Work in progress…

Sums up most of my life…  my epitaph, or title of my autobiography, which ever comes first, will be either “Work In Progress…” or my long term favourite “None the bloody wiser!”.

Mother-in-law update. She’s been around most of the wards in the hospital so far.  Medically they say she is fit to leave, but her mobility is worse than normal, she has been left lying in bed for far too long each day and her memory is shocking.  On two of the ward moves on successive days she’s had the nurses searching for her mobile phone – even though my wife told her she wasn’t going to take it in and give it to her for fear she’d lose it!  They are trying to get her a rehabilitation place out of hospital, but to me and my wife it looks a long road to go.  Maybe this is the time where finally she realises a 3 bed two storey house isn’t the right environment anymore.

I start my new job with the training centre on Saturday.  Excited, nervous etc. all rolled into one.  I’m sure it’ll all be fine on the day.

Lastly after all the spotting on my daughter on billboards and on and in buses on posters for her university’s recruitment campaign over the summer this week has been son spotting on the tv.  He’s been out at JPL in California as part of the Cassini end of mission shindig.  He works on the magnetometer side of it having already published three papers as part of his PhD work and his thesis was all Cassini data.  He is now a full time member of the team in London.  Anyway he appeared in the background on the BBC news reports about the end of mission on Friday and then again in a huddle, with a coffee cup in his hand!, in the BBC2 Horizon programme on last night.

To say I’m proud on my kids is such a total misrepresentation.

I seem to be on the meeting speaker circuit – I think I blogged about this once before you go for ages and then a whole slew come along at once like London buses do.  Well this is so true at the moment,  I’ve done 4 in the past month and have another 2 still lined up!  Been a real boost to me to actually be faced with speaking and realising how much my sobriety means to me and how grateful I am about being where I am today.  My message may not be much but it is hopefully one of gratitude at the minimum.

 

 

 

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Highs and Lows

The last 24 hours have certainly had that.

Daughter-of-Furtheron graduated yesterday.  Terrific day with her and her friends.  Her ceremony was early so Mrs F and her had gone and got the gown the night before and had her photos done.  So we are all up early and on the road – only 30mins to the city but early morning traffic snarlups were not wanted.  We were early!  Of course.   Into a coffee shop for caffeine liverners and then amusing the customers as she gowned up in there!  Off to the cathedral and the ceremony.  She looked so happy walking up and shaking the vice-chancellors hand. Drinks and chats with her friends and their relatives, our own photo shoot and then a lovely meal.   All in all fantastic day – so proud of her achievements and we’ve another to look forward to once she completes her masters.

Home and then my wife saying “I can’t raise Mum on the phone”.  We get there and the post is still backed up.   Long story short she was collapsed on the floor, delirious, I think she’d been there at least over one night.  She insisted she wasn’t at her house, was even more argumentative and aggressive than normal.  She’s now in hospital with all the usual judgements from the nurses when you say you don’t know how long she’d been on the floor.   Remember January – this happened then.  We insisted she accept the panic alarm that was offered then.  She had it round her neck.  Even said to the ambulance crew – “I press that to get to hospital”.  “Why didn’t you press it?”  “I don’t want it. Don’t wan you coming here poking about”.   I frankly despair at times … and my poor wife will again lose days and weeks in arranging for a care package which she will promptly refuse as soon as she is discharged and … I know I’ll be typing this again soon.

 

So… Highs and lows…

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A long summer till September

It’s September.  Have I seriously not posted since July?  Sorry dear followers I know you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seats…. *silence*… *whistling wind*…*Passing tumble-weed*

So a brief update if anyone is still reading.  Mrs F and I are now over 32 years married – seriously.  How’d that happen!   Son-of-Furtheron had his 27th birthday… how old you feel when your son is now the age you were when you had him.  (Btw – it took me a while to realise it wasn’t a weird coincidence that I’m currently also exactly twice his age but simply a mathematical certainty! DOH!) We gave him some money.  He might be 27 but he spent it on some Lego!  It’s just like he’s still 10.    He is currently building the Lego Saturn V rocket model – which is huge, standing about a metre tall once completed.  Also for his birthday he and I went to Brands Hatch to watch the British GT racing, again just like he was a youngster again!  We also had a great day watching the sprint trials in Crystal Palace Park just 5 mins from his flat.  Terrific day out.

Mrs F and I had a short break away in the Cotswolds.  Mrs F played a blinder and found a brilliant small bungalow that was attached to the owner’s house in this tiny village – hamlet more like.  It was brilliant.  Across the road was a field of sheep.  Peace, quiet… lovely.   A house a couple along in the village was up for sale.  £2.2million… peace comes with a high price these days it seems.

Anyway terrific week visiting Oxford, Bath, Cheltenham etc. and a day walking around some lakes in part of the Cotswold’s Water Park.  On that we set off from a little village after a lovely coffee and cake stop in the village post office – now a thriving coffee shop with a PO counter.  Soon we were pouring over the Explorer map, kindly provided by the cottage owners, and in the middle of field that looked like the only thing that had ever walked that way was a herd of cows.  We didn’t see a living soul again for some hours until we were on the return journey back into the village.  Just terrific.

Since late July our family and friends have been engaged in “Spot the daughter” competitions.  Through her work as a university ambassador they asked her to be part of the “face of the university” for it’s annual clearing campaign.   This led firstly to a huge and I mean huge billboard at a local train station with her on standing 20ft or so high.  Then we’ve been spotting her on the back of buses etc. all over southern England.  Including my wife jumping up and down like a mad woman in Crystal Palace shouting “Look! Look! She’s on that one over there”.  Today she is starting her masters course at the uni.  Interesting debate we’ve been having about academic gender bias.  Her undergraduate course in Psychology was about 8:1 female to male.  Her masters 1:3! that is such a dramatic turn around.  I wonder how females are so discouraged to carry on in the academic route? I also feel embarrassed and squirm a bit being a white male again, too often these days I’m reminded of my privileged position simply due to the luck of my gender and ethnicity and I squirm as do I really do anything to combat that?  Do I tut along with others by secretly breath a sigh of relief I’ve fallen the “right” side of those dividing lines?

I’ve started my placement with a mental health charity.  So far I’m enjoying it, early days but I’ve great hopes for that.  Also out of the blue my training centre asked me to visit for a chat.  That was actually a job offer to join them working as an assistant tutor.  The logistical bits are being sorted out and hopefully start soon on that if it can all be made to work.  I was really bowled over to be asked frankly, they clearly see something I don’t.

Other than that all good.  Still sober, still living….   I found myself being asked to talk at a load of meetings in the next few weeks.  Funny things like that seem to come in clumps.  I went to speak at one yesterday, a meeting I’ve never been to before and saw a very old friend who I haven’t seen in ages which was a bonus too.

Some photos…

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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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