Welcome back to my blog. Here’s the link to the audio version if you prefer to listen.
Hope you’re OK. Thanks for the feedback on my last blog entitled Growth in which I shared my concerns about the suspected skin cancer on my back. Well, I’m delighted to tell you that my doctor confirmed that it is in fact benign. I was so relieved to receive this news, as you can imagine, and realise now how much energy I wasted in worrying about the worst-case scenario. What is it about us that makes us always assume the worst?
From the counselled to the counsellor
My other good news is that, after spending the weekend doing my final practical assessments, I have completed my Diploma of Counselling. I am seriously over-the-moon about this as it has been a goal of mine for a very long time. When I decided that I was ready to face the truth about my drinking I knew in my heart that I had a better chance of tackling it with professional help. What I needed most was a caring, compassionate person to hear me out without judging me, and to help me to find the courage and strength that we all have within us as human beings. Look and you shall find, and I did! I found an amazing counsellor with their own lived experience of addiction. Thanks to their support, I am now able to celebrate all that I have achieved in those three and a half years since I said goodbye to the wine witch who had been wreaking havoc on my life! The counsellors I met during those early days of recovery inspired me. It wasn’t the first time that I’d sought out the help of a counsellor though.
Addiction kills friendship
It was during my dope-smoking days in London when I first encountered the heart-warming support of a counsellor when I thought I was losing my mind. It still feels a bit embarrassing to talk about how low my dope smoking took me during those dark days, but I no longer feel the shame that I once did. I can talk about it now as it is the past and it is something that I overcame. It feels amazing to be able to sit here today and honestly share how shit things were and how far I’ve come. I remember one very awful moment when a friend was coming over for dinner. This was in the days shortly after having recently escaped a violent and emotionally abusive relationship. I was living alone, desperately trying to move on and forget the past. The way I dealt with that was I got stoned every night. It took the edge off my loneliness, my sense of failure and my fears about the future as a broken, single woman. Anyway, this friend from work was coming over for dinner and a game of Scrabble. We had bonded over lunch one day when we shared a secret… we were both stoners! So, when I invited her over to my place, she promised to bring some ‘ganja’ with her. My own supply had run dry. I was gagging for a smoke. As soon as I opened the front door to her, the first thing I asked was had she brought the weed. The look on her face said it all. I felt my heart sink. How could I get through the evening without it? I remember with great regret how angry I felt at her. I relied on her to provide me with the fix I needed to alter my state of mind. The empty feeling of missing something prevented me from enjoying her company and I even asked her to leave early so that I could crawl into my bed and cry myself to sleep. Being addicted to weed is like being addicted to anything else… it’s feeling that life is unbearable without the crutch. What I find embarrassing about this story is how the weed was more important to me than my friendship. And that’s what happens to people who become addicted. I can understand why people with no personal experience of addiction can make the assumption that this is just purely selfish behaviour. I can understand why a child might think they are unworthy, or a wife can think she is unlovable if the parent or lover chooses to get off their head rather than be with them.
Nobody chooses to live a life of addiction that alienates them from the world, that hurts their loved ones, and impacts negatively on their work, finances, and social connections. The person who becomes addicted to something is usually in pain, sometimes physical, often emotional. Substances such as alcohol, weed, prescription medicines etc can provide a real relief in the moment for someone who is not coping. It’s easy to understand how a person can get used to reaching for something when the pain gets too hard to bear. I learnt the hard way. I learnt that by constantly reaching for either weed or alcohol, I trained my brain to need a substance in order to feel OK. Eventually, without the substance, I did not feel OK – ever. That was the hole I fell into. I was down that dark hole, on and off, for decades. I hated what I’d become. I hated that the substance was more important to me than my relationships. To justify my behaviour, I convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone, that I couldn’t trust anyone anyway and I went about my life in avoidance mode, avoiding myself mainly! I’ve written about this before. I had stopped listening to my inner wisdom, that gentle voice that told me that I was destroying myself and my relationships and that I was worthy of more than that. The addicted me became stronger and dominant while the me who wanted to feel loved and belonging faded into insignificance. It was a horrendously sad way to be.
Discipline – punishment or learning?
Addiction is not only a physical state of being, but a mental and spiritual state too. It is through knowledge that we can empower ourselves to get out from under its heavy load. The other day I was chatting briefly with my teacher at the end of a yoga class. I mentioned how I am finally learning to clear my mind during the classes, no longer looking at the clock when I find the poses challenging, instead leaning in, and going with it no matter how hard it feels. Being a man of few words (a true yogi), he only had one thing to say, ‘discipline’. I left the class with a horrible churning sensation in my stomach. Why did that word evoke such feelings? When I got home, I rushed to my desk and wrote the word down and looked at it for a while. I realised then that the word discipline has strong negative connotations for me. It means punishment. Not wanting to associate my yoga practice with punishment, I took to Google to research the origins of the word in a bid to find a more uplifting meaning in it. And lo and behold, I found it! According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word has its origins in the Latin word ‘discere’ which means ‘to learn’. But as I continued to read, I realised that it was no wonder I had such a visceral reaction to the word when I found that the Middle English meaning is ‘mortification by punishing oneself’. I don’t need to ask my yoga teacher which meaning he applies, I’m pretty sure he is a proponent of being gentle with ourselves while learning as much as we can about embracing our inner power to live a life that feels authentic to us, whatever that might be.
More good news!
As I’m writing this, I have received a phonecall from the national training manager of SMART Recovery Australia offering me a place on a training programme to become a SMART Recovery group facilitator. When I sent my application in last week, I had no clue that things would happen so quickly. There you go! Once we make the first move, the universe conspires to make other things happen for us. I have learnt to believe in my own power, overcome the demons of the past and do things that serve me well so that I can live a happier life. That’s discipline right there!
If you or anyone you know is grappling with addictive behaviour of any kind right now and wants to get help, then I would strongly recommend SMART Recovery groups as a great starting point. It is a not-for-profit organisation that runs programmes that will provide people with the tools to build and maintain motivation, cope with urges, manage thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and how to live a balanced life. SMART stands for ‘self-management and recovery training’ and is all about learning how to live a life beyond addiction. Meetings are available in person and online in many countries and will come up in a search using the words ‘SMART Recovery’ + your country. I will keep you posted here how my training is going and will let you know when I am ready to facilitate my own group. Exciting times ahead! Thanks for reading this far – I’ve had much to share today. Love, Gill x
P.S.: Hope you like the photo I took while out walking yesterday. It made me think of how we all have the power to bloom on the inside even when the outside feels old, rough, weathered and broken.