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.