Alone, I sat with my little candle as the world awoke. “Thank you”, I whispered, and the universe punctured the little ball of anxiety in my chest and winked “you’re welcome.”
Happy Tuesday x
Alone, I sat with my little candle as the world awoke. “Thank you”, I whispered, and the universe punctured the little ball of anxiety in my chest and winked “you’re welcome.”
Happy Tuesday x
For all my flaws, one of my skills is a real ability to feel my emotions, step back and analyse them and strive to improve.
At my best, I’m very emotional intuitive and good at emotional connection with others. At my worst, I’m a husk, depleted from all the self flaggellation and analysis.
Since I started writing and reflecting more, I’ve been wondering how I can limit my constant carousel of self analysis. It is CONSTANT. I’ve got to the point in my life where I seek such depth in conversation and relationships that I can lack levity and carefreeness (?!) and the ability to chitter chatter about nothing. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. But I do know I can’t keep putting myself through the mill of self analysis every hour of the day.
On the one hand, my recovery is off track because I’m not formalising it enough by going to meetings etc, but on the other, I almost can’t bear to turn up the dial of emotional work.
Has anyone had this experience? Of being too emotionally intense, all the time?! How did you strike the balance of doing the work and being freer in your thoughts?
X X x
Somewhere, somehow I read an article this week that asked the question not “what would make you happy?” But “how much pain are you willing to tolerate?”
It was centred around the very reasonable observation that many of the external trappings of “happiness” (the dream job, the big house, the big salary) come with a degree of unavoidable pain. How much pain is involved varies, but often success comes with sacrifice. Rather than seeking happiness, the articles argues, we should identify how much pain we are willing to tolerate to get the things we want.
My pain dilemma is acute.
I have always been very comfortable with the pain of hard word and long hours, giving up social things and burying myself in my work. Ever since I was a child, I would seek out extra homework and in my university days whilst peers partied, I’d be tucked away in a romantic library, head in the books. Ironic, given I was the one to develop an alcohol problem, but anyhoo…
I enjoy hard graft, and it’s part of my DNA. I did an in depth personality test recently which marked me at The Achiever type. Correct. But I’m finding myself in a pickle. I am pushing myself so hard I want to kick out entirely and say “it’s over. I need a new life.” As I rush through my day and collapse exhausted as it draws to a close, I harbour fantasies of becoming a meditation teacher, a dog walker, a hermit in a remote land. Anything to give me more space and balance. I want the pain to stop entirely.
In the space between finishing that last sentence and starting this one, I have been to an AA meeting. The theme was “easy does it” and of course, I heard exactly what I needed to hear today.
The speaker, a young American man, talked about how he is always operating at speed; searching for drama; making things happen and then wanting to press the self destruct button. He said a marvellous line that made me chuckle, but resonated: “I can just let the story continue, I don’t always have to be seeking the season finale.”
I’m looking for my season finale now, the dramatic plot twist in which I ditch it all for a simpler life, or crash and burn to later rise like a Phoenix for the flames.
What about if I just made some small changes to make the current situation better? What about that? Not dramatic enough. But infinitely more sensible.
Then, the amount of “pain” I am required to tolerate will be managed. I can indulge my natural propensity to work hard but make sure I stop myself going mad. The worst thing about this pain dilemma is that I’m inflicting it upon myself and not allowing myself the sweet medicine of recovery to fix it.
The question changes each time I write but the answer remains the same: do more recovery.
Tonight, I opened my blog for the first time in a very long time and decided to read an old post. I was drawn to ‘100 Days Sober‘, my first big milestone, and my jaw almost hit the floor.
Lately, sobriety has seemed so easy. A drink would never cross my mind. So easy, in fact, I’ve forgotten the monumental struggle that this time three years ago was consuming me from the inside out. I literally could not stop. It was the biggest battle I had ever faced and yet today, it seems so distant. A whisper inside me enquires ‘Are you just making a big fuss? Are you really an alcoholic?
But when I look at my life today, I see the signs of alcoholism everywhere. I should preface this section of this post by saying if you are trying to get sober, do not be disheartened by what I’m about to say. Being sober is fecking wonderful and it means you can weather every storm that comes your way. I’m just in some rather choppy waters at present…
I think the best way of describing what has happened is that I have a case of ‘ItGotTooGood-Itis.’ Since I stopped drinking nearly 3 years ago, my life has grown at an amazing pace. I spent a little time this afternoon looking through all my recent photos and I have done and achieved ALOT. ALOT ALOT. People who don’t know I’m an alcoholic look at what I do and say ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ Those who know I’m an alcoholic say, with a wry smile and a caring spirit: ‘watch yourself.’ Don’t get too carried away. And at first, I resented this sentiment a little. Why shouldn’t I fly? But the higher I fly, the more I know I need to heed their words.
Here are the words that best describe my current experience of life, which from the outside looks ‘Have It All’:
I’m brimming with tears frequently, like my emotion cannot be contained any longer. My instinct is to reinvent my life once again so I find simpler pleasures, simpler pressures, simpler personalities. To move away from the pressure of achievement.
But just as when I couldn’t trust myself when I was drinking, I can’t trust my feelings when I’m not doing my sobriety work. And that’s very much the case here. When I first stopped drinking, AA was a cornerstone of my life, and now, it’s not. I go to 2 meetings a month if I’m lucky and that my friends, is frankly not enough.
One of the things that made AA click for me is when I realised that the programme is about treating all the things in the list above. So why am I surprised that when I stop taking the medicine, the illness comes back? If I ever needed proof my alcoholism is real, writing this post has given me it. When I do the work, it helps me feel better. Simple as that. And yet the brain and heart forgets so easily…
Writing does me good. It helps me clarify my thoughts. I hope it will help me stay on the right track, if I make efforts to return to this keyboard that has given me such precious sanctuary. I need to get myself back on an even keel, so I can enjoy the bounty of the gift that is sobriety.
Happy Saturday, FFFx
After months away from the blogs, no writing, no checking of others, today I am drawn to write.
And the subject that has bubbled up in my consciousness is shame. The title of this blog post came to me as I was sitting quietly, an echo of another blog or podcast I have read or listenined to, a call to explore this idea.
Before I explore shame, a little context about what I’ve been up to. Spirituality is becoming increasingly important in my life and of course, in my recovery. I’ve always had a spiritual approach to recovery, but of late, I’ve been interrogating that more deeply, reaching my fingers out to the sun-drenched corners of my happy sober existence and drawing in that light.
This deep desire to pursue the spiritual comes when I carve out time for myself. Every day, I’m chipping away at the frenetic rhythms of my existence and finding a little pool of serenity. The form this takes changes. Sometimes, it’s a formal meditation. Sometimes, a little yoga. Sometimes a silent prayer in the shower and sometimes, a spiritual podcast consumed while packed into the commuter carriage of a train.
The form changes, but the feeling remains the same: deep groundedness and on a good day, a lightness that comes with the feeling of relief. Relief that everything will be ok if I just stop gripping so tightly onto the details of my life.
I’m trying to make the central pillar of my existence this: that there is a divine order, somewhere, in some form, and that it will take care of me. It may place challenges in my path that I won’t like, but they will be part of a plan I can’t yet fathom.
I’m becoming more hippy dippy by the day, and I love it. This was not the direction I imagined my life going in, but it’s giving me growth and strength and joy.
I feel at the moment that I truly am reaching out my fingers and the tips of my tippy toes to something greater. A future self that takes me in a surprising direction I’m not yet ready for, a laying of foundations for a path ahead that will be more challenging and enriching than I could ever dream up.
In all of this, I’ve been doing lots of soul searching and in the space I’ve created for reflection, I’ve spotted huge areas of growth and of course, where I have stagnated.
An issue that comes up over and over again is food. Readers of this blog will know I have struggled (in my mind more than in my body, at times) with weight and food. Of late, I’ve eaten normally, happily, healthily and have been happy with my body. But in the past week, I’ve had a huge revelation.
My issue with food is this: I have learnt the fact of being hungry and the act of eating to be an inherently shameful practice. A sign of weakness and moral flabbiness. I have been surrounded with people who have taught me these lessons, rebuked me for an appetite either verbally or silently, with their eyes, and have internalised it.
I have found myself still, now, undertaking certain unhealthy practices around food. This mainly involves secrecy. Before writing this post, I stole away with a mid morning snack, ashamed to be seen consuming it. And yet the hunger I have at this moment is real. Why the surreptitious act?
This is the only area of my life I feel shame in, and it’s the eyes of others that I imagine are casting negative thoughts towards me when I consume. I see, or imagine, depending on who the observer is, a slight flick of the eyes between my food and any tiny imperfection on my body. Correlating the two. Uttering a silent cluck of the tongue at my wanton abandon and disregard for self denial.
Some of this is in my head, yes, but for some of those around me, it is a practice they engage in every time I see them, caught in the prison of their own issues. The daily burden of shame I released when I stopped drinking is piled upon me once more, shattering the calm acceptance and spirituality I feel the vast majority of the time.
This realisation I see the act of eating as inherently shameful is a helpful one, yet I don’t quite know what to do with this piece of information. Whatever work I do within, will it be eroded by those around me?
My life is bathed in light, and I hope to outshine the shame. I’ll reach out those fingers and toes once more and try and apply my gratitude and acceptance and love to this area. I have no idea whether it will work.
Time will tell, but for now, it’s good to be writing and feeling so content in recovery.
Happy Monday x
Thank you for the comments on my last post- they have given me strength and hope. This week I’ve been muddling along, trying to get back to a place of equilibrium. I came across this post today on MindBodyGreen and wanted to share it with you all. It’s about going after your dreams on the surface, but largely about fear. Fear is my pain driving impulse at the moment and it’s the thing that’s in danger of making me topple. So today I am reflecting on fear: how to face it, how to diminish it, how to walk side by side with it until I love and trust myself once more.
Here’s the post, originally published here:
Have you felt it too? The pain of having dreams you didn’t pursue?
I’ve been a writer most of my life—a writer who doesn’t write. For decades, I dreamed of being a published author, but I did nothing to make my dream come true.
You yearn for this thing that calls to you repeatedly, but you keep pushing it away. It can make you feel terrible about yourself, embarrassed about publicly stating what you want but never acting on it, and angry that you’ve wasted so much time.
So, why do we let this happen? The answer is fear.
And it shows up in all kinds of sneaky ways: self-doubt, saying no to possibilities, procrastination, perfectionism, being overwhelmed by negative self-talk. These and other self-sabotaging behaviors are all symptoms of fear.
I was so paralyzed by it that for years I couldn’t even try my hand at writing. It’s a lonely feeling.
One day, I stirred up enough courage to actually start writing. I was finally going to make something happen. But then I was too afraid to show my work to anyone and gave up on myself—yet again.
The truth is, I allowed fear to take the wind out of my sails and steal my dream over and over. But the good news is I finally found a way to turn the tide on this heartbreaking torment. Today, I use the following four steps to help me honor my calling and pursue my dreams with courage and enthusiasm:
In the course of being raised by imperfect humans, we all experience some form of suffering and carry with us what I call “The Wounded One.” It’s the fearful part of you that wants to be protected from discomfort and pain.
To pursue a dream is to leave complacency behind and leap into the unknown. It is to embark on an adventure, set challenges for yourself, and persevere no matter what.
Kind of exciting. But also scary.
So, your inner Wounded One will come up with all kinds of reasons you can’t go after your dream. These thoughts lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. The Wounded One will do whatever it can to stop you in your tracks and keep you “safe.” But you don’t have to let this part of you run your life.
Be open to the idea that negative thoughts and feelings arise from the Wounded One, and that it’s just trying to show you something about yourself.
In a caring way, let your Wounded One know that you intend to pursue your dream no matter what. Ask what it is afraid of and what would help it be less anxious. In this way, you can move forward rather than be incapacitated by negativity and fear.
Within all of us is a steadfast source of unconditional love, wisdom, and healing. It is a powerful, life-giving energy in the universe that you can rely on for grace and support.
Some call it Higher Power, True Nature, Life Force, or God. You could also think of it as your intuition or consciousness.
I call it God and experience it as The Wise One within me. Its voice is always calm, clear, and positive. It helps me soothe the Inner Wounded One.
You can connect with this guiding presence at any time, and it will always steer you in the right direction. If appropriate to your belief system, use devotion and prayer to build your personal connection to God or a higher power. If this is not appropriate, you might try meditation, journaling, quiet time in nature, or something else that works for you.
Whenever you’re having negative thoughts and facing fear, focus on your heart and ask your Inner Wise One for help and healing.
In the fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling,” a baby swan is raised to think he is a duck, doesn’t fit in, and suffers great emotional pain until he finds out that he’s not a duck at all but rather a swan.
Many of us have struggled to conform to our environment and lost sight of who we truly are. Learn about and appreciate your inborn temperament. Discover your natural talents, the elements of your personality that have always been there. Develop these into strengths with knowledge, skill, and practice.
One way to start identifying your natural talents is to devote some quality reflection time to questions like the following:
The more you operate within your unique strengths, the more empowered you will be in all areas of your life and the more adept you will become at keeping fears at bay.
When fear sows its seeds, we either procrastinate or give up on a task before its completion. Building self-trust weakens the influence of fearful thinking and strengthens the power of love within you.
Trusting yourself is a result of being generally happy about who you have become, being able to love others in a committed way, being engaged in meaningful work, being free from addictions, and being capable of handling daily stresses.
You trust yourself when you can face disappointment and frustration without becoming destabilized. You trust yourself when in times of stress, you have the ability to self-soothe and look for strength within rather than escape into self-destructive behavior.
You trust yourself when you act with integrity and live in accordance with life-affirming values, such as generosity, truthfulness, and respect toward everyone.
And as for that dream of yours, choose to trust that it wouldn’t have been given to you unless you had also been given the ability to make it happen.
Repeatedly getting slammed by negativity, self-doubt, and fear is painful. Life is hard when you don’t feel good about yourself or the way things are going. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now to realize that I didn’t even try to make my dream come true.
Our wishes, hopes, and dreams are important and deserve to be nurtured. They come from a noble place—the sacred part of us all that wants to be happy, fulfilled, and fully alive.
So, what do you say? Let’s get to know ourselves and develop our gifts so well that negativity can’t mislead us. Let’s trust ourselves enough to do the work every step of the way toward our dreams. And let’s encourage one another along the way. Because what the world needs is more people who are fully alive.
I heard this phrase, ‘a scream looking for a mouth’, in relation to recovery earlier this week and it floored me. I cannot think of a more perfect description of that agony within me that caused me to self harm through food deprivation and alcohol abuse. My using came from a deep deep place of unhappiness and spiritual malaise, a place I haven’t been for a very long time.
Hearing this horrible wonderful phrase has come at a time when I am experiencing acute pain in my recovery. I have been under large amounts of stress and despite trying to manage it, deep down a chasm has opened up. This chasm doesn’t stem from a specific place; it’s a cocktail of fear, a sense of impending doom, anxiety and ego. It is brewing away inside me, looking for an outlet- either I self descruct, try to treat it or let it poison me from the inside out.
I have drifted away from the blogs a little, after trying to cut down my online time, and doing so has been unhealthy. Just as cutting back on my AA meetings to give myself more rest has backfired. Just as abandoning my gratitude and step work. Just as…
Recovery is a treadmill. A never ending cycle of maintenance just to stay upright. On a good day, this feels like a wonderful natural momentum that pushes me towards self care: health, rest, running, yoga, spirituality. Right now, it makes me want to jump back into a vat of wine for the sake of an easier life. (I know the reality would be very different).
This quotation from Gabor Mate summarises it perfectly:
“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. ― Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
At the moment, I need to look at my recovery afresh, to salve that pain in the healthiest way possible. Yesterday I had a meltdown that made me realise how serious this is. Recovery must come first.
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