Difficult day

It’s a big day and if I’m brutally honest I’m struggling.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death and for many reasons (probably not the ones you might expect) this is always a difficult time.

In my head there’s been a quiet countdown leading to this moment for a couple of weeks and as a consequence I’ve noticed my mood dip as well as my appetite quietly increase.

As much as I’d like to proclaim ‘I’m cured – it no longer affects me!’ This would be a total lie.

Even though I don’t miss my mom at all this is a time when I’m reminded of what I could or should have had in my childhood (and my relationship with her) but did not.

So – in an effort to exorcise some demons I decided that today was an appropriate time to get rid of the 30-40 odd framed paintings and photos that had I piled into boxes three years ago before hiding them away in a cupboard.

I’ve been holding onto them partly because I didn’t want to throw things away that she had created and partly because I thought my brother or father may want them even if I couldn’t bear to look at them.

Neither seems to be the case – and honestly I’ve never liked 99% of them so the only course of action that seemed to be left to me was to throw them away.

One or two (including all of the photos) I removed from their frames and kept – but everything else is now in a landfill or furnace somewhere.

I was hoping that this would make me feel good – but for the first time in years I’ve been confronted with my mom’s own unique brand of mental illness.

When I cleared her bungalow with my brother after she died it was exhausting (this is all documented in my blogs back when I first started writing).

This was not just because of the bereavement but because contained within each item there was another item, and within that another one.

Each was sellotaped into progressively smaller bags like little Russian dolls.

It took forever to unpack it all – and nothing could be arbitrarily consigned to the bin. There were tiny little caches of money hidden everywhere and I was acutely aware that there was a funeral to pay for.

Occasionally we also found small (or surprisingly large) bags of hair from different periods of her life that were labelled ‘for DNA testing‘.

Her picture frames it seems were no different – and underneath each taped up and nailed shut frame were more photos, scribblings and random (probably false) facts about family members.

Then I found the gut punch.

Hidden within a school photo of me was a draft letter, yellowed with age and dated October 1977.

This photo was taken a few years earlier – but in my mind this is the woman holding the pen.

The page detailed her feelings about her relationship with my father and contained intimate thoughts about their physical moments together.

Then it unexpectedly pivots into a passage regarding the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship of this to her infant son.

Referring to me she says to my father:

‘He is our oneness. We dwell in him. He is our future on earth. The survival of our line. God will take him back to himself in time when all is fulfilled.’

I’m reminded immediately of her cadence in letters, her muddled allusion to both biblical scripture and other pseudo scientific thought processes.

I’m suddenly confronted with how her fractured and troubled mind worked and it momentarily takes the breath away from my lungs.

I sit on the edge of the bed in the quiet of my spare room.

At the end of the letter there’s a crossed out passage – which she’s noted did not get included in whatever version of the final letter was sent to my father.

Maybe it was too truthful and gave away far more information regarding her mental state than she was willing to share.

‘I am using too much adrenaline and the body I dwell in is suffering. The head aches and the singing in my ears gets worse. A quiet night is no longer a quiet night for me, my ears have their own noises of singing, ringing and bumps. Tonight the singing is a high pitched continuous note with occasional throbbing ever present. I have suffered this on and off since the age of 12.’

She continues – saying that she’s not good at looking after herself and is not eating. She’s losing weight, her bosom is disappearing and she says that she functions better when she has someone to look after.

The whole letter is like a selection of nails being hammered into me.

I’ve told myself many times (maybe to try and make sense of everything) that my mom wasn’t always the same person, and that time had slowly made things worse.

I like to think that when I was small she was a normal and loving mother – but the truth is she was exactly the same woman I had to deal with before she died.

I just never saw it as a child.

Her peculiar thought processes were my normal back then and because I learned early on to just accept her fragmented default state it took me many years to see her for who she really was.

It consequently took a long time to realise that the problems between us weren’t caused by me.

They were generated by her.

There was something profoundly odd about my mother. Although the words she used were English and seemed to link together, when you stood back (metaphorically speaking) the content of her sentences and paragraphs always left you confused or wondering why she had gone down one particular rabbit hole or another.

Usually the pleading side of her (evident in much of the draft letter I was reading) that begged for love (or more typically demanded it be given) came after she had done everything in her power to destroy any chance of it happening naturally.

More often than not letters like this came after significant rows – where her vitriol was at its worst and you were left scared to say anything in case it made things worse.

I’d be called evil, wicked, sick, ‘just like your father’ or ‘my biggest disappointment’.

The only route I had out as a child was to withdraw, go quiet and take it, hoping that it would stop eventually.

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

Occasionally she would let me go to sleep – thinking that the verbal beating was over.

Then she would wake me in the small hours of the morning stinking of tobacco, shaking with rage, shouting at me ‘…and ANOTHER thing…’ before she launched into the next part of her character assassination.

The following day when I returned home totally shattered from school after having had no sleep and dreading what was to come it was like nothing had happened.

She never referenced or apologised for anything she’d said – and instead expected full contrition from me.

If I mentioned anything about the night before I’d immediately start the whole sorry saga of ‘what I’d done wrong’ all over again.

Sleep was too precious at that point so I just stayed quiet and smiled or pretended.

Then without a word of apology or acknowledgement of the damage she’d caused, would arrive a demand for love.

When I was older and could get away from her afterwards this typically came in the post by letter until I moved and stopped providing her with my address.

When I did she continued to send letter after letter to my father – asking a man she wanted nothing to do with (but then professed undying love for) to pass her profoundly unbalanced thoughts on.

In the case of the letter I was holding the (very familiar) entreaty came written partly as a poem and partly as prose.

For my mother this was quite normal. I remember this kind of stream of consciousness all too well.

It was often stated in passages dripping with pain and symbolism that it was her ‘right‘ to receive love from her sons – that it should be given by her children ‘unconditionally‘ – just like she had given it to her parents before.

Back then I had always assumed that this was true and that as a child and adult she had been slavishly devoted to them. After all – it was what she continually told me was the case.

However after she died I learned from my uncle that the relationship she had with at least one of her parents was instead very different.

Her mother was scared of her and told her other children that she was frightened by her resentful and mercurial moods.

She didn’t know what would happen if she was left alone with her and in later years my grandmother saw my mother as a burden that was to be feared rather than relied upon for support.

As these thoughts flow through my mind I continued to take apart the yellowed picture frames and remove their contents.

In one photo (showing my uncle’s wedding reception) the picture has been trimmed. The background has been cut away, leaving only a collection of torsos and heads from the foreground.

Sealed and hidden away in another picture frame is the rest of the missing photo, depicting a pub wall without any people in front of it.

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

More to the point why chop it up in the first place?

Maybe it’s a part of the hoarder in her but I’ll never know because both her life and death remain frustratingly unresolved.

I’ll never understand who she was, why she thought the way she did, and why she manipulated and controlled rather than loved and nurtured.

I’m left with no good memories of her that she didn’t pollute over the years and I’ll never get an apology or an acknowledgement of the damage and heartache that she left in her wake.

Nevertheless I am glad of the final unwitting gifts that she left behind.

Firstly she made me want to be so unlike her that I finally found the power within me to break free of the self destructive behavioural loops that she left me with.

I gave up the drinking that I had consciously started to drown out her insults and I lost the weight I had gained through many years of eating away emotional and physical pain.

Secondly there’s practically the last thing she said to me before she died.

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t ‘I’m sorry’ because my mom never said that – and she never regretted anything.

Until that is she lay in A&E on the last day I saw her alive.

She was struggling to draw breath, in great discomfort and drowning slowly from the fluid collecting in her lungs.

Years of smoking had finally taken its toll – for which she was unrepentant. She smoked until the end and refused to acknowledge its impact.

‘I don’t regret ANYTHING.’ She said, and went quiet.

My brother and I looked at the wall.

Neither of us wanted to hear her voice any more. It was like nails being dragged down a chalk board.

‘Actually I DO regret something.’ She said, looking at me.

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

I listened to her stilted voice as she struggled to talk through her laboured and painful breathing.

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

The room was silent apart from the sounds of nurses passing outside the curtain.

‘… that you didn’t write to me and visit me more.’

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

Not only did she have no concept of what regret meant – but right up until the end she was incapable of recognising why I’d left home in the first place – and she still didn’t feel that she was in the wrong in any way.

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

Right up until her last moments she was the same woman that it seems she was in October 1977 – and it’s most likely that she was well before I was born.

At least now all her paintings are gone.

Their cigarette smoke infused frames and canvases are no longer quietly lingering in my cupboard and I have the space back again – both in my home and (to an extent) my mind.

It’s taken me many many years but I’m slowly moving on. As well as I can I’ve tried to forgive her and hold no anger about our relationship – because there’s no point.

The only thing anger or hatred does is damage and pollute what’s left behind.

I refuse to let that happen because despite the destruction she caused her legacy is ultimately positive.

I’m now a different man to the one I was while she was alive and I hopefully have many many good years ahead of to make things ‘right’.

I feel like I wasted so much time dealing with the fallout of our relationship – but no more.

Despite her I want to life a good life, free from her legacy and (unlike her) being a positive voice in the world.

More than anything I’m glad that I’m capable of saying sorry or admitting that I’m wrong and that I still make mistakes.

To me internet that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Davey

Three years sober

Anniversaries. They’re funny things.

They can be a cause for celebration, a reason for reflection, moments of triumph – or reminders of sadness.

Some are all of the above and today is definitely one of those days because it’s now (somewhat amazingly) three whole years since I drank any alcohol.

For some this might have always been their day to day reality and it may not mean much, but for me it’s everything.

My alcohol abuse is not something that gets a lot of airtime in my blog – and that’s because while it was always a problem to varying degrees in my life (from the age of 16 to my early 40’s) when I finally decided to end my relationship with it once and for all I always knew deep down that it had ceased to hold any power over me.

I don’t know why – but in many respects I’ve always been quite a binary person and as such I’ve tended to be able to do this kind of thing at various points in my life.

All‘ it takes is for me to start hating who I am or what I do to myself enough to just say ‘that’s it – I’m done.’

That’s been no small moment when it finally arrives though because when these watershed changes in mindset have occurred I’ve barely been able stand my own reflection in a mirror.

Consequently I remember every instance like this in my life – of which there have been four significant ones.

Each of them could have resulted in an untimely death if I hadn’t changed course, so they tend to stick in my mind.

Alcohol was the last but one thing to go.

The final one was (and in many ways still is) my relationship with food and my comfort eating.

Unlike booze though food will always be there.

I can’t just quit that like other substances – but I don’t think I’d have been able to address my eating disorder to the level I have if one by one I hadn’t removed those other crutches from my life.

I needed alcohol to be gone before I ended up on Slimming World’s doorstep.

However unlike food I’d never felt that I was physically dependent on alcohol.

I never shook without it or had any kind of withdrawal period – and I have no idea why – because when I stopped I was easily consuming three bottles strong of wine per night.

To put it in perspective that’s around 10.5 units a day.

If you add that up over a typical week then I was ingesting 220.5 units of alcohol.

According to the NHS health advice you should drink a lot less if you don’t want to not only damage your liver but avoid other health conditions too (link).

They say ‘men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.’

This means that per year I was consuming 11,466 units vs the recommended level of 728.

Oddly though I only ever felt emotionally tied to it rather than being physically addicted.

When I first gave up drinking I referred to my habit as ‘alcohol dependency’ for this very reason – and still don’t really like to think of myself as an alcoholic.

I’ve since come to the conclusion that the terminology I used probably mattered less than I originally thought it did though.

Honestly (although it still makes me feel rather uncomfortable) I’m ok these days with saying I was an alcoholic – because whether I was physically or mentally dependant on its effects is completely immaterial.

Booze didn’t care in the least.

No matter how I viewed my relationship with it or how I categorised its presence alcohol was still actively ruining my health.

I definitely prefer the life that I now have without it around.

In a similar way to my hope that by continually demonstrating what’s possible with regard to healthy eating and exercise I hope that my sobriety does the same.

I know many readers struggle with alcohol and its effects because they’ve reached out to me personally to talk about it over the years.

Some have fared better than others when trying to address their relationship with it and I know only too well that perceived failures in this area can sometimes make things (at least temporarily) worse.

However – as with weight loss there is another way – and as long as there remains breath in you body there exists the capacity for change.

It’s three years without alcohol and I’m still proudly counting each and ever day that I’ve been sober.

While I do I’m busy living a life filled with love and vitality and I know that whatever happens that little counter will just continue to go up and up.

Davey

Who was that man?

There are days where your mood is so positive and so upbeat that pretty much any storm (metaphorical or literal) will fail to dent it.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had something of an extra spring in my step, and have caught myself smiling throughout the day. It’s a nice feeling to have such a sunny disposition when the weather is so grim and cold – particularly in the lead up to Christmas.

On Tuesday the weather was absolutely crap. It did nothing but rain.

I didn’t mind however.

It’s only weather and currently it can’t dampen my spirits.

On Monday morning the sky was a totally different colour though. When I left the leisure centre at about 9.15am (already feeling pretty awesome after my swim) the weather seemed to be reflecting my mood.

The day looked like it held a lot of promise.

When I’d hit the pool an hour and a half earlier though I’d initially felt rather tired – so instead of trying to go increasingly faster I just carried on at (what now seems like) a rather sedate pace.

In short I just resolved to enjoy myself.

The great thing was that rather than rousing my head from bed with an alarm (which I usually need when the mornings are so dark) I’d woken up darned early and arrived at the leisure centre with plenty of time to swim.

The distance I’ve been doing lately usually takes around 45 minutes.

In this time I can do about 50 lengths of the pool continuously and afterwards I feel like I’ve had a good workout.

After a few lengths though (and knowing that I had a longer window to play with) I wondered whether I could keep my sedate (but perpetual) back and forth going for over an hour – and if so how by how much?…

It turns out that I can keep it up for quite a bit longer.

I’ve found that once I relax into the rythmic nature of the task and focus on just breathing my mind slowly begins to wander.

I no longer look at it as effort – but relaxation instead.

Since I’d had a pretty great weekend on Monday morning my mind had plenty of places to go in this mood.

My swim passed by at light speed with practically no effort required on my part at all.

For the first time (without realising it) I stopped looking at the clock or checking the number of lengths on my watch.

I just focused on the ripples on the water and the people passing by while I drifted along. As I did so a glorious golden light was streaming in through the huge windows and reflecting from the surface of pool onto the walls.

The water was pleasantly warm and so was I.

Surprisingly the time window to swim finished (the local schools take over the pool at 9am) before my arms or legs began to tire.

In the space of just one month I’ve made some really tangible fitness gains!

As I look at this state of affairs I must admit to being somewhat mystified – but I’m not confused by what’s in these screenshots – because if you practice at anything then you will inevitably get better.

I’m just wondering why ten or twenty years ago I couldn’t see any of this.

I really don’t get how I’ve moved from not understanding how anyone could not only regularly participate in, but also ENJOY exercise to someone that continually plans his day around getting enough of it.

I mean – I know the effort that it took to get here and I know the points at which I did things. I know what I had to consume and I know how much I needed to move to become the man I am today.

I understand the dietary mechanics behind how I’ve changed.

It’s the pivot from ‘negative me’ to ‘positive me’ that I find so confusing.

How on Earth did my mindset change in such a wholesale manner?!

What amazes me even now is that the struggling and downbeat way of thinking I used to have is alien to me when I compare it to the person currently typing this.

I genuinely no longer recognise the man I was, despite occasionally being reminded that I inhabited his mind and body for most of my life.

Yesterday – at the suggestion of a friend I created this comparison shot for Instagram, and although it doesn’t represent the largest I was it does show me once again in emotional free fall – although you’d probably not know it to look at me.

I’m looking happy in the bottom photo because this friend has purposefully sought me out (she was seated on another table and came looking for me) so that we could get a picture together.

That friendship persists to this day and over time (in many ways helped by my changes) has matured continually.

We keep in contact far more than we used to and we now share quality time with exercise that benefits both of us instead of just instant messaging or drinking coffee.

The before and after picture is therefore less about weight loss in my mind and instead represents happiness.

It shows something that I consider to be permanent in my life and reminds me that what I’ve done has continued to make that possible.

The picture is multi layered though.

When I look at the old me I also see the glassy look in my eyes and feel the spiritual burden of the glass of wine in my hand.

Shortly before this was taken I’d been trying to lose weight, had been doing ok – and then a few months prior to the Christmas party had started putting it all back on again.

Mostly because of the shame of this (I hated looking continuously bigger each time I caught up with people I rarely saw) I was drinking to get drunk that night.

My strategy proved successful.

By the end of this party I was both hammered and bloated – and when I awoke the next morning felt like crap.

This morning though that man was barely even a memory.

He exists now only in photos and even then when I look at ones he’s in and create these comparisons I don’t really recognise him any more.

In January I’ll be celebrating three years without a hangover – and I can say that with supreme certainty because I know who I am now.

I may not understand fully how I can be so separate from the person I used to be but I know how happy I am currently and I love that today I wanted to get out of bed and do this.

I managed to swim sixty lengths of the local pool in under the time it previously took me to do twenty one month ago.

How flipping cool is that?!

The old guy is gone. His failures and weaknesses are almost all in the past and every day in every way I strive to be a better person – showing anyone that cares to read these posts what’s possible if you just try.

It’s good to be alive and healthy.

It’s good to be me.

I like me.

Davey

Growing a little

Unless you were blind when you read my blog entry yesterday you would have sensed a moment of personal crisis has arrived over the weekend – and that I was trying really hard to manage the fallout of feelings that I’d not realised were bubbling under the surface.

This was until all of a sudden they hit me like a tsunami.

I reached target in February 2018, have been changing and turning my life around for the best part of three years now and even now there are still moments when the fallout of years of self abuse and childhood memories of emotional neglect pull the rug right out from under me.

Thankfully I have good friends.

Friends who can hear words coming out of my mouth that don’t seem like things I would normally be saying, watch me melt down and then STILL put an arm around me, watch me cry and spend time talking me through it step by step and building me back up again.

God dammit I have a lot of baggage.

I’ve spent so many years isolating myself from the pain associated with being overweight and deferring the fallout from emotional losses that sometimes I have no words.

The legacy of a childhood with a continuously abusive parent that couldn’t show any real love is a long one, and even now in my mid forties I’m STILL struggling to come to terms with the fallout.

The 16 year old me in this photo was someone I used to think was at a great place in life. He was young, had starved himself thin after leaving school (losing five stone in a period just a little longer than the summer holidays) and was suddenly receiving attention for the first time in his life.

I recognise now that he was profoundly damaged but too naive to understand how badly.

He just lurched out into the world like a directionless man child desperately craving love and acceptance.

I feel like the last couple of days have been necessary ones – because although I’ve gone completely off the emotional reservation for a short while it needed to happen.

If it hadn’t I’d still be denying that the feelings I’ve been packing down for so long existed and trying to hide them or (even worse) resolving my thoughts in complete isolation.

No man is an island – and while I share myself and my vulnerability with the world much more than most there are many things that remain outside my blog.

These relate to people with no voice or events that I can never talk about openly.

It wouldn’t be right if I did.

Their legacy persists however and I’ve hidden behind food and drink to cope with that for so long that even now I do not know how to properly deal with some of them whilst remaining sober or without eating the entire contents of my fridge freezer.

I’m getting there though.

Today my blog’s sub heading feels even more prescient than usual because I’ve been reminded over the last few days that I, just like everyone else am just

learning to live life‘.

Sometimes I get it completely and catastrophically wrong – and thankfully this time that’s OK – because I haven’t damaged anything that can’t be fixed and I haven’t said anything that can’t be taken back – which is a blessed relief.

I will say this though.

My mother did a real number on me.

It’s unwise to speak ill of the dead – but her legacy haunts me even now.

The lack of any kind of childhood emotional support or help with development of coping mechanisms has led to an adult life lived full of best guesses, huge mistakes and a laundry list of regret.

In some ways this has been good as well as bad.

My experience is all the more valuable for my hard won insights.

When I’ve learned a lesson, even though it’s been painful to get there it means something in a way that it might not do if I’d just followed instruction.

As I mentioned to a lovely lady that came to visit me the other day (who really lifted my spirits as we twalked along the Kenilworth Greenway) there is no mileage living in the past.

My mother lived there all her life and her bitterness was all that was left by the time she finally died. When she did it was alone and surrounded by people paid to look after her instead of a loving family.

Her legacy though – for all the heartache it caused is still in many ways a positive one.

She may not have helped me be a good man, and she may not have demonstrated how to love and be loved in return – but she showed me the end game of a life lived like hers was.

Without ever trying to she made me want more for myself.

I’m not fixed. Not by any stretch of the imagination – but I’m learning how to live my life and I’m both asking for and accepting the help of people that care about me.

That’s all we can do I think.

Work through our pain, and wherever possible share it in forums like this so that others might see their own isolation or difficulties aren’t unusual or shameful.

They’re not broken or damaged like we so often tell ourselves we are.

They’re just human beings trying to find their way through life, love, self esteem, friends, family and everything else that fills your day.

It’s all unwritten, and I maintain that we’re exactly as good as we believe we can be. We can only try to have faith in our capacity to change and grow, do our best, help others and learn from our mistakes.

I feel good today.

Another life milestone has been reached and I think I’ve grown a little.

Davey

999 days sober

I’ve only got ten hours to go before one of the more significant milestones of my adult life arrives.

At midnight I’ll officially have been stone cold sober for 1000 days.

It’s something of a personal triumph that I’m very proud of – but in many ways it also represents something of a bittersweet victory.

Whilst I can’t deny that every aspect of my life has changed for the better since I gave up drinking and lost lots of weight I’m also still plagued by endless regrets.

I know that I could have been a better person for many years and for whatever reason I chose not to be – and that hurts.

The self-recrimination that comes with swathes of largely wasted time are legion, and sometimes I find it very difficult to turn off.

Today is one of those days.

Despite knowing that what I’m writing about represents a massive victory (and that it demonstrates conclusively to anyone caring to pay attention that profound change after lifelong failure is possible) I’m still sad.

I wish it hadn’t taken so long to overcome the pain that I buried and held close to me. I wish I’d been more present in people’s lives when instead I withdrew.

I wish a lot of things – but I can’t change any of it.

I know though that this sense of loss is something of a paradox – because part of the reason I managed to do what I’ve did is because I hated what I’d become so much.

I had to get to my lowest point before I could begin to rebuild.

I’d gotten to the stage where things had to change. If they didn’t then I’d either have continued to kill myself slowly or eventually taken a more active role in the event.

So – today is a victory.

It’s a win in the ‘rest of my life’ column and that’s something worth holding onto.

Maybe it’s also a win for other people reading this who are trapped in their own personal repeating cycles of self abuse – because if I can go from a 35 stone man drinking three bottles of wine a night that couldn’t walk to the end of his street to who I am now then they can too.

It’s all possible.

It’s not easy though – and sometimes every single day is a battle – but it’s right there for the taking if you want it enough.

You can’t change what’s already in the past – but you can fight for a better future.

If you do then there’s real, tangible hope at the end of what may be a long and difficult road.

You just have to take the first step internet – and then take another and another until gradually you become the person that you always wanted to be.

Davey

Edging back to target

Saturday has been uncharacteristically sleepy so far.

Thanks to a really late night and waaaaaaay too many cups of tea and coffee in the pub while my colleagues were downing Jaegerbombs I secured a whole two hours sleep – which meant that when I returned home from Slimming World this afternoon and had I bite to eat I pretty much immediately fell asleep in my armchair.

It was a nice thing to happen though.

The rain outside was (and still is) drizzling quietly away – and there wasn’t much to do otherwise.

It was cold out there, and my house was warm – meaning that when I awoke from my nap I felt both refreshed and cosy.

If I’m honest I was also pretty happy.

This is mostly because despite some questionable emotional eating choices during the week it seems that (broadly speaking) I’ve been good enough for the scales to be kind to me.

Of course it’s no accident.

Although I’ve made mistakes and chosen to eat a few things I shouldn’t have I’ve also been filling my slow cooker with speedy soups throughout the week, making salads, eating low calorie fruit in smaller quantities and snacking on speed instead of free food.

When I went out for my leaving meal last night in Ask Italian I also chose a smaller, lighter meal than I could otherwise have gone for.

sure – it had both cheese and garlic bread – but life is for living.

I also had a nice garden side salad with this (not pictured) and it was pretty much the only meal I managed to get around to yesterday – although I did eat quite a bit of fruit from the healthy ‘last day haul’ I purchased for my workmates.

It’s also been rather amusing to see the text chatter today amongst my ex-colleagues about the night out yesterday evening – and the stories of their various hangovers.

They range from the apocalyptic to mildly inconvenient.

Me – I don’t have one at all.

In contrast to this I am genuinely excited to be exactly a month away from 1000 days of sobriety.

What an incredible thing!

It’s so close now – and a life where I was practically unable to live without alcohol seems both distant and unreal.

This post (link) is from March 2016 – and in it I’m still wrestling with the feelings associated with how to categorise my drinking and trying to find coping mechanisms to remain on the straight and narrow.

I’ve since conceded that I was an alcoholic – but back then (before joining Slimming World in April 2016) I wasn’t quite so willing to admit that.

Now everything seems so different and so full of possibilities…

Whilst the world may be filled with rain this recent photo best describes how I currently feel.

Standing on the top of a hill that I’ve painstakingly climbed, enjoying the view and wondering which bit in the distance to go and look at next.

Ultimately anyone can be whoever they want.

They can turn their lives into the image of whatever they visualise in their minds.

Once you believe you can do anything – because whilst flesh may occasionally be weak the most powerful organ in creation is the brain.

If you can convince yourself something is possible (even if you just admit it may be a possibility) then it almost certainly can be.

You only need to start somewhere.

Unless you think you can fly.

I urge you not to try that.

The sudden stop at the bottom is reportedly problematic.

Davey

Finding my way

This week I’ve been trying to keep my head down, stay focused and power through. I’ve needed to get my mind back in the game after my frankly epic gain on the scales last Saturday, and I don’t want to give any time to distractions that could potentially get me down or derail me.

I’ve seen a lot of the park this week too – sometimes in rather wonderful light…

I have good reason to be out and about a lot. I’m trying to steer clear of the scales currently.

Overall I definitely feel a little trimmer and lighter. From Monday onward I’ve also felt like a corner has been turned.

The psychology of weight loss is something that’s never far from my mind – and I’m always surprised at how easy it is to suddenly shift from a mindset where everything seems possible to one where each insignificant bump in the road appears to be an insurmountable obstacle.

I was discussing with a fellow slimmer during the week how (ridiculously) I’d begun to convince myself that I’d somehow lost the ability to lose weight altogether – and that my body (and maybe my mind) just wasn’t capable of it any more.

Oddly I’d concluded that this (totally illogical) thought process was unique to my brain – but it turned out she’d been thinking the exact same thing.

This frustrated me – because I should have known this.

I hate having to learn the same lessons twice.

When I first started writing about my weight loss experiences I felt completely broken and didn’t believe for one minute that anyone else would be quite as damaged as me. For years because of this I’d internalised almost everything that hurt and tried to hide my private shame about drinking and eating.

Then I began to share it via this blog and I realised that almost everyone that commented on my posts had similar kinds of issues.

They all varied slightly – but fundamentally I was struck by how flawed all of us were. It suddenly seemed to be the norm of the human condition rather than the exception.

This made me feel instantly closer to everyone and at the same time infinity less alone.

Suddenly our shared weaknesses made sense.

I began to notice that the same things that I’d been treating as unique personal burdens were present almost everywhere I looked and in everyone I met.

Almost overnight the weight of the problems I’d carried alone had diminished – and the the more I shared the lighter I became – both physically and emotionally.

Somewhere along the line however (probably because of my openness and honesty in this blog) I began to hear more and more of the ‘I word’.

Inspirational. (link)

I still don’t like it very much.

It’s really nice to know that I help people but honestly I don’t ever really feel like much of an inspiration. I just feel that I struggle as much as the next person (If not more thanks to my willingness to over analyse everything to within an inch of it’s life until I completely understand it).

I think I’ve realised though that this particular side effect of my success has been having a rather subtle and corrosive impact on me over time.

The more people looked to me for advice and guidance and used this word, the more (subconsciously) I came to feel that it was no longer OK to fail.

In contrast – when I was losing weight early on I was always learning.

I was continually trying to find ways to keep myself motivated and accomplish (what at one time I considered) the impossible.

If I screwed up then it didn’t matter because I was just one of many on the same path – and I just picked myself up, used it as fuel for the fire and carried on.

Then, in under two years I actually managed to accomplish the impossible.

Metaphorically speaking I found myself blinking in the sunlight as the clouds cleared. When everything came into focus I was standing on the top of a mountain that I’d been climbing all my life.

At the time in group I just cried.

I didn’t know what to do with that.

How do you process getting your life back – or grasp the enormity of the realisation that you’ve moved from what you considered to be a pathetic failure to a surprise success?

Mind bogglingly I ended up in the press, on the radio, was Slimming World’s third Greatest Loser of 2018 and even more unbelievably then became their Man of the Year.

At this point the avalanche of friend requests and queries about how I’d managed to do what I’d done on social media started. In the background pressure (that I heaped upon myself) started to build, and without realising it I’d started convincing myself that it was now my job to always portray an image of someone that had ‘cracked it’.

I was no longer allowed to fail.

(Author thinks for a moment)

It’s just hit me that the following has been slowly cementing in my subconscious thought processes since February.

    I must not fail.
    I must be in target every week.
    I can’t disappoint anyone.
    I can’t show weakness.

The list goes on – but you get the picture.

It’s stupid.

It’s really stupid.

I’m bound to fail here and there. I’m flipping human.

When it comes down to it life is complicated, and it brings with it emotional and sometimes physical pressures.

We all deal with them differently – and whilst I’m waaaaaaay better than I ever used to be I’m still not perfect.

(Sigh)

Ok.

Full disclosure time.

I stared fantasising about drinking alcohol about three weeks ago.

I really considered it on the way home one day.

It would have been so easy to disappear into one of the many pubs I pass on the way home.

No one would have even known. I could have hidden it and never told a soul.

But I’d have known.

Instead I took the brakes off for a while and ate myself silly.

Now the moment has passed and I’m STILL SOBER.

That is a MASSIVE VICTORY.

Yet all I saw was failure because I put weight on.

The reality is I put on half a stone and remained sober.

After almost 25 years of drinking – the last few (almost certainly) as a borderline if not full blown alcoholic I’ve now been without booze for 961 days.

It used to be highly unlikely that I’d last that amount of minutes in a day without having a drink.

My next major milestone in January is three years sober.

Holy crap.

When you look at it like that it puts things into perspective.

A week or two on the scales a few pounds shy of an arbitrary target weight vs sobriety.

A life full of lucidity vs one of anaesthetised oblivion.

I’m not perfect and neither should I strive to be because it doesn’t exist.

We all just do the best we can.

Tomorrow I’m going in to group and I’m probably going to be a little lighter but still out of target.

In the meantime I can do this on my walk to work and arrive without breaking a sweat.

I can smash four miles in an hour.

I’m in control of the vast majority of my life and that’s enough.

It’s ok to fall and it’s ok to pick myself up, dust myself off and carry on.

I’m just trying to find my way like everyone else.

Davey

Perspective and new shoes

Something that I still find rather surprising in WordPress is when I get lots of ‘single hits’.

Occasionally I’ll pick up a new subscriber who appears to have a lot of time on their hands (I do rather love these guys and gals) and for a week or two they almost single handedly account for the lion’s share of traffic hitting my site.

Typically I can spot this kind of new reader because my older blogs get sequential hits one by one. If I refresh my stats (although I can’t see who is doing this just in case you wondered) I know that someone is wading through my history in date order and following my journey as it unfolded.

It often makes me realise that the mind is a funny thing – because you can occasionally be lulled into thinking that life has always been the way it is at any one given moment in time.

It’s kind of like being in the dead of winter, standing in the snow and finding it impossible to imagine how it would feel if the sun was shining and you were wearing shorts and a tee shirt.

I’ve written so many posts now (584!) that I’m honestly forgetting what some of them contain.

This is a little unsettling because at the time I constructed these, each one was read, re-read and then read again MANY times before publication as I tinkered with the thoughts and wording.

Many remain delightfully imperfect (surprisingly I like that) and often I find punctuation or spelling errors that I’ve missed – but on the whole I thought that I knew each and every one of them.

They’re all little bits of me after all.

Each post contains the unvarnished truth of that particular moment (albeit in a literary container designed to be easily consumed) and in many ways when I pressed ‘publish’ it felt like I was watching little children wander out into the world and wondering if they’d be ok without me.

Not so long ago someone read ‘one to twenty’ (link) and when I saw this pop up on my phone I followed the link to look at the post.

I remembered the title – but not what it related to – and as I read the content it took me back to a time that I felt broken.

Back then I was struggling with almost everything in life and I still hadn’t mustered up the strength to tackle my weight.

I had been sober for just over a month and a ‘taste’ for alcohol was still in the back of my mind.

I was seeking help for what I now freely admit to myself was alcoholism and although not quite at my lowest I wasn’t that far off.

The power of writing moments like this down is very much like noting all of your body measurements when you embark upon a diet – because no matter how hard you try not to you’re almost certain to occasionally fail.

The question at the point of crisis then becomes (if you don’t say ‘screw it’ and press the self destruct button) ‘how do I recapture my drive and pull things back around?’

My blog (and old posts like this) fill just such a gap – because just like the days where you achieve inch loss instead of weight loss and thank your lucky stars you had the presence of mind to get that tape measure out when you really didn’t want to it allows me to step back in time and to stand in the shoes of someone I don’t know any more.

The gift of continued perspective just keeps giving – and I’ve learned that such insight is precious.

if I could give any advice when it comes to achieving anything in life it’s this:

You need to cultivate these nuggets wherever you can – because as uncomfortable as the truth of your past (or present) is it’s still the truth and you NEED to face it.

So – if you’re reading this and wanting to make a change to anything that you don’t like about yourself take time out to retain a snapshot of who you are now.

Even if it emotionally hurts to take a selfie, to measure your bingo wings, to check how fast you can walk a mile, to know how fast your heart beats when you climb up your stairs or how long you can stand before things begin to hurt JUST DO IT.

It’s often the difference between success and failure further down the line.

You might feel strong now – but we’re only as successful as our worst day – and when your back is against the wall you need to find some ammo in your almost empty clip.

I’ve realised that amongst many other things that I’ve changed about my life and outlook over the last few years it’s this that’s become a pivotal element of what I hope will be lifelong success.

In my case I’m everywhere now.

I’m my own top hit in Google and I can’t escape myself.

I’m plastered all over social media (despite my natural reticence in this area) and that’s a good thing.

Instead of feeling exposed and vulnerable like I expected to when I started I now feel the absolute opposite. My failures and struggles not only help other people but they help me too.

I can look back now with pride instead of regret because of this – and that’s something that’s infinitely more precious than wealth, status or material possessions.

Well – almost

I bought some new Clarkes shoes yesterday and they’re flipping awesome.

As I type I’m in the middle of a continued and prolonged footgasm.

They’re soooooo comfortable!!!

Granted I doubt they’ll win me the title of ‘trendiest guy in the universe’ but holy crap do they make me feel happy!!!

Here’s to perspective and new shoes internet.

May they both last forever!

Davey

Alive

Although I’ve been in a positive place this week I’ve also been quite reflective as well.

I’ve found myself (unexpectedly) considering ‘what it all means’ and what my place in the world is – and I’ve also been considering how feelings regarding bereavement change over time.

When my mother passed away a couple of years ago I really didn’t want a funeral. She’d been objectionable enough in life to leave me with a rather blunt and bullish approach to what I should do with her body after death.

I’m quite matter of fact about some things and not overly sentimental where perhaps I should be.

At the time I didn’t want a funeral. I really didn’t see the point.  As far as I was concerned the person I knew (who had been almost universally horrible to me for many years) was dead and gone. Wasting money on a coffin and service seemed like something society expected rather than an event I needed.

It was a racket and I didn’t want to get involved.

The decision wasn’t mine alone though – and it was this fact that led me to modify my original stance and lean toward a more accommodating solution.

The truth of it is that whether you realise it or not when someone dies you’re grieving.

That may sound obvious to many – but I don’t think to me at the time it was – because the emotions that I felt were not the ones I’d typically associate with grief or a sense of loss.

I know now that grief is a very flexible concept. For me (regarding my mother) it had no form that I could quantifiably define – and instead of being the stereotypical sadness that I expected was associated with the loss of a significant other (particularly a parent) it was far more complex.

Grief in my case turned out to be a mixture of many emotions I’d have never normally have linked with death. In no particular order these included:

  • Relief
  • Happiness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

The funeral we eventually agreed upon was a cremation. It was to be a simple affair with a eulogy read by an non-denominational speaker and a coffin that disappeared after a few songs and empty words into the embrace of a furnace.

At least that’s how I saw it in my mind before I was part of it.

Sitting there I was struck that we were all in the same place remembering the same person for the different reasons. Most of the feelings in the room I suspect were quite negative – but mixed amongst them were also tears – and unexpectedly some of them were my own.

Once the day had passed I didn’t dwell on it too much (at least I don’t think I did) and instead busied myself with other mountains that I had to climb. I had been (up until two days before her death) a highly functioning alcoholic and I was around 35 stone. Real personal change was needed if the next funeral wasn’t going to be my own.

I focused all of my attention on ‘moving on’ and ‘getting better’.

This was worth it – because I definitely achieved what I set out to do. I smashed my goals and successfully turned my life around.

I’m still sober after almost two and a half years) and I’m over twenty stone lighter

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However, while this has been undeniably beneficial from a health perspective maybe it came with a cost in other respects – because now I’ve achieved my target I’ve been left thinking (not all the time – but in more reflective periods) ‘what does it all mean and who am I now?’

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling like this at such a time – because with any kind of radical life change it’s impossible to not consider who you’ve become in relation to the world around you.

How do I fit in with the people and conventions that surround me now?

Things were one way for so long that they defined me as a person.

For all the insights that I can tangibly and quantifiably say I have gained into myself over the last two and a half years there are still certain areas of my life that are frightening when I consider them and because of that I’ve avoided dealing with them.

To a greater or lesser extent I tend to bypass them completely and maybe because of that from time to time rather more acute feelings surface.

That there are definitely elements of me that I consciously or subconsciously put on hold so that I could focus on what I needed to do.

Through necessity I placed them in hibernation whilst I marshalled other more useful aspects of myself and brought them to the forefront.

Maybe now then it’s natural for thoughts regarding love and loss to come back into my mind – because it’s no longer clouded with an obsessive need to lose weight. This week therefore I find myself (both in my dreams and waking thoughts) back at a graveside – faced yet again with the loss of a parent – and quite out of the blue I feel sad.

The complexity of grief is such that I don’t feel this way because I miss her (that’s probably never something that will come to pass) but because it took so much pain and so much heartache over so much time for so much good to happen in my life.

I’m drawn back to her funeral and I think that I now realise its purpose.

It’s a day that can never be undone. It’s a moment that will never fade and it served as a full stop. It was the ultimate punctuation mark that life provides to enable a carriage return and a new paragraph.

Without it I think I would be a poorer person because I’d be left with a gap where an end point should be and I now know how crucial it was to make sure it took place.

A funeral may not offer closure at that moment in time. It may not even do it in the medium term – but feelings are funny things and many of our emotions are complex tapestries woven from years of ever changing memories.

Now, in the warm light of a sunny morning a couple of years later I feel blessed that I attended that day and happy that I congregated with others to remember her.

It doesn’t matter any more how we felt about each other in life – and it doesn’t matter how anyone else there felt about her either.

It was an end point and it had to occur so that the healing could begin and people could start to move on. The truth of it is that we are all linear beings and we define ourselves based on the passage of time and events along the way to the inevitable.

If we choose to hide from or ignore them it doesn’t mean to say that the feelings associated with the event go away – it just means that you don’t deal with them.

So, yes I’ve felt a bit sad this week – and yes I’m sorry that things ended the way that they did – but that’s a good thing because this signposts growth and moving on. It means that my mind is busy spring cleaning itself and continually re-formatting what it needs to be for the tasks ahead.

It means I’m alive internet.

Davey

Victory for sobriety

It’s funny how your mind decides to lie to you from time to time.

Mine is currently telling me half truths and outright fallacies surrounding daytime drinking in the sunshine – and serving up half baked romantic memories about how nice it used to be.

It’s at times like this that I have to metaphorically give myself a slap and remember what things really used to be like – because when you feel both fit and healthy it’s easy to forget the reality of it all.

It’s once again an absolutely smashing day in the UK and I’m sitting outside a pub with a coffee at midday. I’m wearing a cool pair of shorts, a short sleeved shirt, and I’m enjoying the sunshine.

This is more than enough to make me happy these days – but even though it’s been almost two and a half years since I stopped drinking there are fleeting moments when I genuinely miss it.

However – it took a lot of time and effort to become the person who today walked two miles into town for a coffee instead of a beer and it never hurts to be reminded of that.

I’ve been following a relatively new blogger’s posts lately (link) which – although far removed from the way I feel these days about drinking – have actually been really cathartic to read and served to remind me that my current state of mind didn’t happen by accident.

This blogger is coping very admirably with what (for the moment) is a very new phase of life – and that’s being completely alcohol free.

For the most part I’m thankfully past all of the mental noise associated with being locked into needing this particular drug to manage everything about my life – but very occasionally I’m drawn back to thinking about it being part of my day to day exstence.

There are lots of people sitting in the sun with cold beers nearby and the warm air is filled with an easy going lunchtime chatter. Lots of smartly dressed people with ID badges have nipped out for a break from the heat of their offices to indulge in a quick glass of wine and a plate of chips.

One could be forgiven for looking at them as the sole reality of drinking – and for many people it is. Their relationship with alcohol is casual, probably well managed and its consumption infrequent.

Others interspersed amongst them are in considerably more relaxed attire – and seem to be easing into what will probably be a lengthy day of drinking.

These people too are probably handling their relationship with alcohol quite well and for the most part they look fit and happy. They’re almost certainly just enjoying a day off work like I am – but you never have to look far to find someone for who that’s not the case.

Nearby there are other examples of what can become the reality of life for far too many people who can’t find the strength to say no any more.

If you’re not inclined to pay attention to the impact of alcohol on those sitting on street corners asking for spare change very nearby then it’s hard to miss the thousand yard stares and poignantly lonely expressions of men and women sitting deeper inside the pub in total silence.

They look tired, on the wrong side of too many hangovers to count and are probably here regardless of whether the sun is out or it’s pouring with rain.

I sometimes wonder if others see the same things that an ex drinker does in the people around him because I can’t help but look for the signs I used to see when I looked at my own face in the mirror.

Mostly it’s the eyes and hair I pay attention to. Both seem to show the most telling indications that things aren’t well inside or out.

One yellows and becomes progressively more bloodshot whilst the other just becomes more unkempt and begins to silently document the mood of someone who has begun to care less and less about themselves.

Thankfully my particular moment of fleeting weakness has passed.

Whilst I wasn’t anywhere near to choosing a pint over an Americano it’s always good for me to write my way through the impact of potential life choices and not ignore the reality of what they can mean.

Although I’ve come a very long way in the last two years I would be foolish to not remember occasionally that I’ve climbed out from under various rocks in the past and shown a rather unnerving capacity for eventually crawling right back under them.

Whilst I feel like the self destructive side of me is very much under control these days I’m also of the opinion that it’s that way because (unlike before) I choose not to forget the past and instead regularly confront it.

Sometimes I could probably be accused of torturing myself needlessly – but honestly if re-living the painful parts of it every so often means that I don’t repeat the same pointless mistakes over and over again then I’ll continue to do it whenever I feel the need.

When I leave my coffee mug on the table internet I do so walking in a straight line, in control of my senses and have a clear head.

I put yet another tick against yet another day that’s yet another victory for sobriety and progress.

Davey

Part Four: Group love

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) Part Two (here) and Part Three (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

It’s now 16th April 2016. I’ve been sober for two and a half months and I’m considering my next step.

When I gave up drinking in my mind I had a blissfully ignorant vision of what would happen. This was because I knew alcohol was the cause of my type two diabetes and if I stopped it would go away. knew this not because anyone had told me it was true – but because I’d decided it was. 

Drink was also the sole cause of my huge weight and I knew that I only ate more when I was drunk. knew this too not because anyone had told me it was true – but because I’d decided it was. 

Once I had stopped drinking I also knew that everything would magically fall into place. Guess why…

In my fantasy the diabetes would gradually fade away, my weight would melt off, my high blood pressure would automatically reduce, my cholesterol would return to normal, I would be able to sleep properly etc etc etc etc.

It would all happen naturally and with minimal effort given time.

Yet two and a half months later nothing had changed.

My trousers maybe felt a little looser, my blood sugar had dropped a tiny bit and I didn’t have hangovers any more – but other than that I was just fat and sober rather than fat and drunk.

To quote a (very) over used cliché ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ Yet there I was, often still eating two large dominos pizzas in an evening and still expecting to lose weight because I’d stopped drinking three bottles of wine every night.

Oddly I began to accept quite quickly that I was still in denial about what it would take for me to get better.

Maybe because I was regularly exploring my feelings and motivations in my blog I (in retrospect) moved relatively quickly to my first level of acceptance.

I needed to get help with my weight in the same way that I needed it for my alcohol abuse. Just stopping one thing that’s bad for you and expecting everything else to magically fall into place is nuts.

At the time someone had quite wisely said to me ‘you can’t boil the ocean.’

They were right. Doing one thing at a time had been the right way to go. I needed the alcohol out of my life and I needed a clear head for what was to come – but now I had to accept that other things needed to change too.

The next step had to come and it had to come quickly.

One Saturday morning with this in mind I looked online for a suitable group – and there it was. My old next door neighbour Angie was still a Slimming World consultant – and quite unexpectedly she was running a session just around the corner.

In ten minutes!

I decided to attend and rushed over.

It was a tough morning.

Not only did the little red chairs in the infant school hall where the group was seem impossibly small to me but devastatingly I also weighed in at 34st 8.5lbs.

I’d never been so heavy in my life. The reality of the task ahead hit hit me like a truck when I returned home that day and I just sat sobbing and alone in my house.

(You can read the full events of that morning here link.)

Shortly after my father messaged me to give me some support. He too was overweight and was also planning to try and lose his excess. He was around 20 stone he said and was heading for the same 12st 7lbs that the NHS BMI calculator thought we needed to be.

He also casually remarked that I had to lose the entirety of him to get down to a BMI that was no longer classed as obese or overweight.

In private it suddenly felt like I was being crushed.

It all seemed so impossible. 

In public I was hopeful – but deep down I didn’t know how I really felt. I just kept writing and I tried to keep going. The food I was cooking was nice and I was enjoying eating the things on the plan.

I tried to keep my eye on the prize and not look at how far away the horizon was – however history had led me to believe that failure was a very real – if not very probable possibility and it was never far from my thoughts.

Previously I’d been a member of Weight Watchers on no less than three separate occasions before 1999/2000, losing 3 stone and then regaining it. I’d been on the Cambridge diet twice from 2007 – 2008, lost 10 stone and then put it all back on (and more) by 2009.

old weight

Furthermore this wasn’t my first time attending a Slimming World group. I’d already attended Angie’s group in 2010, left and then rejoined in 2011. Neither instance ended very well.

I’d initially managed to lose 2 stone but then started backsliding like I always did.

I tried to recapture the impetus a couple of months later – but felt it had gone and decided to leave. Back then I felt like I was a complete failure and that this was the life I deserved. I thought I’d let everyone that believed in me down again and that I was meant to be fat.

I put it all back on – just like every other time I’d tried.

This third time around things would be different though. I would go into this with my head in the game and I’d power through. It would be mind over matter. I had the numbers all worked out. I’d lose 5 or more pounds a week and in 60 weeks or less I’d be thin. It would take just over a year. There was no room for failure. It wasn’t an option.

I was going on a diet.

Sitting in the pub a week or so later with a pint of diet coke I recounted my ambitious plans to a colleague from work.

‘I’m planning to lose about 5lbs a week.’ I told him – expecting him to be impressed.

‘If I lose any less than that I’m going to be really pissed off. I’ll be failing if it’s any less.’ I concluded.

He looked at me. ‘Why think like that?’ he replied patiently. ‘If you only lose half a pound a week you’re still losing weight. If you lose a pound a week that’s over four stone a year!’ 

I did the maths in my head.

He was irritatingly right.

This was one of my earliest revelations yet oddly also one of the biggest. It’s sometimes hard to apply to myself – but it’s as true today as it was back then.

Forward is forward. It doesn’t matter how big or small the steps are you’re still making progress.

Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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This came in handy pretty soon – because it wasn’t long before I hit a speed bump (link) and in my fourth week I put some weight unexpectedly back on.

This just served to confirm all my worst fears in my scared little brain.

I was a failure again, just like I’d been before. I felt so angry and upset that I walked out of the group after standing on the scales. I couldn’t take sitting with everyone as a big lardy let down.

I thought everyone would think I was a fat, hopeless waste of space. I knew they would think this because it’s what I thought, and they MUST be thinking the same as me.

Wrong.

Three things happened here to make this a valuable lesson.

  1. I went home and felt like crap. I realised afterwards in the cold light of day that the things I was paying money for (support from my consultant and suggestions about how to succeed) were all denied to me because I walked out of the room. I have never missed another group since – except to climb Snowdon – and when I reached the top I texted the other members and Angie to say where I was and tell them that I’d done it.
  2. When I went home I sat there with no-one but myself. I was angry and upset – and all I could hear in my own head were voices of self loathing and criticism. I could instead have been surrounded by people that would have cared and told me in a nice way that I was being silly. Over time I’ve learned that when you sit in a room full of men and women like this and you feel at your most vulnerable, the person next to you almost certainly cares more about you than you. Not only that but it’s reciprocal. You care about them too and it’s almost certain that you’ll treat them better than you would yourself. You both need each other to remind you of the reality. Neither of you are failures and you can do it. 
  3. I had to admit that I hadn’t RTFM (Google it). I’d completely failed to spend time absorbing the Slimming World book and instead I’d cherry picked what I wanted to hear rather than listening to everything. When I was told that free food was unlimited I neglected to pay attention to speed food or the advice that free food shouldn’t be eaten past the point of contentment. Instead I thought ‘yay! I can eat tons of chicken!’ I’d been thinking I was on plan but instead I was eating all the right foods in all the wrong quantities. If I wanted to succeed I had to pay close attention. So I sat down with a strong coffee and read the book from cover to cover. I didn’t make the same mistakes again.

Over time other things also became clear. There’s no chronology here – this is just what worked for me.

I started to regularly use a useful feature of Slimming World’s web pages. If you’re not following the plan thats OK – you can do this yourself in a spreadsheet.

Make a graph of your progress.

Why?

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The graph over time will grow longer and longer and it will show you that occasional gains don’t really mean anything. They’re completely natural – and not the devastating failure you think they are in the moment where you see the numbers in a meeting.

The longer you do something for the more it just looks like a nice gentle curve.

If you focus on one bad result and walk away from everything then you do yourself a disservice. Success isn’t about how many times you fail – it’s what you choose to do afterwards. If you use that mistake to fuel your determination to get it right next week then it’s actually a success.

Now – here’s something that you don’t have to do – but I think it’s crucial to understand what’s in food – and by that I mean both it’s nutritional and calorific value.

I’m not advocating that everyone count calories – because I certainly don’t. What I’m saying is that every single thing you put in your mouth is fuel and it had a consequence.

A large strawberry is a speed food – but its average energy content is 33kcal. If you have a punnet of 10 strawberries you’ve just eaten 330kcal. Chicken and most lean meat is 100-120kcal per 100g. It doesn’t take more than a few mouthfuls to have another 300kcal on top of your strawberries as many pre-cooked packs of them are 200g plus.

You don’t have to count calories all the time but you do have to understand what you’re consuming. 

You can’t ignore it because many of us don’t understand the concept of eating until contentment and we need to face up to what we’re putting in our mouths.

On the subject of calories I can’t not mention syns. This bit is relevant only for people following SW.

In simple SW terms these are 20kcal of processed food (although other foods that you might not expect to also contain them – check the SW web pages or have a look in the app if you’re unsure). A man can have 20 a day and remain on plan, and a woman 15– although this varies with your starting weight.

I was initially told to have 30.

Syns aren’t a problem. They’re a clever way of tacking the most common hurdle people face when they want to lose weight and ask ‘can I still eat the foods I love?’ The answer to this on any mainstream plan has to be a qualified ‘yes’ otherwise no-one would start a diet.

After all why would they? It sounds horrible otherwise.

It would be nothing but total denial.

So – people can still eat crisps and chocolate and remain ‘on plan’ – but in my view this should be a starting point rather than a continuing life long policy towards weight loss and maintenance.

I think that the biggest problem we have with food in society at the moment is that we view the packaged refined and processed crap that we buy as ‘normal’. Our objectve shouldn’t be to try and bend our health around them but instead to eventally remove as much of them as we can from or lives.

I regularly walk down the street eating raw carrots – and often people look at me like I’m insane. They wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I was drinking a bottle of coca cola with thirteen spoonfuls of refined sugar in it or a Mars Bar with a bag of crisps – but that’s the crazy world in which we live.

Personally I feel that long term success means that if you have treats like this then you have then occasionally and make sure that they are in fact the exception rather than the rule.

The next bit in red is my opinion. You can choose to ignore it or agree – but it’s worked for me.

I avoid empty syns and calories with zero nutritional value.

If you want to lose weight then choose nutritionally rich foods that will fill you up rather than hit you with intense flavours and make you want more instead of satisfying you. If you’re looking for long term success then learn to cook.

Use your syns on an avocado, some nice olives or a drizzle of oil in your cooking. Better still flavour a stew with some chorizo or use a nice curry paste – just make sure that you count them the same way as you would anything else and don’t guesstimate.

Finally – if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the only faliures you can truly have in life are not trying at all or giving up.

I ‘failed’ over and over again on multiple diets. I yo-yo’d back and forth and thought I was destined to be fat forever.

This is a lie I told myself to avoid the inconvenient truth.

Losing weight and keeping it off is hard work and there are no magic fixes or quick wins.Even if you have an operation to remove parts of your stomach you still have to stay on a calorie controlled diet. There’s NO EASY WAY TO DO THIS.

However – if you want it enough then it’s yours for the taking and you don’t have to worry about screwing up.

What I did over the years wasn’t failing at all. I just hadn’t realised then that slowly and surely I was learning how not to do things, and ALL of that experience came in useful when I finally began to learn how to do it RIGHT.

They enabled me to realise that the REASON I yo-yo’d for years was (amongst other things) because I built NONE of what I did into my life and I didn’t accept that there wasn’t an end goal.

I didn’t have to get into a certain pair of trousers, I didn’t have to wear a pair of speedos for my holiday – and I didn’t have to walk down the aisle with anyone.

Having goals like that are wonderful – but what happens when you reach them? What’s beyond the horizon?

I’d suggest that if you want to have lifelong success accept early on that it’s not a diet – it’s a change of lifestyle and it’s forever.

Try to focus less on short term ‘swimsuit’ goals (although they can help along the way) and more on building healthy eating into every single moment of every day. Don’t try and restrict yourself – just learn to love things that are good for you and come to terms with that being your new, longer, happier life.

Oh – and also you might need to move a little bit too intenet – but that’s what my next post is about…

In 2016 might have accepted that I needed Slimming World and it’s group in my life – but I could still hardly walk to the end of my street and I was still in denial about exercise…

Davey

Part three: Suppression

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) and Part Two (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red. Time will also skip forward as we go on – because this particular lesson was learned in segments.)

Chronologically to start with we are in March 2016. At this point I’m a month into my journey (It started when I gave up drinking on January 26th) and little has visually changed.

This is how I looked.

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After almost completely screwing up by handing in my resignation at a job I’d held down for 16 years my manager allowed me to take some time out to deal with my alcohol issues. At the time I was regularly bursting into tears without warning and couldn’t understand why.

I wouldn’t miss my mother (who had passed away a month before) and I couldn’t explain the phenomenon – which was something I’d never experienced previously.

I didn’t feel like I was grieving.

Yet years and years of emotion seemed to be arriving all at once without any warning and it was scaring me. I felt out of control and needed to understand why.

With an agreement from my employer that I could take some time out of work I enrolled in a four week daily course in addiction recovery. I soon found myself in the cold and grim light of a March Monday morning in a bland meeting room surrounded by men and women in a circle.

They too had problems and all were nervously bouncing up and down in neutrally coloured Ikea Poang armchairs. They looked like they needed something badly.

This selection of people were dealing with alcoholism, heroin addiction and the far more visible and arresting effects of years of cutting, burning and self harm. Some were there under a court order to attend or had been compelled to join by the terms of their parole.

Others (such as myself) were voluntary participants with no criminal history.

I felt metaphorically and physically apart from all of them. Firstly, unlike them I didn’t identify with the label of ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ (I preferred alcohol dependant back then) and secondly because I was relegated to a conventional seat – and sitting higher up.

At 35 stone I was too heavy to sit in the comfortable Swedish Poang simplicity enjoyed by the others and felt exposed.

Initially I also felt like a fraud.

I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t have the severity of problems that they had.

These people seemed to be way further down the rabbit hole than me. I’d stopped drinking – whereas others were either cutting down, using methadone or sporting fresh bandages from A&E the night before.

Many had also shoplifted, cheated, lied and brutalised their way though life and I felt that I was nothing like them.

Until we started the mindfulness exercises and examined triggers.

These (it turned out) were common to ALL of us.

During these we sat in the dark, slowed down our breathing and went through some guided meditation. The point was to just experience the moment and filter out the mental noise caused by the chaos of addiction.

Most days I felt that this was just a method of relaxing before difficult discussions – and I simply enjoyed it on an abstract level – interested in how mindfulness seemed capable of slowing time down. Until the second week I just enjoyed the sensation of peace that it brought – but then one day the group leader quite unexpectedly said something along the lines of ‘now imagine that you want a drink.’

I did as I was told and imagined it.

I suddenly wanted a drink for the first time in weeks and felt instantly stressed.

‘Now follow the feeling.’ He said.

‘Where is it in your body?’

Amazingly I felt it! I could trace the actual thought moving through my body!

It was in my chest – right in the centre, behind my breast bone. As I zeroed in on it the sensation moved and began to flow upwards, through my neck, until it stopped and hung there – tingling in my cheeks.

I was absolutely gobsmacked. I’d known this feeling all my life. It was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror – but I’d never noticed it before.

The difference was that this time it was paused under a microscope for examination. I’d been able to delay its progress for a brief moment and while it was slowly moving I could track the sensation and resulting thought process that trailed in its wake.

It was fascinating!

When I’d experienced this in the past I realised that it happened at the speed of thought. My mind had been reacting to happiness, sadness or anything in between and my body had experienced a corresponding physiological reaction. This had in turn triggered a quietly waiting mental process and I had instantly moved from the flush of adrenalin to a fully formed ‘I need a drink’ feeling. 

By then the choice was made and I always acted upon it.

How had I missed this for so long? More to the point how did I deal with it if it happened again?

Well – there was some help at hand to manage cravings in the form of the ‘Three D’s’ which we discussed shortly afterwards (link)

Delay, Distract, Decide.

  1. Delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.
  2. Do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.
  3. After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but in order to answer consider the following:
  • Advantages of not doing it
  • Disadvantages of doing it
  • Reasons I want to stop
  • My life goals

Like many things in life you take what you need from what you experience, and often leave behind what you don’t. In my case these two lessons were my ‘wins’ from attending that group.

At the time I felt that I’d been filled with wisdom and understanding. I thought I’d finally cracked it. I understood things about myself that beforehand had been invisible to the naked mind – and furthermore I now had a coping mechanism!

There was nothing I couldn’t do!

However – the only thing that you can know for certain is that you don’t know everything

I hadn’t realised back then that what I’d failed to ask myself was why that thought process existed in the first place. I was content to simply acknowledge that it was there.

It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I found a deeper insight into the reason it happened. This was thanks to a book lent to me by a lady that I met in my Slimming World group (link).

By this point I was definitely making progress. Externally and internally I was a very different person.

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The book was called ‘Living like you mean it’ by Ronald J Frederick link.

Honestly it wasn’t my kind of thing (it still isn’t) and at the time I only opened it up because this lady had become a friend and I respected her opinion. She had been kind enough to think of me in the first place and it was rude not to investigate something so freely given with the best of intentions – so I started reading the first chapter.

It irritated me.

I mean it really irritated me.

It was all about allowing yourself to feel things.

In my opinion I was more than capable of dealing with my feelings and I wasn’t afraid of talking about them. I wrote a blog for flip’s sake. I knew the value of exploring my emotions and I talked about them with anyone who wanted to listen.

It was kind of my thing. Always had been. I didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Even if I didn’t understand why I had them I wanted to talk to my friends about mine and theirs.

Initially I walked away from the book simply with an agreement that I would try to let myself feel down a bit more – and that in itself proved to be very helpful.

I’d not really accepted that it was OK to feel crappy and let it temporarily consume you. This was actually natural and normal – and it was the precursor to healing. If you denied the need to experience pain and sadness by relentlessly smiling through the bad times then all you did was defer it’s arrival – and when it finally hit (and it would) the force that it had gathered by that time would be of a much bigger magnitude.

Some thoughts are slow burners however – and the really good realisations – the ones that matter often take you a while to reach.

I still wasn’t there yet.

Sure. I talked about emotion. I wrote about it. I enjoyed pulling it apart and understanding why I felt what I did.

But why did I do that?

I realised out of the blue – some time after reading the book that I did all of my emotional investigation after the fact.

Every time I got round to talking about how I felt it was a historical analysis. I was dispassionately looking backwards at a moment in time and examining how something had happened, intellectualising the feelings associated with it and chewing through their constituent parts.

never ever talked about a feeing while it was happening – but oddly this fact had always escaped me.

Out of the blue I recognised that as soon as a thought capable of provoking strong emotion had entered my head it then instantly caused a physical reaction. This immediately resulted in my mind moving to one of several well practiced remedies – depending on what I was using at the time.

In these moments I would do one or more of the following:

  • Eat to excess
  • Get drunk
  • Have a cigarette
  • (Insert whatever poison springs to mind here)

What I’d never realised was that all of these activities were actually me moving to immediately suppress emotion – and I’d been doing it since I was a child.

But how had this happened?

Then I remembered a conversation with my Dad when I was very young relating to my mother. After a particularly abusive day where we’d both come under fire from her and I was in tears he had shared his own method of coping in such situations.

It went something like this:

‘Imagine that you’re inside yourself, and then curl up like a little ball and don’t listen. Nothing can hurt you if you withdraw. After a while you don’t feel a thing.’

I’d taken this advice on board and began to use it to deal with her behaviour.

It worked because it typically just made things worse if you reacted when she was on the attack. The verbal beatings just extended from 30-40 minutes to hours. Sometimes if you fought back they would meander into the early hours of the morning – even if you’d surrendered and tried to go to bed.

She would frequently wake me up in the middle of the night, filled with rage, stinking of stale cigarettes, spitting in my face as she shouted at me – adding ‘and another thing‘ (her favourite phrase) to the argument – whether it was related to the initial explosion or not.

A member of my family once woke up with her sitting on top of him, and she was punching him in the face.

It was better not to feel.

It was better not to react.

During the day I could eat a huge mountain of mashed potato and sausages – but at night I had to find another way to cope, and I retreated a little deeper each time. Over the years the mechanism ceased to be conscious and became so practiced that it moved to one that was completely unconscious.

In my later teens (after some experimentation) I learned that I was a placid and happy drunk. When I consumed alcohol it helped me to not react to my mother, and initially I even consciously started to use it to help manage my interactions with her.

When I was drunk time passed quicker and things hurt less.

This was just the start of it though. I realised that I hadn’t just been suppressing pain – eventually I was suppressing happiness too – because the physiological reactions associated with any extremes of emotion were so strikingly similar.

Over time I’d created a situation where if I thought bad thoughts and felt bad emotions then I immediately moved to suppress them by self medicating. By 2016 I’d been doing it for so long that I’d ceased to recognised it for what it was. 

I was eating, drinking and smoking my pain AND HAPPINESS away.

Feeling sad? Have a (insert crutch here). It will make you feel better!

Feeling happy? Celebrate with a (insert crutch here). It will make things even better still!

Incredibly it had taken me 45 years to understand this about myself – but one by one the dominoes were falling. Each time I wrote something new down in my blog it gained a sense of permanence – and as time progressed (and I discovered more about myself) the dots were becoming connected.

I was building a picture of who I was – and gaining a deeper insight what my motivations were than I’d ever done before in my life. I no longer just forget something after a revelation and moved on.

Instead I could refer back to them, build upon them and consolidate my gains.

However – back in March of 2016 I was only a sober man.

It wasn’t until April that the real work started….

Davey

The truth

It’s a nice morning for a walk – and at least temporarily there is a blue sky to be found if you look upwards.

If you keep your eyes focused in this direction things seem very pleasant – however if you adjust your gaze downward then things on the ground aren’t quite so rosy.

I wasn’t thinking about this subject when I woke up and I certainly wasn’t when I set out for a walk – but at the moment I can’t help but remember the days when every morning held the promise of a hangover.

These days I rarely talk about my past drinking habits because they seem so far away – and maybe because I’m also lucky enough to really not miss either the taste of alcohol or the sensation of being drunk.

I do occasionally miss the ability to shut my mind off however – but the difference is that I now recognise that it was this aspect of my habit that caused me so many problems.

There are others that aren’t so fortunate however – and the private hell they appear to be trapped in is all too apparent when you walk around the bottom of town in Leamington Spa.

Here the pubs open early – and while the nearby shops are still closed some of the people inside these establishments are enjoying the first (maybe even the second or third) pint of the day.

Although for many years I never spent any time in pubs and didn’t usually drink during the day (except maybe sometimes at the weekend) a drinker is a drinker. We can spot one another – and as I pass people smoking on the doorstep of Weatherpoons I immediately recognise the haggard and yellow eyed look of a hangover in their faces.

It typically greeted me every morning when I looked in the mirror – although if I’m honest after many years of heavy drinking I’d ceased to recognise it as such. It was just my face.

I’m mercifully free of this self destructive cycle now and I’m ridiculously thankful that the events of a very dark period of my life eventually resulted in positive change.

They didn’t initially though. In fact they had the opposite effect.

I used to regularly consume 3-4 litres of 5% abv cider every other night – or two bottles of 13% abv wine but when I hit bad times this worsened dramatically.

By the time I stopped I was easily drinking around 5 litres of cider (if I could tolerate the physical volume) or 3+ bottles of wine every single night.

I feel no shame about it any more. It’s in the past – but at the time I felt the need to hide the extent of my habit from everyone.

I took bottles to the recycling centre regularly or dropped flattened cardboard wine boxes off at the nearby collection bins near my local shops. I also squished up all of my empty plastic cider bottles so that they were teeny tiny in my refuse bags.

As I type I find that I remember particularly strongly the smell of stale alcohol as it escaped from the from the plastic cider bottles when I flattened them.

Oddly I came to rather like this smell. It wasn’t pleasant – but it was part of my daily life and it represented a release, comfort, emotional numbness, pain relief, the ability to sleep – and the blessed relief of forgetting (even if just for a moment) the reality of how miserable my existence had become.

I don’t type all this because I’m dwelling – or feeling at all down.

Quite the opposite is true actually.

Honestly I feel a sense of relief and freedom – and that enhances the happy mood that I’m already in.

I’m in control of my destiny once again instead of being controlled by my addictions.

(Author pauses. Looks out of the window of the coffee shop he’s in and takes a sharp intake of breath)

I suppose when it comes down to it that’s really what it was.

An addiction.

I don’t like to admit that about myself. Instead my internal narrative is about a man who was ‘alcohol dependant‘ and for the longest time I’ve only felt comfortable with this self applied label.

I chose to identify with ‘alcohol dependant’ because it enabled me to step away from the reality of what someone drinking to the extent that I did truly was.

That person was an alcoholic – and I guess if I’m absolutely truthful with myself that’s what I was.

Although it hadn’t completely ruined my life or stopped me working it was only a matter of time until it did and when I recognised that fact I finally found it within myself to take action.

There’s no point denying it to myself any more. 774 days ago I was an alcoholic and that was my reality.

I’m not punishing myself with this statement. I’m releasing myself.

There’s nothing to hide from any more. It’s the past and it’s gone. The reality now is very different.

You may one day find me a repentant member of coffeeholics anonymous – but not today internet. I’m on my second large Americano and I very much doubt it will be my last.

This is as drunk as I get. Life is enough now. The sky is still blue outside and I’m clear headed and happy.

I’m also fit and healthy, grateful that I have a second chance and that I stopped with enough time left to begin my life again.

I write this not just because it’s part of my process of coming to terms with my past but because it’s true – and in truth there’s power.

Within it lies the capability to provide understanding to anyone reading and associating with this or similar behaviour that it’s not too late.

In fact it’s never too late – no matter how desperate things may seem. Even if there’s not much time left you can make what remains a better place to be – and live life free from things that control you.

Today is entirely what you want it to be.

Bend it to your will internet. You can do it if you want to.

Davey

Not my usual kind of post…

I can easily be accused of over thinking things at the best of times. Whilst this manifests itself as a benefit when it comes to writing it sometimes comes at a cost to myself, because I often have to get quite low before I come back up again.

There are days like today where I awake with a mind that’s filled with a crippling lack of self worth.

It doesn’t matter that I know logically that this is just a passing moment in time because deep down today I feel overwhelmed by fears and insecurities that have followed me around for years.

As much as I always hope they’re gone – and that they’ve been replaced by positivity or wiped away with my new lease of life they’re not really.

I’m always crestfallen when I find them still hidden in the background and I’m reminded again that my mother really did a number on me.

She left me with so much numbness in the place in my heart where there should be familial love and warmth that sometimes (on days like today) it feels like there’s a physical lump in my mind.

I try whenever I consciously think about her to will love into my heart and re-format everything about her memory.

I don’t want to feel anger or bitterness towards her because it’s unresolvable and it just diminishes me. I can’t open a door and ask her why she treated me like a possession or made me feel so worthless.

I’ll never be able to make her understand how hard it’s been to clamber out from under the weight of guilt that I feel for not missing her and instead feeling relief that she’s no longer alive.

I can’t get her to put her arms around me and hug me like she meant it any more in death than I could in life – and today – at this moment I just feel sad and angry.

I don’t feel any sadness that she’s been dead for two years now – I just feel angry that I was cheated out of the nurturing support that I should have had in life. I feel resentment that I turned to all manner of bad habits to expunge the pain that she directly or indirectly caused and I feel cheated out of the life that I deserved.

I see other people grieving when they lose a parent and although I understand loss (I’ve experienced the pain of someone that’s close to me dying) I can’t relate to what it must feel like to lose someone that shaped your childhood and youth into a positive and productive life.

I can only understand the final, guilty relief associated with a burden that’s been too heavy for too long being lifted from my shoulders.

Maybe I’ll never get over feeling like I don’t measure up to my own expectations or that I’m not good enough.

I hope not.

I hope that one day the memory of her voice (that seems indelibly burned into my brain) as she called me ‘sick, wicked and evil’ and the familiar look of disgust in her eyes will finally be forgotten.

I hope that one day in darker moments I won’t look back and think that she was right and that there’s something wrong with me.

Again – logically I know this is nonsense. She said these things whilst simultaneously telling me that she was being bitten by fleas irradiated by the Chernobyl disaster – which is not the product of a mind on an even keel.

All of this makes rational sense to me – but on an emotional level there are days like today when all I feel is crippling pain inside and when I could (if I chose to) obliterate myself in any number of ways.

I could eat to excess. I have a fridge full of food.

I could drink myself to oblivion. There’s a shop full of cider just over the road.

I could pick up a pouch of tobacco and roll myself a cigarette and keep smoking until all of the wonderfully scented 25g of Golden Virgina was gone along with my health.

Today it’s hard not to do all three – but I refuse.

I refuse not because I don’t want to – but because I do.

I’m thankfully also very very stubborn and I will not under any circumstances be diminished any more by her either in life or death.

Her power to make me less of a man than I should be is something that she’s no longer able to wield and whilst her memory may make me occasionally weak I’ve come further than she ever expected or told me I could.

Furthermore I did it all despite her.

For the time being I’m going to allow myself the luxury of not trying to think fondly of her. I’m also going to try and focus on my continuing gradual weight loss and the newspaper cutting that a kind member of my slimming world group brought in today to show everyone.

There are things to be thankful for – and the kindness of others makes feeling like I do at this exact moment bearable.

I have good friends and that’s a comfort.

Today though I’m just going to open the floodgates and let it all go before getting on with life.

She may have been troubled, she may have been mentally ill. She may have had a hard life and had good reason to have problems. There may be mitigating circumstances that surrounded her childhood that can explain or give cause for her behaviour.

I don’t care though today.

Today I’m remembering her the way she was in life.

She was bitter, resentful, hateful, unforgiving, deceitful, abusive and I should have no reason to feel guilt for not missing her.

Davey.

Two years sober today.

It’s December 31st 2010.

Like many years that preceeded that one I’m indulging in a festive tradition, which involves drinking to excess.

For some unknown reason on this occasion I take photos of me in my games room with my feet up on a footstool in front of the television. Both the bottle I’m drinking from and the glass in my hand have piqued my interest for some reason and I’ve documented them.

 

I remember waking up the next day, looking at my phone and wondering why I’d taken these photos. The bottle was empty and sitting in the recycling box next to several other flattened 3 litre bottles of cheap cider in the red bag beside it.

When I drank I made sure that I did the job properly. I never once opened a bottle of Southern Comfort during the holiday season without finishing it in one sitting and then moving onto something else.

In the forground of these snapshots my chubby fingers clutch a tumbler – and in the background I can see my badly swollen ankle. My leg doesn’t seem much better.

In a spearate, grainy and jerky video of the same scene I can hear my laboured breathing behind the camera.

I can’t believe I used to sound like that just sitting in my armchair.

I don’t breathe like that now when I’m climbing a mountain.

I continue to scroll through the December pictures and then find myself in 2014. I’m drinking again. It’s not surprising. I did it pretty much every night by then. My ankle looks worse.

A lot worse.

Compared to how it looks tonight it’s incredibe that by this point in 2014 I was still managing to walk anywhere – even if it was just hobbling to my car so that I could go to work. I remember cleary how painful it was to have my skin stretched so tight.

It felt like the surface of a snare drum and it itched all the time. The feeling alternated between a sensation that felt like frost before switching without warning to intense heat.

 

I continue scrolling and all of a sudden I’m in December 2015.

I’m drunk again and at my lowest ebb.

My mother was dying and I couldnt cope with life. My heath was rapidly failing and honestly most of the time I was hoping that a heart attack would just end it all and take away the pain.

Although emotionally I was hurting deep inside, physically there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t continually scream for relief. I was so heavy at around 35 stone that everything was painful all of the time and nomatter where I stood, sat or lay there was no relief to be found.

I could no longer sleep without being blind drunk and when I did I woke up panicking every hour during the night because I couldnt breathe.

For the man on the left every day was hell – and for the man on the right every day is a gift.

Sometimes the one on the right still struggles and tries to find the right path in life – but for the vast majority of time he’s winning.

The man on the left is someone that I loathed and couldnt look in the eye when I caught his reflection in the mirror.

The man on the right isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I’m proud of who he’s become. I like him. I’m amazed continually by his energy, positvity and zest for life.

The man on the left has been drunk for months and has no idea anymore what a day without a hangover feels like. The man on the right has now been sober for exactly two years this evening.

Those other photos are of someone else. Someone that I don’t remember.

That Dave is dead internet.

Long live Davey

Anniversaries on the horizon

After the euphoria of adrenaline that my short attempts to run produced on Sunday (link) I’ve been dealing with the after effect – which is raging cramp in my quads.

It’s not apocalyptically awful if I’m honest (I can still move) but it is surprising because it took a couple of days for the full effects to be apparent.When I climbed out of bed this morning it definitely wasn’t with my usual zesty spring and I’m sure I heard a creaking noise that sounded like a tree about to fall over in a haunted Disney forest.

Unsurprisingly this didnt dissapear with a couple of stabs at the ‘snooze’ button and after geriatrially pottering around for half an hour I headed off to the office. My walk to work was waaaaaaaay more of a chore than it usually is.

I felt sluggish throughout and didn’t enjoy it at all.

In a way this is good mind you – rather masochistically I like cramp. It means things are improving. I’m still not sure what to do with all this though. I’m cautious about what it means, and I’m still reluctant to give myself any goals that I potentially won’t keep. In the past doing that has proved to be both self defeating and demoralising – so I’m just going to see how I feel when I recover and decide what I want to do based on how I feel.

In the meantime I still seem to be subject to a rather insatiable appetite in the evenings – and whilst I’m eating good food I’m still eating too much of it.

21st Jan
Tub of cottage cheese
4 apples
Chilli con carne made with pork mince, kidney beans, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, red pepper
Yogurt and frozen berries

22nd Jan
Chilli leftovers + couscous
4 apples + tub of cottage cheese + 200g ham
Two bowls of slow cooker beef stew
Yogurt and frozen berries

23rd Jan
Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
500g carrots and 6 tomatoes
Chilli con carne + half a pouch of microwave basmati rice
Yogurt and frozen berries

I know that this doesn’t seem like a bad day on the page but I’m hyper aware these days that if I want to lose weight I have to do a lot more and eat a lot less, because I’m no longer benefiting (if you can call it that) from carrying around all that extra timber.

It’s way easier for the weight to fly off when you’re carrying lots of baggage on your person everywhere you go – and in many ways I’ve not significantly modified my eating habits for at least a year.

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself though. I’m suddenly aware that I’m being critical of my successes and looking down on what I’ve done…

I’m probably eating a bit less overall than I used to – but I feel that things (broadly speaking) have remained the same. This is almost certainly because every time I consider how I feel about reducing my portion sizes a tiny (yet uncontrollable) part of my brain begins to panic somewhere in a corner.

On the plus side (even though I’m judging myself harshly when I shouldn’t) I seem to have found a rough ‘maintenance’ amount of food for when I get to target…

However I still need to get to target!

Today it’s been all that’s on my mind – and to try and stop myself overeating in the evening I’ve been munching carrots and tomatoes at my desk and had some lovely healthy leftover slowcooked beef stew for lunch.

(author pauses)

Oh screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m preoccupied by more than food – and I’m feeling self critical and a little maudlin because two anniversaries are on the horizon.

Although I didnt join Slimming World until April 2016 the turning point in my life that started all this was the death of my mother on the 28th of January, and my decision to finally stop drinking myself to death two days before she died on the 26th of that month.

 

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For all of the water that went under the bridge between us it’s sometimes easy to forget that when I was born she was a young woman of 28. Although I know a lot of her troubled history now at that moment in time she was just a young mother with a newborn infant in her arms and there was nothing was written in stone for the future.

For all she knew the bond that she had with me would be unbreakable and we would be inseperable forever.

Time changes many things though and that potential relationship never came to pass. At the end we were barely on speaking terms and communicating with her (at least from my perspective) felt agonisingly painful.

Even close to the end I counted the moments until I could leave her company and get blind drunk.

Maybe somewhat paradoxically today I found myself, sitting alone in my lunch break looking at a photo of her death certificate.

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It says ‘exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ as the cause of her death – and in the other significant conditions section the words ‘breast cancer’ in black biro sit there staring back at me from otherwise empty dotted lines.

I’ve not looked at this picture since the day it was taken – and it occurs to me that it was around this time that I began to accumulate documents, photos and paintings that I never really wanted to be in posession of or to own.

Like this piece of paper they’re all just scribbled words on a page but they hold a power.

Even now though for some reason I can’t bring myself to dispose of them, despite how they make me feel. They remain buried in drawers for another day filled with greater fortitude.

(sigh)

I’m not sure why anniversaries are so important.

It really shouldn’t matter that another year is about to pass by without her in my life – and I probably by now should have shaken off the ever present nagging sense of guilt that it’s not her death that I remember the most about those awful days, but my decision to stop drowning my problems in alcohol and to reach out for help.

It’s been 727 days since I put down my glass after finishing that evening’s third bottle of wine and never picked one up again.

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I’m still struck by the paradox that such an awful event caused so many positive things to happen in my life – and despite it not really being the true anniversary of either big moment I dedicate the rest of this post to her memory and what’s changed about my life since she died.

It’s all been seen here before – but I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll post what I like. I’m proud of it all, and also more than a little sad that things ended the way that they did before I made what sits below this paragraph happen.

Despite knowing that if she was still alive she’d probably find some way of undermining these achievements the fact is is that I owe every single one of them to her passing.

 

  • I was unable to sleep in any position other than my left side or sitting upright at 34st 8.5 lbs. Now I can sleep on whichever side I choose (including my back) and no longer wake up in a panic because I think I’m suffocating
  • I’ve walked the cumulative 3000 mile distance from San Fransisco to New York (and almost 1000 miles more) since joining Slimming World
  • I overcame Plantar Fasciitis, two torn calf muscles, ligament problems in my left thigh and shin splints caused by my weight and persisted with my walking and exercise
  • I’m no longer taking medication to control my (type 2) diabetes – and have a HbA1c reading of 28 compared to 94 when first diagnosed
  • My blood pressure is down from borderline hyper-tension to that of someone 20 years younger than myself
  • The usual resting heart rate of an adult male in his mid 40’s is around 70bpm. Thanks to all the exercise I do now mine is currently around 40bpm.
  • I’ve dropped from the 8xl shirt and 66in waisted trousers I was wearing to XL shirts/large coats and waist size of 34-36in (depending on the retailer)
  • I can put my socks on
  • I haven’t broken any furniture by sitting or lying on it for over a year and a half
  • I can buy clothes from pretty much any supermarket or high street store. They cost approximately 75% less than they used to at specialist retailers
  • I can now fit into cars and taxis, including the smallest ones available in all my local dealerships AND get the seatbelts on (I tried them ALL!!!)
  • I can take the train or the bus because I fit into public transport and can walk to and from where it stops
  • I can fit in my bath
  • I don’t get out of breath walking up hills unless they’re really steep
  • I can mow my lawns without being in agony – and maintain my gardens
  • I can stand up without grunting or straining from pretty much any position
  • My skin no longer burns instantly when exposed to the sun (often it doesn’t burn at all now) and I don’t have dry eczema all the time like I used to
  • I no longer wear glasses for reading and have dramatically improved eyesight due to my diabetes being under control
  • I can sit in restaurant or cafe booths – in fact ANY kind of fixed bench or table seating is accessible – as well as garden picnic tables and plastic chairs.
  • I can go to the cinema and not have to pay extra for premium seating because I don’t fit in the standard seat or am worried that they will break
  • I can walk up to 17.5 miles a day and average 20,000 steps daily and 70+ miles every week. Previously I couldn’t walk to the end of my street 200 metres away
  • I can concentrate for much longer periods and take in (and retain) information a lot faster
  • I need less sleep – usually 5-6 hours is enough now. I used to need at least 10 because it was so hard to get rest with sleep apnea
  • I can now walk a mile in 14 minutes and 51 seconds. When I first tried to do a mile it took well over an hour to an hour and a half with continual rest stops. I usually have to stop every 7-8 miles now.
  • I can jog up stairs
  • I can jog back down stairs
  • I’ve taken large amounts of outsized clothes to charity and by donating with gift aid have helped other people by doing so.
  • I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since January 26th 2016
  • I’m now able to buy clothes from charity shops as well as deposit them and when I do they cost around 1/8th of what I previously was forced to buy
  • I can take a selfie without hating myself
  • I have climbed Snowdon
  • I no longer have constant oedemas (fluid retention) in my ankles
  • I can go outside wearing shorts without feeling self conscious
  • I don’t need to get my shopping delivered and I often walk two miles to the supermarket and carry it miles back home in a rucksack
  • I can stand for long periods without crippling back, knee and tendon pain
  • My knees no longer hurt all the time. They used to be painful even when I was seated
  • I can’t hear my own laboured breathing when I sit and relax
  • I no longer sweat all the time regardless of the temperature and I need to wear thick socks, gloves a coat and a hat to go outside in the cold
  • I regularly meet lots of new people through my efforts, Slimming World and my blog
  • I’m now confident enough with my appearance and fit enough to stand and speak in front of groups about my weight loss. Previously this would have been impossible because I quickly became breathless and physically shook from the effort of standing upright
  • I no longer get publicly bullied and called names related to my weight by youths (and adults) on the street
  • I’ve gone from eating (and burning) 7,500 calories per day to around 2000 and because of this my shopping costs around 2/5ths of what it used to.
  • I can ride a bicycle again
  • I can sit in an IKEA Poang armchair without fear of breaking it
  • I can do press-ups
  • I can do sit-ups
  • I can climb ladders and use stepladders (none held my weight before) to get into my loft
  • People I know frequently fail to recognise me in the street until I speak
  • I’ve never spent more quality time with friends, family and people that I care about in my entire life – and when I do we’re usually exercising so I seem to be promoting positive behaviour in those that mean something to me
  • I no longer make excuses not to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while (or don’t see them at all) because I feel embarrassed about putting lots of weight on since they last saw me
  • My friends and family can hug me and put their arms all the way around me
  • I’ve appeared in the Leamington observer (link)
  • I’ve appeared on BBC local radio to tell my story
  • I can run (although not very well yet)

Davey

Productive Sunday

Although I’m used to filling my day with things to do, sometimes it hits me just how much I can fit in now that I’m no longer wiped out after just waddling to my car and back.

After my less than stellar result on the scales yesterday I decided to go for it today and (probably much to the annoyance of my neighbours) was out mowing my back garden at 7.45am.

I haven’t much choice in the timing really. I had a lot to do today and I haven’t been able to do it for a while. It’s dark when I get home in the week now and I’ve been meaning to get the last mow of the year in for a couple of weeks – but have ended up putting it off again and again.

Today though it hadn’t rained. Instead there was just a lot of dew and most of it was freezing. I’ve never mowed frosty grass before – and to be honest it was a laborious task, requiring a lot of periodic poking underneath the blades with a stick to scrape off all of the clogged up grass.

The back lawn looked a bit soggy and clumpy afterwards (grass clippings don’t like collecting in my lawn mower basket when the grass is frozen solid apparently) but crucially it was done.

The next mow shouldn’t be needed until springtime.

One thing that I actually really like about my back garden is its complete lack of perfection. It’s got things growing in odd places, flaking paint, moss and a healthy population of frogs.

Whenever I investigate the little overgrown or dilapidated bits there’s always something I like the look of.

IMG_0694IMG_0701Although I need to do some weeding around the borders the garden has (for the first time since I moved in) remained well managed and accessible for the whole of summer and autumn.

I’m determined that (whilst I really don’t care about it looking like a bowling green) it will remain in this well maintained state forever more – and never go back to the apocalyptic mess that I let it become when I wasn’t coping very well.

I’ve said before that mowing the lawns used to be a major undertaking for me.

That’s actually a vast understatement- it used to be agony and I often did it whilst rather drunk or drinking with that objective in mind for precisely that reason – because it didn’t hurt so much emotionally or physically during or afterwards.

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I found this gem of a photo that I took of myself mid way through mowing my back lawn in 2012 – far from my heaviest weight. I was sitting on a stool at the time because I was in agonising pain. My back was screaming, I was drenched in sweat and (from memory) already half way down a bottle of strong white wine.

The expression on my face (I think) speaks volumes.

This morning however I finished the mowing, bundled away my tools, grabbed a hot drink and headed off for a coffee with a friend in Kenilworth, which is a four mile walk from my house.

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It was a pretty energetic four miles too.

I’ve been chasing a 15 minute mile ever since I started Slimming World thanks to an offhand statement by a guy there in the early days who said he walked four miles in the morning. When I asked how long it took, he casually said an hour – which I was completely gobsmacked at (at the time a mile took me about 60-90 minutes) so I made it my mission to do the same.

Although almost nineteen months later I’m still not quite there, what I can do instead is demonstrate a lot more stamina.

Whilst I haven’t broken the 15 minute mile sound barrier (yet) I’m still trying and in the meantime getting a lot better at keeping a continued and consistent pace up for a pretty respectable distance.

really enjoyed the walk (and the coffee and chat I had whilst in Kenilworth) but otherwise on a Sunday the place is mostly a ghost town.

Everything is closed.

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However (praise be!) there was a single charity shop open in the precinct near Waitrose – and right at the back, hidden amongst the coats and jackets was a Peter Storm combined fleece and raincoat in a large size.

I was a bit miffed.

It was in excellent condition and it was only £8. Furthermore it was just what I need at the moment as it gets progressively colder and wetter – but annoyingly it was in a large. I have a raincoat and I also have nice fleece – but I haven’t had a combined waterproof and warm jacket since I gave my 3XL supercoat to my dad.

Sigh. I miss supercoat.

We had some good times together.

I decided to try some shirts on instead – but nothing took my fancy.

Although they were nice I have plenty of shirts that fit currently – and there was no need to buy them just for the sake of it. After putting a other nice lumberjack shirt back on the rail I reached down to grab my jumper and gilet.

As I lifted my jumper I stopped.

I thought ‘I wonder how tight it is? Maybe I should try it anyway….’

So – I pulled it off its hanger, threw it over my shoulders, pulled the zip ends together and began to draw it upwards.

I fully expected it to stop at my waist, but the zip kept moving. It passed my belly button and I genuinely felt a flush of excitement. Would it fit? A coat in a large size?

Then the zip stopped dead.

It would go no further. 

….

….

At this point I’d usually sigh inwardly and put the item back on the rack, thinking ‘maybe tomorrow’.

Not today.

THE ZIP HAD STOPPED BECAUSE IT WAS UNDER MY CHIN!!!

THE COAT ONLY FLIPPING FITTED ME!!!

So I bought it.

I am now the proud owner of a new (old) large supercoat. It’s currently drying on the radiator after a spirited turn in the washing machine, so photos will have to wait for the time being – but it doesn’t just fit (and is now florally fragrant) it fits me properly!!!

So – with my super flipping excellent wonderful bloomin fantastic smashing great purchase swinging back and forth in a carrier bag I practically skipped back to Warwick in the late morning sunshine.

The day couldn’t end there however.

I had a bite to eat when I got back, did another hour in the garden and then headed off for a walk to Sainsburys in Leamington on another errand. By the time I got there I was still floating on air and (after getting what I needed and having another coffee) I headed back home – and what a lovely walk it turned out to be.

There was a terrific slow motion sunset that seemed to fill the world with orange and yellow hues – and as I passed the river on the way back to my house a couple of swans decided to float into a perfect position below me just in time for my camera.

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Sigh.

Does life get any better than this?

I think not.

I have so little in material terms nowadays – but I feel like I’ve got everything sometimes. Even a Disney themed carrier bag makes me feel happy.

I miss almost none of the stuff that I used to fill my life with to avoid negative thoughts. It was all just a parade of distractions designed to stop me truly living my life and making the most of every day.

At the time of writing I’ve walked just under 17 miles and in doing so have smashed my calorie burn and cardio requirements for the day.

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Hopefully this will go some way towards making up for my little gain – and maybe even help me have a loss next week.

Either way internet – nothing can take away the fact that today I stood in a charity shop that I walked four miles (in just over an hour) to get to, and zipped up a coat in a size that I’ve never worn in my entire adult life.

That’s a great way to end the day.

Hugs to all.

Davey

Feature wall

Currently (despite my willingness to do so) the furniture and pillows remain uneaten in my house, and there are almost no rabid bite marks on anything. 

Ever since Monday afternoon I’ve swung between having no appetite at all and then suddenly feeling like I could chew my own arm off and stuff my face until I puke. 

Annoyingly when periods of stress or downbeat emotions arrive the old coping methods that I used to have are still sitting in the back of my mind biding their time amongst the cobwebs. Even though I would never listen to their requests both of my ‘I fancy a drink’ and ‘wouldn’t a cigarette be nice’ subroutines appears to be alive and well

I mentioned this to a friend on Tuesday and he told me that even after 30 years of not smoking his dad still occasionally feels this way and from time to time wants a smoke – so I guess sometimes you just have to ride the wave and keep focused on the fact that you’re doing yourself a favour by saying ‘no’. 

For my part I’ve fallen back on exercise to manage my stress – and reasoned that if I just keep walking and talking that things will eventually resolve themselves in my mind and I’ll also get some decent sleep. 

The latter appears to be something of a distant pipe dream, whilst the former is definitely a work in progress. I have ideas floating around my head (after plenty of suggestions) but so far no immediate plans of action. 

The events of the last couple of days aren’t the most awful thing to have ever happened to my stats however – and both Tuesday and Wednesday saw the demise of significant amounts of boot tread. 


Typically at this point I’d be focused entirely on that as an achievement but in many ways at the moment it seems oddly irrelevant. However I do know that the alternatives if I had not decided to go out and keep putting one foot in front of the other wouldn’t have been good. 

Yesterday morning the first part of my attempts to blow away my mental cobwebs came in the shape of Mick. 


Although perspective is almost entirely absent in this photo you can take my word for it when I say that this two year old Labrador (a stud for guide dogs for the blind) is massive

He usually goes for walkies with a nose harness but somewhere in the last few days this had gone missing and he was taking full advantage of the freedom this situation afforded him. 

His owner (whom I spent yesteay morning watching being dragged enthusiastically around Offchurch and it’s Greenway) joked that she really should have brought roller skates or a saddle along, because this horse of a dog is like a stallion. He goes where his nose leads and there’s little that can stop him. 

He’s quite lovely though – and as stressed as I feel deep inside it was impossible not to smile watching my companion shouting ‘MICK!!!’ at the top of her voice as he bounded off once more to investigate something of interest. 


Everyone needs an enormous black Labrador to drag them around the countryside. 

That’s just a fact. 

Unexpectedly my afternoon took me elsewhere in the Midlands – and I spent the early evening house hunting with another friend. 

Delightfully she has been passing by the area at the last minute (she sadly lives very far away now) and having read my blog the night before had texted today and asked if I fancied meeting up for a last minute twalk. I don’t get to see her very often so my answer to this kind of impromptu suggestion is almost always an enthusiastic ‘yes!’

As we walked around the outskirts of Solihull waiting for her scheduled appointment to view a property we chatted about recent events in both of our lives and my decision yesterday to leave my job. 

When I’ve explained why I did it to people, so far they’ve all immediately got it. 

Right off the bat

Furthermore they all seem to agree it was the right thing to do. 

Even though I’m a bit stumped as to what comes next it’s really encouraging to not have anyone so far shaking their heads in disbelief. Furthermore no one’s suggested that I get a brain scan or enquired how it is that I’ve managed to survive for so long without one. 

When we arrived at the house she wanted to look at there were already lots of viewers there, and the elderly lady employed by the agency to greet people stood waiting in the open doorway. Dressed almost entirely in well co-ordinated light beige clothes, she looked extremely chilly and was clutching her clipboard to her chest between folded arms like it was a hot water bottle. 

She was a slightly built woman that peeked over brown rimmed glasses at us as we entered the hallway of the property and I think that she’d already been there in a draughty house for a couple of hours. As she handed my friend one of the armfuls of printed floor plans she had on the clipboard she sighed a little and admitted to us both that she was in serious need of a hot drink. 

We made small talk for a moment and then started to explore. 

The house was lovely, with a lot of 1930’s character and plenty of potential – but it was sorely in need of a cosmetic overhaul. My friend is intrepid however and this is nothing that she hasn’t done many times over already. I can barely wire a plug, whilst she has re-wired entire houses

I let her get on with the business of her expert exploring and nosed around myself, heading upstairs to look at the view of the spacious garden. 

One thing that I immediately felt should definitely remain was the 1970’s feature wallpaper in the rear bedroom. 

It. Was. Epic!


Frankly I could have in popped a wicker chair in there, added some pot plants and an old turntable with some classic LP’s and just sat admiring the wall until the end of time (whilst abstractly dreaming about Farrah Fawcett). 

Heaven only knows why but this wall made me smile. 


As we walked back to our cars and compared our fitness device step counts (Davey win!) I mentioned how rare the moments have been in our long friendship where we’ve walked and talked together have been. 

Most of my memories are of us seated together – but we both agreed that the ones that really stood out were when I had periods of fitness and good mobility. In these times we actually went somewhere and when we did there was always something new and interesting to do. 

Those times (maybe like today with the feature wall) randomly remain in the forefront of our thoughts about each other above all else. As I drove home shortly after we parted I found myself more certain than ever that somehow I have to carve out a life with a balance between personal freedom and work necessities that allows moments like today to keep growing in number all the time. 

After all internet – without a memory of someone give you a hug after a long walk to a house with 70’s feature walls then whats’s the point? 

Life’s too short to be stuck doing something you hate and not hugging the people you care about. 

The trick now is to decide how to do something I love that pays the bills and also makes many more moments like this possible. 

Davey

Boiling the ocean

After I wrote yesterday’s blog I started thinking about my early posts. As I’ve said a few times before here, although I love that people enjoy reading my blogs I do (maybe somewhat selfishly) write them primarily for myself.

Lately I’ve also realised that I’ve started to use writing like other people use sudoku – to relax and also stimulate my mind. Initially though my posts were primarily deployed solely as a method of creative therapy. They enabled me to gradually unpick and understand my thought processes as I laid them bare on the page day after day.

By the time I post this I’ll have done that 415 times – which I estimate equates to around 500,000 words.

I’m still not sure quite why I felt so compelled to do this in public – or why I suddenly became so prolific. I’ve certainly never craved the limelight in the past – and instead I’ve often actively avoided it. Oddly though, when I began to present myself in print with absolute honesty I felt less vulnerable when I shared my deepest darkest secrets with the whole world than when I took a picture of myself or looked in a mirror.

The thought of not only taking a snap of myself, but then resisting the urge to immediately delete it, and then even uploading it was very far away back then.

I hated the way I looked. 

That final step took a while to do – but I’m glad that relatively early on I began to include photos in my posts in an attempt to ‘normalise’ my mental image of myself through my blog and my Instagram page (link).

I remember suddenly feeling that it was vitally important to show where I had started and where I was going. I’d hidden for so long from cameras that my mental image of myself was insanely warped and this made a gradual but profound difference to my self esteem.

I feel very different about how I look now.

Instagram comes with a cool partner app called ‘layout’ which allows you to easily make comparison photos (such as the full length mirror one below).

I use it a lot lately to look at myself ‘before and after‘ in side by side shots.

Sometimes though (in a less immediate and more personal way) I can also achieve a similar effect with words – and this usually happens when I re-read a contemporary post that’s written when I’m happy and feel like I’m winning at life before flipping back to the beginning of my blog and picking a post at random.

When I went back to February 2016 this morning and read ‘little kettle’ it took me right back to a period before I joined Slimming World where I could barely move and was still wrestling with the reality of how to manage my time without alcohol.

It’s worth reading it before you continue.

(link)

Don’t worry. I can wait.

Done?

Ok – I’ll carry on.

It’s (unbelievably) almost six hundred days since I last had anything to drink and although there are times I think about it in a whistful way I don’t really miss it at all any more.

599 days

Things have moved on. 

Back then thay hadn’t though. The title of the post had come from a conversation with a work colleague. We’d been chatting about the height of the personal (metaphorical) mountains that we felt we both had to climb – and he had said to me by way of encouragement ‘you can’t boil the ocean’.

He’s right. You can’t fix everything in one go. You just have to start wherever you can and persist. 

It also seemed very apt at the time because it hadn’t been all that long since I’d truly felt like I was drowning. My mother had not long died (that’s why I refer to a bungalow being emptied) and I honestly could have followed her any minute immediately afterwards if I hadn’t take decisive action to change.

My exercise bike was agonising to sit on, and I could barely pedal because of the way my 66 inch waist rested and bounced upon my legs. I managed under five minutes freewheeling with no resistance and I remember it absolutely corpsed me.

As I read that old post it’s quite sobering to re-live how I felt both physically and mentally back then. I was trapped (or at least I thought I was) by circumstance, the literal and figurative weight of my past choices – and for longer than I could remember I’d thought there was no way out.

Before the 26th of January 2016 I was just waiting to die. 

But then just like pasting photos into layout and looking at a time lapse of myself I can now wind the clock forward 20 months to what I write in the present and there’s currently a different person constructing this post.

The list of his scale and non-scale victories is lengthy.

(author takes a deep breath)

His type two diabetes is in full retreat, his back is no longer agonisingly painful every moment of every day, his knees don’t continually hurt, he can stand still without physically shaking from the effort, he no longer suffers from cellulitis, his tendons aren’t torn, his ligaments have repaired, his ankles are not continually swollen with fluid, his rest is not continually interrupted by sleep apnoea, his skin adores sunlight, he smells better, he can breathe lying on his back, he’s not continually sweating, he’s no longer wheezing all the time, he can fit in a bath, his blood pressure is normal, his resting heart rate is around 20 bpm lower than it used to be, he can wear seatbelts in any car, he can sit in any chair – including fixed booth seating, he has dropped 109 kg, he has lost 26 inches from his waistline, he buys clothes for a pittance from charity shops and supermarkets instead of highly priced specialist retailers, he doesn’t wear glasses because his eyesight is sharper, he jogs up stairs instead of taking the escalator, he walks an average of seventy miles a week, he can climb mountains, he has cumulatively crossed continents, his mind is continually aliveand his sense of hope actually exists

In fact I’m almost the me I always wanted to be but never knew how to become.

I was ashamed to be the other man – but I’m proud to be the one I am now – regardless of my scars, stretch marks, loose skin and other assorted battle wounds. Despite all of it I’m still standing and I’m putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, after day after day.

You see – the thing is that my friend was right. You can’t boil the ocean. It’s simply not possible.

You can however drown if you don’t try to swim – but every time you paddle a bit more you edge closer to the shore.

You might not get there in a day internet. You probably won’t get there in a week. It even may take months.

If you’re anything like me it will probably take years – but you CAN get there.

Davey

Pumpkins

I’ve been twalking with a friend after work today  and I feel as if most of the conversation has been about me. I don’t like monopolising time with people and banging on and on just about myself but I’ve been struggling to work though how I feel over the last week.

All day long because of this my thoughts have been quite deep.

I barely noticed that I was standing in a huge pile of sheep sh*t today as I stopped to drink in the wide open sky and lush green fields around me.

I feel like I haven’t been on enough walks like this recently and it was nice to get out and shake off the day in the office. It’s been raining and windy all day and up until this evening not too great for exercise.

I hate it when I can’t go for a spirited walk because when I do it really helps to order my thoughts. I’ve been thinking about my future a lot and I’m really stumped – because when I try to imagine what I will be doing in years to come I realise that I still don’t fully understand my past.

When I recall my life it seems like I’ve spent almost all of it entirely lacking in ambition or drive.

I can’t say that I’ve ever understood the pursuit of material wealth or outward displays of status – and frankly I still don’t.

I mean instead that in the past I’ve been content to drift through the world like a twig on a stream.

I’ve usually waited for moments where the waters I’m propelled by become choppy or even threaten to consume me completely. I’ve used the ‘tides of life’ to inform my decision making process for as long as I can remember and in certain respects I’m aware that this aspect of me still plays a large part in determining my choices.

It would definitely be true to say that it was this lazy brinkmanship that started me on my current path – and that it wasn’t until I saw my own rather dark reflection in the face of my mother (a woman that I had little respect or love for) that I pulled back from the metaphorical edge of my personal precipice.

Most of the time I really don’t care what the reason was that started all this – I’m just glad it happened. However, there are moments (usually when I see elements of my old thought processes resurfacing) where I start to analyse how and why I’ve become who I am now and I keep coming to the conclusion that it isn’t because I’m a go-getter.

I fear it’s because I’m someone who is terrified of the consequences of inactivity rather than someone that’s goal oriented with an ideal future in mind to strive for.

Whenever I start thinking about this I look at things which I feel I’m driven to do and ask what informs that need.

For instance I’m still walking a lot and that hasn’t diminished at all.


Since I started my job almost five weeks ago I’ve maintained an average of 10 miles a day almost exactly and I’ve not let myself drop below this, even in a period where I felt really ill (peeky).

In real terms (bearing in mind that I currently work 37.5 hours a week) I fit in a lot more now than I was doing when I was just focusing on my weight and was unemployed. In the calendar month since I started work I’ve walked over 310 miles and 620,000 steps.

So – what’s causing this behaviour?

I often joke that I’m a bit OCD.

I’m not though really – and that would be doing an injustice to people that genuinely suffer from this problem. I don’t feel the need to turn a light switch on and off repeatedly so I doubt it’s this.

People regularly tell me it’s because I’m determined.

Often I don’t feel determined though. I just carry on and on putting one foot in front of the other because it makes me feel good. It doesn’t seem particularly unusual anymore – nor does it seem to take much in the way of willpower most of the time, so I’m not convinced it’s determination.

People have also (enthusiastically) agreed in the past that I’m at times pretty stubborn – and I’ve wondered if it’s sheer bloody mindedness that’s the root cause of my progress.

I don’t necessarily think this is true either – as a lot of my old behaviour in this respect manifested itself in an inflexibility when faced with change. Nowadays I try to enthusiastically say ‘yes’ to most things and just see what happens rather than my previous default ‘no’.

I guess it’s maybe more accurate to say that a combination of all of these things in larger and smaller measures have combined to enable me to be who I am now – but even then I feel they’re not the whole picture.

The thing is that I’d really like the reason for why I’ve come so far to be more than ‘I hated myself so much that there was no option but to change‘.

If I believe that the sole basis for my metamorphosis is the same behavioural trait that I’ve always had (wait until things are too much to bear and then act) then how do gather the self belief to move forward in other aspects of my life – such as my career and relationships (both of which are still lacking any significant direction or plan).

This brings me back to ambition.

In truth I have always viewed ambition only as aspirational thinking related to employment or wealth.

If I’m honest I’ve also probably had a very negative view of it in others and saw them as very different or even alien to me.

Recently however (around 9-12 months ago) a good friend pointed out to me that although I wasn’t interested in either of these things that I was actually very ambitious.

I just aspired to different things in life. 

Above all else I wanted happiness, health, love, friendship and inner peace.

In truth I have realised recently that I’ve always wanted these things. What I’ve struggled with is not knowing how to obtain them and what they actually meant. In the process of trying to deal with the vacuum that their absence created instead I buried my lack of fulfilment under alcohol and food.

This behaviour continued until paradoxically I ended up creating a situation where I had almost exactly none of what I wanted or needed.

The more I think about this the more I lose sleep.  I don’t want to repeat my mistakes.

I’ve had another night where I’m pondering on what comes next – and what I’m going to do in the coming phases of my life when I reach my goal weight.

In many ways this is a terrifying prospect because getting to the top of a mountain means one of two things. Either you decide to stay on the mountain and make it your home or you end up having to make your way back down.

Personally I plan to live at high altitude (it has a better view) but what I do while I’m up there is still up for debate.

I refuse to believe for a moment that reaching a ‘normal’ (I hate that word) weight will be the end of my forward impetus. When I get there I need to have something waiting there for me. I have to have a goal to do something else – to move forward in another way and to improve another aspect of me.

There has to be more – but at the moment I don’t know what that is or how I start it…

In some respects maybe this is a good thing. To remain in at least partially unfulfilled in some area of your life can only be a plus – because without a hunger for improvement there’s no need to get out of bed.

I feel irritable though.

Like I have an itch I can’t reach.

I can only describe the sensation as a need to search for something but not knowing why or what it is – and because of that is remains just out of reach and intangiable.

One thing is for sure – I’m not going to find the answer in the fields of Warwickshire tonight. There are just sheep and lots of pumpkins.

Sigh.

At the very least I hope I’ve laid the groundwork for some solid sleep.

Davey