Hello and welcome back to my blog
Thank you for your encouraging feedback on my last blog, The Colour of a Sober Mind. It’s always heart-warming to know that other people relate to what I’m experiencing. I love the sense of connection I get with you as a reader or listener when I receive your emails! So, please, keep them coming. As before, I have recorded this blog for you should you prefer to listen to it instead here.
A growth unwanted
This week I’ve got growth on my mind. One growth in particular that doesn’t fill me with much enthusiasm. I’ve had this annoying irritation on my upper back for a while – a tiny little sore that I can reach with my hand and can feel is not getting better. Straightaway I assume the worst. This isn’t based on any irrational fear though, but on the fact that I have previously had a skin cancer removed from my face and was told at the time that there’s a good chance that more will grow. Living in Australia is taking its toll on my Irish skin. Sigh.
I’ll be honest with you. My anxious thoughts led to a period of catastrophising about melanomas and death and the next thing I know, I’m thinking about a quick fix to soothe me. I was walking past a café the other day, it was sunny, people were sitting outside sipping chilled white wines and I was feeling miserable. My head was full of worry. Sure, a glass of wine wouldn’t do any harm, would it?
One is too much
One glass of wine in and of itself wouldn’t do me any harm. But would it solve the problem of worrying about the growth on my back? It might take my mind off it for the length of time it takes to drink the glass of wine but then what? In my case, given that I’m rather proud of my 1,254 sober days, I’d have to reset the clock to zero and for me that would be a bit of a kick in the ribs. Everyone has their own way of safeguarding the things they value, and counting my sober days is one of the ways I safeguard my commitment to myself. Of course, there would also be the danger that one glass wouldn’t be enough! It never was before. Why would it be now? One glass of wine will always be too many for me because a bottle will never be enough. This is how sneaky alcohol was for me. As long as I can remind myself of that, I will not fool myself into thinking that I can enjoy the one glass. When did I ever just have one? Never! Why would I have bothered when what I was chasing was the numbing effect of the drug.
Isn’t that just life though?
So, instead of reaching for a drink to fix the problem, I took a different kind of action to address it – I made an appointment with my doctor for Thursday. And then I slapped on some sunscreen, put on a hat, and went for a walk by the lake with George the Groodle. As I walked, soaking up the beauty of the trees and the birdlife, I thought about how mad life is. One minute I’m full of the joys of a sober life, singing my song from ahigh, and the next I’m confronted with my own mortality and desperate to escape the feelings this evokes in me.
One of my favourite quotes of all times is from a holocaust survivor, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who wrote: ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’ And this brings me nicely to the other kind of growth I’d like to write about in this blog. Our personal growth. There was a time when I hated myself and the world. I was heavy with shame, gripped by guilt and overwhelmed with fear. Anything that could frighten me did – from climate change to xenophobia. It was what drove me to seek comfort in alcohol. In my work as a counsellor, I am able to share how I learnt to change the narrative that underpinned those painful feelings and transform my way of being. Giving up alcohol was only a part of the process. The most important aspect of my transformation came from knowledge. We know that knowledge is power, right? And it’s never too late to acquire it and apply it. Viktor Frankl’s insight into the human condition gave me the power to see that I am not my past. I am who I choose to be today, in the present moment. Yes, I made some bad choices before which impacted people around me. And while there are a zillion things going on in the world that I don’t like, I can choose how I respond to them. Instead of choosing to be overwhelmed with fear, I choose to do something that is within my power. In choosing to give up the booze, I made my inner world safer, and I became more content with who I am.
The ripple effect
I feel the ripple effect of my decision every day. Life with teenagers is challenging, there is no doubt about that. I understand where their angst comes from though because I’ve been there and it’s not a nice place to be. My job as their parent is to provide them with a safe space where they can take refuge from the crazy world that we live in. This allows them to bolster themselves to be better equipped to cope with whatever life throws their way. In talking about our fears and gripes with an openness and a willingness to find solutions, we learn that each of us can make a difference to the world around us. It takes courage to change but it is the only way we can make progress. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it, if we want to change the world then we have to change ourselves first.
Dealing with unhelpful thoughts
I’m looking ahead to big changes in my life as my kids find their feet as independent people. A part of me is really dreading going back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home mum for 18 years. All sorts of self-doubting thoughts keep popping into my head and, if I let them, they will scare the living daylights out of me. So, I have taken to meditating twice a day where I let those thoughts go and focus on the present moment, watching my breath, feeling my body grounded and finding peace within. It’s amazing how this simple exercise changes the way I approach those unhelpful thoughts when they come back. Our imaginations are like multi-channel TV – they keep offering up all sorts of dialogues, plots, and scenarios that if we’re not mindful will go to creating the stories that we tell ourselves. These stories will either hold us back in fear or propel us forward with confidence. What we must always remember is that we are the author of the stories we tell ourselves and we decide which of these stories will best serve us in living the life we desire.
I am the author of my own story
The story I’m telling myself today is that even if the growth turns out to be cancerous, it will be treated, and I will be OK. I’m still a bit daunted by the idea of change, who isn’t, but I am telling myself that going back into the workforce and offering counselling services to people in need will be hugely rewarding and will help me to grow as a person. My story is laced with gratitude for the clarity of a sober mind and the power it continues to give me to keep on changing for the better.
Thank you for being here today. I hope my story helps you in some way. Please share it with anyone who you think might benefit from reading this. Love, Gill x