CUT!

Oh hey!

I wasn’t expecting to be here. Were you?

Life was picture perfect. Like a preppy Hollywood movie, with a generous serving of Pride and Prejudice for good measure.

I met the man (tall, dark and handsome). Dated him the appropriate number of years. Lived together, travelled, all that jazz. He got down on one knee with a rock so bright I had to squint to see what it was in his sweaty shaking hands.

I said yes.

I bought the dress, we chose the village church, the reception venue in the woods. We delighted over hog roasts and flower displays. The sun shone brightly as we said our vows, then kissed under a floral arch to rapturous applause. He was in a three piece suit with tales, I wore romantic lace. We had never known such happiness.

We added two beautiful bundles to the mix. That’s where the cracks began to appear. Soon enough they were enormous chasms. Impossible to avoid or ignore. Like a volcano, our marriage erupted suddenly, catastrophically, irreparably.

And now we’re here. Life. But not as I knew it. Life: Take Two.

Life’s a bitch bastard and then you marry one. — Anon

 

I can’t do Mum Groups

There. I said it.

I just can’t!

Mum: Today my lazy husband did this *****. He’s driving me mad!

Me in my head: If he’s making your life that crap then leave him.

Mum: “Oh, but he’s so lovely when…”

Me in my head : *eye roll* “Just shut up already…”

And repeat.

Another variation of it.

Smug mum post.

Moan about privileged middle class life.

And repeat.

I just feel so out of touch with it all. So on the outskirts. One moment I was grumbling with the best of them. Asking for tips as to where to go for romantic weekends.

Then all of a sudden, just like that, I was an alien.

I can’t relate to them. I highly doubt they can relate to me.

Once in a while you get the odd “Hats off to you single mums, I solo parented all week and it was so hard, the kids had to have pizza one night!!!”

Where’s my tiny violin?

They ain’t got a f**king clue.

It’s weird how your marital status can affect so much, but it just does. Maybe there’s some resentment on my part.

Most likely, let’s be honest.

That whole #firstworldproblems is kind of how I feel when I see someone moan about an itch in an otherwise happy marriage.

Maybe one day I won’t resent all you happy buggers. Maybe I’m just feeling bitchy because I saw my divorce lawyer today*.

But urgh. What I’d do for an incompetent husband over an evil almost ex husband sucking all the funds out of my bank account.

What I’d do to not feel like an outsider. Most the time I embrace my fresh start on life. But those groups give me an insight into the life of people who are settled and content and, I won’t lie, it stings..

*highly likely

Grief and booze

On February 3rd I made a decision to let Dry January over spill into February. Perhaps even into March. As long as I feel happier and stronger sober, then that is how I will remain.

This wasn’t a fast or simple decision. But I know it is time I grieved.

My ex and I broke up in August 2017. We legally separated March 2018 and we’re yet to divorce. We have been waiting to tick the “two years separated” box. It’s been the hardest year and a half of my life. So I decided to be kind to myself, but was I really?

As I was stuck in (and still am stuck in) most evenings with my children asleep in their rooms, I turned to the bottle as a source of comfort. At first it felt strange to drink alone, yet whenever I’d message or speak to friends, the first thing they’d say was “God you’re having an awful time, sounds like you need a drink!”. Even my therapist told me a medicinal glass of wine at night was better than taking antidepressants.

I told myself it was just a short term thing to numb my nerves, and numb my nerves it did. But it also numbed my brain, any feelings of joy, and any motivation to push on with my life. It made me irritable and cranky and my IBS worse.

I was perpetually exhausted and anxious. I looked forward to the kids bedtime as I knew I would feel better once I opened a bottle of wine. There would never be any left by the time I went to bed.

I felt lost, I would drink until my throat burned and my cheeks stung from all the tears I’d cried. I found myself enjoying not having company in the evenings as it was an opportunity to drink until I ambled back to bed bleary-eyed.

Funnily enough, despite all of the above, I didn’t recognise that alcohol was becoming a problem. It creeped up on me gradually.

I felt wretched by the end of December. I’d developed a large short patch of hair on the back of my head from where I’d been anxiously pulling at it. I’d noticed my hands starting to shake the morning after drinks. My eyes were dark hollows. My gut was so bad that I was nervous to eat at all. The misery of the previous year had physically manifested itself within me. I had no choice but to look after my health.

Dry January it was. So many people do it, why not?

To fully embrace the spirit of Dry January I decided to listen to “The unexpected joy of being sober” by Catherine Gray. I also downloaded the Alcohol Change Charity Dry January app so I could track my success. I didn’t make it until the end of January. I drank on the 26th, 27th, 30th, 31st of January and then 1st, 2nd February.

I couldn’t help but look at those little black squares on the calendar and recognise a problem. I wasn’t drinking in moderation like I had planned to. I could feel my drink cabinet beckoning me on a daily basis again.

When I first started listening to Catherine Gray’s audio book I thought we had little in common. She had a real drinking problem with regular black outs, excessive spirit consumption, the list goes on. However it didn’t take me long to realise, there is no solid definition of an alcoholic/alcohol dependency. Essentially if alcohol is a problem for you, it is a problem. In my case, even one glass feeds the black dog. It needed the boot.

Aside from being depression’s evil accomplice, alcohol was also getting in the way of a proper night sleep. After listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Matthew Walker on the science of sleep, I realised not only was alcohol stopping me from sleeping properly, it was also stopping me from emotionally processing/compartmentalising my experience of separation. Even in my sleep I was preventing myself from moving on.

What’s worse, your body needs to catch up on that REM sleep, and it will make sure it does. Hence the terrifying nightmares many people experience as they detox themselves off alcohol. Fortunately it doesn’t last for long, but for about five days I was afraid to go to sleep.

Today I read a tweet by Rob Delaney which really resonated.

Rob Delaney Sobriety

“Sobriety allows me to grieve fully, and grief is an expression of love.” Rob Delaney

In his case, grief is an expression of love for his son. In my case, that love is the love I need to show to myself. When I left my ex, I didn’t just leave behind a 9 year relationship, but the place and country I’d called my home for 8 years, my friendship groups, my career. Everything. In many ways, it’s nice to have a fresh start in a new place in a new city – the chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

But still. I left behind a lot. A lot of sadness, but also many happy times and many good friends as well as a career I loved. I also had to abandon the dreams of a happy marriage and a nuclear family. I had never considered my life in any other context. I was a victim to Cinderella syndrome. I really did believe marrying my ex meant I’d have my “happy ever after”.

In my post on anger, I mentioned the importance of sitting with one’s feelings. It’s easy when you’re caught up in the adrenaline of the fight to leave someone, then the fear of the unknown, the need to be strong to support your children – to quash those vulnerable feelings or to forget them all together. Yet the process of grieving is vital to feeling truly happy in yourself again.

One can never move on if we don’t allow space in ourselves and our lives to grieve. Since being sober I have cried a couple of times. It felt so different sober. So raw, so real, ever so slightly terrifying. Yet when I was done, I felt a relief wash over me, which I never did when I was drunk.

One and a half years later, I am finally allowing myself to grieve. It’s not frightening like I imagined it would be, it’s empowering. For every unresolved feeling I find a space for, the more I open myself up for contentment. Being able to leave the past behind means I will be able to fully embrace the present, without fear and sadness tarnishing life’s potential.

Watch this space.

 

 

“Why aren’t you angry?”

“Why aren’t you angry?”

My therapist asked, with a bewildered expression on her face.

“It’s been a while now and I still haven’t seen you get angry?”

I’d been seeing a Therapist, Liane*  weekly since the day I asked my husband for a divorce. We were several months into seeing one another when she blurted the question out.

It hadn’t really crossed my mind. But it was true, I didn’t and I don’t feel anger about my failed marriage. Or the man I chose to pick as a life partner.

Don’t get me wrong. I do get angry. I feel wrath. Get under my skin and I will rise up like a tidal wave, wreaking havoc as I smash down into the perpetrator, with toxic words piercing his exterior like poisonous arrows. Yet my feelings regarding the separation and my ex weren’t instinctive or primal.

They were the result of years and months of gradually being worn down. I was being emotionally abused by my ex, a narcissist. He couldn’t see his own behaviour. He was completely mystified when I chose to leave him.

“But the children are happy. I am happy. The only problem is you. Why would you leave this?”

It’s sad because he genuinely believed the above. My happiness wasn’t of significance to him. We had a regular healthy income, two beautiful children, a vast social network and enjoyed regular trips away – what more could I want?

I was often accused of believing “the grass is greener”.

I was also woken at night by my husband having “relations” with me, apparently this was acceptable as I was his wife. He barked at me whenever I pulled my phone out (which as a freelancer was a necessity). He made me breastfeed in a room alone to avoid offending his family. I was never allowed the opportunity to time alone, he’d barrage me with endless phone calls reminding me of my failings that day. In every activity I conducted in front of him, I was belittled to the stage that I started to believe I was the person he saw.

So no, I wasn’t angry. I was full of adrenaline and fear. I was emotionally exhausted and drawing on what little reserves I had. I knew I had a long journey ahead rediscovering myself. Building myself up again. I would need to find the back bone he had worn down if I was going to get what I and my children deserved.

I knew I also needed to address what had led me to being here. How and why did I allow someone like him into my life? That’s an ongoing journey.

I needed to find peace. Peace in my surroundings, but most importantly, peace internally. Anger has no place there. It’s a healthy emotion. I’m a strong believer in sitting with your emotions. But anger is not one I have to sit with.

There are plenty of other demons I have to confront. But anger has no place here.

I twisted my hair round my fingers and awkwardly shuffled in my seat. Not entirely sure how I was meant to feel.

“I guess I just haven’t. Should I?” I meakly replied to Liane.

I was yet to realise I didn’t need anyone else’s validation in how to feel, but I was heading down the right path..

You missed the turn. Where the F**K are we?

Is that what happened?

Is that how life happens? Marriage doesn’t come with a Sat Nav. Lord knows it should.

Did anyone else do one of those pre-marriage questionnaires with their priest while preparing for a wedding? A rather extravagant multi option compatibility test. It asked whimsical questions like how we cope in social situations and whether we both wanted a family.

This is what it should have said:

Will you support your partners career?

Will you celebrate and support one another’s autonomy?

Will you change nappies?

Will you remember to be kind?

If I had seen the honest answers to the above I’d have grabbed my hard-earned savings and ran. As it was, we blindly marched into marriage, despite the regular squabbles, we believed love was enough. Love endures, love binds, love knows no limits.

Until it does.

The picture perfect wedding. An extravagant honeymoon. Cocktails on the beach as the sun set over Hawaiian seas. Two helicopter tours, one over the Grand Canyon, another over the picturesque beaches and volcanoes of Kauai. Stunning skyscraper views of New York. We bought a projector to be able to share the memories with family and friends on our return.

I had never allowed myself to dream of such luxury, such love. Yet there it was. What’s more, he agreed to support me to study and do the career I dreamt of. It seemed, for one moment in time, that I had it all.

He was charismatic, charming. People never failed to warm to him. He was generous in spirit. Happiness radiated throughout each room he entered. We both loved to live each day like it may be our last.

When we ate out, we had the best of everything. Large glasses of delicious heady wine, tender pink steaks piled high alongside chunky and crispy sweet potato fries.  Plump tomatoes sliced finely and smattered with deep olive oil, garlic and oregano. Finished with a Moroccan mint tea and no doubt a cheeky digestif for the road.

Evenings in were still an occasion, there was never a viewing of Mad Men that wasn’t accompanied by an Old Fashioned meticulously prepared by myself, he was never patient enough to stir for that long. Yet the impulsiveness which accompanied his inability to be patient was almost intoxicating.

His allure was how he contradicted me. While I am scrupulous and love the meditative effect of taking my time over the things I enjoy, he wanted and made everything happen immediately. He was the yin to my yang. Or so we thought.

“Often it’s the selfsame thing that attracts you to someone which eventually drives you apart.” Anon

It transpires that his view on life did not transpose well over to being a father. Patience is more than a virtue. When you’re a parent, it’s a necessity.

We didn’t have a sat nav. While the average marriage would benefit from one, parenthood requires a compass and stormwear to endure the destabilising knocks that bringing new life into the world entails.

We didn’t have the gear. We got lost. We got angry. We never found our way back.