“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 

 

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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!

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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 

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