Bit of history

I am 39 next month. I have 5 children. My eldest son T is 18. R, my eldest girl is 17. SC, my middle daughter is 12. SS, my youngest son is 10 and F my baby girl is 22 months old. Only F lives with me and R, her daddy. My older 4 live with my ex-husband.  I never imagined that I would be a mother whose children didn’t live with her. It creeps up on me regularly and devastates me over and over. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the shame and guilt of it. The grief takes my breath away. But, they are happy and we have a wonderful relationship. All of my kids and I see each and speak and text regularly and I know I have to be grateful for this. I have hurt them. Over and over. They have seen things they shouldn’t have seen. A couple of times I have written them goodbye letters but thankfully they have never had to read them.

I had T and R when I was 20/21. Their biological father was an older, married man. He and his wife also had 2 children at the exact same time, like within a couple of months of each other. So he fathered 4 children in 2 years. We lived in a small town (pop. 2,000) and as you can imagine, it was a fucking nightmare. I felt so in love with him but even so, when I found out I was (17 weeks!!) pregnant, I told him I was keeping the baby but he could walk away and I would never tell a soul. Naive I know, but I wanted the baby more than anything I’d wanted in my whole life. I’d had 2 abortions when I was 16 which I’d been pressured into (another even older married man) and I wasn’t going to do that again. I am firmly pro-choice but it had not been my choice and it had affected me deeply.

For a few years my life became the town’s gossip column before he and his wife moved away to make a go of it somewhere new and away from me. I was heartbroken and ashamed but I loved being a mum and was lucky enough to have a nice home that I rented from my mother. I was secure and independent.  I soon met J, a boy I’d been to school with and grown up alongside but had never really got to know. My kids adored him. We got on well. We got married and he eagerly adopted T and R. In my heart I knew it wasn’t right but everyone else was so happy, I thought I was doing the right thing. That I could cope with this life. He was good to me, wonderful to my children and provided for us. We went on to have SC and then SS was born in July 06.

J and I had always done recreational drugs on the weekend before SC and SS were born. T and R would spend Sat night at a relatives and we would get high. In our small town there are 14 pubs, most of them next door to each other. It’s a big drinking town with a huge booze problem. My friends and I were drinking at 14 in parks but by 16, we were openly drinking in the pubs. That was typical. You grew up being drinking at weekends in our town. Everyone did it.

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J and my drinking and drug use was heavy but only on the weekends and only in the time before we decided to try and have a baby. After I had SC my alcohol use went up a lot. I was drinking every night at home. 1 or 2 bottles of wine a night. I was puffy and lethargic. I convinced myself that it was normal. J was a weed smoker. He smoked, I drank. We decided to have another baby and I quit again. I had the odd glass of lager or red wine but kept within the recommendations for pregnant woman. I know in the US it’s massively frowned upon but in the UK, the guidelines stated you could drink 1 or 2 units a week.

I have a problem coping appropriately in a crisis. I resort to a learned way of substance abuse. This method has failed me every single time and I believed that my repeated failure to learn from my mistake was down to a severe character flaw. It felt hopelessly inevitable. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’m beginning to understand it is not just my resolve that is weak. I can apportion a little blame to the example I was given as a child. I know I am nearly 40 and a fully grown woman and should know better but I’m hoping it’s a ‘better late than never’ situation.

I was taught that having a drink or burying my head deep in the sand was the way adults cope when life goes tits up.
10 years ago I used to drink a bottle of wine when the kids went to bed. This was socially acceptable.
Then it was 2 bottles – less acceptable.
So I became secretive about the extent of my habits. My ex husband used to have his friends over and smoke weed all evening. He maintained a job and I continued to be a more than adequate parent and homemaker. There didn’t seem to be too much of a problem.

Then SS was born.

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He was 2 days old when the paedtrician casually told me his ‘dismorphic features’ indicated that he had CDLS. A rare genetic condition. We had no idea anything was wrong. We had only come into hospital because we were struggling with breastfeeding successfully.
She gave me this life changing news when I was alone, my husband having gone home for the night to look after our older children. I made the decision to not tell him until he came back the next morning to give him one more night of not having that knowledge.
Within the first hour of a possible diagnosis I was already closing ranks. I was in survival mode 48 hours after giving birth in safe hub of my own bedroom. I believed I could handle it and would cope better than my husband so made the decision to internalize the true depth of this pain. If I was ok as his mother then everyone else would be OK, wouldn’t they?
We never received any kind of counselling. We had Google (I texted a friend that first night in hospital and asked her to look up CDLS. Before I’d even told my husband. I couldn’t do it from hospital. She very tearfully and reluctantly gave me the basics over the phone. I put her in a terrible position, I can see now but I couldn’t wait until I got home. I should have. It didn’t help and only offered more questions than answers.)
Our health visitor spoke of wheelchairs, special schools and life expectancy as I was cradling my 5 day old, 6lb bundle. I bowed my head and felt crushed. My husband made her leave and rang the health authority to complain.
I retreated. From my friends. My family. But mostly from my own terrible imagination of what our future entailed. I learnt how to switch my brain off.
Ten years on I don’t remember ever sitting down with anyone and having an honest conversation about how it all felt. I would say over and over (in my own head, to no one in particular..)
‘Don’t feel sorry for us. This is no tragedy. I’m so glad SS was born to me and not someone who didn’t want or love him. I wouldn’t change a thing.’
I made it look like no big deal a friend told me years later.

My substance abuse problem as a way of coping began in the year after SS’s birth.

 

Tramadol made my pain go away. All the anxieties and grief I felt was crippling me but I used the pills to cope. It made me feel so happy. I started off taking 3 or 4 with a bottle of wine but within 10 months I was taking 45 a day. I was dying. I was vomiting all the time. I have no memory of the majority of 2007 apart from having 2 huge seizures. The first time my husband had to pull my tongue free as I was choking on it. I signed myself out of hospital and ‘confessed’ to J that I’d been abusing slimming pills. I was sorry but it didn’t scare me enough to stop. I had another fit. More lies and eventually he and I split up. He left the children with me as I’d convinced him I was clean. James and I split when SS was 1.
I became a single parent to 4 children.
Then my brother got ill.
I was in the impossible situation of being a single mum, a non driver, 4 hours away from my brother’s (L) hospital bed with a disabled child who couldn’t just be palmed off on any old relative as easily is the other kids. I had a difficult relationship with my ex mother in law who acted out in a very peculiar way whilst my brother was dying, by making me feel guilty for leaving the children when I visited him.

My own mother and I became estranged during this time. We had always had a difficult relationship and the strain of caring for my brother, watching him slowly deteriorate and trying to navigate between my warring parents, who hadn’t been in the same room since their divorce 20 years previously resulted in a petty argument that neither of us could find the courage to forgive. It was bitter and sad and only now, 8 years later are we tip-toeing into each other’s lives, attempting a cease-fire. Tentative, baby steps.

After we lost L, his lovely 21 year old fiancée committed suicide.
She couldn’t live without him. She couldn’t see a happy future for herself. She hung herself 8 months after he died.
Shortly after that I became homeless because I could not open my mail and therefore pay my bills. My children and I moved into my ex husband’s house and I slept on his sofa. After 3 weeks I felt utterly hopeless and attempted suicide by overdosing where my brothers ashes were scattered. It was a serious attempt. I took enough to kill me but I woke 10 hours later. Not dead. I had failed at that too.

That was 7 years ago and since then I have overdosed several times.
Both accidentally and on purpose.
I have done a great job of not coping well at coping. I have tried my best to protect my older children from my unhappiness but sadly my eldest daughter spelled it out to me recently. She told me that when I used to shut myself away it only made her feel like she’d done something wrong. I thought I was hiding my misery and by leaving my kids to play in the living room with the tv and snacks, I was providing them a happy space. Turns out I very wrong.

I’m sorry kids. I thought I was doing the right thing. It was NEVER you.

Over the years I have had problems with painkillers, speed, benzos, sleeping pills, otc meds and alcohol. I have binged heavily on coke and E but never had the money or supply to maintain that. I have accidentally overdosed twice. My daughters had to call an ambulance and watch me get taken away on a stretcher.

So that’s my history of drug use in a nut shell. I started using recreational drugs at about 16. Going to raves and partying on E but it wasn’t until after SS was born that my drug use became something I hid from everyone. That was when I started using drugs to escape my pain rather than for fun. The alcohol came first but it wasn’t hidden. No-one really cared about that because it was such a normal way of life.

My children have grown into sensitive, intelligent, caring, and dare I say; happy young people despite my failures. They are more understanding and accepting of my limitations than I could have ever hoped for.

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But I can not continue to be this way. I have a sweet 22m old baby girl who wakes up with a ceaseless capacity for joy. So far unaffected by my numerous struggles. I need to preserve and protect that for as long as possible.

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It’s more luck than good parenting that my older kids and I have scraped by the last 10 years without them being more emotionally scarred. We’ve been lucky. Luck runs out.
My baby needs me to be happy and healthy. I have to put everything into  being healthy and hope that will lead to inner peace.

I hope by writing this down, it will help me pinpoint parts of my journey. That I will learn some of my triggers. Maybe it will help teach my brain to stop deleting the negative aspects of my disease. I don’t want to ever relapse again. I want to be proactive in my recovery and sobriety, not reactive. I need to keep reminding myself of how awful it has been for me and my loved ones. I need the bully in my head to be shut down down by facts and truths.

I apologise if this post seems a little disjointed. Some of it was written a few months ago. I wanted to write some of my back story but a lot of it overlapped with a post I had previously written so I tried to patch it together.

Thanks for reading.

Secrets keep you sick

Just don’t quit.

Don’t be the failure your disease wants you to be.

Secrets keep you sick.   Seriously Sober

I’m new here and haven’t blogged in many years. I had a blogger blog and a Vox blog 10-15 years ago. I’ve been seeking out recovery/sobriety blogs because that’s the main focus of mine right now and this morning I read the above 3 sentences from blogger Seriously Sober that really struck a chord. (Thanks!)

I have an addiction problem. For secrets. Having a secret soothes me. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. But SS is right. They keep me sick. I find the process of acquiring pills or alcohol eases my anxieties more than the consuming of them. The knowledge that I have them on my person or stashed away comforts me. It’s a sickness. My brain deletes the memories of come downs, crashes, hangovers, hurt, despair and convinces me that it’s in control this time. That I  can just drink a glass of wine and I believe it because, at that time it’s true. I can drink sensibly for fun. For a short time. But that one glass becomes a bottle, becomes a bottle chased with some spirits becomes otc meds becomes illegal online meds and I’m in a hole I can’t get out of. I’m driving the car on sleeping pills. I’m drinking wine at breakfast. I go from hiding a bottle of wine in the bottom of the clean washing pile and having a small glass every few evenings and being comforted in my ‘willpower’ to watching my life fall apart around me. The secrets, like a bag of snakes, become impossible to keep control of. Once again that voice inside my head tricked and cajoled me along. Why do I keep falling for it?

 

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My brain is excellent at talking me into relapse behaviours. Excellent, I tell you!  My partner can not understand why I can’t put the same amount of effort into educating myself on recovery and sobriety as I do into relapsing. All the learned behaviours and compulsions, well they’re right there aren’t they? It’s the easiest thing in the world. Keep doing what you’ve always done. I don’t know? All I know is that I have GOT to figure it out this time. If I listen to that voice in my head just one more time, I’m pretty sure it will end up killing me.

K

 

In the bleak midwinter

 

I feel so defeated today. Yesterday was a bad one. My older kids went home and the effort of keeping up a pretence all weekend had clearly taken its toll on R. He was just so angry. He has zero faith in my ability to do this. I just cried all evening just repeating ‘I don’t know what more to do or say’.  I know I have done this to him.

I am still keeping people at arm’s length. The only suggestion he could come up with that might help him at the moment is if I talk to my friends. The more I argue with him that I’m a private person, the more insistent he becomes that THAT is the problem.  He may be right. Even when I had a big circle of friends, I never felt that my problems were worthy of someones time. I was more than happy to be an ear and to push some misguided advice but the stuff that hurts my heart? Nope. That’s sealed information.

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I can’t cry in front of people. I mean, I can but I HATE it. It gives me hellish anxiety. In actual fact, I am a massive crier. I cry most days to varying degrees. Last night was the kind of crying where I ended up having to ice my face down and now, after a nights sleep, my eyes are puffy and sore. I have a headache and probably won’t leave the house today. My fear of crying in front of people is losing control I suppose. I am scared once I start, I won’t be able to stop. I always used to keep my tears for myself. Logically I know there’s nothing shameful about tears. I don’t see it as weakness. If I see ANYONE cry I feel enormous empathy and will always try to offer some reassurance. R cried last night and knowing that he doesn’t want me anywhere near him was difficult. It felt cold and harsh to not be able to comfort him.

My mother used to cry in the bathroom. She wore a lot of make up so it was a big deal if she cried because she’d have to fix her face afterwards. I’m not stupid. I see the connection.

I will try to reach out more and not just now, in the midst of crisis. I must maintain these friendships and feel worthy of it. God, I hope therapy will help me with this more than anything.  It’s the only thing I can offer R right now that’s different to all the other things I have tried.

Day 3.

It’s all HAPPY HAPPY, JOY JOY here. The tension between my partner (I’ll call him R) and myself is making me jittery. It feels a lot like hate. He doesn’t want to be here. He doesn’t want to be around me. I’m tip-toeing around him, begging for scraps. A kind look, a reply to a question that isn’t snapped, or worse, monotone and without any feeling. Every time I leave the house I picture him walking into different rooms in our home, trying to imagine where I would stash stuff. Not knowing whether he wants to find anything or not. Every time I leave the house I think he’s picturing me buying miniatures or otc meds, squirreling them away in the bottom of my bag or downing them in public toilets.

It’s wretched right now.

My 2 older kids from my first marriage are here for the weekend. It’s only the third time they’ve been here since my big relapse and suicide attempt in August. He didn’t want them to come up. Not because he doesn’t like them but because he doesn’t want to be here  himself. He doesn’t want the extra responsibility. He can’t fake being ok. It’s something that’s always frustrated and bewildered me somewhat. R is not an addict. He’s not ashamed of his feelings or his short-comings. He doesn’t need to pretend. It’s probably very healthy, his way. My way of keeping things bottled up and pasting on a smile (the show must go on!) is widely known to be a shit coping mechanism. But I’m good at it (until I’m not). Can you actually imagine telling the truth when someone asks you, ‘Are you ok?’ Horrifying!

I only see my older kids once a month though, which didn’t happen much over the summer due to me falling apart. I didn’t want to postpone this weekend and let more people down. So. Its tense. We don’t shout and scream at each other though and were both really trying at least to be decent to each other. R is a quiet man usually so I don’t think my older daughter (SC 12yrs) has noticed. Plus, she owns a smart phone so noticing shit isn’t high up on her agenda. My son (SS 10yrs) has profound special needs. He won’t notice. (I’ll talk more about my children in another post.)

Ok, I’ve showed up. Wrote for more than the minimum 10. Better get back to wiping bums/making snacks/trying to engage my bubs.)

Thanks for taking the time to read. I’ve read a few really good recovery/sobriety themed posts. If you know of any please link them for me. x

K

 

Day 2

Part of my new ‘Life Plan’ is to spend at least 10 minutes a day writing. Even if I feel like I have nothing to say, I will endeavour to set aside the time and try.

I have aspirations of being a writer. The solitude, the self doubt, the image of Paul Caan in Misery bashing the keys of the antique typewriter. Why, when I conjure up the idea of a writer in my mind do I choose one that has had his legs shattered by a sledgehammer to force him into writing?? The end of book ritual of a cigarette and bottle of champagne undoubtedly appeals to my romantic notion of the suffering writer/addict.

I co-wrote a play when I was 15 and have periodically tried to be a writer ever since. My first love of acting felt like an impossible pipe dream after I became a single mother and left drama school but I loved the idea of writing. I keep journals as a teenager which were full of absolute untruths so I had plenty of practise at fiction. (I destroyed said journals when I turned 20 and realised if anyone did read them I could possibly be responsible for innocent people going to prison and possibly myself being committed.)

I have periods where I can write and write. Days, weeks at most and then its dies. I feel empty. I have absolutely nothing to say. I don’t know if its writer’s block or if I really don’t have that much to say. I know that in the past I have found being high or drunk unlocks a door. I have also found the first few weeks after a relapse, that point where I feel euphoric to have survived, particularly inspiring.  Trying to be creative in sobriety can feel so forced.

 

Here’s something I wrote in the first days after my last relapse.

“That’s your Uncle Lukey,” I say quietly to her. “He died before you were born.”

She doesn’t understand, she’s only a baby. She tightly clutches the photo of my brother and bashes it on the floor. It’s a toy to explore. Another thing to touch and discard. She doesn’t know how precious it is to me. I switch it with a real toy and sneak a proper look at him.
I have many photos of him in frames around the house but I don’t look at them. Usually.
It’s simply too much. My brain can not process how familiar the face is and yet it’s nearly 8 years since I have seen it with my own eyes. Too much.
I force myself to stop and really see him. His lovely face.
Here come the tears. Not as hot and angry as they used to. Just sad.

When he was dying I’d hold his hand and stare at his fingernails. I’d always been jealous of his strong nails. They grew long in hospital and I envied them. I spent hours just looking at his hands so I didn’t have to look at his face.
I look at his hands just casually at his side in this picture. Funny how instantly recognizable hands can be.
I want to hold them.

The baby tries to take him off me.
“I had a brother once” I whisper to her.

When he was ill the thing that terrified me most was the thought of being 30 or 40 years in the future. An old lady and saying the words; ” I had a brother, once.”
This tormented me.
And here I am saying it to my new baby. Born years after he left. She won’t remember him like my older children.

Uncle Lukey!! Yayyyyy!

She might find herself saying to a friend one day, ” My mum had a brother once. He died before I was born.” To her he will just be an abstract idea.
To me, he is my childhood. He was the only person who got me. The person I will miss until I die. A face in a photo frame that I only let myself glance except for moments like this with only the baby as witness.

I’m sorry I’m moving on Luke. I vowed not to. I dug my feet in and tried to stay where I was, closer to you and a time when you and I existed together. But everyone else kept on going. I dragged my feet. I trudged slowly and took backwards steps but you weren’t keeping up. The distance between us got further and further and I have people who need me here. I have to let you go. I’m so sorry.

I put him back on the shelf.
Touching the wooden frame tenderly as if it was his hand.

I had a brother once.

 

 

First blog post

WEDNESDAY, 26TH JANUARY

Yesterday, my boyfriend suggested outing myself. Making my dirty little secret public. I immediately wanted to vomit. I burst into tears and had to sit on the kitchen floor to catch my breath. It was the most horrifying prospect and the worst thing I could think of.
So here I am.
I am an addict. I have alcohol and substance abuse issues. Every relapse chips away at my life, my loved ones happiness and love/trust/faith in me. Every relapse chips away at me. My boyfriend and I are barely hanging on. I am one bad decision away from losing my home, my children and my life. I am struggling right now and looking for more tools to help me stay on the right path.
I have been hospitalised twice in the past 18 months, sectioned, suicidal. I have lost custody of 4 of my 5 children over the last 5 years. I have blamed depression, anxiety, stress and grief for that but despite them all beings factors in my life, my coping skills – turning to substances – are what have led me to my children either deciding for themselves to live with their father or being forcibly taken of me.

I have tried various medication over the years and found none helpful. I either abuse it and it numbs me and makes me gain a lot of weight which makes me even more depressed.
Therapy has been hit and miss. I have had 2 lots of drug and alcohol counselling in the last year which was useful but ultimately hasn’t helped me discover what is wrong with me, why I continue to veer off the right path and why I struggle with life. It hasn’t provided me with the answers I need, yet.
I am looking into private therapy. My partner has offered to pay. I am reluctant to use medication again. I have tried writing before. I love to write. Maybe this will become the missing tool from my kit.
I struggle to reach out and ask for help. My circle of friends has got considerably smaller in the last 10 years. I have pushed people away. Some left of their own accord. I know that this is something that I can’t do alone though. It’s also tricky for me to attend any kind of NA or AA meetings as I am without a car at the moment and live out in the sticks. It’s not like a city where there are daily meetings. There’s one a week, in the evening. I have a baby. It sounds like I’m making excuses. Maybe I am? I tried NA for a while but it was a very small group and it played havoc with my anxiety. I would really like it if this blog became a network for me.

After my last hospital stay last August I began to start writing. I wrote poems, short stories, diary entries. It wasn’t a blog. I don’t know what it was but I will add bits of what I wrote to this blog. I spent a week in hospital, 2 days on a main ward and 4 more on the mental health ward. I wasn’t sectioned (this time) but I had tried to commit suicide and my boyfriend wasn’t ready for me to come home. He was traumatised. I had been spiralling for a few months things felt hopeless. I’d lost custody of my 10yr old son by my ex-husband. He has profound special needs and I hadn’t seen him for nearly a month which was the longest we’d ever been apart. I will write more about him later. I felt like I was going to lose my partner and my youngest child who was 15 months at this time. I couldn’t think straight, I was on various prescribed meds and secretly abusing pills I’d purchased online, alcohol and food. After another argument with my (poor, long-suffering man) he left, taking the baby. I was due to see a mental health nurse later that day. My boyfriend tells me now that he intended to come back for that meeting and beg whoever it was to take me away. As soon as he left I took all the pills I could find in the house. Over 200. Hours later he and the nurse broke into the house and found me in a cupboard. Near death. I’d written notes to him, my parents and my kids.
Things have improved a lot since that bleak point in my story but I can’t say I’m doing brilliantly. I’m wavering. I need more help. I don’t know why I am the way I am. I truly believed that the strain of caring for my disabled child was the main factor in my inability to cope. Losing custody of him last year broke me but after a few months of respite I realised that I needed a break. That it was time for his father to become his main carer for the time being. I can’t begin to explain how much easier life was to cope with. I got through the court case and represented myself. My ex husband and I came to an amicable arrangement and I have had my son (and older daughter) to stay twice in the last month. There’s a lot of guilt and shame in coming to terms with and admitting to yourself that you can not cope with caring full time for your own child. But, I know its the right decision. I think I would have ended up in hospital again within weeks if I was still his full time carer. I got complacent though. I thought life was just going to be get easier and I wouldn’t have to work so hard to maintain sobriety. I thought that the pain of not being to cope with caring full time for my son anymore was what was causing me to abuse myself. But he’s been living with his father for 6 months now. The court case is behind us. Life has settled down and everyone is reasonably happy.
So why am I struggling to stay healthy. I WILL lose everything. Why is that not enough to make me confident in my own decisions?

Ok, this is enough for a first entry.

Here is something I wrote in hospital last year, a few days after my suicide attempt.
AUGUST, 2016
I’m trying to laugh. I’m watching my favourite comedians and clips of dancing babies and excellent dancing on YouTube. Then it pops into my head that I shouldn’t be doing this. That this is just another form of avoidance.
Should I be in the garden helping Christine weed? Who, by the way really does seem very zen and more therapisty than anyone here.
Or I should really spend more time sitting with Eluned who does crosswords by literally looking at the complete ones at the back of her puzzle book and filling in the right answers at the front. She’s kind of old and SO Welsh I can’t really understand her even when she speaks English. She asked who I was yesterday and said I looked placid. I laughed because compared to some of the unmediated women who arrived the same time as me I am very placid. What she actually said was ‘pleasant’.
I am pleasant looking.
I really don’t look anything near pleasant when I look in the mirror right now. I have several cold sores. I attacked my hair before I attempted suicide and haven’t been able to brush it properly for 4 days. My eyes are swollen from long periods of sobbing.
I am truly bare faced.
And yet she looked at me and the first thing she sees is someone pleasant. So, I must be somewhere near an OK person, right?
Normally I would just say that I am a good actor, I can put on a good face and the show must go on and anyway, you can’t tell a good person just by looking at one but I was sat there as raw and broken as I’ve ever been in 4 decades and she thought me pleasant.
This morning she called me rude and shouted at me for using a hairdryer though, so I suppose she had a case of ‘Valium goggles’ on our first encounter.