Posts by girly-d
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...
My name is Pandora.
"Pan" to my friends. Not that I've got many of those any more...they're a little bit thin on the ground these days.
I see the people from the foodbank, the guys from the soup kitchen and a very occasional support worker - that's pretty much it if I'm honest ...well no, actually that's not strictly true. There are a couple more people I see every day now...but that's not really my choice. It's more a necessity... Because one is my pimp and the other's my dealer...two out of the three things that I need right now...the third one being smack...and if, for whatever reason, one of those three decides not to show...well basically my day gets all kind of screwed...so it's best not to go there.
They call me "Princess".
It's their little joke.
Because before all of this I was a looker...I still am I suppose. Compared to some of the girls on my patch I'm practically a super-model...but they've been in this game a lot longer than I have. They've earned every one of those battle scars...so who am I to judge?
The girls call me Princess too...pretty much everyone does to be fair. Only my life isn't quite what you'd call a fairy tale now...That went to the dogs a long time ago...around about the first time I chose to stick a needle in my arm...and all of the horrors in the world came flooding out the minute that that syringe pierced my skin.
My name is Pandora...I'm going to tell you a little story...
You might want to take a seat...
I take a job running a small kitchen in Cornwall. It’s a tiny, tiny place and I make next to nothing. But on quiet days, I can write. I use the money I earn from making sandwiches to enter my film “This Is Depression” into festivals.
She wins “Best short animation” in a competition in America almost immediately.
I enter her into more, and I get an email back from another. We’ve made it into the Judges final 50, and now she gets to be screened in a cinema in London.
There were 5,000 submissions for the judges to choose from. Only 50 films get through to the finals. This is a huge, huge deal to even have got this far. I’m ecstatic.
Fast forward about a month and I’m now at the film awards. I’m dressed in a trouser suit and wearing leopard print heels, I’ve attempted to curl my hair and my jewellery sparkles. I look just as good as anyone else in the room, which is re-assuring, because on the inside I feel like an imposter and slightly out of my depth. There’s nothing here to take the edge off my nerves. I try to remember to breathe and remind myself that just to be here is a privilege.
I start to relax but am careful not to let my guard down.
There is a free bar here. Chilled bottles and expertly mixed cocktails are everywhere. I sip my water tentatively, before speaking to a waiter and then I am finally able to progress to chilled ginger beer.
The atmosphere is animated, electric. People approach me, shake my hand, rave about the film. There are provisional offers of work for me laid out on the table. Business cards and phone numbers are exchanged. I’m starting to realise that I belong in this room. It’s pretty overwhelming.
We start to take our seats as the ceremony begins. There’s no table plan so I sit with a couple I met at the screening of the film yesterday. The lady asks me to send her some more of my work…maybe, she thinks, I could write for TV. She has a little something that she’s working on. Would I be interested?
Names are called out, awards are being given and speeches are made. I recognise some of the winners as people I met yesterday. They absolutely deserve to be on that stage. Without exception, their films were incredible.
I don’t actually realise that my name has been called until I recognise the name of our film and then time kind of stops as I realise that we’ve won.
The film has won an award.
This one is huge.
I make my way to the stage and I stand there in the trouser suit that I borrowed from a friend, because mine got wrecked in the washing machine the day before I came here. I think to myself that maybe my leopard print heels must be magical like Dorothy’s for this to be happening, and then I walk up to the stage and I thank all the judges for putting us through.
And then I talk to the audience and I try not to cry as I explain just how grateful I am to stand there in front of them, and exactly how much winning this award means to me. To all of us.
I talk about how, when I was ill and really at my lowest, my depression and my addiction still kept on taking and taking from me until all that was left was the flesh on my bones. My fears that I would die from my addiction, that I would never get back to normality.
That never in a million years did I see this day coming.
Except that it did.
And I tell them that out of all of that horror and madness, I know that I was given a gift. The gift of expression, the gift of empathy. The gift of being able to walk in a pair of shoes that I know now were never really mine to keep. They didn’t belong to me … I just needed to walk in them for long enough to learn some valuable lessons about mental health, about homelessness and addiction and about life in general. Lessons that I could pick apart, re-evaluate and finally rewrite, in order that other people could understand that journey themselves without actually having to dance with the devil like I did.
I stand in that spotlight and I look like a winner. Like a person who’s achieved something. And I truly believe now this path was my destiny. Because the topics I write about and put on the table are hard to digest. People aren’t always ready to face them. But if you are able to write eloquently, with passion and conviction, and you can pour that passion and conviction out onto the page or up onto the screen, people will read and they will watch and they will listen. And sometimes that is all that is needed to instigate change.
I'm back in St Ives, my absolute favourite place in all of Cornwall.
It's my 'go-to' place, my healing place - the place that I ran to when something bad happened, something so terrible, all of those years ago, that I couldn't bear to live in my own skin, let alone my own flat.
I blamed myself back then. Lots of 'could've, should've, would've' type conversations with my head, based on if only I could have known the outcome of that night. But the fact is, that I didn't know, and so I didn't do any of the things that I wish I'd done now.
Instead, I bought myself a train ticket and ran away here.
My name is Denise and I am a writer.I write about many things, but mainly I write about mental health.I write about this, because for a couple of years, not all that long ago, I was very unwell. Everything in my life had gone horribly wrong, and the resulting depression that came along for the ride with that absolutely floored me.I lost absolutely everything.I used alcohol as a way to escape my own head, and I drank myself unconscious more times than I care to remember. I found myself in some pretty horrendous situations, and was eventually hospitalised and subsequently admitted to detox.I started to write whilst living in a homeless hostel as a way to process my thoughts and also as a distraction from bad head days, to give me an alternative to scampering off to the nearest bar or off-licence for a few pints of lager and a one-way ticket back to hell.Fast forward to now, and today I am an award-winning writer.My on-line blog "Just A Girl - My life" has been read by thousands, and a tiny, award-winning film that I wrote about that time has inspired countless others to come forward and share their own stories.I have just written a play. A play that has taken me almost two years. A play that I started to write in early recovery as a way to take my mind off the fact that my day job involved scrubbing lots of toilets.The play is about a woman who slips through the cracks, and shows how one wrong move can drastically alter the course of your life. It's a play about money, and the "choices" that you make in life when you find that you don't actually have any.It is also a play about hope and resilience...because I needed those in spades whilst I was slaying my own demons for a while, and it is a play that I believe will impact many, sparking conversations and debates and shining a spotlight on serious topics that others tend to shy away from.A play that will provide paid employment to everyone involved in it.But if this is to happen, my play will need a stage, and an audience...two of the things that are gradually being whittled away because our theatres are closing at an alarming rate.Theatre doesn't “just happen”. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time...a lot of dedication and effort.Theatre "happens" because people like me strive for change and have hopes and dreams of better days and brighter futures...We want to share stories and go on adventures... to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves.We want to laugh, cry, right a few wrongs maybe, but most of all, we want to connect, both with ourselves and others...we simply want to "feel."Theatre gives us all of this and so much more.Writing bought me clarity at a time when I was struggling and needed it most, and finding my way onto this path has changed the course of my life entirely.The arts opened up a whole new world to me, and offered a healthier form of escapism, and watching live theatre for the first time in recovery created a spark, that resulted in me writing a play of my own further down the line that gave me hope and dreams for the future.So the next time you hear that a venue is closing its doors, imagine them closing on Narnia...and on people like me and our stories, and the plays that now may never be shown, because somebody somewhere would rather see a plane repainted than come up with a way to save an industry currently on its knees.
We’ve all been a little bit obsessed with something at least once in
our lives I’m sure...A favourite toy at Christmas, or a new puppy or a kitten maybe.
Because it’s what you do when you love something – you show it some affection.
Only some people don’t know when to stop.
The first time he called me it was almost 1-ooam. I didn’t know that it was a “he” then.
I had no idea who it was, but I didn't recognise the number and so I let it ring.
Only it rang and rang, and it was a video call, which I thought was
really weird, because anyone who knows me knows that I hate anything
that shows my face, and so I sent back a message saying that they had
a wrong number...and that’s when it started to all go a bit horribly wrong.
Because he sent back a text saying “Hi Denise”
And officially became “a bit of a stalker”...
You see the phone calls didn’t stop. In fact they got worse. And I got
video calls and text messages several times a day. Every. Single. Day.
And I needed my number for work at the time, and so I thought that if
I blocked him then that would be it, which in all fairness worked -
for about a day...then he went just out and got another phone.
And another one and another one.
Until I was absolutely petrified every time my phone rang.
Because this guy knew me. I mean he really knew me.
He knew my name, he knew my number and he knew exactly what I looked like.
And friends told me to tell the police…but what would I say? What
proof did I have? A steady stream of unanswered calls from several
different numbers? A series of non- verbal conversations?
I didn’t even know this person…
Except that I did.
You see my friend had an idea - she took the original number that
he called me from, and she ran it through facebook.
And there he was.
In all his glory.
With his trademark jogging bottoms and his goldie-looking chain, and
his history of obsession with women he can’t have.
You see I met him in a homeless hostel, when I had to live there briefly.
He was in the room next door. Only I had to report him to staff
because he didn’t like the word “No”
And so I sent him a message with a screenshot of his face…and I told
him about the cosy chat that I’d had with his probation officer…
And this time, when I blocked him again, he didn’t call back…
So first you take a pretty girl, and then you break her heart.
And as she lies there grieving, take away anything and everything that she ever cared about
Except for one last thing
The one thing you know she absolutely cannot live without... and then wait until she's sleeping, before taking that as well.
So now she has a broken heart, and has no things, and everything she ever cared about is gone.
Which means the timing's perfect.
It's time to make the scarecrow,
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...
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.
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_