It is the best feeling in the world to be able to look back and see just how far you have come.

I try not to dwell on the past for too long. Over the years, I have worked hard at paying attention to the present in preparation for whatever the future may hold. That was until it came to writing this bleeding book. A couple of times, I found myself struggling to piece together fragments of my past. I was sure about most parts, but other memories eluded me, making me question if they had ever even happened.

But then something amazing happened last week. I’d arranged to have a belated birthday meal/catch up with one of my oldest friends, Shauna. She’d called earlier on that day and excitedly told me that her mum had come across a carrier bag in her garage full of letters and cards that Shauna had been hoarding over the years and that in that bag included some letters sent by me. The funny thing is, I only recall sending her a card once, and it was well before being sectioned. At the time, she was away from home, away from family and friends, and struggled to complete her gruelling RAF training. I vaguely recall sending her a card by way of encouraging her to stick at the training, but the rest is a blur, probably because my life at that time was a complete blur too.

She was properly excited when she called earlier on that day ‘Oh Tracey, I had read through some, but I can’t find “Theee One”‘ I was confused? ‘What do you mean “The one”‘ She sighed. ‘You know the letter that you send after we lost touch?’

Then I remembered there was almost a year when I had lost touch with Shauna, as it was around when I was losing touch with myself. I remember it was a few months after coming out of Middlewood that I’d finally managed to track her down, She’d been stationed in York after her basic training, but I don’t ever recall sending her a letter. She ended the call promising to keep looking and that she would bring the letters around to mine later that day.

I was so excited, the writing on the book has slowed down, but it had slowed down around this point in my past. Shauna arrived later that day, and I couldn’t wait to read the words, to recall where my head was almost twenty-nine years ago.

There were six letters in total. The first three are from before I was sectioned, and the other four were after I’d started a fresh slate. It was like reading letters that two very different people had written. One by one, the first three letters  transported me back to a time when I was incredibly lonely. Just seeing the desperation in my words made me feel sad about the woman I used to be.

I thought I would share some of the snippets from the letters and a little commentary on what was happening at the time.

Letter 1 – ‘It’s 6.09 am, and I can’t sleep. “I wonder why?”‘ – But I knew why. I was always on the go, somewhere to be. I’d started to become more reliant, dependant on the amphetamine. It felt like the only thing that helped me get through each day.

‘He came in at 5,30 Sunday morning, but I didn’t get mad, I’ve changed my attitude’ – I’d started to get used to him coming in at all hours, I’d given up, trying to get my head around accepting his unacceptable behaviour. 

 ‘I might be hard on the outside where XXXX is concerned, I’ve always backed down for a quiet life, but from now on, if I want to go out, I’m going to make sure I don’t have to ask him for any money and go, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and if he doesn’t like it then tough shit! ‘– Money was always an issue in our relationship, in that he liked it but didn’t like working for it. Well, that is until he started bringing in money from his drug dealing. I had worked throughout our relationship. All my earnings went into the house. It had always been “what’s mine is yours” for years, but when he started earning, it was a case of “what’s mine is mine”. Money had just become another way of him being able to control me.

Honestly, Saturday, I felt so low. It just was not me at all. You can only take some much, can’t you? This letter lets you know fordys back on form, and no blokes make me feel like that, especially when I’m so good to him. – When I first read this, I smiled. I liked the determination in my words’ Fordys back’, but then I read the words surrounding them, I realised I was far from being back. If anything, I was going backwards. At that moment, I was emotionally transported back in time. Back to a woman I no longer recognised and yet knew so well. 

Letter 2 –Sorry it’s been a while. I could be a millionaire the next time you write. I’ve been selling fake t-shirts, only started with 20 now I’m selling hundreds. Never mind, I can’t complain. I am writing this at work because I don’t have time to piss at home. Trying to save for a new car’– This was a good period in my life and working full-time at the markets. I’d made a great contact via collecting some drugs one day. Her name was Toni. She fenced loads of gear at the time, fake, knock off, you name it, there wasn’t anything she couldn’t get her hands on. I spent a lot of time at Toni’s, it was an open house, and I would visit a lot, sometimes taking the kids with me. It became my safe space, a respite from the shit I was going through at home. I admired Toni. She was like the big sister I never had, she had a strong sense of resilience about her, and like me, her old man did as he pleased. He was barely around when I called around, but that didn’t stop her from earning her own money, being her own independent woman. I was earning enough money to do as I pleased and after saving for driving lessons, I passed my test, the first time, by the way, which is a good job, because they were skinting me. This meant I could purchase my very own car. I opted for an old battered red fiesta; it had a sunroof that leaked, but I didn’t care. I had seen it a few times on my way into work, before i plucked up the courage to speak to the car dealer. it had a sign in the window £250. I negotiated a payment plan on the condition he had my drivers license until it was paid. – That turned out to be a good contact because the lads who worked for him started buying their drugs off me too. 

Letter 3 – ‘Have been a bit down, lately sick and tired of running around wheeling and dealing, but I know it needs to be done otherwise I’d never get any money’ – I‘d thought that getting a car might make life easier, but in fact, it got busier, I turned into his personal taxi driver, gofer – I would often worry about being caught in possession of the drugs I was collecting on his behalf. 

‘He does my head in, I try and say as little as possible, but I still manage to say something to ruin his weekend’ and ‘I am suffering from bad mood swings’ -This is the last letter I send Shauna before plunging into a very dark place. I now know that the mood swings were just the beginning of my slippery mental, spiritual demise. According to the consultant, I had what appeared to be three mini breakdowns, which had caused the drug-induced psychosis. 

 “The letter” that Shauna was referring to was next. 

Letter 4 -The first thing I noticed was that my handwriting was completely different compared to the other letters. I could never remember the exact day I was admitted into Middlewood hospital, but I’d made mention of it in the letter. I start by apologising for not being in touch and explaining why

‘On the 1st of October, I was admitted into Middlewood Hospital. Would you believe that I had had three mental breakdowns? What with the speed and xxx performing, I just cracked. Shortly after, I left xxx six weeks before Christmas 94. The council rehoused me on Arbourthorne (what a dive). In Feb, I started dating this bloke called pat. He’d just come back from travelling to India for three months. I got rehoused to Hackenthorpe because of the hassle from xxx, then in June 95 he was sentenced for five years – this was a proper shortened version of events, just to give Shauna a flavour/whistle stop update on what had been some of the most intense months of my life, I then go on to say…

‘I’m back a college now for three years, and I love it! I’m doing a social science access course and just started a counselling course. I am resitting my GCSE’s, English and maths. I am hoping to work in drug rehab or probation.’ –I smiled at my words and looked up at Shauna, who smiled knowingly and said, “I know, amazing isn’t it?’ I couldn’t disagree, the letter went on 

‘I went really low Shauna when I went in Middlewood I weighed in at 7 ½ stone, was a size six, I was in a right state. I thought the devil was after me and the lot. I can laugh about it now; I don’t know how I have come back so well. Put it this way. It has changed my life and me as a person.’

There were three more letters. The tone is the same. I am more positive, optimistic about my future and nothing like the woman in the first three letters. Those letters were one of the best Birthday presents Shauna could have ever given me, a slice of my past, written by myself. They just reinforced my belief that everything happens for a reason and why I have absolutely no regrets. After all, had I not experienced what I had, I would never have been the person I am today. – I just wished I was closer to being 7 1/2 stone.

Thank you, Shauna, for the letters, but more importantly, your friendship over the past twenty-nine years. I look forward to celebrating our thirtieth anniversary in style in 2022.

And to all of you out there who may be struggling, never give up. You never know where you might be in a year or years. Just make sure you stay as true to yourself as you can, keep loved ones close and treasure those friendships (even if it’s one or two people).

And if you haven’t tried it yet, try capturing part of you in writing, capture everything, including the dark times, because it is the best feeling in the world to be able to look back and see just how far you have come.

Reyt, I’m off -and remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, I just like to write!

 

Love Fordy x

 

The therapeutic act of writing

For years after Dad’s death, I would often dream of Dad. Unfortunately, most felt more like nightmares. The most common one was that he was alive, but I could never work out how? The memories of his burial would be clear as day in my mind, stood by his grave, throwing in a single red rose, the last single act of love, onto his coffin. And yet, in my dreams, he would be alive and well (well, not all the time).

There were a few dreams when he was nothing like the Dad I remembered. He lived contently in his flat, at Norfolk Park. It would always be clean. There would be no evidence of drink, and yet I would feel a pang of overwhelming guilt for not visiting him as often as I could.  The worst were when he was in drink; these dreams would leave me feeling exhausted, he would be in total denial. He would be a happy drunk and buying everyone drinks with money he didn’t have, or he could be downright nasty.  He had a vicious tongue and would often blame me for his drinking.

I would often awake, sweating, my heart rate would be racing, and for a split second or two, I would question if he was still alive and if the previous two years had all been a dream. Some mornings it would take me some time to compose myself and reassure myself that it was just a dream.

Dad passed over 16 years ago, but he’s still very present. All I have left is a shoebox filled with some of Dads belongings.

I still have his Passport,  issued in 1998. In his photo, he appears to be sporting a shiner. He has a look of a football hooligan. In the event of an emergency, he’d put his mother’s name and contact details, which at the time was when she was residing in Hayle, Cornwall.  I have no idea who the second person is; his name isn’t familiar. All I know is that he was male and lived at an address at Walkley, in Sheffield.

I still have his rent book; there are five stubs proof of payments made.  I can tell Dads writing because apart from his signature, he almost always wrote in capital letters. I’m surprised to notice that his last payment was made on 27th January, it’s in his handwriting, three months before he passed.

I once had a Birthday card. It was signed by Dad, I’d made a point of saving it, but I cannot find it. I have no idea where it lives. I hope someday that it will magically reveal itself – but for now, I console myself in the knowledge that he’d taken the time to write me one. The act alone means a lot.

I have a copy of his death certificate. We registered his death on 22nd March 2005, two days after he passed. It states his occupation as being a Licensee. It contains my name and contact details; I am mentioned because I am his Daughter and was present at his death.

The cause of death: Officially, the cause was Pneumonia. However, if he had not already had Decompose Alcoholic Liver Disease, he would have undoubtably survived the bout of Pneumonia. A stark reminder death is more likely to occur as an indirect consequence of drinking and not the act of drinking itself.

I have a letter from the council, a receipt for his burial and the deeds for exclusive rights for his burial spot, which expires and needs renewing after 30 years. At the end of the letter, there are the contact details of bereavement services available to me. I never took them up on the offer.

I don’t own a single picture of Dad and me together. The only pictures I have are of him drinking in a pub with friends or another family.  I have a couple of photos, but none are originals, only photocopies gratefully given to me by family following his death.

I have a copy of the Sheffield Star, dated 23rd March, Page 33, under the heading Family Notices. Dad’s name stands out at the top of the page, just under the heading ‘Deaths’ surrounded by other names of people I don’t know.

I have the documents appointing me as trustee of Dads financial affairs, dated 11th October 2004. Dad signs it, but his signature is barely eligible.

I have his old tan leather wallet that contains an out of date T Mobile top-up Card and a Gas and electricity payment cards. Inside his wallet, there is a small purse. It contains a single shopping receipt from Somerfield, dated 4th December 2004. He’d purchased some Rover biscuits, two lots of Kaliber (alcohol-free lager), two cheese pastries, a pack of six Yorkshire puddings, a pack of stewing steak, a six-pack of Double Decker’s, apples and bananas. On the back of the recipe is some more ineligible writing containing numbers, which must have meant something for him at the time. The alcohol-free lager is another reminder of his attempts to stay clean. If I smell his wallet for long enough, I can almost smell him again. I can still touch something that he frequently touched, a treasured possession.

I have a pair of Dads reading glasses, and they take pride and place in my office. They still manage to make me smile. They resemble the ones that Deirdre Barlow used to wear on Coronation Street. He’d acquired them off one of the other patients whilst in hospital. I tried suggesting that he give them back, but he’d been adamant the previous owner didn’t need them anymore.  To this day, I still don’t know where they came from?

And finally, I have a shoebox full of notebooks, each containing hundreds of works, written by myself, mostly in my darkest moments. I had wanted to turn them into a book for years, like an itch that wouldn’t go away. I think I was still angry; I didn’t want Dad’s death to be in vain. I didn’t want others to fall into the same trap he did. I wanted to share my story to remind people affected by a loved one’s addiction that it is ok to feel sad and that it’s perfectly natural to feel angry, frustrated, resentful and hurt.

Our writing doesn’t always have to make sense.

Sometimes it saddens me that I don’t have more mementoes to remember Dad by, but the sadness doesn’t last long because I have something more unique, and that’s the memories. Weirdly since attempting to write this book, I haven’t suffered from any of the nasty nightmare’s, which is a testament to the power of writing. Writing for me has turned out to be a form of therapy. It is a safe space where I can process all my conscious thoughts and all the hidden subconscious feelings and emotions that no longer plague my dreams.

I am two thirds into finishing the book, which has proved a lot harder than I first anticipated. Ironically, recalling memories of Dad has been easier than recalling the memories before my addiction evolved.  But thankfully, after a lot of anger, tears, self-doubt, and support from friends, loved ones, and my peers from my writing group, I finally managed to piece together a painful past into a jigsaw puzzle I can finally understand and come to terms with.

I don’t know where today’s blog has come from, and to be honest, I’m not sure what point it is I’m trying to make. But then again, writing doesn’t always have to make sense.  All I know is after sat writing for the past two hours, I feel at peace. I feel content. Writing is more than just pretty words. The act of writing is to share a part of your soul with the world, share part of yourself with someone other than yourself.

I might not write well every day, I might not write as much as I need to reach my imposed target, but as the saying goes, ‘You can always edit a bad page, you cannot edit a blank page’ Author unknown.

Honestly if anyone had said to my younger self  ‘Tracey you’ll be a writer some day” I would have laughed and told em to “Fuck off”. You don’t have to be published to be a writer, there is much more to writing than books.

Fordy’s top tip for anyone who is feeling low or unsure of how you are feeling is to write it out?

Start with the heading “how am I feeling?” and take it from there. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, just as it makes sense to you, help yourself, try releasing your mental burden by writing it out.

Reyt, I’m off -and remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, I just like to write!

 

 

COVID one year on

 

 Facebook had just asked me – What’s on your mind, so i had a think about it…

 

As I flicked through my memories, I realise such much has changed

Its been a long xxcking year and yet, i’m still here

Only eight years ago, Sheffield was covered in snow

The year before I was stuffing my face at the Bay of Bengal

Four years ago, I’d challenged myself to a full day of No SWEARING

But it didn’t last long and by the end of the day I’d past xxcking caring

The year after that, I was complaining of being fat!

 

On this day a year ago COVID was all over the news

I was heading into work only to be sent back home

It’s now 2021

Where the xxck has the last year gone?

 

I could never have predicted what the future had in store

In the early days I felt restricted and conflicted

At first it was strange, being forced to change

Isolated from family and friends

But it was a means to an end

 

We all needed to do our part, even though at times it broke my heart

We were all in a global pandemic, where nobody could hide

And in the blink of an eye another year has passed by

Each lockdown has been hard

I found myself having to dig deeper inside

 

Often the fear of the unknown left me feeling isolated and alone

I would allow myself to wallow for a while consumed with self-pity

But it just wasn’t me AND it certainly wasn’t xxcking pretty

I had to have regular words wi me sen

And reasoned that Instead of moping, I needed to find some better ways of coping

 

I used my time wisely to focus on shit I’d been neglecting to make time for reconnecting

I started by staying away from the TV, which gave me more time to focus on me

I’d take long walks alone to contemplate life – a perfect opportunity to switch off from all the xxxxing strife

 

I picked up my pen and started to write, each new word offered up a new insight

I learned to accept that whilst change can make us feel vulnerable, that change is also inevitable.

This year I have been constantly reminded, that we have two choices in life

We can either bury our heads in the sand or we can make a stand

 

I chose the latter, to take the rough with the smooth

I mean I’ve got xxck all else to do or to lose

For me COVID has been another stark reminder

None of us knows what’s around the corner

 

I hope that one year from now

I’ll have figured life out, some way, somehow

But just for today

I will focus on the here and now

 

Love Tracey

Connecting the Dots: Everything happens for a reason.

Today is a particularly poignant day. It is precisely 16 years since Dad took his last breath. I remember the day as if it was yesterday. Me and my sister found him on the living room floor in his flat, and despite looking like shit, he was in a positive mood. He reached out his hand, asking, “Help me up, I’m going for a pint”. Little did we know that morning that they would be some of his last words and that he only had hours left to live.

Memories of his slow, painful death still haunt me, but the special memories we shared during this sad time have also inspired me to write. Steve Jobs famously said, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back”, he also goes on to say that “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. That you have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever”.

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, this belief has come from the lessons I have learned from connecting the dots from my past. For example

Had it not been for losing my insanity, I would never have found my reality

Had it not been for the time spent in Middlewood Hospital, I would have never learned or understood about mental health, as I do now.

Had it not been for the CPN (community psychiatric nurse), I would never have had the courage nor inclination to go back to education.

Had I not gone to college, I would never meet the teacher who encouraged me to pursue a counselling course.

Had I not done the counselling course, I would have never met the Manager from a day rehabilitation program, who offered me a volunteering job.

Had it not been working in a recovery environment; I would never have understood addiction as I do now.

Had it not been for my addiction, I would never have understood shame and how to break free from it.

Had it not been for my recovery and the things I learned about myself, I would have found it impossible to support Dad during his alcoholism.

Had it not been for Dad’s demands, I would have never turned to journaling to offload my anger and hurt.

Had it not been for Dad, I wouldn’t be writing this today

Had I not been sat waiting to be interviewed by Roni Robinson, I wouldn’t have met the previous guest on his show, writer, Beverly Ward and asked for her business card.

Had it not been for Beverly Ward, I would never have dreamed I’d be signing up for a writing retreat.

A lot of the above didn’t make sense at the time, but I now realise that they all happened for a reason. Only this week, a memory appeared on my Facebook, taking me back to when I was packing to go away on my first ever writing retreat. I remember before heading off, our old man joking, ‘Thal be coming back wearing crocks and be a born-again vegan’. None of that happened, but something did change in me during that weekend away.

It was around the same time; the news was dominated by a deadly virus and government plans for a lockdown. Just being away from all the bullshit and negativity and being around other writers afforded me space and time to seriously consider whether or not I had a book in me. One year on, and now I’m 75,000-words in, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

I recently suffered from writer’s block; in fact, I came to a full fucking stop! I’d gotten to a point in my life where events became blurry, and I found myself struggling to connect the dots. I panicked. I freaked out. I even questioned if the memories I had, were even true, did they even happen! I even contemplated throwing the towel in, how I could continue writing if I couldn’t remember the story. I was afraid that I would be cheating the readers out of part of the story, but the truth was scared, and I felt cheated myself, not recalling events.

Some people have said to me ..

‘Why put yourself through it?’

My response is always…

‘Life is sometimes shit! And it is ok to feel shit and it doesn’t last long’

I know that from personal experience, it will pass. It always does, and after a week of tormented thoughts and sleepless nights. Guess what? It did!

And I finally broke through the writer’s block.

I don’t usually advocate dwelling or living in the past. It’s in the past for a reason. But I do see the value in popping back every so often to remind yourself just how far you have come.  Nowadays, I don’t look back and feel ashamed. I can look back and feel grateful for everything in my past, especially the darkest periods.

I couldn’t save Dad from his alcoholism, but hopefully, I can help others in his memory, and I can make sure that his premature death wasn’t in vain. I’m not sure where this is all going, but as Steve says, ‘I just have to trust that the dots will somehow connect.’

Ps . If tha needs inspiring you can check out the rest of Steve Jobs  had to say clicking  here

Rest in Peace, Dad and thank you. Thank you for everything, including the Good the Bad and the Ugly, all my love Tracey x

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

Writing it out

There have been some days over the past year; I have had to have some serious Words Wi Me Sen to adjust with this shit show called COVID. Confined to home working, being isolated from the usual office/social chat and banter has been replaced with more time to think or, should I say, overthink.

I have found myself absorbing my thoughts rather than being an observer of them and missed not being able to just being able to talk them out with a colleague or a close friend. Ya know all those simple interactions that we all took for granted.

I’ve had to quickly develop some new coping strategies, to help me bounce instead of breaking. So, I thought I would share em with ya.

My struggles with anxiety and self esteem started when I was much younger, I had never considered that I might have suffered from anxiety or that at times I might be depressed. And why would I? shit like that wasn’t talked about then. Some days I felt I might suffocate, I had a voice, but I was too afraid to use it, mainly out of fear of being judged or, even worse, misunderstood. This was further compounded because I could never find the words to articulate my feelings. It was just easier to keep shtum. ‘Put up and shut up’, as the saying goes.

I naively assumed that as I got older, I would grow out of it or might be able to figure out all the shit in my head and that I’d find the words to articulate how it felt, but I was wrong. I used to believe in fairy tales about finding my prince charming, getting a job, having kids, settling down, and living happily ever after. I’ve since figured out that Fairy tales are bullshit, just a tactic, a distraction method used by parents to try to protect their kids from the darker side of being an adult. Which is Fucking hard.

Over the years, with the support from others and a lot of reading and reflection, I have learned to sit with uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and emotions and trust the future even when it feels uncertain. But I have also learned that I can do something with them too.  I’ve tried different coping strategies over the years, many have served me well, and I’ve learned a lot about myself because of them, but one of the best coping strategies I stumbled upon has been writing.

What innocently started out as a simple journal turned out to be a revelation for me. Writing has become my go-to coping strategy, especially since COVID. It’s an opportunity to reflect. It’s my safe place, where I can share my innermost thoughts, fears and feelings without being judged by the outside world. It took me ages before I shared any of my writing publicly, afraid of the grammar police. Afraid that they would find fault in how I wrote instead of what I was saying – Nowadays, I give less fucks about what the grammar police might have to say…

Learning to Bounce Instead of Breaking – Whenever I’m feeling bad about something or feeling low, I take notice, this is important, I have learned that how I feel about myself has a direct impact on my decision making and my attitude.  Nancy Kline, a hero of mine, says, “The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first’.  So if i am feeling shit I’ll take myself to one side or go for a walk and #Haveawordwimesen away from social media away from all the bullshit and  if that doesn’t work, I will put pen to paper, or turn to the keyboard.

It’s like having my day in Court, call it the Court of Compassion. Sat alone its  like my moment of reckoning, like my very own courtroom, only there isn’t anyone else present, there are no jurors, just me and the computer. Usually, my crimes are worrying about others, things I cannot change, self-criticism or negative self-talk.

In that moment, I am both the Prosecutor and Defence; the Judge is my conscience and intuition.

The Prosecutor always goes first, presenting/pouring out all the negative feelings and thoughts, including evidence to back them up. This part is harsh, but at the same time, it is cathartic, and most of the time, the evidence that is presented are just old limiting beliefs like

• I’m not good enough?
• I can’t do this.
• I don’t know what I’m doing.
• What if I fail?
• What do others think of me?

Trust me, this is NOT an exhaustive list, and it can go on and on

When the Prosecutor has finished, then it’s time for my Defence, who will go through each alleged crime and argue/question if they are old inherited, thoughts and beliefs from my past. She will challenge the Prosecutor and highlight any mitigating circumstances in response to my crimes which might include

• You are good enoughYou are not alone. Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down, and they are feeling the same.
• But you are doing thisand you continue despite all the uncertainly around work.
• Of course, you don’t know what you are doing.-We are all winging it. This is unchartered territory, working from home away from your usual support network.
• So, what if you fail?So, what if you do? You’ve failed before, and you never let a bit of failure stop you before?
• Does it matter what others think of you? Those that know you love you; they are the only one who counts isn’t, including what you think of yourself?

My Judge, my conscience, she is my intuition and sits quietly, taking in all the arguments made before preparing a sentence.

(NOTE) Years before, I had a fucking harsh judge. She was a bitch, and more often than not, the outcome was always guilty. She would have condemned me to a life locked in shame and condemn me to a life of self-sabotage before throwing away the keys. But nowadays, my Judge is a little more compassionate. She understands me, accepts my flaws and always takes these into account before handing down my sentence. In her summoning up, she always reminds me of how far I have come and that everyone has flaws and that nobody is perfect, and that it’s ok not to be ok.

She will often give me probation with conditions to be kinder to myself, to take the time to do the things that make me happy or to undertake an inventory, a gratitude list which helps remind me of all the things I have got in my life, like family and loved ones.

Sometimes this works for a while, there are times when I might breach my probation conditions and find my ass back in court—Having the very same #Havingawordwimesen over again. But I’m ok with that. I came to the realisation years ago that in life, shit happens, life is full of highs and lows, it’s how you deal with it that matters It also helps that I have got a more compassionate Judge who is now on my side.

Sometimes, when I re-read what I’ve written about myself, it’s like reading someone else’s words, and I can’t believe how harsh I had been toward myself.

If you are struggling during these insane times try writing it out, create some space and time to hold your compassion court and see if it works for you.

I have found a couple of GREAT writing exercises for you to try. They are from a lady called Kristin Neff an expert on self-compassion

Exploring self-compassion through writing 

Changing your critical self-talk 

Self-Compassion Journal

 

I dread to think how many words I have written over the past few years; Christ it must be a fucking lot cos I’ve gone through two keyboards after wearing the letters out, but one thing I do know is, every single word was worth it…

 

Remember you might not always write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page, you can’t edit a blank page…

 

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

Love Fordy

 

 

 

 

Hormones and the cycle of change – Part of a woman’s recovery that’s rarely talked about

Most people in recovery have heard Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change, but what about the monthly cycle. I have spoken to many women whose periods stopped during their using but came back with a vengeance when they started their recovery journey. “I mean as if us women don’t have enough emotional shit to deal with.”

Let me take you back to before the drugs – My periods and mood swings have plagued me for years and had gotten notably worse after having kids, but I’d learned to live with them. My emotions and body could fluctuate like a frigging swinging pendulum. One minute I could be calm, collective, rational and feel great. I’m in a mental place where I am happy to accept my body, stretchmarks, and all the wobbly bits. The next minute, I could be an emotional wreck, I would mentally tear strips of myself. The self-hatred and self-loathing thoughts were made worse with the fluctuating weight gain, which left me feeling like a fat fucking Umper Lumper.

 

A plus sides of using – is that I didn’t suffer any of the emotional crap that came with the dreaded monthly cycle, let alone everything else that was going off for me. Using had become my coping strategy. It helped to numb my feelings. I was a hollow shell. I didn’t care about myself, let alone anyone else – well, that’s what I’d told myself. I now realise that behind the face of every addict, is in fact, someone who cares deeply but doesn’t know how to cope with their feelings.

 

A downside of recovery – There was one particular day. I remember the day well like it was yesterday.

 

I was in the psychiatric unit and into the second day into withdrawing from amphet when I came on my period. All was going well; I felt the usual sense of physical relief enveloped me like it had every month for the past few years. I felt that good. I even wondered if the doctors might have misdiagnosed me and wondered if I had been suffering from a “VERY BAD time of the month” instead of drug-induced psychosis!

 

Earlier that day, I’d been on the phone with my ex earlier and asked him to send some Tampax with mum when she visited later that day. I’d been frustrated during the call because all he was concerned about was when I was coming home. I vividly remember reminding him, and he “promised” not to forget before replacing the phone.

 

I was in a good place, much to the relief of Mum when she arrived. (the poor cow was still coming to terms that she had to visit her daughter in a psychiatric unit) So, when I asked after the Tampax and realised he’d forgotten, I totally lost my shit.

 

And I mean, I literally lost my shit…

 

I was kicking chairs in the canteen area and was about to throw one of them before a staff member came to try and calm me down. The emotions were overwhelming. I was shaking with rage; I couldn’t control myself; it took me ages to try and calm down. The staff suggested Mum should leave. I could tell she was shocked, scared and worried. I couldn’t blame her; I mean, who reacts like that over a Tampax!

 

“Me that’s who”

 

Looking back, I now realise that it wasn’t the Tampax, but that at that time, the last thing I needed to deal with was my hormones. My head was already fucked from withdrawing from the drugs, my life was a mess, and I was already emotionally raw.

 

It’s been years since that incident happened, yet I still remember it like it was yesterday. I have worked in the recovery field for over 25+ years. In all that time, I have hardily heard a professional have conversations that took into account women’s hormones, especially in recovery.

 

Emerging research suggests that some hormones may enhance the likelihood that some people will become addicted to a substance or behaviour or will struggle more with addiction in general. In particular, the hormones a woman produces during her menstrual cycle may make women more vulnerable to addiction and relapse than men. – That’s not an excuse to use every month, by the way…

 

Over the years, as well as having to deal with all the cause and effect of my using, I have had to learn to understand and come to terms and try managing ‘That time of the month’, and it has not been easy. I am not ashamed to say that I have to take Prozac, I have done for years to help manage my symptoms. I just wish more people talked about periods, peri-menopause/menopause, hence why I am sharing this. 

There is an old saying in the recovery community.

‘The best thing about recovery is you get your feelings back, and the worst thing about recovery is you get your feelings back.’

So, to all you women out there, who are smashing recovery, please remember that as well as being kind to yourself every day be, extra kind to yourself especially at “that time of the month

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

Love Fordy

 

 

 

 

Growing up on the Valley

Did this for the Valley Kids Facebook Group, reminiscing about back in the day when a bag a SPICE were a ten penny mix…

Growing up on the Valley

I was brought up on the Valley

Back in the day when I was a scally

Sheffield born n bred

I’ve tried to not let life get to me head

I’m proud of mi grassroots

And life on the estates

That’s the place I met some true mates

Back in the day when we fought wi our fists

But we’d soon make up wi a big sloppy kiss

When no-one would dream of picking up a knife

Cos, back then we valued life

Hedging hopping neighbours gardens

Or playing knock a door run

God, I miss those days, they were so much friggin fun

Once a year the circus came

N all the animals appeared to be tame

More than once a year the fair would arrive

Attracting other kids, bringing the Valley alive

The estate was surrounded by woods

In those days our highs didn’t come from drugs

Cos back then, none of us were mugs

Back in the day when life didn’t get in the way

And you could say what you wanted to say

Without fear of offending

There were none of that pretending

But then we all had to grow up

Some went their separate ways

Others stayed

Some say it’s rough

But I’d say it made me tough

I’m all grown up now, Christ knows how

I’ve made some mistakes

But life’s given me some breaks

Some mates are no longer here

But in our hearts, they will never disappear

My heart will always be in the valley

And in my head, I will always be a scally

Cos some of the best days of my life were made in a place called Gleadless Valley

Love Fordy x

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

 Oh, and If you liked this post please share it on social media and with friends – and if you didn’t like it then do nothing that’s ok too

If life was a cake, what would you be?

On the inside I would be made up of colourful layers, laced with buttercream and covered in marzipan and a royal icing layer.

 

We aren’t born anxious, scared or consumed with self-doubt, this is learned behaviour, reactions to past traumatic events.  The ingredients in my cake contain acts, and scenarios that have festered in my psyche and accumulated over time. 

 

If life was a cake, I could divide my life into slices, some parts have been delicious  and I have savoured them whereas others slices have made me sick and emotionally, mentally unwell.

 

My childhood, for instance, I mean I didn’t have a bad childhood; fuck me, I know people out there that have had far worst. But there were things in my childhood that happened, or that I witnessed that impacted how I coped and reacted in social situations. Sometimes my behaviour was out of control, family, friends, saw me as being unruly. I could be aggressive and used my fist and words to push people away. At times, my attitude stank, which was often  put down to being a hormonal teenager or simply not caring. – which wasn’t the case, in fact far from it. At the time; I was quite simply unable to recognise how I was thinking or feeling, let alone process them. – I was confused as fuck

 

Unhappy, Unhealthy Relationship. –within months of leaving school, I fell into a relationship I wasn’t emotionally ready or prepared for, and I certainly wasn’t emotionally/mentally prepared for being a mother. I knew the difference between a healthy, loving relationship and an unhealthy one. I’d fallen into the trap thinking that I had been lucky, that I had found my healthy. But I was wrong, it was a one-way relationship, its foundations based on coercion and control and when the cracks started to show, it was too late, and I couldn’t find a way out. That is until I found drugs.

 

My recovery was mainly about discovering myself – It was time to get honest, but it wasn’t always easy. Trying to  work through past events and emotions, sometimes felt like I was in the middle of one fucked up jigsaw puzzle. But I was lucky to have people around me help search for some of the missing pieces which helped me put myself back together again. I learned to tame the anger, understand the hurt and process it differently which gave me a whole new perspective, outlook on life, I talk about it here 

 

Losing my father to addiction – I worked in the addiction field, which looking back made it more challenging at times, especially when I was surrounded by people who were doing well in their recovery. I often wondered what I must be doing wrong. I can still have flashbacks, which take me back to a time when I felt powerless. To a time where I naively thought that because I had found myself, I though i could help my Dad do the same. But alcohol won. It still hurts now to this day, when I hear about someone, I knew who died due to their addiction. Even worse, I feel for the families, the ones left behind. – This is where the passion to write a book about it comes from

 

Trauma doesn’t have to be physical; there are so many different trauma layers; sometimes, we don’t know how to recognise them.

 

Our past can still haunt us, but it doesn’t have to continue hurting us.

 

So try practicing some compassionate refection

By undertaking some compassionate reflection, I have come to understand and more importantly accept that more often than not, how I’m feeling or reacting, is just an enactment of something that happened in the past. Talking helps, finding your tribe, people who have been in similar situations. I am in a better place to understand that whilst the past can still haunt us, but it doesn’t have to continue hurting us. – my writing helps me with this.

 

Try not to spend too much time in the past. I know! I know, I have been harping on about the past, but seriously make some time for the future, for the unknown. Take all those lessons you have learned from your past to help you navigate yourself through your future. Learn a new subject, read a new book. Go walking, take new routes, venture places you would never consider before.

 

Spend more time in the present – Feast on the here and now and

try practising some mindfulness, or as I like to refer to it as #Haveawordwitheesen. What are you doing today? Write a list of all the things to do and DO em!  When was the last time you did something YOU enjoyed? Feeling low, Bang on some music to lift you up.

 

Make some new friends.

We might be in the middle of a pandemic, but there is still the internet, there loads of amazing people out there who can help inspire you. There are now more than even online support groups and free training. Try sometime new, be open to meeting new people. You might never know how that one person could change your life’s direction. – Just stay away from the shitty news and social media

 

But most important of all – BE YOU

Remind yourself daily that there is nothing wrong with you and that you are still working/figuring yourself out, so give yourself a fucking break OR better still go bake a cake! 

 

Remember, try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to receive post as soon as they are written CLICK HERE – I promise i will NEVER send you any spam, i’m not into all that shit, i just like to write!

 Oh, and If you liked this post please share it on social media and with friends – and if you didn’t like it then do nothing that’s ok too

Much Love 

Fordy x

Letting go of Anger…

Haruki Murakami was quoted as saying that “once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive…But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in”

This quote resonates with me, but what Haruki doesn’t mention or talk about is some of us walking out of the storm are still a little battered and still piss wet through and that we still need time to dry out. For some of us, there will be feelings and emotions during the storm that have left memories. Some still painful, unresolved that we haven’t had a chance to put then to bed and finally allow then to lay to rest.

I wish I could walk away from some of my storms without knowing or questioning how I made it through or how I managed to survive, but I can’t.

One of the best things for me that has come out of my addiction experience has been the recovery process. I have enjoyed the discovery of recovery, learning new things about myself. Understanding where my triggers and cravings came from, which was usually driven by an unmet emotional need. The best and most challenging parts have been learning to love me and accept my flaws, which has helped me draw a line in the past and carve a future path.

Writing has really helped with this process, being able to extract and dump all my thoughts onto paper has become a coping strategy. And up until recently, writing the book has been cathartic. So much so, I no longer suffer the torturous nightmares I used to have about Dad since I started writing the book.

But I hit a wall, writer’s block they call it. I fell out of love with writing, I found it hard to find the right words or articulate how I was feeling, I tried to write, but it wouldn’t come. At first, I put it down to hormones, COVID, being stuck in a rut, too much time spent alone, working from home, overthinking, I thought I was going fucking mad. But after a lot and I mean ‘A lot’ of soul searching, I realised it wasn’t any of these. You see I was stuck at a particular chapter, a part of my past, something I thought I had dealt with, put to bed, but then I realised that there was a wound that it hadn’t yet healed properly.

Now I have dealt with many emotions over the years, sadness, worthlessness, loneliness, shame, guilt you name it, the list goes on. I will spare you the specific details about the chapter as the details don’t really matter. What matters more was understanding why it still hurt so much.

I’m generally not a romancer I am a pragmatist at heart. Still, this memory had me romancing memories, stolen memories laced with regrets. For the past week, my days have been consumed recreating memories. Memories that I had missed out on because I was too wrapped up in meeting another man’s needs and demands. But this time something was different and after a lot of soul searching and patience, I finally realised what it was, it hit me, it was ANGER.

It took me totally unaware; I hadn’t realised just how angry I had been, I’d been blinded by it. I felt angry at myself, foolish even that I allowed myself to be manipulated, used, and no amount of self-compassion seemed to help. For some reason, I just couldn’t let it go.

I hated feeling this way, continually feeling unsettled, unsure about myself. Usually, an optimist I found myself being pessimistic about everything. I felt physically lethargic, I could feel myself withdrawing, and I needed to find a way out and quick, the only problem was I didn’t know-how.

But then the penny dropped – I needed to let go of the anger.

This revelation came to me at my weekly Monday Morning Writers group. I love this group, but that morning on the 1st Feb 2021 had been the first time since I joined that I didn’t want to be there, I had nothing to say, I hadn’t made any progress. I was stuck.

As usual, I was greeted by familiar faces, people I have grown to trust. I tried to be positive and my usual upbeat self, but instead I withdrew after saying my usual “hello’s”. I muted myself waiting for the session to start.

January had been a tough month for everyone for many reasons, so our writing prompt was to think about all the potential positives that February could bring. I took pen to paper, nothing came, looked up, and sat busy writing, they seem to have a lot to say, but I was stuck. Trying not to overthink I let my words flow…

I don’t want to think,

I don’t want to write.

I just want to board a plane and jump on the next flight.

I feel like I’m on the brink.

Life fucking stinks

Nowhere to run

Life’s stopped being fun.

I need to have a word.

Gi me head a wobble

I know thinking this way will only get me into trouble.

I need to find a way to pop this fucking self-pity bubble.

Fuck it I don’t know how!

It was time to feedback – At first, I was reluctant to share, everyone else’s seemed so positive and upbeat, and I didn’t want to bring the mood down, but I had to be honest.

‘I’m sorry folks I’m feeling like a Mardy Bastard today, and I’m not sure if I want to share.’

After a little encouragement, I shared what I’d written, I felt compelled to share the root of my anger, I continued to share the part of the story that was causing so much pain. I stopped sharing conscious I was taking too much time of the group, mindful that others hadn’t shared yet. Bev spoke first

‘It’s bound to be hard to write parts of this book because you’re taking yourself back to difficult places. You need to look after yourself while you’re writing it.’

‘You don’t have to be positive all the time,’ said another member of the group. ‘Thanks for being vulnerable.’

‘You have to remind yourself, as well as writing this book you have an emotionally demanding job too’ said someone else.

‘What might help here?’ asked Bev.

It didn’t take me long to respond ‘Well, for starters a baseball bat (to his head) might help or a small dose of COVID?’ I laughed, but deep down I meant i

‘No seriously, joking aside, I know I need to just let this anger go, I know I can’t change it, I know this’ – Just whilst as I said those words, I could feel a weight lift from my shoulders, but also in my heart.

DA Scottish guy who always makes me smile, laughed warmly ‘Tracey, we all struggle at some point and let’s face it, you aren’t writing a fictional story, this is real life’. And I knew he was right!

You see, I preach on about practising self-compassion and yet for the past week I hadn’t done any on myself. In fact, all I had done is berate myself. For the past week, I had allowed myself to live in the past. Worst still I hadn’t even really shared with anyone how I’d been feeling, let alone thinking. Well, not until that morning. It was no fucking wonder I felt like I was going to self-combust.

The session ended, and I was so happy that I’d made the decision to go along, despite my initial misgivings. And after a day of work-related meetings, I headed out for my evening walk or should I say stomp! As I gathered speed, instead of taking my usual turning up Birley Lane, I continued walking, heading for the narrow path on White Lane towards Ford. I turned on the torch on my phone to help navigate the narrow and uneven path, the roads were quieter than usual, and I was grateful for that. Every so often I stopped and took in the sky, every time I stopped, the clouds’ sequence seemed to have changed and the colours too. The further I walked the lighter I felt. with each step I was mentally letting go of a part of my past was just that ‘The past’. When I got back home, I went straight back to my room and revisited the words I’d written that morning and turned it into something else

I cried today 

But that’s ok

You see, my past caught me out.

I thought I’d moved on.

Always assuming I was strong.

Turns out I was wrong

I went back in time when I felt vulnerable and weak.

Back to a place when life seemed so dark and bleak

could choose to not revisit the past.

could leave it where it belongs.

But something inside me needs to rewrite all the wrongs.

A need to make sense of a past

For me to clear a way forward

But I’m working out this isn’t always fucking straightforward.

I know thinking this way will get me into trouble.

So, every so often I have to give me head a wobble and pop the self-pity bubble.

I know deep down that once I’ve drawn that line in the past.

I will be able to stay in the present, which feels a lot more fucking pleasant.

I’m learning that to continue

I need to practice some more self-compassion

Something that of late feels like it’s gone out of fashion

It was time to have a word wi me sen.

So, I gave me sen a big mental cuddle.

Told me sen that I’ll be alright

And reminded me sen of others who are going through worst plights.

I have just strayed off course.

And on reflection, life could be worse.

I’ve come so far and I ain’t going back.

Just for today, I made a promise to give me sen some slack.

I took some time out.

I had a word wi me sen

And finally found some of me lost yen

I’ve learned a valuable lesson this week, and that’s “Whilst our past can haunt us, they don’t have to continue to hurt us” That is only if we let them. Me writing and sharing this the final part of me letting go and leaving the past in the past, where it fucking belongs –

A special thanks to my Daughters, Danielle and Lauren and to all the guys in the Monday Morning Motivation Writing group.

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 for emails.

 Oh, and If you liked this post please share it on social media and with friends – and if you didn’t like it then do nothing that’s ok too

Much Love 

Fordy x

What was your Shirley Moment?

I watched Shirley valentine over Christmas; it was a welcome distraction from the boredom that comes in between Christmas Day and New Year, I laughed at her talking to the wall because I realised that used to me!

I’ve always questioned everything; even as a kid, although I rarely voiced any of it because it got me into trouble when I did it. Unlike Shirley, I didn’t talk to the wall. Instead, I would swallow them, many of them unanswered to the back of my mind. Brought up in a working-class family on an estate called Gleadless Valley, the main priority for my mum and stepdad at that time was ensuring that there was food on the table whilst my Dad was preoccupied with chasing skirt or drinking with his mates. I had many unanswered questions. 

I’d hated being a kid for years, back then life was unfair. I craved for adulthood so that I could reach the age to demand answers to all my questions. And yet when it came, I realised I wasn’t ready for it, and still the answers never came. 

Aged sixteen and pregnant, and unlike my other friends who at the time were figuring out who they were, partying and carving a career out for themselves, where as my life had already been mapped out. God did I envy their freedom.

Like Shirley, in the film there were many a day I would privately reminisce about my childhood days and wonder where I went wrong, I felt insignificant, I had nothing to offer, and yet deep down I knew that there was more to life. The only shit part was I could never work out what it was and more importantly, how to find it. There was always something missing, and then I found drugs.

I got to the point when I had stopped questioning, sick of waiting for the wall to answer back, I reckon! So instead, I’d dutifully conformed and started to play along with the charade commonly know as life. It wasn’t until I found myself sat in a hospital ward in Middlewood hospital a few years later. Admitted with drug induced psychosis that I realised that I was well and truly fucked. I would potter around the ward and listen to other patient’s stories, many had given up, but I wasn’t ready to give up, not yet.

It’s fair to say I did a hell of a lot of thinking in Middlewood, fuck me there wasn’t much else to do!  

I shared and offloaded my thoughts and feelings with the staff. I realised how much I had been bottling up and that had been the first time I had acknowledged my thoughts and feelings, let alone deal with them.

For years I’d expected everyone else to be able to answer all my questions for me, but soon realised that most of the questions could only be answered by myself. But first, I needed to listen to what was being asked? and instead of questioning my thoughts and feelings, I learned to sit with them, listen, really listen, and have a #properwordwimesen Questions like

Why doesn’t anyone love me? turned into “Why don’t you love yourself?Or “Why do people treat me like shit?” – turned into “Why do you let people treat you like shit?” or the most frequently asked question was “There has got to be more to life” turned into “What do YOU want from life?” and I realised there and then,  I had never really asked myself before.

Since leaving Middlewood, life hasn’t been easy, and I continue and still make mistakes, the difference this time though is  I will question the mistakes and examine the role “I” played in the mistakes instead of blaming everyone else.

I still have days when life gets in the way, when it gets on top, I feel disillusioned, scared but have have worked out that when this happens it’s generally because I have allowed life, the news, social media distract me from myself. So when this happens, I make some time and take some responsibility to #Haveawordwimesen

Often I find going for a walk, reading a good book or offloading my thoughts down in a journal helps me give me head a wobble. Doing this alone helps remind me to save some of the compassion I fine myself freely giving to others, to saving some back for myself. Sometimes I even go back to the fundamental questions I asked myself years ago in Middlewood Hospital.

“There’s got to be more to life.” 

Another thing that has helped over the years has been surrounding myself with people who have faith in me, especially when I had little in myself. Over the years, I have learned that I choose who I allow in my life and can now tell the difference between those who support me instead of exploiting me.

Find your tribe –the people who are on the same page as you. And remember that if it turns out that they are not on the same page, you can always end the chapter or start a new fucking book.

Learning to, listen to trust and have faith in yourself isn’t always easy, but it is achievable if you put in the effort. Working on yourself isn’t like a regular nine to five job, it’s a full time one. And listen its ok to have a break once in a while or to have a “fuck it moment!” but remember you can always go back to the basics and remember all the answers you need are in you.

I still don’t know if Shirley ever stayed in Greece or returned to the UK. I suppose it doesn’t matter, what matters is that after years of feeling lost, she finally found herself and realised she was worth more. Ps, if you haven’t seen Shirley Valentine before or haven’t watched it for a while, I recommend you do.

The End

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 for emails.

 Oh, and If you liked this post please share it on social media and with friends – and if you didn’t like it then do nothing that’s ok too

Much Love 

Fordy x