Thursday, 18 July 2013

On Being Vulnerable

Yesterday was a big day for me. Fear stopped me from acting on the ideas I had for a long time. Now I have allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to put my idea into digital format on the web eek!! I've invited friends and family to give me feedback. Dangerous words "What do you think?". Talk about an invitation to open Pandora's Box, or to tip out a can of worms!! That old fear of not being good enough was the biggest one, and the idea that everything must be perfect before it's presented. Where did that come from? I don't know. Anyway, I decided to put the fear away and get my baby born and on show.

Thank you so much to friends who offered constructive criticism (in private emails). I have taken your thoughts on board and made some refinements. At the same time I have had other ideas borne of the act of doing. More will be done soon to make the original idea rounder and smoother and prettier and more workable. I am so excited because I know that these extra ideas couldn't come until I made a start. I had to believe in myself enough to make a start and be prepared to be laughed off the internet or pooh-poohed before my thinking could move to the next stage.

I hate being vulnerable, don't you? I think that has stopped me from living life as freely and wonderfully as I might have in the past, but I am learning to embrace vulnerability and that will bless me immeasurably I know. I can feel it already. It's not something that happened overnight. Most worthwhile things don't. We have to chip away at them...or at ourselves. I have journals spanning several years of chipping and agonising and tears as I've gone through the process of 'growing up' as an adult. Part of that has been learning to be vulnerable.

When I was a teenager I drank a lot. I don't mean water. I am by nature a guzzler. Yes, I know, not a pretty picture. I didn't know that back then and I just thought everyone drank in the same way and I kept on drinking along with everyone else. Anyway, with the wisdom of hindsight, I know the drinking was a way of hiding my low self-esteem, so I took to it with great enthusiasm (to my own detriment I hardly need to add). The point of this is that I read somewhere many years ago that when someone drinks to excess as a teen, and establishes what one might call a 'drinking problem' then they effectively stop maturing in an emotional sense. I believe this to be true, and I believe I stopped maturing at about 14 or 15 which is pretty sad really. Although I didn't drink daily, when I did drink it was so excess every time. I believe that is why it was so hard for me to make decisions, to make good choices for myself, to take responsibilities seriously.

I bumbled along through life for a long time creating all sorts of mess and then one day I was sitting in a dentist surgery and picked up a brochure with a bold title "Do You Have A Drinking Problem?" I read through it while I was waiting and on the back page was a list of questions, about twenty in all, with yes/no answers. I went down the list...yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes,yes...right at the bottom it stated IF YOU ANSWERED YES TO THREE OR MORE OF THESE QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM. Gee, wish I'd read that before I started. I might have been able to rig it a bit!!

That day, that moment, proved to be a turning point in my life. Everything changed. I stopped drinking. I didn't take an alcoholic drink for three years. This is pretty impressive when you consider that I was living on a boat at the time with a very keen home-brewer, and I used to sleep with the hop flavoured burps of the brew kit right behind my pillow! There was beer 'on tap' - cheap and plentiful and a very big part of the lifestyle (never while we were sailing of course, but once we were in a safe harbour, look out!). 

I think that was when I started to grow up. I was in my late twenties. Since then I've had my two children, home-schooled them, left my marriage and went to university. I was still struggling to grow up then. I was fearful that I wasn't good enough. I was getting Distinctions and High Distinctions for almost everything I did but I didn't think I deserved them. Eventually the counselor at the uni convinced me to give some credit to the lecturers and that they wouldn't give me those grades unless I deserved them. It's been a long journey to believe in myself and my abilities. I still have things I battle with, and I now wonder if any of us really 'grow up'. I wonder what that really means? But I think I'm doing ok and I'm going to be gentle with myself and be comfortable with not being perfect. I always knew I couldn't be and I think that was part of the problem. Crazy.

Drink of the day - mineral water!

Here I am making myself vulnerable all over again by sharing that story with you. There might be some things there you can identify with. I rarely drink these days. If I do I only have one, but most of the time I really feel it the next day so I'm better off with soda water! So today is about being vulnerable, about embracing imperfection and about pivotal moments in life. Love to hear from you if you have something you'd like to share.


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    1. Thank you so much Karin for your two very valuable comments. Thank you for sharing your story too. I'm sure the information you've shared will help others.

  3. Is it alright for me to prattle on some more? Here goes...
    One of the things mentioned in the book is how people react if you don't drink, all of which happened to me at one time or another.
    I stopped drinking alcohol in my late 20's and didn't drink alcohol for about 20 years. Everyone I knew still drank alcohol. If I went out to a party and a friend saw I didn't have a drink, they'd try and offer me one, then if I refused, they'd ask why or ask if I was pregnant or if I said I couldn't drink they'd assume I was a recovering alcoholic and would steer clear of me! or they'd try and spike my drinks or (and this is a good one) they'd say that you can't do a toast if you don't have alcohol in your glass! Sometimes I would take a stubby with me to a party but have water in it instead of beer and then if someone asked if I needed a drink I would show my bottle and say I'm right. Worked every time! Because of my personality and sometimes outrageous behaviour people often assumed I was drunk anyway. I've also had people say..'wow, if you're this much fun when you're sober I'd love to see you when you're drunk'. Why? Why is being drunk and out of control more fun? The other issue raised in the book is how when people know you don't drink or do drugs anymore you don't get invited to their parties. I noticed this as well. At the time it didn't bother me as I was full swing into raising 4 kiddies and trying to live a self sufficient lifestyle. But I also noticed that our visitor numbers dropped off dramatically as well, those that often liked to drop in for a joint or beer, just didn't call anymore. Interesting. Made me wonder about people in general. But I realized that people that drank or did drugs felt uncomfortable, felt that I was judging them in some way. I tried to explain that both vises made me sick and my body just couldn't handle it anymore, but they just didn't seem to understand that and thought I was weird. One time, years ago, I'd passed out after a joint, ending up on the toilet floor. I told a friend about it and they said "must've been some good shit man, homegrown?". What? What's so 'fun' about vomiting and passing out on the toilet floor! Anyway....moving forward to about 5 years ago...after not drinking alcohol for 20 years I felt the desire and need to drink again. I did for a couple of years and socialized and partied and felt accepted again even though I drank far less than in my heyday. Then my health took another nose dive and I am again alcohol free. My aim is to stay that way. I miss a nice glass of wine with my dinner but I know I can't. When the family gets together and they have their wine, I have a wine glass with soda water and maybe a splash of verjuice in it. We're always toasted each other, didn't matter if we had alcohol or not, sometimes we would do it with our cups of tea! It's never been an issue in our family, who drinks who doesn't. We all respect each others choice. And that's what it comes down to. Personal choice. Not a statement trying to prove we're better than anyone else.

    1. Hi Karin. Wow. What you've written straight away brought to mind a scene in 'Under the Tuscan Sun' where one of the women says no to a drink and it is immediately accepted that she is pregnant (and she was). I hadn't considered the inference that if you are not pregnant, you drink alcohol. Wow again. We need to be looking and listening with greater awareness, not just of what IS being said, but what is NOT being said but INFERRED!
      I had a quick look online and it seems there are many de-alcoholised wines, beers and ciders so that we can all enjoy the flavours and feel 'accepted' without the negative side effects of drinking alcohol. (this was one of several in Australia)...Worth a look!

  4. Thanks Kerry, have checked out the website. Looks like some nice alternatives are available and it's great to see that there's a demand for alternatives to alcohol. I will look into it further to see if there is one that doesn't use sweeteners/sugars etc.

  5. I've just deleted one on my comments for personal reasons. I spoke about a book I'd read called High Sobriety by Jill Stark. I saw it reviewed on the book club on ABC1 and was amazed at their reaction to it, I just had to get a copy for myself. It's an excellent read for anyone going through alcohol related problems or not. I think everyone should read this book, it certainly covers a lot of issues. High Sobriety is very confronting by the way. Did you know that one in five women with breast cancer is caused through alcohol consumption. That anywhere alcohol comes into contact you can get cancer ie throat cancer. Also links to bowel cancer. And there's the damage to the brain, long term. So you talking about the emotional problems is spot on. I used to think that alcohol only affected the liver and kidneys and how wrong I am. Scary stuff. The cancer institute says how hard it is to get the message across to people in this alcohol culture we live in.