Updated: Dec 24, 2019
St Marys Road, Prittlewell was where we we’re dumped. In a 3-bedroom terraced house that an old lady had lived in for years. It was damp, the electrics and heating needed work. The décor didn’t just look ancient it smelt it too. Whilst my dad was talking about all the changes he would make to the house if he lived there, we tried to make the most of a shit situation, especially at Christmas.
I escaped to PGL within a year of moving into that place, the first of many times I tried to run from my problems.
What this meant was I had only one Christmas in that place. We put up a tree, I assume we had more decorations than just a tree, but I can’t remember. I’m not even sure whether the dad and the girlfriend bothered staying for Christmas dinner. What I do remember is that year I had spent quite a lot of Christmas presents. I was in a manager’s position, earning a decent wage and not much in the way of outgoings plus I wasn’t going out or doing anything with my spare time other than surviving. So, at treated everyone.
The funny thing is I don’t remember what I bought for anyone apart from dad’s girlfriend. I had remembered she once said that she likes the No7 range at Boots. I bought her a couple of the gift sets, one of which was flat and rectangular. When I handed it to her, she said ‘this better not be a selection pack’. I mean she might well have gone and got the bluntest spoon in the drawer and stabbed me in the face with it, it would have hurt less. We were in this shit situation because she couldn’t deal with three teenage girls. We were in this situation because my dad is as bad as she is, we were stuck in a cold damp house, in a bad part of a town we didn’t know far away from anyone of our friends or maternal family because of them.. And, after all that anguish, she’s shitting all over the gift I bought her.
So, what if it had been a selection pack? I wish I had punched her, or even shouted at her for being so unbelievably callous. But I didn’t do either. I didn’t have the energy. So, I sat there, stoic. The rest of the holidays was a haze of numbness hence the reason I can’t remember if they stayed for lunch or not.
My dad by the way, he chuckled at her ‘clever’ remark. He couldn’t see how broken any of us were. He wasn’t there to care. He was there to tick a box.
Folie à Deux is what they are. It’s rare for two narcissists to get on, but sometimes it works well because they feed off each other’s self-importance. My dad’s behaviour got exponentially worse when she arrived on the scene.
I was in full on reflection mode in the last couple of weeks of the detox and being in reflection I was learning was very different from being rudely poked by this kind of memory at a point in my mental health when I was already feeling low. Reflection comes from a healthy place where you can look back on the shit that happened to you ambivalently to simply connect the dots between then and now and move on.
I reflected on the years that followed and how I would tie myself up in knots about buying the ‘right’ gift for that woman and everyone else for that matter. Honestly, it’s mental to just think about it now and the main reason I stopped giving gifts out to anyone. I couldn’t deal with the heightened anxiety surrounding it, especially when I found myself in a position of not having any money at all and I couldn’t afford food, much less anything else.
I am the first born, and my dad and his family bolstered a warped sense of entitlement in me, that because I’m eldest I’m also the most important. Utterly bonkers but there you have it. So, my dad would on the one hand instilling this sense of entitlement in me, and then telling me off for acting like I’m entitled.
To say it was confusing was an understatement. Obviously as I got older, I could see the flaw in all of that, and started being who I am. But I could never quite shake the confusion. Whilst I didn’t feel like I was entitled to anything I didn’t work for, at the same time when I did achieve things and work hard at stuff, I didn’t really know how to react to it myself.
In other words, I just thought I was being arrogant because any time I was proud of an achievement I was told I was being arrogant. I reached the end of this achievement and I played it down like it was no big deal. In fact, I didn’t truly accept the achievement until I started writing this blog. Months after the fact.
People at work kept asking me what I’m going to do first, you know once the 90 days was up, and I going to go out and celebrate (in other words get drunk)? Have I planned a naughty meal? Will I finally eat a sandwich? My sister was very excited. She had invited me over for a roast dinner after the detox was done.
Day 89 - My sister’s boyfriend’s birthday was on this day. He had planned to meet his friends at the pub and have a few drinks. It fell on a Friday night and I had been invited along to.
This would be the second outing to a pub related situation since being on a detox (the first had been leaving drinks for a colleague, I hadn’t stayed long, because I needed to get back for Flash). I’ll be honest, I wasn’t up for it. Not because I wasn’t drinking, that didn’t bother me, but because I knew that by the time I had finished work, picked up Flash and then walks clear across town to the pub they we’re in, it would be close to 10pm meaning specifically that they would have been drinking for at least 3 hours. I wasn’t a fan of this scenario even when I was drinking because it’s no fun being the sober sister surrounded by drunks even if I was playing catch up.
I was bored.
I mean don’t get me wrong it was nice to see them and to see her boyfriend enjoying his birthday but after an hour it was boring and I had wished I had left Flash at home so that I could use him as an excuse to leave. One positive that came out of the experience was that even in a pub situation, I didn’t miss the booze. And this was after day 89, a few times my sister had offered me a drink. In a well-meaning way but still, it wasn’t an 89-day detox. ‘no one will know’ was my favourite phrase. Incredulously I responded, ‘I will know’.
I went home after several boring hours of watching them play drunk Jenga and woke up on day 90 feeling quite tired from not getting in until the early hours. It was then that I had realised I was on day 92. I had completely forgotten that I had not started on January 1st, but 2 days earlier. So, all my calculations we’re 2 days out. I found this hilarious.
And I didn’t go straight to the shop and buy a loaf, or some crisps or cakes or wine for that matter, I didn’t crave any of it, and I remember my withdrawals. Not to mention the fact that I looked younger, I had lost 3 stones and I was for the first time in my life in control. I hadn’t had anxiety or anything else I would usually have to deal with. I had been super cheery other than the odd crabby day.
On day 93 I treated myself to a glass on wine with my dinner. Ginormous mistake!!!!