Layers

I sat sitting a wee glass of Cava by the pool. The sound of the palm trees swaying in the wind. The soft ripple of water hitting the edge of the pool and draining. The sound of clacking as a sandal hit the heel of someone’s shoe. The crunch of the sand as I pressed my foot into the ground and felt very grain roll over the soles of my feet.

I read about the human perception of reality. Is something as I see it, what I see; or what I have been taught to see?

Beneath this experience I was hiding. A sanctuary of fear. A world where everything was ambivalent, indifferent. A truth and a lie.

That was really me. A truth and a lie.

Self defence. Fear. A smile. Grimace. A layer of protection. I couldn’t use the loo. And I wasn’t sure what was beneath the layers.

I was lost and found. In peace. No expectation. I was okay. I didn’t have to be. I watched as my judgements ran through my mind and laughed at the pettiness.

The world is so beautiful. The people are beautiful. Their complexities, truths, fears and lies. I’m too ethereal.

Shrouded in layers of self preservation and protection. I will never really understand that beauty or what exists outside it.

This is so shit. I am alone. That’s is okay. It is silent. It is peaceful. I don’t have to do anything. I crave your touch. But I don’t need it. I need nothing. It’s really okay to not be okay.

Please let me be in this moment.

Burning

Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity

James Clear

It’s almost a year since I felt that I wanted to end my life. And through that process I left my job, found a new one, quit any mind altering substance, started medication, received an ADHD diagnosis. I went to a twelve step group every day for 10 months. I have a new bed, TV and bike. I’ve transformed my diet and exercise regime.

As Easter rolled in I had a revelation. I was chasing things, goals and outcomes. As I got to the end of the Easter weekend, I felt any intrinsic motivation lift.

I’d been in discussion with my lenders about what I should be paying them. The outcome was that because of bill increases, changes to payments and other bits and bobs, despite doubling my salary I wasn’t really any better off. And in fact because my outlook had changed they were going to ask me to pay back more than I owed.

None of my problems had evaporated. My goal was to increase income, service my debt faster and have a few treats like travel, gifts for people and meals out.

But after all that change I hadn’t really moved forward. I hadn’t even moved sideways. I have expended financial, mental, spiritual and emotional energy trying to fix the problems of a bad bed, stolen bike and large debts. and the amount of time I’d spent doing things that weren’t core to me.

In stepping forward, I’d actually taken a step backwards. Nothing was fixed. I was reasoning with a hydra.

Accept the things I can’t change

There are many things I could change; mainly me. I couldn’t change others. I found that by doing nothing in life I wouldn’t be any better or worse off.

My landlord wanted 25% more rent. My creditors doubled my payments. Bills never seemed to end or resolve themselves. I couldn’t stop myself from spending. I felt that after all I had achieved I deserved a few things. Every budget is now taking another hair cut.

My relationships have changed. I don’t really enjoy being with people in social settings; it triggered social anxiety that took me back to school when I wet myself rather than disrupt a teacher to ask for the loo. I am less social now. I read less. I watch more TV. I go to the cinema more.

It is relentlessly difficult in my schedule to find time to be social. I doubt many of the people that I used to social with remember me.

I started a relationship which ended as quickly as it started. I now feel like an incompatible format. I don’t really fit in or work with anyone. This life process has only reminded me how different I am. And how difficult it is for people to even attempt to relate to me., through my own faults as a human.

I no longer have any social lubricants to overcome my own anxieties or beliefs.

Unable to be

I found that what did work was unobtainable. It will take six months to start a new medication.

The combined fees for yoga and gym are much more than my “entertainment” budget will allow. But it was the only thing that I found worked. Limited concentration on specific body movements, in a dynamic stimulating environment. I had to top up my income to cover everything.

I found routines that worked, but I couldn’t find the flexibility with myself to let go of doing some things, creating a tall order. All I know is to have detailed, rigid routines. if any part of the routine failed, it all did.

Authentic Work

I really struggled to connect to my work. My severe inadequacy complex, combined with poor concentration and inability to plan has pushed me to the extreme end of anxiety.

I am crippled by the thought that my work isn’t real. Paranoid that everything seems to be a set-up. Achingly searching for any evidence that things feel wrong. Alone in the fact that working in an office environment triggers extreme agoraphobia if I haven’t cycled in. That if I don’t meet my schedule everything lints apart.

I’m not sure of my shared values with those immediately around me.

It’s all on fire

Every part of my life is in fire. And I couldn’t face it. I looked at all my options;

1. Change – I was running out of energy and will to change things.

2. Simplify – Keeping things simple wouldn’t provide any motivation to continue.

3. Time out – Spending time healing only delays the onset of action.

4. Asking for Help – I’d already been through as much as was available, and the old problems were the same just under different people and organisations

5. Do nothing – didn’t solve anything

6. Give everything up – I wanted to walk away from everything and release myself from a never ending negotiation with life. And live in simplicity. But this felt nuclear, inspite of the immediate relief.

I didn’t end up using. I did have a positive COVID test. I have spent almost two weeks lying for most of it on my back, sleeping for 11-14 hours per day. With a crunching, squeezing anxiety in my chest as I felt that what I was doing would reflect on me badly. I was paralysed in actually being able to tackle any of my situations. I haven’t been beyond the bins outside my house in those two weeks. I haven’t exercised.

I ordered food in. I listened on in jealousy as my neighbours had a buzzing Latino party. I felt guilty. I knew that perspective was telling me that I am grateful for what I have, that I am safe, that I am loved. But I was totally burned. Unwell. Exhausted. Close to thoughts of self harm.

Right on time

This time of the year is always the same for my mood, the end of a cycle and start of a new one. In a couple of weeks I will be hyper.

I think my strategy has been to let things burn. When the fire is too big, and I have nothing to put it out with, there is nothing I can do. I wait until it burns out and work with whatever is left.

At the end of this particular branch of my life journey. I still haven’t got to what is intrinsically motivating me. Or more specifically who is really benefiting from all the changes I am making. I can’t really say that I am any “better” than where I started.

Sunshine

I cannot sit still. My mind is flicking through 101 things simultaneously. Concentrating on anything is too much.

Right now I want to go to the gym, cook, plan a party, work, complete my trainings, get my new bike, journal, blog, photograph, develop.

But my head and my heart will not settle on one thing. I feel like just going for a walk and chilling for the evening. My head is telling me exercise.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a very emotional journey which took me from thoughts of suicide to elation. I recognised my imbalanced mood and emotions. I started myself back on my Prozac again.

Evidentially sustaining a period of sunshine in life is hard work. I find myself staring out of the window more and more yearning to just be outside.

I find myself running circuits in my mind. Unable to focus. Unable to let this trapped energy out.

I find myself less stressed and concerned with being in pace X, Y, Z.

Life feels messy right now. And I don’t have the answers just random events.

As I remind myself to look forward; what are the goals really trying to achieve and what’s the step I can take now to get there.

That’s what I need to focus on the journey, not the wants or results.

Leaving

Why I’m walking away from my 12 step fellowship.

I’m terrified. I’m stressed. I’m anxious. I am alone. I am sad. I am angry. I am tired. I am hungry.

Me right now – also, the process of change

I was staring out of my bedroom window in between work calls on Friday. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining.

And then it entered my head. “I don’t want to be in a 12 step fellowship anymore”, followed by “let me call my sponsor”, followed by “this is insane, no one would advise me to do this”.

Problem space

I found myself listening more and more to peoples problems. And their daily lives. And I realised it was so weird to be sitting in a meeting in a problem space for 40mins every day.

Okay it was less than this. But it was what happening. I wonder if people actually listened to each other – how people could remain emotionally, mentally sane and sober? Listening to this non stop avalanche of emotional honesty and vulnerability.

No longer was this a place or growth or of strength or of joy. It was emotional and spiritual turmoil. A place of; where is the solution? How can I help this person? Is this the right place? Am I in the right room?

Where is the joy. Where is the compassion. Where is the connection? I realised;

I WANT AND NEED INSPIRATION. Everyday. From the people with the right energy. The people with passion . The people with charisma.

Aim high

Gratitude

I was sick to the stomach of hearing the same answers over and over and over. It was like living in a permanent chant of the same. Like being stuck in a never ending recording of a record repeating over and over.

I was tired of people in a mode of self deprecation rather than self forgiveness, self realisation or even self compassion. How God was master over our lives and we are powerless over it. I found myself thinking; if you believe in God, right now you are living in a gift from them and you are choosing to criticise their creation, you, the universe etc.

Carpe Diem. God wants us to be alive. Not in a state of self-wallowing.

CARPE FUCKING DIEM. God wants you to live your best version of yourself. God wants your imperfections. And God wants you to seize every fucking single opportunity every moment of the day.

I was tired and resentful of dedicating so much of my time to one aspect of my life. Focussing solely on a spiritual element. Trying to learn from people who had years over me; homes, relationships, families, friends. I have nothing.

I needed to let it go. I needed to literally handover this time, these emotions, these negativities and throw it back. And say. Thank you for this. But right now, this isn’t working.

A big hole

Then rose the panic of having all of this time. Of being completely free to be alone.

All I knew was that this handing it back and over was right. That my time would be filled with what was needed.

I didn’t need to fear being alone. I could thrive in my loneliness and that I don’t need anyone else to make me happy.

I couldn’t let it out in the space provided

There were some negatives in there; no one will love me again, everyone must hate me, I have no friends because I have an awful personality. My social anxiety has been through the roof recently. My depression growing. Stress rising. Compliance with my medications falling.

This felt like the complete opposite of what I should be doing. It felt uncomfortable.

It also made sense to do the complete opposite of what I was being told to do. It also felt like part of the plan. whatever that is. It’s also okay to be uncomfortable. To seize the moment.

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know how I’ll spend the 7-14 hours worth of recovery time I’ve got back from not going to meetings, not doing service, not doing step work, readings, calling my sponsor every week.

All I can be is grateful for the right now.

Shakespeare

If there’s one thing about my recovery that makes my blood boil. Its reading basic texts.

The Big Book was written in the 1930s by a relatively small group of white, male, middle class Americans.

When I read it, it’s all about the malady. There isn’t enough emotion. The book talks a lot about spirituality, but for many the process of recovery is a journey of reconnecting to emotions, handling them, forgiveness and abstinence.

The lens that I take is that this was written many years ago. Much of it scribbled down as random notes. Words heatedly debated over. Even just reading the steps what I see is a series of confused language. “Him”, “God”, “Higher Power”, “Willing”, “Spiritual”, “Shortcomings”, “Defects”, “Sanity”, “Powerless” just a few of the key words that 100s of groups pour over, share their experience and debate what it really means to each individual.

We are not Borg

More than that, recently I have come across confusion between being the same and having similarities. Recently someone shared that every step 5 they had ever experienced was the same, I can’t comment. I haven’t been there. I don’t have much experience of such. I cannot claim to be an expert.

But the implication is that everyone is the same. What is actually true is that we have similarities. What is actually true is laws of attraction. Every group has its own vibe, it’s own networks and nepotism to a certain degree.

You can only attract what you manifest.

So much like any old text, I interpret everything with my eyes squinting, searching for the right metaphor and replacing the language in basic texts. This is such that I can draw similarities with the original writers in the 1930s. Yes we have a similar problem. No our experience is different. Yes times and inclusivity have moved on. It is more than white middle aged men who have experienced some form of “spiritual malady”

After the 164

My sponsor asked me to recently read the first story after 164. I said I was in no way similar to this person. What they described was their insanity. Not, more importantly their emotional or spiritual state or insanity.

Pain exists in the real world and in groups. Often this goes unacknowledged. We know that emotional pain can be inherited and can result in chains of addiction.

Then we went to the chapter on wives. The only way I could read this chapter is like I read Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and any old text.

It was a study. It was written in its time. The plot was more important than the detail. And here the advice given to wives could be applied to anybody. A friend, relative, concerned colleague, anyone. I even managed to bullet point “The 10 Steps to make an intervention”.

Primary Purpose

It’s with this that I always remind myself of the primary purpose. To carry the message to the still suffering addict.

It is a shame that I have to remind people that language is an anarchism. The bible was rewritten from Its original language many times over. As I recall the 7 days of creation is actually the 7 periods of creation. God is actually the non binary Yahweh. There is copious amounts of literature on whether “he” (God) should be “it” or “they”.

When I’m asked to deliver the serenity prayer I start with “To my higher power” which causes chaos as many people were expecting “God”. I chuckle

The basis of any communion is sharing. Sadly, so often the attitude from fundamentalists is you change, we don’t want to as we’re too scared.

And although I can interpret, part of me wishes that people would change with society rather than relying on a collective knowledge and debate to make it relevant.

After all Shakespeare should be read with an American accent in mind. As that was the accent of the Elizabethan era. People still unknowingly watch and read the plots many times over from Shakespeare, without reverting to the harder to understand, original language.

Make it easy. Carry the message. Be the voice of clarity, not confusion.

The Promises

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

Promise 1

That feeling. Entrapment. I have no choice. I am stuck. I am powerless in all I do. My ego is the size of the galaxy. For so long it’s been about me. And in the most destructive sense. I’ve handed it all over. It’s a mess. I have no choice. I weep. I have lost all my freedom.

For a couple of weeks I’ve felt trapped in all I say and do. Stuck in a treadmill. Stuck in this thought pattern that there’s nothing I can change.

The truth is the opposite. Everything can change. The universe sees to that. At any moment the earth can be whipped from underneath my feet. This very moment I can make a choice to walk away from everything.

But it is in the promise that things will get better. In the faith that these moments pass.

What I see now is that I lost faith. I reached my limit and 26 days ago I finished a relapse. Although I still cling to the fact that I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in over 10 months.

Change is the power

I’m worried. I’m worried that I’m going mad. My sponsor made one suggestion. That I complete all my recovery work by 8am. that I deprioritise everything else.

And boom. I am productive. I spend my day rolling off my feet at work.

I have a new bed. Soon a new bike and espresso machine. I did something crazy today. I joined the most bombastic gym full of these burly men. I can barely pick up a weight. Press-ups are foreign to me. Well they feel like that.

As I change. My mind wonders am I replacing stillness with things, stuff, doing. Am I being serene. Or am I simply moving on with life?Have I got too much on?

All I know is to live without regrets. That if I want a real low, I can find that easily in a comedown.

I worry that I am being materialistic. That I Am using codependency as an excuse to be selfish. That I am only self seeking.

I gave up many of my service positions. The truth: I was using service to overcome social anxiety and avoid people, because my ego told me I was better than them.

When I find myself in this question space. There is a simple question and answer: AM I OVERTHINKING AND OVERANALYSING THIS?

Which leaves me with one request of god; let me know when I need to stop doing.

As for the gym; I’ll let you know how dropping the ego and being bottom of the class goes. Times to let it go.

Every dream started somewhere. We all started the same: with nothing. Reliant only on circumstance around us and kindness of others, our parents, our families to help us grow. Some of us didn’t even get that.

No, I have no regrets.

Giving

Life offers us so much. We have been gifted with everything we need. I recognise my relative privilege compared to the rest of the world. I live in a safe place, there’s plenty of food, water and warmth.

All my basic needs can be met. And for everything else, living in one of the most well off countries in the world, everything else is easily accessed.

Every month I put aside a small amount from my pay check to go directly to charity. Across what is described the third sector the need is great. From safe water in Malawi, to refugee relief in Yemen, a safe winters pass in Afghanistan, to help with a bike in Manchester, a food parcel in Peckham, out of a sleeping bag into a room on Soho, research into a new treatment for an illness in Cambridge.

The needs are great. And I am always willing to give. Even if it’s just a little bit. It will never be enough.

Inspired from my religious education from the story of the Good Samaritan, the lady who gave all that she had spare to the temple, to the tale of the three brothers who saved, dug it in the ground and invested and lost it all.

Money can be lost, it can make a difference. But with each pay check I pray that that small sum will be a very small part of improving someone’s life somewhere. And you may have used a charity service without realising it.

I can always give something. And through this ritual I connect to a greater purpose. I may not be the person with the privilege of actually helping, but I can enable.

Everyday I pray that I can be a little more generous and spot and act on each situation in which I can help.

There are more complex situations in which continuing to help individuals provides no help, instead hinders. And sometimes to the person on the street I have to say no. Which hurts me and them. But help will always come; if you ask enough, if you are determined and if you are really determined to find the right source.

Today, answers someone’s ask for help. You or I, may just be answering their prayer.

Doors

I’m a bizarre twist to life. I’m hearing a lot about doors at the moment. My neighbours had to break into the communal area as they’d locked themselves out. My flat door is being retrofitted for fire safety. According to astrology, the one I list after is behind a cream door somewhere that I need to open.

All of there’s doors are lost or broken in someway. Defective, unsafe, insecure. I travel through them everyday.

And I found myself thinking; when was the last time I walked through the door in to a new space. When was the last time it was somewhere joyful. Somewhere new. Somewhere beautiful.

And that just hasn’t happened recently. The doors I have walked through have had troubles, issues, pain, worries. I haven’t been through a fun door in a while.

And last night I promised myself; one thing. I’m gonna go away somewhere random, and somewhere cheap for a long weekend. It doesn’t matter where. Just somewhere new.

Grace

In my quarters, life does not happen with a lot of grace. Instead it’s like a chunky soup, full of bumps, accidents and falls.

Too often when I mix others into my life. Any sense of grace, of smoothness, of serenity and calm disappears. Instead it becomes some form of fight for survival, emotional resilience, and fortune telling beyond the now and then.

I wish my life could be graceful. Rather than dramatic. I was reading a self help article the other day which sought to point out. If your life is full of drama, dramatic people and more ups and downs than a child on a bouncy castle. Then now is the time to point the finger back at the source of the drama; that would be me.

I am to blame for all the drama in my life. I am the source of it all. What can feel like living through a soap opera every day, or through even more bizarre story lines than writers can imagine. Is of my own pen. My own writing.

Grace & Karen, Will & Grace. Courtesy NBC.

Now I am not truly the source of the drama. But I am responsible for what I think and make of it. How I respond to it. And I try with grace. That is to accept all things as they are, realise that the things that have happened are not just due to my actions, and they all add to the variety of life. These are all character and personality areas of growth. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

But whereof my grace? The calm, the eye of the storm. The stillness. The moment of sunshine into the chapel, the clarity.

Pray for your own moments of grace. Act only with it. Variety is… the spice of life.

Relapse

It’s Saturday night and whilst it can feel like the rest of the world is out there having fun, putting their glad rags on, getting ready to shindig. Try their luck at meeting someone new. Listen to a cabaret, share some love with friends. I decide it’s time to go to bed early.

Despite trying, I don’t have the money to pay some bills next week. I can’t every get my brother his birthday present. Or pay for the meal we have next week.

I am alone.

I haven’t been to all the meetings I wanted to this week. Instead my week has been inverted pushing me back and forth between different priorities

I am alone.

I’m in my bed clutching to the pillow. Shaping the duvet into something to cuddle to resemble someone or something. Right now I need someone to hug me and tell me it will be okay. I only have myself right now.

I am alone.

Everything is piling up, I’m making progress but not quick enough. If I just sleep I’ll wake up and it will all be okay. I’m working through my step 4 and seeing all my resentments in the light of day. That cold broken, heartless person who’d do anything for that next fix, to make these feelings go away.

I am that person with all the momentum, hopes and dreams. Free from partners, lovers, people to care for. There are opportunities everywhere. Yet I still cannot find that one thing that will just be my moment.

I am alone.

It’s 04:15 in the morning I’m awake. I feel all these feelings all at once. I download an app and find my way to this fellows house. They were there are the start of my recovery and if I return there; I may just get some clarity for how to escape this lonely place.

Sadly there is a pipe and I pick it up. All that clean time gone in smoke.

And I retreat into my mind, back to bliss. All problems lifted. It may be artificial but it feels like a moments break. A lifting of everything I am worried about.

I’ve relapsed, it was simple. I’ve let myself down. I’ve let others down. I’ll be off all week. Nothing will stop me chasing this feeling. It feels like peace but won’t last for ever.

I journal your understand why. I end up with pages on a 10 year journey. Pointing the finger – but it all came to this one moment. A moment of weakness put everything in the bin.

If you are watching. If you are judging. Please understand this is not what I want. It seemed like an easy answer to a moment of weakness and a moment of seeking rebirth.

Where was I wrong?

I didn’t stop to ask for help. I didn’t lighten my load by sharing out. I didn’t open up. I didn’t cry. I didn’t do the basic self care rituals that let me get to a place of alright. I didn’t sleep through the night as I wanted.

I was bitter at others because I felt all the constraints. I was seeking joy. I was seeking service above all else. I didn’t connect. I couldn’t find someone like me. I didn’t confront all my fears. God felt like a drill sergeant; forcing me along. I didn’t stop to say, this was too much. I need a break. Give me some fun. Let me have headspace.

At the end of the treadmill I fell off. I could have hit the slowdown button but couldn’t find it.

Instead I was ready to throw everything in. For a moments solace, for substance that could take away my worries, that made me feel powerful. A moment of madness, insanity. There are no answers here, nothing.

This trade in isn’t worth it. It won’t fix me. But for a few moments it helps me change what if I feel.

I hope I can get back up again. Because I keep stumbling, betraying it all because I cannot move past, if I am enough or a cry for help. I’ll take whatever you give, for nothing feels.

Like my inner betrayal, loss of self my in confidence and lack of trust. For even if it is not true, right then and right now it feels as if, I am all alone and there is no help.

Please pick me up. And let’s start again.