Women in addiction

I read this story on the BBC website – a good news story about a house set up in Amy Winehouse’s memory by her family to help women in early stages of recovery.

I’m pleased that there is more focus on women in addiction.  Too often even now I have to correct the misconception that AA is full of old guys like me.  Many meetings I go to locally are at least equally split if not a majority of women at some.  I also think women do seek help younger than most men seem to – which is a good thing in itself.  Women do seem to generally say “I’m not well” easier than men seem to do so.  Recently I was somewhere where a statistic was put up that most AA members were men.  Nationally, in the UK, the last AA membership survey put the split as 40% women to 60% men.  As I say though where I live I don’t agree with that split it is much closer to 50:50 to my eyes.

There is another women’s only project near where I live too that I should praise the Naomi project at the Kenward Trust.

Hopefully the stigma or at least talking about women having alcohol addiction issues is being broken down.

 

 

 

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It was 25 years ago today

Sadly the additional syllable due to the five means it doesn’t scan into the opening line of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Referencing that song on 14th February has some irony …

Anyway…

25 years ago today (Valentine’s Day 1992) Mrs F, a very young Son-of-Furtheron (he was just 19 months old) and yours truly moved into the house we’ve called home ever since.  Daughter-of-Furtheron wasn’t even a speck on the horizon, she didn’t arrive until 3 and a half years later.  My memories of that day are some vivid and some blank.  I remember a discussion with the removal men about my (then much more limited) guitar collection and why I insisted on loading it all into one of our cars rather than have them transport it.  Him saying “we’re fully insured” wasn’t the reassurance I wanted or needed!  I remember that we had to wait to get the key and the folks leaving the house we’re now in seemed to lack urgency so it was all a bit of a dash to unload late afternoon and early evening.  It started raining as we unloaded.  I then remember after the removal guys had left I was sitting on a chair surveying the chaos around us as as my father-in-law returned with fish and chips for us all. We ate them out of the paper as there was no chance of finding plates and cutlery.   I then remember being in the garage moving boxes about as it was teaming with rain and the door had  a large gap at the bottom so I learnt quickly not to store anything too near the door … until some years later when we had that replaced and a better drain installed.  I’ve always joked this was the  Valentine’s gift to trump all others I’ve ever bought for my wife.  “Remember the year I gave you a house?”

Also today is the 14th of the month.  That date for a long while was always met with a lift in my heart and smile on my lips.  Another month sober.  I take my sobriety day as 14th May 2004.  As I was driving to a meeting last night I was thinking about the anniversary of our home that is today, realised it is the 14th and quickly totted up that I’m actually sober exactly 12 years 9 months today.   That raised my spirits and made me feel really warm inside.  Because unbeknownst to me sometime in the last few weeks I’ve past a significant milestone.  I’ve spent more time in my current home sober than I did as an active alcoholic.  For me there is something significant in that, it is like sobriety is slowly winning, slowly pushing back that demon so that a sober me is the more prominent in my history.  Like in a war as one side slowly takes more ground from the other to assert its dominance.

I drank seriously from about the age of 16 through to 41.  So that’s about 25 years.  It’s difficult to be exactly precise with faded memories etc.  However I’ve always stated I had a 25 year drinking career.  So one day at a time I’m slowly nearing my 13th sober birthday on 14th May this year.  That’ll be another big milestone for me as then I’ll have been sober more than half the time I was an active alcoholic.  I’ll be on the backslope of the mountain range if that makes sense in terms of distance from my last drink.  I hope to maintain the journey on the long and winding road (another Beatles’ reference hah!) and one day I hope to be able to report that I’ve been sober longer than I was a drinking alcoholic.  That’ll be the day!… oh Buddy Holly – oops – the Beatles must have covered that sometime surely.  (Just researched this after initially publishing this post.  Apparently claimed to be the first song the Quarrymen recorded in 1958… queue spooky music)

In the end it is just one day, this day, away from a drink that really matters and I know that. However the days do add together and they have some significance for me in my journey.

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Boiler fixing hero

I hope I’m not jinxing this but the boiler was fixed yesterday.  A quick recap…

17th Jan – it started pouring water out of the overflow pipe every time we used it.  There was an attempt to fix it.  Failed.
New expansion vessel fitted – that’ll fix it… didn’t
Continued to use it with the fault.
31st Jan – attempt to fit a new heat exchanger.  I can’t describe the disaster this was.  Boiler left in a state that it was simply unusable and disconnected.
3 Feb – another attempt to fix this – another failure
7 Feb – a hero turns up.  Removes what is left of the boiler off the wall – which frankly wasn’t much and begins to reassemble the boiler from scratch.  More water everywhere when a seal failed, then flooded electrics denied it working although I had hope then as we had heating for about 15 mins.  Finally after an epic build and fixing it was all fixed last evening.  It was still working this morning.  I pray I don’t get home to a flood and it broken again.

So… aside from that.  I’ve finished my written exams, awaiting results due in late March now.  Panic about case studies now.  Honestly studying when you are older isn’t the fun it seemed when I was younger – maybe I didn’t care so much.

In other news my tinnitus has been really bad again – triggered by a trip to the dentist, whether the noise or vibration on that side or simply that I was really tense throughout the whole procedure I don’t know.  I’ve got to have a wisdom tooth extracted on that side too and some more work elsewhere so frankly not looking forward to that too much.

On a grander scale I’m flabbergasted by almost every other news story at the moment.  Brexit, Executive Orders, Populist support for banning Muslims coming to Europe etc. I feel almost like I’ve been thrown into some dystopian novel.   I have to decide my level of comfort with involvement in these things.  I very publicly on one social media site signed a petition about the UK leaving the EU and stated my position.  I was somewhat surprised with the number of people who followed my link and signed as well.  It at least showed me I’m not alone in my distaste for this post-truth world. However I can’t change the world so I have to accept it and determine to work with it in some way even if I am against it.

Serenity at the moment is a word I comprehend but seldom seem to have as a comfy bedfellow.

 

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What a week!

Where to begin. Firstly the good stuff…

We had a superb day out in Leicester for my son’s PhD graduation. So unbelievably proud of him. We took the train up, booked into a hotel then met up with him and his girlfriend. Once he had the gown and silly hat on we went to have official photos done then off to De Montford Hall for the ceremony.  Impressive organ btw.  Afterwards we popped into his old department then had a celebration curry to cap what was a really fantastic day. 

I had part one of my exam. So pleased it could all be moved to accommodate my son’s day. I think I did ok but you rely on the assessor agreeing with you don’t you?  Part 2, the written paper, this coming week… fingers crossed.  

Now the rubbish. I got one of those calls you dread at 4pm Monday. My daughter was outside my mother-in-law’s house unable to get an answer. My wife arrived as I started leaving London. She couldn’t get in as the door was locked. By the time I got there the ambulance crew had arrived and smashed a window to get in. She’d fallen and couldn’t get up butto nothing else amiss.  At least she now has accepted, however ungraciously, some help. 

We’ve been calling in, one of us, daily to check on her and my daughter called when we were away moaning that she wasn’t using some of the equipment.  So frustrating. 

If that wasn’t enough stress and on the coldest week so far this winter our boiler failed and we’re still waiting for it to be fixed. 

All that in 7 days or less.  

Glad I don’t drink anymore frankly I’d have been accelerating and exacerbating all the high and low emotions and not helping the situation at all.  People in AA often claim God will only give them enough stuff that they can deal with at any one time. Given I don’t believe in some omnipotent interfering being like that anyway this stretches my “faith”.  But I hear people say these things that makes me then think, it is still stuff I can deal with without needing a drink. 

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

That time of year isn’t it.  Why is 23:59 on 31st Dec any different to 23:59 any other day?  Well an artificial man made thing to do with calendars that Julius Caesar had a hand in along with Pope Gregory XIII.  Clearly not a superstitious man.  I was musing on this on one of Mrs F’s and my walks this holiday period saying to me that it would make more sense if our calendar was aligned to the solstice and that marked the turning of the year – why it is 10 days later seems odd to me.  Of course the adoption in the UK in 1750 meant my forebears lost 11 days when the date jumped.  Also it partly explains the stupid UK tax year start date – it had until then historically been Lady Day in March but jumped the 11 days into April, there’s another added day for some reason – anyway hence 6th April.  Frankly all nuts.

Back to 23:59:59 31st Dec 2016 then.  There we all were, drinks in hand – Horlicks in my case and a Hot Chocolate for Mrs F – how the big times roll hey?!  And the next second… 23:59:59 – WHAT!!!   Was this some bizarre time warp was 2016 never going to end?  Was it wanting to claim another famous victim before it finally went, would 2017 ever come.  Then 00:00:00.   Phew!!!

So did you notice the leap second?  Well 2016 was a second longer than most years as we have to adjust our super accurate physics derived atomic frequency driven reference clocks as the old earth is just so darn slow, and slowing down hence the need for the extra second.  What did you do with yours?

2016 – not a year I frankly look back on with much love.  I’ve not been well through a lot of it – my first ever need for surgery for example.  My Ménières Disease issues.  Then the widespread culling of celebrities starting with Bowie (Lemmy was actually just in 2015) and end with George Michael.  Then politically.  I won’t go on about it as I’m still trying to come to terms with living in a country where I seem at complete odds with the majority of the population now it seems.  Where did the country I thought I knew go?  Well in June it took a massive step to the right and I’m not comfortable with it at all.   But we weren’t alone as USA seemingly followed suit and now it seems you can dictate policy for the largest and most powerful democracy in the world in 140 character tweets.  To say I’m sad is an gross understatement.

On a personal note somethings have been good this year – my studies have gone well and I secured the placement I wanting, even if at times that been a challenge and been frustrating.

Let’s look forward then.  2017 will hopefully see me qualify as a counsellor, at least on the course and exam even if I don’t have the requisite hours this year.  However in working in placement and talking to many others it does seem like there is precious little chance of paid employment.  That was my initial plan a big career change.  I can’t see that happening now.  I do see myself continuing to work in the voluntary sector, thereby exacerbating the issue of no paid employment but using my skills for good for those that can’t afford the £40 a week and upwards that private therapy with an experienced counsellor would cost them.

With a busy schedule of work, study, placement, recovery stuff etc. I’ll not make any outlandish resolutions I know I’ll fail to keep but I do hope to do some more stuff musically this year and some other fun stuff too.  First off we have Son-of-Furtheron’s PhD graduation to attend later this month.  I really impressed myself sorting out the cheapest ticket option on the train to get there – that possibly should entitle me to some form of honorary award – seriously why is it that so difficult!

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Take a guess

I stumbled over this interesting article in the Guardian.Guardian Article

Essentially researchers asked over 25,000 people in 40 countries to give them an answer to questions like “What percentage of your countries population are Muslim?”

The disparity between reality and perception is incredible.

Here’s one of the charts from the Perils of Perception 2016 research –

take-a-guess

Source- https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/ipsos-mori-perils-of-perception-charts-2016.pdf

Actually pleased, and a bit surprised actually if I’m honest, to see GB came 39th out of 40 as being the nearly most accurate terms of the estimates people gave.

One of the real saddest things is this graph – we all think we are much more miserable than we are – or we think others are more miserable than they really are.

take-a-guess-2

 

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Tis the season to be Jolly

Fa lala la la la la la la la.

I went to my teams Christmas meal last Tuesday lunchtime.  It was nice – the food was reasonable given the size of the party and per head cost and the service reasonably efficient getting everybody served quickly.  The company was nice learning something new about some of my colleagues – apparently “peanutting” was only something that happened in Kent schools.  Both Kent born and bred fellows knew what it was all others were just blank stares.  (Briefly the game of getting hold of someone’s tie and pulling it quickly and viciously into a really small tight knot that normally just had to be cut off you.)

Anyway the first course came, the second and then the sweet.  I was ok sipping my large coke through that.  Then the plates were cleared and additional drinks were ordered.  Now I’ve been away from drink for 12.5 years, I have no interest in drinking at all, it hardly ever registers other than my daily acknowledgement that I’m an alcoholic and that I’m not planning to drink today and that I remind myself regularly of all that.   But then there are the “normal” people, the sensible ones all ordering more drinks and the Director giving permission for people to stay away from the office for the afternoon.  There it was in my ear like a shot.  “Well maybe you could just have one?”   Where did that come from?  Simple I’ll never be done with remaining vigilant in my abstinence.  I made an excuse about needing to get back to the office for something and left.

I’m so grateful that stuck in my head are the memories of what drinking was like for me and what I know it’ll be like again – lonely, desperate, despairing, horrible, paralysing, regressive etc.  And grateful for hearing others share about when they walked away and very much grateful to the horror stories of those that didn’t walk away at that point. That’s why I have to remind myself repeatedly that I’m an alcoholic who can never drink safely again.  It will sit there silent on my shoulder waiting for another opportunity like that and I have to be vigilant and willing to tackle it when it does.

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