update from Primrose Towers


me, about to start on the sheets and towels.

the aftermath of emotional upheaval often seems to include catching up with the non-urgent domestic chores that have been left undone over the period of immediate crisis. the more so here as we are shortly off on a family holiday and most items in my house seem to be either in the wrong place, dirty, broken or even missing…

I’ve now noticed that my peak anxiety over any upcoming event, such as leaving on holiday, or hosting Christmas, occurs a few days before the actual event. whilst previously I would have believed that this anticipatory anxiety would continue building and growing to unbearable levels, I am now more able to assess it as a pre-somethingorother hump and ride it out.

I am less anxious about going on holiday than I was at this time last year. I’m glad I wrote about  the lessons I learnt last year so that I can take action on them this time. Mostly, I am filled with gratitude that I am heading off to sunnier climes with the people I love best in the world.

and with you guys, of course! you will be with me in spirit and, hopefully, on my phone – and hey, I don’t have to bloody PACK for you🙂 Prim xx


if you think the Blogger trolley is full, you should see the WordPress one…

Square It Up Friday


to me this online recovery community is an underground river that flows with wisdom, insight and humour. I have been reading some bloggers since my first day sober and really value their viewpoint from the path up ahead of me.

one such blogger is Mrs D, who has recently passed the five years sober mark. reading her realistic, effervescent writing is like opening the windows on a spring morning and letting sunshine and fresh air into a stuffy room.

this post of hers, Life in the raw, has been a huge help to me in the past few weeks, in giving me some much needed perspective. she says:

When we get to the point of change after a long period of heavy drinking we feel weak, wretched, and miserable. Our self-esteem is damaged, our self-worth is low. We stop drinking and it’s hard bloody work at first. We are so focussed on the LACK of booze in our lives. It’s hard having all that empty space where before we regularly experienced the warm, artificial ‘high’ of alcohol in our systems. We miss the drug. We grind through. Then we start to feel better, sleep better, look better, we hit a high – a pink cloud! Life is great! Our eyes get opened to what our drinking has done to our whole experience of life. We feel incredibly strong and grateful. It’s not hard resisting booze.

Then something emotional happens (because life is like that), we crash off our pink cloud and things get tough again. Physical cravings might come back. Emotional cravings come back (we feel left out, boring, emotional), we grind through, eventually we lift up again, we feel great!, then something emotional happens, things get tough again, we grind through, eventually we lift up again, we feel great!, then something emotional happens, things get tough again, we grind through, eventually we lift up again, we feel great!, then something emotional happens, things get tough again, we grind through, eventually we lift up again, we feel great!, then something emotional happens, things get tough again, we grind through, eventually we lift up again, we feel great!, then something emotional happens, things get tough again, we grind through….

Get the picture?

Welcome to life in the raw. It is up and down and up and down. This is actually what human existence is like. Who knew? I certainly didn’t until I got sober. I had no understanding of the natural ebbs and flows of life. How could I when I interrupted that natural flow of my emotional state constantly with the drug of alcohol.

The good news is the longer you are sober the natural ebbs and flows get easier to manage because;

1) the longer you go without drinking the less extreme your mood fluctuations are
2) you start to understand yourself and your moods better
3) you stop thinking that alcohol is the answer to the low phase
4) you start to develop better coping mechanisms for the low phases
5) you work out natural, effective, authentic ways to lift yourself out of a low phase
6) you worry less about the low phases because you know they will pass
7) you accept that ups and downs are normal and that everyone has them
8) you feel much more connected and at peace with yourself, other humans and life in general

I’m generalising here and obviously this is based on my perspective and experience and there will be people who don’t agree with all of this. But I wanted to type out a summary of what I understand a sober life to involve.

Life in the raw – it’s totally the life for me.

and for me, Mrs D – and for me! rising up here, this morning. 

today’s quote is from W.E.B. Du Bois, an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor. his biography on Wikipedia also makes inspiring reading.

W.E.B. Du Bois in 1918.


Right now, I am…


…sitting in my car, eating seasalt chocolate and waiting for the rain to stop. Which is a pretty good metaphor for my life right now.

Note to self: I am not the only person in the world being rained on at this moment. In fact others scuttle past me, coatless and dripping.

I can take shelter, finish the bar of chocolate I bought yesterday to cheer me up. Remind myself that grief and head colds and rain (and chocolate bars!) don’t go on for ever, but transmute into the next thing.

I write a quick blog post, do up my coat, and head out into the now-fine drizzle.


Square It Up Friday


this is a lesson I learn and forget and re-learn: feelings are not immovable concrete obstacles that arrive and never depart.

I have a tendency to channel Queen Victoria and withdraw to my own emotional Isle of Wight, in perpeptual mourning for how I thought my life should be. but my country needs me…

wishing you all a sober and connected week-end. don’t drift. stay close. stay here.

Prim xx

clocking in

image credit: Wikipedia. Time clock at Wookey Hole Cave Musuem.

image credit: Wikipedia. Time clock at Wookey Hole Cave Musuem.

in the last 10 days I have cancelled an upcoming girls’ weekend away, a haircut and a dentist’s appointment. I have missed at least 4 daily meditation sessions, and I think I have only missed one other daily meditation since the beginning of January. my average weekly running mileage has dropped from 25-30 miles to 10-15 miles. my cooking mojo has entirely left the building and family suppers have become duty-bound re-fuelling occasions. this is all striking simultaneously with the hormonal cloud that settles over me every month for a week to ten days like a stubborn Atlantic low-pressure system.


I am realising how much I rely on a day to day basis on my husband’s support, as while he is not in a position to give it I am very much feeling the lack of it. (which is FINE as it is currently my role to support him.) a tough work day yesterday left me feeling battered and drained.

Belle says that as we progress in sobriety we start to be able to assess how much we are struggling, and take actions to correct that. I would say I am currently at a 3 or a 4 out of 10, when I haven’t been at more than a 1 for quite a while. yesterday evening Wolfie suggested to me that I used to get more done when I was goading myself on with the prospect of wine at 9pm, so maybe I should start drinking again? well, you can fuck right off, Wolfie!!!!!

I am getting lots of wonderful support from sober buddies (seriously, thank GOD for you guys) and indeed have a couple of unanswered emails which I really appreciated and will reply to very very soon, so sorry. Belle has to dig through my emails to find those of her other penpals😉 I have not skipped my weekly yoga class and will go again tomorrow. we just had a smashing weekend with friends which was a huge help. I am seeing a real life friend tonight who is a huge support to me. I have meditated this morning and have put a slot in my diary to do a proper run today. after late night supermarket run yesterday there is food in the house this morning and there will be a basic chicken curry for supper. I am cutting myself huge amounts of slack but at the same time paying attention when the rumble strip tells me I am going off the road.

and I am remembering – in the wonderful words of Roald Dahl – to keep a pistol in my knickers!  Prim xx

Little Red Riding Hood And The Wolf – by Roald Dahl

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, ‘May I come in?’
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
‘He’s going to eat me up!’ she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, ‘That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!’
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
‘I’ve got to have a second helping!’

Then added with a frightful leer,
‘I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.’

He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that,
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.

In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
‘What great big ears you have, Grandma.’
‘All the better to hear you with,’
the Wolf replied.
‘What great big eyes you have, Grandma.’
said Little Red Riding Hood.
‘All the better to see you with,’
the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma,
She’s going to taste like caviar.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said, 
‘But Grandma, what a lovely great big
furry coat you have on.’

‘That’s wrong!’ cried Wolf.
‘Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.’

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head,
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ‘Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.’


a huge a-ha moment this morning


image credit: Darryl Cross

as you can imagine the last week or so has included many moments and prolonged periods of high stress. talking to a friend recently we were discussing where in our bodies we felt stress, and mine definitely sets up camp in the pit of my stomach. I wake with a dull ache which stays with me all day. it is with me now at the prospect of a difficult work task ahead.

I’ve blogged a good deal about dealing with feelings, but there are still a number of areas where I struggle, work amongst them. I’ve been reading a fantastic book called ‘The Upside of Stress’ by Kelly McGonigal. I was fascinated to learn that the initial research into stress in the 1930s was carried out on samples of primarily male subjects, because women and our tricksy hormonal swings buggered up the results… so when those studies came up with the ‘fight-or-flight’ theory of stress response, then that set the mould for all future attitudes towards stress. however two other stress responses have now been identified – the ‘tend-and-befriend’ response and the ‘challenge’ response, which utilise entirely different hormonal cascades to promote more appropriate behavioural responses, promoting social connection, social cognition, the processing and integration of the experience, and the ability to learn and to grow from it.

Kelly has a TED talk here, if you are interested. and here’s an extract from the book:

‘Stress mindsets are powerful because they affect not just how you think, but also how you act. When you view stress as harmful, it is something to be avoided. Feeling stressed becomes a signal to try to escape or reduce the stress. And indeed, people who endorse a stress-is-harmful mindset are more likely to say that they cope with stress by trying to avoid it. For example, they are more likely to:

  • try to distract themselves from the cause of the stress instead of dealing with it
  • focus on getting rid of their feelings of stress instead of taking steps to address its source
  • turn to alcohol or other substances or addictions to escape the stress
  • withdraw their energy and attention from whatever relationship, role, or goal is causing the stress.

(I read all these items and was nodding yes, yes, yes to the lot of them. In Tommy Rosen’s phrase: Addiction is – “I’m going to look away.”). the book continues:

In contrast, people who believe stress to be helpful are more likely to say that they cope with stress pro-actively. For example, they are more likely to:

  • accept the fact that the stressful event has occurred and is real
  • plan a strategy for dealing with the source of stress
  • seek information, help or advice
  • take steps to overcome, remove, or change the source of stress
  • try to make the best of the situation by viewing it in a more positive way or seeing it as an opportunity to grow.’

I am intrigued by the idea that we can re-frame the feelings – of stress, or anxiety, or overwhelm, however you like to describe them – as being helpful feelings. the a-ha moment came when I was thinking about this, and thought – hang on – so if these feelings are actually my body preparing me to meet a challenge – if I evade them, or try to stifle them, rather than put them to work, maybe that’s why they won’t subside, as they are not being allowed to play their part?

for so much of my life I have shrunk from these uncomfortable feelings, like a little girl hiding under the bed from the sound of heavy footsteps – when in fact they are the footsteps of the fire-fighter coming to carry me out through the flames.

if I can trust in those feelings and let them do their job, I have a strong suspicion that they will take me further than I can imagine right now.

a question of Dr Russ Harris for you to ponder, and to share if you feel so inclined in the comments:

“If you weren’t struggling with your feelings, or avoiding your fears, what would you spend your time and energy doing?”

by the way I did start looking for some fireman eye-candy for this post – rescue labrador puppy optional – but decided that I greatly preferred Jessie, the real life firefighter whose image tops this post! Prim xx

Choppy waters

HMS Primrose is navigating some high seas at the moment. My mother in law, who has been ill for some time, is now in her final days, perhaps final hours. It has fallen to me to be the person in closest contact with her medical team, making sure she is being cared for as she and her family would wish. My mother in law and I were never particularly close but had grown into a comfortable relationship over many years, especially since my children were born. I am doing the necessary yet painful work of walking alongside her in her final days, as I hope someone will someday do for me. Alongside that work is the role of supporting my husband and children as they make their own journeys, and allow them to do so in ways that meet their needs.

As is to be expected I am feeling emotional, over-stretched and fragile at the moment. In particular I am missing my running as although I am still doing short runs daily, I find it difficult to justify going for long runs – also long runs give far too much opportunity for rumination, which is always a potential risky area for me. I will keep up the short runs and extend them as much as I feel able.

Last night I settled down to watch some television and realised that drinking thoughts were popping up, partly prompted by the television programme I was watching in which a soldier described vividly why he drank to escape the memories of the violence he had seen. The thoughts were without that visceral tug of wanting – it was like watching an old fashioned alarm clock going off, and seeing the clapper bang bang bang from one side to the other, but without hearing the insistent ringing. I had a replacement drink – Rochester’s Dark Ginger cordial in a brandy glass – and a big chunk of cake, and the thoughts retreated. I’m not concerned that they arose, in the circumstances, and I know how to deal with them – I wanted to record them here as a further way of de-fusing from them.

I am at no risk of making an intellectual decision that it would be okay for me to drink. My focus therefore is upon taking sufficient care of myself that I don’t end up having a fuck-it moment, and I know how to take care of myself too – it’s a case of making that a sufficient priority in these dark days.

Sober First.

Thanks for being here, sober warriors. Prim xx

Square It Up Friday

The title of this post is a quote from the brilliant recovery podcast Since Right Now, in which the hosts Jeff, Matt and Chris describe the process of Instagramming a motivational quote over a sunset to form a square entirely filled with cliche, rather as an After Eight chocolate is filled with delicious minty fondant.

This might be an occasional series, or a one off – who knows?!

I remember how tough Friday nights were in the beginning and thought I’d like to share a hopefully sunset-free thought with you. Here’s one which I came across this morning and just loved:


Hang in there, sober peeps – you are doing a marvellous thing!

Prim xx

“If I let this thought dictate my actions, will it help me create the life I want?”

a little while ago I listened to a Brian Johnson podcast on a book by Dr Russ Harris, called ‘The Confidence Gap’. you can watch Brian’s summary here. it interested me enough for me to buy the book, and I’m really glad I did.

the book title almost put me off, as if you asked me I wouldn’t necessarily consider that I have much of a problem with confidence as it is often perceived in our world. things like public speaking, talking to strangers, or complaining about shoddy service, for example, are not things that particularly bother me.

what I do have a problem with, though, are some deep-seated and recurring negative thought patterns in two particular areas – about my relationships in my extended family, and my ability to perform at my job. in those areas I am very vulnerable to repeated, ongoing ruminations which do me no service at all. this book has been really helpful in giving me actual tools to tackle those stubborn negative thought patterns, and so I thought I might review it here.

the book has a LOT of good stuff in it, more than is practical to cover in a blog post. here are my favourite three big ideas:

firstly, the idea of de-fusing from our thoughts. when we hear that voice in our heads and we believe it implicitly? yeah, that. it ties in very well with all I have been doing on the Headspace app in learning to note feelings and emotions, and let them pass by, rather than becoming hooked by them. Russ gives a number of techniques for doing this , one of which I’ll come back to later.

secondly, the concept that we will never get rid of our negative thoughts entirely, so we shouldn’t even try. when I first got sober I found the idea of questioning negative thoughts helpful – “is that even true?”

this goes a step further even than that, asking us instead to consider the ‘workability’ of a thought. this requires firstly the ability to note that we are having a thought, perhaps by using the phrase,

“I am having the thought that…. (I can’t do this, I am not good enough, insert your least favourite phrase here)”

and then to ask ourselves the question I’ve used as the title of this blog post:

If I let this thought guide my actions, will it help me create the life I want?

no debate, no engaging, with the thought: just considering its likely outcome and proceeding on that basis. I find this incredibly simple and liberating when that nasty voice pipes up when I am feeling low.

finally, Russ gives two useful acronyms as to how we get stuck in behaviour that doesn’t reflect our true values. he quotes Dr Seuss’s splendid book, The Waiting Place, and asks, what keeps us stuck in that place? he suggests that we get stuck when we are in FEAR:

F – fusion with our negative thoughts

E – having excessive goals

A – avoidance of discomfort

R – remoteness from our true values

and that these can be overcome when we DARE:

D – de-fuse from our negative thoughts

A – accept discomfort

R – having realistic goals

E – embrace our own true values.

I am always a sucker for an acronym but more to the point have been engaging these now when I am at the coal-face of my usual negative thought patterns and have been finding them really helpful – perhaps you might, too? I would really recommend reading the book, though, as I don’t think I’ve done it full justice here.

one specific way I’ve been putting it into action is by deciding what my most upsetting, recurring negative thought is, and coming up with a way to de-fuse from it, based upon the advice in the book. being in the last days of the school holidays, juggling work and children and self-care, my most frequent mental lament is “I don’t have time!”

so I have de-fused from this by, firstly, putting it into the second person, so when I find myself thinking it, I re-phrase it as “You don’t have time!” And then I decided upon a suitable persona for the person saying it – someone outwardly intimidating but ultimately powerless – and decided upon J.K. Rowling’s glorious creation, Dolores Umbridge.

I imagine Imelda Staunton piping those words, at first menacingly, then – as in Belle’s brilliant ‘Dehydrate the Wolf’ post – more and more shrilly and squeakily as she shrinks to a tiny, Borrower-sized creature on the palm of my hand, and is eventually chased away while being dive-bombed by the Weasley twins. Hurrah!

what phrase could you de-fuse from? could these techniques help you in unhooking from unhelpful thoughts and therefore allowing you to take helpful actions? I’d love to hear from you! Prim xx