Abandon Ship

but only metaphorically! It’s the imaginary ship that we created ourselves: its hull, recreational areas, occupants and ultimately its destiny…so why jump over board?

As we emerge from childhood we are encouraged to make our way in life, a scary experience, and we have no experience or clue as how to perform said undertaking. Our friends as clueless as we, our parents relics of a bygone era, a helpful uncle or aunt if we are lucky but otherwise we set sail in our vessel, empty and alone.

All is not forlorn as, along the way, we gather like minded souls, our ships unite, our opinions amalgamate, perhaps per chance, or through work, an ex-girlfriend, a hobby. But as we travel, upon our desolate way, we recruit those who agree with us and reject those who don’t, indeed we inhabit our ship with only like minded souls, feeding off each other, bracing together through new waters.

But what if, at some point they had mutinied, they’d pulled you off course and diverted your destiny? Indeed, they were now in control of your future, steering you where you no longer wished to go? But of course you were oblivious…

It’s that feeling in the back of the mind, that ‘there must be more to life’, that nagging sensation of missing a potential but not having the command to redirect the ship, your ship, your future, your fate. Well, I say to you, jump, jump now!

For, luckily for us, there are a million other ships traversing the waters, half full (or half empty…) and people are jumping, whilst others clamber aboard, a scene of chaos and incertitude, but a thousand hands will help you if you cry out.

Abandon ship I say, and take refuge with others, just because you’ve been on one vessel for ever doesn’t mean that change is not possible.

 

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Our Journey – Alone?

As a gamer of a past generation the new console games no longer appeal to me; too hectic, impulsive and challenging for my current disposition. However, as my son grows up I inevitably come into contact with products that are out there and every now and again one really strikes a chord within me.

The Journey – A lonely character explores a mysterious world by soaring across lands, alone in a strange world, searching for an unknown destination. A touching, captivating and beautiful gaming experience where you feel the loneliness and isolation of your avatar.

The experience can be ultimately enhanced by playing online and adding in the factor of other travellers all seeking the mysterious terminus. As you encounter these lonely souls you hook up and create bands, in real time you can work together and follow their lead, or in turn lead, but once encountered you embrace the company in this otherwise lifeless world.

How paradoxical that in order to meet we first retreat; we long to get to know these strangers, which we can never get to know really, we trust them and they us in return.

Often in life we retract from our fellow beings, we close off and internalise, and in this way we cut off a vital support line. We stand in queues but don’t speak, sit on trains or in waiting rooms and stare evermore into our virtual worlds, enigmatically seeking companionship.

Many of our societal issues: depression, substance abuse, violence etc., stem from a deep disconnect, from people feeling isolated. To cure these we need to reconnect!

A friend of mine has the motto of ‘make a stranger smile today’; reach out today to someone and reap the rewards, for as you open up so do they. They remind us that we are all but mere humans, feeling alone in an over populated world, making this journey alone, searching for something that we can’t define…

This post was inspired by the TWELVE AND TWELVE quote for today.

“As we grow spiritually, we find that our old attitudes toward our instinctual drives need to undergo drastic revisions. Our demands for emotional security and wealth, for personal prestige and power all have to be tempered and redirected. We learn that the full satisfaction of these demands cannot be the sole end and aim of our lives. We cannot place the cart before the horse, or we shall be pulled backward into disillusionment. But when we are willing to place spiritual growth first – then and only then do we have a real chance to grow in healthy awareness and mature love” p. 114.

Born or Bred?

As I child I often refused to eat certain types of meat, chewy meat was rejected and anything on the bone avoided at all costs. I was called a ‘fussy eater’.

I have now been vegetarian for 6 months, well nearly; I was pescatarian for the first few months, but that is really by the by.

It has now occurred to me that maybe I was always vegetarian, born into a meat eating world, is this possible? Is it born or bred? Nature or nurture?

If it was purely the environment then surely I should have come to like, even enjoy?, said meaty products, but I didn’t. Chicken was the meat of choice for its neutral taste  and pliability.

First I stopped pork, and its growth hormone injections, as it gave me digestion problems. Then beef followed as the taste got intolerable and finally I converted to vegetarianism.

I now crave the crunch of an apple and the creamy texture of avocados, porridge with goji berries is the best way to start the day. Pineapple & spirulina smoothies satisfy mid morning cravings and Dahl satiates the soul.

Is this the residue of a past life, a pacifist life, where animals were friends and I ate from the land? Was my classification as a fussy eater really a misunderstood child’s preference from times past?

Either way, I’ve found it now and I’m loving it!?!

I awoke with a hangover….

8 months ago today I awoke with a hangover, not a terrible immobilizing one, just an average everyday kind of one, but on that day I made decision; to reclaim my life.

I dragged myself up and headed out on a mission to fulfil a need. I’d seen her a few weeks back and, as I’d passed, I’d caught a glimpse of her flowing gown and serene pose, I’d felt a connection but hadn’t been ready for her.

Now, suffering again, beaten to a low that had become the norm, I felt the desire and hope that she offered, I hungered for her compassion and direction, after all she is a  Bodhisattva, she dedicated herself to the benefit of all others.

However, it wasn’t only the effigy but the craftsmanship that enamoured me; hand carved to perfection from the whole, removing the surplus to reveal the substance. The process of stripping back what isn’t needed to allow the true form to emerge. As Michelangelo is quoted as saying: Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

Let us be the sculptor of our own effigies, the craftsman that reveals the true self.

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The Danger of Normailty

The dictionary defines normality as; conforming to the standard.

Many of us used to escape this restrictive and suppressive form of reality, to break the chains, gain wings and lift ourselves above it, we were different, special…

But, at some point during our using our own escapism because normality, as our surroundings adapted to accommodate our obsessions and our circle of friends consisted ever more of fellow users, it all became normal by definition. We failed to see our harmful behaviour as wrong or abnormal, as damaging or destructive.

This also happens in sobriety!

So at what point in our sobriety does normality set in? When does the novelty of sobriety become normality?

After seven months I realised that I was white knuckling sobriety. Even though the programme had helped my to face my past, clear my side of the street, I felt naked and exposed. Alcohol had been my coping mechanism, it had dimmed out reality, allowed me to break free, fly the coop; but now I was without.

The first five months were spent in the novel world of the ‘pink cloud’, the place where everything is great, life is your high, you see things through tinted lenses, where reality itself is unreal. But as all recoverers know it will not last, it slowly fades, leaving us exposed to the elements of suffering that human beings endure; work, bills, pain and your own personal demons.

I was left facing my own compulsion disorders, relatively minor as they may be, yet they cause anxiety and stress when things ‘aren’t the way [I think] they should be’. And without the coping mechanism I was struggling, hanging on for dear life, suffering and those around me too.

But I had learnt faith and trust in a higher power, I now had the tools in my box and it was time to use them: My sponsor, new friends, the book I’d ordered two weeks ago without even seeing the connection or need at the time.

As we peel back our outer shells we reveal, like layers of an onion, the next one. From the hardened exterior to a soft core, sobriety is a journey of self discovery and we should be grateful to have been given the opportunity.

Sober Summer

As summer approached I was apprehensive as it was to be my first summer sober. I have done dry spells before but I always timed them to avoid festivities, celebrations, holidays, birthdays, weddings…as you may guess these dry periods were short and infrequent!

But not this time, I already had four months sober at the official start of summer and was ready to face the BBQs, birthdays and breaks with gratitude and to cut a long story short I did it. Summer is now over and I didn’t drink or really even have the urge to, but that’s not what I wanted to write about: I wanted to share the LESSONS that I learned over this sober summer…

Firstly I realised that people do not actually drink like I thought they did or, for that matter, as much as I did! My PERCEPTION of others was incorrect and that internally justified my (excessive) drinking as normal, necessary and needed, when actually some people do just have a couple of drinks without getting drunk.

I’ve learned that waking up invigorated and motivated is a force in life that I do not want to go without again. As a teacher I have many weeks off over summer and I could have, as I once did, lapse into a late-night-bad-habit-routine which ultimately leads to a hung-over-late-morning-routine and days wasted or spent suffering. However, I kept a strict ROUTINE which has ultimately given me control over my day and therefore life. I’ve been waking up at 6am and have exercised daily, this combined with a healthy diet, spiritual practice and 8 hours sleep has vitalised my mind, body and spirit.

But maybe most rewarding is that my level of NORMALITY has changed. I now know that it’s not normal to feel dehydrated, lethargic, tired, sick etc. That it’s not normal to need a siesta at noon and that it’s not normal to be disgruntled all the time. This is probably the most valuable lesson for me; I have changed the base point of my feelings, of course there are still ups and downs but my mean point has shifted. This is true for my level of vitality, happiness, clarity and patience, they have all increased noticeably toward the better.

There are lessons in everything, all around us, if we choose to see them.

Power to us all

Mat

Anonymity or Transparency in Recovery ?

 

There have been some discussions of late on this topic and I have been reflecting upon it for myself. Thought I’d put up a post on the importance of anonymity versus transparency in my life.

When we choose a life of recovery it often goes against the grain of our current lifestyle and can be criticised and attacked (often by friends / family etc who feel threathened or offended by it). When I chose a path of anonymous recovery it lead me to confess to strangers, listening to podcasts of other strangers’ stories and to join online closed groups. THIS IS GOOD, it is the reason for my SUCCESS so far (6 months sober!) and the joy I have found through it.

However, I saw a danger of living a double persona, trying to carry on in ‘normal’ life and lead a separate pseudo-soberlife online, very possible these days. But, could I truly be happy in sobriety, and held accountable, through people I have never met and, ultimately, whose contact I could stop as easily as ‘airplane mode on’. For me there had to be a transition, or a blending, of my real world and my (FANTASTIC!) online support world.

First, there was the odd slip, posting a comment to my personal FB page instead of in the SAFE-group, but I left them and had no interrogations or questioning as a result. Then I invited some of my fellow recoverers to be my ‘friends’, therefore incresing transparency betweens the worlds. Of course they could now comment on posts that my friends also saw, this lead to a few interesting sitations of opposing opinions. Next I started ‘unfriending’ some of my friends, who to be honest, were not real friends but were from a time in my life that I wanted to leave behind. This process continued over several months and is now at the point where many of my ‘friends’ on FB I have never met.

It has lead to a feeling of harmony in my life, of not having to be careful or hide anything between my worlds (addiction behaviour patterns anyone…). People now see what is going on and therefore I am not put in any uncomfortable situations in real life. They ask me “how long’s it been now?” not “why aren’t you drinking”.

This alone would be great, BUT, the best thing has happened because of it. By combining both worlds it has allowed my friends to access it too, allowed them to see how great life is, how positive we all are in recovery. One of my childhood friends, a drinking mate since we were young teenagers and a fellow sufferer, has reached out and asked for help.

By reducing anonymity I have increased transparency which has allowed another friend to see a new possible future which before was not there…Power to us all!