This blog is part of my recovery, and I would like it to remain a safe place for me to share parts of myself and my life that people close to me may or may not know. As a result, while I'm not going crazy with privacy settings, I do ask that if you find this on your own and suspect you may know me, please respect my privacy by checking with us before reading any further. This obviously doesn't apply if one of us has given you the link!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alcohol Recovery: On Being Selfish & Feeling Guilty

As we sat and worked together on my relapse prevention plan, Michele and I discussed various aspects of what I would be facing on my trip in terms of alcohol stressors. I identified some of the major ones quite easily - I, for example, expected a large portion of my friends would be drinking when we went to the pub, and that this, in turn, would prove difficult for me.

We hashed out strategies like leaving the room, taking a short walk, even just going to the bathroom. We talked about saying no. And Michele made a suggestion, I don't even remember what exactly it was, but I balked. She wanted me to be selfish. Now, don't get me wrong. I can be selfish. I'm pretty good at being selfish -- when it's unintentional. What I struggle with is the idea of deliberately setting out to be selfish (or even, to a degree, getting my needs/wishes/desires met or recognised).

So... I balked. We discussed it, I still wasn't comfortable with it. We didn't write it down as a strategy because we knew I was too uncomfortable with it to use it. And then a situation came up that it sort of got used rather by accident.

Sat around the table after dinner, everyone began discussing where we'd go next - whether we'd have a drink or go our separate ways (which, admittedly, wasn't entirely all that separate). A few people expressed an interest in going for an alcoholic drink and my best friend turned to me to ask how I felt about that plan.

Now, bear in mind, please, that by this stage I'd been around someone who was drinking almost every day for almost a week. The night previous I'd had to bail on my friends because I couldn't handle the pub atmosphere. I was very aware in that moment that if I went to a pub with my friends, I would not have been able and willing to stop myself ordering a drink. My reserves were at a minimum - beer looked good.

I admitted that if "they" were to go to a pub, I wouldn't be joining them. Not really my style, I'm better at tagging along and forcing myself to just cope with it until I can't anymore - better that than what transpired...

Because my friends decided that they wouldn't go to a pub. They wouldn't go for an alcoholic drink and we would instead go to Starbucks. (Which turned out to be closed, adding more difficulty and more guilt.)

And it was the sweetest, most lovely gesture. And I can't even put in words how much I struggled with that. Because now everybody was accommodating to my wishes, to my selfishness. And that's exactly how I felt - selfish.

They wouldn't need to, if only I could drink responsibly.
They wouldn't need to, if only I could be a grown up.
They wouldn't need to, if only I could suck it up.
They wouldn't need to, if only I could act like a normal, sane person.
They wouldn't need to, if only I wasn't such a screw up.
They wouldn't need to, if only I wasn't so weak.

If only, if only, if only.

I could carry the if onlys on but there's no point in rehashing all of them, because they're not separately relevant. There are a thousand reasons I was uncomfortable with everyone changing their plans to accommodate me - and while in some ways, all of them matter -- in the ways that count right now, none of them do except that I felt so selfish.

I felt, too, that I had forced my friends into the position where they had to choose between spending time with me and doing what they wanted, and that's something I'm very uncomfortable with, as a whole. (And it takes very little evaluating to see that this is probably where a part of my difficulty in making decisions that involve other people in any way comes from.)

In the time since that night, I've done some work on teasing out the stuff behind that, and one of the things I found was that (in addition to and separate from my belief that I as a person don't deserve concessions because my worth is less than others - which is a whole separate thing that after years still needs serious work) I believe that since this is my own fault, I have no right to concessions for it. If, for example, my knee was causing a problem and everybody wanted to climb Mount Everest, and I were to say "I'm not capable of that, let's hike Mount Gravatt instead" and people changed their plans to accommodate that, I would be far less uncomfortable...

But my knee is not the problem. My alcoholism is. My desperate need/wish/desire (I'm not sure which one best fits the way I feel about it though I know need is not physically accurate) to drink something that is going to destroy me if I don't force myself to stay away from it is the problem. And that's my own fault, my responsibility. How dare I put someone in the position to choose between something they enjoy and me?

And if they choose me, how can I allow myself to not feel guilty about that when I feel like they've chosen the raw end of the stick.

I am, as is probably obvious in this post, still struggling with how to find my balance and peace in this issue. Recovery is hard, and everything is still so tangled together.

Challenges and Cheerleading:
It's okay for people to choose me over drinking.
It's okay to say I'm not going to do something, even if that's what everyone else wants to do.
No matter what lies I tell myself, I am actually no longer capable of having "just one drink".
It's not worth the cost to drink.

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sanguine Saturday in Leeds

It seems so hard to believe it's only been a week since my last Sanguine Saturday as it feels like so much has happened, and yet time seems to be flying past me on my holiday. It needs to slow down because I'm really enjoying myself for the most part, and although I'm less 'sane' than I'd hoped to be, I'm still doing loads better than I was at home.

Success Stories:
No drinking - and this is made even more huge by the situations I've been in for a lot of the past week -- in addition to staying with some people who drink fairly heavily, I also was in a couple of different pubs around people I know who were drinking, and part of a large-scale group meetup where I was almost the only one who didn't drink.

No SI of any kind. Also quite huge, this is the longest I've been without any form of SI in (I think) a year.

I survived the tube in London! Not always unscathed, not always brilliantly, but I stuck it out and didn't get out before my stop at any point.

I socialised, and (hopefully) came across as fairly normal and sane, for the most part. I met people I didn't know, people I've known for years and adored but not actually met in person, and one person I'd met in person before.

I coped with someone I love being mad at me.

I actually approached someone who did something that was unintentionally uncomfortable for me to let them know so that they didn't do it again.

I held what was possibly the longest "my crazy" conversation I've ever had offline - twice - and didn't even cry during one of them. (Always a bonus.)

I made decisions! Small ones, and mostly they took me a long time to actually make, but that's okay.

Not really along the same lines as others here this week but... I've been taking some touristy photographs -- ones that will be suitable for scrapbooking later.

Gratitudes/Happy Things:
Knowing amazing people.
Squirrels! Hamsters! Pet chipmunks! Ferrets! Bunnies!
Beautiful and friendly cats.
Getting decent photographs.
Making good memories
Random lovely messages (even from people who I made seasick with my inability to stand still for a day!).

Challenge and cheer-leading statements:
My friends aren't going to just stop loving me. Proper friendship doesn't work that way.
It's okay to ask for things.
Most of the people I know have pretty good boundaries. It's okay to trust in their own ability to look after themselves.
It really is okay to want things or to decide what I do or don't like.
Just because someone is mad at me doesn't mean they will walk out of my life.

Apologies for the lack, but no outward links again this week. I think I probably will post less links while I'm away, but feel free as always to link in a comment to my SS posts if you do your own version! I still want to read and I'm sure others do, too!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Midweek Musings: Some Thoughts On Touch

London is a huge learning experience for me in so many ways. One of the first things I did here was to take part in a large meet up with some of my fjriends from the internet. This in itself is a huge step as I have been talking to some (most!) of them for several years and never entirely believed I would actually be fortunate enough to get to know them in person, not even for a tiny little while -- but there were certainly other aspects that made this an absolutely enormous deal, too.

In amongst all of the small nudges of learning and skill development (and I'm trying very hard to use every uncomfortable thing as an opportunity to practice my skills), one of the big things that is coming up for me is my response to touch.

Most people who know me are aware that in general I am extremely uncomfortable with the concept of hugs and tacticle experiences - even to the point of actively disliking internet "hugs" (and other forms of touch) most of the time. It's one thing I have generally managed to have quite clear and consistent boundaries on online and sometimes in person - you don't get to touch me without my permission, even if other times I've been okay with it.

That said, and with acknowledgement and awareness of the fact that the "don't touch" boundaries have been quite heavy lately due to recent experiences, one thing I knew I really wanted to do despite everything, was to try and hug these friends while I have the opportunity, because who knows when I'll have another chance!

I went on to actually achieve this very well, and at first I properly surprised myself with how easy it all was. I expected some pretty big repercussions but there were no horrid flashbacks, no sudden memories crashing in on me -- just quiet recognition that it didn't feel like I needed to take off running and get away.

I doubt I've ever hugged so many people so much, and I don't regret doing it, but I was wrong that there were no repercussions or consequences of it, I just didn't see them at first because they looked so different to what I was expecting to see.

This time, instead of a straight jump from experience to flashback/memories, I had some different thought processes in between (although I didn't properly see them until a few days later). Some of the biggest of these were things like

"If I say yes to one person hugging me, I have to say yes to everyone who would want/give/take a hug."

"If I enjoy touch in this form, I am both asking to be hurt, and responsible for this eventuality."

I also have noticed in myself a very strong belief that others will find me dirty -- I was surprised any time anyone wanted to touch me, or accepted touch from me, and kept expecting them to get up and wash their hands/shower every time.

And now, days later, the thought patterns are beginning to trigger off some of those old problems... yet I am still feeling 'huggy'. Some of the people from the meet are still here, and I still want to hug them - it still feels safe and comfortable to hug them.

I'm finding this really tricky to navigate - though I still think despite everything, this is a huge step forward for me, and above all I am tremendously grateful I've had the opportunity(ies!) to explore this.

Challenges/cheerleading statements:
Every person and every situation is different. If I'm not comfortable hugging someone - whether that is in general, or in (a) specific circumstance, it's okay to say no.
Enjoying a specific instance of touch that I choose to allow is not the same as saying I asked for someone to take action against my body without my consent.
My past has not made me unclean.

Until next time, may you all find your own small fences along the way.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sanguine Saturday in Ireland

Goodness! Here I am in the United Kingdom! It's been a huge week for me. I suspect that's going to be true of every week for the next little while. ;) I've been in Belfast since Monday, and I head to London tomorrow.

I feel so much more brave and confident here, it's amazing. I realised at some point just how far away my father is right now and it was like a coat of anxiety that I took off. I don't have to worry about him calling or turning up or anything at all like that, I don't have to be so terrified that anything I do or say will be carried back to him through his connections. I'm half a world away and it's wonderful.

Success Stories:
No burning.
No drinking.
Actually, no self harm of any kind!
I spent an entire day sitting with some incredibly uncomfortable feelings.
When I started getting overwhelmed I followed my RPP.
I handled an incredibly stressful situation -- due to delays on my first flights & a loooong hold up at UK Border Security, I missed my connecting flight to Ireland and was told that I would have to pay around $500 (au) in order to take a flight that day as there were no economy seats left. Not what you want to hear 29 hours after you've left your home airport! After reaching out for support and help (another success!), I was able to use my skills to return to the BMI desk and ask to be placed on standby -- a quick explanation and the lovely man there put me straight on a plane that I'd been told was booked solid for economy. (And I later counted at least a half dozen empty seats...)
I've been using my skills a lot to manage anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings.

Gratitudes/Happy Things:
Amazing people
Soft toys
Ice cream vending machines
Huge-normous stores that have EVERYTHING in them!
Making memories of a good kind
Beautiful sights
Climbing inside the ruins of castles and towers and amazing things that were started as early as the 12th century, and touching it and feeling that history singing through the stones.

Challenge and cheer-leading statements:
I've come across the other side of the WORLD. I can do [whatever] too!
Who says I don't deserve this?
I'm an okay person.
It's okay to look after myself.

Apologies for the lack, but no outward links again this week. I think I probably will post less links while I'm away, but feel free as always to link in a comment to my SS posts if you do your own version! I still want to read and I'm sure others do, too!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sanguine Saturday -- last one before the UK!

Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow. Apologies for the potentially less coherent post than normal, I don't think I have been this terrified in a while, and I don't seem able to calm it down. In 16 hours I'll be on the way to the airport and I'm pretty wired right now. I think it's really important I still do my SS post, though, because a) it's one of those things that helps to keep me on the right track in general, and b) doing it means I have to slow down and think a bit in a different way, which I sorely need right now.

I'm sure I'll miss a lot of things because I can't hold my mind still enough, so I'm going to acknowledge to myself that I've had a really big week with lots of small achievements that may not even be listed. (Because I know that's true even if I can't pinpoint all of those achievements right now.)

Success Stories:
No burning -- 2.5 months it's been now, I think.
Very little wound interference, hardly any trich behaviours and NO self harm at all this week!
On the 7th I earned my first AA chip for a month sober.
I used my skills to create a relapse prevention plan (for my trip) with my alcohol counsellor.
I got my photos in to the ekka and organised everything for my dreamcatcher entry.

Gratitudes/Happy Things:
Games consoles & the games on them
Having got my room all lovely and tidy in time!
Good friends
Soft toys!

Challenge and cheer-leading statements:
Even though this feels intolerable, it's not. Even if I can't catch my breath here in this place, it's okay to stay where it is. Eventually it will pass.
Worst case scenario, I pay a little extra or I buy something when I get home. It's not the end of the world.
Things probably won't go according to the "perfect" plan -- but that's okay! Sometimes when things don't work out the way we think we want them to, something better happens down the line because of it.
Whatever happens, whatever comes, whatever whatevers, I can handle it. I will handle it.

Apologies for the lack, but no outward links today. If you've posted your own version of Sanguine Saturday or positives this past week, feel free to link to it in a comment!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sanguine Saturday -- the Silly O'Clock Sunday edition!

Oh man. There's one more Sanguine Saturday after today, and then I'm away! It got close very quickly! I've had some great conversations this week, with things to learn, things to learn from, some that were just really fun or soothing, and some that were just plain interesting.

Getting healthy has taken a bit of a side focus to allow me to work more heavily on getting ready for my trip -- which is, in a roundabout way, a way of getting healthier, I think. Certainly part of what building a life worth living means to me, so that's been good and important. Unfortunately alongside the business and excitement is a huge amount of fear that seems to be growing as the trip gets closer. I may have come close to this three years ago, but things are pretty different now (and being hit by a car less than a fortnight before leaving definitely added a couple of new elements of fear to this trip!) and this is closer than I got back then, anyway!

Still. I've got this. I can do it! I'm going to do it!

Success Stories:
No burning.
Four weeks sober.
Lots of tidying done!
I've been walking a bit.
I didn't cancel with my alcohol counsellor.
I negotiated with my brother to get him to take some of the stuff here in boxes (for garage sale/getting rid of) to my mother's friend's place for me to store it.
I made a To-Do list for myself for the time leading up to my holiday, and I'm doing pretty well at following it.
I worked out a selection of photos for the Ekka this year (and then I asked friends to halve the photo selection for me & used a tally system to determine which ones to enter :p).
I put in an entry form for four different categories of things this year!
I realised two things I think I like about myself! (That I'm the kind of person who enjoys meaningful discussions -- like discussing fictional constructs and whether the term fiction applies at all -- and that I'm the kind of person who can thoroughly enjoy something knowing they're not good at it.
I made this new blog layout/template for Dialectic Dichotomy as a distraction on a particularly rough night/day. (Feel free to let me know your thoughts on it!)

Gratitudes/Happy Things:
Good friends
My nieces and nephew
Pokemon on my DS (wow, can't say I ever expected *that* one to be there!)
The opportunity to learn how to like things about myself
Tidying blitzes to make it easier/less scary to tackle

Challenge and cheer-leading statements:
It is okay to ask for help. Even if I don't get it, it doesn't mean I was wrong to have asked.
It's normal to be scared about what I'm facing! It doesn't mean I'm weak or stupid. Others would be scared in my shoes, too.
Nobody cares what I weigh or if I'm pretty "enough" or anything else along those lines. My friends like me because of who I am, not for/because of those things.
It's okay to find things to like things about myself.
I can totally do this.

Don't forget to post up your own version of Sanguine Saturday (any day, any format as long as it's positive-focused!) and shoot me the link! If you're joining us in this challenge, I want to know about it. Finally, of course, don't forget to check out this week's list of Sanguine Saturday versions:
Lua of Almost Positive with Weekend Positivity
D'Arty of Living In Iowa with Auspicious Weekly Reflections
Sairs of This Lunatic Express with Positives for the week
Jennifer of magnificasti mirabilia with Holiday weekend treasure!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who deserves help? (Or: "You've just tried to braise a pork chop in the toaster")

The other day I came home from my session with my alcohol counsellor with a fair bit to think about. After a bit of mulling it over, I decided to ask a group of people what the term "coping" means to them. I got a large number of answers, but only one that I was really looking for - but it didn't match my definition of it, either. The question (and the answers) sparked a different conversation with a good friend, about who deserves help and when -- on, of course, a more personal note.

Some of the things that came up for me in this discussion were some issues/concerns and some beliefs I hold that I've been challenging without fully recognising:
I think coping is equal to feeling like there's a reason to keep living/fighting, not struggling all the time emotionally, and I think I believe that the only people who 'deserve' help are those who aren't coping.
I am scared that Mental Health are right and that if I just tried hard enough, I'd be able to pull myself together and build a life worth living in a much shorter time frame than I'm currently managing.
I get upset when my counsellor says I'm coping well because I don't fit my own definition of what coping is, and I use that definition as my "proof" that I can check on to see if I'm allowed to ask for help (such as by seeing a counsellor).

I decided the bigger part of the discussion stands pretty well on its own merit in the form it's already in, with a few edits for clarity, conciseness or just punctuation/grammar (not even sharing of IRC logs allows for completely rubbish grammar on my blog!). That said, I should probably warn you - don't read on an empty stomach! Someone was clearly hungry! ;)

F(riend): Let's say you and I are taking a cooking class. It's the final test, they've told us to cook this outrageously complicated meal and we have two hours. I'm buzzing along, I know exactly what I'm doing, I'm doing it all right, but I'm a bit slow. You suck. You can't tell your ass from your apples and you've just tried to braise a pork chop in the toaster. When the chef comes along, who should get more help?

M(e): Me. Or someone should take me out of the running!

F: Yes. I'm doing alright on my own and would benefit from some assistance and if I want it, I should get it, but you aren't doing well at all. You're so confused and overwhelmed that not only will you not get your braised pork chops with apples and onions out on time, you will probably deliver - late - grilled cheese. And have absolutely no idea how you did it.

(This is, truthfully, almost how I cook for real! Analogy and reality crossover!)

F: Clearly you didn't get the skills you needed in Chef school so you should probably go back and try again. Both of us, however, are better off than the third chef who has all her ingredients, all her pans and spoons and things prepared, plenty of help and plenty of time... and is sitting there filing her nails instead. She does not deserve help, in my opinion.

F: This analogy carries over. Anyone with any interest at all in improving, no matter where they're starting - from "almost an expert but needs a nudge" to "ass over breakfast", deserves to have assistance. Some of us need more than others, some of us GET more than others but it comes in the form of a troupe of angry 6 year olds who think they're gourmet Chefs - not very helpful and a bit baffling as to how they can manage to hurt your feelings so much they're just tetchy little midgets, but that's what happens when they send you to the primary school for cooking lessons.

F: It's not like you went in there incompetent and came out incompetent. You went in unable to even open the bag of bread for peanut butter and jelly, and now you're making French toast. But there's only so much you can learn from idiots.

F: It's unfortunate that you happened to be in a place where the help they offered you was provided by baboons in diapers, but
a) you did learn many, many things from them... you took what you were given and you made something useful, which says not much about them but hours and hours of things about you, and
b) they've treated you pretty poorly, which is unfortunate, and I wish I knew why, but it doesn't really matter. What they have to offer, you have gotten. Until they learn the right way to put the sausage in the pan, they can hardly teach you to make the rest of breakfast.

Ignoring the somewhat hostile (but quite amusing!) view she has of the mental health professionals that have been involved in the main part of my care, she made some very important points:
It doesn't matter what "level" you're at, if you need the help, you deserve it. I was able to learn things, and that's good, but not having learned everything there is to know about how to build a better life for myself doesn't mean I need to be beating myself up for it.

Challenges & Cheerleading:
Just because I fit my counsellor's definition of coping doesn't mean I don't deserve to ask for help.
It's okay to not be perfect.
I have equal worth to others.

What does coping mean to you? Does your definition change if you apply it universally (as opposed to self-application only)? What defines "need" in terms of asking for or receiving help? What are your thoughts on the analogy and the message behind it?

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.