the unit and I have a few difficult situations coming up this week where I need to address individual behaviour. I find it difficult when people come up with one hundred and fifty different excuses why they can’t or haven’t done something or when people’s egos are so out of control that they remind you of the good works they have done for you in the past conveniently forgetting that the past is not the issue. I would rather good old fashioned honesty “I’m sorry boss, I made a mess of things” rather than “My Auntie so and so is ill and my cat got run over and anyway I blame Mickey Mouse he was running the shift and after everything I’ve ever done for the good of these patients.” Excuses and blame. A familiar duo, it would do me good to remember that. It is what it is, and however I approach it (even if I’m simmering slowly inside) I need to approach it with honesty, openness, compassion and love and do it the way I would like it done to me. My eating’s been fairly stable this week; I have over-eaten on one maybe two occasions but not by a huge amount. One was an all-you-can-eat buffet (not the best of ideas for a person with an eating disorder) I am starting to enjoy the freedom that a plan gives you. I know that certain foods are no good for me so the obsession is beginning to wane. I was surprised on Friday night when I went for a meal, another friend an overeater like me had asked me if I had looked at the desert menu. It hadn’t even entered my mind. I looked at her daft “Why? Why would I want to? That would be like taunting myself”. I have decided that I do not eat deserts and with the help of my higher power there is no need to look at the desert menu. I wandered if she had an ulterior motive for asking? If I had said “Oh bugger! Let’s do it” would that have given her licence to do the same? Would my weakness have given way to hers? I did ask her why she asked and she said that she thinks there must be a little bit of self-sabotage inside her as she often has items in the house that belong to her family that are not on her eating plan. I know that I cannot do that at the moment. I could not have my trigger foods in the house as I know I would be fixating on them. The house was where the bulk (excuse the pun) of my binging occurred. That suits me just fine at the moment why put yourself through the torment when you don’t have to? So roll on February and another positive month working and living my recovery programme.
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
YSBRYDOLIAETH I ERAILL Meddygaeth a Dibyniaeth: Persbectif Gwraig Fy enw i yw Helen, rwyf ynghanol fy mhedwardegau, yn briod â Gwyn, Meddyg, ac mae gennym dri o blant oed ysgol. Ni chefais unrhyw hyfforddiant meddygol ac nid oes gen i unrhyw gefndir felly ychwaith. Rydw i wedi adnabod fy ngŵr am 25 mlynedd. Ym mis Hydref 2010, credais fod ein teulu wedi taro’r gwaelod hollol, yna yn ystod Haf 2014, sylweddolais ein bod eto mewn rhyw gylch dieflig lle nad oedd gen i unrhyw reolaeth ac, yn drist iawn, ychydig a wyddwn, roedd gwaeth i ddod. Mae fy ngŵr yn alcoholig ac yn adict ac mae wedi dioddef am nifer o flynyddoedd gyda phroblemau iechyd meddwl. Cymhwysodd fel Meddyg ym 1993 ac mewn ffaith, nid oedd yn yfed yr adeg honno. Llwyddodd i ennill ei FRCS (statws ymgynghorydd) yn fuan. Yn yr adran D&A daeth yn amlwg na allai gynnal gyrfa mewn D&A (mae storïau cyfoes yn amlygu hyn yn glir) ac felly, penderfynodd hyfforddi fel Meddyg Teulu (hefyd yn y newyddion ar hyn o bryd!). Mae hefyd wedi cymhwyso mewn Meddygaeth Alwedigaethol a Meddygaeth Liniarol. Fodd bynnag, o ganlyniad i lefelau straen uchel o fod yn Feddyg Teulu a hefyd yn berffeithydd wrth ei waith, mae wedi gweithio fel Locwm a Meddyg Teulu y Tu Allan i Oriau am yr 8 mlynedd ddiwethaf er mwyn iddo allu rheoli ei lwyth gwaith yn fwy effeithlon. Mae ei gydweithwyr a’i gleifion yn ei barchu’n uchel iawn am ei safonau gwybodaeth uchel a’i ofal ond, yn drist iawn, ac er mawr niwed iddo’i hun, mae hyn yn ei annog i weithio’n galetach. Roedd y defnydd o alcohol yn ei helpu i ymdopi gyda straen ei swydd a’i boen meddwl. Nid oedd byth yn yfed yn union cyn neu yn ystod ei waith. Ym mis Hydref 2010, teimlai na allai barhau gyda’i fywyd a gyrrodd i fan anghysbell ar fynydd lle yfodd lawer iawn o vodka. Yna, penderfynodd yrru adref a tharodd ei gar yn erbyn coeden ac i lawr i gwm serth. Galwyd ar y gwasanaethau brys ac yna cafodd ei gael yn euog o yfed a gyrru a gwaharddiad am 18 mis. Atgyfeiriodd ei hun i’r GMC. Cynhaliwyd ymchwiliad gyda nifer o asesiadau seiciatrig, cyfres o brofion gwaed ac alcohol, mynychu cyfarfodydd misol Grŵp Meddygon a Deintyddion Prydeinig (BDDG) a chafodd ddychwelyd i’w waith o dan oruchwyliaeth. Bu hwn yn gyfnod o straen aruthrol gan fod fy ngŵr yn hunangyflogedig a’r unig un oedd yn ennill cyflog i’r teulu. Gan nad oedd yn gallu gyrru a’n bod yn byw mewn man gwledig, byddai’n beicio 20 milltir yn rheolaidd i fynd i’w waith neu byddai’n rhaid i mi ei yrru yno - nid tasg hawdd pan oedd yn gweithio sifftiau y tu allan i oriau a’r plant yn yr ysgol. Fodd bynnag, llwyddom i ennill y frwydr hon, nid oedd fy ngŵr yn cyffwrdd ag alcohol ac roedd yn hynod o gydwybodol yn y modd yr oedd yn byw ei fywyd. Roeddwn wedi mynd gyda fy ngŵr i’r mwyafrif o’r asesiadau a chredwn o’r diwedd y byddai ei broblemau iechyd meddwl yn cael eu trin ac y byddai ein bywyd yn gwella. Fodd bynnag, yn fuan cyn i’m gŵr gael ei drwydded yrru’n ôl a chodi’r cyfyngiadau GMC, sylwais ar newid ynddo (yr hyn a wn yn awr i fod yn fater o ddychwelyd i ddig hunangyfiawn) a po fwyaf roeddwn i’n ystyried y sefyllfa, po fwyaf roeddwn i’n sylweddoli nad oedd unrhyw un wedi archwilio achos y broblem go iawn. Mae’n siŵr bod yn rhaid gwybod yr achos cyn gallu trin y symptomau? Roedd cynifer o weithwyr proffesiynol wedi bod yn rhan o’r broses, ond i mi, roedd pob un yn poeni mwy am ddilyn protocol. Digwyddodd yr achlysur mawr nesaf yn ystod haf 2014. Wrth geisio delio ag argyfwng yn y teulu estynedig 150 o filltiroedd i ffwrdd o’n cartref, penderfynodd fy ngŵr adael a gyrru adref er iddo fod wedi yfed ynghynt yn y dydd, ymddygiad cwbl afresymol. Ond eto, roedd mewn cyflwr afresymol (dyna berygl alcohol). Cafodd ddamwain car oedd yn cynnwys cerbyd arall gan anafu dau berson arall. Bu’n rhaid ei dorri o’r car, cafodd anafiadau difrifol a threuliodd dridiau mewn ysbyty. Cafodd gyfweliad gan yr heddlu a dychwelodd adref ar fore Sadwrn. Roedd hyn yn awr yn llawer rhy ddifrifol i mi a’r plant ddelio ag ef. Trefnais i’m gŵr fynd i ganolfan adfer breswyl a chytunodd i fynd yno. Fodd bynnag, ni allai aros am hyn ac yfodd ei hun yn hurt ar y bore Sul. Bydd y diwrnod hwn yn fy nghof am byth ac yng nghof ein plant; ambiwlans yn cyrraedd, fy ngŵr yn adfer ymwybyddiaeth mewn ysbyty ac yna’n dianc, heddlu’n chwilio amdano ac yn y diwedd cael ei gadw o fewn Adran 2 Deddf Iechyd Meddwl. Hynod amhleserus. Wythnos yn ddiweddarach, cyrhaeddodd fy ngŵr y ganolfan adfer ac arhosodd yno am bythefnos. Roedd yn teimlo bod y drefn yn anodd ond rydw i’n hynod ddiolchgar i’r ganolfan gan iddi wneud i’m gŵr sylweddoli pa mor anhydrin oedd ei fywyd erbyn hyn. Yna, clywsom am y Stafell Fyw sydd wedi bod yn achubiaeth i’r ddau ohonom ac i’n plant. Mae’n ganolfan adfer yn y gymuned wedi’i seilio ar gefnogaeth cyfoedion ac egwyddorion y Rhaglen 12 Cam. Rydw i’n mynychu’r cyfarfodydd Grŵp Teulu’n rheolaidd ac mae’r plant yn mynychu hefyd. Mae’n rhywle lle’r ydych chi’n teimlo’n ddiogel, nid ydych yn cael eich barnu, rydych chi’n dysgu i ddeall eich sefyllfa a sefyllfa eraill a lle’r ydych chi’n rhoi ac yn derbyn cefnogaeth. Roedd fy ngŵr yn mynychu cyfarfodydd grŵp seicotherapi’n rheolaidd a chwnsela un i un a hefyd bu mewn encil ym mis Tachwedd. Erbyn hyn, mae ar ffordd wellhad yn sicr ac yn benderfynol bod ei fywyd a’n bywydau ni wedi newid am byth, nid oes troi’n ôl. Ar 12 Rhagfyr 2014 cafodd fy ngŵr ei ddedfrydu i 27 mis o garchar o ganlyniad i’r erlyniadau yn ei erbyn o’r ddamwain car ynghynt yn y flwyddyn. Teimlai’r Barnwr y dylai fod yn gwybod yn well fel dyn proffesiynol. Mae fy ngŵr yn gwybod bod yr hyn a wnaeth yn anghywir ac y dylai gael ei gosbi; mae wedi dangos cryn edifeirwch am yr hyn a wnaeth a bydd bob amser yn edifar am hyn. Mae fy ngŵr yn awr mewn system garchar sydd mewn argyfwng ac anhrefn. Mae’r plant a fi’n gweld ei golli’n ofnadwy. Wel, mae’n bosibl eich bod yn dweud "mae hyn i gyd am eich gŵr, beth amdanoch chi?" Rydw i’n dysgu llawer amdanaf fy hun drwy’r sefyllfa boenus ac anodd hon. Bu’n rhaid i mi ofyn beth sydd orau i’r 3 phlentyn a fi ac nid dim ond i fy ngŵr. Mae’n flinedig iawn yn emosiynol. Rydw i’n credu yn yr uned deuluol. Nid wyf yn credu bod fy ngŵr yn ddyn drwg na pheryglus, i’r gwrthwyneb yn llwyr; mae’n fwyn, yn garedig ac yn ofalus, ond mae’n sâl. Mae’n awyddus i wella ac yn awr, mae yn gwella ond mae hwn yn llwybr y bu’n rhaid i ni gael hyd iddo ein hunain, ni chafwyd unrhyw arweiniad proffesiynol na chyfraniad meddygol cydnabyddedig. Fel yr amlygwyd yn ddiweddar yn y cyfryngau, mae diffyg cydnabyddiaeth ac ofn cydnabod problemau iechyd meddwl. Yn wahanol i salwch corfforol, mae’n gyflwr anweledig ac felly’n anodd i nifer ei deall. I gloi, mae rhai anawsterau mewn bywyd cynnar a swydd hynod anodd yn gofalu am eraill wedi golygu nad oedd gan fy ngŵr y dulliau ymdopi angenrheidiol ac, fel dyn proffesiynol, teimlai na ddylai bod angen iddo ofyn am help. Pan aeth i chwilio am help, nid oedd yn hawdd cael hyd iddo, nid oedd unrhyw un yn deall ei salwch yn iawn ac roedden nhw’n cyfaddawdu triniaeth oherwydd ei statws. Mae Stafell Fyw Caerdydd wedi dangos iddo beth sydd angen iddo ei wneud. Mae’r ateb mewn gwirionedd yn hynod syml, nid oes angen meddyginiaeth nac ymchwil parhaus, dim ond gostyngeiddrwydd, trugaredd, dealltwriaeth ac amser. Mae model adfer Stafell Fyw Caerdydd yn gweithio. Mae’n bosibl na fydd rhai’n deall ei gysyniad ar unwaith, oherwydd mae’n brofiad poenus ac estron. Ar hyn o bryd, mae fy ngŵr mewn carchar 180 milltir i ffwrdd oddi wrthym. Rydw i’n awr yn rhiant sengl, yn ddibynnol ar fudd-daliadau’r wladwriaeth. Rhywsut rydw i’n eithaf gwydn a chredaf fod hyn wedi’i fewnblannu ynof drwy fy magwraeth sy’n unol â nifer o egwyddorion Stafell Fyw Caerdydd. Rydw i’n fwy na pharod i drafod fy sefyllfa ymhellach. Mae fy ngŵr a minnau’n awyddus iawn i weld rhyw dda’n dod allan o’r dioddef rydyn ni, fel unigolion a theulu’n mynd drwyddo. Gellir cysylltu â mi drwy Wynford Ellis Owen yn Stafell Fyw Caerdydd. Helen
AN INSPIRATION TO OTHERS Doctors and Addiction ; A Wife's Perspective My name is Helen, I'm in my mid forties, married to Gwyn, a Doctor, and we have three school aged children. I have no medical training or background. I have known my husband for 25 years. In October 2010 I thought that our family had hit rock bottom, then in the Summer of 2014 I realised that we were again caught in a downward spiral over which I had virtually no control and sadly little did I know that there was worse to come. My husband is an alcoholic and addict, and has suffered for many years with mental health issues. He qualified as a Doctor in 1993 and in fact did not drink at that time. He soon achieved his FRCS (consultant status) in A&E, however it became apparent that a career in A&E was not sustainable (current news stories highlight this clearly), and therefore decided to train as a GP (also currently in the news!). He is also qualified in Occupational Medicine and Palliative Medicine. However, as a result of the high stress levels of being a GP and also being a perfectionist in his work, he has worked as a Locum and Out of Hours GP for the last 8 years in order that he could manage his work load more effectively. My husband is highly regarded amongst colleagues and patients for his high standards of knowledge and care but sadly this is to his own detriment; simply inducing him to work harder. Use of alcohol helped him cope with the stress of his job and the pain of his mind; he never drank directly before or during work. In October 2010 he felt unable to continue with life and drove to a remote mountain site where he consumed large amounts of vodka, he then decided to drive home and crashed his car into a tree and down a steep valley. The emergency services were called and he was subsequently found guilty of drink driving and received an 18 month driving ban. He self referred to the GMC. An investigation followed involving numerous psychiatric assessments, a regime of blood and alcohol testing, attending monthly British Doctors and Dentists Group (BDDG) meetings and he was able to return to work under supervision. This was a period of great strain as my husband was the self-employed and sole breadwinner for us, and, as he was unable to drive and we live in a rural area he would regularly cycle 20 miles to get to work or I would have to drive him - not easy when working out of hour shifts and children in school. However, we got through; my husband was abstinent from alcohol and was extremely conscientious in the way he led his life. I had accompanied my husband to the majority of his assessments and believed that at last his mental health issues would be addressed and that life for us would improve. However, shortly before my husband had his driving licence restored and GMC restrictions lifted I noticed a change, (what I now know to be the return of self-righteous indignation) and the more I considered the situation the more I realised that actually no one had truly examined the cause of the problem: surely you need to know the cause before you can treat the symptoms? So many professionals had been involved but, to my mind’s eye, everyone seemed to be concerned with following protocol. The next major event happened in the summer of 2014. In trying to deal with a crisis within the extended family 150 miles from our home, my husband decided to leave and drive home although he had drunk earlier in the day, a completely irrational behaviour. But then again he was in an irrational state (such is the danger of alcohol). He had a car crash involving another vehicle, injuring two other people, had to be cut from his car, suffered serious injuries himself and spent 3 days in hospital. He was interviewed by the police and returned home on a Saturday morning. This was now too serious for me and the children to cope with. I arranged for my husband to be admitted to a residential rehabilitation centre and he agreed to go, however he could not wait for this and drunk himself senseless on the Sunday morning. This day will be forever etched in my mind and those of our children; ambulance arriving, my husband regaining consciousness in hospital and then absconding, a police search, and ending in his retention under the Mental Health Act Section 2. Very unpleasant. A week later my husband got to the rehab centre and stayed for two weeks. He found it a hard regime but I am eternally thankful to the centre as they made my husband realise just how unmanageable his life had become. We then found The Living Room, Cardiff which has been a lifeline for both of us and our children. It is a community based recovery centre based on peer support and the principles of the 12 Step Programme. I regularly attend the Family Group Meeting and the children also attend, it is a place where you feel safe, you are not judged, you learn to understand your situation and that of others and where you both give and receive support. My husband attended regular psychotherapy group meetings and one to one counselling, and also attended a retreat in November. He is now well on the road of recovery and determined that his and our lives have changed forever, there is no turning back. On 12th December 2014 my husband received a 27 month custodial sentence as a result of charges brought against him for the car crash earlier in the year. The Judge thought that as a professional person he should have known better. My husband knows that what he did was wrong and that he should be punished; he has shown great remorse for his actions and will always feel deep regret. My husband is now in a prison system which is in meltdown and chaos. Our children and I miss him dearly. Well, you may say "this is all about your husband, what about you?" I am learning a lot about myself through this painful and difficult situation. I have had to question what is best for 3 children and myself and not just my husband. It is emotionally exhausting. I believe in family. I don't believe my husband is a bad or dangerous man, quite the opposite; he is gentle, kind, and caring, but he does have an illness. He wants to get better and indeed now is getting better but this is a path on which we have had to find our own way, there has been no professional guidance or recognised medical input. As has recently been highlighted in the media, there is a lack of recognition and a fear of acknowledging mental health issues. Unlike a physical ailment it is an invisible condition and therefore difficult for many to understand. In summary, some early life difficulties and a very stressful job caring for others has meant that my husband did not have the necessary coping mechanisms instilled in him, and as a professional felt that he should not need to ask for help. When he did look for help it was not easy to find, his illness wasn't fully understood and treatment was compromised by his status. The Living Room, Cardiff has shown him what he needs to do. The solution is actually very simple, doesn't involve medication or masses of research, just humility, compassion, understanding and time. The Living Room, Cardiff recovery model works: some may not grasp its concept straight away, because it is both a painful and foreign experience. My husband is currently in prison 180 miles away from us. I am now a lone parent, reliant on state benefits; somehow I have a resilience which I believe was instilled in me through my upbringing which is line with many of the principles of the Living Room, Cardiff. I am more than willing to discuss my situation further; both my husband and myself want some good to come of the suffering that we, as individuals and a family, are going through. I can be contacted via Wynford Ellis Owen at The Living Room, Cardiff. Helen.