7 reasons to quit drinking…

Alcohol adverts constantly show an idealised version of reality to tempt us into the fantasy of alcohol. Young beautiful people frolic joyfully around in exotic locations. All smiles and laughter. It heightens the temptation. But it wasn’t like that for me. There was laughter but it was often followed by tears. There was frolicking but it was often followed by shame. There was a young beauty, to begin with, but it was slowly washed out like an old T-shirt. Once vibrant with colour now vaguely recognisable. The pursuit of the ideal took its toll and it took years to realise it wasn’t working out.

Thankfully, those lessons taught me well. I mean you don’t learn to fight without getting hurt. I got hurt often while drinking. It prepared me for the fight of quitting. The strength of continuing the chasing of euphoric oblivion was enough to keep me going in the early days of quitting drinking. Like many, I learned a few lessons along the way. If someone asked me why they should stop drinking here is what I would say…

1. Realising your potential

It wasn’t until alcohol had been removed from my vision that I was able to see other potentials. I lived transfixed on alcohol like a dog chasing a stick. I had my eyes on the prize and nothing else really mattered. Once it had been removed I felt lost. But eventually began to see the available possibilities. It was as if I had found another part of me that had been lying dormant. Suppressed by alcohol. Yet waiting to be explored. Each goal I set and achieved gave more self-belief. The more I believed the further I could push forward. Beyond doubt and into destiny. It awaits us all.

2. Freedom

Like a prisoner I only frequented a few places during my drinking days; work, pub/off license and a bed. I would bumble through this life inside a goldfish bowl yearning for exploration. My soul screamed out for travel. My alcohol addiction took my freedom away. I was shackled to a life I hated by alcohol. Trapped by my habit. Seeking escape in alcohol. Yet I only got more and more stuck.

Since quitting alcohol I have travelled to; Thailand, Cambodia, USA x2, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Egypt, Sudan, India x 2, Nepal, Jordan, Turkey, Italy, Sri Lanka, Germany and Peru. I walked two El Camino de Santiago and done various trips in my home country. I have explored the world and myself in ways I wouldn’t have the courage to do. Thank you sobriety.

3. Money

Obviously, travel wouldn’t be possible without money. Thankfully quitting drinking gave me financial stability. Which was a welcome change from the shitshow my finances used to be in. I used to stand at the ATM with my fingers crossed, hoping the money would come out. If not it would be time to use the credit card. The debt was wracking up. It got to the point that I couldn’t check my balance because it would ruin my week.

Quitting drinking just took the pressure off. It allowed enough clarity to take a look at my life. It forced me to take action. Freedom from alcohol forced me to be responsible for my life. With that responsibility, it was time to act in my best interests. Instead of against them. Slowly, the debt disappeared. Money stopped being an issue.

4. Weight loss

I used to be a big unit. I was a lump of a man. I blamed the food I consumed after drinking. “It is because of the pizzas and kebabs at 2am,” I would protest. It never crossed my mind that the 3000 calories I had drunk before the food might have had an impact. Or the fact that I wouldn’t be eating at 2am if I hadn’t have been drinking.

The weight fell off after I quit. Mostly down to the walking I started doing but also because I wanted to be nice to my body for a change. I wanted to feel good for a change. Instead of feeling like shit like I normally did.

5.General Health

The weight loss coupled with the exercise began to increase my general wellbeing. After years of lumbering through life, I began to feel spritely. My energy levels began to increase. My outlook began to change. I felt positive. Even confident. I took pride in myself instead of looking like I’d slept in a bush outside work. I stopped having a lot of the general aches and pains that I would have. Which improved my mental health a lot because I no longer catastrophised those ailments. People began to notice. I received compliments instead of remarks. It really like was becoming a different person. Ironic really. I drank alcohol to be someone else. It was quitting drinking that made me into a person I enjoyed being.

6. Peace

A result of all these were moments of peace. Fleeting feelings of Satori that would tantalise and tease with the promise of peace that I had searched for in alcohol. But no matter how fleeting the feeling was it was a reminder that peace was available without having to be deadened to life. The quest for a peaceful mind became easier without alcohol. It wasn’t perfect and I sometimes made mistakes. Dealing with things was a damn sight easier than delaying and multiplying the pain. With a clear mind came self-awareness and understanding. Together they made life easier to navigate. The end of rumination allowed for decisiveness and also to correct mistakes were possible. All added to a simple life. By addressing things promptly it removed the agonising that I used to hold on to as an excuse to drink. Hours would be wasted stewing over some minor discretion I had adopted as the catalyst for the evenings drinking. Quitting drinking stopped so many molehills growing into mountains.

7. No more hangovers

Most of my weekends followed a similar narrative. Wake up at an unknown time, feeling like I had been involved in a serious accident. Try to get up. Go back to sleep until getting up was possible or necessary. Eventually, get up. Muster enough energy to walk to the shop. Buy snacks. Return home. Consume snacks until a level of energy had been achieved to walk to the pub. Sometimes if still drunk when I woke up I would go straight to the pub and start drinking before the hangover kicked in.

As a progressive addiction, alcohol and hangovers began to creep into my working week. No longer laying on the sofa eating snacks, I would be sweating lager while teaching a class. Often wondering how people got through life so easily. They seemed to breeze through elegantly. I would crash through haphazardly. It wasn’t until I quit drinking that I realized that living life without a hangover is a lot easier. In fact, I was tempted to drink just to make the following day a little more challenging. But eventually, I concluded that boring was better than devastation. As a result of no longer being hungover, people actually started talking to me. They might have done before. I never noticed it. But a result of being present meant I made connections with people. I even had a laugh at work for a change. Instead of seeing it as something that I had to survive to pay for alcohol. 

Quitting drinking seems like the obvious choice really doesn’t it?

Charlie.

Dark night of the soul…

It seemed like it happened in a week. A quick decline of mood that brought a burst of tears that covered my face for two hours. But the uncontrollable sobbing was the beginning of the escape.

After travelling the world, my consciousness felt too big for my head. Like I was trying to squeeze two litres of liquid into a one litre bottle. To do this I had to hack off parts of my personality. To choose which parts were less important than the others was a difficult choice. It began to plague my thoughts daily. Then hourly. Then I was consumed in the thinking. It was like a whirlpool dragging me into an abyss. I fought and tried to find something to cling to. But slowly the force became too much. The deeper I got the darker it got. I knew what was going on but naively believed that not acknowledging it would make it better. Ignorance is bliss as the saying goes. It wasn’t bliss. I was trying to be a hero in a war no one knew I was fighting. Putting one foot in front of the other got harder and harder. Like an animal who has been tranquillized but fights to escape, I too collapsed when I was overwhelmed. This ended up in a bout of uncontrollable tears. Sitting at home marking students work I was overcome by negative emotion The tears came and wouldn’t stop. The bubbling up inside had finally taken the lid off the pot. It was scary. Mostly due to the lack of positivity available. As if the negativity inside had washed the positivity away when it had spilt out.

One of the recurring themes of my life has been low self-worth, low self-esteem and self-loathing. I medicated it with alcohol. Which then led to alcohol exacerbating the problem. When I quit drinking I did a lot of work on my self-esteem. It helped. I improved but what I had done was deny my anxiety and depression. By doing this I was not only cut off from a part of myself, but I was at war with myself also. A constant inner battle took my attention from the moment. It was tiring. But I didn’t realise it didn’t need to be fought.

If allowed to, the negative emotions place too much stress on my resilience. I am left defenceless. It is a fight I ultimately will lose. The dark clouds descend like a shadowy figure in a horror movie. With the darkness comes the negative messages. My inner chatter becomes self-destructive and self-loathing. Any positivity is blown out of sight. Almost as if the valve has blown on the canister where I’d been storing the negativity. Any escape is hard to find. It is hopelessness in it’s the very essence. I was slowly driven deeper until I could no longer escape.

One night laying in bed in the fetal position I surrendered. I was in utter emotional and physical anguish. I wished for death. I wished to be sectioned and heavily medicated. I wished for an answer. Eventually, through the sobs, I said: “I don’t know if there is anyone. Or what you are. But please, if you can, take this feeling away. I surrender.” 

As an atheist, it felt strange. It was an act of desperation. Ten minutes later, I began to feel better. The thought why are you crying flashed across my mind. I shrugged and started laughing.

The next day I felt terrible. I was still fantasising about suicide. I phoned a friend and asked him to come for a walk because I wasn’t sure of being in my own company. Reaching out was the turning point. I explained what had happened the night before. I told him how I begged for death. He explained he had a similar experience a few years prior. He told me how his friends and family had helped him through. I was so lucky to have called him.

Sharing my feelings helped. Yet, the suicide idealisation still hung around. Googling it and reading methods of suicide began to consume me. Until I started hearing stories from survivors. In AA meetings, through friends, through my family. I wouldn’t tell them how I felt. They would talk about suicide attempts and how surviving impacted them. Also, the stories of how failed attempts had a devastating effect on them. Successful attempts had a devastating impact on others. The thought of trying but living put me off the idea.

The surrendering to my perceived weakness began to slowly take the power out of it. I accepted that it was part of me. That depression and anxiety are part of me. I carry them through life. I accepted that somedays would be worse than others. That may be every blue sky would have a dark cloud tainting it. But does that make it any less beautiful? I figured not. What I learned was that the depression brought the hopelessness with it. Reaching out to friends helped. Going to the doctors helped. The medication helped. But it only got me so far. It was the jump start I needed to get moving. But like a car, I needed to get moving to recharge the battery. It was hard. It seemed like it was impossible. But slowly it began to get easier. FORCING myself to get out of bed was the first thing. Tidying up was a big thing. Shit, making my bed was an achievement. Washing the pots. Anything that is more than nothing is something. Then I started walking. Short distances to begin with. Ideally, in nature. It is the original antidepressant. A day at a time the world got brighter.

Unnoticeable at first. But a week after surrendering I was taken back by the beauty of autumn. The reds and yellows of the leaves that littered the ground like corpses on a brutal battlefield reminded me of the everchanging reality in which I live. The shifting season reflected the shift in my mood. But as the world was getting ready for the darkness of Winter, I was emerging from it. The Autumnal sun felt good. The moments of peace found in nature were a welcome relief after months of chaotic thinking. These brief glimpses of vibrancy through the grey veil gave me enough to push forward.

With the flickers of clarity, I was able to hear my inner chatter. I had an incessant feeling of emptiness. Of being loveless. And unloveable. Needing something. Someone. Or someplace to find fulfilment. Yet no matter where I looked for this “missing piece,” I was left wanting. I had meditated, travelled, used alcohol, food, shopping, sex, porn, exercise, anything that promised the answer. Each fleeting moment of completion was soon lost as the pursuit began again. I had been trapped on a hamster wheel for my entire life. The inquisitive child I once was had somewhere been replaced by an insecure adult. One who was desperate to return to the state of blissful joy, that was once held by that inquisitive child.

That is the cosmic joke; searching for something to fit the space of the illusionary missing piece. It isn’t there. There is no piece. Because nothing is missing. I had just stopped living and starting searching. Instead of enjoying, I was pursuing. Instead of being, I was doing. I hadn’t become the adult I had lost contact with the part of me that once was unconcerned by the illusion of being “complete”. I decided to try to change the narrative. The inner chatter that was telling me I was missing something needed to be removed.

All the years of negative thinking that went along with my alcoholic lifestyle had cemented the belief that I wasn’t “enough”. If I had come to believe I wasn’t “enough” by telling myself I wasn’t. Then surely I could tell myself I was “enough” until I believed it? I started to try.

I’ve built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

Simon and Garfunkel, I am a rock

I am enough

I started the morning with a compliment. Focusing on something that I felt bad about. Loneliness was a big problem. I started to realise I was looking for that thing to take the feeling away. External factors will take the loneliness away temporarily, yet it still remains underneath. It will return if not dealt with. The loneliest I have ever felt was surrounded by loved ones many years ago. I didn’t think they wouldn’t understand how I was feeling. I felt isolated from them. Like we were in different realms. So this time in depression, even after knowing I wasn’t alone I still felt lonely. It came from the belief that I wasn’t enough. That’s why I felt incomplete. I felt like I was missing something. I’d partitioned off my personality by separating the perceived weaknesses from my strengths. This created an inner conflict. So I accepted myself as a whole person. Dark and light. I started to say in the morning “I AM ENOUGH.” It felt silly at first. I didn’t believe it, to begin with, but I kept repeating it. I mean if I couldn’t believe it then no one else would. I stopped focusing on fixing myself and began focusing on accepting myself. I have to live with myself, so why not put my differences aside and accept who I am? Each morning I would wake and say “I am enough!” If I slipped into comparison then I would say “It doesn’t matter about them because I am enough!”

Slowly, it began to be the truth. I began to believe it. I am enough, just as I am. For years, I had believed I was worthless because of what I’d said to myself internally. I had told myself I was worthless so many times that it had become a core value. All the years of alcoholism and self-loathing had become my story. Even after changing my life, the narrative had remained. I had got through by cutting myself off from my supposed weaknesses. All this resulted in was inner turmoil. A constant battle in my head. So I had to first accept my position. I had to accept I wasn’t perfect. I had to acknowledge that depression and anxiety are part of me. Once this happened I felt at ease. I felt the war was over. It was time to write the future narrative. And that one was that “I am enough!”

‘Comparison is the thief of joy’

Theodore Roosevelt

I am good enough

After I began to believe that I was enough, I added another mantra. It became “I am enough, I am good enough.” I was a complete person who was good enough, not only for himself but also for another. Believing I was enough meant I didn’t “need” another to make me complete. Believing I was good enough meant that if the right person showed up then I would be open to love. Instead of anxiety dictating the outcome of the relationship which had happened previously. Second-guessing and a sense of inferiority had been the death knell of many potentialities. It eventually grew into confidence that came from a place of authenticity. No longer built on bullshit and bravado. The protector that is the ego was no longer needed to defend the inferior being that dwelled within. Behind the shell, the inner had grown to a place of sincerity. No longer seeking for completion or to contort to someone else’s desires in the hope of acceptance. An inner connection of resilience made me centred and calm.

The pursuit of perfection is a road of hardship. Of punishment. And disappointment. I can now stop seeking. I no longer need to try to reach the unachievable heights of perfection. I am enough. The pursuit of contentment is endless. Contentment is acceptance. It is the light and dark combined. It is questioning the illusions I hold of myself. Correcting the fallacies. And accepting what I can’t.

The practices that I go through to get me to this place; meditation, creativity, walking in nature, talking, observing, connecting. They are no longer just “practices” they are now “necessities”. Part of my life to ensure that these new mantras not only remain but become facts. Through these behaviours, I become who I am meant to be. Only I can unlock the door.

I can’t believe that I never saw it. I’d spent my life searching far and wide for answers. When it was with me all along. All I had to do was surrender in the war against myself and accept myself completely.

You are the perfect example of yourself

@cjlofus

I have value

Confidence that emanates from a place of genuine love is a gift to be shared. To inspire others. To say “Hey, I was once where you are and never believed I could escape. But I did. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.” The self-realised must pass the information on. To share hope amongst the hopeless. To bring light into the dark lives of the lost. It is to find the damned and shepherd them back to their centre. The connection we seek starts with the inner connection. But it is the help of others that allows us to fully realise. The peace I sought in alcohol was already present at birth. It got misplaced by false promises of salvation and happiness. But I, you, we are born with awe and wonder. Creativity and inquisitiveness. Exploration and quests. But they are forgotten. Suppressed. The stories we are told become the narratives for our lives. They can be changed at any time. The seeds we plant today are the flowers of tomorrow. Our value is not dictated by our compromising of our virtue but being true to it. Knowing what we do is true to our essence. It is our intuition that drives us.

It is the connection with the self that gives the confidence to share the experience with others. Believing I am enough and good enough showed me the amount I have to offer as a person. That the negative tales I told myself were holding me back. They were stopping me from reaching my full potential due to denying part of myself. I am complete. We all are. Just as we are. We are the perfect representation of ourselves. Yet, we strive to be someone else under the false belief that we are not enough or good enough. The answer lays within. It is there. All the pieces are there. We just have to stop searching and realise the beauty that emanates from us all.

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.

Amy Bloom

You are beautiful

The realisation of the complete being is the realisation of oneness. It is the connection to all facets of our character. The perceived weaknesses become just another part of the whole. Not to be punished or shameful of. They are part of the makeup that makes us the beautiful thing we are. The completeness of ourselves aligns us with the flow of life. The tree doesn’t complain about the wind. It is in its complete. We begin to understand that the weather shouldn’t dictate our mood. It is beyond our control. The knowledge of everything cannot be contained in the mind. It is around us. It is everything and all things. There is beauty to be found in every moment. The flow of life runs like a river. We can be part of it. Our ego is the boat that separates us from it. We fear getting wet and thus never enjoy the pleasurable water. Worry dissipates with the observation of thoughts. The awareness of the self allows for the passing of anger. Thoughts are the dictator of our emotions. Without awareness of our thoughts, we are not aware of our emotions. Moments of peace can be found in chaos. Life is alive beyond the humdrum. The pursuit of completeness loses attractiveness. As it is found in the realisation that we are already there. The return to the childlike wonder opens our eyes to the world we once devoured with eagerness. The feeling we sought in consumption exists in every moment we choose to recognise its presence.

I found the peace I had been seeking. It was all around. It was with me. After this realisation, I returned to work. People commented on my demeanour and energy. I looked like I felt; wonderful. I think it is in us all. Our natural beauty is clear for all to see when we are in our centre. When we fully accept ourselves, a true connection develops. Not only to others but to ourselves. A feeling of heat in our chest is love. Ever present. Some call it God. Some call it the universe. It is unexplainable. And thankfully it needs no description. It only needs to be shared. It is the power within us all. It has always been and will always be. Yet we overlooked it in the pursuit of filling the void that was already filled. We never took the time to see what was in there. It is an authentic feeling of self-worth. Of the understanding that we are enough, and we are beautiful.

It is easier to maintain a peaceful mind when surrounded by nature and disengaged from the “normal” activities of modern life. But it is vitally important for our own well being to integrate the practices that allow for peace into our daily routines. Without them, it is only ourselves that suffer. Plus once a sense of inner peace has been tasted it is difficult to not want more. It is the feeling I was searching for in alcohol and consumption. And to find it is available free was a revelation. I must keep the walks in nature and meditation part of my daily/weekly routine. I have to put the practices in and not get upset if I momentarily slip from the path. I also don’t need to try to cling to the feeling. I have to accept the feeling as it arises. It is what it is. All I can do is try to bring my wandering mind back to the moment. Back to the realisation that the illusion we know as reality can consume the peace if I let it. Our thoughts dictate our emotions. Without control of my thoughts, I lack control of my emotions. Balance is key. Practice is the way.

I may not have the serenity that can be experienced by leaving society but I can just keep up the practices. A life chasing Nirvana is a life chasing rainbows. We may finally reach the pot of gold at the end but will only be disappointed that it contains a mirror.

Charlie.

Living one day at a time…

2372 days, one day at a time. That’s how long it’s been since I last drank alcohol. The time has passed quickly. The initial panic of the early days of sobriety is a distant memory. Those lonely days of uncertainty. And second-guessing every decision. The fog slowly clearing to reveal a world that I lived in but was never present in. I had been floating through life on a wave of alcohol. I would like to suggest that I was surfing this wave but I doubt anybody quits drinking because things are going well. It was the wave ending that made me hit the land with a bump. A foggy head and unsteady legs. No longer driven forward by the power of alcohol. It was up to me to start taking steps.

Quitting drinking was so scary that I wanted to drink to escape the fear. But where had that got me? Nowhere! That’s what I’d been doing my whole life; Freewheeling. My life wasn’t unmanageable it was unmanaged. I had to start taking responsibility. That’s the scary part. Being accountable for my behaviour. No more “I was drunk!” get out of jail free card. My problems needed sorting. But looking at them as a whole was anxiety-inducing. I didn’t know where to start. So I did what was suggested to me at the time; “One day at a time.” So I just tried to not drink one day at a time. In fact, it was more like five minutes at a time at the start. Then it became an hour, a couple of hours and then a day at a time. It was HARD. I was a functioning alcoholic and was scared that without alcohol I wouldn’t function. I didn’t in the beginning. I just got through the best I could.

It got easier. Eventually, I could make plans for the future. But I still just got through a day at a time. Anxiety would rare it’s ugly head every now and then. The unwritten future would send me into a spin. That’s where mindfulness has been a blessing. Remembering to bring it back to the moment. To the day. Like the Buddha said “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Today is the time to create the future. But the future would control me. Bringing it back to the day reminded me to put the steps in place for a better future.

This didn’t mean there were no hardships. It just meant that when they arose I dealt with them at the time. I had an emotionally abusive relationship that I should have left earlier but denied my intuition. But I learned from it and moved on. Most importantly it was a test and I didn’t drink to get through. There has been love, loss and confusion. It just occurred by keeping it in the day. I didn’t need to seek it out. It came as part of the journey of life. The peace that I have felt by being present is attractive to people. Like a flower to butterflies. It is nice to not have to worry about the future. To sit at peace in a park and watch the moment unfold is a gift. It is a joy to cut out a path of serenity when chaos is all around. It is all available within the moment if we just stop looking for it.

There have been other tests along the road. Anxiety and depression have been lessened but can still make an appearance. Their power is diminished by the decisiveness of doing what needs to be done at that moment. When they do get overwhelming I can fall back on the help available, the friends available and the tools I have learned from the journey thus far. The simpler I keep it the easier it becomes. Life is hard enough without the added pressure from the chaotic thinking that can plague my life. Or if I begin to engage in the chaos of others. It’s hard to keep it in the moment sometimes when the world around is highly strung. But I HAVE to remind myself; it is me who suffers when I start to get dragged along by the madness. First, my peace suffers. Then, I do; emotionally and physically.

Being sober is a tool. It is the key to the jail cell but it still needs to put into use. Each day is the opportunity to plant a seed to help you out in the future. Each day is a step towards a goal. Whether personal growth or accomplishment. It is up to you. It is yours to use as you see fit. Some travel, some learn, many develop a sense of love and connection severely lacking. It is an incredible journey to take. Not always easy but a lot easier than drunken escapism. Which is not “living” but avoiding. It is the opposite of being present.

I have been unbelievably lucky on my journey. I travelled far and wide. Met people who are the foundation of my recovery. I have a sense of peace that is addictive. Recently I have begun to feel an overwhelming sense of love and connection to myself and the world. It was been an incredible 2372 days but really there has only ever been one day. The one I was living at the time. It is that day where the work is done. That is where the action is put in place. That is where I learn, love, connect and grow. There is no tomorrow. It is always today. It is hard not to engage in the thinking of tomorrow. But the worry is what brings uncertainty.

When I drank I lived on the coat tales of the next drink. Never present. Either reliving the night before with a sense of trepidation over some unknown action. Or fighting the obsession of alcohol. I was only ever at peace when alcohol calmed my chaotic mind. But the calm is available without the alcohol. Joy is abundant without alcohol. True love for the self and others. A deep connection to the world. It is all available right in front of us if we just stop searching and start observing.

My recent dip in mood has abated. But it reinforced the importance of enjoying the moment. It was a harsh reminder that the future cannot be planned, built and lived all at once. It unfolds like the petals of a flower. The beauty is revealed slowly. Forcing life destroys it.

Inner peace is like a beautiful rare bird that has landed in our garden. But instead of appreciating its presence, we wonder how we can make it come back. After it’s gone we didn’t get to enjoy it’s wonder.

All I can do is be patient and observe. On the tube to work the other morning I was overwhelmed with a feeling of unconditional love. A warm feeling in my chest slowly spread throughout me. Thankfully, I was wearing a face mask because it hid a huge smile on my face. I was present. I was happy. Most importantly I was sober. I can’t fix everything today but I can take the steps to make the next today a little easier.

Much love,

Charlie.

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Alcohol addiction and controlled drinking…

“If you are trying to control something, it is already out of control!”

I have maybe shown my cards too early with the above quote but the concept of controlled drinking fascinates me.

I tried everything to control my drinking; Changing drinks quite often. Drinking spirits only. Not drinking spirits. Only drinking spirits when I had no room for beer. Getting stoned before I went to the pub. Drinking before I went to the pub. Not drinking before I went to the pub. Drinking at home. Not drinking at home. Whatever I thought would stop me drinking to excess I tried it. Everything except not drinking of course. The thought of not drinking was too radical. Too incomprehensible to even imagine. So I continued to fight on. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. Trying to control the uncontrollable.

I have a love-hate relationship with AA but credit where credit is due. It was them who taught me “the first drink does the damage!” If I don’t have the first I can’t have the tenth. If I don’t have the first I don’t have to worry about controlling my drinking. Simple… now. Wasn’t so simple for a long time. A long time of regret, guilt and shame. Of blackouts and lost time. Of fighting myself and losing each round. Waking up time after time, dumbfounded and downtrodden. Wondering how the fuck it had happened again. What magic was at play? How did it keep happening? “I got talking!” that’s what I would say. Or “I was having a good time!” Just excuses.

If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!

For me, moderation isn’t possible. I tried. Numerous times. It took HARD lessons and rock bottoms to drive it into my thick skull that it wasn’t possible. I remember relapsing on the belief that I had addiction beaten. That I was back in control. I wasn’t. That relapse lasted two years and nearly killed me. But you’re not me are you. You are not an alcoholic fool. You are strong. You don’t have a problem. But then why are you here reading this?

If you’re curious passer-by then welcome. If you’re starting to question why you can’t stop drinking once you start then I am talking to you. STOP before it is too late. It is scary. It is hard. But if you are waiting for drinking to fix the problem of drinking, you are in for a rough time. Some people get to the rock bottom and start drilling deeper. If it is becoming a problem STOP. It only gets worse. More of a bad thing doesn’t make a situation better. It makes it worse. If you start drinking to only have a couple but then wake the next day with a blank memory like an alien abductee then STOP DRINKING. If it happens often then definitely STOP DRINKING. Ask yourself this question “Do I still want to be making the same mistakes in five years? One year? One month?” If the answer is no then there is only one option QUIT.

It took me years to learn this lesson. I blamed everything and everyone before accepting reality. I am a reasonably well-educated man. I couldn’t fall foul of such a thing. Could I? OH YES I COULD. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t pick victims based on social standing. But it quickly relegates. It will strip you of everything, whilst you are distracted, trying to figure out what the fuck keeps happening. Why do you keep getting into these states? Pouring another drink to ponder the problem over. Meanwhile, your life is burning down. Where does all my money go? Why is my loved one angry all the time? Why are my kids scared of me? Why do people no longer want to drink with me? Fuck em all I’ll drink on my own!!

You might not be there yet. And you are strong-willed so you won’t end up getting there. I thought the same once. I hope you don’t. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I would prefer a stable future for you much more than I would prefer to say “I told you so!”

If it is a struggle to control your drinking. If it is a problem then the question becomes “How bad does the problem have to become?” What do you have to lose before making a change? Your driving licence? Your partner? Your job? Your house? Your kids? Your life? All those are possible if you have them to lose. All those happen more often than is talked about. This cloak and dagger approach coupled with the stigma of having a drinking problem makes it difficult to quit. Plus, not being able to control your drinking habit is seen as a failing. A weakness of character. It becomes shameful. So people start to hide the fact. They suffer in silence. Eventually the need to suppress the feeling increases as does the amount of alcohol needed to do so. It begins to spiral downwards. Rock bottom is ready and braced for impact. We, unfortunately, don’t see it coming.

The rock bottom is a wake-up call for the fortunate. The unfortunate carry on believing it to not be real. Or too painful to face. Either way, it is ignored until the slap across the face has more power and can’t be ignored.

Maybe moderation is possible. I used to open a packet of sweets and have to eat the lot. Now I can leave them. Maybe some people could moderate their alcohol consumption. In all honesty, I am too scared to find out if I can. The loss is far greater than the reward. Experience tells me to drink again is to get back into an unnecessary fight. To try to convince myself that I am “strong enough” to beat it. Fuck that. Life’s too short and I’ve already had enough of a beating to go again. That is evidence enough that abstinence is the right choice for me.

Hopefully, you don’t keep punching yourself in the face for too long before you figure out why your nose is bleeding.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow and share 🙂

Charlie.

A letter to myself in depression

*Depression is a horrible situation to be in. The writing below is what I said to myself. It is no way meant to undermine anyone’s struggle with mental health. It was just what I needed to hear to get me over the last hurdle towards recovering. I sought out help, talked to people about it and got meds. That was enough to get me moving. If reaching out hasn’t helped you, then you have my sympathy. Depression is a terrible place to be stuck. I wish you well on your journey and hope you find what you need.*

Charlie,

The past has been washed in darkness. Any moments of joy have been pushed out of sight. Any moments of love have been shaded from the light. The moments of connection have evaporated into the ether from which they came. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that the past was all bad. The thought that it was is a fabrication. It isn’t a mirror. It is a product of the illness. It is a false reality it wants you to believe is true. To make you think the future will be just as bleak. That to keep walking is pointless. That what you are fighting is a losing battle. That suicide is not an easy option but the only option. But you know it is a lie.

You didn’t walk through the hell of addiction to give up on yourself. You didn’t face your demons to gain freedom only to throw it away. You didn’t reach out to friends, relatives, therapists and a god you don’t believe in just to say “Fuck it!” You didn’t attend the counselling and try the meds, just to give up. Get the thought out of your head. Life is fucking tough. It is a lot tougher for a lot of people. I know saying that doesn’t help but it is the truth. I know that you have gratitude for your life but still, the shadow haunts you. The fact that you got this far carrying the darkness is incredible. Living in your head for a day is tiring. You are doing impeccably. I know you won’t believe me. You never do. But it is true. I also know that the fluffy approach won’t work on its own. You appreciate the help but you need an old fashion boot up the arse. You have to take action. You are going to have to stand up and stop wallowing. Life is short as fuck. Do you want to spend it lying in bed trying to cure your thinking with thinking? Or do you want to try and change it? If you think there is no point then you are free. If there is no point then make a point. If you think it’s bad then talk to people who do have it bad. Help out. Altruism saved you last time. There are people out there who could use your help. They need your help. And you need theirs. You are not lost. You can pick any road you want.

You are in hell. But now’s the time to start walking back. You have so much to offer. I know you don’t believe it but it is needed. Don’t waste it.

Tomorrow, you make a change. You change a bit of your diet or your routine. You do something to break the cycle. To disrupt the rut you’re cutting by plodding around waiting to be saved. No saviour is coming. There are people to help but they can’t fix it. They can’t chase the clouds away. You have to keep pushing forward. You always will. This motherfucker ain’t going anywhere. It’s with you. It’s always been with you. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO DEFINE YOU. Shit man, you thought you were going to die on a barstool. LOOK WHAT YOU DID. You had the strength to change it. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, lying in bed, feeling like your being hollowed out, is agony. In emotional and physical pain. Crying in the fetal position wishing for anything to take the feeling away. I know it isn’t pleasant. I know talking about it takes the power out of it but doesn’t clear it completely away. Escapism works. But it is only temporary. You have a constant black cloud in every blue sky. So what. Stop running. FIGHT. You may fall. You may fail. But that’s what it’s all about. Fall down seven times get up eight. I can hear it already “but what if I can’t get up anymore?” Fuck that voice. That isn’t you. You will get up. You do each time. It’s time to help others up. That’s what these hardships are for. To understand. To say “I understand.” Good job you always liked learning the hard way. Acceptance is key here. You suffer or help the suffering. The lesson is to share your experience. It is imperative.

There is no magic here. Acceptance. Coping mechanisms. Doing the things that keep you well. Some days will be better than others. Some days will be bliss some will be tough. Take the rough with the smooth. Stop expecting perfection. That way, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t reach the unreachable. It just is what it is. It isn’t bad. It isn’t great. It just is.

Remember, YOU ARE ENOUGH. There is no missing piece. There is no one to complete you. No product that will give fulfilment. They are complements to your life. But they can’t complete you. You have the answer. Repeat, I am enough. Repeat it until you believe it. Stop comparing yourself to illusions. Pegging perfection as the norm and then measuring your life against it is the death of contentment. It is the quicksand that pulls you back into the darkness. It is a dungeon of your own making. It might feel like you keep getting knocked down but it doesn’t mean you’re out! “Fall down seven. Get up eight.” Getting up each time gets harder. Each time you say “I can’t do this anymore.” Then, there is a fleeting moment of positivity. A flash of colour back in the world. A moment where it is okay for a minute. Before the darkness consumes the light again. That’s why you keep doing it. That’s why you keep going. It’s hard to see beyond the grey veil during depression. But you know it can get better. You know because you have felt it. Yeah, depression comes back and sweeps your feet. But you get up and go again. You know you can because you have. Don’t worry about the future.

Stop fighting yourself mentally. Accept your position. And Fight your way back as one whole. With the darkness and the light. One day at a time. Keep it within the moment. Get through each second as it arises. When the future begins to torture you with events that may never happen, pause and take a breath. Remember that thoughts are not reality. If you could predict the future you wouldn’t be typing this. You would have predicted the EuroMillions numbers and now living life as a millionaire. Or maybe it is the ability to only predict negative outcomes. And then when the negative doesn’t happen you destroy happiness to justify the delusion. WHY? Why are you punishing yourself? You’re alright you know. You are enough. You are good enough. You have done incredibly well to get here. Pat yourself with positivity. Don’t beat yourself with negativity. It isn’t helpful.

Meditate. Watch your thoughts. Acknowledge the spiteful inner monologue. It doesn’t have your best interests. Depression isn’t your friend. It is making an enemy of yourself. It doesn’t have to be accepted. You are not perfect. Or ever will be. But that is okay. You are enough just as you are. You might not believe it today. But you will repeat it until you do. It is the least you deserve.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going,” to move forward you have to stand up and push on. It is hard. It is heavy. But that is how you get stronger. Remember depression is part of the hero’s journey. It doesn’t have to determine the journey. The walk through hell burns the lessons into your psyche. This is time to grow again. It is a metamorphosis. Now is time to fight your way out of the cocoon.

Accept. Keep going. Keep talking. Keep fighting forward.

Charlie.

Mental health helplines

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The tree with the toxic leaf…

The increasingly bare branches of a tree demonstrate that it is preparing for change. The leaves have served their purpose. They got the tree through the summer. Allowed it to get ready for the difficult winter. The tree will flourish again next year. With new leaves. The process goes around and around. Shedding. Growing. Blossoming. Repeat.

Many things in our lives will cease to serve a purpose. Unlike the tree, we don’t shed them. We hold onto the dying leaves. Fearful that there will be none to replace them. We think we will be left as a baron tree but it isn’t true.

The dying leaves poison us. Yet still, we cling to them, wondering why we are feeling ill. The toxicity begins to consume. It isn’t until we are out of options, do we decide to shed the toxic leaves. Habits, relationships and thinking patterns can all be toxic but it is what we know. Or think it is what we deserve.

Alcohol was my poison leaf. Without it, I believed I would have nothing. I would be alone. A poison leaf is better than a baron branch. That was the story I told myself. Without it, I would cease to be.

It wasn’t until I released the toxic leaf that the others began to grow. It took time. I thought there would never be the green shoots of hope. But with time and patience, they began to flourish. New, functional leaves. Ones that gave energy instead of sapping it. Ones that gave beauty instead of contorting it. Eventually, flowers began to blossom. I remembered who I was meant to be. All along my fear of being a baron tree was stopping me from becoming the beautiful tree I was destined to be.

Drop the leaves if they are no longer helpful. If they are poisoning you, why keep them around? The thought that something poisonous is better than nothing? It isn’t true. The destructive nature is sapping your strength. Killing you from the inside outwards like termites. But you have strength. The test is what makes you stronger. Just like how the wind strengthens the roots of a tree.

The old leaves drop to the ground and become the compost for the future. From the old, grows the new. Brighter. Fresher. Cleaner. Beautiful. An integral part of the forest. With the ability to help others to grow also.

To grow, we must let go.

Charlie.

The Well – A Poem

It’s cold, dark, damp and bleak,

I want to climb but I’m far too weak,

Plus, there’s a voice telling me I have no chance

So I sit alone in this unforgiving circumstance.

So I sat in the misery for three months maybe four,

The disembodied voice castigating me evermore,

Slowly in the darkness of the well I began to see

That the dismebodied voice was just a part of me

The cold, dark place is located in my head

A place to store problems

I should have acknowledged them instead

So for months I’ve been abusing myself psychologically

I’ve managed to smash my self confidence catagorically

Luckily, my friends and family helped me through

And never believe you’re alone, there is always someone to talk to

Yeah, going to get help fucking hurt my pride

But weakness isn’t seeking help

Weakness is choosing to stay and hide

Vic Chesnutt said “I flirted with you all my life,”

And when my heart fluttered at the sight of a switchblade knife

It was time to get some help. Fuck my pride.

What’s the value of pride when the only alternative is suicide?

I said my piece and got the meds

Hope it calms the storm that blows in my head

And loosens the negative chains that hold me in this hell

Maybe then, I can escape the well…

Charlie

The impact of destructive thinking…

Everything is as it should be. My inner world is calm. There are no major issues to worry about. In fact, gratitude is abundant. Life really could be worse. Lots of bad things could happen. I’ll find one. Eviscerate it. And spread its unlikely potential across my brain. “Ahhhh” I will sigh, as the peace is disrupted. Negativity runs supreme. I am a pig; most happy in shit.

Most of my life has been spent using practices that allow peace to be cultivated internally; meditation, walking, reflection, spend time in nature, good diet. Once I have created a mind somewhat close to utopia I will destroy it. Then I will rebuild. Why? Numerous reasons. Boredom. Fear. So it is me that destroys it before some other bastard does. Most likely it is the belief that peace and happiness are fleeting. That they are good for others and not for me. If they do arrive then I must search for something to bring it to an end. It is a form of psychological self-harm. It is searching through the past for a negative memory to use as a weapon against myself. It is raking over the coals of regret to keep the heat fresh. It is pulling every shameful act and hanging it on display like some kind torturous art gallery. It is these weapons that I use to keep the scars fresh. But they are not scars on my arms or legs. They are in my mind. At times the anxiety caused can be so ferocious that it flays my brain. The pain makes me feel normal. It is what I know. It is my default setting. Years of sitting in a pub pouring alcohol and negativity into my system made certain the diminished self-belief. The same diminished self-belief I had started drinking hoping to increase.

Every day is a fight against myself. Not because I am fighting the addiction of alcoholism. The temptation to drink alcohol has long subsided. The temptation to smoke a cigarette now that’s a different story. But the real battle is for peace of mind. Trying to find a moment to saviour amongst the chaos of life is hard. Especially when my default setting is destruction. Just getting from place to place can be draining. The analogy that best describes it is that you are in a house. At the bottom of the garden, there is a shed that contains something you desperately need. There is a storm blowing and you must brave it to from the house to the shed. That is how most of my days feel. Like fighting through a storm. The Fluoxetine has calmed the storm but the behaviour still exists. Now, I can see it happening. Like a tendril of my mind that needs poison to survive is flailing around looking for some life-preserving negativity. The meds seemed to have restricted its supply of poison but it continues to search. Hopefully, it will die out.

This thinking creates a prison that begins to consume my mind. The parameters of my imagination are restricted by the energy needed to get through the day. The joy of the life I am trying to obtain is like the shed at the end of the garden. I am fighting to get there. Even if I let the anxiety pass it consumes me. It begins to spiral viciously until I cannot see where I am heading. Then I crash. But if I do find a bit of peace I destroy it. To return me to the state of chaos. Its almost as if peace and happiness are my allergies. Only in states of overwhelming positivity can I win the war. Things like travel and exercise push away the feelings but once those activities cease “normality” resumes. Worry returns. And anxiety ensues. It is a vicious cycle of self-destruction.

I will cling to something. Anything. As long as it offers comfort. In the baron wasteland of a negative mind, loneliness is certain. Anything that offers hope is welcome. No matter how destructive that help may end up becoming. With my desperation for salvation, the destruction of the hope is guaranteed. I will suffocate salvation. And consume affection. I will drain the joy from life in the pursuit of a high. Take running for an example. During the lockdown, running was a welcome break from the incessant Netflix binges. I started slowly and worked my way up to 10km. I was happy. I was enjoying it. Then came the obsession. 10km became 10 miles and then 12 miles. The demand for running continued after the lockdown ended. If I couldn’t run 10 miles after work then I was a failure. The drill sergeant barking orders in my head was demanding perfection. I had to give it up. If I can’t do something to perfect then I can’t do it at all. All or nothing. It has always been the way. Anything that I do enjoy initially, ultimately becomes unenjoyable.

Some in recovery would call it the “ism” in alcoholism. That the disease of alcohol is what creates an obsessional mind. To me, alcohol was the cure for my obsessional mind. The only cure for my obsessional mind is having something to obsess over. Without an obsession, I begin to flounder. Life becomes meaningless. I search for things to fill the void.

“A buddha is one who awakens from the illusion of samsara – That is, from the thought that there is something to get out of life. That tomorrow will bring it to you. That in the course of time, It will be alright. And therefore one is set pursuing time as if you were trying to quench your thirst by drinking saltwater.”

Alan Watts

The emptiness that I feel in my soul is ceaseless. Like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with water using only a bucket. That’s how futile it feels. Nothing seems to fill the void. I have tried everything. Yet the empty feeling holds my soul with a firm hand. A restrictive clench that denies fulfilment. This feeling carries with it the belief of being a burden. That this unfillable feeling will be too draining for another. It is best to face it alone. To deny my innate desires is to save another. A reward for punishing myself. My sacrifice is worth it. A tortured soul; wanting love but unlovable. It is just another illusion. Another stick to beat myself. It is the last tool of torture in the dungeon of my psychological self-harm. It is the belief that there is no happy ending in my story.

I wish this was the attention-seeking meanderings of a troubled teenager. But it is the core belief of an adult man. Thankfully, I don’t believe the ending has been written yet. There is time to change the road your on…

This time of anxiety and depression has been painful. But from the pain has come introspection, growth and acceptance. That these parts of my psyche are here to stay and the tools I use to keep them under check are going to have to be a part of my life. Not just behind a pane of glass with the words “break in an emergency,” written on. When the shit hits the fan I’ll do an hour of meditation. When the going’s good I’ll do none. I am all or nothing. I have always been but somethings have to be done continuously. That is going to be hard to do.

What is most surprising is that for someone who values freedom, individuality and independence as much as I do. It has been difficult to accept my difference. It has been hard to acknowledge these dark parts of my soul. Simply because I saw it as weak. Anxiety to me is nervousness. Being nervous is being weak. That’s the way I saw it. And due to this tried to fight it. The inner conflict is exhausting. Especially when you are fighting for both sides. So the war is over. I am now trying to make peace with myself. I have an obsessional brain. A wonderful imagination that can turn peace into atom bombs. If not utilised it goes rogue. Boredom is the first step to destruction. An obsession is a distraction from the boredom. But eventually, it becomes destructive. 

It is time to make peace. It is time to accept that my head is fucked. There are days when I feel like the world sped up and I’m going to fall off. I feel out of step and out of place. I can’t pretend anymore. It is time, to be honest. It is time to be myself. Shit, I might as well love who I am. Instead of hating who I’m pretending to be. Maybe genuine self-love will be the end to the psychological self-harm.

There is only one way to find out. 

Much love,

Charlie.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The Fluoxetine Dream…

Twelve years ago, in the belly of the beast of depression, I refused medication. I thought it was cheating. Plus I was using a substantial amount of alcohol as medication. It didn’t work. In fact, the alcohol exacerbated the situation but what was I to know? I was a depressed alky. The talking therapy helped at the time. It gave me a bit of space to manoeuvre. It allowed me to find some peace and gain some clarity. I started a routine and that put me on the right path.

Fast forward 12 years and I’m sitting in a doctors room pleading for medication. The meditation, exercise, sobriety, healthy eating wellness program I had adopted had stopped working. A scary proposition. Last time the alcohol stopped working. This time the wellness stopped working. It was time to try something different…

This is day 30 of the fluoxetine dream.

Medication gets a bad rep in recovery circles. “It can’t be true sobriety!” Is what they say. I didn’t realise it was a fucking competition. That’s schoolyard bollocks; “I’ve got more god than you ner ner!” It’s that kind of attitude that stops people from trying the medication they may need. Would the same people dissuade others from Insulin? “You have diabetes? Well, it should be left untreated otherwise it’s not true sobriety!” Exactly. It’s nonsense. I mean Bill Wilson was tripping balls for a large part of his alleged sobriety. What’s good for the goose…

Anyway, I digress. So didn’t know what to expect when I started taking the meds. I know what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to become a depersonalised zombie bereft of original thought. I wanted to cling to the small amount of creativity and individuality I had. Thankfully I didn’t become a zombie… brains… and did I cling to my creativity and individuality? You can judge that 🙂

What has happened over the last 30 days is a steady progression away from anxiety. Like a forcefield has been forming over my brain that deflects negativity. There have been a few strange moments. One night I couldn’t stop giggling. It was like being stoned. It was fun. I hadn’t laughed like that for a long time. It was a good release. I had a few suicidal thoughts. Although no more than normal. The increased stability has been noticeable. And due to my history of varying moods, I am waiting for the crash. I am prepared if it comes but hope it doesn’t.

15/10/20 (Day 25) was the first day of a noticeably elevated mood. Like mania without the craziness. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of mania; I would describe it as a virtual reality tornado. You get the thrill of a tornado but there isn’t actually one. It just seems like it. A constant barrage of ideas lights up my brain like a fireworks display on new years eve. This coupled with the feeling of invincibility is a recipe for disaster or action or both. An example of mania from my life would be the time I was housebound with depression for about six months. Then, one morning, I awoke feeling like a miracle had occurred during the night. I felt great. Better than great. I felt fanfuckingtastic. Naturally, I went on an all-day drinking session to celebrate. It was great fun. The future looked bright. Until the next day when the depression resumed. That’s what mania is to me. The fluoxetine is like coming up on drugs but never getting to the high. It is frustrating but better than anxiety.

16/10/20 I felt good but without the incessant thinking. Life just looked good. There was a bit of hope. There was a bit of colour in the world. The autumn colours didn’t look drab. They looked vibrant. It was nice. I was present. I wasn’t wracked with negative thoughts. I was present and happy. I had a good laugh with a friend. It was fun.

17/10/20 I went for a walk and the world looked real. It looked solid and alive. Sometimes when my brain is in hyperdrive it can appear to buzz. Almost like the leaves are vibrating and I can see it. But today it seems like I was on the cusp of that. Like I was skirting the edge of reality. The fall into mania was close but I just couldn’t breakthrough. It’s almost like coming up on psychedelics but never actually getting there. I keep waiting for the comedown but it hasn’t come yet. I am frustrated that I can’t breakthrough. There is so much to learn by removing the barrier to expectation. The ego is a block to enlightenment. The fluoxetine numbs the pain of my situation but doesn’t alter my awareness. It’s like I know what’s happening but just don’t care anymore. It’s not a bad feeling. It’s nice and warm. It’s almost the feeling I was searching for through alcohol but with more positivity. And less debilitating effects. Music seems to supercharge the feeling. I listened to Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd while walking down the street and had to stop myself from dancing. The chaotic guitar outro sent my brain swirling with it on a trippy journey. I must have looked a freak walking down the street with a giant smirk on my face. Thankfully, I didn’t care.

I still await the comedown. My life has been like the “Sound of music”; a dance through peaks. Exaggerating by my functional alcoholism. Chaos became my second addiction. And because of this, I am now programmed to believe that happiness comes at a cost. For every up there has to be a down. If there isn’t one. I’ll make one. I’ll destroy comfort in the pursuit of balance. But so far I seem to be surfing between the lows of depression and the highs of mania. It’s quite pleasant. Although a little frustrating having been used to cycling from one to the other for so long. I’ll see how it goes.

20/10/20 I have finished the full 30 days and the comedown never came. The elevated highs have levelled off but can be experienced through normal ways. Music kicks it up a gear, as it should. Movies I used to love are funny again. The world doesn’t seem as scary. The negative thoughts are scarce compared to the ferocious onslaught I was suffering a month ago. The self loathed and self-hatred has lessened. I am not skipping with joy but I have options now. I still feel lost. I just don’t care where I am heading so much. It isn’t numbness. It just feels like the anxiety door in my mind has been sealed off. The negative thoughts are visible through the glass window but their power has been taken.

This isn’t just down to fluoxetine. I have been meeting with people. Sharing my experience. Writing. Walking. Accepting. Meditating. I have replaced the morning suicidal thought with a compliment. I have looked over my life and found the moments of joy, pride, achievement, strength, integrity and I have accepted them. Before I was panning the river of gold for nuggets of shit just to feel bad. I was comparing my life to imaginary scenarios as a form of punishment. I would look at social media as if I was a psychic. I’d create an entire life from a slither of information. Their life would obviously be perfect compared to my shit existence. I would then use this stick of my own creation to batter myself into submission. Bloody and bruised I would cry out to the world in pain. Damning it for its unfairness… crazy right?! This path is bordered by thorns. There is enough suffering in the world without creating more. My days can get dark enough without added extra layers of misery. But this has been a great reminder that I have to take care of my mental health.

I have to practice what I preach and check in on myself more often. Even in the heady days of fun, exploration and adventure I still need to take a moment to reflect. Not on the screen of my mobile while creating tales of self-torture based on lies. But on the state of my mind. Without supervision, it can become delinquent and wander away from its duty. It is up to me to bring it back to the task. To focus it on the moment. And to remember that I am not as bad as I would like to believe. Life isn’t perfect but I’m not sure I would want it to be. But then again I am a chaos addict… the Fluoxetine won’t cure that but it has made life bearable. At least for now.

Charlie.

The NHS has been incredible in the past month. From phoning 111 and talking to the doctor in the walk-in centre it has been 30 days. In that time I have received medication, had an assessment and arranged my first counselling session. The NHS gets slagged off but it has saved my life plenty of times and helped me countless others. God bless.

A chaotic mind…

Alcohol wasn’t the problem. It was the cure. It silenced the chaotic turbulence that presented itself as my thoughts. Like standing in an auditorium and everyone is shouting. It’s very difficult to pick up a single voice before it’s consumed in the noise. The ideas lead nowhere as one is killed by the next. Alcohol was the “SHUT THE FUCK UP” my brain needed. It brought silence to the audience and allowed peace to reign. If only for a short while. Its deadening effect became VERY appealing. I mean why wouldn’t it? If you lived in a noisy house wouldn’t you find a hobby to keep you out of there? Social anxiety wasn’t a thing in my vocabulary. I was just different. A mind on fire. Dousing it with lager quelled the flames for an evening. It made me feel “normal”!

In AA meetings I have heard people talk about the “washing machine” head. It’s discussed in a way that it is a by-product of drinking. That the obsession of alcohol gave birth to obsessional thinking. Alcohol was the cure for my obsessional thinking. It made me feel normal. I would be thinking about random shit long before drinking had entered my life. Someone once said to me “I am two pints behind normal!” What he meant was when he had two pints of lager he felt like a human being. It hit me like a crossbow bolt. I knew what he meant. Consuming alcohol allowed me to live in the moment.

Unfortunately, obsessional thinking has remained long after alcohol has left my life. The only cure I have found is setting goals. Hitting targets. Reaching for dreams. But that only gives temporary relief. I tried keeping it in the day like was recommended but I couldn’t help thinking where it was leading to? I mean if I am doing the same thing over and over then how am I progressing? Maybe progress isn’t the answer. Maybe the pursuit of happiness is what leaves me wanting all the time. I’ve got lost in the pursuit. Consumed by consumption. I lost the reasons why I was doing things. Misplaced meaningfulness in the meaningless. I got sidetracked… I forgot what I was doing it for. Without reason, I find it impossible to motivate. Work to earn to consume is so vacuous. I’m constantly left wanting. Empty. A bottomless void that can never be filled. Its darkness is expanding. Tainting the light. It begins to pull at my spirit. It wants my soul. It won’t take it. Not this time.

This isn’t “alcoholism”. It is depression. It has been with me forever. Following me around like a dark cloud. Tainting my light. Contorting positivity via mental gymnastics. Anxiety inducing twists and turns that M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of. It’s a fucking nuisance. At least at it’s worse it’s noticeable. In its mild form, it’s like someone messing with the contrast on the TV. The world loses a bit of its resonancy. The vibrancy is lost and it becomes dull. Lifeless. Joyless. The beauty is hard to find as my energy is redirected to getting through the day. Almost like the days with a hangover of old. The pain is similar; knotted stomach, sleepless nights, tired all day. Accept I don’t have the sweats that I had with a hangover. At least I had a cure for a hangover.

The weight is excruciating sometimes. It’s like someone turned the gravity up. I want to exercise but it seems like a big ask. I was running 10 miles about six weeks ago. Then poof. Even writing this feels like I am just moaning for the sake of it. That the words are just for attention and I’m just being a “fanny”. I want to snap out of it. I want to go for a run but I can’t. It’s frustrating. I eat well. Meditate. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. And still, it’s on me. Wrapping its dark tendrils around my nerves. Squeezing the air out of my lungs. Clinging to me like a needy partner. Demanding I don’t leave. Or if I do it is together, forever.

It wants me to believe that happiness is a lie. I was deluding myself that the world was vibrant and fun. Now, I see the world as it REALLY is. That’s what the feeling wants me to believe. To believe darkness is all there is. That negativity is the only option. That loneliness and lovelessness are guaranteed. No matter how far I travel. How much I meditate. No matter how many meds I take. All I am doing is delaying the inevitable. A sad, lonely death is my fate. But there is something I know. There is a realisation that throws that into question; if that is my guaranteed end then I may as well enjoy my time. Absolve myself of pressure. Remove the lead vest it feels like I have been wearing. Pursue love without fear because what do I have to lose? If life is meaningless then I can give any meaning I wish! If darkness is part of me then I should stop fighting and embrace it. Life isn’t perfect. Nor am I. That is the best I can ask for.

If only it was that easy to switch it off. If I could think myself out of it I would have done months ago. But I do know that it will get easier once I accept it. Which is difficult to do. The recurring thought is “I shouldn’t feel this way!” I’ve travelled the world. I’ve turned my life around yet depression still hangs like a dark cloud in a blue sky. It’s fucking annoying. Frustrating. Like having an evil twin who wants to mess my life up. Putting obstacles in my way for his own amusement. My pain is his pleasure. In reality, it is me doing that. A dastardly bastard depression is.

I had an evaluation the other day. They asked about suicide. I said I’d had thoughts but wouldn’t act on them. It turns out that suicidal thoughts are not normal. I’d accepted them as just a part of my psyche. Just a quirk of character. I thought waking every morning and imagining sliding a pistol up the back of my skull was normal. Turns out not. I was relieved when they said they would try to help me. It felt good. It didn’t cure it. Maybe it won’t but if it just gets a little vibrancy back in the world then it will be worth it. The simplistic beauty is what I miss most. Joylessness is just that.

If you are experiencing any of the things I have talked about then please don’t suffer in silence. I know it can be hard to reach out. It felt like a dent to my pride. An attack on my masculinity. If I can’t “do” life then I must be a fucking wimp? Not so. Reaching out and asking for help can be hard. It is worth the effort. Even just to find a bit of peace if your mind is chaos.

Thankfully, I ‘m not drinking. It just prolongs the agony. Plus I only ever lost fights while drunk.

Now, I can see the light. It will get easier. It will get better.

Charlie.

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.therapyroute.com/article/helplines-suicide-hotlines-and-crisis-lines-from-around-the-world

P.S. Feel free to share 🙂

Picture – https://www.deviantart.com/reginaldjean/art/A-Chaotic-Mind-445392188

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