Let it go

Let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.

Separation is a funny thing. It’s akin to grieving, emotions hit you in waves. Christmas was hard, as it is for many single parents. Despite that, I whooped January’s ass. I stopped drinking, did a vegan reset programme, got myself all the health supplements I could possibly think of and jumped on the CBD oil bandwagon.

I read more. Listened to funny podcasts. Gave myself more completely to a fledgling relationship and allowed it to blossom. There were the odd healthy tears I shed at night, still allowing myself to mourn. But I finally felt in touch with myself. I felt strong, positive. I was glowing.

The February half term loomed. Not only would I be spending most of it without the kids, but I was going to have to visit my ex in the country I used to live to collect them. I’d found out recently he had a new partner.

Despite being in a blissfully happy relationship myself (and I really mean it, he’s amazing) I was livid. In some ways I still feel some odd obligation to my ex, and like he should to me.

I felt strangely guilty for meeting someone new, knowing he wasn’t seeing anyone. Yet when he did meet her, I was equally perplexed. Partly because she seemed so similar to me. We even share a lot of the same friends from my time there.

When we parted ways after signing the separation papers, on our final evening together he criticised me for not taking care of myself. That I didn’t wax my legs often enough (I shit you not). He didn’t see the flip side of this. That I was investing so much time into our toddler and baby that I had little time for myself.

When I saw on her facebook profile (I couldn’t resist) references to her being a feminist, who wrote a dissertation on black female rights, I couldn’t help but feel a little sick. When my ex was secretly seeing someone behind my back, she actually dumped him for sleeping with a black prostitute on a rugby tour. I only mention her skin colour as he purposefully chose to sleep with her to know “what it was like to sleep with a black woman”. Not just a pig, but a racist one at that.

My stomach turned at that story then and it still turns now. He claims it’s not true, yet he’s also told me many other lies – and unfortunately it sounds disturbingly like something he’d do. He did before we were married, so why not now?

I look at their relationship and I pity her. He’s great at romancing and love bombing. He’s fantastic at manipulation. But he’s a controlling husband and a lazy father. If she truly is a feminist who believes in women’s rights she’s going to have an interesting time as he begins to reveal his true self and sniggers at her “silly ideas”.

I guess I’m also offended that despite dumping me for numerous things, he’s got together with a woman who has all the traits he said he disliked about me.

Why? Why does this bother me? I once said I felt no anger. In that moment, that was the truth. But it’s bubbling over now. I’m letting it. It needs to come out.

I promised myself I’d never write this type of blog post. But heck, it feels good.

I feel fortunate that I have met a beautiful kind and giving soul who has helped highlight the toxic rotten creature I was once married to. It will be a real celebration when the divorce papers come in early next year.

It’s so hard to coparent with a man I have no respect or trust for. I have to remind myself of how happy he makes the kids and how important that relationship is to them. I need to learn to focus on what is immediately in front of my nose. My unconventional little family which pretty much has a fourth member at this stage.

And we’re loving it, we’re loving him. I may not have the family I dreamed of, but the one I have is perfect because it’s full of love, the way all families should be. And that love is only growing as we all share more experiences and special moments together.

If it weren’t for the mistakes I’ve made in the past, I might not have recognised when I’d hit jackpot. Where I’m unfortunate for having a shitty ex, I do have an exceptional boyfriend. I guess it’s better that way round.

I’m choosing to be positive. I’m far away from the car crash that will be my ex husband’s love life. If he learns to be a better partner, good for him. If he doesn’t, more fool her. The most important thing, is I’m a long way away from it all.

The difficult thing about divorce (with kids) is that you can never use the term “free”. As long as we share custody and he has financial responsibilities to me, I can never feel free. As someone who likes to actively remove toxicity from my life, this is a hard pill to swallow.

I plan to learn coping mechanisms. I plan to focus on the now. On the future. On the beauty immediately around me. Nurture it. Let it grow. Let it blossom. Let it envelope me in so much wonder, that the ugliness pales into insignificance. I’ll be in such a strong place that I’ll only be able to pity him.

Today I already feel a little better. Tomorrow will be better still. One hour, one day at a time.

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.