Just suck it up…

This might be a bit of a rant …

During the week I had a conversation with my mother about my concerns about son#1 and the boundaries I have set for him (again)


  • I will not accept drugs in my home. Full stop. If he transgresses he is out. Not necessarily for ever, and he has a father round the corner so he won’t be on the street, but I will NOT accept it.
  • He need to keep his room hygienic. If he will not he forfeits the right to a bedroom and can reside in the Den at the end of the garden.

My mother was full of reasons why I should not be ‘so harsh’ and full of explanations / excuses for his behaviour.

I have thought about this at some length and discussed it with my therapist yesterday. Basically she (my mother ) is saying that I should have NO boundaries where son#1 is concerned, and that whatever he does I should just suck it up…

To me this is a recipe for anger, resentment & frustration. For me. It feels like my feelings and the consequences for me or the other two children do not matter, everything must be done to keep son#1 happy. It seems to me that this is how she lived her life – angry and resentful at having to do everything whilst my father sat in front of the TV. No boundaries, and no consequences. Just seething resentment and explosive anger …

I have good reasons for not accepting drugs in my home

  • Its illegal; I am a professional and my status and registration could be at risk if drugs are found in my home.
  • Drug taking cost me my marriage and my future as part of a nuclear family. The direct result of my ex Husbands refusal to stop using cannabis, cocaine and God knows what else led to total breakdown of my family.
  • My sobriety and peace of mind are at risk if this continues
  • son#2 has significant mental health problems and is extremely vulnerable to the risk of ‘self medication’ with cannabis. I do not want this stuff under his nose
  • son#3 is 13 years old. I do not want him to grow up in  a home where drug taking is accepted.

But the message I get from my mother is that I should put aside all these reasons and accept this behaviour because son#1 ‘has the wrong sort of friends’; cannot be reasoned with because he has Asperger’s and thus a rigid set of beliefs; and that he needs stability to make the best of his opportunities at College. The message I get is that women (or mothers) are expected to accept anything from their beloved offspring, or husband or others, stuff down their own feelings and reasonable expectations, and just suck it up.

This is the message I have had, and witnessed, all my life and I have come to realise that its at the base of a lot of my issues with my mother. My needs and expectations have no value or currency at all in her world view. I am powerless to change others and not able to (or should not) stand up for what I believe to be right, no matter how reasonable that might be.

Well you know what? stuff that. An angry resentful person is NOT who I want to be. I want to be strong and assertive and I want my reasonable requests acceded to, by a 19 year old young man who lives in MY home and is fully financially supported by ME. I’m not asking him to stop breathing. Its normal to say no to drug taking and Asperger’s or not he knows perfectly well what my rules are.

I will need to address this with her (my mother) at some point, when I am less annoyed. But for now, I have explained to him how angry and resentful it makes me when he walks all over my rules and reiterated the consequences…

lets see what happens

Drinkers like me

Last night I watched a BBC documentary, about a former BBC presenter who was taking  a long hard look at his drinking habits.

Chiles’ drinking was exactly like mine. Every day, not to total blackout every day, but some binges as well in there. He added up his units to  100 + a week. Alcohol is part of his life, as he describes it, it’s in the fabric of his social life, meeting friends in the pub, for dinner having  few beers. But it was catching up with him, although his liver function tests were normal, his liver scan was decidedly abnormal; he is overweight with high blood pressure and also has a mood disorder.

Within 5 minutes I was shouting at him to give abstinence a try – that being completely alcohol free is not a disaster and can be managed. The programme however veered down the ‘moderation’ route and at the end, three months after filming, Chiles revealed that he was moderating his drinking – to only 25 units a week. That’s still twice the recommended limit. I had the feeling it was with some difficulty, and perhaps skeptically I thought this likely to be a) an underestimate and b) probably will creep up.

What to make of it.

Firstly I commend his bravery in making this film. It revealed a very ordinary man struggling with a very common problem, and he was very honest and open about his difficulties.

Secondly, he really came over as full of self loathing and despair. I felt sad for him with a mother who said on camera that she doesn’t believe in depression, a heavy drinking father who, forced to cut down, said it was “no fun”, living in a place of anxiety and chronic sadness. He made the connection between drinking and his mood disorder, but didn’t follow it to its logical conclusion. The closest he seemed to come was in a filmed session with an addictions therapist, and he did attend a club soda lunch … but expressed dismay that the occasion was dry!

Thirdly, I could not believe that none of his friends, even the 13 years sober alcoholic, or the comedian, sober for 30 years, actually seriously suggested he should STOP drinking, that he is in denial about his problem and that there is a life free of the stuff.  (The comedian, Frank Skinner, is 10 years Chiles’ senior but looked 10 years younger)

Fourthly the denial. Oh my goodness the denial, from ALL the drinkers. The complete denial that they were drinking excessively – because everyone else they know is doing so too. The use of the word ‘alcoholic’ and the search for a ‘fits all definition’ – the one that emerged seems to be that you cant be an alcoholic if you

  • don’t drink in the morning. (But Chiles was filmed having four pints of beer well before midday)
  • Don’t always want to drink

And lastly I just felt a huge suge of relief that this tortured struggling person is no longer me, that I have found a way to manage my alcohol misuse that works for me. Maybe Chiles can moderate, and maybe he will get away with not ‘having’ to chose abstinence,


You can see the documentary on BBC iPlayer here

some reviews herehere and here





900 / 500

Nice round numbers today 🙂

Today is my 900th day of sobriety. Oh YEAH ! NINE HUNDRED DAYS. That’s 128 weeks and 4 days, or 29 months and seventeen days, or two YEARS five months and 17 days …. I probably should count it in 5 minute gaps considering that’s how often I thought about i at the beginning..

I’m pretty proud of that. Not one single alcoholic drink in all that time… and look how my confidence  is returning and my self esteem improving. It isn’t all (directly) to do with abstinence, but the courage to make the changes that I needed to DID all come from the initial honesty with myself that I needed to stop numbing all my emotions, and just stop drinking.

I am conscious of the risk of relapse. Not that it feels big at the moment, but that its there… always there, waiting to catch me off guard and convince me that ‘just one wont hurt’. Or worse, “you’ve done it now, you’re much better, there no need for you to abstain any longer”… that little voice. I imagine we’ve all heard it, and sometimes its louder than others. I call it the Devil, or sometimes the wine witch (although that sounds too cutesy for the destruction that this inner demon is ready to wreak), and it looks something like this


I am less afraid of relapse in many ways, I have many tools to help me if I feel vulnerable, and I have almost 2 1/2 years of sober experience to draw on – but I know when I’m vulnerable and I know very well that the path to relapse doesn’t start when you lift the glass to your lips. It starts much earlier than that.  I am vulnerable right now. I know it, I’m tired with the stresses of sons 1 & 2, exhausted with pushing to get every little thing done, flat after my wonderful holiday, stirred up my the contact with my ex Partner last week and just generally .. vulnerable.

I haven’t been to a meeting in more than 4 weeks and I haven’t seen my sponsor for that long too. I’ve been lax with my daily reading and gratitude lists and missing my short meditation / prayer sessions – basically I haven’t got back into the good habits I had before my holiday. I must sort these things out this week.

And the 500? This week the five hundredth person signed up to follow my blog. In fact I have 505 followers today. That’s amazing. The little stats thing tells me that this blog has been read all over the world from the Philippines to Haiti, in Africa and Australia, by more than 12,500 separate people. I’m so grateful to all those people, and especially to every one who has written a kind or generous comment and supported me on this journey.

So THANK YOU. and if one person has got something out of the thousands of words I have written, than I’m very pleased with that indeed.




What does “home” mean to you?

For me, I have always wanted a comfortable home that feels like an emotionally safe place for me and my children. A place where we can all come to recover from the stresses of life “out there” and know that we are valued, cared for and able to relax.

Alongside that I want my home to be clean, tidy, well maintained and aesthetically pleasing (to me anyway!)

Over the last 15 years I have been collecting Art. Usually, but not exclusively from my travels, I have bought quite a lot of Art pieces. Mostly paintings, but also sculpture and some functional pieces. Some have been deployed round the house but quite a lot were badly placed or ill fitting to their surroundings. The house, whilst ok, hasn’t felt really ‘finished’. When my ex partner lived here, he jealously guarded the role of DIY expert. And, to be fair, he was very good at DIY, but he refused to allow anyone else to do anything at all. And he rarely actually got around to starting home DIY tasks, let alone finishing them.

Since I got home from Africa, with a few more art pieces, I have been rearranging stuff on the walls, with the help of my older brother who has an eye for this kind of thing. I bought a drill, some rawlplugs and screws and set about hanging the pictures.

Today I finished. The place looks great 😊😊

Home feels properly homely now. It’s how I want it to be. Im not great with the drill, but I can hang a picture and its straight and the spacings are right, and most importantly the tasks are completed.

The picture at the top is a canvas I bought in South Africa. Its not currently framed so I’ve just hung it to get the travel roll out of it until I can get a stretcher frame . And below is the lamp from Morocco thatI have just managed to use, and other paintings I have (re) hung.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself !

Getting Stronger

A lot of stuff is happening. I’m really noticing my increased psychological health and strength as I’m put under pressure. It’s not perfect, I’m wobbly in places, but it’s a lot better.

Progress, not perfection.

Son2 achieved 5 passes in his GCSE’s. He and I were /are absolutely delighted with this result. It’s so much better than we feared and I hope he will be able to continue at his supportive school, with his friends. Given his shaky mental health this is SO important … we go into school this morning for a chat. He has not quite got the grades he needs for automatic acceptance, but I’m hoping for special consideration …

Unfortunately things are not so hopeful with son 1 and yesterday I discovered a pile of drug stuff. Again. A grinder and evidence of weed smoking.

To say I was disappointed and angry would be an understatement. And there was a huge row. Not good. But, throughout the day I tried to ‘lean into the discomfort’ again, and actually think through my responses.

I have come to the conclusion that I

  • have every right to refuse to accept ANY drug taking in my home.
  • Don’t care if others think it’s “not that bad”. It is to me.
  • Am not mean, critical and horrible (as son1 called me in the aforementioned argument)
  • Have done my very very best for son1, especially in the last 2 years
  • Cannot control what son1 does – really really CANNOT
  • Can set my boundaries and can stick to them

So last evening I sat down with him calmly and explained that

  • I am afraid for him,
  • frustrated with his lack of effort to sort out College and
  • worried that he will lose the opportunity if he does not actively pursue the only option he has.
  • I feel he has betrayed my trust again
  • I will not accept drug taking
  • If I find drugs paraphernalia again he will need to find somewhere else to live. And I MEAN this.
  • I will not be giving him any money, nor buying clothes, shoes, phone, alcohol or anything else at all for him unless he is in FT education. If he IS in FT education I expect him to get a PT job, and we will discuss any other financial assistance that is absolutely necessary.
  • I expect him to keep his room hygienic and reasonably clean. If he cannot, he forfeits the right to that room and he will have to live in the Den. Again I mean this. His room smells, it’s filthy and unhygienic and he WILL NOT clean it up, nor will he allow me to help him to do so. I can’t make him clean, but I can lock the door and refuse him access.

No answer to that really is there. Good. I feel better. I still can’t control him, but I can control what I do. I have given him my reasoned advice re College, and it’s up to him what he does.

Lastly, to cap a truly stressful day (I haven’t mentioned the blocked sink, dripping tap and kitchen flood which stated it off ) I received an email from my exPartner.

Ugh. Essentially he wants to come and collect some stuff.

I said no. He ended up calling me bitter and hostile, heaping bad Karma on me and threatening legal action. I didn’t reply.

All kinds of difficult emotions round this one. Chiefly:

  • anger,
  • a certain pleasure in denying him what he wants almost a “satisfaction”.
  • A wicked desire to goad him – I know I am smarter than him and the temptation to stress him out with a combination of passive aggression, sarcasm, blunt truth and amusement is almost overwhelming.
  • A desire to do what he does. Just lie. I could say I remember him giving me these things. Then it’s his word against mine. It would drive him mad, but it’s what he did to me hundreds of times. It’s called gaslighting and it’s absolutely toxic
  • Hit back. Go to a lawyer with my evidence ( receipts etc) and demand return of the multitude of items that I can prove I paid for …

I guess these emotions are normal. I’m not very proud of them, especially the urge to lie, gaslight or hit back. I can see clearly that any contact with him is just toxic for me, and destroys my peace of mind. In the end my peace of mind is so much more important than anything else, so this is the last email I sent.

I repeat that I have no intention of facilitating your request to collect items from my home. I have previously indicated to you in writing that any possessions that were not removed from my home by January 2017 would be forfeit and / or disposed of.

Please feel free to investigate any ways you like to force me to do so. My position will not change.

I can see no useful purpose to further discussion and I would request that you do not contact me again.


It’s not the end, he said in reply; as he’s taking legal advice etc. Hahaha. What a bloody joke, he has no money and no legal leg to stand on. But I need to close it down from my end, and I will not engage further.

I’m reading a book by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho, about forgiveness. It’s a very moving and profound read from people who really know something about the subject. Desmond Tutu is one of those people I deeply respect and admire, a feeling intensified by our recent visit to South Africa. I have some work to do on true forgiveness. Not as Tutu would say, for him, but for me – to enable me to put down the burden of anger that weighs on the soul.

Adolescent Boys

Big sigh.

This is a venting post. I’m a bit rattled and I feel the lack of an involved other parent very acutely at the moment. The weight of decision making and ‘what to do for the best’ feels very heavy. Having said that, at least I don’t have to deal with conflict over what to do for the best – so I guess that’s one thing.

Son#2 has been a worry for a while as I have posted before. Really since he started secondary school aged 11 (he is now 16) things have been getting steadily worse in respect to his underlying anxiety and low mood, poor motivation and lack of focus. In the last year it has been much worse; he has been waking early in the morning, vomiting every day with anxiety, has poor appetite (or at least eats only junk food) and is plagued with insomnia and intermittent suicidal thoughts. Last October we went to see the GP for a referral and yesterday we finally got to see a child psychiatrist.

As an aside, I have no idea who people less assertive or educated than I, actually get through the system – this is the third referral to CAMHS we have had – the other two resulted in a suggestion to see Relate (a charitable organisation with a waiting list of months and a cap of 12 sessions) and a ‘lets wait and see – discharged’ … this appointment took 10 months, a report from his private psychotherapist and pretty relentless insistence from me, to actually procure.

It was a hard 90 minutes and I was only in there for 1/2 of it. She was very good, and didn’t get him to rehash everything but it was hard to hear him repeating that he has no future, expects to be dead by 30 and can see no value in himself whatsoever. This is despite having had a reasonably positive holiday experience and being more vocal with son#1 about his frustrations there.

She agreed he was ill, meets all the criteria for prescription of medication and issued it yesterday. She and the psychotherapist are obviously worried about the risk of self harm – and despite son2 not wanting me to ‘know’ this, I DO KNOW it. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet with the psychotherapist before the Summer break, as we both felt it might not help son#2 to feel safe in discussing his worries if he thought they were being communicated to me, but I am very aware of his suicidal thoughts, his substance misuse, his concern to protect me and not cause me additional concerns and his hopelessness about the future. I know he is angry about a lot of things, and I know how very very anxious he is. I’m trying to explain to son#2 that I’m worried about these things anyway ( I know them because he is my son, I live with him and I love him and am very concerned for him), and keeping them to himself doesn’t make me worry less.

Back to earth with a big bump

Tomorrow is GCSE (public exam) results in the UK. I’m dreading it. In his own words he ‘didn’t even try’ …. and yet I know that a clutch of dreadful grades will make him feel worse than ever…

And what the hell is he going to do in September?


“Womaning Up”

Is this even a word? I was buggered if I was going to put manning up !!!

We are home from Africa now and living through the post holiday washing, sorting , tidying stuff. Because we have been away for 3 weeks I had to head straight back to work yesterday, and so I asked the boys to do some stuff for me round the house whilst I was at work. Bear in mind they are 19, 16 and 13 and have no responsibilities at all right now.

When I got home an extremely minimal effort had been made by sons 2 and 3 . Son 1 appeared to have spent the day bossing his brothers around. I was pretty pissed off, but I asked questions first, and then I tried this “leaning into the discomfort” thing, which I assume means sitting with the very uncomfortable feeling of anger, frustration , disappointment and resentment that this complete lack of any significant effort brought up in me. Not only sitting with, but exploring a bit, examining how I felt and why and trying to weigh how reasonable I was being.

I still find these emotions really difficult to acknowledge- especially anger and resentment…

Part of that comes from having lived with critical cruel men. Both my ex Husband and my ex partner were very hard on the boys. Constant shouting, relentless criticism, unkind words, sharpness and putting down. Nasty little jibes about their acne, or weight: sweeping statements about how “useless” and “stupid” they were. I saw all this and winced at it, and overcompensated. Being too soft, too kind, too easily taking on all the responsibility myself.

Some quietish reflection and thinking persuaded me that in fact, expecting some genuine and worthwhile help from three teenagers who I have just taken on holiday for 3 weeks, is not at all unreasonable and in fact, not doing as I asked was massively disrespectful, entitled and just plain lazy.

Furthermore, when I realised that Son 1 had done NOTHING to prepare himself for his college enrolment this morning, to the point that he had actually forgotten that’s what he needed to do …. I decided to follow my feelings that he, at least, is taking the piss. That all his wanting £250 shoes basically involves me buying them (I didn’t) and little understanding that he is now 19; his life is in a bit of a mess because of HIS decisions, and if he wants nice expensive shoes he needs to get a job to pay for them.

So I told them ALL I was disappointed in their attitude, ALL that I thought it was spectacularly unfair that I should have to do everything in the house when I am the only one working, and all that a half assed effort is not good enough. I didn’t mince my words, and I was the opposite of the pushover mother I have had the tendency to be.

And I don’t feel mean, I don’t feel like backing down, I don’t feel like saying sorry, or “patching things up” …. I feel like I have discovered some part of the tough side of me that is rebelling about being trampled on by my kids – but especially my eldest.

So later, the ground rules get laid out unequivocally…. including that the ordering of his younger brothers stops as does the relentless criticism of everything they do. It’s time for him to shape up, and if he can’t do that? Then we will need to review his arrangements ….

I have had an apology from Son2 who said that I definitely have a point; and from son 3 …. son 1 is sulking. I know he’s anxious, I know he’s recognising that he actually needs to DO something now – that the holidays are over …. he needs to enrol in College and actually make an effort …. that he has literally NO friends and NO social life and he finds it hard to mix with his peers … but we cannot go on like this, and only I can sort it out …

The Lessons

This is a post that has been stewing in my mind since I realised that I have changed, even in the last 3 weeks, and just hugely since the day 889 days ago that I woke up and realised that I HAD to stop drinking. Or is it since the day, 2 years ago on Sunday, that I called a halt to my destructive, abusive relationship?

Of course the two are inextricably linked, but I can see now the fruits of the therapy. At times I have felt mired in the fallout and the personal recrimination, and the restless ennui of the recovery process, struggling with self confidence in almost every area, paralysed by indecision and fear of more failure. Insecure in the love of my children, afraid to set boundaries, beset with worry about not being a good mother, daughter, friend, sister, doctor, person ..

I feel differently today.

It’s been coming, in my peripheral vision, for a little while. I’ve been subtly aware of a shift in my self perception for probably 6 months now. Little shoots of fledgling confidence, shafts of positive thinking, a growing awareness that I have nothing to be ashamed about.

And in another one of those ‘big jumps’ of enlightenment I have experienced before, I suddenly feel, in my bones, that “I am enough”.

Imperfect certainly, (human) but good enough.

And with that feeling, that conviction, comes a new surge of energy and a sense of purpose. No more putting off till tomorrow, no more drifting and aimlessly hoping that things will turn out ok, it’s time for planning and building the future that I want for myself. The internal locus of control is returning, and I feel that I am in control of what happens to me, not external people, forces or circumstances. That I cannot predict everything, but I can plan, build and live with purpose in mind.

This feeling has also come from a recognition of mortality. That time is not endless, and that we none of us know how long we have. The best life is what we need to aim for now, not at some undefined point in the future, and if I have say 25 good years in front of me ((God willing) then I had better make the best of them!


Bloody shoes.

Son one wants me to buy him shoes. Not just any shoes but shoes that cost 2500 Rand. That’s about $200 or £160.

I’m not willing to do this. Despite the fact that he says these shoes are cheaper in SA than the U.K.

if (and it is still if) he goes to college in September (full time) I am willing to support him for the basics… but if he wants shoes for that price he can get a blinking job and pay for them himself.

And that is final.

He is most seriously displeased.

But… I don’t care. And this is huge progress. I no longer feel afraid that I will lose him if I don’t do what he wants, instead I feel free to act as I think best. And he is 19, full of talk about earning …. but it is just talk. So tough love, no shoes until he can pay for them himself …

A review

I’m sitting on the balcony of our room in a small guest house, overlooking a beautiful bay (as seen in photo) about 2 hours drive from Cape Town. This is a whale watching Town, and as the waves quieten I’m looking forward to some whale viewing from the deck.

This is also an opportunity for reflection as our time in Africa draws to a close, we have been here nearly 3 weeks now, and fly home on Saturday evening.

To say this has been an ‘experience’ fails to give weight to each of very different and important, educational and recreational things we have done. From white water rafting to visiting Robben Island, from learning about the persistence of witchcraft in Botswana to tracking wild dogs, each and every day has brought something precious and valuable to remember, digest and learn from.

I have no idea what the kids make of it all, we have talked about a lot of it, but like me I think they are too overwhelmed with new sights, sounds, smells and cultural differences to begin to absorb what they have seen and done, I think, for us all, it will take some time to digest and consider the impact of our immersion in Africa.

The holiday has been in several parts, and as each chapter closed there has always been something else to look forward to. We have spent time at most destinations, sufficient to scratch below the surface and get some insight into the real life of indigenous people and the animals we saw. The great beauty of a 6 night mobile safari was the opportunity to spend one whole evening drive watching a leopard; just prowling, looking and then resting. Rather than rush to try and see the ‘Big 5’ in 2 or 3 days, we had time to observe the animals behaviour and habits.

I general we have all managed well living in close proximity to one another 24 hours a day. There have been a few arguments, but nothing serious, and we have had some practice at resolving disputes! I have been super calm 95% of the time, and have only really been ruffled by pointless squabbles between the boys. Only once have I seriously felt I wanted to drink, and in the beautiful sunny climate of the Cape Wine-lands where every second driveway promises ‘free wine tasting’ of cheap (and no doubt delicious) wines, I am quite proud of that.

Here IS hard though. We drove here this morning, along an astonishingly beautiful coastal path and now I’m sitting in the sun on the coast … the sea is crashing against the rocks and there is temptation to help myself to the FREE white wine From the well stocked fridge. I don’t have to drive anywhere else today …. but… I won’t. I can’t and I won’t… I’m not going to sabotage 887 days continuous sobriety. So I’m writing this, having a Diet Coke, and then I will go and watch the kids in the pool.

It’s hasn’t all been easy. I realise how much time to myself I actually need …. with 3 kids relying on me for every decision there is very little opportunity for silence. I have been sharing a room for the past 3 weeks … I have craved solitude and peace, my daily gratitude list is overflowing, but I have had too many distractions to properly reflect, to pray and to find peace with unresolved questions in my heart.

It’s been a wonderful wonderful trip, and I hope will have generated many positive memories, some new friends and a deeper compassion for others. I hope also we have become closer as a family and more tolerant of each other’s foibles …

time will tell


This will be short as there is only very very slow internet here.

I love it. I’m happy 😃 boys are happy. Everything is just fine. I’m sober.