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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Save Me From Myself

This was me a couple of weeks ago...

Doesn't even look like the normal me does it?

Purely 100% stress induced. 

I'd been holding on and trying to be strong for far too long. Not asking for help. Never having a break. Taking everything onto my broad strong shoulders, far too 'brave' to succumb to the overwhelm, anxiety, panic attacks that I had 'indulged in' in the past. 

What a load of bullshit! What was I trying to prove? How strong I was? Or how weak I wasn't?

It's not weakness to ask for help. It's not weakness to step away from what is killing you. 

Over this time I honestly felt like I was going to stroke out or have a heart attack. My frontal lobes throbbed. I was having fainting spells from the hole in my heart brought on by the stress, and was just not coping. 

This was quite a regular thing for me over the past few years. Usually leading me to want to drink. I never did though. No matter how hard things got. It was almost like I was creating drama and stress, to make things so hard that I would want to drink, just to prove I was so strong, that I wouldn't. 

How. Fucking. Stupid!

Certainly nothing new for me though. I'd been suicidal before, but did I really want death by stress? If I'm honest, brutally honest... it was sooooo my style... I could see my tombstone now... 

Nicole Died Caring More About Others Than Herself.... how fucking noble!

I stood back, took a deep breath and looked at why I was doing this to myself. 

That's right, I was doing it to myself! 

Stupid huh? Not always consciously, but there was certainly some Victim/Martyr crap running in the background. 

I'd literally built a business around it! Two actually if I include the music industry.. where I literally just did "stuff" for bands, promoters, whoever. Because I thought it would be returned in kindness... but that's another story for another day. But basically, helping people was "my thing".

But... there was one question I had been asking myself over the last few years that just wouldn't go away...

Who am I if I'm not helping everyone? 
Who am I if I'm not going above and beyond? 
Who am I if I'm not offering everyone around me support, counselling, lending money, offering to help etc?

Oh that's right, I'm just ME. 

And that's not enough for some people. And that's OK. 

What I needed to learn was not how to be enough so people love me, but that I am enough for me, I am enough for the handful of people who truly love me, just the way I am... ever changing, ever evolving. Even if I was a lump on the couch not doing anything for them. Nothing. Nada. Zero. 

When I was jumping to people's rescue, I was doing them more harm than good. 

I was dis-empowering them, not helping them at all. 
I was stopping them from finding solutions for themselves. 
Stopping them from stepping up, from working hard with their backs to the wall. 
Stopping them from taking responsibility and stepping back, taking a deep breath and asking for help. 
I was jumping in before they had a chance to resolve their issues themselves, because then they needed me. And I needed to be needed.

I learnt this from a young age. Help people and they'll help you. They'll like you. They'll need you. And they will be there for you when you need them. 

Except they weren't. 

And when I stopped helping, they disappeared. 

All of my life I ran that pattern over and over again. Asking myself why people disappear when I can't afford to keep lending them money or if I can't keep counselling them for free because my paying customers were missing out on the best version of me because I was fried.

Or why after doing lots and lots of work for people, for nothing, when it came time that they could afford to pay someone, they never chose me. After all the hard work I'd put in. 

Because I didn't value myself, so why should they?

And that's not their fault, I didn't ask for anything in return, I thought I already had it. Friendship. 

However, friendship isn't about saving people. It's not about giving them what YOU think THEY need. It's not about being a hero, or being there so they will be there for you when you need it. Because they won't be. 

It's about loving them, just as they are, no judgement, supporting them to support themselves, empowering them to empower themselves. And not wanting or needing anything in return. Or at least, not out of obligation.

That was a hard pill to swallow and a hard lesson to learn. 

Because I thought I wasn't enough if I wasn't doing everything for everybody. 

I wasn't enough if I didn't drop everything. 

I wasn't enough if I didn't give people my last dollar. 

Then I realised....

There was only one person who needed saving. 
From myself. 

Until I learnt... I AM ENOUGH.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The biggest threat to my sobriety... Becoming a parent!

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant like it was yesterday. I'd been excessively hungry for days, I had severe brain fog and everyone at work was giving me shit about probably being preggers! No chance... Or so I thought! My husband and I had been trying for a few years, and had done everything natural that we could to increase our chances, including getting sober. We had prepared ourselves for the fact it may not happen. We knew we were destined to be parents, but just weren't convinced it would happen naturally. We always said we would be more than happy adopting if we couldn't have our own. So on this particular day, I didn't allow myself to get excited, I put it to the back of my mind... However a few hours later curiosity got the better of me and I decided to pee on a spare stick I had in the cupboard from previous ill fated attempts. I'd already had two miscarriages, one when I was younger and one a few years earlier, and I'd had so many dissapointing negatives that I wasn't expecting much!

However, almost immediately I got a positive reading!! I screamed out to my husband to come and see, and we both jumped up and down hugging and crying!! However I still couldn't fully accept the good news so I insisted we go to the shops and buy another kit so I could do another test to make sure! Another positive!! Yay!!

We couldn't wait to tell everyone close to us, and to say everyone was overjoyed by the news is an understatement!! They were ecstatic!! Especially both our Mums who cried as soon as they found out!

Having two previous early miscarriages though always weighed heavily on my excitement levels, and our first ultrasound revealed I was only 5 weeks and the baby was still in the sack. A sick feeling remained in my stomach until the 12 week ultrasound where we were told everything was great and so far our baby was healthy and on track. I allowed myself to get excited for the first time! The sick feeling went away for a few weeks.... until the morning sickness started at least! 

Everything was going along smoothly until my blood pressure started to rise. But everything was still fine with the baby, and he started kicking away regularly. Until he stopped. And the sick feeling came back. After a full day of googling what could be wrong and following old wives tails to get him to move, my sister took me to emergency, where I was monitored for a few hours and lots of tests run. 

It was one of the scariest moments of my life when the nurse couldn't find a heartbeat. I'm sure many Mums have experienced that moment. Time slows down, sound disappears, and you feel like your going to faint.  Trying not to panic, I tried to point out where he could usually be found. 

Finally that familiar boom boom rang through my ears like the sweetest sound I'd ever heard. This wouldn't be the last close call, but it was by far the scariest. I was kept in a  couple of nights to monitor the baby as well as my blood pressure and protein levels... After this, overnight stays became regular until I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and kept in hospital for the foreseeable future. At 30 weeks they gave me steroids for the baby in case they had to deliver... I kept my legs closed tight and my will to keep incubating as long as possible was strong!

I spent 6 weeks in hospital.. My birthday, AFL grand final day, NRL grand final day... Until finally during Bathurst and after 8 hours of uneventful labour, an emergency c section was ordered. My pre eclampsia had progressed to danger zone, I was induced and my waters broken. Finally on the 12th of October 2014 at 8.40pm a bundle of joy was ripped from my womb and thrust upon my chest! He was perfect! And tiny! And screaming!

 I started vomiting green stuff which resembled mashed avocado and my blood pressure went through the roof. Bub and hub were whisked away as the surgeons threw my bits and pieces back in, sewed me up, and battled to get my blood pressure down urgently. 

While all of this was going on, hubby went with bub through all of his checks and up to the ward, where he waited hours to find out how I was. Finally he was allowed into recovery to see me... He was relieved to say the least, as was I! It was pretty touch and go for a while!

Finally at 3.30am I was allowed out of recovery and up to a birthing suite to meet my baby properly! I'd like to say it was instant love, but we were both pretty wary of eachother! 'What the fuck do I do now?' I thought to myself! Luckily he instinctively found a boob and fell asleep on me. I cried silently for half hour of so, trying not to wake my husband or baby. A mixture of relief, fear, exhaustion, elation all of a sudden overwhelmed me and I had no idea what to do. I was scared to sleep but was beyond exhausted. Nobody came to check if I had any clue what I was doing, and I fell into anxiety and overwhelm pretty quickly. About 5am he started screaming which woke hubby up and I was relieved to hand him over. He settled bub quickly, put him in his crib and he went straight to sleep. Relief again! I fell asleep mid conversation and woke again when the nurses came to move us to a room.

The whole day was a whirlwind of nurses, visitors, get up and try and walk, shower, learn to change a nappy, learn to hold its head so it doesn't pop off and roll away, breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed! Bottle feed as well, he's tiny and you have no milk! Keep breastfeeding! He needs colostrum!!! Screaming! Everyone seeing your boobs! BREASTFEED!!!!! 

Then silence! Everyone has gone, and I'm alone with him. We are both still sceptical. I'm still exhausted. I try and sleep when he does. Scream!! He needs another feed... Shit nobody showed me how to make up the bottle. Press the buzzer for help... 'For god's sake put him on the boob!' Ok. 15 minutes later he's still crying and getting nothing. Shit nobody showed me how to use the pump! Press the buzzer for help... 'For god's sake it's not that hard!' Ok. 10 minutes later he's screaming harder, he got bugger all. Press the buzzer for help... 'For god's sake just make a bottle then!' Ok... But I don't know how. 'Where do I get everything? Where is the boiling water? How much do I make? My husband did it today, I didn't see what he did. 'Oh for god's sake!'

I'd never felt like more of a failure. I'm the worst mother on earth and it's barely been 24 hours... I need a drink! 'Where the hell did that thought come from?' I hadn't thought about drinking for quite a while and had been sober 3 years. 'Yep I absolutely need a drink!' Well that's not an option!

Finally bub went off to sleep with a full belly and I lay awake fantasising about drinking. I must of drifted off eventually, as I was awoken again by screaming and people shuffling around, another mum was moving in with me. I changed bub and made up his bottle, and tried the pump and breastfeeding again. Still terrified of the whole process. 'Shit babies are wriggly suckers!' Then an angel in the form of a nurse peeped around the curtain and said 'your nurse is on break, do you want me to take him to the nursery for you so you can get some real sleep?' How had I not heard about this before!!! Omg!!! Yes please!! 'I'll take him down for you then I'll pop back with your Endone' Oh my! Endone! 'Can I have two? I have lots of pain!' Bullshit! 'Of course!'

Fucking yes! Endone!

But I'll get to that next time!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Step up or get the fuck out!

I was doing some calculations today and basic projections on my business, and I realised how foreign this was for me. I've never been a numbers person. It's been 3 and a half years since I stepped up and took control of my business. 3 and a half years since my business partner was diagnosed with aggressive stomach cancer and then passed away extremely quickly.
Shortly before her diagnosis I had been trying to negotiate with her to either buy my share of our company, let me buy her share or we sell up and go our separate ways. None of these options appealed to her, as it essentially meant that her income stream would be cut off. She didn't care that mine had been completely cut off for the previous year, that I'd been paying my home loan with credit cards and moving the debt between low interest cards as often as possible, we'd had to sell my husbands car, and had to put our house up for sale. Care factor from her was zero. Too bad.

It was around this time that I learned a few key things in life. 1- Your self worth doesnt have to be connected to your net worth (although at the time, both of mine were in the minuses!) 2- You can take all my money, my company, my car, my house... But you can't take my spirit, my creativity, my business brain or my drive... I could start another business and build it from scratch. So I did! I started a company with my sister selling training and renting out our training room! We sold our house, and the bit of profit I made, I invested... On myself and my husband. We trained and trained, did course after course, personal development, professional development. Learned everything we could get our brains around.

During the year I'd been pushed out of my business, I'd pretty much had a nervous breakdown. Flashbacks and nightmares had become a daily occurance, I was struggling to stay sober, I felt like a huge failure for allowing myself to be bullied out of my company, and was just generally feeling worthless. I had started studying my Diploma of Community Services which I'd put together in my training room (next to my companies offices) and was forced to see my business partner a couple of times a week while I was training. I was suffering from extreme anxiety and could barely leave the house. But somehow, I knew I was meant to be back running my business. I'd worked too hard to just walk away... Even though I felt I had no real options.

 Then on our last class before Christmas in 2012, my business partner told me to take the business, she had cancer and it was aggressive. My head was spinning, I didn't care about the company, I was worried about her, despite our issues, her health was the most important thing. At that point I didn't care if the company went under.

2 weeks later she called me into the hospital, she had given up, and didn't expect to live much longer. She gave me all the passwords, the bank account details etc and said, just keep going! She passed away a few days later.

Being thrown back in the deep end, I knew I had only two options... Sink or swim! So I doggy paddled the shit out of the next few years, barely keeping my head above water! A lot of the money I'd saved from selling my house was invested back into my company. I continued to invest in myself and spent money on business coaching, I learned to hustle, I learned to do every single aspect of my business myself, vowing never to rely on anyone, things I'd never even had access to before became my responsibility. I had amazing friends and family supporting me, helping me, backing me. But most importantly, I backed myself!

One of the biggest surprises I was left with was a huge couple of hundred thousand dollar tax bill! Talk about one of the biggest threats to my sobriety! I've never been so stressed in my life. I thought about a lot of things over that time, I considered suicide more than once, I considered drinking most days. Then I remembered why I was doing this. Why I had brought the company in the first place... My clients and staff! My main concern was always them. I had to claw my way back for them!

Today I was reminded of all of this, as I typed numbers into excel spreadsheets, as I realised this month it's been 8 years since I purchased the company. We made a $140,000 loss in the first year. We've doubled our sales every year since I took it back over. I managed to pay off $70,000 in tax debt in just over 30 days this year... And I finally hit my elusive target number in sales last financial year!

Am I rich? Nope! Did we make a profit? Probably not! Do I love what I do? Absolutely! Do we make a difference in people's lives everyday! Hell yes! Are there days I want to give up, pack it all in, that the stress almost kills me? Yep! Am I proud of how far I've come? Fuckin A!

Some things almost kill us, some things make us stronger, some things are not optional... As my business coach said today in a video... GO HARD OR GO HOME!!!!!


Happy 8 year anniversary of owning a business to me! Thank you everyone who has supported me, challenged me, threatened me, screwed me over, and generally done anything to make me stronger in the long run!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Catching Up- 4 years later!

I recently came across my blog when it came up in my 'memories' on Facebook. I couldn't believe 4 years had passed since I began using writing as a healing tool. At the time of starting, I was in a pretty dark place. I'd had kind of a 'mental breakdown' after a few triggering experiences, that took me back to some severe childhood and young adult traumas. To be honest, I was suffering pretty hard from PTSD. I'd been sober a year at that stage, and sobriety had uncovered quite a lot of shit I'd never dealt with. Sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping, assault, miscarriages, family trauma, redundancies, relationship breakdowns, lots of shit that people go through, but that I had kept dead and buried at the bottom of a bottle.

I'd coped pretty well up until then, storing my traumas in my body and out of my head. Once I made that real conscious decision to get (and stay!) sober... Then I had nowhere to hide.

I was metaphorically stripped naked and put under a microscope... Or so it felt

I spent a lot of time on self discovery, I'd always been into personal development and I used this as another tool to scrape the shit I'd been through from my psyche. I read, I wallowed in self pity, I spent a lot of time talking to family about what had happened to me, I read my police statements, I tried to pick at the scabs that my mind had created to heal me, scratch them bare, so I could heal them properly, my own way this time. The mind is a funny thing, it protects you from traumatic experiences, especially when your not ready or able to deal with them. I had blocked out a lot of trauma, and now that fragmented pieces were coming back, I wanted to flood my brain with absolute facts so that I could make sense of it all.

The funny thing about the brain, or life, or development in general though... Is that you can't just skip ahead! There is a process... And no matter how ready you think you are, whoever the hell is in charge, the universe, or whatever, has other ideas. Slow down and feel uncomfortable with the process!

And my fucking lord was it uncomfortable! Anxiety became my best friend and constant excuse! I was frozen by it. I could barely work, I lost my business, I withdrew from a lot of my closest friends, I rarely left the house... Certainly never alone. I was going crazy, I had no income, very little support and I was done. Broke. Broken.

Breakthroughs... You have to break before you can be fixed. And nobody can fix you... Other than you. I had a couple of breakthrough moments that were absolutely key in my recovery. 1- it's up to me. End of story! If I'm going to get my shit together, then I have to be accountable and do what it takes.  2- I had to address everything head on. 3- I've gone through this shit to help others... To heal I had to open up. Which is why I started writing

I tried lots of different techniques on myself. Talking therapy, literally just talking about my experiences and connecting dots and not being ashamed of anything I'd been through. Talking to my husband and often just being held. I tried systematic desensitisation, going near places that I previously couldn't go, talking about them, googling them, and one day I woke up and just knew I had to visit the place I was kidnapped and the place I was sexually assaulted. I just had to. The feeling was so strong I made my husband take the day off work and we drove to those places and I let myself cry. I went back to being 10 and back to 16, I imagined myself comforting myself at that age now, telling myself it was ok and wasn't my fault and that I'd be ok anyway! It was then that I knew, absolutely 100% that I had to help others in similar situations and that would be my great work in life.

So... Let's skip ahead a bit. Where am I now?
- Still married to my soul mate
- Still sober (5 years!)
- I took my business back
- I have a beautiful 21 month old baby boy
- Was forced to sell my house
- Moved back to my childhood home town
- Have spent the last 4 years learning everything I can about myself
- Studied studied studied
- Forgiven
- Spending as much time coaching & counselling others to deal with their trauma

I'm sure I'll eventually fill in the gaps and travel back and forth in time to explore the ups and downs... There have been many! Healing to me is a process and a never ending quest. Some days it's easy to stay sober, to keep on the right path... Other days I have to fight tooth and nail to not drink, to not take some pills, to not give in to the 'dark side'. It's a never ending quest... Constant and continuous improvement. And without the amazing people in my life, without love, without compassion, the battle would be so much harder.

Thanks for the catch up and for your never ending love and support!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Life's Lessons

I attended my cousins 21st on the weekend, and after talking to him and his mates, it got me thinking about what I was like at 21 and where my drinking was at and how mature I thought I was at that age.

At 21, I'd finished uni and was working for an accounting firm. I was in a long distance relationship with a guy from Sydney, had great friends and family around me, and was generally fairly 'happy'. Although now knowing what 'real happiness' is like, I probably wasn't even close to it.

I still had my issues, but was working hard to bury them in alcohol. I'd drink heavily every weekend without fail (but so did my friends, so I wasn't sticking out) and if my core group of friends decided to stay home with their partners, I'd go and drink with other friends or my sister and her friends. Or I'd climb the walls until I found other people to drink with.

My 21st speech was riddled with friends telling ridiculous drinking stories of me vomiting and passing out on a regular basis. But so were all my friends speeches at their parties. I was no different to most of my friends. Was that because I had surrounded myself with people with drinking and drug problems so I didn't stand out, or because that was just the norm of the day? (None of my friends have come out with major substance abuse issues yet, so I guess it was just the norm).

It was nothing for me and my friends to rock up to a party with a slab each. It was nothing to go out to a club or bar and for our nights to end in a mess of all in brawls, tears, passing out, and vomit all over us, sometimes not even our own. And if we got home relatively unscathed, the next morning we could almost guarantee one or more of us would be heaving bile and running to KFC for a hangover burger.

Hearing my cousin and his mates talk about 100 shots in 100 minutes I was thinking, 'Oh god kids these days would surely be much worse than we were'. A lot of my friends were heavy drug users, and some even dealers, but stories I hear of kids these days are of everyone using Ice, and stabbing each other. (Maybe an over exaggeration?)

Then I heard them talking about struggling with the shots. Thinking back I remembered my two best friends and I with our traditional tequila shots every Grand Final night and how much of a struggle it was to get it down at times. A group of friends had had a major car accident one Grand Final night resulting in one friend becoming paraplegic. His favourite drink was tequila, so we always drank tequila on Granny night in his honor. We'd play a drinking game, and get obliterated on tequila... My favourite black out drink.

I asked my cousin and his mates what they were shooting... Jack Daniel cans. Jack Daniel cans? Pre mixed? That's not doing shots, that's just pouring your pre mix can into a shot glass! Weak!

Maybe these kids aren't as bad as we were?

By 21 I'd done so much ridiculous crap! My mates and I would go to bikies clubs to see bands. With barely a passing thought to the strippers and lines of coke on the bar. We'd scam our way into people's houses after last drinks were called so that we could go back and drink their grog and use their drugs. We never wanted to go home.

We would never leave the Lyric (A Geelong nightclub) before 'stumps' (sun up). We'd go to parties where our friends were the gate-crashers but our parties weren't the one's being crashed.

One of my favourite parties was one in Corio, a girls 17th. My two besties and I arrived, and met a few mates there. Walking into the kitchen, which was an inch deep with Fruity Lexia, a couple of mates were putting cutlery and cask bladders into the microwave to try and blow it up. People were throwing the occupants belongings into the pool from the roof. TV's, Video's, their Christmas presents which were under their tree all wrapped nicely. 

People were doing belly wackers into the pool off the roof, and the lights kept getting turned off so there could be a blind all in brawl. One of my best guy mates was accused of hitting a girl in this blind brawl, and was subsequently subjected to another chick punching him and smashing a bottle over his head while he stood their and took it saying 'I don't hit girls, I'm not fighting back'. So trying to be a tough biartch, I said, 'I do' and tried to pull the chick off him, she turned on me and pushed me into a glass mirrored bar. She eventually gave up hitting him when he kept refusing to fight back.

The night ended with another friend pouring petrol over a boat out the front and setting it alight before we all did a runner.

Surely kids these days are worse though? There's stories on the news and all over Facebook every week. Or do they just seem worse because of social media and the fact they can video stuff on their phones? We didn't need accidental Facebook party invites back in our day, everyone knew when their was a party on.

Thinking back, we really weren't any different to our parents. Things just weren't as readily available back in their day. They were the worst generation of their time because they had acid and weed and free love. They made the most of what they had, and so did we. Kids these days just have social media, mobile phones, and better chemicals than we did. Every generation is just looking to outdo the last with better drugs, bigger weapons, and better ways to gain notoriety. You Tube and Facebook is making it easy for these kids. We had to work hard for ours! 

I'd love to run a social experiment and send the kids of today back in time firstly to the eighties and nineties and then back to the sixties and seventies and then have them come back and tell us which decade was harder for teens.

Every kid, of every generation has the same thing in common. We're all just trying to find our way. To fit in, to stand out, to forget the bad times and immortalise the good times. No generation is better or worse than anyone before or after them. Maybe if social workers and youth workers remembered this they'd have more success getting through to kids.

When do we start owning our battle scars and realising that they make us who we are today? That they shape our future, but that we can change anything we don't like at anytime and we can get ourselves out of situations, that our life is truly our own. We have the power to turn around and face our demons head on. 

Some people will drink and use drugs all of their life, and for most people that's fine. Its always a personal choice. Some people will choose to be straight edge. Some will live hard and get sober, some will never admit they have a problem. 

When you realise you have a choice, you can go either way...That's a sign of maturity, not a number like 21 or 30 or 60. You don't have to grow up, or grow old. Its just a number. But maybe maturity is when you learn to love yourself. You learn to wear your battle scars proudly and learn from them. I know that I try to never make the same mistakes twice, but if I do it just means that I have another lesson to learn. As long as you keep moving forward and keep learning, because that's all you can do. 

So no matter your age, I hope you're learning to take notice of life's lessons, because that's what this journey is all about....

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Rock Bottom

My rock bottom wasn't the usual way for a problem drinker to start their journey to sobriety. I didn't wake up in a pool of vomit in the bushes with no clue where I am... Although I have been there. My rock bottom came on a Wednesday night in Summer, at appx 10pm at a BP service station in Watsonia, a suburb of Melbourne's outer North.

I'd been to dinner at my in laws, and my husband and I pulled in to get petrol before our half hour trip home. Pulling in, I noticed a young girl about 15 walking her dog.

As soon as my husband got out of the car, I instantly reached for the snib to lock the doors. This was a habit of mine, as soon as I was alone in a car, I'd lock myself in.

But then something stopped me. 'Why the hell am I so scared?'

I looked at the young girl, now sitting outside the service station with her dog, and in my mind I was instantly transformed to a 15 year old again, young, innocent, and nothing to be affraid of.

Something about this girl, alone at 10 o'clock at night, walking the streets of Melbourne seemingly without a care in the world, compared to a 30 year old woman who scrambled to lock herself in a car despite her husband being just outside, triggered a huge emotional response for me.

'What the fuck am I scared of?' I thought. 'I never used to be scared of anything!'

And then it hit me. Because I've never faced anything in my life sober. By this stage I hadn't drank for about 4 months, but still hadn't fully committed to staying sober. But because I didn't have alcohol to self medicate now, I just retreated into myself. I'd been having trouble with my business partner bullying me at work, and instead of coming home and drinking and not giving a shit, I had to deal with it. But I dealt with it by going to work when she wasn't there. And then eventually by rarely leaving the house.

It then hit me while sitting at the service station that I hadn't left the house alone in 3 months. At all. Not to go to the shops, to work, nowhere. I always used an excuse to wait until someone could come with me. I just hadn't realised it before now. It had slowly crept in.

When my husband was finished filling the car with petrol and paying, he jumped back in the car (without having to knock for me to unlock the door) 'Hey, you didn't lock the door' he said proudly. 'Look at that girl over there' I said in a daze. 'She has no idea how unsafe the world is yet'. By this stage I had tears streaming down my face. 'Hey, what's wrong?' Asked hubby, clearly concerned. 'What's wrong with me?' I asked. 'I can't even leave the house alone or sit in an unlocked car, and this girl can walk the streets late at night alone'. 'What do you mean you can't leave the house alone? You leave the house alone all the time!'.

Hubby started the car, and we drove off, all the while I was watching the young girl, now eating an ice cream, as I mourned for the loss of my own innocence. The flash backs had started now. I hadn't had them in a long time. I closed my eyes and cried silently as my husband drove. 'Whats wrong bub, what's going on?' He asked, he'd never seen me like this. 'Think about it, when is the last time you remember me leaving the house by myself?' I asked. We sat in silence as I went back to my flashbacks, and my husband delved through his mind to come up with the last time I'd left the house alone.

Two days before my eleventh Birthday, Friday 4th of October 1991. My sister and I had been staying with my grandparents in Bundoora for the school holidays, and were catching the train with my Nan from the city to Werribee, where Mum was picking us up to take the three of us back to our home in Lara.

We got off the train, and started walking to the car park at the back of the station. I saw Mum and ran ahead toward her as she walked to meet us, and she said to me 'I've left the boot open, chuck your bag in while I grab your Nan's stuff'. I ran ahead to the car which was about 20 meters from where Mum met us. Reaching the boot, I noticed a grotty old guy walking down the car park isle in my general direction. He was dirty, had a beard and creepy eyes, and made me a bit uneasy. I threw my bag in the boot and looked up and he was about a meter from me now on my side of the isle, and he was unzipping his fly. I felt sick. "Come here darling" He growled.

 I turned to run but he grabbed me from behind, and put his hands up my top. I tried to scream, nothing came out. I felt like everything was in slow motion. He started dragging me and put his hand over my mouth. 

I grabbed the back of the car and stood my ground using all my strength. But he pulled harder and forced me away from the car, I started crying and screaming. I looked up and saw my Mum, Nan and sister about 10 meters away. They looked up and saw me. I'll never forget the look of horror on their faces as he dragged me towards the river. It was then that I looked at where we were headed. A group of guys, all dirty, and creepy looking, we're standing on the other side of the car park next to Werribee River. They seemed to be pointing and laughing at us. He dragged me closer, and although the eleven year old in me had no idea what could happen, I knew I was scared and had to get away. So I used all my force and stood my ground. This pushed him off balance and he lost his grip. I was free... Now run!

By this stage my Mum had started running toward me, and I started running towards her. Then I felt another grab from behind, he was chasing me, and not giving up that easily. He grabbed again, and this time he had me... But luckily Mum had caught up and started yelling and screaming for him to let me go, and began hitting him with a bag. This was all in slow motion to me, and as he put his hands up to protect himself from the wrath of my mother, he let me go.'What were you doing to my daughter you creep?' Mum yelled. 'I was just asking her for fourty cents' and with that, he turned and fled towards his friends. Mum and I went to Nan and my sister at the car and as we turned around, the group of men started all heading back towards us. Panicking, Mum threw my sister and I in the car and locked the doors. The men then changed their mind and headed back towards the station.

Pulling into the drive way, my husband turned the car off, but made no move to get out. Coming out of my daze, I looked at him with tears in my eyes and asked 'Who am I?' 'What do you mean?' He asked. 'I have no idea who I am. I've never dealt with anything. I block everything out and then just keep going. I pretend to be so tough, and put on this hard arse act. I don't know who I really am.'

 I thought back over everything that had happened to me in my life up to that point. The Werribee incident wasn't even close to the worst. When it happened, I had counselling etc, but I didn't really understand what had happened, and before tonight, other than a few flashbacks when I was young, it hadn't really bothered me. In fact I'd thought I was special because I'd gotten to choose anything I wanted for my Birthday (I chose a black and white swing top and a Bryan Adams cassette tape). I knew something bad had happened, but I was more concerned about my Dad (or my hero as I called him at the time) who we'd spent the night in hospital with. After the Police came and locked the guy up, they took our statements, and my Dad came to meet us. The Police told him all they could do was keep him for 4 hours for drunk and disorderly. But then they let Dad in on a secret. In four hours time when they let him go, they'd let him go at the scene of the crime.

Dad drove us home and then said he'd catch the train back to Werribee to get his car.

A few hours later we met him at the hospital where he was treated with a broken wrist and knuckles. I'll leave you to connect the dots.

As I sat in the dark with my husband, I realised there was more, much more. So much I'd never dealt with. 'Ive told you about the Werribee Station incident yeah?' 'Yeah of course' he said. 'But you were always kind of removed from it, like you were talking about someone else'. 'And the Driving Lesson incident?' I asked, referring to being touched inappropriately by a family friend when I was 16. 'Yeah, same thing, like it's about someone else. The same as being beaten and assaulted at the airport. Or your Aunty being murdered. Most things you tell me about your past. Like its happened to someone else and your just relaying the story' he said. 

I was instantly transportered to both incidents in my head. This time though, it wasn't happening to someone else. I started to cry. 'The driving lesson was much more than being touched inappropriately' I whispered, re-living small fragments in my mind. 'I've never even admitted it to myself let alone someone else'.

My husband held me as I told him the small parts of what I remembered. I felt his tears dripping on my forehead.

'Thats when I really started drinking' I said. I'd gone home, showered, pretended everything was ok, and drank half a cask of wild peach to myself in my room alone and cried myself to sleep. I'd only drank once before, my 15th Birthday where I was allowed to have a tiny vegemite jar glass of wine. But I'd never drank this much.

The next day I didn't even have to pretend to be sick, my first hangover took care of me. Mum went out for a few hours during the day, so I drank a little bit of everything in the alcohol cupboard so as not to alert my parents. That 'gastro' was really bad, I'd need a week off school!

Luckily when I returned to school, getting booze was easy, and it helped me forget. I started pulling away from certain friends, and hanging out with the one's that wanted to drink all the time. It was easy. I'd already blocked out what happened, and nobody knew so there was nothing to remind me. I was 'too old' to be forced to visit family friends so never went back to the house for about 4 years until it was unavoidable, their sons 18th... I'd draw too much attention to myself if I refused to go. Beside's I didn't want my sister going there without me, I'd managed to convince her to stay home with me any time my parents went over there, but she wanted to go to the  sons 18th. I hated being there, though it was easy to get blind with free alcohol. He didn't come near me, I think he knew better, I was drunk and angry.

'Let's get inside, and you can hop into bed while I make us a cup of tea' Said hubby, pulling me out of my daze. 'I think you need to speak to someone about this stuff' I nodded, knowing he meant a psych or counsellor. 'I think I need to speak to my Mum, maybe she can fill in some blanks for me, she's up here tomorrow night staying at Nan's.'

We went inside and talked for a while about why I couldn't leave the house alone, and had to lock the car door, and a few hours later, while my husband slept, I lay awake. Every time I closed my eyes I became either Eleven or Sixteen. The two defining moments in my life playing over and over in my mind.

At about 3am I hopped out of bed, snuck out to the garage, and took a few swigs from each of the already opened bottles at the bar. I sat on the floor and cried until I'd finished a half bottle of vodka. I'd reached rock bottom. I snuck back into bed, thankful that my husband was a heavy sleeper.

I didn't need to pretend to be sick the next day, my old friend hangover took care of me, and hubby didn't suspect a thing. 4 months between drinks and I was back to being a light weight.

I stayed in bed all day thinking. Somewhere in the afternoon I had a breakthrough. If I was going to break the cycle, and move forward, I had to face this head on. I was starting to remember more and more of what happened, and I had to go with it. It was coming back for a reason, and something about the young girl at the service station had triggered it.

And if I was to do this properly, I had to be sober. And I needed to speak to Mum.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Who are you living for?

So.... since starting my blog, I've had so much feedback from friends and family about how proud they are of me, and even from random strangers who have been inspired by my stories. I really didn't even expect people to read my blog, but I've had almost a thousand views so far in only three weeks. This is incredible! I have no idea what you people see in my stories, haha.

I wanted to take a bit of a different approach to my writing. I don't want to just go on about my life and I don't want to just share funny drinking stories because I certainly don't want to glorify problem drinking. I also definitely do not want to preach. I don't expect everyone I know to want to be sober. Nor do I expect them to understand why I choose to live the sober life nowadays. Many of my newer friends have never seen me drunk (lucky them) so sometimes its hard for them to understand why I don't drink. Or my husband for that matter.

Speaking of the husband, I decided to throw him a surprise 30th Birthday party over the weekend. He really didn't want a party, mostly because usually parties end badly for us. The last major party we had was my 30th, and deliberately wasn't at home, and he was already sober by this stage, and I was teetering on the edge of sobriety and only had a couple of drinks.

The last real party we had at our house however, was a couple of years ago for New Years Eve, and I was still drinking a little, but my husband was a few months sober. A lot of his (now former) friends were there, and giving him a hard time about not drinking. They were calling him weak, and he felt really uncomfortable and completely pushed out of the core group in his own home. It was so bad, we had to ask people to leave (we even drove a few friends home just to get them out of our house) and my husband was so angry to the point where he got so down, he spiraled into one of the worst bipolar episode's I've ever seen him in over the following week's. So throwing a party was going to be risky, I didn't know how he was going to react.

That period of his life really made him see who his real friends were, and he cut a few of them out of his life after that night. He still persevered with a couple though, they were cut out a little while later. A lot of his friends never expected him to get sober. He was always the life of the party, and would always end up doing something stupid, or end up hurting himself, or having an episode which was just hilarious to his friends. Not so hilarious to the people who truly cared about him though and had to pick up the pieces the following day and week, until he did it all over again the next weekend. These weren't great times in our life, and were certainly the catalyst for me getting 100% sober as well. I never wanted my husband to feel like an outsider again, especially in his own house.

But we haven't had a decent party at our house since we've both been sober. We've been to other people's parties, we're out at gig's where people are drinking most weekends, and we don't have a problem with what other people are doing, because we can go home if we start feeling uncomfortable, or if people start giving us shit, or if we really can't be bothered putting up with drunken dickhead's at the time. But it's different in your own home.

We live with my sister and our best friend, and the girls both still drink, although not very often. The parties dried up once we got sober, because generally we were the instigators... "Oh someone farted, lets have a party!" We would use any excuse in the world to have every one of our mates over at our place for a bbq and a piss up. But since we got sober, they've been few and far between... and since we became vegan, nobodies too keen on bbq's at our place either haha.

Anyway, I decided to risk it, and throw hubby a surprise party. I knew he would only want really close friends and family, so I only invited his nearest and dearest. All the people who I know for sure, not only do they love and adore him, but are very supportive and understanding and even encouraging of our sobriety.

Most people would assume that since my husband decided to give up drinking, it would be because I made him. This couldn't be further from the truth. We were actually on our honeymoon, and it occurred to us that we had barely drunk while we were away. We were staying in Cairns/Port Douglas area, very tropical and very much the cocktail capital of Australia. We'd bought a bottle of Malibu, Vodka and Midori on arrival so that we could drink Midori Splices to our hearts content (our favourite tropical North Queensland drink).

But after a week and a half there, we'd had about 3 drinks each over the whole time. We realised that it was because it was just the 2 of us, we were comfortable, and it wasn't a social trip, it was our honeymoon, and we didn't want hangovers or to be spending all day in bed or on the couch feeling like crap. We also noticed how good we felt... and how happy we were, not drinking. So on our last night, my husband tipped the remaining alcohol down the sink (a very important symbolic action in my opinion) and said "I'm never drinking again" and for the first time ever, he meant it. So I said "Well I'll give up to support you then".

And I did for about three months.

Then hubby said, 'I'm okay to do this on my own, if you want to start drinking you can'. I didn't know what to do. At first I was like "Sweet, I'm getting on it!" But then I thought "Doesn't he think I can stop drinking forever?" I was really offended. On one hand, I had really only given up to support him because he was really the one with the problem right? Not me, I was fine.... Wasn't I? Those first three months had been pretty easy. We'd come home, made it really clear to everyone we weren't drinking, and that this was the best outcome for my husbands mental health. Everyone seemed pretty supportive, and understood. They had seen my husband's behavior when he drank, so it was pretty clear cut. But then people started saying "But not forever yeah, you'll just give up for a while?" I didn't really know, I just knew that if my husband was happy and safe, then so was I. But then being faced with the opportunity to start again while he stayed sober, I was so conflicted. Was I a hypocrite? Did I guilt him into giving up? Did I need to drink? I'd gotten used to being comfortable in social situations sober. I got used to feeling good on Sunday morning. I got used to being the sober couple. Could I really go back, while my husband moved forward?

So I decided to play it by ear. If I felt like drinking, I would, if I didn't then I wouldn't. Then I noticed it slowly creeping back in. A drink here, a bottle of champagne there. Bad day? I'd have a drink. But it felt wrong now. I didn't enjoy it. I'd worked hard to not need it anymore. So I made up my mind that I'd have a couple of drinks at my 30th, then that was it. Until the next night when I got really drunk after skulling 5 beers in an hour at an Exodus gig with a mate. I felt really shit. Like I'd let myself down, I was stronger than this.

So I decided not to say anything to anyone, I just wouldn't drink anymore. But six months later, I took one for the team and got really really drunk at my sisters Birthday, just because I wanted her to have fun. Stupid huh? That's when I decided to give up for myself and nobody else. I haven't had a drink since, over a year now.

But back to the party. Hubby was very surprised, and had a great time. Most people drank like normal (didn't hold back because of us buzz killers), and it doesn't bother us at all anymore, as long as nobody hassles us, which they didn't. Everyone joked about how much trouble they had buying presents. What do you buy a sober vegan for their 30th? And then the speeches happened and that's when it really hit me. How ridiculously proud I am of my husband. How much he's changed for the better. He's been sober 3 and a 1/2 years. He's weeded out dumb shit friends who weren't interested in his happiness and who kicked him when he was down. He's doing what he loves. He has an amazing group of real friends, including his band mates who are the most amazing people on the planet. Our whole family was there, and people who truly love and support him. He's truly happy, and not because the old ball and chain made him stop drinking and partying, but because he's doing what he wants to do. And to be honest, I've never been happier either.

So, I guess I just wanted to say a huge Happy 30th to my gorgeous husband, but to also leave you all with this message... who are you drinking for? Who are you doing other things in your life for? Are you truly happy and are you being the best you can be? I'm not saying you shouldn't drink, or do anything else for that matter, but just ask yourself if there are things in your life that aren't making you happy. Because you are the only person you need to answer to. And if you do have a drinking or drug problem, or gambling problem, ask yourself who your giving up for, because if the answer doesn't begin and end with you, its not going to work.

Its not being selfish to want to be the best version of yourself....