I Can Only Hope

Time for a check-in? Just a bit of measuring and evaluating, I guess. I AM FINE. What is it they say again? Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional? Can’t remember but it’s anything but “fine”. But I am, honestly – fine, as in the traditional sense of the word. OK. Alright. Or “consistent pains and aches” as my dad would put it. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle and that’s fine by me. It’s a fine place to be, actually. My life really isn’t so extreme anymore, my emotions don’t quite reach the levels of a hurricane that often in sobriety. Sure, sometimes I hit a bump in the road and some weeks ago I really did work through some deep rooted stuff, but things just don’t seem to get so dramatic anymore. I deal with things now and I suppose that’s why nothing really gets amplified or catastrophic in the same way things used to. Oh, and not guzzling a depressant obviously helps. More than helps. It’s fair to say this is what’s made all the difference – if there was ever any doubt, I mean.

It’s actually half term here in the UK, so Bambino has been around the entire time. His dad’s a tutor, so he has cleverly been staying with him during the weeks when he has school, given dad can help him out much better than I can. So I have, during this pandemic, become the weekend parent.

Bambino and I seem to have trust. I’d say we always did, but I’m also aware that Bambino himself may carefully weigh up what he tells me. My own parents had NO CLUE WHATSOEVER what went on for me during my teenage years and they were most definitely not confidantes, but I suspect at least dad would claim I told him everything. And I bloody didn’t. I was uber-careful of sticking within limits of what I shared with him, always ensuring I’d score enough points for honesty but not accrue too many can’t-be-forgiven penalties. So I guess I have to at least consider the possibility that there is more to Bambino’s world than he lets me in on. But yes, I feel good about our relationship.

In particular, I feel good about our open conversations about drugs. I nearly wrote “drugs and alcohol”, but given I feel the distinction is inaccurate (and even dangerous), when I say “drugs” it includes all the things that alter our minds in a big way, from cannabis and alcohol all the way up (or down) to heroin and the other nasties.

Mum, are you glad I don’t hang out with [P] anymore?” Bambino asked as I took him over to his dad’s the other day to pick up some things he needed.

Uhm … I guess so, but I do feel sad for him and worry about him“, I answered truthfully. “I feel bad for him and know he’s in trouble that isn’t his fault, but I guess I would worry more about you if you were around those things he gets up to. So in a way I’m glad you’re not around him, but I’m also heartbroken for him“, I added.

P used to be Bambino’s best mate. I love the kid. I have a genuine soft spot for him and I really do adore him. I saw so many good things in him, and the rescuer in me came out in full force but P had (has) a tricky home life and it seems like everyone has failed him. We took him to Sweden with us a couple of summers back. Part of me really wanted P to feel welcome and wanted and it broke my heart when we dropped him back home with his parents and witnessed how they barely acknowledged him. His mum went to give me a hug, then Bambino, then just glanced at her son with a curt “hello“. Had it been me who hadn’t seen Bambino for over two weeks, I would have charged at him like a loon on amphetamines and thrown my arms around my baby. P’s dad didn’t say a word to him. It broke my heart. And it made me sad and angry. So I threw my arms around P where he stood with his bags outside the home where it seemed as though he hadn’t been missed at all.

Thanks for coming with us, I loved getting to look after you“, I said loud and clear more for P’s parents benefit than maybe P himself. “Come over this weekend, because I’ll miss you as soon as we get home“.

The anger was boiling in me. Why did I have to make a show of emphasising how loveable this boy is? And how valuable and important? But that was what I was attempting to do. Show these fucktards that what this kid needs is love and appreciation and attention. It angers and saddens me that not all children get treated in that way. It’s their right.

He’s dealing now“, Bambino continued.

And so my heart broke again. Bambino himself chose not to be around P much anymore outside of school out of worry about the people P hangs around with. Bambino calls them “work men“, which I believe is code for gang-related stuff. P smoked weed every day at that point, roughly two years ago, and Bambino had smoked with him on a number of occasions. According to Bambino, he was put off by how P was always “messed up”, that it was constant as opposed to the occasional giggle. And fast forward to today and it would now seem that my worry about P is materialising. I had some hope that things would come right, but there was a part of me that worried P would wind up as a headline in some form if he continued the way he was going. For all the wrong reasons. So it turns out he now deals drugs and according to Bambino it’s mostly weed, but a full time gig. Bambino went on to describe how P uses Instagram to also goad other dealers on his patch and how this behaviour in particular may end up getting him into really bad situations. Even I understand that it isn’t a good idea to jab people like that.

That can’t be a good idea“, I said and glanced over at Bambino.

No!” he exclaimed. “He’s going to get himself stabbed. I don’t know why he does it. He seems to think it’s funny“.

So. What? He deals all the time? Like this is his job now?

Yeah. He uses his Insta-stories to sell“, Bambino went on and then went on to describe how the set-up works. “So you have the people who grow it out in the countryside. They get young kids and pay them lots of money to get on a train and pick up a supply. Then they deliver it to the level above P. P buys a monthly stash and then makes a profit from selling it on to people like me“.

OK, at this point the voice in my head is asking me why it is that Bambino understands and knows the operation so well. Is he part of it? That question does poke at me, but I force it back into the dark corners of my conscious.

People like you?

Well, yeah. The people who smoke now and again“.

And do you?

Not very often. But I was stoned that time last month when you asked me, it was [O]’s birthday and we got stoned“.

It’s your eyes. It’s quite obvious with you“.

I know“, Bambino conceded and chuckled.

He has huge eyes and they are a startlingly light ice blue, so it’s really obvious when his pupils don’t look like you’d expect. Plus he gets quite obviously zonked too. He’s naturally quite an energetic and alert creature, so when he’s stoned it’s quite a contrast and, as I said, pretty damn obvious. And thank God, I don’t often see him that way. When he gets in after seeing friends we always chat for a while so I always have a good take on how he appears to be, anxiously looking for signs of booze or whatever else.

Well, you know where I stand, right?” I asked, with my heart in my throat as usual.

Mum, I hardly ever smoke. I don’t want to mess up school. And I’m not going to mess up my life“.

I don’t know how reassured I feel, but I do trust Bambino. And as crazy as it may sound, if it’s a matter of once in a blue moon in a typical teenage way, then I’ll rest somewhat easy I guess. Maybe I’m deluded, but I feel I can’t shield Bambino from it all. We’ve had enough conversations around the odd giggle vs regular use, and I can only hope that he makes good choices. But yes, there is also a big part of me that is horrified at the idea that my 16-yearold does this, even if it’s within what might be considered what can be expected or what ‘reasonable limits’ may be.

As for P, the sad story seems to continue. I don’t imagine that underworld of drug dealing is every bit as sinister as I imagine or believe it to be, but I do think he is now in the pocket of the wrong people. And I don’t believe it’s all that easy to get out of that pocket. I mean, to begin with, you’d know enough to be a risk, right? And I am under the impression that in these circles, you end up doing things that ensnare you to the point where you can’t walk away and will be implicated.

And there we have it. A boy so loveable, genuine and kind. Who just hasn’t received the love he was worthy of. Who had difficulties no one cared to deal with.

Another dilemma. Do I do anything? I had to swear of course to Bambino – as always – that I will keep what he tells me to myself. But what if this was my kid? And another mum knew the trouble he was in. And never told me. I guess the main thing is I don’t believe P’s parents would help him. I’ve seen them in action. What do you do? What can you do? Part of me wants to directly reach out to P and let him know he can always talk to me, but there is so much the boy needs. He needs someone to invest effort in his journey towards adulthood and building a worthwhile life for himself. No one seems to have ever done that, and now he’s found a way for himself that he has happened upon due to the lack of care and guidance.

It breaks my heart and I keep imagining his face, how sad he looked when we dropped him back with his parents after that summer holiday and no one ran to hug and welcome him home. When I threw my arms around him in the vain hope he’d feel a tiny bit of love, a tiny bit loved.

It’s a cruel world. No, I can’t rescue P. I don’t see how. I don’t know what I can do that wouldn’t make it worse for him. To step in and shake things up would also need an on-going effort to help him find a better way, and I don’t have the power to do that.

So that’s been on my mind a lot this week.

Other than that, I am … fine. The studies are steadily progressing, as is the client work on my placement. I wouldn’t say I’m a kickass counsellor yet, but it feels like things are definitely going in the right direction and I feel less of the ol’ impostor syndrome now. I suppose I’m beginning to really find my feet.

Yes, I’m fine.

Today I’m not going to drink.

So Simple, Right?

Now, here’s a novel idea: how about not just quitting this ridiculous struggle to bend myself into whatever shape I think others will like me in, but actually be a little more discerning as to whether other people’s shapes actually suit ME?

That got lost there for a while, I think. And with the recent witch hunt shenanigans that I refused to have any part in, it dawned on me that there are things I don’t bloody need! I took a little look around me, or rather, around the selection of people I call friends. Old ones and new. I took my time to think of each person in my life and as I focused on them, I paid attention to what happened inside me. Who gave me that feeling of warmth and love, and who left me with that slightly uncomfortable feeling I sometimes think of as dread? And it was pretty interesting. Enlightening, even.

Take for example Cherokee, my best friend since around 1989 when she first strutted into my world wearing harem pants and batman shoes. There it was immediately, the warm, nectary, golden feeling. I trust her, I love her, I admire her and I’d go through hell and high water for her. Take a newer friend, Pocahontas, who I can’t even say I know all that well yet. Yup, a good feeling right there in my core. She feels real to me and there is no ick there whatsoever. Berocca (I call her that because she’s like a vitamin boost – always sensible and balanced), same thing, a fairly new friend but someone who has grown to be important and whom I value very much. Golden. Batgirl (because she’s a superhero) too. And so I went on. For the majority, there was gold and warmth. But for a handful, there was the ick.

The difference was this: the golden crew all had in common that I trust them to speak their mind and I trust their honesty. The ick lot have in common that they will bend into shapes they think will please me. Much like I’ve operated too for such a long time. I don’t fucking like that! Isn’t that the greatest irony EVER?? I don’t like it when people suck up to me, because as much as we try, something always seeps through. The incongruence is impossible to miss, even though it only makes itself known as a weird gut feeling that is too vague to put into words. Gendlin calls it a “felt sense” and Doyle calls it “knowing”. It exists in the body and it’s always right. I really believe that.

What in God’s name is happening to me? Have I really, within the space of just a couple of weeks, rid myself of feeling scared of what other people may think of me AND decided to be a little picky with upon whom I place the precious crown of my friendship? Did I just grow a goddamn backbone?

It’d seem so.

The weirdest thing of all is that once I felt that inner shift just over a week ago, when something heavy just fell away from my shoulders, it required no effort whatsoever to keep my integrity intact. Someone came to me and it felt insincere. I put my boundary down for them, nice and clear but most of all with kindness. There was no need to bark or bite. I simply stated where I stood without having to be aggressive – in fact, I did it gently and lovingly – and it caused no friction or awkwardness whatsoever. And I realised that this is what the golden ones do. And that’s why I trust them. I always feel clear and safe. They don’t act incongruously. They act with integrity and they uphold their truth. So simple, right? And yet it’s only now that I somehow really feel I can do so too.

The ick lot leave me feeling unsettled. Often very subtly – I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something just doesn’t feel right. I just sense something’s off.

I’ve never sucked up to anyone deliberately. Hell, so long as people don’t treat me downright poorly, I feel so grateful and relieved I turn into a contortionist to please them. Even when it isn’t right for me. Even when it means I give more than I have. Hallelujah, what a relief it is to realise all this.

And so now I’ve installed a drawbridge for my castle and I will only lower it for the true souls. No one else will be granted entry. And I shall not request entry to castles I don’t actually want to enter, unlike before when I have gone there because I was invited and didn’t have the vagina to say thanks, but no thanks.

No doubt there is a lot more work ahead, but things have really fallen into place lately.

Best thing of all?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Go and Sell Ice Cream

Glennon Doyle (whom I’m a little obsessed with lately!) describes her emotions as deliveries. I think of mine in a similar way: a knock on the door. Over the past three years I have made it my mission to always sit with my emotions when they come, knowing there is something they are telling me. When Doyle talks about deliveries, she describes how she takes a moment to figure out what to do with them: always open the parcel of course, but then the choice is whether to keep it, return it or exchange it. Whilst the metaphor is similar enough, it describes it all more clearly. Many a recovering addict can probably relate to this, I imagine. After all, there is that saying about recovery and our emotions we may have heard bandied around:

The best thing about recovery is that all your emotions come back. The worst thing about recovery is that all your emotions come back.

My emotions sometimes feel like a bunch of out-of-control and sugar loaded toddlers. They don’t queue up nicely, they don’t keep quiet when someone else is talking and they haven’t yet developed any sense of controlling their urges, wants or needs. Me, me, me! All at once.

But I let them be that way and I let them in. Sometimes I may sigh and point to the sign saying “one at a time, please” but I know they rarely care, so in they all rush at once and whilst I often do wish they’d calm the fuck down so I can focus properly, I accept that this is still something they’re learning. So I try to be patient and let them lead.

Hm… Does this point to me being the toddler when it comes to emotion? Perhaps. After all, it took me to my 40s to listen to them, so I guess in many ways I’m quite new to this. It’s been three years. Just three years. After a lifetime of ignoring them, keeping the door firmly closed (and locked) whilst I sat in another room and turned up the volume on the TV to drown out the incessant knocking, ringing the doorbell and calling for my attention. The TV being the bottle, I suppose. And it always worked. My entire adult life, I never felt a thing in its true form.

And now it’s different. A good different. But absolutely – I am learning.

So last week was incredibly difficult. I was so triggered and the delivery of emotions that I forced myself to open the door to, required what felt like all I had to sit with. With Doyle’s philosophy in mind, I did eventually come to a decision as to what I wanted to do. I’m not keeping it. But I’m not sending it back either. This is an exchange job. There were some things worth keeping here. So I’m now left with what did fit and have made some adjustments.

I’ve spent my life trying to be invisible. Indeed it was always my favourite idea of what a super power would be. If you don’t have the actual super power, the next best thing would be to somehow make yourself small and blend into the background. Attention in any form, I positively HATE. Good or bad. I’d rather eat my own head than have people see me, hear me. ….know me. Yuk! Too painful and too scary. And even now, three years down the line, I was carrying this around.

It didn’t fit.

I’ve made connections and appear to have people around me that are… …friends. I know, crazy! These strange creatures seem to insist they like me. I mean, what is up with that? I mean, I love them, but that’s hardly new – I fall in love with other souls freely, easily and quickly. It takes little more than a smile and a small, kind gesture for me to declare I’m yours forever. Perhaps it’s relief, because I have always carried with me how people must hate me on sight and so when they don’t I’m filled with such relief and gratitude I immediately serve up my entire heart on a silver platter for them to do with as they please. I know, I know – it’s fucked up.

And so, I’ve learnt two things in just this past week:

  1. Never again will I agree when I don’t.
  2. Never again will I try to make someone else agree when they don’t.

See? These are basics I may have otherwise learnt a long time ago, but even now – three years into recovery – my old survival methods still linger. Point is though, bending myself into whatever shape will make me fade into the wallpaper or ignoring what I actually feel in order to be invisible, is uncomfortable. Too uncomfortable. So I won’t do that anymore. Even when it draws attention to me and makes other people dislike me. Bottom line – I’m not selling ice cream. Who was it, who said that? I think it may have been Obama but I could be wrong. It was something about integrity and being true to your beliefs, something about how you’ll always upset someone when you stand up for yourself, and if you want everyone to like you then you should just go and sell ice cream. Oh, I can’t remember exactly, but along those lines.

Does this even make any sense? Hah! Does it even need to? It’s my blog and I cry if I want to.

Well, something happened and emotions ran high. I discovered to my horror that not only did I disagree with the majority, I actually felt – and strongly too – that what had upset what appeared to be EVERYONE, I actually thought was right. Or more right. Or WHATEVER. It doesn’t matter. I felt sick. I tried to blend into the background, didn’t speak up, felt I couldn’t speak up and guess what? It didn’t feel good. But then I grew a vagina and stuck my neck out. Oh, nothing too controversial, but I did what I believe was the right thing – but more importantly, FELT like the right thing – and stood up for what I believed.

I didn’t die. Just like I haven’t died doing any of the other things over the past three years that I’ve found terrifying. Felt the fear and did it anyway.

I’m sure it did put me in the less likeable category for some people. But do you know what? That’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s what I think. It’s how I feel. Staying quiet may keep the attention away from me and agreeing when I don’t may mean people don’t get annoyed with me. But that’d be hiding the real me and what in God’s name is that going to do? No good whatsoever. And I also believe this terror I feel is so fucking misplaced anyway. Do I really expect people to be so rotten they can’t handle a different point of view? That’s the bit I’m sending back. Would I end a friendship because a friend doesn’t think or feel exactly the way I do? No. Obvs. Sure, there are dealbreakers – I would absolutely find it hard to see past some things (like racism, meanness, unfairness, etc) but generally I am more than happy to throw my love at people even if they do vote for a different party or listen to 80s music. So what?

There were some serious triggers that came my way and I regretted opening the door this time. I wanted to throw it all away and ignore it. But I’m not doing that anymore. I’m saying goodbye to the always agreeing meek Anna and hello to a grown ass woman with integrity. Stockholm wasn’t built in one day but I’m working on it. Hard. And that feels good. It feels right. Something shifted inside and it was a blessed relief. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I am grateful. This delivery was a gift.

Today I’m not going to drink.