the spaces in between

Yesterday I celebrated twelve months sobriety of this, my second shot at recovering. I spent a lovely day with my youngest offspring and my boyfriend, received flowers, gifts, cards and a whole bunch of wonderful messages from a whole bunch of wonderful people who have all shared with me in this incredible twelve months. I am appreciating you all.

It has indeed been the very best year of my life. EVER. FACT.

In all fairness, this time it’s very much for real. It feels more real, I’m experiencing far more clarity and I’m so much more committed to the divorce from alcohol than ever I was that initial separation.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when drinking thoughts entered my mind earlier this week.

Before you all jump to the edge of your seats and await a tale of woe and before my phone starts bleeping off the scale with messages of concern, I really need you to know that I’m about as close to drinking as I am to completing my marathon challenge in under two hours. No; really!

However, it also needs to be said that this can be a fairly difficult subject to even discuss, let alone write about. Funnily enough, it isn’t actually a subject that’s so difficult for me; it is more that it seems to be challenging for the audience, who quite rightly, become concerned when such matters are brought into the open. Bearing that in mind, I thought long and hard before deciding to publish this entry; predominantly because I do not wish to worry any of my readers about my state of mind.

I hope you all know by now; I got this.

Onto the drinking thoughts. It has to be said that I had a right old shitty week. It was no great drama;  just a shitty week spent arguing with the gas provider, going without heat, greeting a flat tyre when I needed to be on a training course and discovering my locking wheel nut missing yada, yada, yada. Yeah, just general life shit and nothing special. Much like most other humans of this planet, I simply did not want to feel the way I was feeling. I was irritable, touchy, short-tempered, not to mention cold and not very properly fed for the days I didn’t have gas.

I think it goes without saying that my brain is somewhat hard-wired to engage system ‘alcohol’ as the go-to prescription for ailment ‘change the way I feel please’. It perhaps similarly goes without saying that it may take quite some time for that hard-wiring to soft-wire over to an alternative prescription.

Long after the drinking thoughts had been left in a bowl of ice-cream, I began to fully explore what it is that now makes me not drink. What on earth has changed me from the person who, on such similar occasions, would have taken great pleasure in self-prescribing three bottles of wine?

We all know that truth exists in the notion ‘this too shall pass’ and I’m not unveiling any fresh, earth-shattering universal truths in discussing ‘the spaces in between’. However, I have found great clarity in fully appreciating these at this time.

Consider this for just a moment; HOW many steps might exist between the moment of the thought in my head and the moment at which I might actually take a drink? If you have a pen and paper at hand, why not even go ahead and make that list?

I’ve had quite a lot of fun this past few days writing and re-writing the list; adding more and more steps; creating more and more space in between the thought and the action.

It has been a wonderful revelation for me to embrace just how deeply rooted my recovery is in these spaces in between and that strengthening each and every one of those steps is my daily groundwork. Not so revealing, but as interesting, is appreciating just how many other aspects of life we can use to adopt the very same analogy.

Your goal for this week, should you chose to accept it, is to consider your own life challenges and to maybe try a little harder to stay in the space in between.

Are you struggling to lose weight and always reaching for the biscuits? Write your own list of the number of steps required between thinking about wanting the biscuit and actually eating it. I might even place a bet that you will have forgotten that you wanted the biscuit by the time the list is finished?!

Are you struggling with a difficult relationship and facing routine arguments? Why not try and spend some time in the space in between before firing back your reaction in an argument. This couldn’t be more relevant in our millennium world where text replies are fired off at the push of a button and often little to no consideration is given to even what has been written. I’d like to guess that by simply exercising a little more caution in the space that exists before the ‘fireback’, you may find yourself existing with a little more peace and harmony.

‘what makes a fire burn

is the spaces between the logs;

a breathing of space.

Too much of a good thing,

too many logs

packed in too tight

can douse the flames

almost as surely

as a pint of water’

Judy Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

people, trains and stations

Many moons ago someone, who was clearly far wiser than I ever gave her credit, told me a story about people, trains and stations.

At the time I ‘sort’ of grasped the concept, but wasn’t very ready to fully appreciate the wisdom. That said, the story had enough power to resonate with me for what must now be 25 years. Yes, Rachel Hubbard, I’m talking about you.

As I recall, the story relates to the people in your life, how you engage and what happens during those times when your life journeys head in different directions.

I see many ‘motivational’ ditties encouraging us to move on and let go when people who were once close to us no longer add value to our lives, or if those relationships have become negative, toxic and/or damaging. Such disengagements can often be painful and sad.

Going back to the story (which was quite possibly shared either over a mountain of data input OR over wine and one of the said lady’s incredible culinary offerings; I like to think it was the latter), we can explore alternatives, which are generated from a place of love and universal goodness.

There are those people in our lives of whom we are incredibly fond, even love, who do still add some value and who are not negative or toxic, but who just don’t really ‘get’ what we are about in terms of personal development and\or spiritual growth. They are not interested in exploring our interest in meditation, in trying out yoga or talking into the wee hours about the meaning of life. But these people still love us; they still care for us. As we do them.

In our story, we meet these people in their world; we simply pop on the train, take a trip to their station and enjoy the time we spend there, much like a fabulous shopping and lunch trip to a vibrant City.

We do, however, practise some caution in holding out hope or expectation that they might ever make that return trip. It’s highly unlikely that they will feel the desire, or even the need.

What I’m learning, whilst embracing this bright and shiny world of sobriety, is that this is all very okay. Actually it’s more than very okay.

Making big life changes and choosing to move our own lives forward, in a way which may appear alien to many, doesn’t always need to equate to fully spring cleaning them out of it.

It is sad, but painfully true that the path I’m choosing is already cluttered with the casualties of my spring clean. On the other hand, I’m now able to buy tickets forward and to meet those who had left me at my station many years ago. I’m also excited and blessed to be encountering fresh, vibrant and even international new connections, from which I’m learning so much on a daily basis.

It’s important that we always make time for those who still make us laugh, those who are our biggest supporters (no matter how far our journey takes us) and ultimately for all those who actually have our backs.

You people are still ‘my people’ and you will always be ‘my people’

*Footnote: Rachel Hubbard (nee Prytherch) is one of the top inspirational female figures in my life. I intend to blog more about this and other inspirational figures from my first 50 years on this earth in a later entry*

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘if your dreams don’t scare you

….. they’re not big enough’

Well that one gets a big fat NO from me today. Last night I had my very first drinking dream since I got sober almost a year ago. And it scared me. A lot.

I awoke early from this dream whimpering and shaking. In the daze that was still a rather half-asleep me, I was convinced that I had relapsed. What were my first thoughts? Well obviously that I’d have to re-set the sobriety tracker on my phone back to day one.

Critical stuff there Kathryn?

Still shaking and by now in tears, I began to piece together the dream and fully wake up to it not being real. Big. Fat. Relief.

And so today I’ve spent some time reflecting on this past twelve months and in particularly the questions I’m routinely asked a) about my destructive drinking b) about not drinking at all and just how that works out in reality.

It somewhat amuses me that many of you are very interested in just HOW MUCH I was actually drinking! I’m sometimes not sure if you ask me this in order that you can go away and do some maths to compare your own consumption? Honestly you really don’t need me as that benchmark; if you are even thinking along those lines, then I’m sorry (not sorry) to say this, but you need to have a word with yourself.

At my worst, I was drinking up to 200 units per week. Predominantly this was wine, but regularly I would buy the small gin and tonic cans to keep me going when wine was difficult to reach. So yeah, that was one hell of a shit storm of booze going down. There wasn’t really any time during a three year period that I was ever very sober at all. It’s no surprise, therefore, that I now wish to remain on best friend terms with my liver, which has been incredibly forgiving of the years of abuse and is by now recovered to full health following its period of ‘stress’ at the hands of one very careless and neglectful owner.

And so about not drinking at all? And about missing alcohol? Well it’s like this; I broke up with alcohol, in much the same way that I broke up with my abusive ex. Well, not exactly the same to be honest. Breaking up with him took a lot longer, involved a lot more screaming, tears and angst. Quite frankly, had I taken the same approach to breaking up with him as I’ve taken to breaking up with alcohol, then life may have been a lot simpler during those years.

Anyway, you all know that light bulb moment when you realise that breaking up with the ex was the very best thing you ever did? That moment when you just *know*, with every essence of your being, that going back there would just about be the most stupidest move you could ever make?

Same.

I’m sure many of you have finally reached that stage when both head AND heart have fully processed where you are at with your ex. You’ve mourned the relationship and you can finally come out into the world again. You contentedly shop in Tesco without fear that bumping into him or her might send you into a downward spiral of emotional chaos; you even visit your local pub with friends and are similarly confident. Well today it’s very much the same for me with alcohol. Please do not concern yourself if you see me wondering down the booze aisle; I’m absolutely NOT shopping for prosecco. However, please feel free to audit my trolley for almond butter, which I can regularly be found mainlining in secret and in a darkened room.

And if found in the pub, I’m usually looking for my Dad or enjoying a few fizzy waters and a laugh with good friends.

My relationship with alcohol is over and it is a relationship I have absolutely no interest in re-establishing. Why on earth would I? I almost lost all the people I love most dearly to alcohol, having already lost my health, my place in the professional world and goodness knows how much financially.

This past twelve months really has shown me the very best that life has to offer and I know that I’m keen for so much more. I absolutely know that the ‘more’ would be out of my grasp within the time it took to pop that first cork.

‘when the past calls, don’t answer; it has nothing new to say’

running your own race

I’ve never really been good enough at anything (apart from drinking of course) to develop a competitive streak of much kind, so I’ve little to no clue from where the initial unrealistic expectations for my running career came from.

In the beginning, each of the couch to 5km sessions I ran were 30 minutes long, so it seemed to follow that, surely by the last session, I would be running the 5km in 30 minutes? Not.

Most importantly, I did it. I set myself that goal, I committed and I followed through. I’m a great believer that this achievement in itself is the one that speaks far louder than the final time on the clock. Set the goal and commit to the work.

At the beginning of a race, the temptation to run out with the crowd is so strong. In many races it’s almost impossible not to! Sadly my experiences have been that it leads to burn out as you find yourself unable to keep up with the ‘front runners’. At one event I kept myself to the back of the pack with the last half dozen and ended up running well, at another my pacing was over-generous and I ran a time I could have beaten. My point being that these were my races and I was running my show. Learn to be your own front runner.

As you can tell, I take my running fairly seriously. Am I obsessed? No. Am I committed to my personal goals? Yes. Am I prepared to do the work in order to follow those goals through? Absolutely.

Whilst mulling over this blog entry, it dawned on me that there are many aspects of life whereby we need to be running our own race and that it is a constantly developing skill.

My personal passions are indeed health, wellbeing, nutrition and my recovery. I’m wholeheartedly committed in these areas, but I have absolutely sworn over to doing things my own way.

I’ve not much idea who reads this blog, but if there are people out there who have known me for years, I’m sure they would attest, if questioned, that there isn’t a diet out there I haven’t tried.

Actually that’s not true. I recently took delivery of Barry Sears’ ‘A week in the Zone’, but these days my reading around these topics is more born out of genuine interest than throwing myself hell bent into yet another regime.

I do feel more than qualified to write my own book about what works and what doesn’t, having gained and lost the same three stone three or four times since my early twenties. Sadly I know I am not alone. A year ago my destructive drinking and lifestyle revealed the extent to which my health was starting to suffer; blood pressure through the roof, a fairly stressed out liver and obesity knocking on the door.

I knew in my heart of hearts that this was NOT the time for a quick fix. Fast approaching fifty, I almost felt this might be my final opportunity to get it right and so I set out to run my own race, to explore and discover what might work for me in a sustainable and long term way. Am I obsessed? No. Am I committed to my personal goals? Yes. Am I prepared to do the work in order to follow those goals through? Absolutely. And really? If that means you get irritated when I refuse ice cream and you can’t, then I’m sorry to tell you that says more about you than me.

In the recovery scene there are support groups which actively discourage running your own recovery race. My previous four sober years spent in those rooms were a truly joyless experience.

This past year I’ve witnessed such an uprising of women who are killing it in sobriety; intelligent, articulate, funny and up-together ladies seeking a visible, not anonymous sobriety journey that is so much more than living it one day at a time. These ladies, like me, have reading lists that no longer begin and end with Hazelden publications, are looking for the paths to their spiritual explorations in all manner of places and are, quite frankly, kicking ass out there. If you are looking for a place to start, then you could do little better than checking out Hip Sobriety in the US and Lucy Rocca, author of The Sober Revolution and founder of Soberistas.

I’m a very sociable and gregarious individual, yet my previous existence in sobriety saw my wings clipped to such an extent I didn’t recognise myself. I no longer wish to settle for ‘surviving’ sobriety any more than I wish to be surviving life. Hell no, that shit is for LIVING. I no longer wish to be told that it’s ‘dangerous’ for me to be in a pub laughing with my friends. I do not wish to be told that knocking back two cappuccinos in one sitting is a slippery slope into ‘old behaviours’. What the ACTUAL fuck? (Just for you Katy J). And I most certainly do not wish it to be suggested that my recovery is inferior to yours because I am not willing to subscribe to an outdated model of recovery that is in such serious need of dragging into the millennium, it’s almost becoming embarrassing.  It is NOT enough for me to be ‘grateful to be sober one day at a time’, I’ve got far too much else to do. I’m in this for life fellow soberheroes!

Committed to personal goals? Yes. Prepared to do the work in order to follow those goals through? Absobloodylutely.

Dearest readers, please go out there and learn how to become your own heroes; become skilled at running your own races. Do not allow anyone, least of all those doubting voices in your head, hold you back. Think outside that box and be where there’s growth, which believe me is NOT in the comfort zone.

’Decide what it is you want, write that shit down. Make a fucking plan and work on it. Every. Single. Day.’

 

not all heroes wear capes

This blog can’t be the days of my life without starring some key characters. One of these figures has to be my mum.

I haven’t always been the most perfect daughter. Way back when I thought I was killing it in the 80s, I couldn’t wait to get away from my mum; a feeling that didn’t escape for a good 25 years. During that time I remained distant not only logistically, but emotionally too.

In my search to uncover the root of my problematic relationship with alcohol, I’ve discovered that large numbers of alcoholics are nursing a hangover from childhood trauma. The literature covers abuse and neglect, neither of which I can identify. However, what I am left to explore is an upbringing by a disabled, non-sighted mum and a dad who was largely absent.

My memories of mum without a working guide dog by her side are almost non-existent, but the story goes that she started to lose her sight aged 19, not very long after she had married my dad. Imagine that? Might just put a downer on all your young married couple dreams, that one!

The story continued that she developed tunnel- vision and night-blindness, but that tests suggested she would never go totally blind. Nevertheless, she became so by about the age of 22.

Back then she made a personal commitment that she would never allow us kids to grow up feeling ‘different’ and that she wouldn’t allow her disability to interfere with things she wanted to do in life.  Short of driving a car (which might not have been very sensible), she stuck to this pledge until her health began to fail her in other ways about 12 years ago. Not content with burdening mum with retinitis pigmentosa, life threw multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia her way too.

I have no doubt that in today’s society these family circumstances would generate a whole army of government funded helping hands. Back in the day it just wasn’t the case and mum simply got on with life. Dad worked away a lot, even spending a period totalling two years overseas, whilst she continued to get on with life. Believe me when I say this; I NEVER heard her whine (well unless you count her attempts at singing full blast to Abba for most of the late 70s).

Mum cooked, cleaned, ironed, shopped and parented just like all other housewives of that moment, yet she wasn’t really anything like all those other mums. She dragged us to weekly amateur dramatic meets where she would rehearse for productions in which she played key characters, she took herself off to crafting classes each week, taught herself to read Braille and when the first drafts of the Disability Discrimination Act didn’t cover blindness and her disability benefits were set to be cut, she built her own defence to present in Court. She typed, yes typed, the paperwork herself .

Always present during these years were mum’s various guide dogs. I’ve tried to recall their names; Cara, Thea, Charlie, Fliss, Sloane and the two longest term Nina and Karina. These were each our family member, each  welcomed, loved, nurtured and each taking a little piece of our hearts every time they were retired, taken back or died.

Coming back to today, I know it was quite insane to take on the marathon challenge, considering I had only been running for a few weeks when I applied. At that time, however, I was also taking on a marathon sobriety challenge and it seemed that if I could conquer that, I could conquer anything.

It was never in question that I would run for any other charity than Guide Dogs. I hadn’t ever realised that the training per dog can be as much as £55,000. Thankfully for families like ours, today’s training programmes mean mums don’t have to leave the home for a month to train at the special centres. Each time our mum left to be trained with her next dog, not only was it sad, it was very unsettling as we were moved between family members to be looked after.

That said, I don’t have enough words to cover what a difference is made to the lives of visually impaired individuals by having a Guide Dog. For someone like mum, the dogs opened up her door to the outside world and she didn’t look back. Latterly she re-applied for a companion dog ,but wasn’t successful. Her deteriorating cognitive functioning and mobility don’t lend well to dog ownership. Mum took that news with good grace and just as she always has, she dusts herself down and gets on with life.  

I wish I could say that I have been half the woman my mum has, but I can’t. I have moaned, I have cried and I have often played the victim; all of these on more than one occasion. Today I really do strive to be a better person, to finally grow into the person I was destined to be. Without the clouded fog that lingers during active addiction, I can clearly see some of my current levels of determination and strength reflecting back from her.

Despite all her very best efforts though, I did feel different. Lets do that another day! For now I would simply be most grateful for any donations to the fundraising effort, which can be found at

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/KBsArmy

 

 

 

 

 

 

when being a grown-up sucks

It would be disingenuous of me not to warn you that I’m tired this evening. Being a tired, badass soberhero can oftentimes be a somewhat more challenging place to be as compared to ‘normal folk’ (with no disrespect to you lucky ‘normal folk’)

My training regime has ruined me this week. Yeah, week bloody one of marathon miles, which comprised four runs and two strength sessions and I’m RUINED. But that’s ok; I’m hardly going to smash the marathon without working through the pain barrier. I had the pleasure of my lovely bf running with me today, which was very much needed as the last ten minutes hurt like fuck. He kept me going at the right pace when I might well have slowed down, which I admit I did a bit.

So predominantly I’m tired. That’s just one of the HALT red-flags. For the ‘normal folk’ reading; Hungry Angry Lonely Tired = HALT. I’m kind of a teeny bit angry feeling, but nothing serious, certainly not lonely and after a talking to by my trainer yesterday, I’m also not hungry.

*****You might be interested in how that conversation went: Josh: (looking over my food diary) ‘yeah that looks pretty okay, but maybe a bit too much for breakfast’; Kathryn: ‘no mate, that’s what I ate for the whole day’. And so begins my journey through fuelling for my status of aspiring athlete, as opposed to fuelling for fat loss.*****

I digress.

So predominantly I’m tired, but combine that with being somewhat unsettled, shuffling around in my seat, wrestling a whole heap of uncomfortable emotions and yup, you got it right there; the subject of my unsettlement moved into town, bought a high rise in my head and took up residence on every floor.

As I’ve been working through the situation, it got me thinking.

It’s not always the topic, or detail of the discomfort that is the actual issue for us recovering badasses. More often than not, it’s those resulting pesky feelings which come with their army of more pesky emotional warriors, preparing their battle to sabotage the very essence of our emotional sobriety.

And when we choose to no longer medicate this state of being, to no longer alter the harsh reality of life in the current moment, but are left with all manner of motherfuckers trashing that high rise in our heads, then what?

Well it seems, dear reader, that, as grown adults we are actually charged with the heavy responsibility of properly ‘dealing’ with said state of being, of ‘processing’ the uncomfortable situation (along with those pesky emotions), to let ‘it’ go ….. and ‘move on’.

Yeah right. What the ACTUAL fuck?

No, no, no, no, no! Terribly sorry pesky feelings, but this badass is actually nowhere NEAR ready to face up to all that grown up shit. Certainly NOT if it means I don’t get to tantrum.

Why does being a grown up suck? Why does being a grown up recovering badass suck even more at times?

Thankfully I have zero desire to medicate, remain full of gratitude and blessed for my journey, but after a day tormenting myself with something that’s actually nothing, maybe it’s time to give the lodgers in my head notice of immediate eviction and send the pesky emotional warriors packing, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

life under construction

Blogging day one and an hour has dwindled by without me achieving one pretty thing with this layout. Rather than amaze you with my ultimate pearls of wisdom for a peaceful and contented life, top tips for sobriety, expert fitness  insights, tasty recipes for sustained fat loss and the ultimate guide to running for beginners, you might simply have to make do with my frustrated rants about how I keep going around in circles whilst customising this bloody page.

Hold on to your gadgets, however, all afore mentioned bad-assery will  be forthcoming.  In the shorter term, however, this blog will not present with the most up to date in ‘design-style-graphic’ and you will need to bear with me whilst over the coming week I continue to titivate with all things singing and dancing, e-mail links and social media follow options.

Making the decision to ‘publish’ whilst ‘under construction’ had me thinking about the perfectionist lurking within me. Why did I feel the overwhelming need to create and design the ‘perfect’ looking blog home page to publish, rather than concentrate on the content? It also had me thinking that, right now, I’m at a place whereby my life is also ‘under construction’. At the point of putting down the booze in February 2016, I was essentially creating myself a blank page from which to construct a life designed for me and by me. The book of Blackburn is very much still being written.

I’ve been toying with the idea of blogging for quite a few months  now, having been encouraged that there is a story I can share, not only relating to the healthy, sober pathway my life has taken from the onset of 2016, but relating to previous experiences surviving a coercively controlling relationship. I do hope I can reach out to others with a strong, positive message of hope.

It’s week one of London Marathon training, something in which I invested a lot of energy during 2016. Thankfully I seem to have built up a solid foundation of running from which to continue efforts for the big day in April. Today was the perfect day for my long run; beautifully crisp with gorgeous blue skies, an easy pace and with the opportunity to soak in the scenery around my ‘happy place’ whilst listening in on my latest audio downloaded book. These runs have fast become the ultimate in ‘me time’.

That said, it’s still fairly alien to me to write about having completed an ‘easy 10km’ this afternoon; a scenario that is quite a far cry from a standard day 12 months ago when, by this time, I would mostly likely be the wrong side of at least two bottles of wine and grumpily attempting to put le petit garcon to bed; a time when I was three stone heavier than I am today and the concept of me actually running anywhere was more than hilarious.

‘A year ago everything was different. And now that I look back, I realise that a year can do a lot to a person’.