BBC Casualty – portrayal of AA

First I want to applaud the BBC for dealing with alcoholism in a mainstream soap and for dealing with it with a working professional rather than just having that person as a washed up park bench drunk.

For those that haven’t watched here’s a quick catch up.  A doctor in the series has gone through a lot of trauma over the last year.  He has smuggled a refugee boy into the country and tried to hide him.  His ex wife died in an accident.  Anyway – he turned to the bottle for comfort and found himself in trouble.  So he went to AA.  At AA he met Ciara who was struggling too.  They started a relationship.  He found out then that she was married.  She then comes into the department again – he thinks because she is drinking again but she actually has an ectopic pregnancy that needs emergency treatment.  And yes it is Dylan’s baby.  But Ciara says they can’t make a go of their relationship.  So sadly Dylan relapses.

This brings us to this week’s episode where we find Dylan drinking alone on his house boat, ignoring calls from friends and work and in a downward spiral.  His father arrives claiming to be 103 days sober and wanting to have a Step 9 discussion. Dylan wants to go to the pub.  He cajoles his father into drinking with him.  They have a fight – his Dad hit his head and is in a bad way.

So whilst I applaud the BBC there were so many things with this portrayal of AA I thought I should put something on this blog at least.  Firstly whilst many do the steps quickly in AA I think many of us with experience would be surprised with someone 100 days sober trying to carry out  a step 9 with anyone – let alone someone as important as their son.  Step 9 is after Steps 1 to 8 for a reason!  You need to have got yourself ready.  Anyone with a long term of drinking will take some time to get better.   Step 9’s are difficult (see below for explanation of the step).  I made my Step 9 with my daughter who I live with every day when I was 8 years sober.  1 – I needed to be ready.  2 – she was then 16 and able to understand better.  3 – the right moment and timing needed to present itself.

The point where Dylan demands his Dad drinks with him is an example of why doing this early would be a bad idea.  Dylan’s Dad, if more experienced in recovery would have recognised that he needed to work with Dylan to get him off the drink if he could.  Not gone to the pub with him (due to the risk to himself being so newly sober) and waited – the Step 9 can be done when it is better.  This wasn’t a good time.

To rewind a bit earlier in the story – sexual relationships between AA members are not recommended until both are very sober.  In fact any new relationship is considered an unwise thing is the first year – I joke with sponsees that should be actually a decade.  I know some who recommend getting a house plant first…. can you care and look after that?  After success there then consider a pet.   Look after that for some time then maybe you can think about the skills needed to nurture and love another human.

But then we wouldn’t have had the story – so I accept this is all drama and therefore it needed these catalysts to get to the point where we hope Dylan now has the epiphany that he nearly killed his Dad and him with his drinking.

I just want to put it out there that AA does not demand these things to be done, certainly not rushed but not avoided either.  However as AA’s tradition 3 says “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking” you don’t need to even follow the programme if you don’t want to – although I suspect the vast majority of AA members would recommend that you do if you want sustained sobriety.

Steps explanation..

Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  The “such people” are from Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

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Another one lost – Alcoholism Kills

Sadly my local meetings are feeling sader places the last week or so.  A long term member who has been struggling passed away.  46.  Yes 46 but despite a period of sobreity she’d got back into a cycle of destructive binge drinking and finally she paid the ultimate price and has left us and her young son bereft.

I only want to say this as the only good thing that can come out of this.

Alcoholism is a killer disease.  If you have a problem with alcohol don’t fuck around.  Find a way to stop drinking and stay stopped.  Good luck.

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Does work define you?

It’s often the ice breaker at some gathering with someone you don’t know you ask them or they ask you “What do you do?”

The course director at my counsellor training centre in one jokey moment gave the following advice that once qualified we could easily get rid of people we didn’t wish to converse with by saying “I’m a psychotherapist”.  He claimed the vast majority moved on from the conversation within less than five minutes and if they didn’t they were a potential client anyway so worth investing the time talking with them!

Well this suddenly has hit me – given my health situation my employer has offered me a voluntary severance package effective the end of this month.  I have a few days in which to say yes to it.  It’s a reasonably generous package actually.  I’m trying to figure out pension issues but I’m more than likely to say yes and figure that all out later.  But from 1st November I’ll have to say when asked “What do you do?”  “I’m retired”.   Now is staring me in the face there are a bunch of emotions, feelings, thoughts etc. that come to mind.

Was my career a success? 

Why does this matter?  Personal pride and ego I suppose.  Well I’ve worked since 1981 and moved through several companies and sectors all of which seemed happy to have me working for them.  I rose to a position with Director somewhere in the title at one point and on a very good salary too.  So from that point of view – yes.  There were a few times where I really felt my work did have some significant contribution to the company and the wider world.  So I have to say it was but I am someone who is inclined to view on the negative side though so I inevitably feel that I should have done more, better, larger etc.

What will I do now?

Well maybe write more blog posts!  (Sorry).  I’ve been off work a number of months now so I ought to be getting used to this but being sick and not working seems different from being retired – that’s dumb possibly but a mind block I have.  One thing I should do is recognise the health issues and take it easy.

What will people think of a 56 year old man who’s retired already?

Why this matters is something I need to question – who cares what others think anyway!  I’m worried though I’ll be thought a failure, or a shirker, lazy, or simply someone who wasn’t good enough to be kept on.  I suppose that all says far more about how I’m not yet comfortable viewing myself as a retired person.

Health Update

To update on my health – the symptoms have been largely the same, some subtle changes but via my GP and specialist we’re trying a new drug – the last week hasn’t been too bad so maybe that is having a good effect we’ll see if it continues, I’ve been lulled into false security before with this thing.  However when I take the drug it is like I’m on another planet for a while – most odd.  Also I’m to have some more tests and a referral to a neurologist in the new year too to review all of my “complex case”.

 

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Just when you need it…

Having blogged about the current health situation and that my daughter has started her full time job to sum up with Mrs F returning to work at school for the beginning of the new school year this week suddenly I’ve been at home on my own a lot.  With all the stuff going on, this week could have been a downer.  So it is interesting that I bumped into a friend from my Monday AA group – now that one I’ve not been getting to since I had to stop driving earlier in the year.  This friend has moved but still attends that meeting and he passes through the town I live to get to the meeting.  It is a little bit of a detour for him to come by my house but he offered to do just that and so Monday I was able to get there.  I was able to catch up with several people I’ve not seen for a while.  One of them as we parted said “Nice to see you where you belong”.  Another friend picked me up last night to go to the Wednesday group I like – he’s been doing that a while for me too.  But to get to two meetings this week, when I’m alone at home, has bolstered my good feelings and was just what I needed just when I needed it….   Funny how things like that work isn’t it?

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Parenting – tick!

The week my daughter has started her first full time job.  She’s worked since she was 15 as a swimming teacher, barista at the local coffee shop, student ambassador etc.  However this the first full time job she’s ever had.  She also handed in her thesis for her masters – thank goodness Mrs F and I became her final proof readers and spent an intense day discussing very grammar points – largely because all of us had a different view on them!

So both my “kids” are adults with “proper” jobs now.  We’ve nurtured them into the world, onto solid food, to walk, ride bikes (ok my mother did that with both of them actually), to school, through clubs (Scouts, Swimming, Drama) to university and now into the world of work.

So that’s it then isn’t it… I’ve done the parenting bit haven’t I?    I know that you never stop being a parent as much as they’ll never stop being our children but it is a significant landmark to have reached and something I can feel proud of – especially as both of them are still very much part of my life and me theirs – not something I was sure would be true 15 years ago.

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Health problems

Hello everyone… er… anyone?

I’ve not posted in ages, apologies but I didn’t really feel like it and thought I had nothing to say – Thanks to the blogger who pointed out that wasn’t true.

So… the likelihood is that this blog is going to have a different topic base for a while.  It is going to be about coming to terms (or not) with having a chronic debilitating disease … but not alcoholism.

If you know this blog or have just read back you’ll know that I’ve been suffering since October 2017 with really difficult issues around my Ménière’s Disease.  Briefly it is a disease that affects your inner ear the main symptoms are – loss of hearing, distorted hearing, sensitivity to sounds, feeling or pressure or fullness in the ear, severe and violent vertigo, associated “drop attacks” and tinnitus.

In May I had an operation to help.  It has reduced the pressure feeling and the associated “fullness” and discomfort.  But sadly nothing else, in particular the vertigo attacks which if anything continue to increase in severity and intensity.   Because of this I’ve been signed off work since June.   I had a meeting last week with a doctor at my occupational health department.  To cut to the chase she has written to my department saying there is little chance of me returning to work due to the condition I have.   I await developments on that front and will hopefully feel willing to blog on here about it.

How can I describe the vertigo?   I’ll steal from somebody else who wrote for the UK Ménière‘s society….

Imagine being in the washing machine on the fastest spin speed.
Imagine that washing machine being on the world’s most frightening roller coaster.
Finally imagine that rollercoaster is in the roughest sea imaginable on a small vessel being tossed by the waves.

That’s a reasonable description.  I can feel “off” and know they are coming or they can hit me out of the blue – hence the “drop attacks” where I simply feel the world spin and I’m tossed with it to the floor.   When they start everything feels like I’ve gone to 100mph and am spinning uncontrollably.  I normally try to lie on the floor as sometimes that slows and stops it quickly but if not I’ll end up sitting just staring at the floor.  The floor is rotating really fast – often “flipping” so after say about 200° it just flips back to the start – or at least that is how it feels.   I can’t walk and sometimes even crawling is extremely difficult.  Moving my head makes the whole world turn whilst spinning – which is horrid in the extreme.   I get very nauseous and vomiting isn’t uncommon.  Sweating like crazy is quite common too.

After about an hour or so the spin slows and we move to stage two of an attack.  Now this is where nothing is quite still there is some spin but less violent but largely if you can imagine I look at a carpet with a fleck pattern in it – the fleck will appear to be “floating” over the background.  Any head movement feels like my head will rotate uncontrollably and it feels like that everything visually doesn’t connected with my physical movement.

Again normally another hour or so in that starts to abate and I feel more normal can start to slow walk about and move my head a bit and able to look at distant objects without them moving.  But by then I feel like I was hit by a train at some point I feel really fatigued and confused.  I sometimes I have to reconstruct what day it is and where I am and what’s happened prior to the attack in my head.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with lately.   I’ll continue, I hope, to post more in the coming days.

 

 

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One day at a time…

An old AA adage.   “How can I possibly stay sober for the rest of my life?”   “How will I stay sober at Christmas?” “My birthday?”  The classic from  my sponsor in his first weeks sober – “My daughter’s wedding?”  His daughter was 7 at the time!!!  The response to all these fears from those nodding wise old sages that sit around the rooms is more often than not “One day at a time”.  It is how I’ve got to be 14 years sober.  The thought of 14 days, 14 weeks, 14 months to me in those early days was just too great but when people would say “Well stay sober today and see what tomorrow brings” that just made eminent sense.  Of course it’s blindingly obvious that if you approach every day like that you will eventually wake up and find that day you are 14 years sober or like a very good friend around my local fellowship 54 years sober!

It actually is, like much of AA philosophy, something that can be readily applied to life in general and other aspects in particular.  My recovery from the operation is a classic case in point.

The operation went well as I posted before.  I was only under the anaesthetic for about an hour so my reaction to it wasn’t too bad.  Instantly as I lay propped up on my hospital trolley in the surgical recovery ward I could tell that the pressure feeling I had grown so accustomed to in my left ear was gone.  I instinctively went to do two of my little ingrained habits to help relieve it.  A hard swallow and my hand was raising towards my left ear to stick my finger in and “pop it” when I realised the swallow was unnecessary and thought “sticking your finger in the ear you’ve just had surgery in for no good reason other than habit probably isn’t a smart move”.    I’ve caught myself a few times making a similar move but the habit has quickly gone as I don’t need it.  Given that reducing the pressure in the inner ear is the primary objective of the operation you can see it was a clear and instant success on that front.

I have not had any major vertigo attacks since the operation – Hooray!   I have had a few at night or early morning in bed normally when I wake from being asleep on my back.    The room is gently spinning not like the violence of the previous attacks and it stops in a few seconds if I just focus on something.  They are a bit annoying and disorientating but really given where I’ve been with this totally bearable.  I’m consciously trying to sleep on my unaffected side as I think that helps.

Balance has been … interesting!  I’ve had moments when everything just feels wrong as though one of my big attacks is about to whisk me off in a 1000rpm spin and throw me to the floor.  But I just steady myself and in a second or two it passes.   I’d spotted one point when they regularly seemed to happen.  If I went from looking up to looking down – imagine getting a tin off the top shelf.  As I brought my head down to look at the counter I was to put the tin on everything felt off kilter.  I also felt it on some turns whilst walking too.   I think it is actually because I’ve grown so used to a broken balance system I’m adjusting to one that works now and that is causing the issue.  Again the good news is that I’m just coming up to 3 weeks since the operation and those moments are getting less frequent and less intense.  I believe the exercises I’ve been given are clearly helping retrain my brain.

I had my hearing aid fitted last week in the affected ear.  That has helped with being able to hear better although I’m having to get used to the echoey and tinny sound.  The biggest thing though is that after the op I felt that the tinnitus was worse.  I did say to my family I thought it probably wasn’t but that as my hearing was worse it was just more noticeable.  With the hearing aid that has made a significant difference – the tinnitus is still there but nowhere near as intrusive as I’d felt in the week after the op.

So overall – good.  As ever I wish it was all back to perfect (which it will clearly never be) instantly.  So I’m reminded as I see a slow improvement over the time to just take it… one day at a time.

Finally – many thanks for all the best wishes I received from fellow bloggers – it was much appreciated.

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