The best (and worse)-year of my life: when the shit started to hit the fan

After April and the first meeting after all the years- I would say that leaving Cornwall at the end of that week was absolutely horrid. To be reunited with someone then to have to drive 300 miles (287 to be exact) to the other side of the country.

The only positive I would say (and I think Paul would agree) that on leaving each other we knew we were as committed as two people can be. Whether we saw each other twice a year or whatever we would be together. I added him on find friends so we felt we were more involved and part of each other’s day.

Paul came up to Essex two weeks later. I followed his journey and was so fucking excited that I was physically shaking. We spent a long weekend together, catching up with old friends (falling out with others but that’s another story). Not everyone was basking in our joy. We just wanted to be together and given the limited time we had that would come first which went down like a lead balloon to some friends. I was saddened that a couple of close friends couldn’t be share in my happiness. But the fact I had been so available to them and now I wasn’t was the issue. I figured that those who love me would be pleased to see me happy. Those were my people. I didn’t push anyone away I just left behind those who couldn’t accept my choices. Self care.

In the early days Scott was pleased I was happy. He knew Paul from years before and seemed to like him. Scott was also (and still is in a relationship) so I envisaged this as us all being happy and moving on. Jesus Christ I was so naive that in my head I’d seen Scott and his partner sharing a drink at Christmas with us. How very wrong I was.

I introduced Paul to my mum and her rather obnoxious partner who loved him. They could see how happy we were.

Over the next few months Paul would travel here every few weeks and I would go to cornwall in the holidays. I was making our home in cornwall OUR family home and gradually taking more and more of my stuff.

Mornings when Paul was here and Scott had the children at his house (one night a week) I would be woken at 06:30 with

‘Holly- Raif has been up for half an hour this is absolutely unacceptable’

‘Holly. Saul insists on me wiping his bottom. You need to sort this out’.

Scott started becoming hostile towards me. As we spent more holidays in cornwall he would become more difficult and rude about me in front of the children. Sometimes I would record it. Who does that? But I would share with Deb to see if it was reasonable behaviour. I got back from Cornwall after a school holiday- Scott hadn’t seen the children for a week. I would always keep him involved in what the boys were doing with pictures. He hadn’t seen his children for over a week and I was hoping for ‘boys! I’m missed you. How are you doing?’

I’d just driven 7 hours and was about to go to work. I have this recording still. I knocked on his door at 1830, the boys ran in to him and the conversation went as follows in front of the children

Boys: daddy!!!!

S: what – you’ve got pyjamas on already?

Me: hi ya!

S: look at the state of you

Me: sorry?

S: the absolute state of you!

Me: I’ve just been driving.

S: seriously holly are you going to work like that? You look like you’ve just crawled out of a ditch.

A week later was my birthday. 21st May last year. I thought I was having a breakdown. The stress of this difficult, negative relationship with Scott, the highs of the time with Paul and crashing lows of leaving him, I’d never felt so awful. My friend took me to my doctors who prescribed 40mcg propanalol x2 daily and upped my antidepressants. Here I am looking quite normal but feeling anything but. I had never felt so awful.

I couldn’t leave the house without hyperventilating. The meds made me feel like a zombie. I took some time off work and I asked Scott for more help with the boys who was wanting to drop one of his nights a month as he found it too exhausting.

For 3 years I’d asked for more help with the boys but was ALWAYS met with some excuse as to why he couldn’t. Eventually I stopped asking. He would begrudgingly have them for one week in summer and three days in the Easter holidays and wouldn’t tell me which days or week until about a week or two before. The more I asked the less inclined he would be to arrange it.

Paul and I were talking every night for 1-2 hours and of course messaging. We started to think about our future and what we wanted. I’d never considered a future without the children. I knew if we were to move to cornwall at some point I would make sure that the boys were able to maintain a close relationship with their dad and I would do anything to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Scott dropped off the boys one Saturday in the summer and I asked for extra help with the children. He said he couldn’t do it as he had arrangements when he didn’t have the children. I explained to him that in the next year I would be looking at relocating to cornwall with the children so I wanted to really encourage him spending time with the kids.

This was the first time I had mentioned the move and I remember distinctly

‘If you think for one second I’m allowing an alcoholic, anxiety ridden woman to take my children to cornwall then you have another thing coming. It’s not happening and it won’t ever happen’

And that was the day that I knew it was going to get very, very shit and that the next God knows how long were going to be hell…

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The best (and worst) year of my life: Paul

Paul.

I wrote this enormous blog and it didn’t fucking save so I will start again. As is life. Well my life anyway….

I’ve condensed the story of Paul and I for two reasons. Firstly I would be here all day and bore you senseless. Secondly because although I like to share my soul all couples have their own private history that belongs between them. I have given you the essential history of ‘Holl and Paul’.

Paul and I ‘came across’ each other when we were 18/19? Paul had an army upbringing and arrived in the UK aged 11 after spending his life living in different countries and attending 11 different schools.

I had a long term boyfriend who was friends with Paul and suddenly Paul became part of our group. Said boyfriend left Colchester for university and Paul and I spent more time together as many of our friends had left the town. Admittedly there was an overlap which I’m not proud of but I’ve always been clear about the fact I used to be a bit (more of) a c***.

Paul would be in the pub reading a large book. This intrigued me- who the fuck at that age sits in a pub reading a book? Oh and he was gorgeous with long curly brown hair. Swiftly I seduced him. Poor bloke had no chance. Hours and hours ensued of snogging and we had a euphoric Glastonbury festival in ’98 in the midst of a passionate love affair.

Then I decided that I should probably be with the nob head who I’d spent 3 years with. I sent Paul a letter. I remember driving away from his house feeling so sad but I felt I needed to do it. I sent Paul a letter saying I loved him and I was sorry.

Over the years that ensued Paul and I would cross paths occasionally. I would see him and his girlfriend. We were both busy messing up our 20’s. I met up with him after my engagement to Scott a couple of times for a catch up and a drink. I knew he was moving or had moved to cornwall. He even came to my hen do! Can you imagine that! How mental if I’d have told him that in 10 years we would be married!

He messaged me on my wedding day to Scott and said ‘hope you have a wonderful day and all the happiness you deserve. I’ll always love you’.

After that I didn’t hear anything for many years. I was married- I had the two boys and Paul was busy

with his new life in cornwall.

Scott and I separated and over time I looked for Paul on social media but no sign. Late 2017 I looked for him on google and found his work website. A few months later he contacted me on Instagram and we started talking occasionally. It was lovely to hear from him. Was good to catch up on what had happened over the years. Paul was recently separated as well.

We would clock in every month or two but both of us had our own lives going on.

In Feb 2018 our communication picked up a pace. I suggested we visit in Easter holidays- the boys and I. We started talking for an hour every night. Evenings spent together on the phone. Gradually I started thinking about him more. And then I was thinking about him all the time.

We have discussed this and we were both aware that we could be romanticising the past. Was this really something or were we just desperate for something real?

The journey down to cornwall with the boys was thrilling. Paul was two hours late to meet us. The boys must have thought I was mad I was so excited and anxious. Our first picture in the caravan after 20 years ..

I saw him at the door and I knew. All the failed relationships, me being a hopeless romantic…I knew I would spend my life with this man. Like the universe had conspired in bringing us together. We had to ruin our lives and fuck up to come to this position.

We spent the week with our children- different to all those years before when we could be selfish.

There’s something about being with someone who knew you years before. There’s a backbone. You know each other. I don’t believe we could have made it through the next 12 months had we not had the history. The wanting to invest. The solid foundation of love and knowledge of that person.

I know because I’m a romantic I’ve been inclined to think ‘this is it’. But I’m not naive. I’m aware some close friends thought I was mad for chancing this long distance relationship. Regardless of seeming like a shallow person on occasion- I’m really not-I know myself. I’m not an idiot.

Sometimes I portray myself as more of a plank than I am. I think thoroughly about things. I think about risk and I work things through. I will always trust my instinct. I’m a mother- i don’t venture into relationships flippantly.

At that stage Paul and I would have been happy to see each other twice a year and be committed to each other.

When you meet the person you want to spend your life with….you’re aware that it won’t be an easy ride because you both have your own shit from a previous life but you know you would walk over hot coals to be with that person. When you know whatever life throws at you, there is no one else you could be with. I love Paul because he has the most beautiful heart. He can be aggressive and difficult. I can be a monumental arse but we see each other for who we are. I’m vain and obnoxious.

I couldn’t be with anyone else. Til death this man is my soulmate.

When the relationship developed things got difficult:

To be continued…

The best (and worst) year of my life: The background.

I wanted to write this blog mainly for catharsis. In talking and explaining and getting my feelings down I am able to process what has been the most horrendous (and wonderful) period of my life. I’ll give you some background first.

I’m Holl. I’m 39. I met Scott when I was 25 in 2005. I married him when I was 29. When I was 30 we had our son, Raif and when I was 31 Saul came along. Raif (nicknamed Wigs which came from being a baby ‘Mr Wiggles’) is nearly 9 and Saul (nicknamed Paul Weller because of his ridiculous retro hairstyle) is 7.

In January 2005 I met Scott. I was at the end of an incredibly unhealthy relationship. I had huge trust issues, had been hurt- my ex boyfriend had an affair with my friend and got her pregnant after we had been together 2 years.

Scott came onto the scene by way of a school friend who was married to his twin brother. Scott was funny, clever but most importantly for me at that time I could see how loyal he was. I felt safe with him and I needed some normality. I wanted to have a family and get married and I wanted to do that with someone who I knew was rock solid.

We moved in together after about 3 months. I was a party girl. Scott was not. He was a fitness fanatic. He would play football all afternoon on a Saturday and I would go out with my mates. He would be in the house in the evening on his turbo trainer and I would be watching eastenders with a dairy milk and large Pinot Grigio. But he was able to churn out about 2 hours of jokes. We both wanted the same things and we had both been hurt by our previous partners.

For years I droned on about us getting married. Scott wasn’t bothered as his parents had divorced but he knew I wanted to so after 3 years I finally wore him down and he agreed to it. A year later Raif was born.

I have always felt about 8 years old mentally and having a baby for me was like being hit by a train. What the hell do I do now?! What do I do with a child?!?! I hated my job so quit it to be a full time mother. Having children was the start of the demise of our marriage. I remember raif being about 2 weeks old and feeling very clearly that I didn’t have room to love Scott as I wanted to give all my love to Raif. I started to be resentful that I had to give attention to a husband when I just wanted to have my son. I found Scott lacked confidence with raif. Raif suffered with silent reflux. As a new mother I had no idea what this was. All I knew was that it would take me 3 hours of breastfeeding every night to get him to sleep with him thrashing around because he was in pain feeding. This resulted in ongoing paediatrician and hospital visits. I was often in the walk in centre 3x a week for hours on end until we managed to get the right medication to keep the reflux under control. I did this on my own because of Scott’s chronic illness and fatigue which I resented and then felt guilt over the resentment. Raif first had pneumonia when he was 1. I spent Boxing Day in hospital with him and then visits to and from Addenbrookes Hospital to deal with the asthma which he was left with and the damage to his lung.

As an only child I was very lonely and knew I wanted raif to have a sibling and quickly. Saul came along a year and a half later and was a piece of cake compared to Raif. I had my two beautiful boys. A lack of sleep and two children waking each other up all night like a pack of wolves was a killer. It’s only the past couple of years they have settled (more) at night.

I did all the night waking because Scott had a job and had to be up at 5am. Again resentment. He would come in from work at 5pm and go on a bike ride. I felt I had completely lost my identity. The boys and I would spend our days at 3x baby groups a week, had our anti natal friends, would go to the zoo weekly, baby swimming, you name it. I would ask Scott for help in picking up milk on the way home from work as the logistics in getting a newborn and one year out for a pint of milk were a pain in the arse but it would be met with ‘might as well throw my dinner away then because it will be cold by the time I get home’

‘Spaghetti Bolognese again? I’ll get a Mac Donald’s.’

There were a couple of occasions when he ate his dinner in the garden so he could get some peace from the boys. I wouldn’t eat for half an hour as every parent knows the Minute you plate up the baby starts crying’

I was angry and felt like a single parent. Of course this is only my side of the relationship but it was how it was for me. Passive aggression slipped in on both sides. Scott was constantly negative which I massively struggled with. We would argue in the kitchen- I knew the kids would pick up on it- he didn’t feel they would. There were two bouts of marriage counselling but that only works if you want the marriage to work and I didn’t want it to work for the right reasons. I wanted to be on my own with my children but for two years the thought of having to make that decision was horrendous. How could I possibly make that decision of the boys growing up without their dad. I was constantly on anti depressants. I had huge guilt and I would sit upstairs breastfeeding whilst crying- I could see my life mapped out and it wasn’t where I wanted to be. At the end of the marriage I thought I was going mad. My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist because I thought I was having a breakdown. I told her how unhappy I was at home. Her response to me was

‘I see people with two kids who have Down’s syndrome. That’s a lot to deal with. You are just unhappy but the grass isn’t greener’

Then one day we went on holiday. We couldn’t talk to each other. Any physical aspect had gone out of the relationship over two years ago. I encouraged the children to be in our bed as a buffer. We would put the kids to sleep in the caravan and and we couldn’t even be civil. We could not communicate. No words left to say to each other. We got home and I said It was over. He wouldn’t leave the house. I had nowhere to go. This went on for a period until I urged him to stay at his mums midweek and he could come back and have weekends with the boys. I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. Weekends were fraught but my guilt made me over compensate so we made an effort with family days out.

Scott moved out in May. In July I told him he couldn’t come back at weekends. The following March our decree absolute came through reason being his unreasonable behaviour.

That was March 2015. Over the next 3 years I had a couple of relationships. Always very difficult. Scott would return the boys and be derogatory about me, concealed with humour. In front of the kids ‘mummy looks like poo’

‘ you look like a Romanian refugee’

‘Seriously, the absolute state of this house’

Then I reconnected with Paul…

(To be continued..)

Unlucky in love (?)

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‘ And another one bites the dust, why can I not conquer love?’ Sia, Elastic heart.

 

So there I was on a Thursday morning, quickly filing socks away before the school run and a thought came into my mind, ‘maybe I’m unlucky in love’.

I’ve had my share of relationships. Three long term. I’ve met people who I’ve quickly become close to, people I’ve shared my inner world with and who I’ve loved with everything in me.

I don’t love gently. I love with force. I give my all every time yet here I am aged 37 with two young children, single. I’m not the sort of person who has to be in a relationship yet I often just fall into them.

I’ve often said ‘I’m hard work’, ‘high maintenance’, ‘I’m not for the fainthearted’. I need a solid partner. Someone patient, someone who wants a ride. I don’t think I’m hard work or high maintenance, I just haven’t found the right person. I’ve had wonderful relationships but they often just fall short of the mark, we both have our own ‘stuff’ going on that it becomes evident we won’t be able to gel or it becomes clear we don’t want the same things and are unable to grow together.

My partner needs to keep up. I’m fast pace, high energy, passionate and spontaneous. I can be selfish, I’m ego driven and often say really inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times. I’m an attention seeker but I’m also creative, reflective and driven.     

So when things do go wrong it hurts.

It hurts like a huge thorn being stabbed and twisted in my innards. The pain of loss of a chosen one is a bereavement every single time.  So am I unlucky in love?

Let’s think about the good stuff. Standing at the alter with someone who wants to commit to you for life is, well frankly, indescribable. To share children with someone. Skinny dipping in Krabi at midnight with plankton lit up around us as we laughed in love, wandering around Oxford glowing in love still warm from making love for hours earlier, dancing in St. Mark’s square to the tango, exploring cities, stopping and grabbing a passionate kiss in an alley, walking along the English coast hand in hand on a winter’s day. The first moment when you ‘see’ someone you haven’t seen before and suddenly they are all you see.

I’m incredibly lucky in love. Is the heartbreak worth it? My God, I wouldn’t swap those moments of catching him looking at me when I’m walking away for one minute. To feel new eyes boring on me. Love is wonderful.  Does it make me want to be a bit cautious to protect myself from getting hurt? No. That’s not me. All or nothing and love is not something I’m willing to compromise on.

A note to my boyfriend: My longest relationship (with fags and booze)

drinking-alcoholI remember being about 2 or 3. In my head I was at a party. I can’t remember if an adult as a joke let me have a puff of a cigarette, if I took one out of the packet and pretended to smoke it or if I saw a lit one and had a puff.

Growing up I was taught that smoking was ‘common’. My parents didn’t smoke, my dad’s family did. We spent a lot of weekends in their gardens with the men smoking. I saw it as gross and grew up knowing I certainly wouldn’t smoke. In fact I had an aversion to it. When I found out my real father smoked (and he was a bus driver who did it out the bus window) I knew categorically that I didn’t want to do something so common. My older sisters smoked and at age 12 my older sister Cath offered mum a cigarette during lunch. Mum had smoked sporadically in the 50’s when it was glamorous to do so and she wanted to know if she liked it. Seeing her and my nanny having a cigarette in a pub was horrendous for me. I crawled under the table begging mum to stop.

When I was 15 at a sleepover my friend she offered cigarettes around. With bravado I said I would have one and remember the moment clearly, ‘its not as bad as I thought’.

From that point on, sneaky cigarettes on holiday with friends because it was cool, or at parties. In my early teens my mum also told me how my dad would walk the dog and be secretly smoking, coming back smelling of fags.

My parents didn’t really drink when I was growing up. When I was a about 10.I tried my dad’s beer in a pub and thought it was horrible. Fizzy drinks were a rarity in my house and having a babysham at my nanna’s on a special occasion was such a luxury aged 12/13, I was always angling for another one. Going to the local pub for Xmas eve in the village age 14 I was hankering after the next drink yet always shot down. Parties started in our parents houses aged 15 and mum would secretly buy me a bottle of wine to take. I felt so very distinguished, not like those people being sick. Some of the girls would bring bitter because they liked it and I thought how grown up they must be that they know what alcoholic drinks they like.

Starting college my drinking took off. The pub every weekend was a ritual for the entire sixth form- whether or not you could get into the pub. I started on beer, moved to JD and diet coke then guiness. Aged 19 I realised I would lose weight if I drank wine.

Following a split from my boyfriend aged 19 I stayed at home everyday and drank. Looking back I was depressed but I didn’t know it at the time. I would finish work, get in and put the same pair of loose pyjamas, top every day and drink and smoke in my room. The drinking quickly escalated from 1/2 a bottle of white wine every night to a bottle within a month, up to 2 bottles after about 6 months. My dad had left home by this point and my mum would come up to try and coerce me into coming downstairs and sitting with her but I didn’t want to. It was about the age of 21 she came upstairs and I cried asking for help.

I met a new boyfriend. I would drink drive after a bottle of wine to collect him from the station, then have a bottle of wine for when we got back to his house. We moved to Cambridge. By this point panic attacks had set in and I felt barely able to leave the house. Let alone travel to Bristol every week which my new job demanded. So bad were the panic attacks that my poor boyfriend had to endure me crying and pulling away when we were leaving the house just to meet the friends downstairs. How I managed to continue with life and a job at that stage I don’t know. Something in me kept pushing.

We moved to London. A new low. We got a flat at Butlers Wharf paying Mates rates for a studio flat in 2002 at £480 per week. I embraced the London lifestyle, not getting in until gone ten every night. That was the first time I choked on my sick.

I woke up one night with my boyfriend shaking me. I struggled to the bathroom being sick all along the way blaming it on a ‘dodgy Chinese’.

That scared me. Really scared me. For two days. Then it started again.

 

A move back to Colchester and a very messy breakup instigated by me, compromising myself in order to be with a man so I could continue to drink.

I met my ex husband. I was drinking 6 days a week. He would try and contain me in the house, barricading the door so I couldn’t get out, only for me to jump out windows. We got married and I fell pregnant. I didn’t drink through both pregnancies. Mum said it would be the making of me. When I had my first child my mum told me she thought I had a tumour inside me not a child.

After the babies were born, gradually the drinking would step up a gear. My unhappiness in the marriage gave me more ammunition to continue.

Then I met the man I love. My husband had moved out.

The funny thing is they always say everyone around you knows you are an alcoholic but not you. That was untrue with me. My friends were heavy drinkers and reinforced my idea that I didn’t have a problem. I was the one who knew I did.

I had this old fashioned idea of the alcoholic being some 50 something yellow man. I didn’t understand that I could be one. I can now say I am. With acknowledging that does come a peace. But not a resolution. I can understand myself as an alcoholic. I am pleased to say that and that’s where I am. I am coming to understand the epic disease that this is. How it is the most insidious, compromising disease. How I would love to feel normal! For now, my challenge is to be kind to myself and to concentrate on the here and now. All I have is hope.

 

 

 

Why am I so lonely?

So, I’ve always felt lonely.

Why?

I’ve asked myself this question every day for the past 20 years.

I’ve always been ‘popular’, always had wonderful people around me. I have people in my life who inspire me and people I love so why do I feel so alone?

I’ve taken anti depressants  since my late teens. I went from being an outgoing child to barely being able to leave the house. Why? Who knows. Could it have been my father leaving at 18 when I needed him to set boundaries but instead of doing that he couldn’t handle me and he walked away? Again.  who knows.

My twenties were awful. I said to mum recently the good thing about life is that you don’t know what’s coming. If I’d have known that my twenties would be full of crippling anxiety and agoraphobia would I have been able to tackle it?

As an only child I always lived in my head. I desperately wanted a sibling but it wasn’t to be. My parents were happy and loved up and I felt an outsider.

I carved a career and a life but it was always there.The loneliness. The initial throes of love would subside the feelings only for it to resurface.

Depression is awful. I feel as low as you can imagine but I put a face on it and I carry on.

It’s something you learn to live with. And although it sounds miserable, depression makes me really appreciate every second as opposed to just gliding through life.

I know I have a lot to bring to a relationship and It is difficult for a partner to deal with but hopefully the good times outshine the bad.

 

 

 

 

 

Falling in love after marriage

The end of a marriage is a horrible time. I didn’t get married with any view to separating and I thought that having kids with my best friend would cement our relationship and our future.

I was wrong.

Kids changed our relationship. To the point where we stopped being friends. The differences in parenting styles and priorities became obvious and a bone of contention.

There is a horrible reality to watching something you held dear fall apart in front of your eyes and not being able to stop the disintegration. When it got to a bad state I said ‘this isn’t working for me anymore. I loved you but I don’t love you anymore and I think we should stop before this gets bad’

I felt empowered making the decision not to settle. In my head (and my mother would back up) the idea that ‘you’re better off meeting someone and keeping your separate houses’. Gosh! I couldn’t agree more! I was free! I could do whatever I wanted. Like a teenager whose parents had gone on holiday for the week!

So as life has it you get into a position where you are happy being single. Of course we all know what comes next.

You meet someone.

And I did. I met a man who on our first meeting spoke to me in a way no one else had. It wasn’t that he showed an interest in me (that would have been boring and predictable) but he pushed to really find out who I was. Who I really was. Who I am.

The throes of the first few months in a new relationship are what I live for. My God. I wore a smile like a Cheshire cat and was so engrossed in my head, re-enacting every single meeting we had. I was besotted. His smile, his smell, everything about him drove me wild.

Towards the end of my marriage in my blogs I used to say how I would never settle. I’d had so many friends (or friends of friends) telling me that love settles down and you just have to accept it.

Who says? That’s fine if you are OK with that but I really wasn’t. I wasn’t expecting magic every day but I was still wanting to really desire and want someone.

So a few months in that initial drive does simmer down. It has to. Its not something you can maintain, nor would you want to- the level of energy that goes into it.

As the initial wash of desire started to calm I felt all sorts of insecurities set in. Paranoia and jealousy. I’d never experienced this before and it was horrible.

Things started to turn sour. I recognized old patterns. I started to push my partner away. I didn’t want to answer to anyone.

But I really fancied him. I’ve never fancied anyone like I’d fancy my partner. When I started pushing him away he continued to communicate with me. As opposed to turning away I faced my insecurities and we became stronger.

So, here we are. I look at this man and I I am so grateful that he is part of my life. Love after marriage is challenging but the advantage is that you know what you want and what you don’t want.

I want to spend my life with someone who challenges me, shares their personal stuff with me and roots for mIMAG9426_2.jpge as a person. Someone supportive and yes, someone who really, really wants me more than anything. Because I’ve always believed that’s how it should be.

My addiction fuelled compulsive life

Sad-Woman-SilhouetteI’ve always had a compulsive nature.

Growing up as an only child I remember feeling extremely lonely. This was compounded by my parents happiness. An awkward relationship with my step father and his love was conditional. Things had to be done his way. Children were seen and not heard so my outgoing personality had to be suppressed from a young age if I was going to get by.

I was always a bit of a liar. Probably because I was a people pleaser. I wanted people to like me. I would massively exaggerate everything which instead of making people like me made them distrust me. I am still an exaggerater to this day, its so strongly built within my personality.

I could never really identify with anyone. I had half siblings but they were older, my father wasn’t my own and I knew he longed for his own child. I had moved as a child and was settling into a new school. I suppose for as long as I remember I had issues with my identity. I just couldn’t seem to work out where would fit in. I never felt quite right.

One of my best friends said to me when I was 15, 18 (and again when I was 22) ‘Zoe, most people know who they are are by now and have got their own style’. She didn’t mean it in a nasty way but it preyed on my insecurities about my identity and further confirmed my unhappiness at not feeling right in my own skin. Of.course there are a lot of people who don’t really know who they are at that age.

Growing up my parents didn’t really drink. The odd glass of Muscadet at Sunday lunch or a beer with a curry on a Saturday night. From being tiny I remember having a thumb full of wine at special lunches. I relished feeling grown up. My father firmly treated me as a child and I enjoyed feeling like an adult.

In my mid teens at Christmas time we would go to the local pub and I would be allowed 1 glass of perry and I would always try to get another one through manipulation. Usually unsuccessfully. I remember my drinking really took off just as I started college. The day I got my GCSE’s I went to to the pub with my then boyfriend (who was older than me with older friends) and I felt really sophisticated. I didnt feel alone.

Drinking = not being lonely and good times.

When I was about 19 I split with my long term boyfriend. I was devastated. In hindsight that was probably the time that my depression kicked in. All I knew was that drinking helped me to stop the pain and the hurt that I felt so acutely.

From that point my drinking escalated. Within a period of a year or so I went from drinking 1/2 a bottle of white wine a night to 2.5 bottles. I knew this wasn’t right but the only way I felt settled was being on my own in my room drinking, smoking and reflecting. The feelings of remorse started to kick in. I would wake up feeling bad, drive to work still half cut, regretful and sad and feeling empty, vowing not to drink that night. By early to mid afternoon I would start to feel better and I would be looking forward to a glass of wine that evening. This cycle continued for years. I couldn’t escape it.

I didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter. If the thought came into my head that I wanted a drink, there was nothing that could deter me from that course of action.

In my early twenties I found out that my real father had died. He was aan alcoholic and died of liver cirrhosis. Something changed in me. Subconsciously it was almost like a green light for my drinking. That this would be my downfall so I may as well embrace it. A self fulfilling prophecy.

The years that followed were fairly car crash. I lost relationships that mattered to me as none were more important than my relationship with alcohol. I couldn’t function at work, my depression was bad but antidepressants didn’t work because the booze was counter acting them as a depressant. I was having debilitating panic attacks. Not just on a daily basis but my whole life was a panic attack caused by the remnants of a hangover of which I would drink to feel normal so the whole cycle never ended.

This went on for years. I dropped friends who weren’t interested in pubs and drinking and made new friends who had drinking problems themselves but to us we thought we were just drinking all day Saturday or on any day off because that’s what ‘young people do’ and that actually we were very sophisticated. Not so sophisticated when I was waking up choking on my own sick or acting out because I wasn’t in control of myself. I found a job working for a company who actively encouraged drinking. I loved the jaunts away where drinking commenced at 7am but that was OK because we were successful sales people.

I was sad. Really sad. The drinking stopped me feeling lonely for a few minutes then made it so much worse. It didn’t matter about friends or family I was lonely in my heart. I wanted a family.

I stopped drinking throughout pregnancy. After my babies were born it started slowly on a Friday night, then moving into Sat, Sun, thurs and fri. Not to the extent it had been previously but I was unable to drink certain drinks because my body was intolerant to them after years of imbibing them.

I couldn’t not do it but I didn’t want to do it. It was a compulsion. I had no choice. I would write notes after drinking to read when sober about how awful I felt. How miserable I felt. Ironically, whilst I was drinking I knew how much I didn’t want to be doing it but when sober it was the other way round. Behaviour that I would have said I would never do became acceptable. I was a prisoner.

I’d always been fairly open about drinking to excess (yes, I had hidden bottles as well though) and I think my openness was a cry for help. For someone to tell me that actually its not normal. I was given a situation where I had to stop or there was too much at stake.

To date its taken a lot of educating myself about addiction. Its not just alcohol. It’s relationships, friendships, hobbies, exercise, sex, food. I have an addictive personality. It’s all or nothing with me. I feel everything or nothing.

All I knew and all that I had ever known was that my desire to live and watch my children grow was the strongest desire of all. So for now I have to fight myself but I have great support and mechanisms in place to help me.

I choose life.