“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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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 

 

 

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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 

 

 

 

 

 

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You have heard about second-hand smoking, but have you heard of second hand-drinking?

So back in the day second-hand smoking really changed public opinion and paved the way for legislation to make bars and public places smoke-free. There was some resistance, I resisted it myself particularly when us smokers weren’t allowed to smoke in say pubs or in shopping centers.

When the impact of second-hand smoke was explained, people started to make the link that someone else’s smoking was the reason for their asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, heart disease, or lung cancer. 

 As this understanding grew, more people gained the information and the confidence they needed to take a stand against a person’s cigarette smoke. The awareness enabled people to think about doing what they needed to do to protect and repair their own health, regardless of whether the smoker stopped smoking.

So, let’s apply the second-hand smoking analogy to drinking

From personal experience one of the major second-hand impact of dads drinking for me was

Living in constant fight-or-flight stress response, which was repeatedly triggered, never knowing whether I would find dad dead, or injured as a consequence of falls.

Or all the arguments with other family members and friends about dad’s alcohol consumption and his behaviour and my inability to walk away.

The emotional abuse caused by his manipulative behaviour, like the time he told me he had cancer by way of justifying his drinking, which was a lie.

Or trying to manage his mental health, such as dealing with late-night calls that he was going to kill himself.

Feeling constantly defeated and exhausted by dad’s inability to see how he was slowly killing himself and having to stand by and watch him commit slow suicide.

15 years on, I have come along way, I have been able to heal from a lot of the consequences of second-hand drinking. Some people might say OR think “trace its time to move on” but I can’t, I feel so passionately for those who are still suffering in silence and who are often overlooked because all the attention is focused on the addict.

I feel grateful that there is more and more research being done into second-hand drinking and the effects. A study in 2015 found that an estimated 53 million adults — or nearly 1 in 5 — said they had experienced at least one harm attributable to someone else’s drinking in the past year. NOW that’s a lot of people!

It’s a relief to hear researches are starting to recognise what I and others affected by a loved one’s addiction have been saying for years.

So when I hear quotes from the likes of Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance and the director of the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, saying “There is undoubtedly harm from second-hand smoke, but the range and magnitude of harms are likely to be even greater from alcohol.” I finally feel heard.

So to summarise – Second-hand drinking can be defined as the negative effects people experience by being around those who drink alcohol excessively.

And just like second-hand smoking were people were able to think about doing what they needed to do to protect and repair their own health, regardless of whether the smoker stopped smoking. If you are a family member or friend and you believe you are affected by second-hand drinking you too can take steps to repair your own health regardless of whether the drinker stops drinking.

Based on my own personal experience there are a number of things I would advise you to do  

Seek out support there are so many sources of support available, mainly online and telephone at the moment due to COVID

Family & Friends Recovery – Sheffield  

Sheffield Recovery Community 

Al-Anon 

Talk and talk some more, start working on accepting that you ARE affected by second-hand drinking and that second-hand drinking is an actual thing.

Educate yourself, even since dad passed, I have continued to educate myself and others about the often-unseen impact addiction has not just on the addict, but the impact on their loved ones. Adfam is a good source 

There are some GREAT books out there such as

If you loved me you would stop

Codependent no more

Work on your boundaries, and when I say boundaries, I’m not just referring to physical boundaries, there are material, emotional, mental, spiritual boundaries

And on a final note, If you are a dependant drinker and you think that your drinking is just harming you, then I would say to you…

“Think again”

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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Writing for Therapy

Over the years, whilst working with addicts and their families I have often promoted and advocated the value of being able to help offload mindless thoughts that have plagued people’s minds, especially when their thoughts have started to cloud their judgments.

Writing is recognised as being an integral part of therapy, we would encourage the use of thought record sheets and mood or activity diaries. These are particularly good for helping people to self-identify triggers that might be causing negative behaviours that they were looking to change.

In addiction ‘getting our thoughts onto paper and out of our head’ can allow us to be able to see things from another perspective, but it doesn’t just help with Addiction, it can serve to help anyone regardless of their personal circumstances.

Also, writing doesn’t have to be about just negative stuff either, some people find it helpful, (myself included) when they’re feeling well, when they are in a good place and able to cope with daily life, to write a letter to themselves sharing and capturing any personal achievements. And as well as being positively affirming, the same notes can also be used to refer back to when you are not feeling so good or are struggling to cope.

It is like the stable and strong you, writes a letter to the more vulnerable you and reminding you that you are stronger than what you think.

Writing can also help when dealing with others who might be causing you distress, it might be to those who are no longer here or those who are. Writing a letter to then can allow you to voice your true feelings and tell them how they really made you feel, especially if you feel unable to tell that same person face to face.

Some people find it helpful to burn the letter, watching the smoke rise up, particularly if the person has died or just imagine the letter arriving at its destination to the person in questions and seeing the reaction you want them to have or maybe it’s enough just to have written it.

You don’t have to keep a daily journal either, you can do more spontaneous writing, or a ‘Mind Dump’ as I prefer to call it, just writing down whatever comes into your heads, perhaps for a certain period of time – 10 minutes or half an hour. It may read like nonsense, and that’s okay. That’s how our minds work.

By just writing down all the random, feelings or thoughts even if it seems apparently nonsensical just write anything that comes to mind. Once finished you might find that there is something that’s worth spending more time thinking about, or you might decide that it’s okay to just leave it there, on the paper.

Again, you can choose what you then do with the paper – you can either keep or destroy it, I chose to save it, on my computer of course and at the last count my personal journal contained over 114,850 words!

How you write isn’t important either, your use of grammar doesn’t matter, I can attest to this after being expelled on numerous occasions from school, being in the bottom class for every lesson, I would sometimes re-read back what I had written and scorn myself for poor spelling or for talking utter shit. In fact, had I not had the help and guidance from a close friend who was more academically inclined than me, who helped edit my uni assignments I wouldn’t now be the proud owner of a degree.

Over the years, I have started to care less about ‘how’ I write, focusing more on ‘what’ I’m writing. So much so I decided to bite the bullet and go public, to create my own space, my own blog a platform where my writing, my thoughts, feelings, and opinions could be heard and thanks to the help of spell checking and apps such as Grammarly, I can tend to string a sentence together without the grammar police turning up to arrest me.

I started journaling again two years ago I turned one of the kid’s old bedrooms into a makeshift writing space, which gives me some respite from the external world and everyday struggles. I have been known to occasionally refuse the offer of going somewhere preferring to spend time alone writing. At first some people, the ones closest to me thought the act of sitting alone writing was antisocial and questioned how could writing possibly help me?

Which brings me to this fucking book.

During dad’s active addiction, I turned to writing, there was many a night I found myself unable to sleep, being kept awake worrying and stressing if he’d be dead by the following morning. I found that the only way I could find sleep was if I offloaded everything I was thinking and feeling and ‘mind dumping’ it onto paper. When dad died, I no longer felt the need to write, my sleep returned life slipped back to normal, whatever the fuck normal means!

Over the past two years in addition to the journal and after taking some advice from friends who are ‘accomplished writers’ I started to chronicle my life story, starting with my earliest memories. I had managed to write over 18 chapters, containing over 40,435 words.

I have always felt the urge to write a book, especially about my own personal journey of addiction, but also the journey I took with my dad and his alcoholism. Unfortunately for dad he pushed his addiction to the furthest any addict could result in him developing end-stage alcoholism, which basically means there is a 0% chance of him ever fully recovering or reversing from the physical damage caused to his body.

After fifteen years since dad passed and I have piles of A4 notes containing the ramblings of a mad women. and since restarting journaling I have taken a giant leap and enlisted the help of a local author and writing coach, ‘I might be successful in many areas of my life but pulling together a book isn’t in my repertoire or skill set’.

Writing for oneself is one thing but I am found writing for others quite challenging. One of the main obstacles has been overcoming the personal barriers of self-doubt and fear are something quite different and this is turning out to be a labor of love and hate at times.

People have often asked me ‘doesn’t it get you down reflecting on the past?’ but my answer is always the same ‘no’ because I actually find it all very therapeutic and if I can translate my personal experience and help even just one person then this labor of love will all be worth it.

Its early days and with the help of my coach I have finally found a structure for the book, a way of telling ‘my’ story, I have found a way to share dad’s story and the horrors he and those around him endured as a result of his alcoholism.

If you are feeling in a dark place and want to explore ways to help yourself, then I would highly recommend taking pen to paper.

I would recommend the following sites as a starting point and if you do start to write I would be interested in how it has or hasn’t helped you, Ps thanks for listening.

Love Fordy

Writing as therapy

Compassionate kit bag

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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What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

We have all heard about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), well I wanted to talk about something called Post Traumatic Growth (PTG).

Please note I am no psychologist and have no desire to be one. But I am fascinated about personal development so when I came across this term Post Traumatic Growth, I read a little more, I found that there were many parallels and similarities with my own recovery journey, and I wanted to share this with you.

So, what’s the difference between Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to individuals who find no benefit from their trauma only pain and anxiety.

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) refers to the positive life changes that may come about from trauma or traumatic event. PTG is about being able to maintain a sense of hope that not only can a person who has experienced trauma survive but they can also experience positive life changes as a result.

Addiction can be a result of a traumatic event and/or Addiction can cause a traumatic event.

I am a firm believer that for some people the addiction in itself can be a traumatic experience. Now I am not for one-minute excusing the addictive actions and behaviours of addicts. But I do believe that at the core and one of the more often-overlooked consequences of addiction (albeit) self-inflicted is the emotional abuse/trauma on the addict as a result of the lengths they have gone to feed their habits. For example, living on the streets, living in constant fight or flight mode, losing children, being involved in violent relationships, sexual exploitation, Christ the list goes on an on…

What I am trying to say is that sometimes recovering from addiction can be as traumatic as the event that might have triggered the addiction in the first place.

There is a saying “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” well I don’t know about any of you, but I am personally grateful for all the shit/trauma I have been through because I truly believe that I am a better person for it. And I know for certain had it not been for some of the personal trauma that drove my addiction, I wouldn’t have found the hidden abilities and strengths that existed within me, for me this is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) in action.

And I am not alone, over the past 20+ years I have supported, worked alongside, and had the privilege to witness others who have successfully been able to walk away from highly addictive substances. I have seen broken men/women morph, from caterpillar, chrysalis, to then transform into a butterfly with colourful exquisite wings that allow them to fly.

Did you know that in order to be able to become a butterfly, the caterpillar has to fall apart completely, decompose down to its very essence, devoid of any shape or consciousness. It literally dies. There is nothing left of it. And from this liquid essence, the butterfly starts to put itself together, from scratch? Now that’s recovery.

 Below are some of the  benefits reported from Post Traumatic Growth;

Feeling stronger and finding hidden abilities and strengths; this changes the person’s self-concept and gives them the confidence to face new challenges “If I can survive this, I can survive anything”

Relationships are strengthened, which is reflected in how people often speak of “finding out who their true friends are” after they have experienced a trauma

Peoples priorities have shifted, and philosophies concerning the present day and other people are altered, e.g. “living for the moment and prioritising yourself and your loved ones

For those of you in recovery reading this, does this sound familiar?

There is a misconception out that people’s recovery journeys start when they stop abusing substances. But in fact, people’s recovery journey’s start when they start doing some self-exploration, when they start to learn about themselves.

Post-traumatic growth it doesn’t mean that there is an absence of distress quite the contrary, sometimes our recovery can feel as risky as some of the risks we took when using. There had been many a time I felt like throwing in the towel and saying, “Fuck it!”. Trust me exposing ourselves to our own truths can be one of the most daunting and scary experiences we will ever go through

Recovery is hard and can be a very traumatic experience for most involved, but it is worth it and with support, recovery can offer us the opportunity not just to resist taking substance, but it can give us opportunities to grow and be a the very best version of ourselves.

Just like the Butterfly, be proud of your recovery transformation and fly

Love Fordy

 

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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Boundaries aren’t just an enforcement tactic but a form of self care

I don’t ever recall the word boundary being mentioned much growing up, my interpretation of a boundary looked like rules. Rules that had consequences if tested or broken – and trust me I broke many. 

People misunderstand the purpose of boundaries; more often than not they are perceived as being a tactic or an enforcement tool in an attempt to manage another person’s behaviour or actions. And whilst setting and enforcing boundaries can do that to a certain extent, boundaries are only ever effective as the person enforcing them.

‘Why are boundaries are always seen or used as the last resort in an attempt to manage difficult behaviour or actions?’

I would advocate or even argue that we need to start looking at boundaries differently, in the first instance let us start referring to boundaries as an act of self-care. Using boundaries to help us build and restore our physical or emotional wellbeing. Especially, before we even attempt to apply them to others especially if you are using them to change someone else’s behaviour or actions.

I see this it all the time, particularly around families of addicts. Often the family’s attempts at establishing, enforcing, and maintaining boundaries almost always fail at the first hurdle, mainly because they are trying to enforce and manage boundaries at their weakest point.

“Life is hard enough being the person who has to think about, or even consider boundaries especially when it’s not your behaviour that’s the problem, let alone enforce them.”

Often addicts on the receiving of boundaries will go to great lengths and will do anything and everything they can to resist your efforts; they will argue, blame, ignore, manipulate, threaten, or physically hurt us.

“Trust me there is nothing worse than an addict who doesn’t get their way.”

Below is just a selection of some of the most common characteristics of addicts that families are up against

  • Frequent lies
  • Ignoring your boundaries
  • Manipulating you to get what they want
  • They don’t consider other people’s feelings or needs
  • Feelings of entitlement
  • They rarely apologize and if they do, it’s shallow, coerced, or worse – fake
  • They will blame others and don’t take responsibility for their actions
  • They will overreact
  • Make unreasonable demands
  • Have temper tantrums or fits of rage when they don’t get what they want

In a nutshell, their actions can create so much stress, anxiety, pain, which can affect your health, your ability to work, and your overall general wellbeing.

People often find themselves becoming co-dependent focusing more on how someone else can meet our needs rather than focusing on how to take care of ourselves.

And this is dangerous territory, its dangerous because quite often many family members or loved ones of addicts don’t seem to recognise just how bad their lives have been affected until it’s too late. They have been so consumed with fixing the addict and putting the needs of the addict first, that many are left feeling disorientated, disillusioned, and frustrated, with little or no energy left.

By establishing boundaries for ourselves we have a better fighting chance to start enforcing those boundaries that involve other people. This is particularly important when you are dealing with some of the above characteristics previously mentioned.

3 Points to consider 

  1. The starting point for anyone living or dealing with an addicted loved one is first learning to accept that sometimes “nothing we do or say can or will prevent people from acting a certain way.” This can often be the hardest pill to swallow especially when someone has been stuck in rescue mode for a long time.
  2. The second point is learned to accept that what we can do is learn to set clear boundaries for ourselves, to take care of ourselves, protect ourselves, at least that way at we can and give ourselves a fighting chance to feel stronger and more empowered to take on anything that is thrown at us.
  3. Thirdly, when setting boundaries, it is vital to recognise your feelings and learn to differentiate yourself from the other person.

Benefits of personal boundaries 

  • When we set boundaries, we’re less angry and resentful because our needs are getting met
  • Boundaries help us make our expectations clear, so others know what to expect from us and how we want to be treated.
  • Boundaries are the foundation of happy, healthy relationships with others
  • More importantly, boundaries are the foundation of a happy and healthy relationship with our selves.

Remember the purpose of setting your own personal boundaries is to let someone know you are not okay with their behaviour and the person who is one the other end of your boundary may still react. I know this all too well from personal experience.

When you are setting healthy boundaries, you are coming from a place of self-care and you find yourself in a better position to be able to acknowledge the other person’s reaction as opposed to trying to fix it.

I have come across this great No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space as a starting point to help start you off.

And my final WORD remember this is about YOU not them

I was recently asked to go on BBC Radio Sheffield to advise a lady called Louise whose life had been affected by her husband’s addiction to opiates you can click here to listen in (be warned its 20 mins long)

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