I’ve been asked on countless occasions, “how did you change your life Alexia” it’s a good question and one I’ve struggled to answer.
Undertaking a tough excavation of my personal history over two years using mostly therapeutic writing not only proved to be deeply cathartic, but it illuminated many aspects of my life that were slung into the swamplands of my soul. ON this journey i discovered some major fixed narrative regarding my identity that undoubtedly had a profound impact on my unconscious living.
The writing opened up new enlightening and excting perspectives.
So, what was the turning point for me?
There isn’t one single thing I did or an event which made me steer in a new direction, yet I consider this story significant.
After 12yrs of living in bizarre terror, fortuitously my injuries couldn’t be healed secretly which landed me in hospital with a broken clavicle, broken ribs, a clicking jaw, missing tooth and requiring immediate surgery on my stomach after a brutal beating, which resulted in my losing a baby.
I was fragile for sure, but I was enjoying myself in the hospital I felt the safest I had felt in years and loved the tea rounds and food delivered to me and kindness from the hospital staff and knew my kids were safe with my mum.
I constructed cocktails of Morphine, Df118s and Valium, I’d brought my own supply of DF’s and vallies into the hospital, I needed this stuff. Nobody knew the extent of the brutality my children and I, had experienced and at the time I had no intention to share this either.
When you exist in an environment with time this environment becomes the reality, how it really is and you question less and accept this is it. With very little contact with the outside world, I have nothing to compare my life against. I knew things were wrong, but I was clueless to the extent, sometimes i think I still am.
I lay in my hospital bed and rise again played on the radio by Gabrielle, it was like a lock had been turned in my heart. I felt something inside me other than fear, I didn’t recognise the feeling that stirred in my belly and heart. I thought about my children and not wanting them to suffer like I had, I knew had to take action.
A week later I was discharged. My house was a total shit tip with everything smashed to pieces, Internal doors laying in pieces on the floor, everything was destroyed.
Being flat broke with two little girls to soothe and care for, I had to get my shit together. I was still on a heavy dose of Df118s for my injuries, moving was hard and not letting others see my discomfort was a challenge.
I recall this Wednesday afternoon clearly, the sun was shining it must have been mid-June, sitting in my back-yard drinking copious cups of tea and chain smoking, I applied for as many jobs as I could from the local newspaper, I had to do something.
After a few of knockbacks on the job front, I was invited for an interview as a support worker helping people with mental health issues in education. I was astonished to be offered an interview, I had nothing to wear as my clothes had been cut into pieces. I found a skirt and jumper in my attic and pair of tights with holes within the pile of clothes that I viewed as a wardrobe in the corner of my bedroom.
I managed to pull the tights up high enough to hide the holes and made a garter to ensure they didn’t fall, I cycled 6 miles to attend my interview, i didnt have bus fare.
I do not know how I did it, but I got the BLOODY job!! And this was the start for me.
I found the whole process of engaging with humans terrifying but exhilarating. The connection with others had a soothing and healing effect. My manager recognised I had a good ear and how the wounded and idfficult folk would gravitated towards me.
I recognise a bittersweet strategy I have for life, which is “say yes and regret it later” so when my manager invited me to complete a course in Teaching Adults, I said “yes” and shat myself immediately, “what the fuck are you doing retard you can barely spell” I didn’t expect to complete the course and start teaching a few weeks later, it was consistently terrifying, but I kept going.
Shortly after setting up my first class, another organisation approached me, who offered education too hard to reach learners, The homeless and rough sleepers.
When asked if I was happy to run a few sessions at various hostels and day centres around the city, I said “yes” and of course, regretted it immediately.
The work in the hostels wasn’t teaching, it was more reaching out to vulnerable people to engage in activities that encouraged concentration. I ran various courses such as “How to cook on a budget” and being poorer than a church mouse with two children had taught me a transferable skill that I could offer to others.
I ran confidence building classes alongside manicures, during the class, id run around painting people nails while encouraging discussions, I was shit at painting nails, I had never painted my own let alone someone else’s, I quickly upgraded to stick on nails which the girls much preferred, heroin isn’t flattering on a lady’s hands.
I worked once a week in a wet day centre, (a day centre where people can drink booze under supervision) Imagine it, like a street party in a friendly prison. I’d turn up with a box of glittery things with the same aim to encourage participation.
I gathered a lot of interest and people would come and sit at the table with me for a short while, maybe make a crack pipe out of air-drying clay, or create their own T-shirt and disappear, but they would often return week after week and friendships and trust formed.
I learnt the people with the most viscous tongues had the most tragic stories, I discovered these people had encountered pain after pain from early childhood. We would sit around the table, creating things from the craft box I brought each week, and we would share stories. I wasn’t alarmed by the stories, or by the aroma of heroin sneaking its way from under the toilet door, fights would occur, and people would vomit in my kit bag, the chaos made me feel at home.
My own hardships became gifts to awaiting alchemy.
I’m patient, in particular when listening to inebriated, angry, anxious people. I had spent 4-5hours a day being lectured on some weird often sadistic stuff, so this was easy for me and filled a hole as my lectures had been a staple in my life, and as much as I used to sit and scream inside with frustration, I missed the routine.
The people around the table shared stories, the stories they rarely shocked me, they saddened me, but never shocked me. I understood their bizarre, twisted worlds.
When It kicked off as it often it did, I remained calm and was able to hold my power, any weakness on my side would have been exploited for survival, I had learnt to not show any emotional response to angry men as it excites them. I gained a stoical mindset.
I got a much-needed connection in a safe environment, I washed the rough sleepers’ feet and massaged them, I gave the love I wished someone had shown me.
The most important thing about this story is, I had nothing, and I gave my heart to others who had nothing, and we found something between us, a connection a spark in our hearts and a hope that maybe everyone isn’t a total shit. I think we only need a spark of light in the darkness to offer hope for change.
These people embraced me as one of them, and for the first time in my life I felt like I fitted in, and that why I still sit with the girls and boys who live on the streets as they offered me a place in society when I genuinely felt lower than a sewer rat.
So, I think one of the best things you can do is when you feel shit, is find a place to give, give something to someone or something from your heart, with no expectations as giving is a gift in itself to yourself.
The gift of a smile on a broken soul’s face was a welcomed gift to me,
as was my name being remembered, in the mind of a chaotic prostitute,
as was my children’s name to be remembered by a man whose reason for living was to chase heroin,
as was the offer to swig from a man’s last beer whose covered in his own piss, all these moments were deeply significant to me.
I thank you all, sadly some of these people are now dead.
I’m convinced giving to the outside world is essentially a gift upon ourselves.
What helped you find a new path?
If you enjoyed this please let me know, a like or a little feedback is very encouraging.
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