Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Week 36b

I was asked a question about my post last week by a good friend - given what I was moving away from, he was curious to know, what does recovery and living in sobriety give me and move me towards?
I met him when he was a supporting coach on a very good NLP course I went on.  He was very good at reflecting back to me and really allowed me to uncover some difficult learnings.  I very quickly learnt that a lot of my approaches are 'away froms' rather than 'towards', more moving backwards rather than forwards.  It's almost as if I am afraid to look at where I'm going in case I don't get there or maybe it's easier to blame someone else if I can't see where I'm going.  Either way, I have been working on becoming a 'towards' person, it would seem not very successfully!  As a general rule, we do better on focusing what we want to happen rather than what we don't.  Many of us have been told this as parents and may be more successful with our children than ourselves, using the words 'be careful' rather than 'don't break it' or 'don't fall off'.  So, let me answer the question, what does recovery and living in sobriety give me and move me towards?

Honesty, people who are truly honest with each other, improving the way that they deal with other people.  Learning to be honest about themselves, living an honest life.  Talking honestly about their lives to now, sharing their insecurities, their mistakes, their fears.  And moving on, finding a better life.  A life without those fears, without insecurities, without any more mistakes.  Of course, it's not all perfect, a lot of people go through some incredibly significant traumas.  What recovery through AA gives is an amazing support group, a group who are all too aware of how difficult it is living any life sober never mind dealing with extra shit.  The most inspirational people are those who, when they describe their past life, you can't see them in it, they seem too far removed from the person they're describing.  That's when I'm reminded how it really works, that it can transform me too, that I can become warm, generous and loving, in a truly genuine and not forced way, and that one day I too can become lovable.  And that, Mike, gives me hope.  Hope, in a way that I didn't understand existed,
certainly not for someone like me.  It fills me with warmth.  From head to toe, inside and out, glowing.  Fully protected without the need for a wall of glass or stone, no need for a shield or sword, no suit of armour, no masks.  To walk out into the world without all that weighing me down, to hop, skip and jump into the day.  That's what I'm moving towards and I feel like a really lucky girl.

Ok, so still a strong smattering, so we go again.....

Honesty, people who are truly honest with each other, improving the way that they deal with other people.  Learning to be honest about themselves, living an honest life.  Talking honestly about their lives to now, sharing their insecurities, their mistakes, their fears.  And moving on, finding a better life.  A life of calm, security and sensitivity.  Of course, it's not all perfect, a lot of people go through some incredibly significant traumas.  What recovery through AA gives is an amazing support group, a group who are all too aware of how difficult it is living any life sober never mind dealing with extra shit.  The most inspirational people are those who, when they describe their past life, you can't see them in it, they seem too far removed from the person they're describing.  That's when I'm reminded how it really works, that it transforms me too, that I am warm, generous and loving, in a truly genuine way, and that I too am lovable.  And that, Mike, gives me hope.  Hope, in a way that I didn't understand existed, certainly not for someone like me.  It fills me with warmth.  From head to toe, inside and out, glowing.  Feeling the sun on my face, the air on my skin, the sand beneath my feet and
in between my toes.  To walk freely out into the world, to hop, skip and jump into the day.  That's what I'm moving towards and I am a really lucky girl.
Yes, that is better, we are making progress.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Week 36

Last week I watched the latest release in the Hunger Games series.  It was one of the last films that Philip Seymour Hoffman made before he died of a drug overdose.  For me, the death of an addict has particular significance.  With the still sober addict, it is a moment to celebrate their survival from this disease but for the addict in relapse, a terrifying reflection on the power that it has.  It was made all the more poignant by the fact that Woody Harrelson was in the film playing a known alcoholic living in a prohibition state.  I often wonder if society provides alcoholism with an acceptable face.  The 'heavy drinker' is a well used term, someone who likes a drink (or many) but, to all intense and purposes, isn't believed to be an alcoholic.  They are well known for long evenings at the bar, hangover fed mornings and wasted weekends.  Jokes are told of their latest antics, their smart retorts and even, the accepted gaps in memory.  Not knowing how they got home, where they left their phone, wallet, handbag; all told with smiles on faces.  They get sponsored through a dry October, friends and colleagues admiring them for their resilience.  They may be 'just' a heavy drinker but they may be an alcoholic in hiding, living on a knife-edge.  Their every waking moment looking forward to that first drink when they arrive home, when their day will wash over them, the woes will disappear, the turmoil in their head will calm and clear.  It's accepted as the norm, they think of it as the norm, they only know others who also consider it the norm.
The mental obsession doesn't have to be all day, it can time itself to kick.  In my later stages, I went to the supermarket every day on the way home to get a bottle of wine if there wasn't one waiting for me.  Often I would pick up something else, not to make it look better but just because I was there.  I have a lot of friends who would share their buying across various supermarkets and off licences, aware that they might attract dubious attention.  It never occurred to me that anyone would question why I would be there, it's not as if it was a bottle of vodka every day.   Woody's character carries a drink everywhere, strangely seems to be surviving prohibition very well, just waiting for it to be over.  An addict in relapse is a very different beast.  To have known recovery, to have lived in sobriety and to have lost it, absolutely terrifies me.   The idea of returning to a world that I now understand on a completely different level fills me with absolute dread and fear.  Fortunately, this doesn't have to be my journey and I can work on a different one.  The death of a famous addict brings the message into the media that there are ways of getting sober and gives recovery programmes a chance to be heard with the hope that this can save the life of others.   Through the sharing of experience, strength and hope, this is our way.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Week 35

Exercise week this week:

Exercise 16 - find a gap (that bit is easy, as you know) and write three sentences including a metaphor....

In my attempt to keep my writing flowing sometimes this forced structure is quite hard.  So, I'll choose a gap moment, write three sentences and keep my fingers crossed that one of them includes a metaphor.  I'll probably have to look that up.

The pains were now starting to come in waves, each one drowning her as it flowed through and over body.  The time between contractions was reducing rapidly and Frankie knew this was definitely time.  Finally, the birthing pool was ready and she climbed into it, submerging her throbbing stomach beneath the water.

Not sure if that works entirely from a metaphor perspective but hey ho.  Very pertinent timing though as tomorrow sees the anniversary of my becoming a parent just 14 years ago.  I always find it a very emotional day and am really intrigued by how my acupuncture session will go.  It's been a busy couple of weeks at work and the weekend has provided a much needed respite.  A friend helped me clear out some stuff from the attic last week and yesterday I took 28 boxes of children's clothes to a charity shop.  Yes, I did mean to write 28.  I had hoped to have child no 3 but it became quite clear that we didn't have the financial, physical or emotional capacity for a third and, while I had settled with that a while ago, I hadn't followed it through.  I did venture into a couple of the boxes but the majority of them went out of the house untouched.  It kicked off a wide variety of emotions, some good and some not so.  It was lovely to be reminded of times past, yet it was also difficult to be reminded of the hopes that would never be.  I'm very happy with the two children that I have, they are both amazing and I know that a third would have made it all very difficult.  Whilst I am disappointed, I also know that I am truly grateful for what I have and for where I am.  Anything else would have created a very different present and today is just right for me.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Week 34

I guess it's not what it set out to be, you and me, is it?  We talked about an idyll, how the countryside would be beautiful, how it would inspire my writing.  The ideal family life, just perfect for bringing up children.  Fresh air, open fields, a supportive community.  How can it inspire me when I'm so bloody tired and so damned lonely.  I love Finn, I do, but it's relentless.   He's in everything I do.  I'm feeding him, watching him, playing with him, sleeping with him, chasing him, reading to him.  I fall asleep next to his bed and when I wake up he's staring at me, awake already.  There's no break, no time to write, no me time.  It's fine for you; your work, your vocation, all fitting in really nicely.  Off early in the morning, leaving behind your 'sleeping beauties', the occasional text during the day asking how 'we' are when really you just mean Finn and then home at night, rushing up the stairs to catch him before he drops off.  It's not fair, he doesn't need you to wake him up when I've spent two hours taking him through a bedtime routine.  He needs structure, it might seem like a regime to you but he needs to sleep and this would work if you would leave it to me.  I know you want to be an active parent, to be involved, but that needs to be on his terms not yours.  I know we said that we didn't want to change, that we wanted to be different to our own parents but we have changed, we had to.  To be honest, I think it would be wrong if we hadn't.  I do still love you but I don't know where 'we-two' have gone.  Oh yes, there's definitely 'we-three', so much so it's suffocating. The perfect family.  Everywhere we go, on our best behaviour, looking the part, the local vet with his wife and son. The county shows, the country fairs, out on parade, meeting Farmer This and Mrs That.  And your friends Mac, not mine.  There might be a community but it's a closed door to me and Finn.  Yes, they were different at the beginning but it soon dried up.  I had nothing in common with any of them; the perfect mothers; the career wives; the WI crowd; forced conversations about the weather and keeping home.  I tried to make it work, we had dinner parties, people came round, we entertained but there were no invites back, did you notice that?  I've never been so stilted, so lacking in inspiration.  There's nowhere to escape it, in the city I could lose myself, be something else.  I had friends, here I have nothing.
It's not right Mac, not for me.

I guess it's not what it set out to be, you and me, is it?  I thought it would be great, that you'd love it up here.  The fresh air, the hills, the open spaces.  What a wonderful place to bring up a family, our family.  I saw us in a rambling home, kids running through the halls, friends gathering in the kitchen.  Frankie, where did all that go?  When did we decide only to have Finn.  He is great but I thought we'd have more, I thought you wanted more.  We talked about children, not a child.  We talked about working alongside each other, my vet practice providing the base for you, for you to write.  Why have you stopped writing, stopped sharing it with me?  You don't like my friends, their wives.  You've no patience to get to know anyone.  If they're not right for you at first meeting then that's it, no second chance.  How can you hope to make friends like that?  I don't understand why you don't want to spend time with people, Frankie, why Finn doesn't have friends of his own.  I have to work really hard to provide this house, this home, this life that you take for granted.  Do you have any idea how knackered I am, early mornings long days.  Weekends at shows and fairs, being the face of the practice, supporting the community so that it keeps supporting us.  Yes, I do love it and yes, it is what I always wanted, but at what cost?  I never see him during the week, you've rushed him off to bed before I get home, no thought for my time with him.  And then there's the drinking.  Whatever time of day I get home, there you are glass of wine in hand, the bottle 'only just' opened.  The dinner parties ruined by your ranting, your rudeness, your inability to keep your food down.   We had to stop having them, going to them, I had to manage my reputation.  I still love you Frankie, but I'm not sure that I like what you have become.
It's not working Frankie, not for me.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Week 33

Busy week, from the balmy Pembrokeshire shores to the hustle and bustle of London at half term.  Two days at the seaside has reinvigorated me, blown away some rusty cobwebs and warmed up my soul.  Standing at the edge of the shore, feeling the wind coming off the sea, waves washing over my wellies, simply blissful.  I could stay there for hours, fortunately I haven't as I would have been washed away but I do love it.  The emotional balancing that takes place is amazing.  I often wonder how much I could manage without, to be able to do that everyday, whether it would be sustainable or whether I need more.  Even following it with two days in London hasn't lost it, although having just been for acupuncture, it is possibly difficult to tell.  I was blessed with a warm and sunny afternoon so had the roof down on the car, music surrounding me and a fantastic drive so feel very indulged this afternoon.  Am trying out a new cafe too sitting at a fantastic table and bench, might have found the perfect writing spot, will need to come and test out the latte another day and see just how good it is.
Watched some great films whilst away, Maleficent and The Help.  Both were wonderfully inspiring in very different ways.  A fabulous retelling of Snow White from the point of view of the wicked witch, I love seeing the opposite perspective of a story and how it completely challenges your initial understanding, maybe I should write my own reaction to last week's post in a Frankie/Mac style.  The Help was just brilliant, great to watch what could be described as a 'chick-flick' with my daughter that wasn't about the girl/boy relationship.  I do love a good moral tale, especially with the opportunity for good to triumph over evil.  I've always been an advocate of the underdog, especially when I considered myself to be one too.

Yes, there should be an exercise this week and I am supposed to be rewriting a section without any adjectives or adverbs.  However, after writing the above a few days ago I am a bit out of kilter so will be leaving it for now or this will never get posted.  Whoops.....

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Week 32

I guess it's not what it set out to be, you and me, is it?  I've changed, at first not because I wanted to but because I had to.  I was in a really bad place, lost, alone, confused.  I didn't know how to do it anymore, any of it.  Perhaps I should have told you, should have shared, my concerns, my worries, my inner fears, but I couldn't.  I couldn't admit my hopelessness, my failure, my inability to cope.  I couldn't put all that at your door.  I was supposed to be the strong one, the one who did the managing, there for you to lean on, for you to depend on, to be your rock in the storm.  How could I let you down?  I thought we'd been through the rough, the storms, tested our relationship, found our strength together.  What little did I know.
Our marriage started on the back foot, coming home with a honeymoon pregnancy that knocked me out completely, sleeping for hours if not days.  My need for control disabling you, not trusting that you could support, could help.  Parenthood hit us hard, the sleepless nights, the constant feeding.  I had such high expectations of what sort of mother I would be, the father that you would be.  It was never going to be achievable but at what cost.  What followed completely knocked us off our stride.  My parents moving away, your mother having a stroke, buying our first home, my dad's cancer and then, after months of weekly visits, losing your wonderful mum just as our son turned one.  I'm not sure we ever recovered from that.  I tried to do the right things but was always so focused on the goals, the material elements that would measure success.  Maybe with one child we could have bounced back but one was not enough for me so we had another.  And this one was different, the daughter I thought I would never have.  She blew me away.  I had no idea what to do, to be honest I still don't.
We used to solve all our problems over a beer, or two.  Over dinner in the pub, we would come together with a bottle of wine.  Then, with two children, no time nor money for dinners in the pub, we lost our way.  I stopped telling you how it was for me, stopped asking how it was for you.  I made judgments, decisions, imposed solutions to what I thought were our problems, but were only mine.  I took our lives down a very difficult path and then when we got lost, tried to find the way out on my own.  I'm not sure if my drinking got worse, I've never asked you.  It's not as if it was great to start with, we had arguments over it for sure.  You would come and pick me up, probably because you knew I wouldn't make it home left to my own devices.  I would be a mess, if I was there at all.  Like many of my friends, you seemed to accept it, just as I did until the day it changed.  You didn't think I was an alcoholic either.  At first.  And that, I did on my own too.  Going off to meetings, spending time with new people.  Disappearing into an evening, off for a day.  Leaving you alone, again.
There are many who would have left by now, who would have upped sticks and gone to a better place.  Many who would have left while I was still drinking, while I was shouting abuse, while I was belittling you, undermining you.  Maybe you wish you had.  I'm glad you didn't.
But what now?  We are two ships that pass in the night, parenting in parallel.  We share a house but not a home.  We disagree over most things, butting up against each other.  I know that you do not feel you can let go of the past, the times we've spent in counselling have made that clear to me.  It may not be obvious to you but I am trying to be better.   I want to change, to improve, to become a better person, to be someone worth loving.  I need to know if you want that too.  I need to talk to you, to know what you want for your future, for our future.  This time, I want to do the right thing, the loving thing.  But, as I have learnt, I can't do that on my own and it now depends on whether you want to come too.  I'm standing in the ring, no gloves, no fists, I'm waving a white flag, call a truce and see if there's peace to be made.  I wonder what the terms of the agreement will be.
Sent with love.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Week 31

Straight into the exercise this week, was lovely to hear a friend describe my posting gaps as a drought.  Please do prod me if at any time you feel I've been absent too long, nods to Mike and Matt who are doing that already.

Exercise 16.....
Go back to the material you spread across the floor and pick a gap. Write a description of what the weather is doing at the time in a way that might be relevant to the scene.... (Possibly more difficult to do when it's not printed and suggests that she may have been expecting more material than I have, but onward)

This one is quite difficult, I haven't found out what time of year Frankie is having her 'day' in and don't want that decision driven by today's fabulous winds.  I also don't have a gap between writings as I only have the beginning. So, I'll start and see where the weather appears......

Frankie looked through the window, watching the trees leaning in the wind.  Finn was running through the leaves having a ball, he loved this time of year.  He would happily spend hours making piles of leaves, sorting them into colours or shapes depending on his mood, and then running through all of them, giggling hysterically and throwing himself onto the ground.  Frankie loved it too.  The changing colours of the countryside.  She loved how some trees would take the lead and start to change while others clung onto the green of summer.  It was if they were striding off towards winter, bravely defiant, not worried about the loss of their clothing, while the others couldn't bear to go, wanted to stay where they were, fearful of what lay ahead.  The bushes along the lanes would join in, telling her which fields were colder, which felt the winds and where she would find shelter from them too.  The wind was up today, odd gusts taking Finn's piles away from him while others would bring extra bounty.  The arboretum was one of their favourite haunts, time and space for the two of them, to walk the dog, to clear her head.  Coffee and cake with no boundaries that would need effort to contain Finn.  The rain was beginning to join in now, an occasional shower passing over, the only sign of it the drops appearing on the glass in front of her.

Acupuncture was great today.  I feel re-energised, much like last week, ready for whatever's coming.  It has to be said it's making me a bit feisty, almost poky at times.  No longer taking what's thrown at me but starting to throw some of it back.  Possibly not so great for those nearest and dearest who do the most throwing and, therefore, receiving.  Hopefully for me it's an initial only point.  A first step into the ring of life, where previously I've been sat on the edge not knowing how to join in.  I have to come in now on the terms that I created before I can change the rules.  Step up to the plate and then learn how to drop my fists, how to say 'enough is enough', how to be peacemaker.  My acupuncture described it as lying on the track letting the trains roll over me not even aware that they were there.  Now I have developed an awareness of them, I need to learn how to roll away and then I can get up.  Maybe even climb onto the platform and leave the station.  He suggested that I could buy a ticket which I thought was a bit rash, especially for those souls still lying down out there.  We had a great discussion about the amount of energy it took to maintain anger in the body as well as the amount of energy to then contain it, which is apparently more than the same again.  It's fabulous to know that I'm finally processing mine, letting it go from its years of being boxed up in a very small, very well hidden box.  I am completely grateful for where it has brought me but its time is over, I'm ready to let it go and move on.  It has managed my life for long enough, there needs to be change.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Week 30

There's been a lot of loss around over the past few weeks.  I have been with friends who are grieving the passing away of a friend, a brother, a cousin and most recently a mother.  A stalwart of AA passed away a couple of weeks ago, several years after forecast by the medical profession, and was buried on what would have been his 33rd sobriety birthday.  I think I've mentioned before that we define a winner by those who carry their sobriety to their graves and he has become one of our great winners.   He was always putting out his hand to the newcomer, made a point of saying hello to everyone individually before a meeting and would always offer his experience if he felt it was of relevance.  It is thanks to many people like this that the rooms keep people sober, that the programme keeps working its magic and that we can celebrate and trust in the passing of a good friend.   We learn, through experience, how lives are changed and how families recover.  We face into this world with renewed hope and we can deal with emotional challenges through the support of the programme.
It has been a difficult week for me but nothing compared to what it would have been if I'd been drinking.  My head has been 'off on one', filling itself with noise so I've been to a new meeting and re gathered myself.  To be honest, I am struggling at the moment, elements of my life are feeling chaotic and unmanageable.  I am praying for support, praying for others, absorbing my emotions and giving them space.  What I'm not doing so well is handing them over to my higher power and trusting that the right thing will come.  My patience and tolerance are perhaps in need of more practice, the 'perhaps' would suggest they need a lot more practice.  There's a great line in a film that Morgan Freeman makes as God, he says "I don't bestow patience onto you but I will give you plenty of opportunities to practice patience".  There are many times when I look upwards and say that surely this is enough practice by now, it seems not.
Looking in my 'Novel in a Year' book, the ten weeks of writing has come to an end and I should be gathering my bits together.  It needs to be said that I haven't done much more than I've posted but I will gather it together and see what I do have.  I do have some additional scenes in my head that I haven't written down so I will see about working in them.
Love to all who have lost loved ones over the last few months, remember the special times.
RIP Peter, with much love.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Week 29

I started acupuncture last week in an attempt to look after my physical self.  Several events kicked if off.  A very good friend of mine had some last year for a physical illness and there had been a positive impact on both his physical and emotional state.  My knee is still causing me problems after two, what at a stretch could be called, running sessions.  I am becoming quite wary of the onset of my menopause and listening to possible medication options being offered by the medical profession.  Finally, I tried to get my husband to have some earlier in the year and history has shown me that what I propose for him is probably my own needs.  All this combined with rising anxiety levels, lack of sleep filled nights, a need for my writing to flow again and apprehension of dealing with some life stuff, set me thinking about it.  So I did what any good recovering addict should do and took action.  I also booked some time in with my sponsor to make some progress on my Step 8 so that I didn't think I could shirk the emotional work.  It was an amazing experience, we spent a lot of time taking my medical and emotional history which always feels indulgent and then set about with some initial treatment.  Apparently, one of the common problems for people with my condition is that heat becomes trapped in parts of the body so the first job was to dissipate this with several needles inserted along my spine.  What happens is that the needle taps into the heat and allows it to disperse, what you see is a red circle forming in the skin around the needle which then disappears as the heat goes.  Some occur very quickly and some take a bit more time, took about 30/40 minutes for all of mine to go.  Following some pulse checking I then had a couple of needles briefly  inserted into my hands before I was all done for session one.  The effect has been quite interesting.  I did feel different straightaway, calmer more together.  However, I have also had three sleepless nights which have pushed me into decaf coffee, and while slight improvements have been made I'm still very tired.  Session two tomorrow, so will let you know more then.  Very aware this is exercise week so I better get on.....

Exercise 15 - write a section in which you describe what your character looks like.  Aim for two things: economy and detail.  Not a police photofit, concentrate on the small telling things that make a character live for the reader.

Choices, choices.  Frankie or Mac?  Mac or Frankie?  Now or then?  Given that I've probably described Frankie a couple of times, now and then.  I'll write about Mac in the present, having aged since we first met him.  This is going to be a bit of a challenge because Mac is based on several people and I really need to decide what he's going to look like.

Mac had aged well and comfortably.  His thick dark hair had developed several grey strands, which added an air of dignity to his easy going manner.  He had that way of looking at you as if you were the only person in the room, his green-grey eyes welcoming you into his world.  The receptionists at the surgery were constantly apologising for his timekeeping, as almost all of his patients' owners shared more than their concerns of their pets with him, leaving appointment schedules to go awry.  But for all his easy going outlook, he kept himself to himself with most of his colleagues knowing little of his family life.  He valued privacy and self reliance, that should he have any troubles, they were his to know about, his to own and his to resolve.  And without knowing it, this was probably what had aged him most, for this he kept to himself, and who knows, if hadn't, perhaps life would have taken a different turn and there would be no story to tell.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Week 28

Would you like a cup of tea?  Simple, straightforward? My mother generally will only have one if you're having one, which infuriates my husband.  My answer will depend on my state of mind.  As a people pleaser, I will want to have one if you're having one, so that we match and I will also want to support your generosity.  However, I will also be wary of putting you to trouble or having one on my own and therein comes a problem.  I won't actually know if I would like one because I will be torn between the two.  If completely left up to me then I would hedge my bets that the answer would end up being yes, but more than one please as one is never enough.  Tea is my early morning and end of day drink, it wakes me up to the day and settles me down at the end.  It's calming and comforting, a bit of a hug in a mug.  I find it extremely difficult to drink out of cardboard cups so struggle to take it in during the day which can then result in too much coffee.  Coffee is a different problem for me.  As a latte girl, I need a bit of substance to it, watery types don't fit and, interestingly, my preference would be to drink it continuously.  Having become much more aware of its impact especially in terms of anxiety I keep my caffeine levels in measure and decaf early and in the afternoon, when I remember.  Occasionally it will get out of hand and then a restless and sleepless night will follow with all the consequences that brings.  I've also replaced the 'pub' with the 'coffee shop'.  The place to go to escape the containment that home brings.  The place to think clearly without bounds, to relax, to find solitude, to change my surroundings and remove whatever pressure is facing me today.  You won't be surprised to know that I do most of my writing in a coffee shop.  It's a huge relief to know that my children haven't spent much of their childhoods in pubs, that they don't have conscious memories of my drinking.  Previously I thought it would be cool for them to be part of that grown up scene, to connect with the sociability and have a deeper understanding of this life.  What madness my head used to contain, what possible good could it do a child to regularly see the mess that drinking brings into the lives of supposedly grown up people.  It's a substantial part of my gratitude to AA for the change that has come to the lives of my children.  There may be cake issues to deal with but it doesn't compare to what it could have been.  I may be a bit off the wall after too much coffee and sugar but at least I have never been abusive.  My husband knows what that is like, it remains to be seen whether he will ever be able to forgive and forget, but for now my children are ignorant of that part of my life and long may that be the case.
And with that, I'm going to put the kettle on.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Week 27 - the exercise

In the rush I forgot to complete this week's exercise, so here it is:

Create a scenario that arouses real anger in a character from your book or take one of your convictions and give it to one of your characters.

Intriguingly anger is an emotion that I have spent the past few weeks looking at.  It's proposed as being one of the core emotions of a human being along with fear and love.  I didn't really see myself as angry when I first came into AA but I am starting realise how much of it I am sitting on.  Anyway on with the exercise, let's give some anger to Frankie and see how she gets on.....

Version 1:
Frankie was furious, how dare Mac accuse her of being selfish, and as for taking the family on an emotional roller-coaster, what the hell was he talking about.  She picked up the bottle of wine and flung the cork across the kitchen.  Pouring herself a large glass, her body seethed as his words rolled around her head.  He had absolutely no idea what she had gone through for him.  This was most certainly not the life she had wanted and it most certainly was not on a plate.  She took a swig from the glass, still fuming and walked into the lounge, bottle in hand.  Standing in front of the fireplace, she looked at herself in the mirror.  'Who does he think he is, talking to me like that,' she said to her reflection.  'He talks to me as if I was a 4 year old, let him talk to Finn like that but not to me, I'm not standing for it.'  Another mouthful of wine and, putting the bottle on the mantelpiece, she walked across the room.  Her head continued to pound, her breathing deepening as she paced the room.
'Never has this been about me, everything has always been for everyone else.  Moving up here, buying this house, never having a moment for myself, how could this possibly be about me.'  As the wine flowed through her, she began to calm down, each mouthful quickly followed by another, the second glass disappearing as quickly as the first.  She sat down on the sofa and pulled her knees up to her chest.  She was right, as always and one day he would see that, that much she knew.

Version 2:
This wasn't how it was supposed to be, what have I done?  I look up from the kettle and, getting a mug from the cupboard, make myself a cup of tea.  It wasn't supposed to be like this, I wasn't supposed to be on my own with a child, without a job, without a husband, why should I have this, it's not fair.

As I write this, I realise that feeling angry is hard.  I want her to storm around the room, to throw the glass, to shout at her reflection, to slam the bottle on the table and yet it's all so contained.  It's as if she can't let go.  Or, is it that I can't let go?  What am I afraid of, what will happen if the cracks appear, if the heavens opened, if the rains came down.  What will it be?  Don't get me wrong, I can be angry.  I have shouted at my children, I have stormed out of the house and while sober too.  I have been absolutely livid, unable to step back from the volume that erupts from my mouth, unable to stop myself from reacting.  But is that real anger or something else? I don't know, guess that's why I'm looking at it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Week 27

I often share in meetings how my husband saved my life.  If I hadn't fallen head over heels in love with him and had his children, it could have all turned out very differently.  The becoming a parent isn't everybody's catalyst but it was definitely mine, in so many ways.  Physically, I was at someone else's beck and call.  My baby's sleep patterns became my sleep patterns, his feeding demands satisfied through mine; I was a reactive parent, constantly one step behind him and on the back foot from day one.  Intellectually and emotionally, life changed too.  The focus of my day was no longer my own, I had this child who was dependent on me for setting up his entire life and boy, didn't I know it.  I had always said that I wouldn't be having children, that I had no right to impose my dysfunction on anything else, how grateful I am for that change of heart.  Yet, how guilty that makes me feel too for I was definitely a stressed mother (and still am, for the time being) and they will always have that.  But they changed my drinking, it had to slow down, there were less parties, less days in the pub, less days in bed wasted.  I've only recently accepted that I chose to make the changes, that I could easily, as many others have and do, carried on and not changed.  They could be much more aware of the consequences of having an alcoholic mother and for the lack of that I am truly grateful.  It is also why I began to get sober.  I finally realised that I couldn't continue with the lack of regard for the consequences, that their dependence on me was my choice and I had to reduce the damage.  Those early days sat in AA meetings, denying myself of any worth or value, thinking I could get sober for them, that it didn't have to be about me, were incredibly painful.  Fortunately, I did accept that it had to be about me and that I could only be there for others if I looked after myself.  That, if I don't put my sobriety at the foremost of my life there will always be the risk of a relapse, and what use would I be then.  It is particularly hard at the moment, as I look at my wobbly stool, to see how my home life is causing me stress.  I find it the hardest place to be myself.  I don't know if it's because I feel so responsible or because I expect so much.  The roles of wife and mother seem to clash wildly with being me and I know that I have to change this.  It doesn't mean that I have to leave them, panic not, it does mean that work is needed to get to a better place.  Weirdly, it's made me quite broody too, maybe a desire to start again from scratch instead of fixing what's broken, to take the easier route.  What's comforting is that, as I'm working at being myself, some of my old characteristics are returning and it's dawning on me that some of the person I used to be is ok.  I have moments when my energy levels are up, I'm cracking jokes and I'm having fun again.  Only this time, I'm not feeling insecure, useless, or hiding behind a mask; I actually feel comfortable being myself and am really appreciating what I've achieved.  There are still many times when I don't but I can accept the growth, not beat myself up and choose to focus on the positive.  

Monday, 8 September 2014

Week 26

One of my favourite sayings in AA is that the programme provides a 'bridge to normal living'.  For the first few months I had no idea what was meant by this.   I didn't understand that my life could be lived any other way; I didn't understand that there were others like me and I didn't understand that I could change.  Now, while I know more, I'm beginning to understand how much more there is to know.  Initially I completely rejected the fact that I could do anything normal, I felt so far away from any perception of normality that it seemed preposterous that this could apply to me.  To be fair, I didn't want it either.  I wanted excitement, unpredictability, fun; things that I thought didn't happen to normal people.  How little I knew.  As my awareness developed I began to release that my current way of living was like standing on a penny.  That I could only do it on tiptoes and that it was no surprise that I was constantly falling off.  Also, that when I looked up from my penny, it was in the sea and, that while I could see normal living, it was a long way across the water.  Little by little, my penny grew into solid land and the sea gradually became a trickle of a stream running in front of me that I could step across.  As I sit on my front steps, in glorious sunshine, the dog at my feet, a cup of tea by my side; I am enjoying reflecting on this change.   In the past I have likened life as a recovering alcoholic to walking along a fence, precariously balanced, knowing that at any moment I could slip off and fall into the depths beyond.  Today, it feels like I'm sat on a sea wall, dangling my toes into the water below.  Let's face it, there's no point living so near the sea and not knowing how to swim.  However, there are big differences between swimming in the shallows and swimming in the deep with the sharks.   I need to develop my swimming skills as well as my sailing ones to make sure that I keep myself safe and out of harms way.  In early recovery my focus was on my drinking and the basics to stay sober.  To keep myself safe for the longer term, I need to look at all aspects of my life, to make sure that my emotional/spiritual, intellectual and physical selves are well, much like a three legged stool, all growing together so that balance is maintained.  This may prove to be the hardest journey yet and I have to ask myself if I am really up for it and the consequences that it may bring.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Week 25

People often ask me if not drinking alcohol causes problems and mostly I'm getting used to it.  The first year is a really critical one in terms of the calendar of events that an alcoholic must learn to go through; the first Christmas, the first birthday, New Year's Eve, the 6 nations, etc.  All those moments that in a previous life would have been possible sprees, opportunities to let hair down or, in my case, stressful times that I would worry about for weeks ahead and then rue for weeks afterwards.  I would consider not drinking and then decide on a drink plan to ensure that I wouldn't get drunk before failing miserably and possibly with dire consequences.  There are also events that don't happen on an annual basis such as weddings and funerals and they can cause considerable damage to an alcoholic in recovery.  It seems that I was fortunate (not that it felt like it at the time) to have my first wedding in sobriety on my 6 month birthday, not mine of course but my husband's niece.  It was preceded by the hen do which was possibly more foreboding than the wedding.  A bunch of bright young beautiful successful 30 somethings, all doomed to heighten all my shortcomings and, as we term them in AA, my 'less thans'.  By the way, we also have our 'more thans', moments when we feel holier than thou and better than everyone else, the ego coming into play and sometimes more challenging to deal with.  In the end, I sailed through both events, thanks to handing over to my HP and living in the moment.  It was fascinating watching other people drinking without envying every sip and seeing for myself the range of effects that alcohol has on people and the consequent impact on others.  The emotional nightmare who leans on everyone for support, sharing her deepest woes with complete strangers; drinking stories regaled as if they were badges of honour regardless of the trauma caused to others; people devastated by their partners behaviour; non-jokes resulting in howls of laughter.  And then, the joy of the hangover, now that was fantastic and I have to work really hard at not being holier than thou.  The downing of paracetamol, pints of water, buckets of coffee and the complete loss of a day.  It was also great to dance again and realise how much that drinking had taken away from me.
These past weeks have seen some different challenges.  For one, we have been camping and going to sleep on rough sloped ground in a gale whilst sober is a challenge I hadn't seen coming.  Likewise, sitting with friends who were sharing a bottle of one of my favourite wines was another.  The temptation to accept a sniff was overwhelming but perseverance held in and I got through it.  I had to distance myself as memories of it flooded back.  The scent of it filled my nostrils, the taste of it on both my tongue and the back of my throat bounced around my head.  Memories of how relaxed I felt after that initial sip, my body aching to feel that again.  I was practically sat on my hands during dinner, sipping at my soft drink and blanking out any discussion related to it.  Fortunately my head also tuned me into possible consequences of that sip, the heated arguments that could follow and the tension that would be unbearable.  At an AA meeting post-holiday, I likened my relationship with consequences to the ticking of terms and conditions boxes.  Every drink I take comes with my associated ticking of the box without reading the small print; I may have been fully aware of the implications but I was certainly not interested in accepting the responsibility of my actions.  Its an awful thing to write; how can I possibly not take that responsibility and yet it is the story of every addict regardless of vice.  There is a complete detachment of logical and reasonable behaviour, families and friends are caught up in the tornado whipped up by an alcoholic frenzy.   All the while, the alcoholic continues to beat themselves up, attempts to fix wrong after wrong, completely oblivious to the path of destruction lying around them.  For many, it can take years to realise and own these consequences, for some it can be too much and they will never come to terms with it.  For me, I can see what I have done but I am struggling to make appropriate amends and struggling to always change my behaviour from what is expected.  The good news is that I made it through the holidays, I felt relaxed for the most of it and I’m now using September as a refresh point.  I know my shortcomings and I am working at them, how much better can it get?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Week 24.5

Been a bit of a gap, mmm.  Long story, stolen handbag with iPad, followed by too much time at work and 'stuff'.  Two months is quite a considerable time not to have written anything and I have really missed it.  Likewise, it felt like a friend I was supposed to call and the longer I left it the harder it felt it would need to get going.  I hope this is the beginning of getting back onto it.  Given that I get to define my own rules, I'm still in the middle of my ten weeks and have every chance to get back into it.
It has been a good two months, lovely family holiday in sunny Pembrokeshire followed by finally getting back up to speed at work.  I feel much more entrenched in my job, feet back under the table and starting to understand more about creating and owning my stability.  I have realised that I need a base awareness of my strengths, not only in what they are but in how I use them and how successful they are.  I suppose it's about being able to create my own benchmark so that I don't have to rely on feedback and, more importantly, approval.  People pleasing is a major challenge for any recovering addict.  Our complete lack of understanding of functional relationships and the necessary boundary management causes a lot of our problems.  Job wise, I am starting to see that I do have strengths but I need to understand them too.  What is amazing at the moment, is that I am working with people who I know will be able to help me and that is really exciting.  This time, I really want to learn about what I am good at and how to do it more deliberately so I can be my own measurer.  Wouldn't it be an amazing thing to then find a role that actually needed me to do the things I was good at, perhaps that may even be a possibility.
I did write a bit more novel on holiday, here it is below, chapter 2 of 'the Present':

The room's not spinning.  I'm lying in bed, looking at the ceiling and I feel ok.  I don't have to close my eyes again, curl into a ball and wish that it was over.  I really do feel ok.  Slowly I start to remember yesterday evening.   I turn to lie on my side and curl my knees to my chest.  The glass of wine beside my bed isn't empty or smashed, it still has wine in it and I don't want it.  My mouth doesn't feel like I've been licking sandpaper, my head isn't pounding, I don't have an immediate need to run to the bathroom.  I don't want a drink, in fact I really fancy a cup of tea.  A cup of hot, steaming tea.  I pull myself up and lean back against my pillows.  Looking around my room my eyes begin to fill.  I have so had enough of this.  This wallowing in self pity, this misery, this empty nothingness.  I breathe a deep sigh and look at the clock.  6.30, when did I last see 6.30.  I don't know and, as I think about, I can't remember when I last looked at the clock.  I pick it up to see if it's working and it changes to 6.31, it's working.  I guess I could get up, Finn will be getting up for school soon.  As I think that, I realise that I can't remember taking Finn to school recently, how can that be?  Oh Frankie, what have you done.  I put my feet to the floor and raise myself from my bed.  My body aches all over; putting my hands on my shoulders I stretch it out and shrug my shoulders.
 I walk across the landing towards the bathroom and catch sight of myself in the mirror.  This time I don't stop, I know who it is that I can see in it.  In the bathroom, I find the remains of my haircut in the sink, nice one Frankie; Mac would have had a hissy fit at that one.  The tears start as I remember the rant that would come at even a single strand of hair left in the bath.  It wasn't always that way, it really wasn't.   I step into the shower and wash my hair again.  The conditioner glides through; as I wash the back of it, I realise that I will need to get it looked at, I might be regretting cutting it off.  The water washes over my face, the tears now indistinguishable.  I stand very still and close my eyes.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Week 24

I wimped out on the dialogue in chapter 2, my expectation was that there would be a conversation between Frankie and Mac but I found the whole experience quite schizophrenic.  I was almost wanting to change seats where I was writing to see what would be.  Do I want Mac to be someone who can talk to anybody or is this conversation with a complete stranger and the request to spend the day together an easy thing for him or as difficult as it is for Frankie.  I don't want her to be overwhelmed by his confidence, which I don't want him to have too much of, and yet I need them to strike up a conversation and find themselves caught up in it.   All of which I have to write and indeed create.  I have an understanding of my characters but will some of the traits I want them to have mean that they will have behaviours that I wasn't expecting.  Can I create a Mac that is comfortably confident without coming across as arrogant?  Or will he not be as confident as I think he should be!  I love shoulds and oughts, hopefully I can understand them and deal with them in fiction.  They occur far too frequently in my own life, setting expectations of myself that aren't always fair or appropriate.  They've become a useful test point in my sobriety and ring warning bells when I find them proliferating my sentences.  Of course, the objective at this point is just to write what I can and not to overthink it, easier said than done.  Which should get me to starting chapter 3, although I don't know at this point if chapter 3 follows chapter 1 or 2 so will carry on the story-lines separately and decide when it's finished.  I know the next stage in both stories but until I've written out both fully, I have no idea where they will intertwine.  The story of the present is so dependent on how the past is told, much like in my own life, the present can take on different meaning as the truths in the past unfold.  I haven't progressed much this week, I came down with a bad cold, must have been the shock of seeing so much sun, and found it quite hard to write after a difficult day at work.  I have also found that my lack of being able to set clear boundaries applies to  weeks and that I am constantly floating between the start and end of them.  I will need to look at when my ten weeks began and define the end date appropriately.
I spent another couple of hours with the RAC yesterday, really beginning to wish that my choice of my car as a symbol of my recovery and its subsequent challenges could be accepted as pure coincidence.  This time it was a fuel lock, different problem but leaving me wondering whether I can rely on it at all.  All was well this morning though and it feels very happy in the sunshine.  
I did manage to write some more from chapter 2 following this post, so rather than wait till next week, here it is.

Chapter 2 ctd:

"Two bottles of Pils, please", said Frankie, leaning over the bar to squeeze in-between the two guys either side of her.    Collecting the bottles and the change, she squeezed back out and headed through the crowd to her friend Sean.  He was standing with his back against the wall, his eyes scanning around the room, taking in the faces he didn't know as well as those he did.  They were in a small underground club in Bristol renowned locally for its live music.  With its low ceilings, roughly plastered walls, small dance floor as well as hidden nooks and crannies, it worked well for Frankie.  Everyone came for the music and she could get lost in it without worrying about whether anyone was watching.  Sean had come down for the weekend from London, her best friend and soulmate.  He was now doing a second degree in Horticulture since getting a job working alongside a landscape gardener and had finally found an outlet for his creativity.  He and Frankie had hit it off on their first day and had been a much needed rock for each other as they both struggled to settle into university life.  Both shared the same sheltered upbringing, parents high in expectations who'd been unable to provide them with any understanding or knowledge about dealing with life.  They'd both had their hearts broken by the perfect man, fortunately not the same one, and had supported each other with endless bottles of wine and boxes of tissues.  Sean had promised Frankie that he would come back for their favourite band and she was thrilled to be out with him.  They'd repeated their Friday night ritual of a Pizza Express takeaway with a bottle of red from Oddbins, catching up on each other's news and were well prepared to dance the night away before collapsing into bed.  What Frankie was not expecting, was to find herself looking into the dark green eyes of the Scotsman she'd met a couple of months ago who now stood in her path.  "Hey, its Frankie, isn't it?  How are you?" said Mac.
"Er, yes, really well, thanks" she stuttered, "what are you doing here?"  She kicked herself even before the words left her lips.
He laughed, "We've come to see the band, they seem to prefer it over here".  Frankie looked around, expecting to find some gorgeous girl hanging off his arm.  "Meet my friend Mark, Mark this is Frankie."  Frankie tried not to smile too enthusiastically as she shook Mark's hand and was not surprised to find that Sean had moved swiftly to her side, Mark was definitely Sean's type.  "Sean, this is Mac, who I met at Rosa's and his friend Mark."  This time she could have kicked Sean as he replied, "Oh Mac, yes, I heard all about you."  Mac smiled but said nothing, the glint in his eye giving Frankie the exact kind of paranoia she had dreaded.  "Don't worry," said Mark, leaning in, "I heard all about you too."
"Here, have my beer," Sean said, passing his bottle to Mac, "and I'll get two more in."
"I'll come with you", added Mark, following Sean to the bar.
"Come here often?" said Mac and they both smiled.  "I can't believe I got to say that again, it was ridiculous enough the first time."
"Yes it was", said Frankie, although this time she didn't feel embarrassed by it.  She couldn't quite believe that he was here, was fate giving her a second chance.
"Cheers", he said, tapping the neck of his bottle against hers, "here's to a good night".
Frankie took a swig at the lager, feeling it run cold down her throat.  She turned to the bar, it didn't look like Sean and Mark would be making their way back anytime soon.
"Did you get the job?" she asked, trying not to hope for a positive response.
"Yes, I did."  She gulped.  "I start next month, Mark and I are looking for a flat, he got a job too."
Frankie felt her skin bubble and the hairs on her arm stand on end.  "That's great news, well done."
"Yeh, Mark's dad's a vet with a big practice up in the Dales but he wants to prove himself out of his shadow so he thought he'd see how we get on.  Means we can try and keep the band going too.  Mark's the drummer."
"Of course," said Frankie, "will we get to see you play?"
"I'm not sure," smiled Mac, "I think we've decided we're not going to make the big time and that, actually, we're not that bothered.  It's good just being able to play with some mates and hang out together.  It seems that Sean and Mark are getting on".
Frankie turned back to look for them.  They were pushed together in a small corner of the bar, giggling like school boys and making no effort to find themselves more room.  Frankie turned back with a frown on her face, "he better be nice to him", she said to Mac, "he's got a heart of gold."
"Don't worry, they're both big enough to look after themselves," said Mac.  "He seems perfectly happy from here."
Frankie didn't get to reply as the crowd started to cheer.  The door behind the stage had opened and the band were making their way out.  "You don't think I'd miss this, do you" whispered Sean in her ear.  "Besides, he's not going far", he said smiling across at Mark as they exchanged glances that Frankie wished she hadn't been party to.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Week 23

Feels like a bit of a liberty, 10 weeks to write as much as you can and here's another exercise too.  Week 3 not good, 500 words but with some additional support at work this week hopefully I can get my hours back to normal and get on with it.  It feels so exciting to have begun and, even though I'm not that happy with what's done thus far, it's great to be able to leave it in draft and move onto another part of the book.  However, today has an exercise so let's on with it.....

Exercise 12 - write another incident, this time where your main character wakes up in the middle of the night.

I sit up.  My head's pounding.  It feels like a stick is beating my forehead from the inside, trying to break out.  I move to stand up; can't and sit back down again, lying back against the sofa.  My stomach lurches; I can feel it rise up towards my throat.  I close my mouth and swallow, my eyes slowly shutting.  I open them again and lean forward, the floor starts to spin beneath me and I rest my head against my knees, shutting my eyes tightly.  "Slowly, slowly", I whisper as my throat begins to burn.  My tongue grates against the top of my mouth as I swallow again, more deeply this time.  I lick my teeth and frown.  The pounding is louder now, several sticks beating together; one two, one two.  I hold my head in my hands, trying to hold it together and stand up.  My whole body aches, I attempt a stretch but stop when I feel the contents of my stomach rising again.  My calves are so tight, I struggle to move my feet.  I reach to the sofa for support and crash back into it.  My stomach can wait no more.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Week 22

As expected fitting in a considerable amount of writing into normal family life didn't go brilliantly.  However I did manage just over 1,000 words and made decent headway into chapter 2.  For those of you who were really enthusiastic and looking forward to it, it comes with a warning.  Don't forget there are two story lines and chapter 2 may not necessarily follow chapter 1.  However, if all goes well I could be posting it next week just to see how the styles sit.  The rest of the bits I know don't follow logically and I can't interweave them until I've finished.
This week's blog comes from the 18:00 train from Paddington, what a side benefit to a London workshop.  Having worked in London previously, it's not a comfortable place and has some memories for me that I'd rather not have.  Fortunately/unfortunately (delete as appropriate) I drank to blackout a lot, this didn't mean that I passed out but that I was unconsciously present at the end of a drinking bout.  It wasn't always a short end either, some of my blackouts lasted for several hours.  Huge gaps in my life that I have never been able to recover, hours of my existence during which I cannot tell you anything about what I did.  Sadly, these were not terrifying enough to force me to look at my drinking but were such a norm for me from the early days at university that I just accepted them.  There's a tale in AA about alcoholism being like someone jay walking who continues to jay walk despite being continually knocked down and hospitalised.  For any sane human being, one is forced to ask how they can keep doing it, it makes no sense at all.  That's what it was like for me, no matter what situation I found myself in, no matter who I hurt, I just kept doing it.  And, although I had no idea that's what I was doing at the time, some of that doing was to detach myself emotionally from what I had just done.  London has a lot of those holes as well as uncomfortable memories of 21st birthday parties, rugby matches etc., those days/nights that I do remember and which I have to accept as part of my journey.  That isn't to accept them unconditionally but to understand and be aware of them as part of what made me who I am today.   The acceptance that I can only be me today because of absolutely every single thing that happened to me from day dot.  There's so much of my programme that I love because of its logic, because of the way I can follow an assumption, use a theory, create a mathematical equation from, it makes me very excited.  I did try to write down an example of that but I will have to find one that wasn't quite as hardcore as the only one I can think of, not ready to share that one yet.  

Seems that there was enough time on the train to get on with chapter 2......

Frankie manoeuvred her way, through the bustling cafe, to the only empty table and sat down.  This was the best way to spend a day off, a mug of milky coffee and a bacon sandwich, in her favourite cafe in all of Bristol.  She loved nothing more than to settle into a seat, watch the world go by and write about what she saw.  Her notebook was packed full with passages based around the characters she picked.  Rosa, the cafe owner, often tried to run off with the it, desperate to see what Frankie had written about her, feigning paranoia whilst also wanting to be at the centre of every story.  Whilst Frankie had been a regular customer for several years, beginning when she was a student, she considered Rosa to be a friend.  She had begun to babysit for Rosa's daughter, Alice, after entertaining her one busy lunchtime when Alice was a baby, and Rosa had been overwhelmed by an unexpected party.   They'd become firm friends since, especially after sharing many a bottle of wine when Rosa, and her husband Eric, returned from a night out and made Frankie wait for a taxi to take her home.  She didn't need much encouragement to wait when the wine had been opened, and besides, Rosa and Eric were good company, teasing each other with tales from their past and providing Frankie with a warm family glow to take back to her student digs.

It wasn't much different now that Frankie had graduated and worked at the bookshop.  She still babysat, a bookseller's wage wasn't much, and at some point she had a student loan to repay.  Rosa was a great support in her dream to become a writer unlike her parents, who had patiently supported her degree in English Literature, were expecting her to get a 'real' job.  Unlike her parents, Rosa had read the articles she had written for the student magazine and loved them.  Her parents, meanwhile, had expected Frankie to attend the graduate job fairs and hadn't hidden their disappointment.  They'd also been disappointed that Frankie hadn't formed a relationship with a student in the medical faculty, although sensibly, albeit unsuccessfully, attempted to hide that one.  For the time being, Frankie was ignoring them, and enjoyed her time in her bookshop.  She had bonded instantly with the owner over a shared love of John Irving and was rewarded with sole responsibility for the fiction section.  Fortunately for Frankie, neither of the two existing employees had had their noses put out of joint, they were quite happily ensconced in their own areas of expertise and, to be honest, had been quite worried that they would have been forced to admit their lack of interest, and knowledge, of modern fiction.  Frankie had made friends instantly with them by preparing lists of recommendations for customers, linking old authors with new, and devouring proof books sent by publishers.  They all had a thorough grasp of the latest bestsellers and those about to break through, much to the delight of their customers and impressing the owner as fiction sales increased by just over 10% in her first year.

Frankie's train of thought was broken, by the dulcet tones of Scotland, as a gentle voice broke in with "I believe this is yours."  She looked up to see a pair of sparkling, dusky green eyes looking down at her, a mop of dark hair falling over them, "Although I was tempted to run off with it and eat it myself to be honest."  Her sandwich was put down on the table in front of her before she had chance to answer, "Mac" he said, as the stranger sat in the chair opposite her.  "Sorry, but there's nowhere else to sit and the lady behind the counter said that you wouldn't mind."  "That's ok", stuttered Frankie, casting a glare over at Rosa, who just grinned and shrugged her shoulders.  Frankie started to eat her sandwich, trying not to look at Mac who, mug in hand, had begun to read a newspaper.  She had become aware of a slightly increasing heartbeat and a flushing to her face that had started the moment their eyes met and was doing her utmost to avoid it getting any worse.  She also had a fluttering in her stomach and was struggling to eat the sandwich.  After what seemed like an eternity, she looked up and said "Frankie", holding out her hand to shake his.  He smiled back at her and they shook hands.  "Nice to meet you Frankie, do you come here often?".  She laughed before asking "Really?  Did you really say that?"  With the ice broken and Frankie no longer the only one blushing, they began to talk to each other.  Mac, it turned out, was a newly graduated Vet from Cardiff, looking for his first placement and, today, had been to his first interview.  While he had aspirations towards farm work and living out in the country, he wasn't ready to leave city life and had decided that spending a year with small animals, that is pets, would be useful in the long run.  Yes, he realised that it was very James Herriott but there was nothing wrong with not being original.   Frankie, in turn, shared her dream of becoming a published author and went as far as telling him about a couple of the stories she was working through in her head.  They talked about their times as students in Bristol and Cardiff, finding similarities in many of the things they liked such as going to small clubs to listen to bands.  Frankie found herself feeling disappointed that she had turned down an invitation from a former school friend to go to a party where Mac's band might have been playing.  However, when it turned out he also played rugby as well as the guitar, she suddenly found herself not so disappointed.  Frankie hadn't been a fan of the rugby group in Bristol, they had been far too full of themselves and demanded attention at many of the union bars or pubs they landed in.  While Mac tried to convince her that not all rugby players were the same and moved away from the match playing and drinking tales to tell her about the band, the damage had been done. Frankie did what she did so well, shut down and closed the doors.  When Mac asked her if she was interested in spending the day with him she declined politely and chose her writing.  I can't go skipping about with a man I've just met, she thought, even though deep inside, she wished she could.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Week 21 ctd

I got so carried away with my writing that I forgot to read the book or do this week's exercise.  I have to write a passage on my lead character cutting her thumb.  Louise doubts that this will ever appear in a novel but I have a funny feeling it might be in mine.

Exercise 11

"Dammit".   I put down the piece of glass and cross over to the sink,  Turning on the cold tap, I hold my thumb under the running water.  I watch the blood washing down the plug hole before looking back at the glass.  I'd found it down the side of the washing machine and had instinctively picked it up.  I was probably lucky not to have cut my hand and the nail on my thumb seems to have stopped this being worse too.  With the bleeding stopping, I open a kitchen drawer to get the plasters out.  Winnie the Pooh or Buzz Lightyear, choices, choices.  I plump for Winnie the Pooh and, after putting on some antiseptic cream, wrap the bear over the cut.  Going back to the washing machine, I look down the side and see what is most of a wine bottle in several pieces.  Putting on the washing up gloves and using the broom handle I bring most of it out into the kitchen floor.  The stench of vinegar is quite sickening, it obviously wasn't empty when it broke.  I brush up the glass into the bin, can't be doing with recycling that lot.  

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Week 21

I managed it, my 2000 words, most of them were today mind.  It's been a good week.  I was able to work and look after my parents without too much clash.  Went to three new meetings, made some new friends.  I've read the Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer which was brilliantly written and covered off mental illness in a really honest and straightforward way.  It felt like my writing about alcoholism as did Big Brother by Lionel Shriver which I am halfway through.  Although about food addiction, it really tapped into my soul and inspired my writing.  I guess that's why I decided to share my writing with you.  Fortunately it's chapter one so I won't be giving too much away, will also stop me from going back and tampering with it for a while.  Am very nervous about posting it though which is why I'm doing it now, before I change my mind.  Apologies if the formatting doesn't work out on what you're reading it on, I did try to make it work.

Chapter 1 - the beginning.......

"A mouse took a walk through the deep, dark wood", the words grate against my teeth and my tongue, I have to work at not spitting them out.  I turn to look at my son and breathe out a deep sigh as I see he is finally asleep.  Thank God.  I pick up my wine glass and take a drink from it.  Putting it down, I stretch my neck back and look up to the ceiling.  Another long evening of book reading, I look at the pile of books that I've worked my way through as he's lain there, eyes wide open, staring up at me as if I held the answer to his pain.  Not me, my love.  I can't fix it, not this time.  I have another sip of wine before I get out of my bed to pick him up.  He's so heavy now and almost as long as I am tall, I'm not going to be able to carry him back to his bed for much longer.  I struggle through my doorway, along the landing, into his room and drop him onto his bed.  Pulling his duvet over him, I tuck him in and kissing his forehead, wipe the tears from his face.  "I'm sorry", I whisper in his ear, "it wasn't supposed to be like this, I don't like it either."

I walk slowly back to my room to collect my glass, stretching out my back and shoulders as I cross the landing.  Just before I get to it, I catch sight of my reflection in the mirror and stop.  My mouth has dried up, my stomach turned and I am transfixed by what I'm looking at.  I say 'what', because that's the only word I can think of.  I move towards the mirror and reach out to touch it.  The glass feels sticky beneath my fingertip and I wipe the surface in several places desperately hoping to find that its something else.  I raise my eyes to look at the face in the mirror and my breathing quickens as my heart begins to pound.  The face in front of me can't be mine, please tell me it can't be mine.  I close my eyes and take a deep breath.  I stay here, my eyes closed tightly, my breathing quickening.  I have to look, I have to know.  I open them and look again.  It is still there, this face that I don't recognise.  Her eyes look into mine, grey, pale and lifeless, not like mine, bright blue and sparkling, hers aren't blue and they definitely aren't sparkling.   How can that be me.  Tears are forming in her eyes, I watch one move down to her cheek and I reach up to brush it away.  My hand touches the mirror, and as I move my hand to my face I see hers doing the same.  I look at the rest of her face.  Her skin is pale and thin with a yellow tinge, hanging from her cheekbones, it seems to be falling off her.  She looks back at me, I can see the horror in her eyes as they move over my face.  Hair, no, what is that?  I see more grey, strands of it, matted together into a sort of ponytail hanging from her neck.  I reach to mine and wince, where there were soft curls is now a clump that feels thick and heavy.  I struggle to pull my fingers out of it and I see the tears are now falling from her face and onto the floor.  Down on the floor, I see her feet, black feet, deep black as if she's been walking in mud.  I look back up at her face.  What have you been doing to yourself?  What have you become?   Taking in the full picture, I see clothes I don't know, on a body I don't know, shapeless, washed out; my stomach lurches and I run to the bathroom.

I'm sitting on the bathroom floor hugging my knees to my chest, burying my face in the darkness.  I can't stop the tears, two damp patches forming on my trousers, my heart pounding.  I sit up and lean back against the radiator feeling the warmth begin to flow through me.  A bath, that's what I'll do, I'll have a bath.  Turning on the taps, I lean over to wash my face and wipe my mouth before putting in the plug.  Bubbles, need bubbles, there by the taps, I open the bottle and pour some in.  I drop my clothes onto the floor and step into the water.  I lower myself into it, grateful for being small enough to lie flat; warm and safe.  Coming up, I reach to my hair and wrestle the band out of it, hearing it breaking as I finally get it free.  I close my eyes and return to the depths, wondering how long I can stay here.  Not long it seems as I come back up.  The questions are rushing through my head, what have I done, how has this happened and many more that I can't make out.  I settle on what do I do now.  What do I do now?  A sensible voice chimes in with how about getting clean, that would be a good place to start.  Yes, wouldn't it.  The tears come back and this time I fight them off, washing them away.  Let's start at the top, hair first.  Squeezing shampoo out of the bottle, I wonder if this is even possible.  Oh well, here we go.  My fingertips work themselves very slowly from the edges of my hairline towards the top of my scalp, it's extremely painful, each hair holding tightly onto another, my fingers forcing them apart.   As I sink back into the bath, I remember that is the easy bit.  The next bit will be worse, getting conditioner through the rest of it.  Still, one step at a time, isn't that how it goes.  I pile the cream onto my hand, rub it between my palms and lather it over my hair.  My hair, not her hair, mine.  Working my fingers through my hair, I see her again, staring back at me from the mirror.  I lie back, leaving the conditioner to attempt to work miracles and close my eyes.

My fingers won't break up the clump of hair at the back of my neck.  I can get through a lot of it which is a miracle in itself but the knotted mass refuses to budge.  The question is can I bring myself to cut it off.  Do I have a choice.  I don't think so.  I need to be clean and I need it now, not later, not tomorrow, now.  With a deep sigh, I pull myself up out of the bath and wrapping a towel around me step onto the floor.  This time, I see my feet and take a sharp intake of breath.  They're not black but a dirty shade of grey, streaky and grimy.  I walk down the stairs into the kitchen to collect the scissors.  I've had long hair since forever.  It's one of my better features, if not my only good one.  Long dark brown curly hair, the last time I had it short was before my O'levels, a long time ago.  Still, this will be another one of those changes I didn't see coming, part of life's rich tapestry.  Bollocks to life's rich tapestry, it can go fuck itself.  Another mirror, another deep breath.  She doesn't look so bad now, now that she's started to wash.  I pick through my hair, trying to find a small a part as possible to cut out.  Oh what the hell, here goes nothing.  One cut and I'm holding it in my hand, quickly I put it in the bin, trying not to look at it.  I look back at the face in the mirror, she looks lost, don't touch your hair, please don't touch your hair.  Getting back into the bath I pick up the scrubbing brush and the soap.  Time for the rest of you.  Left arm first, scrubbing at it till the skin turns red then the right one, my back, front, legs, feet.  Much more soap for my feet until they finally start to look red too.  The soles of my feet disgust me and I sit on the edge of the bath to finish them off.  I dry my hair, put on some gel and sit on the side of the bath, exhausted but clean.  Better get dressed I suppose, I finish drying myself, hang up my towel on the back of the door and walk back across the landing without looking at the mirror.  I definitely don't want to see her like this, without clothes, I'm not ready for that.  My pyjamas aren't on my bed so I get a pair out of the drawer.  That's strange, my drawers aren't normally that tidy, everything in neat piles, how did that happen; no matter, I get dressed.

Walking down the stairs, I notice how quiet the house is, unusually so.  This house used to be filled with music, there was always something on or someone playing.  I turn the handle to the living room and go in.  It feels very still, there's no-one at the piano or the drums, the guitar sits alone in its stand.  Moving to the stereo I wonder what it would be like to hear some.  I can't remember music, I haven't had any on, how can that be.  Taking another deep breath, I turn on the stereo and press play.  Strings, keyboard, as the drums come in I can see Mac and Finlay, dancing, laughing, here in this room.  Finn's in his dad's arms, a toddler, he's holding his head back, hysterical with laughter as Mac jumps about the room.  Mac sings along with the song as he always does.

The heart is a bloom                                   They see me and reach out to me.
Shoots up through the stony ground               I reach my hands out to them and I join in.
There's no room                                           I am smiling, laughing,
No space to rent in this town                       as they take me into their arms
You're out of luck                                        We dance together,
And the reason that you had to care all singing.
The traffic is stuck                                      Finn mouthing anything,
And you're not movin' anywhere                   nothing in particular
You thought you'd found a friend                  We bounce in a circle
To take you out of this place                         moving around
Someone you could lend a hand                   laughing
In return for grace                                      at each other

It's a beautiful day Mac catches my eye
Sky falls, you feel like I love you
It's a beautiful day I love you too
Don't let it get away "Me too" screams Finlay

You're on the road We return to singing the song,
But you've got no destination Finn's blond curls bouncing
You're in the mud "Mud" he screams,
In the maze of her imagination we laugh.
You love this town Finn blows a kiss,
Even if that doesn't ring true I blow one back,
You've been all over I let go of their hands
And it's been all over you and dance

It's a beautiful day   It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day It's a beautiful day

Touch me Touch me,
Take me to that other place take me to that other place,
Teach me teach me,
I know I'm not a hopeless case I know I'm not a hopeless case, I smile at Mac

See the world in green and blue I'm back in today,
See China right in front of you standing still,
See the canyons broken by cloud staring at the space
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out in front of me
See the Bedouin fires at night The boys are still dancing,
See the oil fields at first light calling to me to join in,
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth reaching out to me,
After the flood all the colours came out            I shake my head, "I can't" I whisper.

It was a beautiful day   It really was,
Don't let it get away a wonderful moment,
Beautiful day family time, together.

Touch me                                                        Mac, why did you go
Take me to that other place why did you leave me,
Reach me                                                       how could you do that,
I know I'm not a hopeless case I miss you, really miss you

What you don't have you don't need it now Stop singing,
What you don't know you can feel it somehow please stop singing.
What you don't have you don't need it now Please.
Don't need it now Please.
It was a beautiful day                                      I close my eyes.

I turn the stereo off and walk out of the door and up the stairs.

I remember now, why this has happened, why she looks like that.  I go to the mirror and look back at the reflection.  He left you, didn't he, he left.  She looks back at me, I reach up to the mirror and our hands touch each other.  You are me and I look like you because Mac left.  But I can't look like that, I have to be a mother, Finlay needs me, I'm all he has.  I can't stay looking like you because he needs me.  I have to get better, I just have to.  I walk away from her and climb into my bed.  As I get in, I see the glass of wine, waiting for me.  I realise that this is the first time since Mac left, 10 months and 23 days ago, that I have actually been aware of getting into my bed.  The glass of wine has been one of many, far too many.   As I lie down, I feel my head on my pillow and I close my eyes.  I know what I have to do.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Week 20

Week 20 sees the beginning of Phase 2.  I had no awareness there was a Phase 1, which makes it  disappointing not to have known that I was coming to the end and completion of something before  finding myself at a beginning.  Phase 1 was the warming up, phase 2 is the start of significant effort and the writing of the novel starts.  I have been instructed to clear the decks for the next ten weeks, cancelling all non-essential appointments and pull in favours for any essential ones.  I need to set myself targets (assuming in nos of words) and write as much of my novel as I am carrying about.  No worrying about structure, any random bits of any random chapters, just direction to go and get on with it.  Looking at my calendar, this is a good week to start.  I am about to stay with my parents for a week as my mother is just out of hospital after a heart op and I am on week 2 care duty, my sister having done week 1 and coming back for week 3.  Whilst I also have some writing from work to do, I hope that I can get some time in between to get a head start.  2000 words a week seems a good go, that would make 20,000 over the ten weeks. How many in an average novel, no idea.  I'll start with 2,000 and see how it goes.  I am both excited and terrified, this seems to be a repeating pattern, which also seems to be working well so far!  Off we go.......

Thursday, 17 April 2014

17th April 2014

When I went to my 1st AA meeting, it was from a place of despair.  Finally, I had been forced to look at my drinking and accept that this was not reasonable behaviour.  That my lack of consideration of the consequences and complete disregard for the lives of those around me was not what I wanted for my future.  I had no idea what I was letting myself in for and what would become of me, all I knew was that I couldn't carry on.  Because of AA I have found that I can become a better human being, that I can change from everything that I thought I was, that deep within me is somebody worth loving and capable of loving others.  I know this, because other people have shown me how, other people have shared their lives with me so that I can find mine.  Five years ago I had my last alcoholic drink and let the hands of AA take mine and lead me forward.  Today I have peace, serenity and hope in my life.  I have found that life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.
I will be forever grateful to all of you who have been,and continue to be, part of my journey.  May God bless you and keep you safe, with all my love, xxx

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Week 19

Exercise 10 Write the CV of your main character or one of them, usual stuff, name, date of birth etc.....

Amazing how attached I have become to these people in my head and almost don't want to let them out.  There's feelings of possession, ownership, secrecy, exclusivity, nothing positive it has to be said.  Oh well, better out than in so they say, let's see how specific I can be......

Her name is Frankie (Francesca Allen) she works in a bookshop in Bristol, early 20s, graduated with a degree in English Literature, wants to be a writer, doesn't like giving away her birthday.   Parents living in London, Dad a dentist, Mother a nurse.  Frankie dreams of a life in the country with views of the sea, a desk at a window, her books on the shelf.  She loves to feel the sand between her toes, the wind in her hair and the sound of the sea.  She quite likes the idea of falling in love and finding her soulmate and yet she relishes isolation, solitude, her own company.  Not that keen on marriage, she doesn't see herself as mother material.  She attends the occasional aerobic class but doesn't really enjoy it and isn't much into competitive sports.  Her ideal evening is a good meal, quiet drink and dancing to a decent band at a small club she goes to.

His name is Mac (James MacDonald), just graduated from vet school in Cardiff, also early 20s and if she's not giving her birthday then neither is he.  Parents living just outside Edinburgh and yes, definitely a Scot.  Dad a university lecturer, Mum a GP.  Mac has always been considered very bright and, although he would say he was lucky, enjoys hard work and does well in exams.  Originally, he was undecided between veterinary science and medicine but, with a desire to do his own thing rather than follow the family route of many doctors, vet school won out.  While he works hard, he also plays hard, both in a sporting and musical capacity.  In the university rugby team from day one and forming a band with course mates, he's never been short of a social life.  He doesn't really think about the future but takes things as they come, a day at a time.

Not quite a CV but definitely building up a picture, maybe I'll evolve into favourite ice cream flavours, tea or coffee, last film, first single.  Maybe, I'll provide answers for all requests.....

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Week 18

It was really satisfying getting to a good place with the outline of my novel.  The chapter this week suggested building up on this and taking it further, not necessarily including it in the summary but helping it take form.  It's quite challenging for me to write it down as its been whistling around in my head for so long, five years to be precise.  I wrote the basis of the first chapter nine years ago as a short story not knowing that there was more of it to come.  Intriguingly, about a woman who, on realising what her life had become, decided that she had to stop drinking.  It seems that I wasn't ready at the time to see the mirror and look at my own life but, fortunately, five years later I took those steps and the rest of the story appeared.  It was quite a shock at first, I'd not expected there to be anymore, I certainly hadn't expected to be writing a fictional story of recovery.    Looking back now, it's a bit like my own, I spent a while denying that I needed to work the programme and that, as long as I went to meetings and was honest, it would be enough.  I learnt, like many, that the programme is there for a reason and when people say 'AA works if you work it' then that's actually the case.  On finding a sponsor and getting on with the 12 steps it definitely became a lot easier and was frustrating, although completely logical, that I hadn't done that from the beginning.  Likewise with my story, I looked to many places for the outline of the next day and the path for her life to get back on track until I realised that it would be an alignment to the 12 steps.  Not a specific alignment but following the same structure on an approximate hour by hour basis.  The idea of a day where a life can be transformed feels really exciting and I so hope it works as a story.  I suppose we will see..........