State of mind

This week I set myself the ambitious target of getting back to yoga, fitness and hanging my boxing bag.

What really happened was a sudden shift of priorities across my whole life. All of a sudden I was doing less recovery service, less step work, fewer meetings, more rushing to compete deadlines at work, returning to the office, renewing medications and rejecting offers to meet with people. And more yoga. And finally a hefty bill to close down an outstanding issue I created when I sold my old Apple Watch in a fit of fury.

I fessed up to a friend that I wasn’t sure how I’d afford a trip to Las Vegas. I was shifted a whole lot of work that I didn’t know anything about. I was fearful that this trip of joy would be tainted and taken away from me. So to avoid the disappointment I’d remove it from my life.

The words from recovery this week: trust, god, discipline. I didn’t feel any of these words.

I was angry. Angry that what I had set out to do was being whipped out from under my feet and life re-prioritised. The only moment I found in solace this week was stopping everything and finding the time to do what I really wanted to do. Which was nothing; space.

I realised that other people were my greatest source of anger as I became angry at the universe around me for shifting life’s sands. I was blaming everyone else in a paranoid way for shifting everything around. For drip feeding me anxiety, worry, fear, negativity.

I writhed in my bed this week as the only thing I could think of was to inject myself with some form of happy chemical. I sat in my living room my brain exploding from anxiety. I let rip at a friend at all the negativity in my life. I withdrew. I held a blade over my wrist, to scared to carry out the deed.

I was vulnerable last Sunday, as I shared my deepest secrets in a chair at a meeting. And came away disappointed with myself, because I felt I had spent a long time in my share sharing my shame, blame and disappointment. Rather than my hope.

What was I really trying to say?

That the only thing that works for me is action, hope and freedom over anger, fear, hopelessness, loss and discipline. That the only way I could be free , is to choose to be willing. To liberate myself from my old mindset. To liberate my truths, my secrets, my fears and my darkness.

I listened to my sponsor as they asked me to separate my wants from my needs. This week I was slowly setting my wants on a bonfire, and said to my sponsor right now there is nothing I really want.

Mental Health

If recovery is a spiritual programme, sometimes it misses the mark on mental health. It can make us the perpetrator of our own victim status. Which can be true. but we are also victims and survivors. There are many who die before they make meaningful recovery.

But we are in recovery because we’ve been beaten down. Because our path has included moments which destroyed the soul, many of them not through our own choosing.

I spoke at length about my higher power sometimes being my anxiety, my fear, substances, other people. How my codependency wasn’t always on a person but a thing or event.

Liberation

The opposite to addiction is connection. But also strength and endurance can be found in being tuned out from the world around us.

Pain makes us stronger. Love makes us connected.

Last night I was watching the Mandalorian. In it there are two ways of doing things; the Jedi who believe that connection compromises our ability to be objective and balanced. And the Mandalor who believe that brotherhood draws strength. Either path is a path of liberation from the past, from things, from pure independence. As Grogu stared at what choice they’d make, I wondered what I’d pick.

And I thought what do I choose; strength and endurance or connection and love. Or does that choice exist at all?

I think I’d rather be Jedi.

Sharing is caring

There are many moments in my life when fading to the wallflower makes me feel more powerful than passive aggressive.

To me, the power of silence is strength, and from strength comes power (to listen) and the power of listening is; hearing. And hearing provides perspective.

I’ve often sat in meetings; recovery, work, family and every kind you can think of, just listening. And from that power I receive so much. To the outsider I am silent, passive-aggressive, quiet, reserved, shy, sensitive, introverted. Actually I’m exerting my power.

Today, I’m sat at my desk with three screens; work chats, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, emails, texts, notifications, video calls, calendars, IMs, channels, Twitter, LinkedIn. Before clearing it I also had letters.

Mainly what I do with all this information is listen. I’m not always hearing what is said, but certainly there is a lot of listening.

The amount of information anyone can process in a single day is staggering. Add to that memory recall, what we see, what we think, what we feel, how we move, where we go, what we taste and smell.

Life can be overwhelming, overstimulating and full of stuff.

At this point I am reminded to meditate. That by breathing we can simply make sense of it all and it quickly comes into a spiritual place of clarity and awakening.

My perspective is that in all the silence, listening, breathing – I will never achieve a zen space of clarity. Breathing space is exactly that. It’s a stop, pause, moment. It won’t systemically organise everything I sense into a cohesive, organised life.

It is in hearing, sharing and action that things will come to order, that I will make sense of it all, that emotions will truly surface.

This weekend I shared at a meeting; my current perspective. Afterwards I felt shocked, uncertain, questioned what I said. It didn’t feel like a process of validation but an experience of me, bringing into question, my own experience. It was almost out of body.

But in the midst of my silence I hadn’t really had an opportunity to process and organise my thoughts, and this was my opportunity. I got something from it.

And from sharing, I let people know how I felt, what had happened to me and how others could relate.

Listening, sending, pausing, hearing, breathing has its limits. It means nothing without action, purpose, commitment and sharing. A person is not an island.

The power of dreams

Over the weekend I was out and about in London Town enjoying a birthday meal out to live music, exploring the Tate Modern and catching up with people in the real world.

In one of the conversations I had; my friends and I spoke about the dreams that we had recently been having.

I believe that dreams show what our inner conscience is really processing. How we store and process the days emotions, memories, feelings, in complete freetime, accessing our most creative selves and parts of our brain.

Scientists don’t really know what the purpose of dreaming is, some say they don’t have a purpose.

But in our evolutionary model of the human; they must have a purpose; otherwise why we wouldn’t have evolved with the capability to dream. We also know that dreams are powerful emotional triggers; standing naked in front of an audience, teeth falling out, flying, being a spy, having extraordinary powers.

Image courtesy of behance

Anxiety

One of my friends said that they had a dream where they felt that they showed up in front of an audience wearing clothes that didn’t fit in and being completely unpreprepared. We both thought this was social anxiety and a fear of not fitting in.

We both had dreams about our teeth falling out. Some of mine are incredibly vivid and I watch my mouth as my teeth crumple away and fall out of my mouth. I really feel a strong sense of loss and anxiety whenever o have this dream.

Anxiety is a common emotion associated with dreams; and think about it – we’ve all had dreams like loosing our teeth, being naked, taking an exam, breaking up with someone. We’re all carrying around a lot of unprocessed anxiety.

Secrets & avoidance

One of my reoccurring dreams is that I am a spy, running from some kind of threat and trying to return to my spymaster.

I’m fighting against the odds, and all the obstacles, to get whatever information I have back to my spymaster. My life is in danger. Everytime I have this dream I wake immediately up on a cliffhanger, with adrenaline pumping round my body.

Spies are normally a sign of lies, manipulation, secrets.Equally if I’m running from something, I’m avoiding something!

What’s oddest about this dream is that my inner self carries some good puprose and that I am trying to achieve some higher aim. So in spite of the secrets and manipulation, there is some good there.

Sex

We all agreed that sex dreams were incredibly vivid and life-like. I once passed out on the sofa and had a very vivid and seemingly real dream that I started to have sex with one of my straight housemates. And it seemed everyone had had one.

Sex dreams are probably part of our desire manifesting itself, as well as self confidence and exploration of our sexy side.

Today

One of my friends said their dreams had changed recently; they were flying upwards, carefree. I had a dream last night, in which I had gained superpowers, which others would not let me use to help avoid disaster in a distant location.

Both are reference to a new found power, freedom and liberation. Mine had a deep expression of a constraint. Moreover, I wasn’t physically restrained but my mutual agreement. Which is kind of interesting.

Journal

I’ve decided I want to keep a dream journal, to help me interpret my subconscious processing. In our lucid dream like state, we’re accessing a creative freespace, in which our brains are firing all over the place.

In the state of dreaming, inventions and ideas such as Google, DNA, theory of relativity, Frankenstein all came to life; and some of the art I saw in the Tate was directly related to lucid interpretations by the artist of the world around them.

Who knows what I might discover?

The most common dreams and their meaning

I’ll borrow someone else infographics; but aside from our dreams in the real world; we all need to take action to acknowledge and process our dreams in our sleep.

Courtesy: Infographic of the day.

Heat

Recently my attention has turned to heat, warmth and keeping cosy. In London at the moment we’re in a cold spell; they always show up. The air is lovely and crisp. The skies clear. The misty fog shows it’s head and both sunrise and sunset are spectacular.

But the truth is that you can’t take away from the fact that it’s cold. I can’t take away from the fact that as lovely as a cold bed is to sleep in, it’s not easy to rise from it.

And I’ve found myself downing tubs of ice cream, comfort food, warm drinks, wrapped in blankets, turning up the heating a little bit more. Just to find heat; or rather comfort.

I’ve been running for comfort when I’ve felt outside of my comfort zone or uncomfortable; returning to old pastures where I can cosy up rather than stretch and grow.

I’ve been avoiding exercise, diet, routine, people, relationships, dating because at the bottom of my stomach is fear. The only heat that I have right now in my life is a few work deadlines, but which I need to complete. Even these are kind of comfortable; maybe it’s time to turn down the heat. And find a little discomfort.

House of Cards

It starts with the sun shining in the bedroom window, lighting up the sky in this soft blue and orange. The misty haze rising from the city below.

The opening of the eyes, the sound of music and the slow roll out of bed. A shout out to the universe; “hey, make today awesome”. Measuring the coffee and smelling its aroma fill the room, the muddy delight frothed and steaming in sight.

A quick meeting, some pearls of wisdom. A run around the block, the cold air against my face. A pull on weights feeling my body strain and pull against all directions.

The steamy hot shower, the removal of every last bit of grease from my face. The feeling of the soap lathering my skin, my body, my face. The water drops fall down my body, as I rinse.

I turn to shave, the sound of the razor cutting against the few bits of bristle I have on my face. I feel the tension against each hair,and hear each cut, each refinement.

I wrap the towel around me and the mirrors desteam. My body dries and I contort my face. Every pore seems so much tighter now. I sip the coffee. I read the news. I listen to some more wisdom and I watch the rest of the sunrise.

And I rise.

My morning rituals of late have gone out of the window. And my mood has changed and you can see why. Sadly this is a relapse back into depression; and everyone around me is screaming; it’s in my head.

But every ritual has become a chore. Each breath a sobering reminder that I’m about to enter another coughing fit; I can hardly be expected to find my zen. Instead I yearn for when this all lifts. When I can return to my rituals and rise at dawn.

Bring it back! Starting the day out of sync is like watching my house of cards fall. No matter what I try, if I rise, I rise. If I fail on the rise, it’s hard to get back up.

Last Night

At any moment, anywhere we can be told anything, that can shake what we believe in and what we feel, how we establish our values and truths, and what our reality really is.

Last night after going through a rather long coughing fit and churning up some rather delicious green phlegm. I decided I felt really shit.

Then I received two text messages. One from someone who said that they couldn’t live another moment, as their suffering in life was too great. The other a relative who was currently in hospital, fighting for their life after having a stroke.

To the first I said; start living and did you really do something you needed to do today? To the other; I sent my well wishes and looked forward to the updates. Both sent me into panic.

I wanted to be more involved with the latter, but people need their own space. In the first I wanted to help, but realise that I am not alone in wanting to be altruistic. Nor am I the only person who can help.

As I sat there in another coughing fit, I decided there and then that I needed to look after myself. I was immediately motivated to cook myself a lush dinner.

I may have had brain fog whilst cooking, leading to a soggy bottomed Salmon Wellington, but I made the effort. I got off my sorry ass and did something.

Compassion is so much more than caring; it’s about being honest and taking action. It’s about recognising we need to take care of ourselves and share our feelings with others. it’s about recognising we are not alone.

I then did something that felt cruel; to the first text I blocked the person. They had been asking money from me for a while, and I just felt that I didn’t want a relationship based on donations in my life. Not because the person wasn’t worth it, but because for all the emotions they could share, I wasn’t the only one that could help. I’m not the person making decisions in this persons life.

I’m also not in a place to always be of service and help. I’m am not the only source of help. I am not all wisdom. I am not all help. I’d be arrogant to think so.

Instead, between the two situations I found myself reflecting. In the constant battle for life and death. For all the moments when everything, anything could change. What is the one thing I will do to live right now. And what’s really important?

Service/Fellowship

we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Step 12

Any step with a 1 in you can do by yourself. Anyone can be honest, reflect on their day, help someone else or meditate.

As I sat in a meeting last night we spoke about step 10, daily inventories. I thanked the speaker for providing their spin on the 12 steps. The words god, spiritual, higher power, he, steps and many others can be foreboding. And actually the interpretation of what you have to do for those steps varies quite widely. It’s your programme not your fellowships.

But the basic premise can be boiled down to the principles. And leaving behind my own interpretation, when I look at the principles, rather than my own interpretation, the principles provide a much clearer path and way of living than not sticking to the principles.

Principles of the 12 Steps

It seemed like a tall order and we couldn’t do it all at once. Many of the principles of the steps; we can apply immediately to our lives. We don’t need to wait for the steps to complete to begin putting things in motion.

I often ask myself the following questions:

  • Was I emotionally and ruthlessly honest with myself today?
  • Did I put my trust in something or someone else today?
  • What did I do today to put my recovery first?
  • Did I have the courage to admit I was wrong about something today?
  • Was I willing to let go of that wrong?
  • Was I willing to let something or someone help me?
  • Did I ask for forgiveness for something I did wrong?
  • Did I show or tell someone I loved them today?
  • Did I stick to what I needed to do today?
  • Am I still committed to change? Am I willing to go to any lengths?
  • Did I meditate, pray, or shout out my hopes to the invisible nothingness?
  • Did I help someone in need today? Did I speak to someone else as a friend?

This can seem like a lot, but in fact only takes 20mins or less of my day. The actions become natural overtime.

I’ve long thought of my balance between fellowship and service. And self will and unity. And fellowship, service, unity and step work.

It’s a hard balance. I seem to prioritise service and step work above all else. As I don’t believe service isn’t a result of the steps at number 12, but part of working then. And in particular, service leads to spiritual awakening. How long had I only been of service to myself and my needs?

Through the act of humbling, contributing, speaking, empathising, helping, listening, connecting, changing, putting the chairs out, reading – I open myself up a little more. And I let another person open up and share their vulnerability with me.

I can’t say this has always helped me feel less lonely though, and as I reflect on my balance of service and fellowship I really want a friend to have fun with. Fellowship isn’t always about friendship, but sometimes more like a spiritual practice together.

But all things come with time. As I put more in, I get more out and learn even more. And when it does feel lonely, I will be stronger and have faith that this rabbit hole is leading to the best ending.

Projections

As I come to another close of another week it feels like there is a lot of projection going on. Projection of negativity, positivity, of me, anger, anxiety and emotion.

And I am your mirror. Or are you my mirror.

I will only show the fairest one of all, no matter what I might think. Because a constant act of vulnerability is a life of pain. A constant projection of all the woe is just boring.

I was told to be vulnerable; and I don’t really want to be vulnerable anymore. It’s like living in lifes darkest corners on loop.

It also made me realise the way I act differently in front of different people, or is that my mood in any given moment. I don’t know.

As I sat, listening to a lover, letting out all of their worries, anxieties and negativities. I didn’t want to listen to it anymore. I am the one on a shoestring. I am the one who has nothing.

Just be grateful for the right now. It will pass. This isn’t really that bad.

I also question what is right.

This week all I know is that I don’t really need a constant cast in my life, I don’t need a man, I don’t need sex, I don’t really need any love. I can live without all of this. I don’t have to be centre of attention, I don’t have to speak, I don’t need an opinion, I don’t need for think. My own suffering is tiny. I don’t need things, food, health, a massive social life. I don’t need friends knocking at the door, calling or texting me. I don’t need resentments. I don’t need to acknowledge the feeling of loneliness or of connection as I have all the basic things I need.

There is very little I actually need.

This all feels like self will; but I’ve handed it all over. I force nothing. I’m not sure what the lesson was this week. I’m not sure what I’ve really learned. I don’t know what next week will bring.

It feels like I really am alone. I’m not sure that’s what the life lesson was meant to be.

Relationships

I was in my local corner shop. And I started realising how I wasn’t really engaging with the cashier. The smile and thank you were half hearted, I wasn’t making eye contact, and my immediate thought was to rush back to where I needed to go.

This is someone that I see almost everyday. We have a relationship. They stock the goods. I exchange for cash. When I was recovering from a bender; they provided the salty and sweet food that made me feel a little bit better.

Relationships for me, are everywhere. And like the cashier, I have come to ask myself; am I, and have I, got the most from my relationships? Or do I just offer half-hearted thank you, pleases and conversation?

There was a time when I would try to talk as much to people as possible on dating apps, with the belief that I couldn’t waste each window of opportunity with each person.

Sadly most people fail to make any upfront investment in these relationships, resulting in a very low conversion rate to physical meetings.

I’ve also reflected on the amount time I spent on Grindr, trading my loneliness for sex. Which seemed a much easier exchange with a higher conversion rate.

Relationships happen everywhere

When the topic of relationships came up in a meeting the other day my thoughts immediately turned to romantic relationships. It turned to the feeling of being alone vs feeling lonely.

I’m used to being alone, but not lonely. They are profound differences in emotions. My romantic life has felt so lonely for so long. There has been no completing my whole.

And for all that is said, there is nothing like a real relationship above the snapshots of time we get with friends, family, acquaintances, sponsors, colleagues, associates, people who serve us.

The truth is my life is full of relationships that need maintaining, time and commitment. They happen every day, every moment. But I hold back my most precious investment; time, in hoping that the whole will come soon.

Not Being Alone

I once sat at a dinner room table crying to an ex housemate about feeling alone. I said something like “I am not alone, they’re always there in my head, with me”.

I only really communicate to people when we’re face to face when we’ve made the time to do something, the effort to get there and shared something together.

I thought about my relationship with my sponsor. I know nothing about them apart from a few snapshots. Creepily, I googled them and found out much more than our relationship as sponsor and sponsee required.

Are we getting the most from our relationship? As we rush through my step work – do we *really* care beyond what the immediate tasks the steps set out?

The Last Dance

My sponsor it turns out used to be a model. His handsome looks have always been slightly intimidating. And there was a time when I was in a open-relationship, both the person I was seeing and my sponsor where both seeing someone in the same area, of a description of eachother. My paranoid mind wondered where my sponsor and my partner seeing each other?

We had a very intimate relationship which revolved around partner being naked, flung over the sofa, describing his sex life, sharing his thoughts and watching BFI player.

Beyond the label was a deep intimacy which went both ways, albeit with different levels of intimacy (nudity) and intentions. I never understood why someone with such passion, enthusiasm and time for whatever that relationship was, would refuse to acknowledge a relationship existed. This only served my paranoia.

Lonely Zoned

This NYE all my plans fell through, due to people coming down with COVID. Having purchased sparkly shoes, sparkly shirt and ready to go out, I decided to hang out with my ex-partner. I was going to dance. They were a DJ at one of the local pubs. So I’d be dancing alone.

As the fireworks went off and the NY countdown completed, everyone in the pub seemed to be partnered, exchanging kisses and jubilantly expressing to each other “HNY!”.

I was the wallflower staring-on at the cheers before me. I had not felt that kind of lonely for so long. Despite all the relationships in my life, how could I come to be alone again? What had I done wrong?

I managed to dance it off.

And here is another relationship. People say you can’t be friends with an ex. Let me tell you, you can. This relationship has run on honesty, even when I have cheated, and an emotional honesty that runs to; this is exactly how I feel about you and this is the label I apply to this relationship.

The label they use to describe this relationship: brothers.

My life is full of relationships, all require my attention, all require me to be mindful. But none of them make me whole.

The only thing I can do is become the constant gardener of my relationships; nurturing and keep them growing, in the hope that one day they bloom into something beautiful. Doesn’t help when I’m wallflower zoned, sometimes.

Living the solution

these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand that most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.

Morpheus, The Matrix

Despite the grandiose title living the solution, it is something I am doing. I have never completed the 12 steps or completed a 12 step programme before. But today I am 224 days sober.

Yesterday I was cycling to meet a friend in central. It was on my journey that I was speeding along, minding my own business, when a car pulled out onto the road. I slammed on the breaks and found myself in a brace position. I slammed into the side of the car.

The car pulled away and left me. This is the fifth or sixth time I’ve been hit by a car pulling out of a junction in the past year. This isn’t the first time I’ve nearly ended underneath a car. As I continued the cycle on I made sure the driver knew how I felt by providing a knowing stare into the car.

Life could end at any minute

It is these moments I am reminded that life could end at any moment. In active addiction I used to plan my funeral. I would have an edited version of “I know where I’ve been” from Hairspray sung, in a final act of defiance and acceptance. This was so sad. Because in addiction; where was I really headed?

My sponsor reminds me on a daily basis. This is a programme of action. Not just experience, strength and hope. But of action.

Each meeting I attend, each share I listen to, each piece of service, each text and telephone call is a micro action that is painting a larger piece of recovery.

Every defect, every resentment is highlighted, rubbed away and a new piece of me, an asset is put in its place.

I am stubborn and proud

My own defect of stubbornness and pride is being revealed and erased away as I read chapters from the Big Book. To take the first step is a profound moment of accepting; I am not alone, I have a disease, there is a solution and I can hand it over.

All my sins erased away with love, community, healing and compassion. Through fellowship and meetings. My own experiences are not isolated; a religious upbringing, sexual trauma, HIV diagnosis and so on.

I may be powerless but I do have choices

Early on my in recovery we spoke of our own power and powerlessness. I do have power and I have choices. I have the choice to submit to a programme that keeps me sober. It’s a programme where I am able to admit my mistakes and seek personal spiritual growth.

Do you want the truth or something beautiful?

When I feel like using I remind myself of the carnage of active addiction, I pray for help and ask myself what action would future me want me to take today? Where will I say I’ve been; a dodgy flat with loads of drugs in south London with people who don’t care, or a person of progress, change and service?

Today I am grateful for a programme of action which is changing my future projectory and for one which I will look back with humbled pride.