Mind over Chatter 

Let me take you back – Remember the ready break advert when the kid comes downstairs, eats his porridge before school, then heads out of the door surrounded by an orange glow, smiling without a worry in the world – I wanted to be that ready break kid, that natural positivity always eluded me.

My brain is like a sponge, it always has been for as long as I can remember, I absorb everything, I’m an overthinker, I used to and still do question and analyse anything, everything and anyone. I would constantly replay conversations, positive or negative I could always rewrite them to help justify how I felt. I could have a full-blown argument with myself verbally and internally to the point of feeling like I was going to explode or implode.

Negative Nancy (what I call her now) was always there to remind me that I was either a… Failure, No good, Unlovable, Fat, Lazy, Ugly or a fraud. Trust me there are many more, but you don’t need to hear about them now, the point I am trying to make is that I used to think that everything I thought was right, fact or true. Looking back, it’s no wonder I felt permanently shit or down because my thoughts were mainly negative, there were hardly any positives.  

I would resort to pleasing others in return for some positive affirmations. I sought out their approval but when I got nothing back in return this just reinforce the low opinion, I already had about myself.

I tried to look the part, put on a front letting the world know I was ok. I played the role of housewife, mother, I had the house, the job, the car a job but still, none of these brought me the peace and happiness I craved. It was a constant cycle of negativity that left me feeling physically and emotionally unwell. That’s was until the drugs came in.

The drugs made me feel like I could do anything and soon found solace, comfort and reassurance that I was an ok person. I was invincible, people’s word’s no longer hurt, they bounced off me instead of penetrating me, I no longer gave a fuck. The drugs helped to numb the feelings, but I was like the walking dead emotionally. Everyone has what they call their rock bottom, mine was the shock of being in a mental health ward and not having a fucking clue about how I got there.

So what changed – I now understand that during the run-up to my breakdown, I was on the verge of emotional and mental bankruptcy. All my drug use did was to manage to break whatever spirit I might have had left, leaving just a hollow shell. However, my denial about what was happening to me at the time only served to make me worse. 

Acceptance – Early on in my recovery, I had plenty of time to think and with the support from the staff for the first time was able to reflect on my life journey to date. I soon realised, or more importantly acknowledge that I had in fact been emotionally and mentally unwell way before the drugs came along. I realised that my use was just a poor solution to what felt like at the time a very complex problem. Turns out it wasn’t that complex, at all and that I didn’t have the tools to cope.

Learning to drown out Negative Nancy -I used to listen to her a lot, I used to believe everything she said to me. But it wasn’t until I really started paying attention to what she was really saying that I realised that everything she said wasn’t true. Slowly I started to recognise that in fact, I wasn’t a bad or weak person, but that I didn’t really know my own mind. 

Have your own pep talk or #Haveawordwiyasen – I mentioned earlier that my mind is like a sponge, we are all consciously and subconsciously taking in and absorbing information that every so often we all need to give our brains a good wring out. I personally find journaling good for me. Sometimes after a good internal pep talk, I will often bang on a tune to help remind me I’m ok. M Peoples “Search for the hero inside yourself “was always my go-to song, back in the early days.

I Stopped blaming others – for years I blamed everyone and anyone for how I felt, I relied too much on others for my happiness. I knew there and then that if I was to get better then the only person that could help me was myself. I have learned over the years to take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings, I admit sometimes this has felt lonely, but I would prefer to be lonely and in control of me, rather than surrounded by others and out of control.

Accepting support – I used to think asking for help was a sign of weakness – I was allocated a community psychiatrist nurse (CPN) She would come and visit me weekly. Just having someone sat by my side listening to me offloading my thoughts, my feelings with no other agenda but to help me get well was a lifesaver for me, I can honestly say it’s the first time I felt heard. She took an interest in me, I was her sole focus in those sessions, she helped me plan my week, set targets which helped give me a sense of purpose. It was just simple things like budgeting, making sure I got to appointments making sure I spend time thinking and doing things for myself.

Become your own private detective – My CPN helped me question all the negative beliefs I had about myself and I started slowly to accept and learn that I wasn’t a bad person and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. She explained about how my internalised thoughts impacted on my feelings, which helped explain how I acted out the way I did. I would offload my past and she helped me unpick all the limiting beliefs about myself that had accrued over the years.

Over the years I have done a lot of personal reflection/investigations. I have gone back and relived crime scenes as I saw them at that time. Doing this enabled me to look at certain incidents from different perspectives and turns out many of what I thought to be fact were actually assumptions based on where I was at, at that time. 

Building a healthy support network – I started to realise that the people I had been associating with, weren’t healthy themselves and that if I was going to get better, I would need to cut ties. At first this was hard, because this left me with just a handful of trusted people, who I could turn to. Trust me sometimes it got very lonely. There were many times I wanted to give up, it was tough, but it was worth it in the long run.

Take a risk – looking back I took so many risks, dealing drugs, handling stolen goods worst of all playing Russian roulette with my emotional and mental health. I still take risk’s, but this time they are healthier. There were many a time I didn’t think I had it within me to change, but that was the risk I was willing to take. The change was especially scary when I didn’t know what the new me might look like, or afraid I might fail again. I have learned that nothing in life is guaranteed and every day is potentially filled with risk, it’s how you deal with it that counts.

Develop new ways of coping – I now realise that I don’t need to reach for drugs when the going gets tough, all I need to do is reach into myself. My story is no fairy tale and it certainly isn’t unique by a long shot, I know there are many others who suffer the same. life can be cruel at times, #shithappens to good people but If I have learned anything it’s how you deal with it that counts.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned not to be so hard on myself and practice self-compassion on a daily basis.  

There are many techniques that I have tried over the years so I thought I would share some of them with you, but I share them with a word of warning. Just because they worked for me doesn’t mean that they will work for you. My recovery has been a journey of trial and error and yours will be too.

Journaling – Where possible I make time, normally first thing in the morning, before work to reflect on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I can feel anxious for what seems like no reason, but by just sitting with the feelings and writing down the thoughts in my head I can usually find the root cause.

Support groups -Although I don’t attend as many as I used to, I will never tire of being in a support group being surrounded by likeminded people who are working on themselves. it’s both humbling and inspiring to hear people share openly and to be able to listen and a great reminder I am not alone.

Trusted friend – I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, I’d rather have one friend who gets me over 50 that don’t. Someone who I feel safe to share my vulnerabilities without feeling judged. Sometimes I might not hear from some of them for weeks (after we all have busy lives) but when we connect it’s like we have never been apart (cherish those friendships)

Exercise your mind – All too often people focus on physical exercise to improve mental health, but there are other exercises that can help too

Mindfulness – learn how to still your mind or better still learn how to tell Negative Nancy to ‘Piss off” There are hundreds of mindfulness techniques such as meditation classes, guided audio sessions and many are FREE

Have a break from Social Media – Avoid the lure of comparing yourself to others

Practice being in the present – focus your attention and gratitude for what you have got and focus less on what you haven’t got.

Make a to-do list – list all the things that you need to get done, even simple household chores that you have been meaning to do but have been putting off.

Read – make time to lose yourself in a good book whether that be a self-help, fiction, non-fiction it really doesn’t matter, whatever floats your boat, read it.  

Bang on some music – sort out some uplifting tunes and play them whenever you are feeling down, create your own positive playlist – this particularly works for me when I’m doing mundane jobs like housework or writing reports.

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

Recovery Rush

I used to get my rush (or high) from Speed, Amphet. It was a rush like nothing I had ever had before, I felt invincible, something I hadn’t felt for years. it was physical, it was emotional. That small bit of white or pink powder could transport me from what was causing me pain and offering a brief respite from the feeling of hopelessness and unhappiness.

But it didn’t last long.

Ask anyone in recovery and they will tell you that most of their lives became consumed with chasing that elusive rush, but it got harder and harder.  They will tell you how they still chased that elusive rush or high whilst their lives were unravelling around them and how they still chased that rush despite the consequences. Loss or breakdown in relationships, poor physical and mental health, loss of jobs, homes and even worse their children. Addiction is selfish, it isolates us, it isolated us from loved ones around us, but more importantly, we become isolated and disconnected from ourselves.

Recovery from addiction starts by learning to put down the synthetic highs and replacing them with natural ones. Recovery isn’t just about ridding or detoxing our bodies of the synthetic poison. Recovery is also about detoxing our minds, what we watch, what we listen to, who we listen to and what we read. But more importantly how we talk and listen to ourselves.

So, what is a recovery rush?

I would describe my recovery rush or high comes from listening and reading stories of how people from all walks of life have overcome or come to terms with the very reasons that we turned to substances in the first place. Now my natural rush comes from hearing about how people have overcome adversity and who feel happier in their skin. The special rushes come hearing people talk about newfound self-awareness, watching people deconstruct the physical and emotional walls that they built over the years.  It is a privilege to witness the freedom and a sense of relief and recognition that they are deep down worthy of better.

I haven’t yet once met anyone who chose to become addicted, who set out with the intentions of sabotaging themselves, or their families and loved ones. Addiction isn’t a lifestyle choice it is driven by a complex set of internal and external factors both unique to the individual concerned. Addiction’s not a Monday – Friday job, it’s 24/7 its 365 days a year. Once a year, people use September as an opportunity to speak up and share their recovery journeys. Offering hope and inspiration others who might be questioning their own.

I am very proud of Sheffield’s Recovery community, which is rich in diversity but more importantly, it is driven by the people in recovery themselves. Selflessly giving back, offering a listening ear to someone who has felt unheard for years. Its visible recovery at its finest, being surrounded by people may be weeks or even years ahead of you, but who you can look up to as role models. You hear about their recovery journeys and hear similarities in their stories that reflect your own and can feel an instant connection. A safe space to explore painful memories emotions that you have tried to block out for years can start to bubble to the surface, but it ok because you are surrounded by likeminded people who have been through something similar. For many in the recovery community, it’s like finally finding your tribe. A sense of connection and belonging. Sheffield has many tribes (groups) ranging from NA, AA, CA, SMART, ARC, SASS, Kickback and De-hood recovery peer groups. There are also loads of recovery led support services such our treatment providers, Hep C mentors, Shelter, The Greens offer specialist support the list goes on and on.

The key for those in early recovery is finding their own a tribe, or even more than one tribe it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what tribe you chose, just as long as it works for you. A tribe where you feel connected, a healthy recovery community doesn’t mind about how you became addicted, what you did during, your using, or how long you have been clean, what substances you misused or how many lapses or relapses you have experienced. All that matters is that you are trying, that you are doing your best and trying to learn from past mistakes and are trying to unlearn, old learned behaviours, to become a better version of who you are, a happier version, someone who doesn’t need synthetic external substances to make your ‘feel’ better within your skin.

There are challenges though, whilst it is priceless being around others that can support and inspire we mustn’t start to become dependent on others for our recovery rush. Internal happiness is something we all have to continuously work at don’t lose sight of how to develop your internal recovery rush.

Steps to work on developing your Recovery Rush

  • Get into new habits, like doing a daily gratitude list
  • Remind yourself that you are worthy of happiness, just like everyone else
  • Remember what you have achieved how well you have done
  • Even if you haven’t got a lot, be thankful for what you have got
  • Continue to develop and work on healthy relationships not just with others, but yourself
  • Do the things that make you feel get about yourself that make you happy
  • Observe the world around you without being immersed in it.
  • Connect with yourself daily
  • Start to learn to love the parts of you that for years you have disliked

Sheffield Recovery Community’s main purpose is promoting all the recovery tribes in Sheffield, we don’t favour one over another because each tribe/group offers their own uniqueness.

To find out more about Sheffield Recovery Community you can either go to our FaceBook page or head to Sheffield DACT website to find out more about treatment and if you want to be really inspired head to the Recovery Page  to read and listen to some amazing stories

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

Taming & unchaining shame

It’s been with me for years, I could best describe shame as being unable to say what I really wanted to say, suffocated by other people’s opinions or expectations. Sometimes my mind felt it felt like I was a contortionist, my thoughts and emotions were permanently being twisted into what I now understand to be unnatural positions. I wanted to share my most recent poem it’s called

Taming & unchaining shame

He’s there

Mr shame dangling the key

For years I thought I would never be free

Always secretly wanting more

But too afraid to tell

Because if I blew my cover

My life will be hell

So, I would continue to conform, to societies norm

Like a contortionist trying to fit in

But it never seemed to work

And I could never seem to win

I could not find my place

I had accepted my fate

I continued taking the blows

I shelved my desires

But in reality, my life was a show

Each time I gave in

I lost part of my soul

And wondered if I’ll ever feel whole

I wasn’t a bad person

I was just too eager to please

But this got me into trouble because I’d neglected my own needs

But over time I started to question

Mulling over my past, the years of rejection

And realised it was time for some honest reflection

I started listening to my heart

It was time for a fresh start

I learned the peace that I’d been yearning had always been there

All I had to do was take a step back and practice some self-care

The more I truly listened

The more I heard

And I finally found the courage to break free from the herd

I took back the key, from my jailer called shame

And for the first time in my life

I feel like I’m part of life’s game

 

 

Remember you hold the key

Maybe its time to get honest

It’s time to face your reality

#Fuckshame

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

End of care for problematic substance misuse – Who decides?

Caring for Dad during the end stages of his Alcoholism has to be one of the most traumatic experiences I had ever done through, even my brush with addiction couldn’t have prepared me or my sister for this journey we were about to embark on.

The more I write about Dad and his story, the more I research it, the more I realise the lack of end of life care or understanding for people with problematic substance misuse and their families is very limited and more needs to be done. Caring for Dad was counterintuitive, working in the treatment and recovery field accepting Dads alcoholism or his inability to break free from it went against everything I believed in.

There were rare lucid moments during Dads alcoholism when he seemed to understand the gravity of the impact alcohol was having on his health. There were numerous times after being released from the hospital that he resolved that he wouldn’t drink again. He tried non-alcoholic drinks, that didn’t last long, he tried sticking to drinking Lager, avoiding spirits or what he referred to then as being “the top shelf”, sadly his attempts didn’t last long.

He flatly refused even the suggestion of support groups, the mere thought of baring his soul in front of strangers was completely alien to him, after all, he was a “proud man and support groups were for whips” he would say. But his reluctance to accept help only fuelled his denial that he could “do this, sort this” on his own. Dads bloody-mindedness caused one of the biggest challenges not just for me and his family, but also for the professionals, who were responsible for his care.

We became acutely aware, particularly in the last 18 months of Dad’s life, that Dad had a serious physical dependency on alcohol as well as the psychological dependence, which made it more difficult to treat. But I was unaware that dads drinking had got to what’s (not) commonly known as End Stage Alcoholism. Looking back, I now realise that all the symptoms were there.

In the last 12 months, in particular, he started to experience many of the comorbidities that occur with end-stage alcoholism. He had been already diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the liver and as a result suffered regularly from Edema (Accumulation of fluid in the legs), Ascites – (Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen). Dad bruised easily and suffered from abnormal bleeding. He suffered terribly from Cellulitis which made his skin as thin as tissue paper and would frequently tear. He showed all the symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which develops due to a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. And despite all of this, Dad continued to drink.

He’d slipped into a coma, several times, he had severe memory impairment and was often confused. His refusal to work with medical staff because “He knew better or he knew what was best for him” was at times both exhausting and infuriating, but at the time what could be more frustrating was dealing with the staff.

During each hospital admittance, we would have to go through the rigmarole of trying to explain Dads alcoholism to staff who had never had the pleasure of meeting him before. I felt for the nursing staff who didn’t understand the sometimes-outrageous behaviours and actions of a man who was being detoxed of a substance that was slowing killing him, but who would refuse their attempts at caring.

I would often wonder if they would have been inclined to treat Dad differently if he was in being treated for cancer, I strongly suspect they would have.

I always felt reassured and a sense of relief when dad had been placed on a ward, where staff had, had the pleasure of caring for him before, who understood his case history and could work with his sheer bloody-mindedness. Christ, we were on first-name terms with some staff. But there were other times when I could sometime see the frustration and disdain in some of the staff’s eyes, who seemed to resent treating someone whose health conditions were in their eyes “self-inflicted”.

Dad, his symptoms would change daily, one minute he was picking up the next he was deteriorating and tracking down the ward doctor was near on impossible. I would try and read his notes at the bottom of the bed to see if I could make any sense of what they’d written but it was futile none of it made any sense it was just gobbledygook. Towards the end, Dad hardly drank, but it was too late the damage was done and deep down he knew it too.

“People with problematic substance use (PSU) meet hostility, suspicion and frustration from a range of care professionals regularly. It prevents service access and can lead to mutual suspicion and mistrust. Professionals need to counter stigma and stereotyping around people with PSU to regain this trust” (2019) Good Practice Guidance, S. Galvani, Dr S Wright, Dr G Witham 

Every time he was released from hospital his physical and mental health only seemed to be deteriorating further. We no longer wondered “would Dad Die” and started thinking “Not if, but when?”. Which makes me contemplate the question “Could Dad have been offered palliative care sooner?”

Dad had carers, but their primary role was to tend to his bedsores that had developed after spending prolonged time in the hospital after contracting MRSA. More often than not, it would be the carers who would make the call for the ambulance, at the protest of Dad, because all he wanted to do, was die at home and to be left alone. But he wasn’t allowed that right.

Everyone is entitled to refuse healthcare treatment, however, the one exception to this rule is if the health professionals in charge of your care think you cannot make an informed and voluntary decision then that right is taken away. In the last few months of Dads life I’d stopped going to the hospital immediately after he’d been admitted, I would find out which wards he’d been admitted to and email them a bio about Dads condition and what to expect once he became compos mentis, only then would I go visit him. After coming around the staff would be met with a tirade of anger and frustration from Dad because all he wanted to do was say at home and die, but staff just deemed him as being difficult.

On the morning of Dads last day, we were concerned we’d found him on the floor his breathing was very laboured, but compos mentis enough pleading not to be admitted again. My sister worked for the NHS district nursing team at the time, she’s called a colleague around for some advice. When she arrived, dad was still adamant that he didn’t want admitting to hospital, “I want to be at home wi me babbis” those were his exact words, so she made a call to his local GP. The GP arrived and it transpired that his laboured breathing was because he’d contracted pneumonia AND because he’d heard Dads wishes himself, Dad was finally allowed to stay at home.

Immediately the doctor arranged for a Marie Curie Nurse to come around, which surprised me because I thought that they were just called for the end of life cancer patients. The Marie Curie Nurse was amazing, I remember feeling guilty that Dad was being treated for end of life because of his alcoholism when she could have been treating someone from cancer. But she explained that their role was to free nursing care to people with all terminal illnesses as well as support for family and friends.

During my researching for the book, I am learning more and more. I recently came across a research project, which ran for two years between 2016/18, funded by the Big Lottery the research programme was the first of its kind to explore current practice and service experience from a range of perspectives around the end of life care offered to people with problematic substance use, and their families, friends and carers.

As part of the project, they interviewed the patient, health care professionals and their loved ones. They have created a brilliant website https://endoflifecaresubstanceuse.com/ which is AMAZING

As I listened to the family’s stories, I immediately felt I wasn’t alone the guilt and shame and the denial that comes with addiction Listen here 

Responsibility and recrimination / Powerlessness and anger / Guilt and self-blame Listen Here 

After my own experience and hearing other people’s stories I am more determined to advocate and champion the support and care needs, not just for the patience (who happens to have a substance misuse problem, but for their family, loved ones and carers.

I have come across some really helpful sources of support so I thought I would share them with you

BEAD is a great source of information and support for anyone bereaved through drug or alcohol use

Marie Curie has some helpful information for families caring for someone at the end of life due to substance misuse.

I truly believe that as well as the patient all families have the right to be heard, assessed individually, given appropriate training and information to allow them to support their loved one safely, to be able to plan with ongoing support and monitoring from healthcare professionals.

#Familysupport #FamiliesMatter

So watch this space

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

 

 

The importance of practising self-compassion in early recovery

I am not a woman faith, I simply cannot get my head around buying into ancient stories told many years ago, by a man who I have never met. But I did learn an important lesson during my early recovery and it was in a church.

Years ago, I was at a friend’s house one day, having a coffee when another friend of hers called round for a chat. I’d never met her before, but as my friend introduced her to me, she told me that as well as being a mate, she was a medium. I scoffed at the thought, she looked far from being someone I would have thought a medium, whatever they are supposed to look like. She sat opposite me at the table and started to tell me how she could see I had just been through a bad time, but that things were looking up for me. I wasn’t impressed by her forwardness, I mean I hadn’t asked for a bleeding reading.

I laughed, she couldn’t have been further from the truth, I hadn’t just been through a bad time, my life was a fucking mess. I’d not long since come out of Middlewood, I was living in a one-bedroomed flat, with two kids and had nothing to my name, I remember thinking, ‘you haven’t got a fucking clue mate.’

She said that she could see me at the cathedral in the city centre, I scoffed at her words, I had never been to the cathedral and had no plans on going neither. She said some other things, but to be fair I took no notice of her. I didn’t stay long at my friends that day and left thinking she was a full-on weirdo, so disregarded everything she had said and never thought about her again.

A few months had gone by since my encounter with said weirdo, life was still rough. I had recently been given a three-bedroomed maisonette but had no money to furnish it. I was a single parent trying my best to make their lives as normal as I could, ashamed of myself as a parent for allowing my kids to live with nothing. I had walked away from my old associates, and the familiar chaotic lifestyle, I had stopped buying and selling stolen goods. I was no longer using, I had been clean for a while, but it was still hard. I had to sell my beloved car to help make ends meet, I was lucky at the time to have a closed friend who had been recently banged up and insisted that I make use of his car to help me out. Apart from the close family, the only person that I relied on was a CPN nurse who would come and visit me once a week for support.

One morning, I had a sudden urge to go to the church, at first, I tried to disregard the thought, I had hardly any petrol in the car and I certainly had no money for parking. But it wouldn’t go away, something, someone said ‘it’s ok, it will be ok’ as I drove into the city centre, I felt a sense of calm, a sense of purpose a feeling I hadn’t felt for a long time. All I knew was that this feeling was something different, a sense of calm that no amount of drugs had given me, despite all the promises.

I parked outside the cathedral, I remember thinking how large it was, being close up and wondered how I would get in or even if a building of this stature even opened its doors to members of the public or people like me who had no faith. Thankfully the entrance doors were open, walking in slowly I noticed how the building was cool, but at the same time, it was warm and inviting.

This is the first time I had ever stood inside the building; I had walked past it many times in the past during visits to the city centre. I was in awe if of the architecture, the intricate designs that had been crafted out of stone, by someone’s hands many years ago.

There were rows and rows of benches in front of me, with only a couple of people sat silently apart doing what? I didn’t know. All of a sudden, like being woken from a spell, I looked around and questioned why I was there, I felt out of place, I questioned ‘I didn’t belong here’ and was in two minds to turn around and walk out of the building, but something, someone said, ‘it’s ok just keep walking’.

The silence was deafening as I walked deeper into the church. To the right of me, I could see a set of benches separate from those in the main hall, I made my way there. I sat on one of the benches, I looked up and thought ‘now what?’

As I sat down and I felt vulnerable, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. My mind took me back to recent events and I shuddered at the reminders, ashamed of how I had hurt loved ones, but also hurt and angry towards those who I felt had let me down or who had hurt me. The memories came in waves my emotions got the better of me and I realised I was crying, silently. For a moment, I was glad I had chosen this part of the church, out of the way from the others so that they couldn’t see my tears.

Alone in my thoughts, I recalled each memory that had brought me pain and heartache, but as the pain started to peek, I was enveloped by what felt like two big arms, wrapped around my shoulders and heard whispers of someone saying, ‘it’s ok, let it go’. One by one the memories came, heartache bubbled, threatening to overwhelm me but just as it reached its peak, I heard the comforting words followed ‘it’s ok, let it go’. As well as the comforting words, it physically felt like someone, something was washing away the pain and hurt that I must have been carrying around, for how long, who knows. All I know is though that it felt like nothing I had ever felt before.

At one point, I panicked, I suddenly remembered my car parked outside without a ticket on it, worried that when I returned that there would be a yellow ticket. A fine I was in no position to pay, but then the words came again ‘it’s ok, let it go’.

I don’t know how long I sat in the church, but I stayed there until there was nothing left, no more tears, but best of all, the sense of sadness that I had been carrying around with me since walking out of the gates of Middlewood was no longer there.

I have never felt calm like it, I felt like a different person. As I walked out of the church doors, I felt like I was in a parallel universe, it was like walking into a different world. The hustle and bustle of buses and people going about their day to day business. Shoppers were completely oblivious to little old me standing there, still confused about what had just happened to me. I felt a sense of lightness as I walked towards the car and even before approaching it, I knew that there would be no yellow ticket waiting for me. And when I got there, there wasn’t, and it wasn’t until a few days later that the conversation I had previously had with the said ‘weirdo’ came back to me.

I still to this day don’t know who was talking, who was comforting me or even if it was me comforting myself all I know is that it felt like I had truly experienced compassion for the first time in my life. During some of the lowest moments in my early recovery, I learned the importance of self-compassion and it is something I still practice to this day.

I often find that I have an abundance of compassion for others, but still to this day find it hard to save some back for me. There are still times when I doubt or mentally berate myself, but then I’m taken back to that memory in the church. It’s a reminder that I don’t have to carry negative thoughts or feelings, I can choose to let them go. So when I am feeling low, I make time to practice some self-compassion.

Practising self-compassion

Investing in self-compassion takes time to accumulate, you cannot buy it off a supermarket shelf, it isn’t like winning the lottery where it happens to a small amount of ‘lucky people’ anyone can acquire it and it is something that can be learned and cultivated.

Practising self-compassion is about treating yourself with the same kindness, gentleness, and acceptance you likely already extend to others. it about accepting that falling short or being average is simply part of being human, and therefore unavoidable.

So, if I’m, feeling low I will often take myself off into a corner practice a little self-compassion, go Haveawordwimesen and tell myself ‘to let it go’ and remind myself ‘I’m doing my best’.

Do you invest in self-compassion? If you don’t? why not open your own Self-compassion bank account, there is no joining fee, just a willingness to be kinder to yourself. You can make a daily or weekly deposit of self-compassion and before you know it you will be the wealthiest person you know.

My circumstances have changed a lot since living in that bare, three bedroomed maisonette on Arbourthorne, but if I have learned one thing in the past 50 years, it is that whilst material wealth can be nice, it isn’t as important as our mental & emotional health. I could have the nicest house, car, or holidays abroad, but it is worthless if I don’t like myself.

Click here for a great article about it

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

Love Fordy x

“Help me up, I’m going for a pint” – The dark side of Alcoholism

Asking someone to consider stopping using drink or drugs, can be like asking a child to give up their comfort blanket. Dealing with the tantrums and denial was exhausting.  Unfortunately, Dads comfort blanket ended up suffocating him.

“Help me up, I’m going for a pint” These were the words from a 55 years old man, who unbeknown to me and my sister that morning was riddled with pneumonia and only had hours to live.

That bloody comfort blanket that dad sought so much comfort from only ever caused him pain. There were the odd occasions when he acknowledged that the alcohol wasn’t good for him, but it didn’t last long before good old denial soon crept back, leading to him to

  • Not being able to walk without assistance.
  • He could no longer wear his false teeth because his gums had shrunk because his body was emaciated
  • He showed signs of Korsakoff’s syndrome
  • Fracturing his collarbone, a result of a drunken fall which had never properly healed.
  • Suffer from Delirium Tremens (DTs) also known as Wet Brain
  • He was reduced to wearing a nappy because he could no longer control his bowels.
  • He had developed Alcoholic Hepatitis, which could turn his skin bright yellow

I know that nobody likes being a Debbie Downer, but there is a harsh and dark side a real reality to alcoholism, that people rarely talk about. The reality is, that Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can also be felt in the family, it becomes a family problem that can destroy marriages and drive a wedge between some of the strongest families.

Support for families 

There were 7,551 deaths related to alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK in 2018, but I suspect there are a lot more.

I recall the morning that the GP came around to confirm dads death, which seemed bizarre considering that he’s stopped breathing over an hour before.  I was asked the question ‘The final cause death was due to pneumonia, do you want me to put that down or alcohol abuse?’ my reply was ‘Alcohol abuse’ although I didn’t want my dad to be another statistic, I also didn’t want his death to be in vain neither. Plus one less statistic would only serve to help to minimise the often unseen side of addiction, which is the impact on families.

The UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) study suggests that around 1.5 million people in the UK are significantly affected by a relative’s drug/Alcohol use whilst other studies have suggested this number is nearer to 8 million

All too often the focus is on the addicted loved one, which can cause families to lose sight of the real impact a loved one’s addiction is having on themselves. Families lives can be turned upside down in their attempt to help the addict, offering unconditional support at each setback when others have given up. Dads mates from the pub had stopped calling around long ago, his family lived in another city, leaving just me and my sister providing palliative care. During this time we supported each other and developed an even stronger bond, we had each others backs, we talked and negotiated about the best way we could not just help Dad but ensure we were ok too.

The lack of knowledge and support can leave family members feeling very vulnerable, therefore, families need support too. They don’t have the comfort blanket, like the addict. Families need help to recognise that they have support needs too, they need…

  • Help to understand addiction, to understand addiction isn’t a linear journey it is a journey of ups and downs, achievements and setbacks, stagnation and progress.
  • Help to develop their coping strategies, help strengthen their resilience, especially when it comes to setbacks.
  • Help from others, which can be found in support groups, face to face or online

If you have a loved one who is suffering from addiction and find that your life is being affected, please seek support (see below)

Love Fordy x

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more post, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too.

Local support (Sheffield)

Sheffield FF-ACT a recently established online support group which run via Zoom every Wednesday evenings from 7 pm-8 pm. If you interested in attending, want links to the meeting or would like to know more about the group, please contact Mike Dixon on 07837446951

Family and Friends Recovery SheffieldFacebook page 

SHSC Support for families

There were some Alnon groups in Sheffield, although due to COVID, like many others are providing support online

SMART Family & Freinds 

Adfam Also has some great resources and sources of support

For information about Sheffield drug and alcohol services 

 

What constitutes Recovery ?

Someone recently asked me about my recovery journey and why alcohol is still present in my life? It was a reasonable question and I was more than happy to explain…

The definition of “recovery.” The very word is the centre of much debate in the addiction community; some say it’s simply abstinence or remaining sober, while others believe it’s a lot more complex and multi-dimensional. There’s controversy over whether someone is truly in recovery if they’re on maintenance medication, such as methadone and/or if he/she can be in recovery if they use in moderation without harmful consequences after a sustained period of sobriety.

I am inclined to believe it’s a lot more complex and multi-dimensional, but it doesn’t matter what I think, or what others think, it’s what works for “YOU”.

It has been a long time since I have picked up an illicit drug, but I still drink alcohol, socially with friends. My drinking has never really been problematic,  I have my boundaries and accept the consequences of having one too many. I have never had an issue with alcohol,  but I know from my father’s alcoholism and from working int he recovery field for the past 25 years that not everyone is like me, and that’s because they aren’t me.

I personally like SAMHSA’s definition of Recovery which is described as being “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self- directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

My personal belief is that the foundation for any recovery journey is learning to accept that it is YOUR responsibility, but this is can be a lot harder than it sounds. The fear of change was almost crippling at times and I thought of throwing the towel in many a time. But with support from a CPN worker, my GP and of course my family I didn’t.

Family and friends can help direct and guide you to sources of support, but it is YOUR responsibility to accept support, it might be from support groups, one to one support or online support. It doesn’t really matter, what matters is how YOU use your newly acquired knowledge to help fix and shape YOU as YOU see fit.

I believe that recovery takes time, in the early stages it is helpful or even essential to distance yourself from peers or influences who are not in a position or who have no interest in your recovery. That’s why seeking support from others who have already started their recovery journey is invaluable.

My recovery journey started when I realised I had hit my “rock bottom”. My rock bottom was a place where I could no longer hide from the consequences of my drug use from my family, but importantly myself. I was emotionally and physically bankrupt, with no evidence of who I used to be, my beliefs and values that I once held dear had been smashed to smithereens.

I often use the analogy that my recovery journey has been like a jigsaw puzzle. A journey of self-discovery, where I learned that using substances was a poor solution to some deeper unresolved issues.

There are still parts of me, that are like unfinished jigsaw puzzles, they look untidy. That is why reflection, making time to contemplate, making time to reflect feelings and thoughts, is important to me, now still twenty plus years since my life was turned upside down from using drugs.

I may reflect in private, but my recovery journey hasn’t been in isolation I have listened and learned from others. Learning from others and about myself has helped me find a piece of the jigsaw that was missing, sometimes in place’s I would have never thought of looking in before.

I see a lot of people will seek out others for help, with the hope and expectation that someone else will be able to them find all the missing pieces and complete the puzzle for them. But this is futile because whilst they can help you find your pieces; it is YOU who has to be ready to finally fit the jigsaw piece where it belongs.

I love the sense of accomplishment of completing a jigsaw, being able to set it to one side and admire it for what it was, a part of my life. Every completed jigsaw puzzle is filled with colour, some are dark some are more colourful, but once completed, the puzzle tells a story, me or about one part of my life. Any unresolved feelings of hurt or memories are resolved and laid to bed which allows me to move onto the next jigsaw.

Like with most jigsaws, I find it easier to start with the edges, it helps me set the scene, crisp and clear lines, I like the neat frame. Working inwards, I search through the pile of pieces and am happy when I find the piece I was looking for, fitting perfectly bringing me closer to completing the puzzle.

I am coming to accept, that suffering is inevitable and that sometimes it can take longer to find the missing jigsaw piece than others, but I truly believe that if you persevere you WILL always find it.

Getting to this place, or learning to understand me to this degree, has taken years of practice and I will probably be still be reflecting and learning about myself until I draw on my last breath.

Nobody can understand me better than myself. Getting honest about the things I might do wrong, being able to admit to things I need to change, can only come from within me. Willingness to see and change, the decision to change what I don’t like about my life, can only come from me.

I have managed to complete a lot of different Jigsaws over the years and I have learned a lot about myself since walking out of those doors of Middlewood hospital twenty plus years ago.

Before my drug use, I used to measure my self-worth based on someone else’s views and opinions, I also did it for a while in early recovery. But I no longer measure my recovery based on what drugs I used or for how long I used them, just like I no longer measure my recovery.

I choose not to call myself an addict, I don’t tell people I am in recovery, but I am willing to explain that I am just someone who fucked up on drugs in my past but has worked hard not to go back to that dark place. I no longer have any regrets or shame. In fact, I am glad I got to experience the darkness because had I not, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am a passionate advocate, a champion for recovery regardless of what recovery method people use, the key isn’t about it works for them, it’s about if it works for YOU.

I will never pass judgment or measure someone else’s recovery, especially based on my own. Everyones,  recovery journey is unique to them and what works for them might not work for you, so it is YOUR responsibility to find out what works for YOU and if it is working then stick to it.

Love Fordy x

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more post, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you didn’t, then do nothing and that’s ok too!

The perils of home working 

The week before lockdown I had attended and enjoyed my first ever writing retreat, a weekend of writing, time to reflect and focus on the book. I left the retreat in high spirits, I had a plan, I had an idea about what the book would like, more importantly, I felt I had some newfound confidence about my writing ability something I have battled with since starting to do this book.

I had only been home for a couple of days when Boris announced lockdown. Overnight our once comfortable routines had been flipped upside down and turned inside out. “I mean who would have thought this time last year that we would find out lives being impacted by universal pandemic” even Mystic Meg couldn’t have predicted that!

At first, the prospect of working from home didn’t seem too bad I was pretty optimistic “after all it wouldn’t be for that long, would it?” However, my initial eagerness to play my part in this crisis, to get “stuck in” and to make a difference was soon replaced by a sense of weariness, fuelled out of frustration from feeling powerless. My mind was all over the place which just fuelled my feelings of anxiety and frustration. 

The news and social media were full of well-deserved praise and admiration about those who are working on the ‘Front line’, but it ignored all those who are still working behind the scenes sat staring at their computer screens all day long, still passionate about making a difference who have been left in limbo.

The whole working landscape had changed, any previous priorities were quickly replaced by new ones. There was a sense of urgency and almost panic in the air whilst the doors to some of our front-line services were forced to close. Forced to create a temporary email address because our IT systems didn’t have the capacity for everyone to work from home or having to grapple with unfamiliar technology such as zoom was tough at first and took some adjusting. 

Previous face to face meetings was quickly replaced by virtual ones. I have found I have developed a love-hate relationship with Zoom. I find myself getting angry at people who appear distracted during meetings and am suspicious of people who don’t show their faces and wonder if they are even present at the meeting at all. But then I love having the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, seeing their faces, it reassures me I’m not the only person who has been confined to working at home, alone. 

People say to me, switch off, but I find it hard detach when my workplace is now my home, I now realise just how much I took the daily commute on the bus for granted. Before the urgency to get dressed and ready for work has gone and my commute takes me less than two seconds because my new workplace is in the bedroom across the hall. At least the bus journey allowed me to mentally prepare to think about the day ahead and being able to use the return journey to download and switch off. 

I have found not being able to care, being forced to work from home or care from a distance friggin tough. I even suffered my first panic attack during the first few weeks of lockdown. At first, I thought I had COVID my chest felt heavy and I had difficulty breathing my body felt like it was in constant fight or flight mode and yet there were no threats, well not visible ones anyway. 

I know I am fortunate at least I still have my job, it’s been particularly hard hearing about independent venues from the night-time economy talk about not being able to reopen or who are uncertain about their future. 

I find myself working longer hours, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything leaving me feeling like a fraud. I’m working, but It doesn’t feel like work. The only saving grace is that when I talk to colleagues and share my frustrations, I can take some comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I have worked in the addiction and recovery field for over 25 years and I am passionate about what I do, it’s in my DNA.

I may be employed by an organisation, but I work for the people I’m paid to help and who I care about

So, when an opportunity to get back out and touch base in the real world came around, I pounced on it. Being back out there, on the streets, in the hostels visiting people in the temporary hotels has offered some compensation for the last few months working alone. Just being someone’s sounding board allowing them to offload, brings more job satisfaction than any paycheck could. 

It’s a daily struggle surrounded by all the ambiguity, uncertainly and knowing that there are a lot of things that are out of my control, so I have to focus on the things I can control and the positives because there has been many. Like hearing from people who had used lockdown as an opportunity to address their addiction, who have accepted the support offered and are more stable now than they have ever been, it fills my soul. 

Self-care – Over the years I have developed a set of coping strategies making sure I am taking care of my own needs before others. Although I must confess that isn’t always easy, its work in progress as you will have probably picked up from my blogs. 

What I am saying is that If I thought I was taking care of my own needs important before this pandemic; I now realise I need to pay even more attention to myself to avoid the dreaded burnout, so I thought I would share some with you… 

Acceptance  –We all react to stressful events in different ways, many of us try to protect ourselves by refusing to accept the truth of what’s happening. After all, by denying that you’re even experiencing a crisis, you can kid yourself that you still have some sense of control over shit you are not.

  • Look back at examples where you’ve coped with uncertainty and change before can help you accept your current situation
  • Make a list of all the things you can’t control and permit yourself to stop worrying about them. Instead, focus on the action that you can take.

Self-Compassion – One thing I learned from my recovery from drugs, is that I am very deep and have strong empathic tendencies and I sometimes find emotional distress difficult to cope with. 

I am trying to practice daily compassion, learning to keep back some any compassion normally reserved for other people and saving some for myself. To remind me that my emotions are not a character flaw and that they make me who I am 

Staying connected – I come into contact with lots of different people throughout the week during zoom meetings, but that doesn’t mean I’m connected. I have a handful of people who I can be myself around, where I feel safe to share my fears and frustrations with. Make sure you make time for those people in your life. 

Look and focus on the positives – While it’s often difficult to imagine anything good coming out of stressful experiences, building resilience can help you find any positives in the difficulties you’ve faced. Resilience isn’t a macho quality and it isn’t fixed; it’s an ongoing process that requires effort to build and maintain over time.

Write a list of the things you like doing and make the time to do them, I was asked to do this recently in a workshop and I realised that I hadn’t done some of them for a while. So I made time and did them and guess what I felt a whole lot better 

But here we, this pandemic ant going nowhere and as I’m always saying “Shithappens” its what you do with it that counts!

Love Fordy 

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

Life after caring – The void

 

Writing is my therapy, it’s my escape, a place to think, without interruption. Particularly lately what with the incessant negative news and views about society, COVID, BLM the economy, sometimes it’s easy to forget that amongst all these issues is that there are still millions of people who are afflicted by addiction, but that doesn’t make good news does it?

I was inspired this morning, I was pulling together a recovery story from a lady called Debbie. I was reminded that amongst all the negativity that there is so much magic taking place, that often goes unseen or doesn’t make the headline news, I also wrote this… Its called the Void

The Void

There’s a void, I’m not sure how to fill it

Especially now that you are no longer in it

I have dreamt of this moment and now that it’s here

I’ve changed my mind

“Come back Dad, there’s nothing to fear”

 

I have finally been released

From fight or flight mode

You’d think I’d be relieved

But I find I’m at a new crossroad

 

I feel numb inside

There is nothing left

I need to refuel

I need to move on from your death

 

Your life has ended

But mine still goes on

I can continue to mourn

Or I can learn to move on

 

I have chosen the latter

I know that’s what you would have wanted

I wish it was that easy

There are times I still feel haunted

 

In my dreams, I tried to reach you

But you couldn’t see

Locked in your addiction

You just couldn’t find the key

 

I still bear the scars

They will never go away

But I have learned how to cope

In my own way

 

My pledge in your death

Is to continue to fight

I will continue to write

 

I will speak up for others

Including, all the mums, dads, brothers and sisters

 

The void is still there

I don’t think it will ever go away

But I now have the strength and the courage

To make it through another day

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

 

Families & Friends of Addicts Coming Together

To stay or Walk away, that is the million-dollar question?

Families can often feel like bystanders watching in dismay as the addict’s actions and behaviours change, turning their loved ones into someone they barely recognise.

I can still hear my mother share how she felt in a film (Putting it into words) made by families sharing their experiences “I just wanted someone to come along, take her away and bring her back how she used to be”. But at that time the drugs had taken over my life and there was absolutely nothing my mother or loved ones could do. I was in complete denial about how my drug use had changed me. As far as I was concerned it was everyone and the world around me that had changed.

Years into my own recovery and without any warning I found the I was in the same position with my father that my mother had been in with me. I was that bystander, who felt powerless as alcohol had taken over his body and his mind turning him into someone I barely recognised.

Over the years I have seen families accessing support groups in search of answers or to try and work out what they can do to effect a “cure” and get their loved one back to normal. They hope for a quick fix, but sadly addiction can often be complex and hard to understand.

That’s why Family Support is vital

Families can be easily be distracted by the actions of the addict that they forget about themselves. They stop living their own lives and end up joining the addict on the merry-go-round of denial, anger, confusion, and blame.

  • Family support provides a space where families feel heard and listened to.
  • Family support can help lighten the burden of those feelings of stigma and shame that often families carry around, unseen to the trained eye.
  • Family Support offers an opportunity for families to learn and understand about addiction, which in itself is complex and cannot be taught overnight or just in a classroom.
  • Family support provides opportunities to be surrounded by others who understand, there may be similarities in the story’s shared, but everyone’s journey is unique to them.

Families should never give up hope for recovery for their loved one—for recovery can and does happen every day.  I feel privileged and proud to be a walking reminder and to be part of a movement in Sheffield (Sheffield Recovery Community) that highlights and demonstrates that there IS life after substance abuse.

But whilst they are sitting on the sidelines waiting for their loved one to embrace recovery, families need to start embracing their own needs

Family support offers an opportunity to learn more about what may be happening to the addict. It can help them to make sense of what drives and motivates addict’s behaviours and help them to develop new ways of coping, which can help reduce the feelings of helplessness.

I firmly believe that even if the families have made a choice to either stay or walk away, they still need support to come to terms with the feelings of loss and pain, they deserve to be recognised.

Families and friends of addicts used to have a voice in Sheffield. We once had a thriving community of peer-led family support groups, that eventually came together to form the Sheffield Families and Friends Alliance Group.

Unfortunately, due to funding cuts and shifting priorities the focus on families and those affected by a loved one’s addiction slowly melted away, it was like the volume had been turned down on their voices.

The more and more I write about my story, I feel the increasing need to turn the volume back up and champion the support needs of Families & Friends affected by addiction. I am proud to be part of a new support group that starts, next Wednesday, this is me doing my bit for the often unseen victims of addiction.

Love Fordy

The groups will run via Zoom every Wednesday evening from 7 pm-8 pm, starting on 17th June. If you interested in attending, want links to the meeting or would like to know more about the group, please contact Mike Dixon on 07837446951

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too