Don’t give up giving up

Inspired by a post at one of my regular readers – Un-Tipsy Teacher.    Thank you…

At times I’m asked my advice for people who are new to sobriety.  My only pearl of wisdom is “Don’t give up giving up”.   I nearly did.  I spent just over a year in a mess stopping, starting, controlling, changing, binging, drinking, etc. I moved from a daily top-up drinker to a binge drinker.  As that year or so progressed the binges got longer the pretence of controlling got less and the periods between them got shorter.  Also the symptoms were getting worse.  I was losing a lot of weight, I was becoming massively unreliable and in the recovery periods withdrawals were becoming a worry.  So a few short weeks before my last drink I remember consciously deciding that I had to stop trying to give up.  The effects of these repeated attempts seemed worse than the drinking every day to excess which I was trying to avoid.

Luckily there was one last attempt, one last roll of the dice.  So despite my decision I actually didn’t give up giving up and the fact I’m here today sober writing this is testament to that.  So if you are in a cycle of give up, control, stop, start etc.  “Don’t give up giving up” the next time you stop may be the time that sticks.

Also though this has continued into and throughout my recovery.  I’m not someone who simply chose not to drink because of some trivial matter.  This was major for me, drink and how it acted on my control so much of my life that stopping drinking was massive.  So I can’t then just casually look over my shoulder and say “Oh yes I used to… “.  I have to remember why I stopped, how bad it was, how bad it luckily hadn’t yet got and stay steadfast to the point that I have lost the privilege of drinking alcohol.  I simply can’t drink it any more.  So again I “Don’t give up giving up” – I continue to give up every day and hopefully today I’ll succeed again and tomorrow and the next day with any luck… as long as I remember to “Don’t give up giving up”.

 

 

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Negative voices – suicide

Last night I caught the programme about Jodi Ann Bickley.  She is running a project called a million lovely letters.  Essentially Jodi asked people to ask her for a letter and she then wrote to them.  Personal letters of comfort, encouragement and support.  I was frankly blown away by the programme, they met two people she’d really helped at very low points in their lives.  That would have been a heartening story alone but Jodi also was incredibly open and honest about her own depression and talked about the internal critic that she has with her all the time telling her “she isn’t worthy”, “isn’t good enough” etc.

This year two high profile music performers have committed suicide, Chris Cornell and recently Chester Bennington.  Both had sold squillions of records, sold squillions of concert tickets but… their lives, they thought had no meaning any more.

Do you have those negative voices?  I’ll admit I do.  The volume and intensity of their attacks rise and fall from time to time.  I can’t say how mine rates to others but I’ve never sought medication for it. I have talked about it in therapy however and with others who I trust to share my inner stuff with.  I dismiss some of it as “just normal imposter syndrome” as I’ve always thought I’m unworthy of whatever praise or employment position I hold, I only got it through luck or dumbness on the part of the hiring manager in my view. Sometimes they do worry me when the intensity goes up.  For me I’ve normally given myself a stern talking to and been able to refocus so that if they are there the intensity seems to decrease.  However I realise that I’m possibly lucky in being able to have this internal dialogue and able to quieten or at least for them to cease being the figure and drop more into the ground – if you like a Gestalt description of what I think is going on for me.

For a long time they can be relatively silent and only on the periphery of my consciousness in the ground.  Other times they can be quiet loud, front and centre in the figure.  Like Jodi they tell me that I’m not as worthy as others and that I’m a fraud.  They try to stoke my anxieties by telling me it’ll all come crashing down soon when finally the emperor’s clothes I’ve concealed myself in (esp professionally) are ripped from my shoulders.

I don’t know how common these sorts of thoughts and voices are but in listening to Jodi last night, reflecting that in the UK the biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide and that 76% of suicides are men I decided to at least put this out here.  If you’re male and reading this and can hear or have heard those voices you are not alone.  Reach out and seek help.

http://www.samaritans.org/   phone 116 123

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/suicidal-feelings#.WXb_afkrKHs

 

 

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Call a spade a spade.

One of my family’s expressions – “Call a spade a spade!”.  It was whenever you were dancing around a topic avoiding saying the potentially hurtful word etc.

On this morning’s commute I read this.

Heavy drinking will kill 63,000 people over next five years, doctors warn

I’ve heard and read a lot in the sober/non-drinking blogsphere about people who drink more than they like not liking being labelled an alcoholic.  It is one of the often criticisms of AA the classic view of a room of people all introducing themselves as “I’m so-and-so and I’m an alcoholic”.  When I went to rehab did I want to call myself that?  Did I think I’d end up repeatedly saying it, if only to myself, daily for 13 years?  Did I think I’d be stood in front of professionals and others at seminars saying it?  Nope.  Am I glad I do?  YES… more emphasis YES!!!

Heavy drinking will kill 63,000 people…. yes well … NO!   ALCOHOLISM will kill 63,000 people.  Let’s call the spade a spade folks.

Let’s look at history, definitions etc….

Firstly Alcoholism was first coined in the 19th Century by the Swedish doctor Magnus Huss who first defined it “as a conjunction of pathological manifestations of the central nervous system, in psychic, sensory, and motor spheres”, and was observed in individuals that consumed alcoholic beverages in a continuous manner, in excess, and over a long period.” (Ref – http://www.cisa.org.br/UserFiles/File/alcoolesuasconsequencias-en-cap3.pdf)

It’s been through redefinitions etc. but WHO now have this definition..

alcoholism (F10.2) A term of long-standing use and variable meaning, generally taken to refer to chronic continual drinking or periodic consumption of alcohol which is characterized by impaired control over drinking, frequent episodes of intoxication, and preoccupation with alcohol and the use of alcohol despite adverse consequences. (REF – http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/terminology/who_lexicon/en/)

The world-wide regarded DSM (manual that defines mental health conditions) in it’s latest guise has a single Alcohol Use Disorder AUD. 

To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Under DSM–5, the current version of the DSM, anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.

To assess whether you or loved one may have AUD, here are some questions to ask.  In the past year, have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the after effects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

REF – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders

 

What’s in a name – well to me actually it is a good thing if people are appalled to initially be called / diagnosed an alcoholic.  True change comes from within and being so shocked as I was perhaps is a spur to action.  The stats in the piece in the Guardian are frankly staggering

“alcohol misuse will lead to 62,905 deaths between 2017 and 2022 and cost the NHS £16.74bn to treat” and “predicts that 32,475 of the deaths – the equivalent of 35 a day – will be the result of liver cancer and another 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease”.

Preventable deaths, preventable cost to the health services, not just in money but all the time and energy etc.  These people are going to die!  I’ll say that again… These people are going to die!  And still even in the headline, we shy away from upsetting them by calling them alcoholic….    I’m lost for words…

The truly good thing for me sitting here is that I truly hope I’ll never be one of those stats – I’ve no symptoms etc. of alcohol related disease currently, hopefully I stopped in time and the liver is a remarkable organ in healing itself if you catch it early enough.

I’ll be as blunt as I can – if you are one of those who like me for year claimed to be “a heavy drinker” let me look you in the eyes and say “You are probably an alcoholic.”  Go back up to that list of used to determine AUD – be honest with yourself.  I had a clean sweep of those not just the two you need to be classified within AUD.  I bet most “heavy drinkers” if honest will score highly on that list.  Now call that spade a spade accept alcoholism and get on with getting some recovery.

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Progress not perfection…

My own personal favourite slogan and ingrained adopted philosophy from the big book.  It is in Chapter Five just after the steps are introduced.  For me this was a key phrase in my early days, and still now, since I have a perfectionist streak but not in the anal-retentive perfectionism of Freudian basis.  My perfectionism is … “I’ll not be able to be good enough to be at the height of what I consider the top of this activity therefore I’ll never start it”.   This has over my life cost me several opportunities where I’ve walked away.  I still do.  For example.  I don’t dance.  Never ever… I’m just not good enough for me so I won’t attempt.  I wish I could “dance like no-one is watching or cares.”

Anyway – also it is a great philosophy for keeping going.  Even if the progress is one more day where I do or don’t do something, obviously for me in the early months just another day clinging on not drinking was progress.

I was completely reminded of this though this weekend.  I was invited, along with Mrs F, to a friend’s wedding reception.  He’s been sober a few years now and I remember him coming around and struggling and slipping then getting it.  I particularly remember his excitement at hitting 1,000 days sober.  There on Saturday he was all suited and booted, married with his little boy refusing to go to sleep etc.  Progress, not perfection, but boy what progress!

Lovely family too – really warm, friendly and welcoming.  I was asked a few times “How to you know each other?”  His sobriety is no secret in his family but even so we still seem to speak in code, it’s the default anonymous protection isn’t it.  “We’re members of the same tea drinking club” was my response.  His Dad in particular was immediately gushing in his thanks.  Funny how I’m seen as having helped him since I’m a bit longer sober.  It don’t work like that – he has kept me sober as much as I’ve helped him.  That’s truly how it works, someone a day sober helping someone who has 50years sobriety is the norm not the exception.

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An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim.

Restores your faith in a bit of humanity this story.

lifeonlauralane

Dear The Eavis family, and all who make Glastonbury happen,

So I write a lot of letters, but I promise this one will be worth reading – stick with it. This isn’t complaining about the crowds or the headliners, or telling the world how life changing the week was for me to provoke envy inducing angry faces all over Facebook. This is a story about a girl who contacted a giant festival who cater for hundreds of thousands with a request for help and was met with compassion, love and overwhelming acts of kindness.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to Glastonbury for the first year ever, with a group of friends who were equally as excited as I was – WhatsApp groups sharing outfits and line up rumours sprung up within minutes of receiving the golden tickets, and June 2017 could not come soon enough.

Unfortunately for me…

View original post 1,570 more words

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It’s been a while

I’ve been busy.

Busy at work – loads of persistent bugs with a system we upgraded and a whole set of Data Centre move work.  Just been manic frankly.

Busy with studies.  Last Friday I submitted my final portfolio with all my work in it the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted and the various references all correct.  Well I hope so anyway.  It’s being checked over as I type and I’ve a week more to get any last minute hassles dealt with.  Then I’m over to just needing to build up my hours to finally get my diploma.

What else is going on?   Hugely proud – Daughter-of-Furtheron today messaged me from her holiday in the Canaries saying she’d got formal confirmation that she has graduated with with a 1st class honours in her BSc.  So proud of her.  She is now going on to do an MRES.  What is that? You ask…  It’s a Masters by Research bit like a mini PhD in one year where you do a research project and write a big dissertation.  Also her department was so impressed with her BSc final year dissertation that she is currently (well when back from her holiday) trying to redraft it in a form that is suitable for it to be submitted to a journal for publication.

With my son currently jetting all over the place in his role as a post doctoral researcher in magnetosphere’s and my daughter also with an option to follow a similarly impressive academic route or to move into some suitable employment I think I feel a substantial part of my role as a parent is complete.

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13 years… unlucky?

How superstitious are you?  Salute magpies? Avoid walking under ladders?

Well 13, the bakers dozen, is often considered an unlucky number.   Today I reach that number in terms of number of years in sobriety.  How has that happened?  Well, to reiterate a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly over those years, “don’t drink and go to meetings”.  Yes there has over time been more than that to it but you have first and foremost to simply not drink before the other stuff can occur. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking inwards at who I am, who I want to be, who I don’t want to be and what is the true meaning of my life today… note not yesterday, not tomorrow but here, now, here, in this place with me in focus.

I often reflect that I regularly still feel like a newcomer in recovery terms. In my regular circle of recovery buddies there are many with 20 years, some with 30 and actually one terrific guide to me who has over 50 now.  Many of the groups I attend were set up by these people not because they didn’t like a particular meeting or the venue etc. But simply because there wasn’t a meeting that was accessible in any reasonable time and distance. My recovery has been greatly aided by being rarely more than 24 hours or a dozen miles from a meeting. I’ve been blessed. 

13 years is significant for me. I judge my alcoholic drinking from age 16 when going to the pub with my mates became regular until that day in May 2004 when I stopped. That’s about 25 years. So 13 means I’ve been sober just over half the time I was drinking. Just to me that feels like I’ve crested some sort of summit on my journey. 

Now if 13 years ago you’d have said that I’d get to today without taking a drink and that I’d be so focused still on my recovery and that my life would be what it is now – I’d have laughed in your face.   I now look forward (ALERT: projection is never something to dwell on for me) if you say in another 13 years I’ll still have never taken a drink, I’ll still be engaged in my recovery and still engaged with my recovery communities (in the rooms, on the web etc)…. ok I don’t scoff outrageously any more but I shrug with a “who knows” feeling, a bit like the dismissive Gallic shrug Frenchmen have so artfully mastered.

For now though it’s just another day…. one day at a time….  The only example I can offer is that if you don’t drink and go to meetings one day at a time you might find, like me, that you pass some significant milestones every few days or so.  

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