Saturday, 28 February 2015

Running on the spot. A tie to something I no longer need.

I wrote last night about needing to make new challenges. Also about how easy it is to sound confident and full of beans sat here in front of this screen - it's my natural habitat after all. 

Translating it into real action is the tough part. But then that's been the story of my life. I talk a good game. "And I'm not what I appear to be." (One for The Beatles fans there.) 

Today was OK. Today contained nothing bad. I did some work. I did some sitting around. I watched some sport. Ate three decent meals and left the house no messier than it was before I started. 

I'm running on the spot. 

This is better than standing in a hole and digging. So I'm grateful for that. 

But I'd like to be moving forward again. 

It'd be easy now to type out a load of things I intend to do tomorrow and sound very good about it. I've got a long pattern of doing that. 

There are legitimate reasons behind that. Anxiety is a real thing, and I really suffer with it. I'm not making that shit up, there's no excuse there. These addictions I'm stepping away from are real too, and so are their after effects, so is the battle to take them on. That takes energy. Depression is real.

What's realistic and doable? That's what my counsellor would have asked me. What tasks can I set myself tomorrow that will make me feel better about myself? What can I do to recover tomorrow? 

I'm buggered if I can come up with an answer to that right now. 

I hope and intend to have a good day. I can do much as I did today: do some work, do some shopping, watch some sport. Cutting out the "just sitting around" would be good. 

I need to stop smoking too. It shouldn't be too hard. I've managed it before for a period of several months. 

Smoking is very big to me. Lighting up a cigarette is stupid, self-harming and wasteful. It's also one of the few things I did as a kid to assert my independence from my parents. In a way that's an independence I still need to assert - I expect many people have that experience.

However, smoking became something that became very tied into my idea of having an identity as an independent adult. I would like that independent, adult identity. But I don't need smoking any more. 

I need to find that identity in standing on my own two feet, looking after myself. In being a good partner to Mag, in protecting and providing. In walking tall in the knowledge that I am clean inside. (Sorry, I sound a bit like a politician.) 

That's not an excuse either. I can identify this tie intellectually. I can know that smoking is stupid. But ideas like that, formed over long, difficult periods when I was young, vulnerable and malleable are very deeply set. 

In the end though, they can be beaten. Despite the strength of tie, it's still just a behaviour, a learned behaviour. And a learned behaviour can be unlearned. 

Do you know? Even just typing about giving up smoking makes me feel a little sad and grieving. It's hard to let go of part of your identity. It was one of the big struggles of my stopping drinking - as a drinker I was someone, a good pubman, a bit of a barroom wit, hell, even a quiz champion from time to time. 

And smoking's a tie to that too. A pair of old identities that need to be shed. 

I'm convinced that chucking away tobacco and lighter and emptying this house of ashtrays will be a very major step forward in my recovery. 

And right now, I'm not quite ready to do it.  

Friday, 27 February 2015

Taking action on inaction. Looking for the next step.

Today was much better. 

I woke up and got up early. I took the walk that challenges my anxiety. Nothing happened. That's just something that has to be repeated until the effects start to really show I guess. 

I'm fairly settled in this routine now, despite Mag being away. If I need to make improvements they are plain enough for me to see. 

I need to do more work and be more disciplined around work. I have too much to do and it's pressing down on me and causing me stress. The stress paralyses me. I run and hide from it. 

I no longer have alcohol, cannabis, porn or social media to run to or hide in. So I'm not doing so well with dealing with it. I sit, staring at the screen - because I can't leave the computer because that's where I need to be to do my work, no matter that I'm not actually doing my work. 

Make no mistake, this is an improvement. These stressful breaks waste time, but they're not damaging in the way my previous escapes were. Sometimes I might watch a meditation, yoga or self-improvement video. 

I need to find a better and quicker break through though. 

I reckon I've got two or three decent options here. 

The first is to do some exercise. I have an exercise bike and weights in my office. I can do 20 press-ups or 50 crunches. I'll feel better, get more energy and I'll be improving my health and fitness. 

The second is to get away from the computer and go for a walk. This is more challenging for me - therefore potentially more rewarding. It doesn't have to be far. A quick spin around the block will get me back home in 10 minutes. I'll get some fresh air and sunshine/pouring rain/hail (it's February in the UK). It won't do my fitness any harm and is likely to be very mentally refreshing. 

Finally, I can do some sort of breathing exercise or meditation. I have a book that I've been reading with plenty in and I already know that alternate nostril breathing, for example, does me the world of good. 

That's the new routine then. When I hit a block with work I do one of those three things. The first two feel better I think, as the third will leave me sitting at my desk. They should be my priority. 

It's key to be quite quickly reactive on this I think. It's in inertia and brooding that I lose myself and start to go down back mental pathways.

I'm doing pretty well as I say. I'm stable and stable in a much better way than I have been for years. However, I'm still very much a prisoner of routines - for example the make-a-cup-of-tea-and-have-a-fag routine of my usual breaks - that don't do much for me and of anxiety that ties me to a very small world. That's why I think the going out for a walk break may be the best for me to try. 

This is what this is all about though. Replacing poor behaviours with better ones. 

Once I start to get on top of my work more effectively I'm keen to start expanding my life in new directions. 

It feels very easy to type this sort of thing now. Easy to feel positive and determined. The proof will be in the pudding and I have to be aware of falling back now. 

There are still many challenges ahead, and while in this state of confidence rather than in a state of abject self-loathing I can still see that I have a long way to go and that there are very big potential stumbling blocks ahead. I have another two weeks alone to get through, that pile of work hasn't reduced much.

The bigger picture remains big and frightening: moving towards total financial independence and possibly something that might pass for a career change; taking charge of more around the house; moving on to the next stage with my fitness; finding some sort of social life; getting some sort of creative life. And so on and so on...

That's why it has to be broken down into small steps. I was hoping to be able to have a couple of new routines to try adding over the next month, but I'm not quite sure of what direction to go in there. Hopefully that will come together over the weekend. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time. 

If you'd like to talk, please leave a comment or drop me an email.  


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Wavering. Looking for answers. The need to keep going.

Not such a good day here. A slight hangover from yesterday's anxiety perhaps. Who knows? 

Today I felt weak, lonely and wavering. My work suffered. I found it hard to concentrate and was dispirited; I had headaches and sudden spells of complete exhaustion. I got things done, but I finished early and gave myself a bit of time off. Time with which I did nothing useful. 

This is not the end of the world. In terms of recovery it was still a useful day. I meditated and worked out and will meditate again. 

I took my walk on the route to work, part of challenging my anxiety. I think it is location based. I'm prone to exaggerating such things, as befits someone with anxiety, and it's one of the reasons I now stay away from the news - there's no sense of perspective. I don't want anyone to think of mean streets and burned out cars. I go through a slightly less pleasant neighbourhood. There's more begging, a bit of open drug dealing, more kids who should be in school and aren't, more litter. 

And it scares the living crikey out of me. It's silly, but there it is. I've always been like this. Always scared of "the rough boys" from the council estate. The same is true of my pretty genteel small town and so it is of Thin City, just as it was Mom City and Heathen City. 

That doesn't matter. What matters is what I do about it. 

I'm pretty sure I would be diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder were I to go to a doctor, persuade her to refer me to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and await my Citalopram prescription. 

I don't want to do that. It's not a road I want particularly want to go down again, though if I need to I will. 

So what can I do? 

First, I think I'll continue my walking experiment. Down these not very mean streets... 

I also need to continue doing what I'm doing - those "right things" I've written so much about. Doing more of them or doing them more often is no bad thing. 

I've let myself go a little bit since Mag went away. 

I've retreated more into my office. It's the room in which I feel safest, the quietest, even when we had terrible neighbours it felt like my haven. I'm spending too much time in here. I've gone from no smoking in the house, to smoking in the office. That needs to stop.

I've continued to put things off. A phone call I could do with making. 

And I'm wasting too much time. I work, I eat and then I watch TV. I then work out and write this, meditate and go to bed. 

It's fine, but it's not enough. It's a retreat and I'm not pushing or stretching myself enough. 

Basically, it's about something I've done very little of in my life. Knuckling down and putting the work in. 

There isn't any self-loathing in that. I recognise that I haven't learned that skill, to react in that way, and I need to start to learn it. So I learn it. 

I'm also still prepared to keep some balance in this. I'm still doing extraordinarily well. My life is almost unrecognisable from what it was not very long ago. Things that are worse aren't as bad as they used to be, most things in my life are much better, and some things in my life are the best they've ever been. 

I am sober and recovering and very grateful for it and ready to make the changes needed to have more of it. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time. Please leave a comment if you feel so moved, I'd love to hear from you.