Be Happy. Be Wealthy.

I am sitting under a tree in Dorset. I’ve just finished a long bicycle from Poole with a big orange bag in my back full of homemade cake, flowers, decorations, the big book, note pads, pens and all sorts.

Trees, in Amsterdam, not Dorset. It’s a nice photo though. Photo credit Sober and The City.

I needed my time alone. I sat next to my Nan chanting “be rich and happy” in Cantonese to me on repeat over and over, slumped low in her chair. A shadow of her former self who used to be up at 6am preparing lunch, curry.

I used to visit every month as a child and steal all the biscuits from the biscuit tin. We used to run around and walk to the river. But it’s always been a strange place. It’s always been odd. Grandad used to sit upstairs on his computer all the time whilst we watched the Sound of Music or aunts would come in and visit. The place was crowded and me and my two brothers would share the sofa bed in the conservatory to keep Nan company. Mum and dad would sleep on cushions in the lounge to keep Nan happy.

It was last year, 2020, when Grandad died and passed away from cancer. He was totally emaciatedby the end. I said my last words. I didn’t know how close I was to him, and the words I chose were not mine. I was carrying them for the love of his life, “Please don’t go, please stay”.

Life is sometimes dramatic. But enjoy the ride, we don’t control the outcomes or others.

It was at his funeral that Grandads numerous trips to Italy with A children’s charity and the mystery woman that mum spoke about came to light. Grandad had had a kind of son figure in a different family whilst having an affair. There was an unexpected extension of our family at that funeral.

I laughed, I thought it dramatic. As I carried grandads coffin into the chapel, I imagined him smiling down on us. And in that moment the sun suddenly shone into the chapel lighting the whole place up. He had a sense of humour, and now we all saw him. All of him. His faults, his sins, his gift, credit, worth and life. All that time he had remained with his wife out of love and duty. And here he was fully revealing himself to us. I’ll take the humour of the whole situation. Nan in an oversized hat to stop her seeing the other funeral. As the service went on Nan shouted “Is he in the ground yet”. Tears fell down my eyes as I felt the emotion through the air. Like electricity this final moment lit the air with grief and loss.

Emotions can suddenly crop-up. Random scenes of crying are a real life thing.

Earlier in the year, before sobriety, it was over wine when I was chatting to a friend that I started crying profusely. It suddenly made sense. For decades Nan had been left alone in a relationship that had faded. A Chinese woman in the middle of nowhere with no one but her family who’s would occasionally visit. Relishing the company her excitement would be to cook us breakfast lunch and dinner all by 3pm everyday. It was love and every porridge I made, every cup of tea, every kiss, hug, conversation and film was a moment of connection that she relished and celebrated in earnestness.

I see her slumped in that chair today, and it is a sunset. A beautiful moment. But over COVID, over my own using and my own self centred ness her dementia is far worse than I could have thought. And it brings me grief. An anger at myself for living in my own melodrama. A sense of loss, of connection. All she craved was a connection and I live in my world where it is too anxious to make one.

But despite her health. She has a wonderful honesty and wish. Be happy and be wealthy.

Return of the Hero

The other day I went to the rather emotional 12 Step meeting where everyone shared on the experience of trauma, pain and healing within their recovery.

It is true all of our experiences will be different in recovery. It is true that we all used differently and had different experiences. All of our pain is unique, not better or worse or more or less. And this combined experience of the fellowship is something I am grateful for.

At the end of this meeting I played Mariah Carey “Hero” because of the lyrics. Yes it is a bit self willing but;

“When the hero comes along, with the strength to carry on, you’ll finally see the truth, a hero lies in you.”

Mariah Carey – “Hero”

Over the past couple of days I’ve witnessed a flurry of newcomers, shy returners and people back from a relapse come to meetings. I was so happy and grateful to see these people back or new in. They are my heroes. Admitting I had a problem and swallowing my pride has been one of the most profound moments of my life.

It doesn’t matter what I did, how much I used only that I had a problem and wanted a solution.

Change is Chaotic.

Yesterday I went to the Turner exhibit “Turners Modern World” in the Tate Britain. In a fuck it moment, I bought a Tate membership. I have a list of fuck it’s everytime I really want to use.

A view from “Turners Modern World” – Tate Britain

And for the price of a Netflix subscription I now have a perfect date venue and free entrance to all the normally paid for exhibits a year.

It was here that Turner used so many metaphors for the cost of war, industrial change, chaos, human rights and slavery.

Steam Boat Off Harbours Mouth – J.M.W Turner

When he created illustrations the storms would become worse over time, the seascap swelling or smoke billowing more in the background. He’d use light to shine the cost of war on people. Turner was highly criticised for showing the true cost of war. For showing the idealic agrarian culture against the bee industrial steam age. It was never the process that Turner concentrated on but nature and people.

All change is brutal. It’s fucking hard. But it is with a few small changes it starts. Just coming to a meeting meant that all of a sudden I had to give up drink, drugs and the “essential gay apps”. It also requires brutal honesty with so many people. It’s a new way of life.

Sober & The City – 2021

And it Works.

Since the start of my journey subtley, surely, slowly things have been changing and I have felt the promises come true. Only my HP knows how great my future wil become.

And it is with each newcomer I am grateful for the opportunity to do service, to remind me that sobriety is the way forward and for each “hero” adding to the rich tapestry and experience of our fellowship.

Turner went against the grain and showed the real cost of change in his paintings. Yes change is hard when you’re going through the detail. But when I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture I saw all of the beauty of the complete picture and the true message he was trying to carry.

I am grateful for my recovery, newcomers, my fellows experience and for change happening in us all.

Pain & healing

Just like there is always time for pain, there is always time for healing

Jennifer Brown, Hate List

Today was an absolute smasher of a day. I am truly spoiled by this heat, by the sun and the wonderful buzzing atmosphere in London everytime the sun comes out.

I walked past Caffee Nero and suddenly remembered I had a fully stamped coffee card. Oh the treat when you don’t have any money. They even kindly let me have a super green smoothie instead of coffee. I went to the park and completed my journal entry for the day and gazed at the copious number of runners out and about (some with their tops off!).

I got back home and was immediately invited out for drinks by my best friend and to play with his new kitten, Loki, who I am cat godfather too. He was absolutely adorable. We went out for (non-alcoholic) beverages and caught up over our family struggles, his fathers cancer, boy troubles, money troubles, hopes, holiday plans and so on. It is truly wonderful to be able to just talk about what sometimes see like the banalities of life.

Loki – The Kitten – Animals are known for helping destress their human friends

I then went on a long cycle ride to the Royal Albert Hall where I was to listen to the Proms.

I was meeting up with M, and I haven’t decided yet if we are “seeing eachother” or if I am “friend zoned”. A very confusing conundrum.

It was here that I listened to Camille Saint Saens – Symphony Number 3 in G major. I don’t know classical very well. And this was a knowledgeable (white) middle class audience maybe. I engaged with a discussion with a gentleman outside and confessed.

I’m completely uncultured I have no idea what to expect! And yes banging my hands against my thighs is the only music I can play.

Sober and the City, 2021

Listening to the piece is like being teased.

The conductor brings the whole orchestra in and out, quite and loud, focus on the strings, the brass, the triangle, the organ. Slowly building, sound retreating quiet then loud until the respelendent finish which sent goosebumps down my spine.

BBC Proms – Royal Albert Hall – Tickets from £9

M had booked us standing tickets in the audiotorium. Never had I imagined in my wildest dreams would I be here. It had always seemed unobtainable, something that only posh people did, something I wasn’t sure I could listen to or like.

We went for dinner afterwards outside and had some Chinese. It was hear that emotions ran high and M spoke of his frustration about work, I queried and he got rather frustrated and angry.

“You really piss me off sometimes B, when you’re like this”

M, in a heated moment

“I’m only interested because I care. I won’t have the answers, but I can’t listen”

Response after me deliberately pushing M’s buttons to talk

I could see he was frustrated. He asked me about my family and I took him through the death of grandad, the stress of my relatives caring for Grandma in dementia, the suicide of my aunt a decade ago, the drama of divorce and the constant feed of don’t tell your mother this but…

And my own powerlessness in this situation. Sometimes the download of all the family situation felt, wrongly, that the buck stopped with me.

I wanted asymmetry of honesty and communication in my relationships. It was only this morning that I needed to realise I need to demonstrate compassion in these relationships. That this constant feed of downloading about life is people’s therapy in a stressful situation.

Information Asymmetry in Relationships

We cycled home. M didn’t see the tears rolling down my cheeks. I cycled behind when this was happening. We got to his house and he wanted me to cuddle him. I just couldn’t, I was upset and he wasn’t there and then, at 23:00 going to understand why.

Family matters are complex but I am glad that I managed to share just a little of my “inherited trauma”.

And so the day came to a close, with a slightly bittersweet ending. A wonderful day, I am still unsure of where I am in my relationship. We had a fight and some brutal honesty. I am grateful for this.

Everytime I feel emotional pain, trauma and memories I am giving the time to heal and all wounds in time heal.

The first kilometre

Yesterday I decided to press the reshuffle button on life. After doing a mini self inventory on my defects, on the train back from Poole I decided I needed to approach all situations with compassion, action, service and curiosity.

I’ve also decided to do a new health and excercise kick. It was with great surprise that my weight was lower than I thought it was and that other vitals were all fine after four solid weeks of enjoying ice cream and chocolate.

So to turn the page on my health I decided to take action and exercise and transition to being vegan again.

I did my HIIT and had a wonderful but slightly bitchy conversation with a fellow. Although it was naughty it was a reminder there is humour in recovery.

The first kilometre is always the hardest

Sober and the City, 2021

I went for a run, the first kilometre is always downhill, fast but has the most temptation to run back to the house. I think of recovery like this. The first bit is always hard and a good old humbling always feels like a downhill.

I wanted to stop but I knew the uphill segment, although difficult, would be much more easier in its own way. One step, one day at a time. I was practically sprinting.

I started my ascent up the high hill and a recruiter called; it sounded like an application was progressing as we were negotiating salary, without an offer. A slightly tense outcome as although there is progress there is no commitment.

Life is full of the unexpected. Expect the unexpected. Be the unexpected.

It was then I decided to run all the way back down that big hill and sprint up it. It felt so fast running up the hill and it was a lot quicker than I was expecting. It reminded me that in life with short breaks we can always restart, retry and approach life’s troubles with tenacity. Be fierce.

I ache today, and hurt but it feels good providing some tough love to my body!

Putting together our story is catharsis and pain.

I also had a soul searching moment today when the DWP called for a capability for work assessment.

  • Yes I have been depressed since I was 14.
  • Yes I have had drug and alcohol problems since 2013.
  • Yes I was diagnosed with HIV in 2013.
  • Yes I’ve tried a whole plethora of prescribed drugs and am grateful for the Prozac which seems to be taking effect.
  • Yes my anxiety gives me panic attacks in large gatherings.
  • Yes stress is a major risk of relapse for me.
  • Yes I can work, but no I don’t always know if I will wake up with vivacity for life.
  • Yes I have put a belt round my neck to end my life more than once.
  • Yes I’m waiting for an assessment for ADHD
  • No, rehab has never been an option for me
  • Yes I have paranoia and disassociation symptoms from life as a result of withdrawal which seem like long term effects of my ex friend Tina.

Although challenging me, after all the relapses it reminded me how far I had come. I don’t know the outcome of this assessment but I hand it all over and hope things work out just fine.

It was a meeting that I met the glorious A who is so inspiring as a character and reminded me of so many basic things in prayer and meditation and presence in my recovery. It was wonderful to be there and even more wonderful to follow it up with a conversation with my sponsor where I fessed up a few sins!

No matter the climb, no matter how difficult. If I keep going I will go further than I think I can. I have my whole recovery family cheering me on, the whole way.