To make up for the fact that I have not posted anything for nearly two weeks, I would like to write something incredibly long and detailed today. But that would be putting pressure on myself, so it’s just going to have to be a normal length blog today, as my busy life dictates that little more will be possible. It’s mainly due to my busy life that I have been unable to post for so long. I seem to spend very little time at home these days. In fact, it’s been like that ever since I came into recovery, really, which is nice to know because my biggest worry about quitting drink was that I’d have nothing to fill my time with any more.
The past two weeks have been spent mostly socialising and thinking about where I want my life to go next. A good friend from California is visiting London this week and we’ve spent time catching up and enjoying each other’s company. I’ve been to the cinema, for long walks, I’ve read a lot and in rare unoccupied moments at home have harnessed a new creative energy to do some drawings. In spite of being so seemingly busy, I have found myself thinking a lot in the meantime. Thinking about sobriety, relationships, love and spirituality. Since finishing Tolle’s ‘Power of Now’ there has been an almost constant need to place myself in the moment, to ignore the ego’s urge to dwell in the future and the past; it’s still incredibly difficult and at the moment there is an underlying anxiety in the pit of my stomach. Though nothing bad is coming, the anxiety constantly tells me to be on guard. I think it’s more powerful now because it knows that I am gaining the knowledge to tear myself away from it. Tolle says that as we move deeper into the present and away from our own pain-body, it wakes from dormancy to fight for its survival. Inside me the pain-body, a.k.a. the illness, a.k.a. ‘the -ism’, is fighting to stay alive. It is reacting to my newfound sense of independence from it. It doesn’t like the fact that I’m starting to get better. All that pain from the past and fear from the future wants to stay right where it is. Because I have allowed it to live inside me all my life, it has a lot of power now, and it is going to fight for a long time.
My job is not to fight back. My job is to accept the pain and let it pass over me so that it can be transmuted into joy. That is Tolle’s advice, anyway. Entering pain directly and allowing it to wash over me has never come naturally to me. I’m so used to fighting and resisting my feelings that I’m not at all sure how to respond any differently to them. I don’t like accepting my feelings as they are because I’m scared of what they will do to me. But as long as I try to fight them I will be keeping them alive. Which is why complete surrender is the only way forward. This month I’ve been on constant lookout for these feelings: whenever they come up, I have to practise surrendering to them. They come up a lot, so it’s not like I don’t have regular opportunities to practise my new spiritual way of being. But there is a part of the pain-body that wants to keep me in denial, that tells me to resist and fight the feelings. This is how clever the disease can be. It tells me that there’s not a problem, it tells me that feelings are always bad and I can win all battles by fighting and resisting and getting angry. It doesn’t want me to win, which is why it has directed me to the wrong ways of dealing with it all my life.
Every time I face anxiety now, I have to consciously keep myself in the present and surrender to the pain so that it can pass over me unimpeded. It is a brand new, unnatural way of being which I have hardly begun to practise successfully yet. When I’m walking down the street trying to keep my held held up to look at the people and things in front of me, I have the fear inside me constantly trying to get me to look down and make myself as invisible as possible. When I’m in social situations trying to engage and be present with friends, the fear is shouting at me to isolate myself from imminent danger. That fear is so powerful, it has its own voice, which sounds just like mine. Every second of the day the fear wants to get me to retreat from life so that it can get me on my own, where I will eventually drink again and die. By fighting the fear with anger and retaliation, I only strengthen it. I can’t fight with my own pain. I have to be thoroughly accepting of myself: the only way is to let myself feel the fear without argument or objection. So I’m feeling scared right now, and that’s OK. It cannot be a reason for me to get angry and upset, the way I felt all the time before. I’m feeling scared right now, and it’s OK, and I can do what I need to do anyway. I can be present in the world at all times even with the fear washing over me. There is a lot of fear, but there is infinitely more ME to deal with it.
By holding my head up to the world and looking straight ahead I have noticed so much that I didn’t notice before; by keeping myself present and alert in social situations I am catching and hearing things that would have been completely missed. Taking myself out of the past and the future has enabled me to see more of life – accepting the feelings instead of wasting mental energy trying to fight them has created more space for life to show itself to me. When I came into sobriety I noticed an instant increase in clarity of vision; this month I’ve noticed a similarly sharp increase. And all the while the fear and anxiety wants to make itself heard, sitting in my gut and whining at me like a hungry child. Particularly stressful events in my life will of course appeal to the whining child’s appetite for drama and pain. When relationships appear to go wrong, as they often do for me, the most natural thing for me to do is cry and imagine that my life is over, no will ever love me and I’ll have to die to cope with the misery. That comes from the whining inner child’s belief that I have to be loved by others to be OK. Just a fortnight ago I was lying in bed sobbing my heart out over Gareth again – how can I stop another event like that taking up an entire day? The feelings will come again, that is for sure. Both Eckhart Tolle and AA can probably agree on that. The feelings will have to be experienced in their entirety. They are a form of grief, grief for the dying fantasy of my knight in shining armour, and we all know that grief cannot be avoided or reasoned with. Remembering that I don’t need Mr Perfect to wrap his arms around me and rescue me might help. The other part of me, the recovering REAL me might be able to stand back and observe the feelings with compassion and understanding. That is all I can hope for.