not the slide
They say that we all have a "Guardian Angel".
Someone with our best interests at heart, "watching our back", ready to step in and fight our corner the minute that things start to get tricky.
Except that when I was drinking, I didn't need a Guardian Angel. I needed a full time carer. Preferably one who didn't sleep and who was happy to work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.
Living with an addiction is horrific.
It's Groundhog day. Where the only thing that changes is the amount and severity of bad shit that happens to you.
I still can't believe that this is how I used to live my life.
Or that a typical 24 hours went something like this.
And that, believe it or not, this was what I would class as a "good day" ....(because I really don't want to talk about the bad)....
Welcome to a day in my life back then....
I've had better. But I've also had a hell of a lot worse.....
Earlier this year, a very clever lady gifted me this website. She designed it for me herself. Because she wanted me to write.
She said that it would help me to make sense of the stuff that was going on inside of my head. And that once I made a start on trying to get this stuff out of my head and into the open, that a story would start to emerge....My story. Because she thinks that it needs to be told.
I've travelled 350 miles to see my family.
All two of them.
It's not going great.
I should be sat in my mums house keeping her company but my buttons have been pressed enough for one day and I can't handle that right now. So I'm sat, by myself in Wetherspoons, nursing my pretend beer and killing time until I can't put the rest of the evening off any longer.
It's pissing down.
I'm lying on my bed listening to the rain.
In the distance someone is playing the guitar and there's a magpie dancing on my roof. I'm in the middle of nowhere in my new little house. In my backyard are sheep and cows, buzzards, owls and a peacock.
I'm attracted to chaos like a moth to a flame.
I always have been. Since I was a child - Subconciously re-creating car crash scenarios.
I know where I am with chaos. I know "what to do". It's all I've been used to. Noise and uncertaintainty and drama. So I've always had a plan B for when plan A goes wrong. Which is most of the time.
12 months ago I was unemployable.
I wore the same crumpled clothes for days on end, rarely showered or brushed my teeth and my hair was matted and tangled. I weighed just over 6 stone and was so thin and malnourished that I struggled to walk.
My friend Nathan knows me pretty well - We spend a lot of time together. A lot more time than we used to actually, now that I'm sober and capable of stringing more than just the odd sentence together.
Tonight we are talking about my drinking days. I don't really want to have this conversation but it's Nath and he was worried for a while and so I know that I should.
I take a sip of my drink, grit my teeth and prepare myself for a bumpy ride...
Before I became ill and way before I became a writer, I had a completely different life.
I was a fixer. A magician. A person who performed miracles and made magic happen. If people said that it couldn't be done I would prove them wrong by being the person to do it.
I "get" superficial. I do. We've all done it. Played nice at parties or events or meetings or whatever. Superficial is a two way thing. It serves a purpose. No harm intended. You both know that you'll never call the number. Go on a second date. Meet up for coffee and a chat. Its just a way of wrapping up a conversation. Saving face. I get all of that. I've done it loads in the past.
But I don't get false. Hidden agendas. Jealousy. Especially when you don't actually see it happening. From someone who's supposed to have your back. Not be stabbing you in it. Especially when they know that you are going through a really shit time.
Still. I know now.
I know everything....
So you can have what you stole from me. It's yours. You can keep it.
I hope it makes you happy and that all of your deception was worth it.
Because I was ill when you took it. It became an albatross around my neck...now it will be one around yours.
So enjoy it while you can.....and enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame.....because everyone knows who the real winner is here. And trust me sweetheart, it's never going to be you. You're just an imposter doing a not very good job of impersonating me. And failing spectacularly....it's all a bit "Single white female"....if i'm honest. Maybe I should be flattered .....or maybe I should just say this....
The truth will come out. So I'll have my say then.....in the meantime though, be careful what you wish for.
Because Karma's a bitch.....and she's coming for you. "Mate"...
So this is a story about a man.
A funny, intelligent and articulate man who has recently snowballed into my day to day life.
Out of the blue. From Nowhere.
Completely unexpectedly, and completely unannounced. It's kind of a complicated story. Involving an extremely complicated man.
Before I met M I was a fox.
That's not me being big-headed. I just was. I was confident, outgoing and liked to show my seductive side.
I used to have flings. Wear pretty, girly playsuits and dresses with sky-high heels. I Drank Champagne; dabbled in Class A's in swanky hotel rooms. I was careless and fearless. I knew who I was and where I was coming from..
Then I let somebody steal my sparkle.
He was drawn to my face, my figure and my confidence. But then used them as weapons against me.
At first I didn't notice the signs. But then they became unmissable. And inner fox went down the rabbit hole - having found herself surplus to requirements.
My pretty dresses became jeans and leggings. My heels became converse and ballet pumps. My make up went from elegant and girly to muted, then faded....then non existent. My beautiful, crazy cave-womanish hair that always drew compliments was hidden in buns and side ponytails. So that I wouldn't attract attention.
It wasn't enough.
Every man who glanced at me wanted to take me to bed. Most of the women too....according to the way that M's mind worked. In his head I was constantly out shagging the world the minute that his back was turned. I couldn't keep up with his accusations and escalating violence. Because of course I needed to be punished for being so "available" to everyone who crossed my path.....He drained my vitality and left me with ashes.
Anyway, that was a year ago.
I left him. Although not before significant damage had been done to my head and my confidence.
I've been trying to rebuild for a while. And now I'm taking my power back.
Despite his "encouragement" and suggestions that I "donate" my "old" wardrobe back then to the charity shop, I didn't. I kept hold of my pretty dresses and my shoes. Well, the ones that he didn't manage to wreck anyway....
They are here, now, in my wardrobe.....
I unpacked them today...
Because inner fox has been missing for too long, and I want her back. I miss her. She completes me.....
So today I have made what I used to call an "executive decision"....and I am going back down into that rabbit hole. But I'm not staying long. It's just a flying visit. And when I come out I will have both my inner fox and my sparkle back....
And this time I'm keeping hold of them....
Having us compete against each other to see which team could make the best midget gem bridge was the brain child of one of the support workers in detox. It was supposed to keep us out of mischief for an hour while the rest of the staff had a much needed cup of tea.
Unfortunately all it did was create chaos; For two reasons.
One : We were none of us five years old. And told her so. And two : You don't give recovering addicts with an insatiable craving for sugar, sweets. Everyone knows that. It sent us crackers.
Haribo was literally currency in there. Tangfastics were like gold dust by the end of each week. It's all we ever put on our shopping lists. Haribo's, and tobacco if you smoked.
Anyway, three quarters of the midget gems were gone before she'd even got our attention. Which meant that we had uneven numbers of sweets to play with which made it unfair. Which meant that it was a pointless exercise. We ate the rest of the sweets while we relayed this information to her when she came to check on our progress. Which was basically none existent... Much to her dismay.
It was hilarious....
Her day got progressively worse when I refused to take part in the second lesson which involved making a tower out of marshmallows and dried spaghetti. Again, because I am not five years old.
She tried to insist; told me to "let my inner child out to play"....to which I replied that my inner child had already consumed far too many e-numbers for one day thank you very much, and would therefore be much better off if left to read her book quietly on the sofa - in case all of the midget gems she'd consumed in record time earlier made her sick.....Long story short. I didn't have to make the tower. 1-0 to me.
Up until this point I had been completely compliant in treatment. I hadn't dared say no to anything....but now my inner rebel was starting to stir. Which meant that I was getting better. I was finding my voice. It was time to start thinking about getting out of here and onto stage two.
I had been a model patient in detox. They were going to love me in rehab.....
I wrote this last night. It's a tiny snapshot of just how shit my life was a year ago and where my head was at that time. A lot has changed in a year and I am now happy and healthy. More good luck than judgement. But I'm grateful that I am here and that things are so much different now......
This was my depression....
I'm getting thin. There are dark circles under my eyes. My clothes don't fit me and my hair is a mess.
I look terrible.
I don't care.
It's Saturday night.
I'm alone in my room watching Netflix and occasionally checking my twitter account.
All of my friends are either working or doing things that tonight don't include me and so I am home alone, just me myself and I. I'm bored and don't really know what to do with myself.
I thought about going out but it's not really the same just sitting on your own. Plus I work here. I try and keep my work and my private life separate. I don't want to be sat propping up the bar on my nights off. It looks a bit desperate.
I'm trying not to look at the bottle that's on my bedside table. The bottle that has a label that reads 0.0 Alcohol Free. Because my mind can't seem to process that. It looks like alcohol. It tastes like alcohol. But it's not. Yet my tastebuds say it must be. And suddenly my head is reverting back to old behaviours. My old buttons are being pressed. Because, despite me having two similar bottles unopened in the fridge, my head is pressing me to go out and get more. To stockpile. Even though it's pissing down outside. Because my head for some unknown reason appears to want to get obliterated again. It's talking to me. Chatter, chatter, chatter. I'm determined to ignore it.
I thought that I was over this. That I've kicked my addiction.
However, this internal conversation that I appear to be having with my "inner addict" right now appears to be telling me otherwise.
I always thought that it was bollocks when they banged on about it in rehab. Apparantly not. My "inner addict" is alive and kicking if this conversation is to be believed. It's just taken a while for it to introduce itself. Almost a year actually. Well ten months and twenty one days. Not that I've been counting. It's just that the admission date of detox is tattooed on my brain.
So this is not what I wanted to find out today. That there's yet another mountain to climb.
I've been super, super careful around anything to do with alcohol since I walked out of rehab. I'm not going down that road again for anyone. But I don't want to live in a coffee shop either. Or go to meetings every night. I'm a social girl. I like bars and restaurants.
But I was so sick to death of drinking squash. It made me feel like a child. And I was sick of the questions. And the automatic jumping to conclusions by people who haven't got a clue about me or my life choices now let alone why I made them.
So going alcohol free opened new doors. I looked like everyone else now. With my beer thats not beer really.
Only it is.
It contains traces. Teeny, tiny bits of the poison that I used to try and drown myself with. My body knows it and my chemical hooks are kicking in.
This is not good. Or maybe it is. Maybe it's my inner voice urging me not to be stupid about this. That it's waving a red flag ( however small) in my direction for a reason.
I have the capacity to make stupid decisions as my blogs and my life story have shown. But the occasional stupid mistake doesn't mean that I actually am stupid. Because I'm not. Being stupid would be for me to not pay attention to this, think "In for a penny, in for a pound" and get back onto the real stuff pronto.
But that would drag me straight back to hell. And that would be beyond stupid. I learned my lesson the first time.
I get up and pour my pretend beer down the sink. Bollocks. Fruit shoot it is then.
Where to start with this one? She's kind of a law unto herself. She can be hard to pin down in a description. A cross between the terrible two's and a stroppy teenager at a push, with an ego the size of a small country..... If I had to elaborate.
She lives by her own set of rules (that she created and therefore can change at any time ) and never admits that she's wrong. She's funny and sexy, loud and insistent with occasional outbursts of Tourettes. I love her. I think she's brilliant.
I have no idea where she came from. She just appeared. Magically. Sometime during my little spell in detox. Possibly as a side-effect of all of the medication I was taking at the time....anyway, It was bizarre.
I didn't want to make a marshmallow tower ( long story) and was busy trying to work out how to rebel. I've always had cripplingly low self confidence and try to avoid any type of confrontation wherever possible. At least I used to. This mysterious new Inner Diva of mine had other ideas.
"What are you doing?" (Her)
"I'm sorry, what?..."
"I asked what you are doing? What are you going to do with all those sweets?"
"Hmmmmnn...She wants me to make a marshmallow tower" (me)
"Omg. Are you for real?? Why?"
"I have no idea. It's supposed to help liberate my inner child....or something. I'm not quite sure. I haven't done it before."
"Liberate your inner child?? By threading marshmallows onto spaghetti?? That's hilarious. I bet it took her ages to think of that little gem. Have you seen her shoes by the way? What on earth is she thinking? They're hideous....Anyway. It's a rubbish idea. You're not five years old. Jesus! C'mon. Say you're not doing it. I'll help you to eat them and then we can go and watch TV or something..."
On and on and on she went. "What's he in for?" "Ooh he's nice, is he taken?" Blah, blah blah. I couldn't concentrate. I was afraid that she'd actually make my ears bleed if I didn't do what she said. On those grounds I refused to make the tower. It was liberating. I ate the marshmallows and Inner diva and I went off to read a book. It was the only thing I could think of that might keep her quiet.
From that day onwards she followed me everywhere. A naughty fairy in sky- high heels perched on my shoulder, idly painting her nails. Me and my shadow.
I was getting a hard time in rehab from the staff. Completely undeserved to be fair. I'd been a model patient. I refused to do something that I knew would have harmed my recovery. They threatened to kick me out if I didn't comply. They made me cry. The old me probably would have crumbled. But I hadn't factored in Inner Diva. It was like waving a red flag to a bull. Inner Diva was having none of it. She doesn't take any shit. Which means that now she's in town I'm not allowed to either. She was there like a shot.
"Tell them to shove it up their arse. They can't talk to you like that. Who do they think they are? C'mon, we're leaving. Nobody puts baby in the corner. You can pick up your things later. I want to go shopping...."
I didn't have a plan for leaving rehab. I had nowhere to go. But yeah, I wanted to go shopping too now you come to mention it. I'd been cooped up for months in the big brother house. Some fresh air and a bit of retail therapy would do me good. Needless to say, that was the end of my rehab days. I threw a few things together and then Inner Diva and I went to Lush.
We'd figure out a plan later.
I love her. I really do. But boy, she's relentless. She has an opinion on absolutely everything. Whether I ask for it or not. When i'm in the shower for example, or out on a date...
I'd chosen the scallops. My absolute favourite. My starter was waiting for me when I returned from the ladies.
Inner Diva was not impressed.
"Where's the rest of it?" Are you kidding me? How much? Ten pounds?? Ten?? Have you seen the size of it? That's scandalous. Call her over. There's no way you're paying for that. There is literally nothing on that plate. No I won't be quiet. I don't care if I'm shouting. Listen very carefully. You.Are.Not.Paying. Ten. Pounds. For. That. C'mon, we're leaving. I'll meet you outside. We can get fish and chips or something. And get change from a tenner...."
He didn't want to leave. Or go somewhere else. Even though his starter was bland and overcooked. He preferred to sit there and suffer until after we'd been served our equally crappy mains. I didn't want to sit there eating rubbish food. I wanted to be sat on the seafront with Inner Diva, eating fish and chips with the wind in my hair.
We didn't have a second date. Inner Diva was bored rigid. So was I to be fair. And he was going bald....
So this is how we live. She's my wingwoman. My naughty and my nice. Queen Bee without a doubt. What she says goes. And so far she is actually always right. I'm a million times more confident with her around. I'd be completely lost without her . And the crazy adventures we have along the way. She rocks. And by default, on occasion so do I.
Inner Diva, I salute you...long may you reign.
12 months ago I was unemployable.
I wore the same crumpled clothes for days on end, rarely showered or brushed my teeth and my hair was matted and tangled. I weighed just over 6 stone and was so thin and malnourished that I struggled to walk.
People laughed and talked about me...when they weren't trying to take advantage - Which was most of the time.
I was a skeletal suicidal mess.
A horrific year drove me to have a mental breakdown and completely wrecked my once normal happy and stable life. It rendered me virtually incapable of anything except drowning myself in alcohol, and forcing myself to make the everyday necessary walk to the off-licence to buy more supplies.
But there were valid reasons behind my erratic behaviour and lack of personal hygiene. Apart from the crushing depression that threatened to consume me on a daily basis....
I didn't not change my clothes or shower because I was lazy - I was sofa-surfing and the truth was that I was scared to take my clothes off in a virtual strangers house - I couldn't bear the thought of him knowing that I was naked just the other side of the door. For all sorts of reasons. Even though I'm sure that his intentions were good. So to be on the safe side I wore everything I owned. Constantly. Boots included. Even when I got into my sleeping bag. Especially when I got into my sleeping bag..... I was vulnerable in the day. I wasn't taking any chances at night.....
I didn't brush my teeth because simply attempting to put a brush into my mouth made me sick. Bile mainly. I wasn't eating enough to throw up properly.
And my hair was tangled and matted because of the way that I was living. And the fact that I didn't have a hairbrush or the money to sort it out.
I was signed off on long term sick. I was addicted to alcohol and my life was a car crash....
No-one would have wanted to employ me. I wouldn't have been able to hold a job down if they did....
It was horrific. No. It was beyond horrific. I was living in hell.
Almost 11 months later and it is a completely different story.
I'm free from my addiction. I have a job and a nice place to live. I sleep in my own bed every night. I shower and brush my teeth every day twice a day.
I wear nice clothes. I change them daily too.
I cook for myself and my fridge and my cupboards are full.
My hair and my home gleam.
My boss doesn't know about the horrors of my past. I take pride in the fact that he would never guess. He took a chance on me and my CV full of gaping holes because he saw something in me that he could trust.
I work hard and I've never once let him down by being late, slovenly or disrespectful.
In the mornings I clean toilets. I do whatever job he asks of me with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. In my spare time I write.
All I needed to help me to turn my life back around once I'd sought help for my addiction was someone just to give me a chance.
He did and I make sure every single day that I repay him for that.
Thankfully, more and more employers are waking up to the fact that Mental Illness exists. That it affects a lot of people, and that it isn't going to go away anytime soon.
Living with Mental Illness is hard. A lot of people who have this feel isolated, inferior and inadequate; Because they've been made to feel this way - People with qualifications, and transferrable life skills. People like me who are an absolute dream to employ if someone just takes the time to reach out and offer that chance without letting outdated ideas and social stigmas get in the way......
Like #the888collectiv. A Social Enterprise with Mental Health firmly rooted in the heart of its Constitution - because they understand. They "Get it". They get how hard it is to sell yourself to an employer when your self esteem and self confidence are on the floor. They've opened their door anyway. No lengthy explanations needed.
Throwing a lifeline for people like me when other people prefer to look away.
Girls I salute you. Long may you reign xx
Follow them on #Twitter @the888collectiv or catch up with their latest news at www.the888collective.com
Mental illness runs in my family.
Addiction and suicide are rife - My fathers side mainly.
I have his hair. And the same blue/grey eyes. I wonder if this counts? That one day this will be enough to tip me over. And I get to join the ranks of those who came before me.
They grew up in care. Seven institutionalised adults came churning out of the machine after my nan decided that she didn't much like children after all once they had arrived. I can only imagine the damage that did to them all. Not the best start in life for any kid.
He was mad of course.
Clinically insane at one point. But by that stage I was borderline losing it too so we were to get on well together.
It wasn't what I expected. The living room was over-crowded and smelt of Vanilla and cigarette smoke. I hate Vanilla. The sickly sweet smell of it made me gag and I tried hard not to retch. There were cans of accelerant everywhere. Mainly lighter fuel. He told me once that he had served time in Prison. For arson.
I believed him. I tried not to look.
I slept in my clothes. I didn't have anything else. He gave me a blanket and a pillow which were later replaced with a sleeping bag, once it became apparant that the sofa may have to be on standby. I slept like a log. Exhaustion and alcohol are a winning combination.
The sofa became my place of safety - and somewhere where I could lose my mind quietly, without violent interruptions from my psychopathic ex. I returned to sleep there time and time again. Mostly in tears after yet another night of abuse from the twisted guy I was in a so called "relationship" with.
I kept going back to him - falling for his lies. I obviously had a death wish. It nearly came true once or twice. My guardian angel had her work cut out for sure. Suprised she stuck it out to be fair. I would have thrown the towel in ages ago. "Sorry love, you're on your own - forgot to mention I have a plane to catch. Gotta go. Have a nice life, bye..." or words to that effect.
I was ill of course. Dangerously so. Had been deteriorating for a while. Mentally as well as physically. I know that now. I just wasn't thinking straight. I was there in body but my mind had gone awol for a while. He could empathise.
He had been institutionalised. Hospitals, prisons. They gave him electric shock therapy. He described the horrors to me. How he used to beg them to stop. I couldn't even imagine.
I didn't sleep well. He would come in to smoke a cigarette or a joint and I would already be awake.
We'd chat. About allsorts and then he would wander off to bed, instructing me to wake him if I needed the company. I never did - that would have just been weird.
He was good to me. Respectful. Again, good job really as I don't know how I would have coped otherwise. He never overstepped the invisible line that I had drawn the first night I stayed there - although the thought that he might crossed my mind several times.
He provided the sofa and a hot shower (I rarely used it) - allowed me to wash my clothes. I provided company and my freaked out, traumatised self along with the very occasional take-away.
He compared me to Alice in wonderland. Pretty accurate. I had the "drink me" part of her journey down pat. He was The Cheshire Cat....C.C for short.
He tried to do nice things for me. He printed out photo's that I had, and made my favourite songs into a playlist.
One morning I woke up and there was my favourite photograph of Little man staring down at me from the big screen. It was meant well but it freaked me out a bit if i'm honest.
As I'm writing this i'm shuddering . It's hard to take it in looking back. It was beyond surrreal. But at the time it seemed perfectly normal.
Every day I was becoming more and more ill. I was still being hounded by the horrible guy I was with. I finally managed to leave him while his back was turned. Now I was hiding from him. He threatened me constantly. I believed every word of his threats.
My days were spent indoors, with me only venturing out to buy more alcohol once my supplies ran out, and my nights were spent sharing the life of a once clinically insane pensioner with a fondness for setting fire to things.
I didn't need drugs to alter my mind by now..it was pretty much shot to bits all by itself.
I was ill, malnourished, and could barely walk. Personal hygiene was now completely alien to me. I couldn't brush my teeth, the thought made me retch. I was sick and shaking every morning from withdrawal. I couldn't face taking a shower or changing my clothes as I couldn't bear the thought of him knowing that I was naked on the other side of the door. It just freaked me out.
I wore the same clothes daily so I didnt have to get changed. I finally took my boots off after ten days straight and my feet were black. It was horrific. I barely gave two shits. I had gone back to shower at my ex'es - at his invitation. He had been playing "Good cop" and on the surface appeared shocked at the state of me. I genuinely thought that he was being nice. Instead he sent me a gloating text message minutes after I had left, debating whether or not he should go for a second shower that day...."not because he needed to...just because he could".....knowing how much that would get to me. True to form. Straight for the jugular.
The clock was ticking. Detox was looming....I just had to keep hold of my sanity for a little while longer. I was even answering to Alice at this point and actually felt like I was her at times. Freaked out doesn't come close to I was feeling at this point.
Alice needed to leave while there was still a chance that sanity could be restored. Her little bag was packed . She was ready.
Her drivers name was Scott. He was taking her to hospital. She was relieved to see that he was driving a seat. She was pretty convinced that her ticket would have been for the sunshine bus.
Alice's time in Wonderland was over. It wasn't a minute too soon. A new kind of craziness beckoned. And this time there were drugs...
**Disclaimer** C.C was a friend to me when I needed it most. He was my protector and guardian and I am indebted to him for everything he did. He probably saved my life...this is my account of my mental health at that time only and is in no way meant to be disrespectful to him.
I'm sat in my teeny caravan. It's where Little man and I lived after J left me. It's been 4 years but I'm still overwhelmed whenever I think about it.
Little man is all around me. I'm sat opposite his favourite spot. I can still see the ghost of him....
I can't believe how much emotion is still attached to this place. It symbolises Death to me. The death of my marriage. Little mans death not long after we moved here and ultimately the near death of me and the actual death of everything I thought I knew about myself.
I'm sat in the spot where I waited to die. It feels surreal and I'm about to cry. The ghost of the old me is in here too. She's hanging out with Little mans.
I can't bear this amount of grief. It's like a body blow every time I come here. It's keeping me trapped. I need her to leave.
It's going to take some doing.
I've been cleaning for hours with every window open to try and get some life back in here. I need this to be a happy place. I can't walk in here and be swamped with sadness everytime I open the door. It's time for a fresh start. This is the last thing that has any hold over me emotionally and I'm going to re-invent it with the same energy that is helping me to re-invent myself.
Only it's not working.
It doesn't matter how hard I scrub, how much incense I burn, how many trinkets I buy to try and make it homely again nothing is working. The energy and the memories just won't shift.
Because she still thinks that she's dead. The old traumatised me. She actually thinks that she died here. I know how much she wanted to. To be with Little man. So that she didn't have to worry about how horribly wrong it was all going. And how she would ever manage on her own without him to cling to.
To her this could never be a home, filled with it's grief and it's loss and its trauma. To her it was a coffin. She was just waiting for the lid to close.
So I'll sell it. Or scrap it.
I can't live in a coffin. Because coffins are for dead people. And despite it being an extremely close call for a while, I'm still here.
I'm not dead.