Triggers for change

Photo by Alexas Fotos on

I wrote recently about the ingredients of my addiction recipe but lately I’ve been thinking about the different things that got me to the point of making a change. I passed my 2 year alcohol free point this week. I didn’t feel the need to celebrate or mark it in anyway. It’s just how I roll these days. I saw some friends for a walk and food in a garden last week. Six people felt like a crowd and we laughed and had fun. I took a bottle of AF fizz. When I said that I really liked it a friend commented ‘until you realise it’s not working’. ‘Actually I don’t get that feeling anymore’ I replied and she looked surprised. I had no envy of their alcohol and it felt great.

It took me 15 months from 1st stopping to finally quit for good. I’d had the thought in my head that I needed to cut down for a good few years but the idea of giving up completely never crossed my mind. The death of George Michael in his 50s, heart disease related to addiction for sure and a friend of a friend, 49 years old, alcohol related, 2 teenage children gave me an uneasy feeling that disappeared when I drank. My attempts at moderation got less and less successful but if I had a couple of days off a week I thought I was doing ok.

When I divorced and met C my fears subsided and my drinking escalated. I was in love and having fun but also dealing with heartache – my own and my daughters. The two things don’t co-exist easily and alcohol helped. I signed up for an online rider training programme but couldn’t commit to getting up early to do the workouts. At the back of my mind I knew this was due to drink. I was also getting more erratic at work, increasing my stress and therefore my ‘need’ for a drink at the end of the day. I knew I was spiralling down but I had no idea how to stop it.

A few months before I stopped C and I were in London for a conference. I found the crowds difficult to deal with, I was anxious and irritable – a state that was becoming more normal for me. I now realise I was on a withdrawal intoxication see saw all the time. On the Saturday we had a perfect day. We walked and sat in the park in the afternoon and then went to the theatre, An American in Paris – great seats, drinks along the way. The play was magical and when we came out there was a busker and people singing with him. We joined in and danced in the street. I felt wonderful. Then we went into a restaurant and suddenly my mood switched and I had a go at C. We left without eating and I stormed off. Realising I didn’t know where I was I tried to call him but he didn’t answer for ages and panic set in. Eventually he did. He was in a rickshaw heading back to the hotel and came and found me. I got in and half for real half jokingly beat him up all the way back. My mood was teetering on the edge of happy versus angry and sad and I was too drunk to have any say over which way it would go. By the time we got back the bad mood prevailed. We argued – I don’t know what about and I spent the night sleeping on the floor crying. We missed the morning of the conference and the speaker I most wanted to see. I went home feeling dejected and a failure.

There were a few other incidents like this and I knew that the problem was my drinking whatever I might say in an argument. When I wasn’t drunk I was irritable and thinking when I could have a drink; when I was the nice part was getting more short lived and then I was turning on the person I loved. In those moments I felt like my mother at her worst. Triggered into disinhibited rage at the drop of a hat. I didn’t even know what I was angry about. It had a force of its own and was almost a compulsive re-enactment. Now I think the real argument was internal – between my true self and my addiction. This wasn’t my Mum’s stuff – we just shared the same problem. In spite of this slowly dawning realisation I kept pushing it away with alcohol as the idea of stopping seemed impossible. I wanted someone else to tell me and eventually my daughter did. Another night spent crying with shame and I decided to stop.

In those 1st few months I took up yoga and white knuckled my way through social situations. I felt physically better and both of my daughters and C’s tender care towards me confirmed just how much of a problem my drinking had been. The idea of permanence was still daunting though and at 100 days I decided to try moderation. Over the next 9 months things gradually slipped back. A yoga retreat in India in the autumn that I’d booked whilst sober gave me a break and strengthened my true self. I came back determined to control it but when I’d failed to do dry Jan, Feb or March I signed up for The Sober School, a blog I’d started following the first time round. I’d tried AA but didn’t like it and on line anonymous help seemed a better fit. I knew the demons were just around the corner and I didn’t want them back.
I read a lot of quit lit and followed the daily lessons. One of the most helpful things was learning about the addictive voice. Recognising this part of me as ‘other’ was powerful and a game changer. Realising how much we are sold alcohol as a solution to all life’s problems sealed the deal and half way through the course I realised I didn’t want to drink again. I have occasional urges but mostly it’s easy. It’s not will power it’s mindset and my mind is set to not drink anymore. I’m on the 2nd phase of the rider workouts and have a competition this weekend on the horse I couldn’t ride before I started looking after my body. My daughter hugged me when she realised it was 2 years and told me how proud she is of me. I wouldn’t swap that feeling for anything in the world.

Photo by Maria Gulyaeva on

Catching up with you all

Photo by OVAN on

I’ve not written for a while but for once that’s not because I’ve lapsed back into smoking dope! Tomorrow will be 5 weeks without cannabis as well as my younger daughter’s birthday! I did have a brief relapse of 5 days which I’m not sure I shared about. We got offered a little bit of hash which has been unavailable since the start of the pandemic and was my favourite smoke so I took it. Not straight away but I talked myself into it. Our friend didn’t know we had stopped or wouldn’t have offered. Actually we were kind of glad when it ran out. The actual boredom of it was much more evident.
C has predictably embraced it completely and has no issue with stopping at all. This actually annoys me quite a lot so I’ve been mean to him at times. Particularly if I lose at Scrabble! My delightful ability to lose the plot and rage at my loved ones seemingly over nothing has been showing itself again. Not too much thankfully but more than it has in a good while.

My issue is that I don’t really feel much better. My hope was that I would have more energy, get up earlier, do more yoga and write more. Those things haven’t happened. “Perhaps I’m just a lazy person who hid it behind being a stoner?” I say to myself. I know that’s not really true. What I have been doing more of is working and riding as my daughter has a job now (bank work, zero hours contract, minimum wage but that’s a whole different post) so I ride more days. When I’m in a bad mood I complain that it’s all work and no play, especially when the horse is out of action which she was the best part of last 2 weeks. She’s ok again now. I think she wanted to get out of the dressage competition we entered for Monday! C doesn’t mind his life being this way and that annoys me too! He doesn’t seem to need anything to be content and I’m jealous as well as admiring of that.

I’ve also not been feeling that well the last few weeks after a brief period of having more get up and go. I’ve had a sore throat and a sinus type headache – probably related to the change in habits. The sore throat has felt like things sticking in my throat so I’ve been anxious that I may have throat cancer. At traffic lights in the car I’m either trying to see my vocal cords or rolling a cigarette! I know how ridiculous this is but still I roll them. Similarly I’ve noticed that my sleep is worse when I eat lots of chocolate in the evening which I do quite often. I still do it as in the back of my head the voice whines ‘Do I have to give up everything FFS!’ The super crazy dreams have subsided but I’ve been having a lot of dreams about my Ex. I think in part because there’s been a rupture between him and the girls again; the major difference being my eldest is also really upset and hurt this time. Also I doubt I processed my feelings very well at the time given that I was drinking and smoking my way through it. It hurts me that my girls have lost their dad through me divorcing him but I know that I can’t fix it and I’m not responsible for how it’s panned out.
I’m enjoying work on the whole but finishing for the day particularly after an intense one is when I want to smoke spliff the most. As that’s not available I’ve considered wine more than I have in last year. Switching off from others pain and that intensity is something I am having to find new ways to do. Cooking with music helps, jigsaws and reading. I’m too tired to do yoga and it’s too late to go for a walk. I’ve covered my old job the last 2 weeks and though it was nice to see some of my old team I realised why it was so stressful. It’s really unpredictable because the young people are so high risk. I had to detain someone who was really not well where there was a risk they’d assault us as that happened last time so lots of planning but it all went smoothly in the end; cancel lots of my work to fit it in, different authorities passing the buck for who was responsible; deciding how at risk a chronically suicidal person was when they’d intimated they had a plan for ‘soon’ when I thought I was doing a quick meds review. I’m not used to it now and I’m glad I’m not on the frontline anymore. I’m working more hours for myself but I’m in control of when and there’s not very much that’s not as planned and predicted. It makes a big difference.
As I read over this I can see the addictive voice running through it grumbling in the background. I am glad I’ve stopped and I will stop smoking cigarettes too eventually. I’m up early on a Saturday baking bread and writing this so things are beginning to change. I know from stopping alcohol that our bodies and minds take time to adjust and it’s still early days. Enjoy your weekend everyone! 😘

What’s your addiction recipe?

Photo by DapurMelodi on

The idea for this post came from a discussion on Collette’s blog, (Wine to Water) about Gabor Mate’s view that addiction is always rooted in childhood trauma (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction). My friend did not see herself as having been traumatised as a child so this idea didn’t work for her. I’ve not yet read the book but I will. Whilst I happen to think a lot of mental health difficulties including addiction are rooted in childhood experiences I also think it can be reductionist and unhelpful to have linear cause and effect models for complex processes. The important thing about however you conceptualise a human problem is that it makes sense and is useful to the person with the problem. So this is an attempt to show the complexity of addiction using myself as a case study. These are my ingredients.

A cup of susceptible genes I come from a long line of alcoholism and problematic drinking on both sides of my family. My mum, my paternal uncles, cousins, paternal grandfather, maternal grandmother. That’s as far back as I know but I suspect it goes further. Animal modelling and heritability studies suggest large genetic contributions but epigenetics tells us that which genes get switched on depends on the environment so we can’t really solve the nature/nurture debate other than to say it’s both. There is also the question of how families ‘transmit’ things to each other – is it a genetic propensity to drink, a learnt behaviour or cultural? How our bodies deal with alcohol certainly has a genetic contribution. My ability to hold my drink and still function probably meant I could drink more for longer than some and didn’t have the physical reminders that it wasn’t good for me early enough to stop it becoming a problem.

2 cups of early trauma I did have quite a lot of trauma in my childhood. A prolonged separation in toddlerhood from my mother due to a sibling’s illness, then neglect from her drinking and intermittent unpredictable violence between my parents and sometimes my mum and older siblings. I think the separation probably led me to learn to shut down at times of threatened loss; whilst the violence meant I was physiologically primed to be alert to signals of threat and be ready to fight or run away. My nervous system was either over active or under active meaning I’ve never found it easy to relax. I’m restless, easily bored and easily wound up a lot of the time; and at others I’m flat, demotivated and miserable. Substances have been one of the ways I’ve regulated myself for years – controlling the ups and downs rather than being at their mercy. I have friends who manage themselves by running marathons, doing yoga, working too hard, cleaning excessively etc though so there are other ways to cope with early adversity than addiction.

A pinch of anxiety Its not obvious to many but I’m quite socially anxious and alcohol helped enormously. Once I’d had a few I’d be garrulous and slightly manic. I wasn’t really paying much attention by then to how I behaved or what people might have thought. It got me through that early discomfort. I also struggle being around drunk people – particularly women – clearly linked to my mum. I dealt with this by being the drunk woman myself. Strange but true! I am still triggered by this which makes socialising difficult at times though I’m realising most people my age don’t get drunk routinely. The pandemic has meant I’ve not had to confront this recently and I’ve enjoyed seeing friends on walks more than going to the pub.

A generous splash of stress I have had a stressful job since my early twenties. Life and death stuff and sharing others pain. For many of those years I was also raising my children and running a household. Like many women of my generation we seemingly had it all though it often felt like doing it all instead. I realised last week when I struggled to unwind on a Friday night and the wine witch came calling that my evening drink and smoke were how I switched off from all of it. Numb my brain and relax. Of course it makes it harder to actually deal with the issues but the short term gain seems worth it at the time and it quickly becomes a habit and learnt response.

Cook in a culture of acceptability As a society we have become much more tolerant of substance use and abuse. When I was a student we prided ourselves on drinking the lads under the table and the advertising industry have deliberately targeted women since that time. Alcohol is the accepted lubricant of society and it’s your fault if you develop a problem is the prevailing narrative. In my social circles other drug use is also acceptable and wide spread. I know plenty of people who have it seemingly under control but I’m aware I would have looked like that on the outside too. Increasingly I think it’s a way of keeping us all compliant with a society and system that doesn’t function to meet most people’s needs. We are cogs in the machine and if we get drunk and think we’re having fun at the weekend we’re less likely to complain about the unreasonable demands made on us. The reluctance to tax alcohol is about more than the power of the drinks industry I think. It’s a means of social control and what often starts as a rebellion – like the rave culture, becomes commercialised and sanitised for profit. The memes doing the rounds during the pandemic show this. The associated rise in alcohol related deaths is less publicised. Here’s one sent to one of my group chats recently about the easing of lockdown.

The more a drug is available and acceptable the more people will have problems with it. Anyone can become addicted to anything if they have enough of it for long enough.

So addiction is not just an individual problem; but is rooted in our family, work social and political context. Change starts with ourselves but there’s a lot that could be done in the wider spheres to help others not get to this point in the first place. What are your ingredients? I’d love to hear them.

Embracing Sobriety

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

So I’ve made it to 10 days cannabis free and it’s beginning to feel a bit pink cloud like. My sleep is improving again with slightly less crazy dreams! My energy levels are up and most exciting for me I wrote a piece for my other blog that has been in my head struggling to make it out due to stoned stupor for a long time. The editor of the publication I submitted it to likes it a lot and is working on polishing it before publishing. I feel so good about finally doing one of the things I really want to do. Next week is early morning Pranayama again and I’m confident I’ll make it out of bed all week. Concrete changes I can use to motivate me.

It’s not all been easy though. My arthritis is more painful without cannabis so I think I need to get some CBD oil. I had a low 24 hours in the week and I had persistent thoughts of drinking. I was in the shop and stood in front of the wine contemplating getting a bottle. In my head were thoughts of not having fun and missing out but when I considered drinking a bottle of Merlot alone I realised how sad and not fun that really was. I told myself if I still wanted it tomorrow then I would buy it. Thankfully I woke up in a much better mood and was relieved. The wine witch changed tack and I found myself musing about wine with meals – surely that would be ok? I saw a half full bottle of red in the cupboard – I think C got it for cooking the beef stifado he’s making for Valentine’s Day. I sniffed it imagining the taste then thought about how I could never stop at one; I drank to get drunk. I recalled the wise words of fellow bloggers who have tried moderation. I thought about my girls and my health and the moment passed. Phew!

What I’m taking from this is addiction is addiction, and when you can’t have one thing you want another. Substitution is not the same as sobriety. I may be nearly 2 years alcohol free but I’m only 10 days sober. Those grooves in my mind have yet to turn into impassable tracks and perhaps they never will. I still have a way to go to turn the healthy paths into easy drive highways. I need to redefine “fun” for a start!
Whilst much of the fun in my life to date has involved intoxication in various forms, it’s also involved lovely people, good music and good food. The most fun I’ve ever had is on a horse. The bit that’s hard for me is finding the fun in the little things – a game, a film, a walk or a meal. I was always preoccupied with the accompanying or soon to come booze or spliff to fully appreciate them. Sobriety means you can be in the moment and fully appreciate and enjoy it. A slower gentler kind of fun but ultimately more nurturing for the soul. Hope you’re all doing ok and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo by Gabby K on

Checking in…day 3/day673

Photo by Binti Malu on

I’m awake an hour before my alarm was due to go off so I’ve drank tea and read blogs without taking time from my day – bliss! I decided on Saturday to keep track of what I do instead of smoke spliff to help keep my motivation so where better to record that than on here! The title is to remind myself that if I can not drink for that long then I can not smoke weed too if I really choose to. It’s not as if it’s everywhere I look like booze or even legal here!
Saturday after writing I went and watched J have a riding lesson so I could video – I haven’t been at the yard with her for a while and we had a nice time. C and I did an online dance class sat evening – Argentine Tango with Oti Mabuse. C used to dance a lot and I dabbled with him but we never really kept it up together. It was really fun – though I kept kicking the bin as our kitchen isn’t that big! Made love later 💗.
Sunday a long walk and catch up with a friend not seen in a while then I had a long video call with my brother in Bulgaria. He’s the youngest and we were very close but I’ve drifted from him over the years as he is more one of life’s takers than givers. He had it tough as a child and dealt with it angrily whereas I people pleased more. He seems to have found some peace rescuing dogs – one of which is coming to live with us hopefully! I’ve rediscovered my love and compassion for him and am enjoying reconnecting. After that I cooked for a good few hours listening to Sounds of the 70s on the radio which I love. Played scrabble (lost) and read my book before gratefully falling asleep. I’ve not been reading much lately so getting into it this weekend also been good.

I’ve not actually craved the cannabis at all though I’ve had nicotine which is the main addiction I think and I know that Gollum will make an appearance sooner or later. I’d usually spend a lot of time on my iPad playing games and scrolling when stoned and doing something more genuinely stimulating instead has definitely helped. I’ve hardly done any of that this weekend and my mood was better for it. I’m awake early – one of my main motivations is to get up earlier and get into a morning yoga/meditation habit so that’s where I’m heading now. Have a good Monday my friends!

Photo by Thought Catalog on

January Reflections

Lucky to have this on our doorstep!

It’s been a while since I’ve written and although I have lots of ideas I’m struggling to commit to writing them. I’ve noticed that bloggers come and go and I’m missing some of the bloggers I connected with when I first started on here (Jim and Nadine come back!) but I’m aware I’m drifting too. I’m not done with getting sober yet – I’ve had more cannabis free days in Jan than I would usually but keep going back to it. My new year intention was to persevere with quitting though and I am not waiting months before trying again so I’m ok with that. The few days I did without cannabis or nicotine I was agitated and distractible so I’m focusing on the cannabis first. Whenever I stop I start thinking about drinking again which is a concern. I imagine just having one at a social event – who am I kidding? The idea that ‘you have to have something’ is a powerful one that I can’t quite dispel. What does this actually mean? That we have to lose our higher faculties to truly experience pleasure and joy? It’s a nonsense but somehow just being me 24/7 doesn’t seem to cut it. I’m glad I have a 2 year milestone coming up as that is stopping me succumbing.

What the stop/start sobriety is slowly showing me is that I am ok without it until I start thinking I’m not. It really is all in my head. I need to push through that and figure out what it’s about. I did a week of early morning pranayama with my lovely yoga teacher in Jan and experienced a connection with my true self that I don’t think I’ve truly recognised before. I was aware of this inner awareness but still chose to follow the addictive voice and roll up again and failed to get up early the following week to practice on my own. The conflict is more palpable now and I want to keep it that way. I think I avoid writing to avoid articulating this conflict as it pushes me towards sobriety; so as I embark on another attempt I will try to keep myself accountable on here. I don’t like failing – preferring to keep quiet until I have something positive to show; being prepared to be seen when failing is probably an important step for me. Bringing my outer and inner self together and being authentic even if that means being messy and imperfect.

The rest of life carries on in its muted pandemic way. I am enjoying my work, my walks with friends and my riding. Baking bread has become part of my routine too. I love the simplicity of flour and water becoming this delicious loaf with time and the right processes. A metaphor for sobriety perhaps? We’ve had our 1st vaccines so there is hope on the horizon. The vaccine roll out appears to be our government finally getting something right though I am worried about the delays to 2nd doses creating ideal conditions for a vaccine resistant mutation – a thought I try not to dwell on. My mum’s cat had cancer and had to be put to sleep which was heartbreaking for her but a new arrival comes today. She has struggled with the pandemic isolation and her cat kept her sane so the quick replacement is very welcome. My daughter J starts a job in a nursery next week – not what she wants to do long term but a job nonetheless. My eldest E is in love (or so it seems) with a guy who sounds lovely and that warms my heart hugely. I can’t wait to meet him! I’m really aware my children have inherited a messed up difficult world and will not have life as easy as I have had it. I can’t help thinking we’ve not prepared them well for the challenges they will face. I think hedonism, drugs and party culture became a replacement movement for social conscience and political activism; ineffective – all style and no substance; you’re not going to change the world dancing to Techno in a field high on Ecstasy however radical it feels! Perhaps this generation will be more serious and focused?

So that’s me – how was your January?

Photo by Bich Tran on

638 days alcohol free – 1 day smoke free

Photo by Pixabay on

I did it! I got past day 1 for the first time in a very long time. Completely substance free apart from a piece of Nicorette gum! My friend Colette’s blog – read first thing in the morning was instrumental in turning my non committal thoughts into resolve. I wrote in my phone ‘if not now then when?’ and a list of my goals – to read and write more, do my workouts, yoga and meditation and cook and bake new things; along with a reminder that nicotine does nothing except poison me. I told myself that all I had to do today was not smoke though. The rest would come.

I found it hard to settle to work all day, being fidgety and distractible. I couldn’t remember much at all about where I’d left things at before Christmas and had that sense of dread that comes from too many tasks left undone. Having vowed to only use the online diary this year I found I can’t function without pen and paper so out came the paper planner – I’m a Luddite at heart!

By the evening I was more twitchy and the lockdown announcement had the smoke devil whispering that doing lockdown without spliff would be unbearable. Luckily C has hidden it all away and reminded me I’d feel crap if I smoked or I might have cracked in that moment. We have the vape and I considered that but didn’t use it. I came on here and read and commented instead. In my head I’m allowed the vape as I think it’s the act of smoking I most need to overcome. As I suspected the appeal of getting stoned is less without the nicotine so I’m hoping that will sort itself out as things progress.

Historically when I’ve tried to stop smoking I get really low in mood and suicidal after a week to 10 days; then I smoke and think ‘why have I done that – it’s not that big a deal?’ but carry on anyway. Knowing what I do now from going AF I see this as the addictive voice going full throttle. Remind me of that if I’m writing about how shit my life is in a weeks time!

I started one of the books about quitting cannabis I’d downloaded last night as I found quit lit really helpful with alcohol, and we went to sleep earlier than usual. I sweated a lot and woke several times through the night but I still feel more alert than usual this morning. I have stepped out of the halfway house, and resumed my journey towards a fully sober life and it feels good!

This quote has been on my kitchen calendar through December and I think it’s sunk in!

New Years Resolutions

Photo by on

Happy New Year everyone! You don’t hear much from me for a while then 2 posts in less than 24 hours! If I reflect on why I’ve not been writing much I could make lots of ‘busy’ excuses but really the reason is simple – smoking. I’m still smoking so I’m avoiding things that increase my cognitive dissonance- (the technical term for the argument in my head between the smoke devil and what I hope is my authentic self) and sobriety blogs clearly do that. ‘Well read them more’ I hear you all shout through my ipad! I have written lots of posts in my head about how I’m going to stop; 30 days of yoga, write every day etc etc but not surprisingly they’ve not made it to the page. C and I are away in a cottage for New Year on what has become an illegal holiday; and I had planned to stop whilst here, and do lots of writing, reading and yoga. We have vapes for both substances but when I opened the nicotine one (I’ve had it for months) I didn’t have a cartridge. Also just considering stopping put me in an argumentative discontent that isn’t conducive to having a nice time. Historically I’ve often tried to stop smoking on holiday and it has never gone well! So we’ve smoked but quite a bit less than we do usually and probably with less pleasure. The dissonance is getting louder and I’m getting sick of it now. I remember how much head space the wine witch took up and what a relief it was when that stopped.

I forgot to bring what I needed to work on a post for my other blog and I’ve only done 15 minutes of yoga. When I abandoned the yoga it occurred to me that in my head I was going to come away for a few days and basically become the person I wanted to be – overnight, no effort and no process. Suddenly I would be a prolific writer who did yoga every day, didn’t smoke and probably didn’t even eat chocolate or ever get angry! I wanted to get there without doing the work. I suspect this is a common way of thinking in addicts. Wanting the quick, easy fix to make it all better, change the mood, relieve the pain. Enduring growth and change comes much more slowly with many twists and turns along the way. I can’t force it but I do have to keep trying. The changes that have come since I stopped drinking have evolved slowly over these last 3 years and some of them came from the first attempt even though I drank again for a while.

So my word for this year is ‘persevere’. I am going to persevere with attempts to stop smoking. I won’t add a load of other aspirations to that as they will come in their own time. If I cave then I will try again the next day – no waiting for a full moon, the next holiday or next new year. It’s a process not an event and it will take time, energy and commitment. I just have to keep trying.

Photo by Brett Jordan on

A New Year

Photo by Akil Mazumder on

2020 has been a year like no other in most of our living memories. Covid 19 has reminded us that we are not rulers of the universe, nature is, and we are all fragile beings at her mercy. In spite of all our progress, the tools we have to protect ourselves are the same as at any other time in history – soap, water, masks and space. Our human need to gather together, to connect with others has been curtailed globally and we are all sharing in that; though not all sharing the suffering of loss, sickness and economic deprivation. Many have found they have less to do whilst those in key worker roles have never had to work as hard. We’ve realised which jobs really matter and it’s not the ones in the City! A lot of people are a lot poorer whilst a few are significantly richer. Whilst governments have tried to balance health needs with the economy they’ve found that the two cannot be separated so easily and the virus has stayed one step ahead. Countries that prioritised the health of everyone earlier have done better economically. The UK’s developing hospital crisis is not only a result of indecisive dithering about restrictions and lack of efficient testing for staff but also years of under investment and staff shortages. I fear the New Year will be worse at the start than anything we’ve seen in 2020. Successive governments disregard for the well being of the people has led to this catastrophe.

Our worlds have been smaller this year. Little travel, no gatherings. This enforced slower pace has it’s benefits though. More time with our immediate loved ones; more time to connect with nature, to bake, to read or just to be. We’ve seen people less but appreciated it more when we have. I’ve baked bread for the first time in my life and grown flowers from seeds.

As the new year dawns there is hope. The development of a vaccine in less than a year is truly remarkable and just shows what we can do if we work together. Could we do the same to tackle climate change? Global poverty? We could if we wanted to. The internet has allowed us to keep connected and for many, myself included, to keep working safely. Imagine a pandemic without it? Lots of community projects have developed to help and support others. We helped deliver 300 Christmas dinners and sacks of toys to needy families, individuals and care homes on Christmas Day – organised by one awesome guy in our area.

The pandemic has shown us the best and worst of humanity. We are not yet on the other side but my main hope for 2021 is that we learn the lessons we need to from it. I for one want a new normal; one where every life is valued and cherished; need comes before profit; nature is respected and love conquers hate. My mum tells me that every pandemic in history has brought significant social change afterwards. So let’s imagine and hope for 2021!

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on

The Halfway House

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here – or anywhere. Yes I’ve been busy but it’s more than that. Since my 3 week break from cannabis I’ve been back on it; a little less indulgent but every night all the same. I don’t want to be the person who repeatedly fails in public, it doesn’t fit my external self image; but then neither does my hidden self. Coming on here and owning my struggle is how I’ll join my two selves – my light and dark, to be a truly whole being. So here I am – warts and all to share where I’m up to.

Like alcohol, (just before my 1st 3 month break)I find myself debating my relationship with cannabis most nights. My resolve to quit is always strongest when I’m high, and all but gone in the morning. I think about whether to stop tobacco first, use a Vape, or do both together. I act resentfully towards C because I’m actually sick of myself. Then I have another smoke and let the warm fuzzy glow wash it all away. I’ve added on line jigsaws to my addictive habits too. I swear I get a buzz every time I put a piece in – the crack cocaine equivalent for sensible people! At least that won’t kill me!

I feel like I’ve set up home at the half way house on the route to sobriety. I can look forwards to sober land; hear your stories and think ‘ooh that does sound good….I really need to get there soon’; and look back to the place where I hear ‘we all need something don’t we?’, ‘treat yourself’ and the like. I don’t want to go back and don’t think I could – I’ve seen through alcohol and we are done. Clearly though I’m using some of the myths to keep me where I am.

In one of my night time musings I thought about what it was that was my lightbulb moment with giving up booze. It was when I realised the marketing ploys but also the neuroscience of how are brains adapt so I downloaded a book written by a former addict and neuroscientist called ‘The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction’ and I read a little each night. So far the main take home message is whatever the drug, your brain gets busy producing the opposite effect as maintaining homeostasis (constancy) is the brain and body’s main preoccupation. Eventually environmental cues alone will set your body off producing the opposite of what you seek so you just don’t get the same feeling any more. Cannabis works on lots of our brain, like alcohol, which is why the effects are so diverse. It acts on the post synaptic receptors unusually telling the brain to pay more attention to the stimulus coming in which is why perception is enhanced, food tastes lovely, TV is funnier and sex is amazing. However, once your antidotes are kicking in through chronic use then everything is just dull and you don’t enjoy or appreciate it. I am still enjoying simple pleasures but maybe I’d enjoy them a lot more sober? Thinking about this stuff is helping my mindset and I’m hoping it will help me move on from the halfway house.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on