New Years Resolutions

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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.

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A New Year

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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!

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The Halfway House

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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.

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A quick catch up

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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