Bear is dead.
Bear is dead, and in an instant, the wobbly little scaffold that was keeping me together collapses and crashes in pieces all around me.
It's a week before my birthday and the only thing left in my life that I actually give two shits about is lying dead on a table in front of me.
I literally cannot bear it. I feel my head implode.
My phone starts to ring.
I ignore it.
It rings again... this time I answer, attempting to explain through my tsunami of tears to some poor, unsuspecting, faceless person on the other end, that “No, actually, I can’t talk right now, because my world is crashing down around me and so I really do not want to buy your life insurance, or phone contract, or whatever it is that you are trying to sell to me today”...
I hang up before they get a chance to draw breath.
I'm ushered into a side room. I’d like to think that it's because the staff care enough about me and Bear to want to make sure that I'm ok...but in reality, I think that they just don't want me scaring anyone else in here with my madness.
They make me cups of tea; a box of tissues appears. The staff tell me to stay as long as I like until I'm feeling better.
I can't bring myself to tell them that as of today hell will literally freeze over before that can happen now.
I stay for what feels like an eternity. I just can't bear to leave him here, in this place that he hated. It always used to scare him... His very own Room 101. I try to tell myself that at least he doesn't have to be scared anymore...although that's little consolation. None at all, actually.
The staff are getting twitchy now. They tell me that if I'm ready, they will take it from here.
Only I’m not ready. I'll never be ready for this day. So no, I don't want them “taking it" whatever that means, and I definitely don't want them taking him.
He's my friend, my wing-man, my everything right now; a furry, one-eyed ball of glue that was the only thing keeping me together and it's incomprehensible to me that the next time I see him he will be just ashes in a box. He doesn't belong in a box...He belongs here... with me.
I wish that I could tell them that, but I can't formulate the words, and anyway, I know that I don’t actually have a say in this now. He's dead and I'm grieving. I'm not thinking rationally. The staff have got a job to do. I need to let them do that.
I finally let them take him and then I'm shown out of the side door, and within seconds I'm alone and out on the street.
I cry all the way back to the caravan park, fully aware that I must look a bit deranged. I don't actually care if I'm honest, and so if anyone asks me I will say “Yes; yes, I am deranged actually, thank you for asking”... because as of this moment it's true.
Maybe they will console me, or take me somewhere warm, possibly give me a shot of something so that in my dreams this isn't actually happening... Then my life won't be a car-crash and Bear will not be dead.
Only no-one stops to console me. Or take me somewhere warm.
There will be no shot to take my mind off things. I simply walk on in the rain instead.
I literally cannot take this. It's too much. My heart was already broken...now it lies shattered, fragmented, in pieces.
An eternity later, I get back to my van and curl up on the sofa. It's raining outside. Floods, actually. My tears make it look like a drizzle.
I don't bother to change out of my clothes, I don't have it in me to care that I'm soaked. Instead, I cry and I cry and I rage and I rage... at the ceiling, a cushion, the walls and the sky. I tell God that he can stop now. That there's nothing left to take.
I don't think that he's listening. Or maybe, I tell myself, he just doesn't care...
I look at Bears bowls in the corner on the floor. I was hoping that he would be needing them tonight.
Only today has shown me that there is no hope now. There wasn't for him and there isn't for me.
And I realise with absolute conviction and clarity, that I literally give no fucks about anything now from here-on in.
I've had it with this shit.
I want out...
My days become Groundhog Day.
I wake up, worry, drink and pass out. Wake up, worry, repeat… Everything else is a blur.
I no longer have “good” days. Now that Bear is gone they range from “numb”, “repetitive” to “really, truly, awfully shit.”
I’m struggling to function. Getting out of my head is all that I care about now, and it’s starting to take its toll on me.
My hair is matted and is starting to break. I run my fingers through to comb it but then start to pull it out instead. It’s not intentional; I was trying to make it look better. Instead I make myself look a million times worse.
I rarely eat.
I don’t have an appetite, and the more that I drink, the less able I am to keep anything down anyway. My clothes fall off me. I go from size 8 to size zero in weeks, barely noticing … getting drunk is all that I care about.
I check my reflection in the ladies. A hollow-eyed tramp stares back at me. For a second I think that there’s someone behind me, until finally I realise … the hollow-eyed tramp is me.
I head back into the bar and drink until I’m asked to leave. I should be embarrassed by this but I’m not. It happens a lot. I’m used to it now. I fall down the stairs as I try to leave. I don’t remember where I sleep.
The days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months.
I collect bruises and breaks like old ladies collect china. My head is full of white noise and a million shitty encounters.
“Friends” start to avoid me. I see one cross the street – pretend to be engrossed in some tatty old window display, blatantly willing me not to see her. It’s fine. She was never truly my friend anyway, but that’s another story…
I resist the urge to go over and tap her on the shoulder, just to see the look on her face. But I’m starting to withdraw. I don’t have those 30 seconds to spare. The off-licence beckons. She gets a reprieve.
I wonder what they think of me. The guys behind the counter, as I hand over some small change and head back out with my booty. The thought lingers for a second, but then I crack open a can and forget what I was thinking about.
I start to fall down a lot damaging my ribs, my face, my coccyx and my knee. I tell myself that I really need to steer clear of stairs. But then I fall off a kerb and hit my face on the pavement. I can’t steer clear of pavements, too. How would I get to the pub?
I tell myself to be more careful and nurse a black eye for weeks.
I go to my doctor and ask him for help. He tells me that he’s unsure as to what to do. That he took an oath to “do no harm” and that addiction is not a field that he’s familiar with. He doesn’t want to make things worse, he says. What he is telling me basically, is that he is not the guy to help me today.
I thank him for his time, Google the medications that I think I might need, go back to the doctors and get a prescription. Then I pick up my meds, attempt to guess the quantities and I try to do a home detox.
The tablets calm me. I think that this might work. But then I crack open a can and drink that as well swiftly followed by another, then another, until all of my cans are gone.
I morph into a zombie.
This is not going to work.
My life is a car-crash. I’m now running solely on alcohol and prescription drugs.
The man that I am involved with is vile.
He’s an alcoholic, too. One who doesn’t like women very much, as I quickly find out to my cost.
Our “relationship” involves him shouting, me crying, constant gas-lighting, total head-fuckery, and more than a smattering of cruelty and violence.
I hate him.
But I have nowhere else to go by now. My head is full of alphabet-spaghetti and I am totally reliant on him.
The penny starts to drop as he attempts to drag me up the stairs by my neck. As I manage to break free and make my escape, the thought crosses my mind that I really can’t keep living like this.
If the alcohol doesn’t kill me, then maybe this guy will. I think that he’d enjoy it.
The thought terrifies me.
It’s the wake-up call I need.
I pluck up some courage, walk shakily into a meeting and I beg the staff there to help me.
They take one look at my broken, emaciated frame and start the paperwork immediately.
They are throwing me a life-line.
I’m going into detox …
There are four main colours of people in here...Ashen, grey, yellow and orange. I'm one of the grey ones. Which means, that in the big scheme of things, I am luckier than most.
My friends Karl and Sam are variations of yellow. Both still in their twenties, their livers wrecked in a couple of years by drinking too much cheap sherry and cider. Sam is in a wheelchair when we meet. Liver failure is taking its toll...
Detox is harrowing, humbling and an absolute Godsend. In here I am cushioned from the madness outside that used to be my life. In here I can breathe. I feel safe.
I do everything the staff tell me to do to the absolute letter. I want to get well again as quickly as possible and I will do anything to achieve that. Obeying rules and sticking to the program comes before anything. I keep my head down and my nose clean, making sure that nothing and nobody sways me.
I take my meds, go to classes and try and learn new things. The girls in here help me to comb out my dreadlocks. I get my appetite back, endure vitamin injections and gradually I begin to put on some weight.
I read, pray, meditate. Sleep, do yoga, make jewellery. I make two tiny little figures out of clay and put them on my windowsill. They cheer me up when I see them.
There are 24 hours in my days these days. Without alcohol to blur the edges, I have a lot of time to fill. I make sure that I use it wisely.
I am focussed. Determined. “A woman on a mission”. Completely unrecognisable from the dishevelled, 6 stone scrap of nothing that was me when I got here barely two weeks ago. I am starting to look like a human again.
The other guys look up to me. They ask me what my secret is. I tell them that there is no secret. I just don't want to die.
It's a good motivation to get well. Several others follow my lead. A couple more make a break for it and climb over the wall. It hits us all hard when we realise that they've gone.
You get attached in here, form bonds, try and be strong for each other. Days like today are grim and a stark reminder that this could be any one of us if we take our eye off the ball for a second.
We are all new to this. Fragile. We need to remember that we are all in here for a reason...mainly because we have an addiction that wants us all dead. Going over the wall will speed up that process. I stay where I am... I am choosing to live.
A new girl is admitted. She OD's that night in her room. We all look on in horror as staff try to resuscitate her whilst waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
They bang on a door that no-one can open because the staff with the lanyards are desperately trying to save her life. I run into her room and announce that they are here. I try not to look at her face.
They wheel her away on a stretcher. There is a coat over her head. It's a horrible night for us all and a stark reminder of what we are up against.
I take this as a warning and work as hard as I can every day. When it's an uphill struggle I think about Bear. When I start to lose focus, thinking of him keeps me going and I get myself back on track again.
I go to meetings twice a week. AA and NA. Although not compulsory, the staff encourage us to go. I give them a try, but they don't really resonate. I prefer to tackle this in my own way. I'm determined to get my normality back the best way I know how and meetings on the outside are not part of my plan. I prefer to push my way forward alone. When I finally get out of treatment, it will be down to me anyway to keep myself on track. I'm fully aware of that...I'm just starting early.
In treatment I am picked apart, broken down, and then finally rebuilt. When I emerge from rehab 4 months later, I am older, wiser and, most importantly, sober.
There is no doubt in my mind that this has saved my life. I feel cleansed, renewed, reborn...I never want to drink again.
I move into a homeless hostel.
The walls are like rice paper, there are holes in the wall and the door has clearly come away from the doorframe on more than one occasion, but it's a roof over my head and somewhere to sleep. I am grateful that I have this much. There are people in this town with nothing.
I feel wobbly. Vulnerable. Out of my depth. I don't have any friends here, and the others in the hostel have their own demons to slay. I choose not to get drawn into conversation or ask too many probing questions. “Good morning” and “Goodnight” are the extent of my repertoire, unless I am speaking to staff.
The house is oppressive. The staff seem indifferent. I try not to spend too much time here and so I spend most of my days outside by myself.
My friend Sam dies.
It hits me hard. We went into detox on the same day but only one of us got to get our life back on track. He had a little girl. His family are broken...
There are pubs and clubs on every corner here. I can't afford to let my guard down. After everything I've been through, failure is really not an option. I've come too far and worked too hard to let this news break me.
I grieve for him without reaching for a drink. I know that I can do this, I just need a different kind of coping mechanism. One that doesn't involve dragging myself straight back to hell via the nearest bar as soon as I have a bad day.
Something easy, something healthy, something portable, something cheap. Something that I can turn to 24/7 when I need a distraction from my head and this shitty set of circumstances.
Nothing springs to mind.
Until I pick up a pen and then I start to write...
I write and I write and I write. About nothing, about everything...because once that pen is in my hand and I start to really focus, I don't stop writing until the noise in my head goes away and my soul is laid bare on the pages before me.
It saves me.
Because, although detox got me sober, writing keeps me sober.
At 3.00am in the hostel when the guy in the room next to me is losing his mind and shouting at no-one in particular through the walls, I write. At 5.00am when finally he sleeps, but there isn't a hope in hells chance that I can, because his outbursts have gone on for most of the night and I'm hiding in my room not daring to use the bathroom in case I run into him on the landing, I write.
When I too, start bouncing off the walls and getting cabin fever in here, or I'm particularly hard on myself for making such a mess of things and depression starts to threaten me again, I write.
I write as if my life depends on it; because to be fair, right now it really does. It's the only thing I have that stands between me and the nearest pub or off-licence and a complimentary one-way ticket to hell, and so I cling to this outlet like a life-raft.
Sobriety and my sanity are pretty much all that I have left at the minute and I'm not giving them up for anything.
I live in a hostel in a town where addiction and homelessness are rife.
It's on every street corner, down every alleyway and in every subway here. I am confronted with it on a daily basis.
Two more people that I was friends with in detox die. Several more of my friends from rehab sit begging or drinking on pavements. It kills me to see them ending up this way and I am reminded again just how lucky I have been, and how fortunate I am to have not become a statistic.
I have good friends and a healthy way to deal with my shit. These guys have nothing...unless you count cardboard flooring and cheap cider.
There is nothing I can do for them right now except to be kind and to write more.
Maybe, this way I think, I can start to change things...if nothing else, maybe one persons perspective.
I create an account on twitter and start to bare my soul on social media to an audience that I can't see. I pour my heart out about homelessness and addiction and how it feels to have poor mental health. How it feels to know that you are alive but at the same time, alone and invisible once the shit hits the fan and no-one wants to know you.
People start to follow me, to like and share my work, and their support and encouragement spurs me on and gives me purpose.
I realise that there are people out there looking for answers... who actually want to understand how that feels, told in a way that's honest and open, not sugar-coated or dressed up to fit expectations.
I write more. My work is hitting home.
I'm offered a magazine column, write for tabloids, other magazines, non-profits and for causes I believe in.
I find my voice and in turn ignite a passion in myself for education that I didn't know existed.
I start to talk.
I do radio shows and make podcasts. I talk about my battles with my head and about trying to fight an addiction that nearly killed me, my horrible, horrible journey and the strength and determination that I needed to find to enable me claw my way back from the brink of death and detox, to some kind of normality. I talk about nights on borrowed sofas and curled up on floors, nights running from horrible men who just wanted to hurt me and I talk about those days and nights where I was so lost and alone and terrified of what my future held that I just didn't want one anymore. That I wanted to end my own life just to make the madness stop.
I realise that people are listening.
And then I wrote a piece about my journey called “This is Depression”
A piece that becomes a film.
A piece that changes everything...
You don't need a degree in fashion to fit in in rehab....Because everyone looks the same in there. Tracksuits and hoodies by day, Pj's and hoodies by night.
We were one huge "blind date from hell" fest. Styled by W*therspoons and the stuff that J*remy Kyles wet dreams are made of.
We all looked rough as rats.
Because you're not out to impress anyone in rehab. Or meet the love of your life.... You're too busy trying to get well. And so for a girl like me who normally won't leave the house unless I'm mascared up to the max, not having to make the effort for a while was liberating.
The first few days I was in there, I did do the works.....habit more than anything. But then I realised that it would be much more productive to grab an extra half an hour in bed every morning, and rock up to morning check-in looking like a garbage pail kid like everyone else, than faff about trying to get my eyeliner straight for a bunch of people who actually didn't give a rats ass what i looked like.
Just A Girl for Metro.co.uk
Thursday 22 Feb 2018 7:00 am
Being admitted to detox was never a goal of mine. I didn’t actually aspire to become an alcoholic.
They were the guys on the benches or slumped in doorways clutching their cheap bottles of cider and cans of extra strength lager. Not me. It wasn’t supposed to be me.
It turns out that what I thought was irrelevant. Because I became one anyway.
A horrific year saw me lose everything: My marriage, my pets, my job, and my home.
I couldn’t deal with the fall-out and I struggled to cope.
Depression kicked in, I hit the bottle and went and had myself an epic mental breakdown.
My beautiful beach front flat gradually reduced to a caravan, a floor, several floors, a borrowed sofa.
Thankfully I was rushed into detox before I ended up sleeping on a park bench – a decision which not only saved my life, but actually became the making of me.
Because before I got ill, I was a fixer. I ‘fixed’ things. People mainly.
I was good at it. Award-winningly good. I was a high achiever. A perfectionist, constantly pushing myself, striving to do more.
Ironically I was so busy running around looking after other people that I didn’t notice the cracks in myself – until they became glaring, open wounds and then they were all that I, and everyone else, could see.
Admission to detox was both a wake-up call and a relief.
It was basically the last-chance saloon for me. I was so ill on arrival that it’s a miracle I managed to get there at all.
I was massively under-weight and malnourished, my periods had stopped and my hair was falling out.
My body was attempting to keep me alive by getting rid of everything it didn’t deem absolutely essential.
Going into detox forced me to slow down to a grinding halt.
It gave me the time that I needed to process all of the stuff that had happened to me and gave me the chance to reflect and to grieve for my losses, while the doctors and nurses rallied around me intent on putting my broken head and body back together again.
The whole process took months.
Contact with the outside world was limited and as a result I was shielded from a lot of the worry and insecurities that had caused me to break down in the first place.
My job in detox was solely to start eating again, get plenty of rest and accept that alcohol was not, never had been and never would be my friend.
Once I’d done this to the staffs satisfaction, I could begin to think about moving on.
And I did, taking tentative baby steps out of the door and into my new sober life.
Four months on and I was back in the real world, with a fully functioning body and a completely re-wired head.
Four months after that and I had a job and was able to move out of the hostel I was in.
Accepting that I needed help back then and then taking the necessary steps to help me conquer my addiction has changed my life completely.
I’ve had to go back to basics and completely change the way that I think about alcohol and about myself. About how I choose to live my life.
I’ve basically had to rethink everything.
I’ve had to relearn a lot of things too – like how to stand on my own two feet again.
I’ve had to find a new way to live independently in a world that was alien and completely terrifying to me this time last year, without relying on alcohol.
I’ve had to find new, better ways of managing and channelling my emotions and replacing old, destructive habits with new, healthy ones.
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I started to write as therapy. Putting my thoughts into words helped to make sense of it all.
A year ago I was an emaciated, alcoholic mess. I could barely string a sentence together.
Now my new life revolves around me stringing sentences together.
A year into recovery and I’m a published writer.
My blogs educate others about the dangers of alcohol and the fragility of mental health and also aim to inspire people who may be fighting their own battle with addictions, showing that, with the right support, recovery is possible.
Going into detox was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
But coming out the other side as a brand new version of me has been liberating.
It not only saved my life, it’s given me a brand new one.
One with purpose and meaning. One that I enjoy living
Cathy Rentzenbrink’s incredible book “A Manual for Heartache” talks about the Japanese art of Kintsugi...repairing chips or cracks in objects with gold, so that they stand out and shine, themselves becoming things of beauty, rather than hidden flaws that fade back into the background.
Its a beautiful concept...and if I could offer you one piece of advice from me to you today, it would be this...take a good, long, hard look at yourself in the mirror as soon as you possibly can, and start painting over your own cracks with gold.
I promise that it will change the way you see yourself forever.
I bought the book for my boyfriend. He was grieving. I thought that it would help him, but as I read her story of loss, loneliness and spiralling mental health, I realised that it was me who needed to hear her message.
Because not all that long ago, I had a mental break-down.
Years of feeling “not quite good enough” combined with a horrific year caused me to lose sight of who I was, drove me to addiction, and left me an alcoholic, emaciated wreck, scared of her own shadow.
I looked and lived like a tramp, and had no self-respect or self-esteem.
I wanted to die, and to be fair, I very nearly did...it took a stay in hospital, followed by months in detox and finally rehab, to get me resembling anything near part-functioning human again.
My recovery was hard, involving much gritting of teeth, endless soul-searching and pretty much around the clock slaying of demons...but it worked, I saw myself in a whole new light, and as I walked out of rehab, I promised myself that I would never, ever, treat myself that badly again.
And I haven’t, I don’t.
I treat myself with respect, and give myself credit for the journey I have been on.
I even kind of like myself...
So this is my Kintsugi...every blog, every podcast, every film, discussion or magazine feature...these are my bits of gold...each portrays a scar, a flaw, a memory or whatever.
I wear them all with pride.
Every single one of them.
Addiction broke and disfigured me.
Kintsugi shows me that I’m beautiful...just the way I am.
So thank you Cathy. For your incredible book, and for showing me a different way of doing things...
The first time he called me a C**t, we were on holiday. I’d caught my foot on a tree stump as we walked back to our beach hut one night in the dark.
It hurt like hell. He told me to “shut up whining and stop being annoying”.
We'd been together for 4 months.
The second time he called me a C**t, we were in bed. I wasn’t really in the mood for sex, but instead of understanding, he lost his temper with me. He called me a bitch, a tramp and a prostitute and made me spend the night in the spare room.
The third time he called me a C**t we were watching TV. I wasn’t feeling well. He lost his temper and called me a bitch. For “being a moody cow and becoming hard work"
The fourth time, I’d cooked him Crab. It's his favourite. Except, well, on that particular night it wasn’t and so he picked up the plate and launched it across the room where it smashed against the wall, and ended up in pieces in the sink and on the floor.
The fifth time he called me a “c**t" he'd had a row with his daughter and was turning that anger on me, meaning a quick grab of some things while he was out, and a trek into town to find an emergency hotel room in the middle of the night.
The sixth time it happened I'd been for reflexology. I’d been feeling tatty and tired and needed a pick me up...only it took longer than I thought, and when I got back he accused me of cheating, took the house keys off me and made me leave, less than a week after I’d given him my half of the rent.
I moved into a rented room for somewhere stable to stay, except that that made things worse...because now I wasn't by his side all the time and his jealous streak came out.
I’d message to tell him that I was in bed, but he would drive into town anyway, past the bar where we met, in case I was lying and was out with my friends...hoping to catch me, oh I don't know, maybe enjoying myself and having fun and stuff...like I used to back in the days before I was stupid enough to fall in love with him.
But it's ok finally because I get it now...you see the penny may be slow but finally it dropped...and I see it for what it is, instead of what I really wanted it to be...and it's all a bit shit if I'm honest.
Because this "boyfriend" of mine never wanted a girlfriend...What he actually wants is a puppet..,One who just lives to have her strings pulled, so that she can dance just the way he likes it, before getting quietly back in her box like a good girl and leaving him in peace.
I don’t like puppets.
I never have.
They make me cringe. So "Punch and Judy" was never going to be my idea of fun.
It didn't end well for her if I remember rightly...She got all bashed up and stuff.
So the next chance that I get I'm leaving him...
I doubt that I'll be missed; I'm waaay too opinionated (apparantly) - but if he does happen to crave some company, well, then the toy shop should be open...puppets are ten a penny in there I believe.
He can buy himself a couple.
I've never been maternal. It's just not in my nature...I've never felt the urge to throw caution to the wind and turn my life upside down completely, just so that I can be at someone elses beck and call for the rest of my days.
I can barely take care of myself, let alone anyone else.
So becoming a mum has always been out of the question.
Until out of the blue, one day it happened...Completely by accident, completely unexpectedly, at the ripe old age of fourty, I looked into those eyes, and fell absolutely head over heels.
And I became a bit besotted.
So at first I didn't mind the fact that my life was suddenly a merry go round of sleepless nights, washing his clothes and attempting to keep with his never-ending demands for bottles.
I did it because he was mine and I loved him.
And if ever I felt as though it was all getting a little bit much, he would just flash me that smile and give me those big, blue puppy dog eyes again and I would remember again just how much he needs me and I would feel terrible for wanting to leave.
Only reality is kicking in now.
I'm absolutely shattered, and It's only been six months.
I can't imagine doing this for the next 18 years...
Or the next twelve months if I'm honest.
Because not only am I running on empty...I'm also running out of cash.
Keeping him topped up with bottles is expensive...plus I'm obviously the one who has to fetch them.
It's not like he can go to the shop by himself is it? He'd be bound to have an accident...wander off into the road or fall off the kerb and hit his head or something.
I'd be worried sick.
Anyway, it's fine, the shop's only down the road.
The guys behind the counter greet me like an old friend. They always ask me how he is...and of course I say "fine" and then I pay for the bottles that tell them he's not and then I hurry back home before he starts crying for me again.
God I wish he'd stop that...it's not like he's a baby for Christ's sakeHe's not a fucking baby......he's fourty-fucking one.
I remember our first conversation with absolute clarity.
We'd seen each other around for months, always saying "Hi"... only I was always with my friends while he would be sat alone in the corner and so we never quite got around to having a conversation.
Until then one day we did...
I was by myself for once, sat outside a bar, consumed in whatever trivia it was that I was wrestling with that day, kicking my converse back against the table leg while he stood over in the doorway, smoking his cigarette and watching me. He caught my eye, asked me if I was ok, then he bought me a drink and came over to join me...and the rest, as they say, is history.
From day one I was absolutely, hand-on-heart, head-over-heels besotted.
I adored him and he adored me and I thought that I'd found the love of my life.
And now, nearly two years down the line I would still love to think that...because way back there in the beginning, just for a little while he was, and so it just doesn't seem right that this story ends any other way than with a happy ending
Only it does and it did.
You see a lot of water has gone under the bridge since he sat with me that day and I'm a little bit older and wiser now...which means that I can't keep on lying to myself and everyone around me.
I don't want to keep on lying to myself.
Its time to face the facts...every shitty, single last one of them.
And the truth is going to hurt.
My boyfriend loves me very much...except for on Mondays
Because he's had a bad day today and he doesnt want to talk much and can I please just be quiet now, because I'm giving him a headache?
My boyfriend loves me very much...except for on Tuesdays.
Because he's overslept this morning and now he has to rush around, so can I please just fill his flask up and get out of his way.
My boyfriend loves me very much...except for on Wednesdays. Because he's had trouble with his van again and of course that's down to me, and can I just get on with dinner now while he lies on the sofa...
I never thought, not even for one second that I would become an alcoholic. I drank to relax, to unwind, to help me to “cope” if things got too much after a hard day at the office.
Of course, I drank more than I should… oh God yes, definitely. Guilty as charged your honour, but a full-blown alcoholic?” No way, not me.
Never in a million years.
Until the day I woke up with the shakes and realised that I was starting to feel like one.
But that was ok, it wasn’t that bad... I was still going to work, meeting my deadlines, keeping up appearances and all of that jazz. It’s not like I was starting to drink in the mornings.
Until the day that every cell in my body woke up screaming for a drink.
But hey, that was ok, because it was all under control.
I was doing fine. It’s just that, well my job was stressful and so drinking took the edge off things. It wasn’t as though I looked ill or anything.
Until people started asking, was I ok?
And I would say “yes, thank you, yes thanks, I’m fine”, as I prayed, they wouldn’t notice just how badly I was shaking. Or hear the vodka bottles clink together in my bag.
But still, absolutely, with my hand on my heart, in the big, grand scheme of things I was doing ok.
I was going to work, paying the bills.
Until I lost my job one day... for drinking in the toilets.
But hey that’s ok, because my job was crappy anyway.
I didn’t need the pressure.
I’d just get another job...it’s not like I was out on the streets.
Until the day I was.
So now I’m sleeping in a doorway and I’m asking for spare change.
But hey, that’s ok - because at least I’ve got a sleeping bag.
And It only gets wet when it rains or some bloke pisses on me in the night.
But hey that’s not too bad, because at least I’ve got my 6 pack, and my trusty piece of cardboard…
No way… Never in a million years…
I used to be in love with him.
I still have every one of the letters and the cards that he made me...along with the jar full of folded bits of paper, all with random but beautiful things that he loved about me written on them...the jar with the million dollar, burning question tucked away right at the very bottom of it that I finally got to open the night before my birthday.
And I would have...I would have married this guy.
But that was then...and hindsight is a wonderful thing.
It's 3.00am and I'm struggling to sleep.
I lie here in bed tossing and turning for a bit before deciding just to roll with it, heading downstairs and flicking the kettle on. I'll make a cup of tea I think... a good cup of tea solves everything.
I decide against some biscuits - I can probably do without the added sugar rush I'm guessing, and then I head into the living room where he's sat watching TV. He has a cup of tea in front of him...great minds and all that.
"I can't sleep" he says, giving me a sheepish grin, as I slide in next to him on the sofa.
I resist the urge to say to him that maybe the two bottles of wine that he drank before bed have got something to do with his insomnia, but I bite my tongue, and the words go unsaid.
He has a drink problem, my boyfriend, in case you were wondering. Two bottles of wine before bed is not out of the ordinary now...there are two bottles of wine before bed most evenings, as well as the pints and the brandys while he sits in the bar after work. "Unwinding".
Still, the New Year is coming he tells me. He'll stop in the New Year...
I just smile and I nod and I squeeze his hand, and I try not to worry about how old and ill he is looking, and then we both sit there in silence staring at the TV at stupid o clock in the morning, because, well really there is nothing left to say after that if I'm honest.
Nothing that I haven't heard before, anyway...
He's a painter, my boyfriend. He paints peoples houses.
He gets out his brushes and lays down some dust sheets and he glosses over stuff...
And then he comes back home to me, opens a bottle of wine, sidesteps the massive elephant in the room that has recently come to stay with us, and then we both do the same in our own house...
We are in the midst of a pandemic.
A lung-fucking virus is sweeping its way half-way across the world and people are starting to panic.
"Don't leave the house. Avoid public transport, stay away from your friends, don't go to work", scream the newspaper headlines, as shops are being looted and normally civilised people start fighting in the aisles over a 4 pack of bog-roll.
It's all a little bit terrifying.
I've always had a perfect figure.
I could skip into any high street clothes shop, find exactly what I wanted, grab it off the rail and be on my merry way in minutes...no need to queue or faff about in changing rooms. I was a size 8. My clothes were guaranteed to fit.
But then a series of really shit things happened, I got massively addicted to alcohol, and in the process I lost a lot of weight. I went from an 8 to a 6. Then to a 4.
By the time I reached hospital I was size 0.
So I had to take medication.
Lots and lots of medication. Vitamins, and sleeping tablets, painkillers and anti-anxiety meds...I took so many tablets that I rattled when I walked.
Only my alcohol-addicted head and my now skeletal body had long since lost touch with each other and so my malnourished, chemically overloaded system struggled to cope with everything that it was now being asked to process.
Not to mention the fact that pretty much every single meal in detox involved white bread or pasta washed down with copious amounts of sugary tea.
So I gained the weight back that I had lost pretty quickly.
Over 2 stone.
And then I gained 2 more for good measure.
It really didn't matter while I was in there... I was far too ill too care...and we all wore pj's and jogging bottoms in there anyway so none of us stood out.
Plus there were no mirrors in there to speak of ... We all had bigger things to think about than whether or not our hair needed brushing...So I only saw my reflection for the first time in Primark months later, once I'd left rehab, and I realised suddenly why nothing that I held in my arms would fit me.
As I left with my head down and empty handed.
And I know I may sound shallow or self-absorbed or whatever it is that you may be thinking about me right now.
But I'm not. I'm really truly not.
If anything I'm actually the opposite...
You see, I wasn't crying because my clothes didn'tt fit.
I was crying, because standing in that changing room I could finally see the damage that I'd done to myself. The strain that I'd put my already exhausted body through by feeding it poison every day for years and blithely expecting it to cope.
The way that I just piled more and more shit on myself and took everything that I once had for granted.
That's why I cried.
Not because I was no longer a size 8.
I cried because I realised that my body had kept me alive despite every single rubbish thing that I'd done to it.
And I cried because I was grateful that I was no longer that sad, lonely, alcoholic girl sleeping on a sofa.
So if my jeans are a couple of sizes bigger these days, I don't actually care.
It's a small price to pay for simply being here today...because I could be in the ground and not needing any jeans.
And so i'll take everything that's happened to me these last few years on the chin.
This brand-new double one of mine...
I live in a teeny tiny village somewhere in the deep South West of England. All thatched roofs and tractors and wellington boots.
It's chocolate box stuff.
We have a Post Office, a tiny pub, a chip shop and a church. There's nothing else for miles... Unless we are counting sheep and cows here, in which case there are loads.
I have no idea how many people live in the village. I've only met a couple so far. Mainly the rude woman from the post office who won't actually talk to me because technically I'm an emmet and so I should go back to where I came from, instead of darkening her door in my attempts to buy chocolate or milk or stamps or whatever.
But apart from the (very) odd one like her, most people are pretty friendly. They are more than happy to talk.
I'm just not ready to talk back yet...
So I go to the little church instead and I sit and talk to Godot.
If you, or any one you know has ever had a relationship with an addict, you will know that being around one is bloody hard work. It's the emotional equivalent of letting a hungry, muddy rottweiler loose in a show-home.
Even when you are prepared for the tantrums, the lies, the plea-bargains and the often empty promises, it's a mammoth task and one that shouldn't be underestimated...because getting emotionally involved on any level means that like it or not, you will become an "Enabler", and according to pretty much every professional ever, thats "naughty"...so don't do it.
An "Enabler" basically does what it says on the tin...they enable an addict to function without having to acknowledge or accept the consequences of their actions. Because, by cooking, cleaning, buying food, toiletries, clothes or whatever, you are basically allowing the person you care about to continue blithely on feeding their habit while you run around after them, cleaning up carnage and getting the shit end of the stick.
I used to be a support worker. I know all of this. I know that certain things are "frowned upon" and why. I "enable" my boyfriend anyway. Because I love him and I know that at present he struggles to do these things for himself.
I'm not prepared to let him lie around under a filthy duvet because I'm not supposed to do the laundry. Or watch him go hungry because he's too sick or weak to make himself a sandwich. I don't want the flat where he lives and where I spend my spare time to be a shit-tip. So I make sure that when I am around that these things get done. Am I enabling him? Yes. Am I happy about that? Not really...no. But I know that at present and for as long as I stay with him, then I'm just going to roll with that.
I get angry with him. Frustrated. Upset...because I want him to be well and he isn't. I wish that things were different. Because he was sober when I met him the second time around. He seemed to be doing ok. But then he went to the shop and bought vodka and now he is anything but.
That was two months ago.
I went to see him on Tuesday. He said that he was low. What he actually was, was drunk. He had been for days. Since I walked out on him the previous Thursday in fact. He denied it of course -even though he could barely stand. I didn't bat an eyelid. It's becoming the norm.
The place was a pig sty. Thats becoming the norm too. Broken glass on the floor, food everywhere. Sandwhich crusts mainly. He can't make much else.
I cooked us a roast. "Enabled" him again. He didn't want to eat it in front of me, which in alcohol speak translates into "I can't pick up my knife and fork". I left him to it and went and sat in the kitchen where I ate mine.
His went cold, so it went in the bin... Minus the gravy. That was all over the duvet... which bought a whole new meaning to the term "damp patch" when we had to sleep under it later.
I couldn't be arsed to tell him about it. He wouldn't care anyway. I'll wash it in the morning, with everything else that I picked up off the floor earlier.
Because that's what us "Enablers" do.
Well I did.
I'm not actually doing this anymore. You see, when I scraped his plate into the bin earlier, I thought I saw our relationship in there, right there at the bottom. Hidden under the scraps... Which deep down I know is all that he's offering me...and that's on a good day. On nights like tonight, you don't want to know.
I'm worth more than scraps. Plus I've decided that actually, I don't like cleaning up sick.
So I'm leaving him.
In fact I left him on Wednesday. I packed all my things and I caught the train back. I just don't think that he's noticed yet.
Which is, in itself "enabling".
It enables me for a change.
To realise that this guy doesn't need me to help him...he needs to go to rehab.
I never planned to be an alcoholic. It was never a goal of mine, “something to aspire to” or “one off the bucket list", and with my family background you would think that I’d have known better than to chance it, but the truth was that I didn’t know better, I needed the oblivion at the time and so it kind of just sneaked up on me. Within the space of around about two years, I’d gone from a fairly heavy drinker to an end-stage, totally addicted, alcoholic mess.
I ended up in hospital to “dry out" which rid my body of the alcohol that was slowly killing me, but not the demons and insecurities that plagued my head. I had no real support system in place, I had an abusive, alcoholic boyfriend who wanted me sick because then he could control me, and so, within a week I was back on the booze and the descent into hell began all over again.
Three months later weighing a tiny six stone, I was rushed into detox, and this time, finally away from him and the subsequent carnage and chaos that was surrounding me, I knew that I had a fighting chance of getting well.
For the first time in years I could breathe.
My days consisted of check-ins, group meetings, various classes and activities and three calorie laden meals a day to help me recover from malnutrition. I had structure and order and crucially no madness to deal with for the first time in years. I had a room of my own with my own bed and a bath, and for the first time in ages I actually felt safe.
I spent 6 weeks in detox, followed immediately by 3 months in rehab. I worked my arse off every single day to get better, and when I left I promised myself that I would never pick up a drink again.
3 and a half years down the line I’ve managed to keep that promise.
I started an on-line blog as therapy for myself whilst living in a homeless hostel, as a way to keep myself focussed and sober…and pouring my heart out on paper has helped me make sense of myself and my new sober life.
Instead of picking up a drink to obliterate myself, these days I write my way out of trouble. I blog and I podcast and I fill my time with healthier things and surround myself with healthier people. I limit negativity and my time on social media. I try to eat well and look after myself as best I can…and I share my story in the hope that it will inspire, educate and maybe give hope to others who find themselves staring into the abyss.
Three years ago I weighed 6stone 4 and looked like a tramp.
My hair was falling out and my periods had stopped. My body was shutting itself down in a desperate attempt to keep me alive. My clothes were size 0.
Today I’m 9 stone ish and a healthy size ten. My hair is thick and bouncy and my body functions normally again. To look at me today you would never guess the trials I had to overcome to get myself back to some kind of normality…I’m proud of the fact that you would never guess.
Read my story here justagirl.emyspot.com or watch a tiny film about that time @IsDepression_
I've always been a 'fixer'... I'm brilliant at it. Which is a shame, because up until now, this amazing ability that I have to pick people up, straighten them out and get them back on track again has seemingly never applied when it's my own problems that need to be dealt with.
The last few years have been ridiculously hard for me. An incredible amount of shit landed in my general direction and it's taken me a long, long time to claw my way out of the absolute madness and mess that that caused me and begin to regain enough confidence to attempt to rebuild.