A quick catch up

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’ve been thinking of you all – the way you do about friends you’re missing and meaning to call or arrange to see. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all meet like the folks in the picture? Seems like a remnant of life as we knew it in these testing times. Anyway before I get into prophesy of doom mode I’ll share what’s been going on in my life!

Work mostly but it’s good. My private work has been building and I’m at the stage where I say yes to most things whilst still working 2 days a week for my job. We’ve agreed on my relationship with them moving forward and after this week I only have a month left so there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve not worked this hard in a long time but I’m staying calm and enjoying it mostly. No idea if making enough money but I can look at that when I get the space to. Otherwise have had a few weekends away – wales with C, visit to my eldest E whilst still allowed and then pony camp which was a commute daily in the end but was great. Satisfying the 11 year old in me! Oh and we won our last competition! By making a mistake which cost us time so we weren’t too fast but I’ll take that!

I managed 3 weeks of no spliff but wanted some for the weekend away with C and we’re back to it again since. Of course I can’t moderate but I’m still hanging on to the idea of it – why? I think I can’t fully let go of the ‘needing something’ argument coupled with smoking being part of how I see myself and my identity. Through giving up alcohol I feel I’ve stripped back layers of superficial identity is accumulated over the years and am more my true self these days, but the problem is smoking feels like genuine me still. I don’t have enough cognitive dissonance around it (internal arguing!) so I’m not in enough of a dilemma. Until we externalise our addiction as not us then I don’t think we can truly let it go. The dry drunk is still battling with themselves, feels deprived and has to use will power. They don’t see the underlying needs and issues that alcohol is the solution for and the addiction becomes who they are – squeezing out the other parts of their personality, usually for the worst. My spliff habit is more contained and impacts others less but I know it’s not good for me and those 3 weeks taught me I don’t really need it but I still I want it. I’m not stressing about it and maybe I need to to act. I’m just accepting this is where I am right now and as long as I’m still working on other things then that’s ok. I don’t think it’s such a consciousness obliterator as alcohol is but maybe that’s just an excuse? Addiction is addiction right? I don’t worry about my coffee or chocolate intake or my jigsaw habit either but maybe one day I will. My 18 month landmark of not drinking passed without me noticing – it’s just not a big deal anymore. One day the same will be true of smoking.

I miss Ruby and her presence in the house but it’s ok. We’ve adjusted to J living at home again and I love seeing her and C together. They’re playful and have fun and there’s a lot of love there. I’m reading an amazing book – The Over Story. It’s blowing my mind and though it’s a slow burner at first and long and deep I’d highly recommend it. I can’t help thinking there’s trouble ahead for us all and have apocalyptic visions of the future. I also think though that the world all being preoccupied with the pandemic and all it’s fallout is a huge focus of collective consciousness that means people see and notice what may have not touched them before. It’s much harder for the powers that be to fool us when we’re all paying more attention so I have hope that mankind might wake up and demand change before it’s too late. My mum has been reading up on global pandemics and they have always led to social change. When it happens it happens fast – I remember the Berlin Wall falling and how rapidly the whole of the USSR fell after that. We are moving in the wrong direction here and the USA and it may get worse before it gets better but I hang on to my hope. I’ve joined Extinction Rebellion and have 2 visions of the future; living in the countryside being as self sufficient as I can and living in a camper van being a full time protestor! For now though I need to work and I want to write more so I’ll stay where I am and just be here now as best I can. I know I’m much better off than so many fellow humans and I’m grateful and humbled by that. How are you all doing?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Goodbye my friend

Last Friday my old dog Ruby was put to sleep. Although it’s been on the cards for the last few months or so it came on us quickly with a marked deterioration in a few days. I took her to the vets not really sure of what the outcome would be, trying to separate my wishes and thoughts from her wants and needs. When the vet talked about how hard it can be to know the right time and we could wait 2 weeks but that might be too long I knew now was for the best. She has always been a very undemanding dog; unlike most pets I’ve ever had. She accepted her life just how it was; rarely barking or asserting herself. In recent months she had fretted when not with me, pacing the house looking for me. Dementia had set in alongside physical decline. I’ve not alway been the most attentive owner to her – too many distractions and too many hangovers. This year I have been here for her and I am grateful for that time with her.

Animals have always been part of my life. I spent a lot of time as a child in their company and when I left home to go to University they were what I missed the most. As soon as I could I had pets again and there’s been beasts in my house ever since, along with the horses (who would live with me too if I didn’t live in a terraced house in the city!) More recently I am starting to appreciate the wonder of trees and plants too. I’m reading The Over Story which is about trees essentially (Dwight you would love it!) but so much more besides. Nature can teach us all we need to know about how to be the best humans we can; to support and care for each other, staying in balance and accepting the passage of time and ageing. Ruby grew old with grace and acceptance. She enjoyed what she still could and when the end came lay down peacefully and slipped away.

Gratitude for C

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Tomorrow is our 6th wedding anniversary. I’m writing this sat looking out at the countryside in a tiny cottage in Anglesey – (a  small island off the coast of north wales for those of you not in the UK) early in the morning with the dogs snoozing whilst C sleeps in the mezzanine bedroom above. It seems the right time to write about C and express my gratitude. 

C is incredibly generous with his time, money and affection. It was the first thing I noticed about him when we met. Rarely is anything too much trouble or met with begrudged agreement. If he can’t he will tell you but if he possibly can then he will. I’m the lucky recipient of this attentiveness but it extends to my daughters, my mum and others too. In the early years my girls werent keen understandably, but he would still do things for them and gradually he’s melted their hearts. My youngest especially loves him dearly and seeing them together gives me joy. I am striving to have the same lightness of touch and positivity in my interactions with others. I know how good it makes the other person feel!

C loves me unconditionally. If I’m honest the heady days of our early relationship coupled with the pain of divorce and upset children escalated my drinking hugely. C bought the wine and although drinking less himself didn’t criticise or try to control me. There came a time when I wanted him to but deep down I knew that would give me an excuse to project out my self loathing and carry on, and I had to make the decision myself. We had some awful drunken rows when I would do this anyway; often when we’d had a really nice time towards the end. It was me rowing with him but he would forgive me in the morning and suggest ways we could work it out. When I decided to stop he stopped with me. He’s done the sober thing before for over 30 years and he genuinely could moderate. He can take it or leave it and he left it when I was ready to support me. He’s not once said he misses it. When I’ve been low he’s listened to my nihilistic hopeless thoughts. I would have wanted to leave me to be honest I was so depressing and negative but he’s never once said he’s fed up with me, only that he wants the situation to change. 

The early stage of our relationship when you’re blindly in love and can’t get enough of each other lasted a long time! Having always believed you have to work at relationships suddenly I didn’t and that was wonderful. As we’ve been living together longer and  more ordinary life starts to fill up the space there have of course been times when things have been difficult. The realisation that the pattern seemed similar to my 1st marriage helped me realise what I was bringing to ‘us’ and to begin to resolve my underlying issues. C owns his contribution too though and actively tries to change as well whilst encouraging me to be the best version of myself. 

C is incredibly wise. He’s lived a varied life and can still surprise me with new stories of what he’s done. ‘Have you built a waterfall before – yes actually – for a church back home’ – ‘J teaches yoga in prisons – Yeah I used to do that’. What?!! He had a difficult childhood in the rural Deep South and not the easiest of times over the years with relationships but he has grown and learnt through his experiences and continues to do so. He reads a lot and is writing a book to share his wisdom with the world and I think the world needs it right now and I hope it gets published. Attachment theory and his therapeutic way of working, how plasma cosmology relates and how those things can save the human race basically – (I have said it’s maybe a little broad in its scope!)The way I work with my clients is based on his approach and it really works – another gift he has given me.

I am not often bored in C’s company. For someone who is easily bored that is big! Today we will walk the dogs, eat, read, play Scrabble and talk. We don’t often do much different from that wherever we are. A far cry from the manic hyperactive person I used to be; never able to settle for long, chasing the thrill and ever elusive excitement.

C is a lot older than me and that makes our relationship bitter sweet; Ive found my soul mate late in life and the threat of loss hovers in the shadows. At times that can make me anxious which can lead me down the depression hole and spoil the present. When we met and I was on the cusp of falling in love I told myself if we had 5 years of happiness it would be worth it. It’s 8 years since we met now. Those 8 years have been the journey back to my true self as I’ve slowly stripped back the inauthentic parts of me brought about by trauma and addiction. I’m still on it – making mistakes, learning and growing, but I’m more and more present in this life of mine. It’s a journey I’m not sure I’d have taken without C by my side. The word I would use now is contentment. Happy anniversary darling! 💞💞

Saturday Morning Sober

Photo by jonas mohamadi on Pexels.com

I woke up early today as I have been every day lately. Had a cup of tea then got my sourdough started to bake bread later. Went back to bed and read the news – depressing as hell, then some blogs on here – uplifting heavenly antidote. Making pancakes with the sourdough discard for breakfast and writing this as I wait for the mixture to be ready. I feel really good. I’m still not sleeping great (crazy dreams!) but it’s effecting me less. I’ve not smoked spliff for 5 days. Had a little at the weekend as friends came over but I didn’t crave it Monday. I can enjoy the evenings without it. I’m still toying with the idea that a little bit socially is ok but it’s not a strong thought – more a musing in the back of my mind. Strangely this is proving easier than alcohol. Maybe because of what I’ve learnt from being booze free, or just less addictive? Or maybe because I’ve not fully committed yet? I’ve not even tried to give up the cigarettes but I will when this is more embedded.

We’ve gotten much more sociable these last few weeks and I’m finally comfortable to be around others drinking and to really enjoy their company. This feels so good! I can be myself and it’s completely fine. I’m not judging them, I’m not bitter and I’m not anxious. Saw some friends in a beer garden so no spliff either and it was a really lovely evening; not spoilt by wanting to get home to smoke.

I’m also being a lot more productive in spite of the lack of sleep. Friday I still had work to finish at 5. Normally I would tell myself it could wait until tomorrow, then the next day tell myself next week but this week I got it all done finishing at just before 7 then cooked dinner with C. No more limiting of time spent on other things because it’s time to get stoned or drunk. I have all the hours I need and it’s so much less stressful. My mum always used to say ‘I know how busy you are’ whenever I hadn’t done what I said I would do. Yes I am a busy person but mostly I was busy getting out of my head. Everything else became a chore to squeeze into the sober hours, done with a foggy head and a lack of enthusiasm. No wonder life felt so hard and stressful with the added guilt of letting people down. It’s the little things that make me feel a better person – remembering to bring the book I promised to lend a friend; giving people a lift; taking time to listen to a colleague who’s having a bad day; saying ‘yeah sure’ when my daughter asks if I’ll do something rather than some half baked ambivalent stressful response. I’d gotten really selfish the last few years of drinking, possibly longer, and smoking dope most days meant that version of me was still present. Sober me is a nicer person. I like her a whole lot more! Enjoy your Saturday everyone!

For nomorebeer Anne!

1st Week Update

Photo by abhishek gaurav on Pexels.com

So my last post was about giving up smoking 8 days ago. It’s been a mixed week if I’m honest and a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m still smoking cigarettes and I’ve had spliff on 2 days. The first occasion was 3 days in. We had some friends over for dinner in the garden, something we’ve put off because of lockdown for ages. He’s a big smoker and A is my old drinking buddy. We’ve shared many a drunken adventure in the 35 years we’ve been friends as well as a lot of other stuff too. Our dogs are sisters and our daughters best friends. I’ve struggled the most with her out of all my friends since I stopped drinking and have been quite avoidant. Sunday was the nicest time we’ve had together in the past 17 months. We lit a fire and sat in the garden watching C’s waterfall chatting. I felt at peace and realised it’s not been her it’s been me. I’m no longer envious of others drinking but I couldn’t quite be fully sober – fear of missing out or fear of making them uncomfortable? Probably both.

I went back to work after 2 weeks off and into the office for the first time since March. I found it really hard to switch my head off from the anxiety of a risky patient on Tuesday evening – I didn’t fully appreciate spliff helped me do this – (I know! Dumb or what!) Thursday evening I saw my elder daughters tin she had left here and found half a joint in it. I was Gollum with his precious ring and almost hid it from C to have all to myself. We shared it and I had the best nights sleep I’ve had all week, but Friday evening was tough as a result. My emotions were all over the place and I ended up fighting with C and in the depression hole. Shades of Friday nights when I kicked the booze for sure. I tried to make sourdough but the starter wouldn’t get ready, I’d not done yoga and I let the addiction voice have centre stage. He was down too – he is very tolerant but withdraws to protect himself which I find intolerable. Multiple separations in early childhood from my mum have left me with serious abandonment issues that kick in after 10 seconds of being ignored – Yes I am that hard to live with! C deserves a medal! Today I am tired but less emotional. Been jumping with my daughter – early start, big competition, didn’t go well but we didn’t argue and I was able to be supportive and allow her upset without getting upset myself.

Anyone who thinks cannabis isn’t addictive clearly hasn’t been a heavy user. I’ve had significant withdrawal symptoms; poor sleep, vivid dreams, night sweats and a headache as well as a flat mood. I’m glad I’ve left the cigarettes for a later date as I may not have coped at all otherwise. I also think my family may have had enough of me. I will wait a couple of weeks then tackle that one.

I am not writing this week off as a failure though. In the past if I’d cracked I’d have resumed at my previous level immediately until I got sick of it enough to try again. I didn’t ask my friend to leave any for us and that was a big step. I got up earlier every day and did yoga or meditated in the morning before work – one of my main goals. I had a great day Monday show jumping the pony myself and I got a rosette! On a normal Saturday after an early start and a show I’d be stoned instead of writing this now. Unlike alcohol I’ve not really ever tried to stop before even when I’ve stopped cigs so it may take a few goes. I’m also writing here about it. I didn’t want to be the person who wrote about failing at stopping when I started this blog which actually helped me not drink. As in life I like to fuck up in private then present a reflective ‘what I’ve learnt’ sanitised version to the world. Sharing the messiness on here more openly tells me I’m learning to have more self compassion and acceptance. It’s not been perfect but I’m trying and I am going to keep trying. How’s your week been?

Time to fully embrace Sobriety

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Since my last post – A Good Place things took a bit of a dip and C and I have been through a rough patch. I could put this down to various external stressors but if I’m honest with myself my negativity and finding fault can be attributed to my internal struggle with my addiction. Not the wine witch but the smoke devil this time. He’s a subtle bugger but his basic message is ‘your life is shit and without me it will be unbearable’. He’s been noisy because I’ve decided to stop smoking on 1st September. We’ve ran out of weed ahead of time so that part stops from today. Just over 500 days since I stopped drinking I’m ready to leave the forest of addiction and start living a full unaltered life. The sense that I’ve had a foot in each camp – (ambivalence could be my middle name!) and I’m missing out on something, (and it’s not a mind altering substance) has been with me since the early days. Something has shifted and today I feel relief rather than panic that I will be fully sober.

In the time since I stopped drinking I have started blogging, socialise less and have embarked on a path to self employment. I have been depressed and figured out some of the underlying reasons why I need to numb myself on a regular basis. I have gone from a frenetic pace of life swinging between hangover and intoxication to a much gentler steady way of living. Cannabis has facilitated this to an extent but it is now holding me back. I want the time it steals from me – the evenings and the early mornings. I want to do more yoga and write more. I have so many ideas that don’t make it from my head to paper or screen. Mostly I want rid of the niggling voice that makes me trash the other things I hold dear. Gollum with his precious ring springs to mind. I will be Frodo not Gollum and throw the ring in the fire so it can’t destroy all that is good!

My eldest daughter E gifted me a sour dough starter before she left last week. Baking is going to be part of my tool kit to get me past the smoking hour. My 1st attempt wasn’t too bad! I realised that in the past I never fully appreciated gifts like this. A part of her given back to me that will keep on giving. It’s proving a nice connection as I message for tips and help and we exchange pictures of our efforts. It’s sad to see how much alcohol and drugs coloured my view of what was worth bothering with. Socially I was always most interested in the occasions and people that promised maximum intoxication. No wonder I’ve chosen to stay in with weed rather than go out without alcohol. I’m hoping I’ll get sociable in a different way now. I’m appreciating the women I know through horses more and recognising them as genuine friends, which I’m sad to say I didn’t before as they weren’t drinking buddies.

My other tools are yoga, meditation, writing and you my friends! When I read your posts and exchange comments I feel connected with like minded souls and inspired to stay on this path. Connection and community are the enemies of addiction. Today I will be sober.

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

The Eye — Misery Contest

For the last year or more my little made-up eye has been staring out at you from behind a ripped piece of paper. The response to my avatar is always mixed; sometimes it makes people feel uncomfortable, sometimes it generates questions (the latest one being “Who did your make up?”) and others still greet it […]

The Eye — Misery Contest

I loved this post so wanted to share it – really inspiring! Dgs xx

A good place

Photo by Brady Knoll on Pexels.com

I’ve not blogged for a while and I’ve missed you all! Life has been busier with work, family and horses and I’ve not been able to find the time though ideas have been swirling round my head not making it onto the screen. I’d written about feeling as if I’ve retreated into a cave and a sense I need to be preparing for whatever lies ahead but right now life feels good and I’m learning to appreciate the small things more in the moment and at times feel a deep sense of contentment. I’ve always lived life fast and been onto the next thing before the dust settles so I reckon this slower simpler living experience is good for me. I am where I am and change will come – I don’t need to force anything or make it happen. C says you need to blossom where you are planted so I’m thinking that being content here now rather than planning for the future is a good way to be.

I’m still smoking but I have a plan to stop in September when I reduce my hours at work. I’m in conversation with the smoke devil most days and although he’s not as insufferable as the wine witch was I’d like him gone! I’m also recognising that his ongoing presence enables the wine witch to pop her head up more often. I haven’t drank but I’m wistful at times with a small sense of missing out so I need to watch that.

I’ve been getting plenty of work and I’m enjoying working for myself and I’m ready to drop the day job albeit slowly. I struggle with private healthcare being a socialist so I’m letting people pay what they can afford within a range and that feels right. The emphasis on processes rather than content in mainstream services stifles the creativity and flexibility needed to do really good work in mental health and it’s liberating to be able to focus on the patient and your intervention rather than the forms and recording!

I’m reading a great book about ageing by Parker J. Palmer- on the brink of everything that I discovered from Boozebrain’s blog https://boozebrain.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/road-to-nowhere/. I was interested as I know I struggle with the idea of ageing and in particular with C being older than me. It got me thinking about love and appearances and how the two are really not connected at all. I love the essence of C’s being – his spirit if you like so the body that holds that will always be beautiful to me.

I did have a few days when I felt low and was worried my depression was sneaking back. Having both my girls home at the moment has sorted that thankfully. E is a teacher and I’d not seen her since March. She’s been baking sourdough bread, pizzas and pancakes for us and is easy company. I’ve spoken to both my girls to say sorry for the impact of my drinking on their childhoods. E didn’t really want to hear it stressing the happy memories so I did the same. J told me if I started feeling guilty then I’d probably go moody on her again and she’s ok now so leave it be so I did! It needed to be said though and I feel lighter for it even if they are both too kind to me to say anything! E still struggles with C as she’s spent the least time with him but it’s getting better and I can let them be without an urge to try and fix it.

I’ve saved the best until last – the riding competitions were brilliant fun! I’ve not competed for 3 years and didn’t think I’d ever be able to on this horse and we did a decent dressage and then came 4th in the cross country! The feeling of riding round a course on a willing horse is better than anything else in the world and I had a huge grin all the way! I realised how much I’ve missed it and how much horses are part of my soul. There’s more at the end of the month and I can’t wait! When I did it before I was drinking for fun too and that fun comes nowhere near this, and I’m better at this without the booze so it’s very affirming of my other choices too.

Of course being personally in a good place whilst the world is in turmoil and others are suffering in so many ways means I do feel my privilege and feel guilty that I’m not giving more back or doing something. I can understand the behaviour of ordinary Germans in the build up to the Holocaust now whereas my younger self couldn’t comprehend it. I wonder if the Syrian people were just carrying on before their country tore itself apart? It’s a mixture of helplessness, paralysis and turning inward to protect yourself and yours. I hope that things start to change for the better on the back of this wake up call from nature and that when the time comes I am able to be part of that change. I hope you are all in a good place too.

Dog days

Image from Shutterstock

There are two thought processes going on in my head at the moment – a little bit similar to the dialogue I used to have with the wine witch but softer. Two posts I read from fellow travellers on here this week really resonated with this conversation https://100daystosparkle.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/a-breakthrough-of-sorts/ and https://wine2water.blog/ – do check them out.

The first relates to using alcohol as a way to avoid doing all the things you should be doing – circumventing your inner perfectionist critic or rather anaesthetising her. The second is about living on autopilot rather than challenging ourselves to leave our comfort zone and be who we are meant to be.

I no longer drink but I do use cannabis in this way – once I have smoked I have permission to do nothing of consequence, do a jigsaw, read, play scrabble – usually for the rest of the day. Lockdown is perfect for stoners and I’m more comfortable with it since there is no pressure to socialise but I’m more aware of the things that don’t get done as a consequence. Mainly writing and yoga. I am busier by far than I was at the beginning of lockdown – mostly with work and the horse. I’m really loving riding and after nearly 3 years of trying to ride her I’ve entered a dressage and a cross country competition later this month! That’s definitely out of my comfort zone but it’s still purely for pleasure. Shows are back on and I’ve had fun days out with my daughter and friends competing. My work is building steadily but…….

Saturdays typically turn into ‘dog days’ whereby I go ride in the morning then have a spliff when I get home and hang out with C and the dogs and sack off more productive activity. The dogs do this every day and they love it when we do it with them, the 4 of us lounging around. I don’t get my blogs written, the food shop done or much else. Similarly in the evening after a day’s work. I am in my comfort zone on autopilot. However it’s time we spend together when a lot of the week we are busy separately and we like it. When drink was involved with this it stopped being fun and the argument with myself became intolerable. I don’t think I would have stopped if it hadn’t.

I think of the path we are all on as The Hero’s Journey – I’ve had my awakening and I’m in the cave where I should be learning the skills I need for the troubles ahead except instead I’m bunking off. I’m Luke Skywalker not turning up for Jedi classes – missing the nuggets of wisdom from Obi and thinking he can just wing it when the battle starts. I’ve lived a lot of my life like this and I’ve usually got away with it but my fear is this time I won’t know how to use my light sabre when the time comes and I’ll let myself and everyone else down. On the other hand maybe this is exactly where I’m meant to be at this time – trust the process and allow it.

Writing, yoga and meditation are the tools I know I need to invest in for whatever is ahead. When I do them I feel more at ease with myself. My head is writing stuff all the time but I don’t get it out of there. ‘Inspiration will come but it has to find you working’ – I read that in a Carol Ann Duffy interview quoting Picasso. Discipline is as important as talent whatever we want to do and I don’t have much of it!

So I am enjoying my dog days but also anxious that I’m stuck on autopilot. Can I be lazy without being stoned? Can I be productive when I am stoned or with cannabis in my life? Will I withstand the battles ahead or fall at the first hurdle? Help me Obi one!

Smoking and Me

Image from Shutterstock

I noticed today it’s around a year since I started this blog. I’m not great at staying the course with things – I’m your ideas woman not the completer finisher so I’m proud I’ve kept this up. I’m also aware that a year on I’m not so proud that I’ve not done much about the next stage of ‘getting sober’ – the cannabis. I had a thought a while ago that perhaps I would have to reach the point I had with alcohol to stop – the one where you hate yourself and just can’t carry on and just need to end the constant battle in your head. The trouble is smoking doesn’t make me feel like that in quite the same way. It’s not so obviously taking from me. ‘Except for your breath right?’ the sarcastic part of my mind just chipped in. Having just done a week of morning pranayama classes I’m in touch with the idea of breath as the conduit of our life force. It’s literally zapping my life force so why do I seemingly not even want to stop? Maybe I need to look more closely at my history with smoke?

I had my first puff on a cigarette when I was 4 or 5 years old. My brother, just 18 months older persuaded me to steal one from the packet with the lighter that belonged to the teenager who helped look after us. I knew it was wrong and I was nervous but I ran in and did it. We took our booty and ran out the house and into one of the barns. It was an old wooden barn full of straw bales at that time of year. There was a narrow wooden staircase up one level and you could just squeeze in with the bales right in front of you and the open space of a window behind. My brother lit the cigarette and took a few puffs and handed it to me. I don’t actually recall the smoking part. The next thing I remember is my brother saying ‘I wonder what would happen if I …..’ as he lit a piece of straw inches from our faces. It went up instantly and flames and smoke were everywhere. We got out quickly enough down the stairs though the smoke choked our throats and we were scared. Outside my brother (always good at getting out of trouble) quickly came up with a plan. We ran inside yelling ‘mummy mummy we were playing in the garden and saw the barn on fire’. The fire engines came and went, the barn was a blackened shell and I overheard adult conversations that expressed relief we had seen it or the house could have gone up too and what if the children had been in bed? I was consumed with guilt and shame. Over time the memory faded then one evening I was being put to bed early – I can’t remember why and as she swept out the room my mum said ‘and you burnt down the barn!’. ‘How did she know?’ It was never spoken of again until it was joked about in adulthood.

Fast forward and I’m 11 years old roaming the countryside with my friend and we start smoking. The pub sells us them as we chirp ‘10 No 6 for my mum please’ at the hatch at the back. We wanted to be naughty and it felt exciting. The last year of primary school and I was trying on being a bad girl. I didn’t fully commit and in the next year or so I distanced myself from that friend without explanation to her, behaved myself and stopped smoking. I started again when I was 14 and depressed. Wanting to be cool, image and being bad was part of it but looking back it was probably the start of self medicating. The first time I took anti depressants I remember thinking I didn’t feel a need to smoke. I still did though.

There was always a part of me that was ashamed of smoking though. The smoking part of me held the shame and the badness but I turned being bad into a success. I was the rebel who got away with it. I could laugh off those shameful feelings whilst living up to them simultaneously.

My first cannabis experience was visiting my sister at college. We got stoned with a friend of hers and I loved it. Laughed for hours. I didn’t smoke it regularly until well into my university years but it was always associated with fun, friendship, relaxing and not caring about the consequences. Just like alcohol. Slowly it became a necessary part of my day. Like alcohol it came to mark the transition from being a responsible adult all day to switching off, relaxing and taking time for myself. Whenever I stopped smoking cigarettes I kept up the spliff. If I stopped I would get so low and so wound up I would cave in. I stopped smoking completely for 6 months but a spliff at a party got me back just like that. Eventually I gave up giving up and began to accept the smoking part of myself as just who I am. This good girl by day, devil at night dichotomy is how I’ve lived for years.

So in the last few years I’ve not been ashamed of my smoking self and I’ve not really tried to stop. Giving up drinking triggered the internal conflict but I’ve sat with it for over a year now. As I wrote this I became irritable (a sure sign of cognitive dissonance) so I had a cigarette!

So here I am still smoking. I’m fairly sure it’s not adding much to life but I’m not sure I can let it go yet. I don’t want to get in a fight with a part of me it took me a long time to accept, but I’m not sure how to politely say goodbye to her either.

Image from Shutterstock