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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Recovery Revolution

Hello.
I would like, if I may, to prattle on a bit about recovery. Or maybe Recovery? I recently went through a detox to end my many years of alcohol use and abuse, now, nearly 100 days dry it’s time to share a thought or two.

What is recovery? This is taken from the NCADD website.

Individuals who are “in recovery” know what it means to them and how important it is in their lives. They need no formal definition.
But for the general public and those who research, evaluate, and develop policies about addiction, recovery is a concept that can sometimes seem unclear. 
Essentially, recovery is a complex and dynamic process encompassing all the positive benefits to physical, mental and social health that can happen when people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or their family members, get the help they need.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition:
“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”
Expanding on this definition, SAMHSA articulates twelve “Guiding Principles of Recovery”: 

1.    There are many pathways to recovery.
2.    Recovery is self-directed and empowering.
3.    Recovery involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation.
4.    Recovery is holistic.
5.    Recovery has cultural dimensions.
6.    Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness.
7.    Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
8.    Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude.
9.    Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.
10.Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.
11.Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.
12. Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen.

This definition makes sense whether your addiction is to a substance or action.

I thought about my recovery for a long long time before taking the plunge, how could I tell my friends and family? How would it affect my day to day life?  Should I just let my inner circle of close allies know of my decision? After all, hardly anyone knew the demons I had been wrestling with for so long, why the hell should I involve them in my recovery? These and many other questions plagued me and held up my decision for quite a while.
Then I had a thought. If I was to achieve what I was setting out to achieve hiding behind a veil of lies would be counterproductive and, let’s face it, I would need all the help I could get. I decided to “go public”. Share my thoughts, trials and tribulations wherever possible. Luckily, it would seem, I made the right decision.
Recovery from any addiction be it substance or action is something to be shouted about. Don`t do it on your own, be proud of all you are achieving and let others know how you feel. Shout it from the rooftops, share it with your friends, like it, retweet it, photocopy it, fax it, add it to your LinkedIn network just stand up and be PROUD of what you are doing! Let others see just how AMAZING you are feeling, how you have so much more time to do stuff and feel so much better when doing it. Let them know you`ve been born again, your life has restarted and the real you is back with a vengeance.

We need a Recovery Revolution.

Recovery should be embraced as the amazing thing it is, not carry the stigma it can at the moment. Unsure about dealing with your addiction? Look around at all the happy gurning idiots who are ahead of you in the process, listen to them shout about it, look at how you could feel.


 Don’t get me wrong, I`m not saying the process is easy for all and should be entered into lightly, but if Recovery were to be accepted as the amazing life changing process it can be then surely the decision to enter into it would be a whole lot easier?

This post was written for "The Recovery Revolution" a brilliant site addressing the issues faced by people in recovery. Please take a look.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Facilitations.

Hello.


I passed.

Remember a while ago I mentioned how I was training to be a facilitator for the SMART groups that I attend? Well I only went and passed the course. I am now a SMART facilitator. I will hopefully soon be co-facilitating the group I attend with John from Turning Point. This is great on a couple of levels, it means I keep getting the support from the group that I need and also get the chance to share my experiences to help others on the road to being substance free. 
If you are not aware of the SMART recovery programme here is a rough outline of the ethos, lifted straight from the SMART website:


We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.We run a network of self help meetings and also partner with care professionals. OUR APPROACH

• Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance.

• Provides meetings that are educational, supportive and focussed on open discussions.

• Supports the use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments where appropriate

• Can be used to tackle any form of addictive behaviour, including drugs and alcohol, gambling

• Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves.


It’s a different approach to the traditional 12 step programmes, and one I have found to be incredibly helpful. You can read a bit more about it here www.smartrecovery.org.uk 
Hopefully I can drive the group forwards and increase the numbers. Harborough may be a hard place to do this as it still has a very small town feel to it. People in need of a little help are still afraid to attend a meeting like ours for fear of others finding out about their “problems.” I must admit that initially I myself was very concerned about how people would react when I mentioned the fact that I had/have a problem and was considering detox as a way to deal with it, but found I got nothing but support, understanding and a genuine interest. The first step to dealing with addiction is to admit the addiction exists, if you feel comfortable to share this then the road is one much easier to travel.

In other news, Sarah and I did our first 5km Parkrun around the local park. Parkrun is an amazing thing. Staffed entirely by volunteers they are popping up in parks all around the world. Anything from 30 to 300 or more people getting together in a park to have a run. With the emphasis on “run” it’s not a race but a great way to get out, get fit and have a laugh. My sister came up from Norfolk to join us, missing her own parkrun`s birthday party. We waddled round at our own pace to the sound of applause and encouragement from runners and marshals alike. What a great feeling to finish. I never thought I`d see the day that 3 Pollards would cross the finish line of a 5km run together, still alive and in such great spirits.

With the combination of exercise, good diet, new job and alcohol free lifestyle I feel better physically and mentally than I have for years. I`m under no illusions that the war with Al is over but I`m constantly winning battles and campaigns, he is on the retreat and I fully intend to keep him going in that direction.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Big Events, Triggers and Words.

Hello

Several big events this week, passed 2 months dry, dropped below 15 stones and ran 5k in one go without dying. Big event tonight too, Sarah is in London visiting the kids so I`m home alone for the night. Previously this would have resulted in me buying a huge amount of beer and drinking myself unconscious, waking up on the couch feeling half dead and being out of action for a day or so. Today I came in from work, changed into my running gear and pushed myself to a 5k run. Came home, cooked a nice tea and am now trying to decide which flavour of water I should drink while writing this. Amazing how much things can change in such a short time. 

Due to my return to work my group visits are now down to once a fortnight. I missed my first meeting since I started this week. I was a little concerned about this, but the week has gone excellently. Once a fortnight should provide the level of support I need at the moment. My studies towards being a group facilitator have taken a back seat for a little while as I pick up the new job, but should be restarted with a vengeance next week. I`m looking forward to the chance to run my own group, both to help others and also as a support mechanism for myself. The more I read about recovery the more I realise that I`m still right at the beginning. Only 2 months in I`m still learning daily about the way my mind will react to certain situations and triggers and how best to deal with them when they arise. 

One particular trigger that is really getting my goat at the moment is supermarket displays. Most rack ends facing tills in most supermarkets are devoted to Al. Meal deals include an alcoholic drink with very rarely a soft drink option. Every where you go Al is thrust down your throat. It is incredibly tricky to visit a supermarket without having ridiculously cheap booze thrust down your throat. A few years ago supermarkets removed sweets from the checkouts to stop impulse buys, maybe its time to do the same with booze. keep it in one area and avoidable if you wish. Any thoughts on this? 

I don’t know if you read a previous blog where I shared the words of a twitter friend describing addiction from the point of view of someone who lived with an addict.? You can read it here if you like, but be warned it was very hard hitting stuff and quite a tricky read. I had a lovely message on twitter the other day from the author saying that she had shared the piece with her therapist who then shared it with a supervisor and it is now being used to help other people in similar situations. If anyone else would like to contribute something then you would be most welcome. I`d like to read and share words from people on both sides of the addiction tale. If you fancy it drop me a line in the comments below or email jonmpollard@googlemail.com or tweet @hippy_jon and I`ll share it on here.

More soon.




Thursday, 18 August 2016

Past, present and future

Hello.


Blimey! Doesn’t time fly when things are going well? Over a week since my last instalment, so let’s bring you up to date. Started my job at the Market. A couple of half days training and a couple of full days too, soon be flying solo. I can`t believe just how right this job is for me. Great team, great workplace, an important part of the community and a chance to be part of events like the Food Festival and Farmers Markets. Not just saying this in case my bosses read this, it seems to be the perfect job for my time and place. All this and only a 10 minute walk to work too. Brilliant.

Had the family around for a barbeque at the weekend. Another possible trigger but no problems. All mucked in to prepare some ace food, huge assortment of soft drinks and several hours talking about not much. Great day had by all. Another big milestone passed there too, first meeting of the Pollard siblings and partners with no alcohol involved. Admittedly I was always the one to insist on the presence of big Al, but I sailed through the day with only having to escape a couple of times to gather my reserves.

The group progresses nicely as does my online training to be a meeting facilitator. It’s been a little slow lately with starting work and such, but back into it with a vengeance now. Had an interesting conversation at the barbecue about smoking. My sisters partner, like myself is struggling with quitting. I plan to try an online SMART group to try to help us. The SMART method is designed to work with any addiction so maybe I can use some of the tools I have learned to help us quit. Might as well try to clean up my act completely while I`m at it. A good group is a great self-help network and can only aid my recovery as long as I take it easy and don’t undo the good work done so far.  If anyone else would be interested in such a group, maybe via skype or facebook please let me know, it’s just a baby of an idea at the moment but you never know..


I`ve been thinking a lot about the future lately, never really paid it much heed before. Now my life has some sort of order and some of the demons have been laid to rest I finally feel comfortable to do this. The whole concept of going forward forever without Al in my life still seems a little alien. Every time plans are mentioned he raises his ugly head. Years of planning events, journeys and days out around Al have taken their toll on me. Never staying out too late visiting friends and family so I could get home and embrace him. I have a new found freedom to do things that hasn’t existed before but I still struggle to appreciate this. Time will be the healer here I suppose, I`m just a baby at this recovery business, it’s a huge learning curve and lifestyle change.

Lastly, Sarah and I are now over halfway through our couch to 5k training and its progressing very well. Running for up to 20 minutes at a time now. Good job really as my love affair with freshly baked cake and bread continues unabated. I`m managing to eat like a pig and still lose weight. The combination of losing the empty calories provided by Al and doing regular exercise really doing the trick. We are on target to do our first 5k Parkrun in Harborough on 10th of September. Next target Tokyo 2020. Look out Mo we`re coming for you.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Big week, all change.

Hello


Well what a week that has been. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much your life can change in such a short time. Where do I begin? I`ll approach it chronologically, because it suits me if things are in order.

Thursday saw me in Kettering for the first of three parts of a training course to help me get my driving license back a few months early. I lost it for 20 months due to being an idiot and taking my car for a spin whilst under the influence and ending up on a roundabout on the A6. First and definitely the last time I will ever do that. Luckily no one else was involved. More about this incident another time. The course was a full day talking about the effects of alcohol, how long it takes to leave your body, how many units are in each sort of drink and how it impairs your judgement. Talking about alcohol for such a period, and reflecting on my own stupidity very nearly had an adverse effect. On the way home I popped into the cafĂ© on Kettering station for a coffee where I noticed they sold cans of beer. I was within a gnat’s whisker of ordering one, maybe two. Had to bring in a few tools learnt in my group to help. A quick cost benefit analysis, looking at the short term gains against the long term price, seemed to do the trick. Reminded me just how easy it could be to have a lapse. I must not be complacent, it’s still very early days.

Saturday we were off to St. Neots to Sarah’s Mums place, she had very bravely agreed to host a party to celebrate daughter Jo`s 30th birthday. Sarah and I had prepared food for 30 odd people, relatives and friends alike and Gwen prepared the garden with a huge gazebo, cleared out the garage as a food area and set up the shed for kids to play in. It was the perfect party venue. This was a real test as there was to be alcohol present. My first outing to a large social event where everyone would be drinking, except for me. We had emergency escapes in place, and I did have to run off with the dog for a while to sit in a field but all in all I survived intact. Another huge milestone for me and a wonderful day had by all involved.

Whilst in the process of setting up the party I received a phone call. Good News.

Let me take you back a week or so. I applied for a job as Assistant Supervisor at the local Market. This caused a little quandary for me. Do I mention that I am in the process of drying out at the interview? I discussed this with the group. My main concern was that if I didn`t offer the facts they may well come back to haunt me at a later date. We acted out a few scenarios and I decided the best thing was to bring it up, which I did. Luckily the facts were well met and I was thanked for my honesty. I assured the interviewers that in no way would this affect my ability to carry out my duties and left feeling the interview had gone very well.

Back to the party. The phone call. “Could you pop in to the Market Tuesday afternoon for a quick chat please?” This I did, quick chat in the office and lo and behold I am now the Assistant Supervisor for Market Harborough Market! Really looking forward to getting back to full time work, in a job I will really enjoy and having a bit of structure in my week again.

So much in one week. So many milestones passed. Things are really looking good at the moment. I haven't been able to say that for a long while. It’s a rocky road and I`m nowhere near the destination, but my journey has started and small steps, mostly in the right direction will take me to where I need to be.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Farewell young man.

Hello.


Had to say farewell to a friend today. Well, more of an acquaintance than a friend but someone who has played a huge part in my life just lately, and probably a huge part in my life going forward from now. I`ve hardly mentioned this young fellow in my story, a matter I intend to put right this evening.

Let’s go back a few months. I`m still drinking, things seem to be falling apart all around me, I`d been failing to get off the ale quite consistently for quite some time. Maybe through lack of trying, maybe I just wasn’t ready, who knows? I had seen addiction councillors on a couple of occasions to no avail…they didn’t know what I was going through…they had no idea what it was like to be an addict, who were they to judge and advise me I thought. After a long chat with my GP and several long chats with Sarah I decided to give it another go. Self-referred to “Swanswell” as it was then known or "Turning Point" as it has become and got my first appointment. Back of the chemist, little consulting room, Tuesday just after lunch. Perfect. Just in time for a couple on the way home before tea. Sitting in the room waiting for me was a young man by the name of Priyesh. I sat down and we chatted. We chatted about drink, about home, about moods, about my physical and mental health, about the health of those around me. We went through some official stuff and that was it, meeting over. Cool. Not too bad then.

Next meeting we started talking numbers, units, cravings, urges and all the stats surrounding my drinking. When did I start? When was I last dry? All that sort of stuff. He suggested I joined a “group” and I laughed. Never I said. Look how wrong that turned out to be. We agreed on a structured period where I would gradually decrease my intake over a few weeks. Seemed simple on paper. X number of cans this week, x-1 the following week and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. All through this Priyesh was very understanding and willing to listen, yes, I know that’s his job, but he had managed to get me to talk. No mean achievement.

Following an incident that I may talk about another time, Sarah and I decided things couldn’t go on as they were. She was at her wits end and I was slowly but surely drinking myself to death. Something would have to give. Priyesh and I had discussed the idea of a detox and it was at this point we decided that this was the way forward. Things happened very quickly after the initial decision and the story of the detox is told elsewhere. As part of the discussions Priyesh once again brought up the “group” and I agreed to attend. If you are a regular reader you will know how much of a positive affect the group has had on me. So positive in fact that this is where I come to say farewell to Priyesh. I am now over a month dry, I have a good support network in place in the group and my circle of friends. I also have an outlook on life that is more positive than at any time I can remember. 

So farewell Priyesh. Keep up the good work. Rest easy in the knowledge that you may well have played a part in saving my life, or at least given me some of the tools I need to save it myself.


Post Script
If you have tried counselling for whatever reason in the past and it hasn’t done you any good don’t give up on it. The problem may just be you haven’t found the right counsellor yet. It might be that the time is not quite right for you. Keep trying, it’s worth the effort.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Get Smart, fight the urge

Hello


I`d like to tell you a little more about SMART recovery, the providers of the group I attend, and the organisation I am training to be a meeting facilitator for.

Here’s a bit of stuff stolen directly from their website, outlining the approach and ethos of the company.

ABOUT SMART RECOVERY
We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.
Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.
We run a network of self-help meetings and also partner with care professionals.

OUR APPROACH
• Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance.
• Provides meetings that are educational, supportive and focussed on open discussions.
• Supports the use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments where appropriate.
• Can be used to tackle any form of addictive behaviour, including drugs and alcohol, gambling
• Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves.

SMART Recovery (SMART) is a science-based programme to help people manage their recovery from any type of addictive behaviour. This includes addictive behaviour with substances such as alcohol, nicotine or drugs, or compulsive behaviours such as gambling, sex, eating, shopping, self-harming and so on. SMART stands for ‘Self Management And Recovery Training’.
SMART began in 1994 in the United States. It has grown into a worldwide network of self-help meetings, both face-to-face and online, where participants can get help from others in recovery. SMART operates as a non-profit organisation in many countries including the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia.
There is no single approach to recovery that is right for everyone. Research into various recovery methods and therapies suggests that mutual aid can help recovery and so can treatment – a combination of the two is probably even better for many people.
SMART Recovery helps participants decide whether they have a problem, builds up their motivation to change and offers a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery. This is the SMART Recovery 4-point programme:
Building and maintaining motivation
Coping with urges
Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviours
Living a balanced life
People can stay with SMART as long as they wish. There is no requirement to make a lifetime commitment to the programme, just to their recovery and leading a healthier life.
Many people find that continuing to participate in SMART after they have recovered helps them avoid lapses or relapses. Some will volunteer to train as Facilitators and set up further meetings. Others simply continue to attend meetings and share their experiences with others.
Within SMART, labels are not thought to help with recovery and are avoided. People are not called ‘addicts’, ‘alcoholics’, ’druggies’, ’overeaters’, ’sex addicts’ or other disparaging labels within meetings.
SMART Recovery will not be able to help with every kind of problem, and participants are encouraged to seek professional help when needed.
There are degrees of addictive behaviour and almost everyone will experience this, to some degree, at some point in their life. For some, addictive behaviour will overwhelm their life and SMART Recovery can be an important and effective part of their recovery journey.


Just recently in the SMART group we have been discussing urges and how to deal with them. I still get plenty, varying intensities and triggered by varying things. I generally use a mixture of mindfulness and thoughts about what would happen if I gave in to the urge to keep me on the straight and narrow. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard but so far all manageable. Over the weekend I received a letter bearing bad news. The subject of the news doesn’t matter here, suffice to say it was quite a blow. Stopped me dead in my tracks it did. The first thing that came in to my head was “Christ I need a drink”. It actually took most of the tricks and skills I have been taught so far to fight the urge. Made me realise that I may be over a month dry but there’s still no room for complacency. That urge can turn into a lapse in no time at all. Without the skills I am acquiring from SMART who knows what could have happened. Luckily today I seem to back to “normal” whatever that may be.


In other news we completed week 3 of our couch to 5k today, every time we go out it seems a little easier. Week 4 sees a fairly big step up in running time but neither of us feel at all daunted by this. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Group, running, food and a shrink.

Hello.


Yesterday I attended the group. Another great meeting, came away feeling on a bit of a high.  If you feel the urge to read more about the Smart recovery programme you can do so here. I have been discussing the possibilities of peer mentoring and also training as a facilitator which would allow me to run meetings myself. Not only would this give me the chance to give something back with the benefit of my experiences, but also gain continued support from a peer group. Things are underway, forms have been filled in, I`ve ordered a book and watched several videos of an annoying American in a baseball cap. If I can survive that then I`m up for anything. The book contains a lot of the “tools” used within the meetings to try to rationalise and motivate etc. I`m not normally one for such bumf but the whole process and rationale behind Smart seems to make such sense. More about this as the book arrives.

Couch to 5k is progressing nicely. I now have a pair of shiny shorts to go with my running socks and bottle. Sarah has proper running shoes. We are turning into THAT couple. I have always been very dubious of people who espouse the benefits of exercise but now I have actually tried it I am starting to understand.
Returning from our week 3 runs and there is a real feeling of accomplishing something and a great feeling of well-being. The fact that we are already running for 3 minutes at a time without dying is quite an achievement. I`ve started comparing stats on my phone app and charting our progress, I feel a spreadsheet coming on. Maybe even graphs.

Last night I approached and passed a major milestone. A social event with old friends but no beer. Two friends came round for a barbecue. An event that would normally of course involve a huge amount of beer, as they always do. As it happens we had an ace evening, great food, great company and a great assortment of different flavoured fizzy water. This may seem like such a trivial thing but it was a huge event for me, affirming that a social life can still exist whilst sober. Also to be able to relax with close friends and talk comfortably about recovery was a great help. Cheers Bren and Ian, lovely evening and helped me a lot.


Today I had an appointment with the Consultant Psychiatrist about my anxiety and depression issues. Still early days to tell the effects that stopping drinking have had but we have increased one med to try to help with the anxiety surrounding the thoughts of a life without. Seems one of the causes of relapse is worrying about what would happen if you relapse. Makes sense I suppose. Will plod on with the meds for now, give my recovering liver a chance to start processing them and see what happens once they start having full effect. All in all, a positive couple of days. Let’s keep it like that.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Vive La Revolution

HELLO

Just a quick one tonight. 
I was googling around a few nights ago, looking at other recovery blogs and sites and I happened upon one that really grabbed my attention. It was loud. Lots going on and very very bright. 



“The Recovery Revolution” is not what you expect from a site about addiction recovery. I read on and found that I was relating to a lot of the articles. The positivity was the main thing to strike me. I liked the site a lot and thought I would approach them and see if they might be interested in some of my ramblings. Lo and behold I received an email from Chris asking me to submit something. This is exactly what I did, I compiled the first two episodes of this blog and added a bit ore backstory and sent it off. You might like to read what I wrote and also have a look around some of the rest of the site. There really is some good reading there.

The link to my article is here.
The homepage for the site is here.




How would you fancy having something published on "A Life Without"? If you have a story about addiction or recovery told from either side and you would like to share please email me jonmpollard@gmail.com

In other news Couch to 5k continues. Week two is over and on to week three. 22.22% of our journey to running 5k and both still feeling good. We even purchased some proper running socks and a water bottle to mark the event. That is the level of commitment we have achieved.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Gis a Job.

Hello


A week or so ago the company that supply my care package changed over from Swanswell to Turning Point. Surprisingly, as rarely happens, the changeover went fairly smoothly, only took a couple of days to get new phone numbers and the like for all involved and all back up and running. Credit where its due as these sort of things usually result in utter chaos for weeks.

Yesterday, Friday, I realised that one of my meds was going to run out over the weekend. At the moment this med is prescribed by my care provider not the doctor so this resulted in all round panic on my part. Turning point to the rescue though, posted out next day delivery to Boots and arrived there ready to be picked up Saturday afternoon. Probably no need to panic but there you go.

My cravings are getting fewer and further between, but when they do arrive they can still be strong, anything can trigger them, smells, sights, a passage in a book, anything. This is common and knowing how to deal with them is key. Distraction techniques are good, mindfulness exercises, physical exercises even mental exercises all help. Our exercise regime is still ongoing. I actually enjoy the run/walk as we do it and completing it gives a great feeling of satisfaction. Especially when the most extreme exercise you have had for years has been the walk to the bar.

Tomorrow, I will be four weeks dry. Quite an achievement I think. Four weeks. One lunar month. 28 days. 672 hours. I`m still amazed by how many hours there are in a day and its time I started putting them to good use. Therefore, I have decided that I am now ready to relaunch myself into the world of work. I applied for a job last week. CV sent off on Tuesday am, phone call Tuesday pm, interview Wednesday pm, rejection call Thursday noon. Not bad turnaround really. Felt deflated for the afternoon, would have really enjoyed and excelled at the job but it wasn’t to be. Onwards and upwards. I`ve since been offered some part time work at Dog Days Inn, the ace place that Tess goes on Holiday. Quite looking forwards to this, spending days with mental dogs is right up my street. To be honest I`ve still no idea what I want to do when I grow up. If you know of any other full or part time positions in and around the Market Harborough area my cv is available HERE, please feel free to share around. 

Oh…one last thing, if you are a Photoshop or other package wizard and fancy designing a banner and a couple of buttons for me I would be eternally grateful. No money I`m afraid but you`d have the satisfaction of making an old hippy very happy. 

OOPS

Hello.

Due to circumstances beyond my control Google seems to have moved this blog entry to HERE. Please click on the link to be redirected. 

Ta. Jon 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Group day

Hello

A quick update.
30 degrees today, lovely day to be sat in a pub beer garden next to a river knocking back a few beers.

Also, it’s a lovely day to sit in the garden with your feet in a paddling pool drinking ice cold water and writing.

The group met today, a great turnout and very interesting discussions. Turned out that one of the group I hadn’t met before knows of this blog via his daughter. She reads it as a help to understand her father`s addiction and how he deals with it. Always nice to get some “real world” feedback. I had a tough decision to make about something I can’t mention yet and by bouncing ideas around the group managed to come to an answer that fits the bill brilliantly. More on this at a later date. The difference of backgrounds and recovery states of the members of the group really helps to keep things in perspective, and to see yourself going forward. John and Mandy you should be proud of yourselves, you do an amazing service, although I’m sure your whole experience has been enriched by my participation.

Our couch to 5k project enters week 2 today so the runs are stepping up a bit. Waiting till this evening though as I don’t fancy passing out in the heat and Sarah having to carry me home. We are both actually looking forward to our runs now, discussing new routes and locations to try to keep it interesting. Tess the dog seems to be working on couch to 500k and is thoroughly enjoying all the extra exercise.

Signing off for now today as I am working on my guest post for another blog, hopefully a condensed version of everything here so far as an introduction should readers choose to read more. Also something I can then expand on as my first few chapters to send to Unbound to try to sell them on the book idea!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Run for your life!

Hello.


Getting on for three weeks’ alcohol free and most of the time feeling mentally strong and determined. Early days yet though. The physical urges are still as frequent and strong as ever but I`m constantly finding better methods to deflect them. It’s amazing how many times a day you encounter alcohol in one form or another, I challenge you to find an episode of any major TV drama that doesn`t feature a pub.  I still find myself drifting off in the daytime looking forwards to the evenings session then having to settle down with a lovely glass of Aldi fruit flavoured sparkling water. Physically, the shakes and other symptoms are still there, albeit in varying intensities but the Pabrynex injections should go a long way to sorting them out. The group meets again next Tuesday, so hoping to hear something before then.

You may remember Sarah and I starting couch to 5k? Well after the initial false start we are back on it. I now own a pair of what I believe are known as “training shoes.” Purchased them from The British Heart Foundation shop brand new and unworn for the princely sum of £6.99. Now you see the financial commitment you know just how serious we are about this. Returning from our half hour`s exercise this evening we both feel surprisingly fresh and relaxed. I am beginning to see how exercise will play a massive part on the road to recovery. It is a wonderful diversion, can be used anywhere and the feelgood factor is quite long lasting. We are aiming to do our first 5k parkrun at the beginning of September.......Sometimes I read this back and wonder who the person typing it is...

This newly discovered interest in exercise is probably a good thing as my rekindled passion for baking cakes carries on as strong as ever. This is apparently partly to feed my new found sweet tooth. A side effect of stopping drinking, especially beer drinking is your body is used to the huge amounts of sugars that are contained in beers and looks for a replacement. My replacement of choice seems to be cake. Lots of lovely sugary cake. At the moment this is fine as the whole baking process is very cathartic, just have to try to keep it to one cake a day for now, and hope the running offsets the extra calories.

In other news I have been asked to write a guest piece for another similar blog, hopefully that will be up next week, I`ll let you know when and where it is once it happens.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

AD15- Wordpress,Symptoms and Mindfulness.

HELLO

Had a little break from posting to have a wrestle with the interweb and other technologies. I intend to move to my own web address and hosting and am in the process of building a WordPress site to feature this blog and a couple of other ideas I have up my sleeve. The blogger platform I use at the moment is fine but just not customisable enough. If you are a WordPress wizard with the odd half hour to spare for some serious brain picking, then please let me know.

15 Days dry now. Still getting some odd symptoms, shakes, dizziness and clumsiness, struggling with words and sentences and terrible forgetfulness. Those of you who know me personally may well think this is nothing out of the ordinary, but these are more pronounced than “normal” Had a visit with my GP this morning and we`ve ordered blood tests for liver function, diabetes and thyroid.
Also it was group day today so I brought these symptoms up and discovered they can be a sign of Thiamine deficiency, a common side effect of alcoholism that can lead to “Wernicke’s encephalopathy”. It has been suggested I may need to be treated with Pabrinex as the Thiamine tablets I take at the moment may not be acting quickly enough.

Very interesting group today, talked of meditation and mindfulness and how they can be used of part of your coping strategy. I still get very strong urges to drink, when they hit me they tend to last 5-10 minutes and can be incredibly intense and challenging, so looking at strategies to deal with them. Mindfulness is a great tool that has been incredibly useful in my battle with anxiety. See no.2 below.


I intend to waffle on about mindfulness at a later date as I investigate it further.

Another thing I have mentioned previously is the possibility of doing some voluntary work as a peer mentor for others on the same journey as myself. It may involve sitting in on groups like the one I now attend, or helping on individual cases where my first-hand knowledge and experience can be invaluable, as can my ability to talk the hind leg off a donkey and listen at the same time. We have set the ball in motion so will keep you informed as and when, it would be great to be able to give something back and also get some useful training too.

Finally, for this episode, in my previous entry (if you missed it you can read it here) you will remember I intend to turn all this into a book of sorts. I have a near complete first chapter and a good outline of the timeline and what I hope to achieve so I am getting close to submitting to Unbound. My target for submission is late this week or early next depending on my variable attention span. The working title is “A Life Without..” and it will of course be a Man Booker prize contender.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Of books and stuff.

HELLO.

A brief update tonight. 
First day Librium free went ok. No apparent increase in urges. Managed a circuit of Sainsbury`s passing the alcohol section with only a minor wobble. Starting to realise just how much booze is pushed upon you as a shopper. Rack ends with bargains prices, multibuys offers by the truck load. Displays right in your face as soon as you enter the establishment. All these things I had never really thought about. All devices designed to make you purchase more alcohol than you ever intended to. I fully appreciate that shops have to promote items to sell them, but encouraging people to take home twice or even three times as much alcohol as they intended can only result in disaster. If joints of beef are on a bogof then you are unlikely to have just one more before you go to bed, but a fridge full of beer is a different matter. Trust me, I know.

In other matters It seems this blog is attracting a lot of attention and I am struggling at the moment to keep up with replies, so apologies if I haven’t got back to you, I will eventually.

I aim to keep updating as I carry on trying to remain dry. I have also been having serious thoughts of turning this into a book of some sort. Maybe each chapter starts with the post then I write more about the back story of what was going on at the time. Also maybe a little more history before the first post. I have signed up with unbound.co.uk and am in the process of trying to write a chapter or two and an outline to pitch to them. Please wish me luck with this project, I`ll update if and when anything happens.
If any of you have any first-hand experience of Unbounded and have a little spare time it would be great to pick your brains a little if possible.

Back in a day or two.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

AD9-Detox over, the story begins.

HELLO.

Final day of the detox today. Ten days have just simply flown by. Two more Librium to take before bed then I`m fully recovered.
If only.
Getting dry is just the beginning. Staying dry is the challenge. I have a lot of defence mechanisms in place now and my attitude and confidence are at a level I haven`t felt in years. Thanks to all the people who decided to give up various things for the week, your support is very much appreciated, I intend to write a little about you folk at the weekend, especially my wonderful wife who decided to give up cakes the very week I rekindled my love for baking!

I had my final meeting with the nurse today who complemented me on the way I have handled things. This blog, my interest in the actual workings of the meds and the effects on the body and mind the detox can have, the fact that I have been an active participant in the group have all been positive points.

Now the actual detox is over I intend to reduce the frequency of my posts to a couple a week, as and when I think I have something useful or interesting to share about the maintenance process of staying dry. I have also been sent quite a few stories to share so I`ll pass these on as and when. Please feel free to email anything you feel could be relevant and would like to share with others.

As part of my recovery process I am seriously considering volunteering for some peer mentoring within the organisation, there are a lot of training opportunities and maybe even work through the ranks to be a fully-fledged paid councillor. Early days yet but my contacts within in the organisation believe I could be a great help for others, first hand knowledge of an addiction is obviously a great advantage when helping to advise other addicts.

Oh, it would seem that this blog has somehow passed 12000 views! Incredible really when all I set out to do was vent a little steam and keep a few friends informed about my progress!

Finally, the story I published last night has created a huge amount of interest. The author has asked me to thank you all for your amazing words of support, and to let you know that things are getting better for all of them all the time.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

AD8- A hard read.

HELLO

Slept well, woke up shaky and wobbly but my head seemed to clear quickly today. Only 4 detox tablets, 2 morning and 2 evening, alongside my normal tablets. Spent most of the morning getting the kitchen back into shape after the weekends visitors. It’s not much of a kitchen but I’m a little OCD about everything being in the right place.
Group meeting today. Just two punters and one councillor. Still managed to have a very interesting discussion. Did an exercise, can’t remember what it was called now, where you list 10 things that you would really like from your life in the future. Then discuss the chances of achieving any of them whilst still drinking. Very interesting. Helps with the understanding that alcohol is in control, so many things you want to achieve will never happen while you let it remain in control. Interestingly enough, when making the list very few people include being dry as one of the 10.
Sarah and I managed day two of our couch to 5k challenge this afternoon and I have a feeling I am going to be rather stiff in the morning. Tomorrow will be a bit of a challenge, Sarah is back at work for the first day since the start of the detox. My first full day completely on my own right up till the nurse arrives around 4 oclock. Also, it’s the last day of my current medication. Completely dry and relatively drug free from Thursday. That’s the point that all the defence and coping strategies really come in to play. Al that time on my own to fill constructively. Feeling fairly confident, one of my man projects will be job hunting, so watch this space for more details.



Today I received an email from someone I chat with on twitter. I had asked for stories from people who lived with addicts and the affects it had on their day to day to lives, partly to see the kind of affects my addiction could have had on others. Addiction is generally a fairly selfish thing. Well this email left me reeling. It is one hell of a story, very well written, straight from the heart and absolutely no punches pulled. It’s a long story but would like to include it in its entirety, with no judgement or narrative, just as it arrived to me.. Please set aside some time to read it all and take it all in. Its not a bedtime story so maybe try it tomorrow.



Hi Jon

"First, I'm so impressed with what you are doing.  Its amazing, and I really do wish you all the success in the world.
I've attached my bit - it is way too long I think for your blog, but I am sending it in its entirety for you to cast your eye over.  I am happy to reduce it to something more suitable for the blog.  It has been a valuable thing for me to write so you have helped me in my recovery and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.
I'd rather it was published anonymously because I'm still ashamed.  I haven't got past the shame yet - that's a work in progress.
Let me know what you think."



The other side of addiction:

The biggest thing is frustration: frustration at the drinking, at not stopping, at the constant mix of major and minor illnesses which consume so much time, at the fact that all aspects of everyone in the family's life ends up revolving around ensuring that the addict is ok.
My husband was to all intents and purposes a functioning alcoholic:  he could dress himself (mostly); he could wash himself (but often didn't bother).  Until the past few years he held down a well-paid and demanding job and was highly respected by his colleagues.  I'm not sure what the turning point from heavy social drinker to dependent alcoholic was but I remember being shocked when the liver consultant told him that he must stop drinking if he wanted to be alive in five years.  He didn't stop drinking.  
There is a perception that alcoholics are drunks. Some are, of course, but while my husband was never sober, he was seldom drunk. If he woke in the night he drank; when he got up in the morning he drank.  To bust another myth, he didn’t drink spirits from a paper bag. His drink was red wine; he wasn't a spirits fan at all, although he would drink anything at all if there was nothing else available.  
He was a complicated man. I never doubted that I and our children were loved, but I did always feel that he loved access to his bottle just that little bit more.  His entire routine focussed on having access to alcohol.  If he drove he would always have wine in the car with him.  If he went into hospital there was usually a small bottle of wine in his bag.  If he went anywhere, there was always access to alcohol. Always.
His decline was gradual at first, but sped up towards the end and despite all the years that had passed with him being unwell, we were still not prepared. He was hospitalised on many occasions mostly under dramatic and unpleasant circumstances, including a run of 5 flashing blue light ambulance admissions over a 6 week period via the Resus Department of the local hospital where we were on first name terms with the staff, was particularly harrowing.  Clearing up after episodes of vomiting blood was like a TV murder scene.  Clearing up both him and floors and clothes after repeated episodes of foul smelling, oily diarrhoea was my worst nightmare.  As you’d expect these episodes of diarrhoea in a variety of places - supermarkets, pubs & other social situations were mortifying for him.  At one point in his illness he lost all but a small amount of vision. Almost miraculously his sight recovered but never fully and he always had problems with his eyes thereafter.  He developed a narrowing in his throat which meant that for months at a time he would only be able to live by drinking prescribed fortified drinks.  Periodically, he would have the scar tissue in his throat torn open by the very unpleasant process of dilatation to allow small amounts of food to pass into his stomach.  He lost most of his body muscle so that at 6ft tall and weighing around 7 stone he looked dreadfully thin.  He struggled to walk around the house; he sometimes had to crawl up the stairs.  If he fell over, which he often did, then he had to wait for someone to help him get up because he didn't have the strength to do it for himself.  His skin became like the paper-thin skin of the very elderly, so fragile that even the slightest knock could pull off several inches of skin or leave him black and blue.  The bruises took months to heal.  He was at the point of losing his teeth.  Sometimes he would stay in bed for days because he didn't have the energy to move.  He had to have a chest drain for one infection and on two occasions had excessive fluid drained from his abdomen (10 litres of fluid.  10 full litres.  Think about that, on a 7 stone man).
My account is not meant to shock, but to highlight what we had to deal with on a day-to-day basis while still trying to function: to study (one child dropped out of university with the stress of his condition, the other delayed starting because she wanted to spend time with him in case he died), to work full time and keep food on the table, the house tidy, and maybe even occasionally have a bit of fun and a life of our own.  
As this shows, living with an addict is hard. It is like watching someone commit suicide very slowly: death by a thousand cuts. I was ashamed of him and even more ashamed of myself that I should feel like that.  Our children didn’t like to bring their friends home because they were uncomfortable with questions about why he looked so ill, why he didn’t work, why he always had a drink on the go.  There is also terrible guilt that I couldn't help him, that I wasn't enough to make him stop drinking.  I know that our children feel the same.  They know it isn’t their fault, but they blame themselves nevertheless.
In the end, of necessity, all addicts are selfish.  It isn't that they don't care or even that they don't want to change, but they are in the grip of something which is literally consuming them.
I knew at the time how difficult it was day to day (it brought me to the point of breakdown as I tried to hold everything together), but it is only now that he is gone that I guiltily realise how much more life I have.  I don't worry that I will wake up and find him dead or get home from work and find him lying at the bottom of the stairs, get a phone call to rush home from work, or worse ring and get no answer then have to ask someone to call in and check on him. I don’t have to worry that our children experience any of this. There are not endless emergency hospital admissions and routine appointments to juggle around work; there will be no more avoiding family social events because he looks and feels so unwell.  Avoiding awkward questions becomes an art form over time.  
But you know what, I miss him, I miss him so much.  He was a good husband in many ways and a wonderful father when the children were young. He was involved and active as a parent in all aspects of their lives.  He loved me devotedly.  He could be generous; he had a fantastic sense of humour and he had a brain the size of a planet.  I miss our shorthand conversations, the serious and not so serious discussions that we had. I miss his physical presence.  Ultimately the saddest thing about all this is that I was missing all of these things for the last few years of his life.  That is the worst thing of all about living with an addict

Monday, 4 July 2016

AD7

HELLO

Usual start to the morning, slight hangover, shakes and a fuzzy head. Sleep seems to be improving greatly as the days go on though. Visit from the nurse today, very happy with my progress and also impressed with what I have been writing here. Positive mental attitude goes a long way. Had a brief chat about my flying visit to Beerhouse and we are both in full agreement that it wasn't the brightest of ideas and I must keep away from such establishments and surroundings for quite a while yet.

Yesterday I briefly remarked on some comments I have been receiving via this blog and on Facebook. I would like to have a look at a few of these today. Not the bad ones, they have been conscribed to the scrap heap but ones that show the view of addiction through the eyes of others. I`d like to make this a regularish thing here, hopefully get some views from people who have lived with addicts as well as addicts and former addicts themselves.

First this from Gail Bellingham on Facebook. An interesting but challenging read as it tackles the problems from both sides and shows there doesn’t have to be a drug involved for addiction to take hold. 
"Hi Jon 
I know you are looking for input on your blog about living with an addict or how addiction affects people around. My input may be too extreme, I'll let you decide if you want to use it.So I lived with an addict for 6 years. Drug addiction that is, although alcohol was used and depended on as a come down . First two years I had no idea he was using. Addicts are very manipulative and hide things well. I too, am a recovering addict, self harm via bulimia was my drug of choice, so I know how well we hide it and justify it to others! How did his addiction affect me? I can think of many ways ....Driving home after 10 hours at work and a 145 mile round commute to find myself locked out whilst he binged in his solitude ....Keeping an overnight bag in my boot and sleeping on the A6 in my car because I was too ashamed to admit it to anyone Getting to work an hour before anyone else so I could wash In the loo and make myself presentable so no one knew I had slept in my car ....Making excuses over and over for not attending family parties or friends’ houses Watching the devastation in my family when they found out I had hidden it all from them Watching someone you adore destroy themselves Breaking in to your home to resuscitate the man you live from OD Try to take theirs hurt away to stop them doing it again and realising you have no control ....Listening to promises you know they are not well enough to keep even though they mean them with all of their heart !!The spiral of addiction is shocking . I have recently lost my niece at 28 to alcoholism. Again, binging in solitude after 4 weeks sober to be found in a hotel room dead and alone ... That is heartbreaking. Her sisters, her parents, her friends, her grandparents grieving her loss and not comprehending how and why?? I know it's downbeat but it's the harsh reality of addiction. I really do think your blog is brilliant and I cannot express in words how much I want you to overcome this"  

This from “Karen” on the blog.
"Morning Jon, Karen sitting here on night shift reading blog, Well done so far but I have to agree about going to beerhouse way too soon, it is with regret I tell you to stay away as far & as much as poss !!!!this is coming from a very dry & happy alcoholic !!! I dropped most of my friends, visits to pubs/ bars/partied etc in order to achieve this ( got it all back tho ) with patience and dignity . I gained my strength daily in using these tools, I keep s tool bag in my shed ( head) and pull them out when I need to eg : social occasions , I told everyone I was recovering and to please be respectful of my wishes not to drink alcohol !!! My life !!! My rules !!! There's no need for you to have pressure put on . Your rules Jon only your rules !!!!! Stick with it mate your doing good , if it has to be moment by moment so be it it will get wider the gap , hrs by hrs ect , I know exactly where your coming from. Keep going and when the going gets tough !!! Bake lol by the way you will probably succumb to the sweet tooth this is you replacing the sugar you are losing from alcohol ( as you already know) . Thinking of you often 
Kindred Karen"

This, from my sister-in-law who decided to do a week’s detox herself as a mark of support.


"With you and Sarah all the way! Have been thinking about next week and my own detox. I only have 2 late shifts at work to keep me safe so am anticipating it to be more difficult than I thought! But in it with you although quite scary the more i think about it! Also been seeing some clients / patients at work who have had alcohol issues in their lives - what can i say except i am so glad you have chosen this path for yourself and families. Much love"

This from anon on the blog. Quite hard hitting, but also inspiring hope.


"Hi Jon.I have recently gone through an inpatient detox, my cousin came to visit me and she was shocked with the state I was in, my mum had been diagnosed with terminal cancer that I couldn't deal with, I went from the alcoholic who had a skin full after work for a year or two to an alcoholic that couldn't get up off the sofa, had yellow eyes and felt so depressed my body hurt, she was really concerned for me. She tried to get me in to see my doctor to no avail, she called NHS 111 to ask for there advice to no avail, she ended up calling a local charity that I had registered with some months before that deals with addiction, they advised her to call 999 as they thought from the symptoms she gave them my body was failing. I was taken into hospital where tests were done and they found I had major issues with my liver, I explained to them about my addiction and they put me on a ward to do the week long supervised detox, this was the hardest thing I've ever done, not because of the addiction, but due to the fact that my mum was seriously ill and I couldn't see her.The tablets they gave me helped no end and made the detox quite easy, either that or my mind telling me I've got to sort myself out to be strong for my mum, I kept telling myself I couldn't/wouldn't see her while I was drunk and no way in this world would I turn up to her funeral in a drunken state, I was also put on drip to help re-hydrate my body. After being in hospital for a week I felt better in myself than I had in years, family members commented how good I looked and couldn't believe the difference. I stayed in the hospital with my mum until she died on the 10th June, I had all the support from my family and friends, I told work what I was going through and what I was doing to get sorted out and they have also been very supportive which helped no end, there support is still happening to this day and will continue until i'm fully recovered. I'm now 5 weeks dry, still on tablets to stop the cravings and don't feel like/want a drink at all. I've not used a support group as yet as my family are really close and are there for me 24 hours a day should I need them, I've also taken up fishing again (Not been for over 15 years) which I've found has helped me relax and get my head together. I'm not going back to being the person I was and if you go with that attitude you will be fine, its not going to be an easy ride but taking the 1st step that you have taken is awesome and I can only praise you for taking this step.
Be strong, be positive, be proud."

This comes from an incredibly unexpected source on facebook:


"Evening Jon. Been reading your recent blogs and have found them very interesting. You're doing really well, especially today. I doth my cap to you sir! I myself used to be an addict, but of cocaine. It never got in the way of work, but ruined my relationship at the time, and stressed my relationship with my mum, sister and nephews But here I stand, on the other side now. I have a loving wife, and a lovely house (which you, Sarah and Tess should visit some time) and drugs do not play a part in my life anymore. I'm having a 'first' for me next week. I'm, going to an old school 'rave' on Saturday. It will be my first since I stopped doing drugs 9 years ago. It will be strange, but I know I will be OK. I have far too much to lose now. Anyway, just wanted to say 'good job' and give you some encouragement."
 Finally for now, from Stephanie on Facebook

"Hey you. Please know that alcohol plays cheap tricks; it didn't give you balls, you are showing you already have them. You have a strong spirit and a big heart, they have always been yours. My dad was and still is an alcoholic; we've been through the violence, the denial, the apologies, the liver failure, the expensive and life saving treatment, the relapse and the stroke. But he is still in the pub and always will be. He is 61 but looks much, much older. He has lived his life saying he was living fast and would die young; until that day came and all that was left was a small, scared man, no different to anyone else. Life likes to replicate itself; at 19 I married a family friend much older than myself who was also an alcoholic. But it was safe - I knew what to expect, knew how life would be. Who knew that I would one day see I was a bit more than that but he didn't want to be. By the age of 40 he was living on benefits after having a very good job, with his elderly parents driving a 70 mile round trip to make sure he had food and was clean. He died of heart failure before his 50th birthday, discovered by his mum who had a massive heart attack and almost died herself. Life is hard, it's tragic, it's magic, it is worthwhile, no matter what. Be strong, prepare to win, prepare to fight, prepare to fail, and try again if needs must. Be you Jon, whomever you need that to be, one day at a time. Big love."
If any of you have any experience of living with an addict and would like to share that would be most welcome.
Hope I haven't overloaded you today, but I feel some comments are well worth sharing, they can give so many different ideas as to what addiction involves, and it doesn't need to be drugs, alcohol or nicotine to take a stranglehold. 


EDIT: It would seem that adblockers may block
the comments box on some of the entries on this site. If you wish to comment you can either pause your adblocker, or email your comments to jonmpolllard@googlemail.com and I`ll add them for you. Jon.