But I am not alone

Reflections on a journey to recovery – Part 2

To whom it may concern.

Sandra Hambleton asked me to write this. And as with 99% of the things she asks me to do, here I am, doing it.

Whatever it is that she went through, to get to where she is, it was worth it. You have a team member who knows her shit, if you pardon my language. 

She’s fierce. Insightful. Relentless. Kind, but no pushover. Gentle, but never weak. When other professionals weren’t up to scratch, she sympathised, and then went off to fix it. 

Without her, my children would never have got ECP during lockdown. That kept them safe.

As brutal as it was to hear, she was the one who made me realise that, if it was a case of two evils, then it was ME who was more dangerous than the virus. They were safer in school.

I died a little when I understood that.

She set me tasks. Goals. I was allowed a little leeway, but she only loosened the rope long enough to let me have a little – not enough to hang myself with. 

The day she brightly and cheerfully told me about the relapse meetings, I honestly thought I’d been wrong about her. What she was asking me to do felt beyond my ability. I wondered if she’d paid attention to what I’d been through, because honestly, I thought she’d decided to throw me to the wolves.

A man?

You want me to talk to a man, about recovery?

 You do know that men are rapists right? You can hear me when I say that the idea of trusting a man is as abhorrent to me as wandering naked and drunk into a stag do, opening my legs, and asking for it?

She didn’t relent. She knew what I needed, even when I fought against it.

Turns out, the ol’ ball breaker was right. And I’m here to reiterate that. She was right. She made the right choice for me, when I was too traumatised to know what that was. I imagine that’s what it must feel like to have a mum. Right down to arguing with me about how many eggs constituted decent scrambled eggs, making damn sure I ate and had a wash. She probably didn’t have to do that, but she did.

She sent me to Kevin.

And with Kevin, came the day I realised that this was an all-male group…

That was the day my tiny broken mind began to reignite.

Safe at my table, staring into the screen, I began to trust. Simply put, they couldn’t touch me. Nobody was going to reach out and grab me. Even if I’d been in a face to face group, nobody could grab me. They weren’t there to be drunk. They were there to be not drunk.

Kevin Spiers taught me that, although I am an addict, I’m not evil because of it.

From that group, I heard for the first time, acceptance. Understanding.

I learned what I was, and was given tools to help me cope.

Tools is maybe an understatement.

Weapons. The group gave me a fiery sword and iron shield, weapons to fight back. 

Men cried in that group. It made it easier when I invariably did too.

I met George, and very nearly didn’t come back to the group. He challenged me on a specific subject (hello Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!) and I lost an entire week trying to understand what he was teaching me.

I did. Took a while, but I understand now. That was what Sandra wanted – for me to learn how to hear the other side of thinking. How to think in colour, not just the black and white way my disorder dictates I should.

I’ve since met Jade Ray at Group, and have come to the end of active treatment.

My name is Sara, and I am an alcoholic.

But I am not alone.

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