Observing the illusion
Observing the illusion
BY JOHN CASSAP
Its nearly five years now since I decided drinking had caused me enough problems and pain. Multiple failed and extremely sick relationships, Prison, no place to call a home on more than a few occasions, getting finished at work more times than I can remember and a whole shower of other shit that just didn't seem to have any impact on my relationship with alcohol and drugs. As far as I was concerned they were all the result of some other fuckwits actions. However this all changed when I found myself heavily isolating for long periods just so I could engage in a deadly game of trying to drown out the insanity by using the exact substance that had caused it... I knew I was going deeply crazy and I was scared. I caused neuropathic damage to the brain in the process and I couldn't blame that on anybody else. Regardless of any of this, I just couldn't stop. The more I tried the harder it was, the more I needed to black out.
Then something amazing happened that I don't fully understand. It is what it is and I try to just roll with it. I got sober. I could write a massive essay on what happened back then, were its took me and all the work I put in between getting out of bed on a morning and putting my head on the pillow at night without picking up that first drink. Everyday, one day at a time!
That's not what this blog is about! It was important to lead with this so I could give you some background on how I got into what I'm about to talk about next. Sobered up Drunks find we struggle badly with things we shouldn't. These are things we were fully aware of in our drinking, things everybody has to deal with, except those of us who lean more towards a chemical solution to life. In last weeks Blog I wrote about one such thing (and there is many) "Letting Go". Everybody has a hard time with this when it comes to certain things, none of us are unique. But ex drinkers make an art of this, its like we really enjoy the pain that Fear and Resentment brings! Pain, Self harm -its familiar & comfortable, we have a high tolerance for that crap (see the opening paragraph). Recovery is about getting honest with yourself and seeing what it is about me that drives me to these self destructive thoughts and behaviours. None of this is learned behaviour, its part of my character and its defective. Getting honest allowed me to see that it had been there right from the start, long before I picked up my first drink as a kid. I simply don't have the power to remove a character defect (if only there was just one) but I know how to escape from them!!
Again we are not unique... everybody has character defects, just the majority of people don't experience their destructiveness to the level the people I choose to stay sober with do. They are progressive... they are the ISM in Alcoholism. Recovery is about getting Honest! I don't try to escape from them today, I make friends with them and accept them. Consciously practicing the opposite of them one day at a time is the work I mentioned earlier and it is work, they sit at the bottom of the bed and jump on me when I wake up. Saying good morning to them is how I start my day. This is why science will never cure addiction. Doctors actually believe it is about the substance of choice, when really thats not the problem, its the solution. A piss poor solution that creates a myriad of disasters and ultimately destroys the sufferer. But to most who do suffer this that is more acceptable than the alternative - get rigorously honest and stare your defects down, realising you are possessed by self! Imagine a Doctor saying "Instead of getting drunk tomorrow (It was always tomorrow, as long as there's drink to be drank) why don't you greet all that unmanageable shit with a good old top of the morning to ya?" Nor it was always "Theres a weeks Diazapam dry out and get a hobby!" - "Gee thanks Doc but I've already got one I play hide and seek with a spiritual malady!!" I'm not having a pop at the medical profession here, some do their best to try to understand, my doctor was one of them, but theres a world of difference between trying to understand and feeling the experience. Its not their fault they don't know any better.
This brings me to what I want to talk about - as in the title "Observing the illusion". You might find it hard to believe but I shit you not, this is about Meditation! One of the things thats extremely common to people after they put the drink down, something that we struggle badly with is racing brain, nothing unique about that, who hasn't lost a good nights sleep churning over the same thoughts again and again? Pretty much what my Doctor said when I told him I was finding this hard. He gave an example of his own to which I replied "Does your brain go like this....?and its been getting faster every day for over a year!" His Jaw sort of dropped and he quickly wrote out a prescription for anti-psychotic medication (we are back to the chemical solution, but hey ho if one pill works I will try two etc etc). If these work I might even go back to social drinking (like when I was 11) and have just a couple of drinks (who the f***k would actually want a couple of drinks?What type of medieval torture is that? I want a couple of months of drink!). I wouldn't be a social drinker today even if I had the choice. I don't need a drink today and that's beautiful. I had to go through the pains of needing a drink, (Im not talking about the physical pains, real though they are, they are such a small part of what it's really about that they hardly deserve a mention!) to find the bit what I don't fully understand as mentioned in the first couple of paragraphs.
The anti-psychotics took the edge off for a while but the brain raced faster and overtook them. After a few chest pains the doctor explained that they had adverse effects on the heart so I quickly sacked them off!
Eckhart Tolle in his book - The Power of Now says this... "Its not that you don't use your mind correctly, the problem is that you don't use it at all, it uses you! You are not your mind, the lunatic has taking over the asylum!!" The mind is a wonderful tool, but thats all it is. You are not your mind!That is the illusion and its a dis-ease that everybody suffers with to various degrees. He spends the rest of the book talking about stepping back and observing the mind as a watcher of your thoughts. Seeing how they play mental movies projecting into the future (Fear) or replaying past events fantasising a different outcome (regret). All this takes us away from the ever present Now (Reality). My mental movies were stuck on fast forward! This brought me to Meditation, one of the awesome gifts of Recovery!
Mindfulness has become very popular lately, you hear it mentioned a lot and thats great, even the US Marines are into it! But theres a big difference between Meditation and Mindfulness. Sure they share some commonalities, people see it as a way of calming down and relaxing, getting rid of the stress and stop thinking about all the stuff that's worrying them. Its great for that but thats were the similarities end. I mentioned earlier about accepting my defects, making friends with them and saying good morning to them... its a lot easier said than done. It takes work! Part of that work includes Meditation. Those practicing Mindfulness will probably put on some calming music and/or have somebody guide them with some words, Ive tried it, its nice I'm not knocking it, but it ain't Meditation!
Amongst other practices I sit on a cushion on the floor in silence with a candle and stare at the wall!! This is called Zazen. It sounds crazy, but not compared to the side effects I mentioned in the opening paragraph!! My 9 year old son tried it for 30 seconds and said "Dad this is boring" haha. I explained very briefly what it was about as he went back to his iPad and a little later on when I returned from a trip to the toilet he was back on the cushion staring at the wall long enough for me to take a photo. He is only a little crazy so that short period was long enough for him bless him. I prefer 20 minutes to half an hour. First thing on a morning and last thing at night. After 5 minutes of nothing but staring at the wall and focusing on the breath just coming and going on its own the mind starts to slow down. Nobody can stop the mind for more than a few moments (an experiment I got my son to try) with will power, the mind does its own thing! However, the point of the wall is a single target of focus that the mind cannot analyse, after a while it sort of gives up... sort of!
This will sound bizarre to everyone that hasn't experienced this but its then that it lets me see it. See it for what it really is! My mind can frighten me into thinking its a bad neighbourhood that I shouldn't go into without automatic weapons, but it not! Its a fucking imposter, a huge ego with a massive inferiority complex. Its seems like a scary possessing demon but really its just a spoilt child that wants to play naughty games that involve invoking my defects. Zazen lets me watch it while it plays in a safe environment after I say "Good Morning!" Its fascinating, but its work!! Then it gets tired and I can get on with my day, in peace and enjoying every moment of life without needing a drink. Plenty things can and do happen throughout the day that wakes "The Demon" back up and cause a negative emotional charge but I'm getting better at stepping back and observing it. Times that I let it slip usually spoil a day, but there are plenty lessons in that and I aim to remain ever teachable. When I think I've got this "Cured to social drinking did you say Doctor?" then I'm in serious shit and a train wreck is on its way! (Diazepam and a hobby again is it Doc?).
If any of this sounds heavy or a chore then don't be fooled. Its been a fascinating journey and I've enjoyed every 'Step' of the way so far (even the difficult moments). My life and its experiences have changed dramatically for the better since I stopped getting pissed out of my brains. But its more than that... Something amazing happened that I don't fully understand and I'm just trying to roll with it!
"If the best mans faults were written on his forehead, it would make him pull his hat over his eyes" - Gealic proverb.
"In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, in the experts there are few" - Shunryu Suzuki.
My name is John (46) and I am a very grateful alcoholic. I live in Sunderland in the north east of England. I have been in the 12 Step Program for almost 5 years. It has been challenging at times but extremely rewarding in so many ways. I love Recovery, I love Life.
I am a father to two amazing boys – Warren (24) & James (9).
I came into Recovery after finding my way to Rock Bottom via a multitude of disasters and painful situations, you know how it goes!! Nothing could have prepared me for this amazing journey, one that I had no idea I was about to embark on in those last painful months of my drinking.
The treatment centre I was placed in is owned by the organisation I now work for. I am an assertive outreach worker for the homelessness team in my local area, this allows me to work with others, people with multiple and complex needs. It helps take me out of self and that’s always a good thing.
One of the many wonderful gifts I have been blessed with since getting sober is that I was awarded a traveling fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. I travelled to the USA. My project and report was entitled “A fresh approach to homelessness, lessons from the United States”.
It was suggested I submit my blog to Drunkless by a friend on Twitter. I feel honoured that this excellent website found it up to standard.
Staying sober one day at a time thanks to the strength and guidance I receive from a Power much Greater than myself.
John - 2017