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Cos I want more !!

Along with an overall feeling of being a second-rate Christian for most of my life came an issue with spending time with God. If I’m ‘not good enough’, then surely I am going to have to work that little bit harder to gain His approval and have any chance of entering His presence. This has rung true in my quiet-time throughout my walk until I started to see that I was living under a lie from the enemy. My time alone with God was a chore that could only work with a specific man-made pattern and order. It came with rules and requirements which needed to be completed or any time already spent was almost considered lost and worthless. Formality was the order of the day and words like fun and joy were not welcome. I didn’t want to do it but I kinda knew that I had to.

As I may have mentioned once or twice I am on a journey to a place of accepting that God loves me just as much as He loves you and everyone else. That there is no such thing as a second-rate Christian. That this is all a lie concocted by the enemy to keep us all separated from each other and stuck in our own pits of guilt and shame. My journey seems to be taking a lot longer than I had hoped but it is what it is and maybe by continually returning to this subject in my writing I can help my own journey and help others at the same time. I am becoming convinced that a lot of truths in both the Christian world and the recovery world (kinda the same thing if you ask me) just need a lot of repetition to sink in and become habitual ways of thinking and acting.

An image jumps into my mind at this point, again I think I might have written about it before. In this picture, I see four fairground labourers each stood at the four points of the compass and each using sledgehammers in perfect order one after the other to drive a massive tent post into the ground. Whilst there is an undeniable beauty to be seen in this piece of action there is also a truth to be taken from it. I have a tendency to take it for granted that once I have come across a new piece of information a couple of times then I will know it and put it into action. In the terms of the image, this is like approaching the tent post with a toffee hammer and giving it a couple of half-hearted taps. I am learning that I need to return time and time again to the tent post and smash the living daylights out of it. This is what I am now doing with this new understanding of just how fricking much my God loves me and what that means for me and my abilities.

As I am growing into this truth my quiet time with God is blossoming and becoming something that I look forward to each day and also something that carries its own fluidity. If needs be I can now stop and restart it, I follow a pattern that is so simple it shocks my sensibilities and if I miss anything out then that was what happened and not something to berate myself about. A big part of this change centres around worship. This was an area that I found hard previously but is so much easier now that I know that God loves it when I set apart time to get to know Him and spend time with Him. It is also much easier now that I am using music that suits my preferred style and that I can sing along with easily. I now find myself wanting more time to worship and am freely and comfortably praying in tongues during this time.

The more that I spend time with God the easier it is to do so and the more I accept the truth that I am loved by God just as I am the easier it is to live in that truth.

Cos I want more !!

More of God in my daily.

And more of the peace and joy that comes with it.

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Posted by on Jul 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A tale of two rehabs

As previously mentioned I have recently finished a six-month stretch in rehab and this was my second time around. My first was at Yeldall Manor and this time I was a resident at The Carpenters Arms. Both of them are Christian Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centres but, quite obviously, they are very different in a lot of ways. Although I’m very aware that it would be almost a cliche to write about the differences between the two, my writing has to be strongly influenced by my experience and this is too good a target for me to ignore . . . so . . . here goes . . . (I can’t help but think that a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and a handful of crashing chords on a church organ would go down well at this point).

When you first arrive at Yeldall Manor, having been driven up a drive that includes a couple of hundred yards of an avenue of simply enormous Redwood trees, you enter through a proper old-fashioned porch into a building that carries the weight of years quite comfortably. If you can manage to not be completely awed out by this experience it will only be due to being drugged up to the eyeballs, whereas arrival at the Carpenters Arms could not be much further apart in level of experience. The first phase property of the Carps is very clearly an average revamped pub in an average street in an average town in the Midlands whilst Yedall is an imposing piece of unique architecture set in acres of clean, fresh countryside. That first impression will naturally have an effect on how quickly you can settle into your new surroundings and way of life and for me, it also affected how quickly I moved into finding my own areas of control and, as such, rule breaking.

Once I had settled into my new surroundings at the Carps and began to consider the overall format of both places I could see the glaring differences. The word organisation leaps to mind when thinking of how Yeldall functions and, unsurprisingly for a comparison piece like this, the word disorganisation takes a running belly-flop into my thought process when I consider the Carps. The title of the late sixties film, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”, is a great starting point for a description of the way that Yeldall runs its programme. If you knew what the time was and what day it was you would, therefore, know exactly where you meant to be and what was going to be happening. The Carps had a much more, shall we say fluid approach to the wheres and whens of its programme. Other than the residents meeting first thing in the morning everything was dependent on a large number of, sometimes completely unknown, parameters. At times I was exasperated and at other times just totally bemused. I tried to bypass the uncertainty by approaching the staff member in charge of any given circumstance and inquiring about the starting time but soon learned that this technique gave little in the way of narrowing down the timeframe involved.

I’m going to choose to quickly run through things like counselling, teaching and food in order to keep this piece relatively short. At Yeldall I was allocated a trained counsellor who guided me through a series of sessions that looked into some of the many issues that led me into drug and alcohol abuse, at the Carps I had a number of ‘key-workers’, most of which had little training and/or personal experience of addiction. Yeldall had a tried and tested pattern of teachings that ran on a rolling schedule and the Carps seemed to run theirs dependent on how the allocated pastoral staff member felt at that given moment. The food at Yeldall was prepared by a professional chef and was varied, plentiful and generally wholesome and the Carps was almost the exact opposite. It was cooked, although I’m using that word in the loosest possible fashion to describe some of the meals presented to us, by my fellow residents. The basic ingredients were more often than not donated, right on the edge of their use-by-date, from a very little range of variety (we had, literally weeks of either sausages or chicken) and at times you needed to be near the front of the queue to ensure you got a plateful.

One area of difference that I found particularly difficult to deal with centred around the shopping trips. Yeldall had a straight-cut policy for this, the first month at Yeldall was the probationary period during which each resident was always accompanied by a staff member while outside the property. After this initial month period, you were allowed to go shopping on your own and trusted to return at a set time to the mini-bus. There were two shopping trips per week, a short period after visiting the leisure centre on a Wednesday afternoon and a longer time on Saturday afternoons. The Carps had a very different view about shopping. For one thing, the probationary period was a lot longer. After the first month or so at the first phase property there was then another sixteen week period at the second phase property before you could go shopping on your own. When you add to this that there was only the one trip per week and the day and time for this, like many other aspects of life at the Carps, changed almost on a weekly basis then for someone like myself frustration occurs. For those that have not experienced this kind of thing and are possibly wondering why this might be a problem please consider that this meant that not only were you dragging an awkward, troublesome staff member around the shops that you wanted to access but you also had to negotiate with another resident or two where you would be going and all within, usually, a fairly short time.

Another noticeable difference centres around free time. Yeldall is, as previously mentioned, a large mansion set in acres of mainly wooded countryside and so after that probationary period, there is always somewhere to go for either a time of solitude or to spend time with others. There are plenty of rooms available and just so much space outside to explore and/or spend time with others. The first phase of the Carps, being in a small old pub, was like being in a goldfish bowl. It is almost impossible to escape and find a space to be alone other than your own bedroom and with a policy of not allowing residents to be in each other’s rooms, it is not possible to get away from the rest of the group and socialise. The Second phase is located in an old hotel which is entirely surrounded by roads which means that, when you take into account the policy of not being allowed off the property without a staff member, you are restricted to the car park if you want to spend any time outside. Add to this the fact that literally only half of the property is heated and during the colder months of the year, outdoor clothing is needed to endure the cold in this half. The part that is heated has two areas for socialising and both of these have T.V.s that are on continuously from five in the evening weekdays and all day at the weekend. Those watching T.V. are usually quick to request silence if any conversations start during a program of interest. This leaves very little space in which to escape the crowd.

Then we come to phone calls and the systems involved concerning these. At Yeldall a simple policy was in action which meant that residents could make calls for a very small fee and therefore the length of calls out were recorded by staff and the cost taken from the residents ‘cash card’ (a simple piece of card carrying a log of the resident’s finances). The length of these calls and all calls coming in to the residents were dependent on the resident either having the money to cover it or the interest to continue it within sensible reason. At the Carps, though the rule was that each resident could make or take calls for fifteen minutes per day total with grace given for incoming calls after this point but only short grace. Although I didn’t want fifteen minutes each day I did want a phone call that could go on for as long as was needed, again within reason, once a week or so.

So these were the main differences that caught either my attention or my ire. There were others of course but they either don’t make good writing material or are so unimportant that they’re not worth documenting. Well, except for the feel of each place and this is an entirely personal view. Yeldall has a calm, peaceful air about it which I put down to the fact that prior to being a Rehab it had been owned and run by some nuns, the Carps has a harder edge to it and this again I put down to its previous use which I am assured involves an hourly charge for the use of rooms and its fame as a night-club.

I think that kinda covers it.

 
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Posted by on Jul 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The new improved version

I have just completed a six-month programme at the Carpenters Arms Christian Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre in Loughborough and not for the first time upon my release back into the wilder wide world I am noticing what seem to me to be plenty of changes around me. I first experienced this when I left the first Rehab that I had the pleasure of attending, four years ago. It seemed that I had been out of circulation for a number of years rather than the ten and a half months that I was a resident. A couple of these changes are that the cars on the street appeared to have a far more modern styling than I remembered and the people around me were displaying a wider diversity of clothing styles than before.

This time around I feel that I’ve entered a new improved version of the world I left six months ago. Although, as always with me, a simple statement like that comes dripping with a sauce of its own and in this case that sauce is sarcasm flavoured. Most of these changes are only for the better on the surface and a quick look under the facia reveals once again a short-term improvement that comes with a wealth of overheads that will insist on being cashed up in the future. Whilst I would not wish to steer too much attention to the ‘prince of this world’ I would be amiss if I ignored his influence on matters around us and you don’t need too much experience of spiritual matters to see that his forte is in the visual appearance of things and not the nuts and bolts workings that keep things running.

Now that I am back from my self-imposed mini-exile and I observe my surroundings and the way people interact with their environment I am, once again, feeling that maybe I’ve been left behind while everyone else has turned a page or two further on than me. The cars not only looked more stylised but they were also generally newer with far fewer older vehicles on the road that were held together by rust and a prayer. My experience since learning to drive was to buy a cheap run-a-round and drive it till either it fell apart or it cost more than it’s worth to keep it running and this way of life had clearly come to an end. The cars on the road resembled the fruit in a supermarket, they were the cleaner, better-looking editions and not the misshapen, dented versions I took pleasure in seeing.

As I walk through town centre and take stock of my fellow travellers I note that with the variation of clothing styles comes a certain unmistakable accessory, namely a massive increase in visible tattoo ink and especially on women. Now, obviously, I likes a bit of ink I do. I have added to my collection since breaking free but whereas previously those displaying tattoos were in the minority, it now seems that they are in the majority. Like a lot of the lads that I’ve met in rehab I admit to finding the idea of tattoos on women appealing as it seems to suggest a certain edginess that I find attractive but some of the artwork that I’ve seen recently, especially the large conspicuous pieces across a number of women’s chests, leaves me wondering why. Yet again the word ‘random’ comes to mind.

Small things for sure but my mind has its own way of evaluating data and in these cases sees a continuing trend towards an outward image that denies the truth underneath.

Kinda like the swans, I used to watch swimming along the Thames in Reading.

 
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Posted by on Jul 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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But, and here’s the rub, when recovery rocks it really rocks

I’ve just been sat at the back door where I live, sat down with a cup of coffee and a fag, staring at a brick wall. I had to put my glasses on to see the wall properly. No, sorry, not had to but wanted to put on my glasses so that I could just sit and stare at a brick wall. Stare at the variety of bricks. Stare at the slightly broken bricks, the scratched bricks, the bricks with dimples and grooves. the reddish bricks, the stained bricks. So many different bricks. I sat and in some unexplainable way communed with my God. Through my artistic appreciation of the range of bricks and their differences and similarities, I was able to spend time lost in gratitude. Gratitude to my God that he made me the way he made me, gratitude that He has given me eyes to see. Eyes that see beauty where others might just see what is there. Eyes that get so filled up with the splendour of this broken world that all I can do is sit and stare.

There’s been a mixture of things that have brought me here so soon after my last little walk on the wild side. A mixture of what I have done and what God has done in me. I have done my part in looking at the things that have shaped me into who I am today. Looking at the ways that I react to certain stimuli and then trying to see if I need to change those reactions or keep them. Looking at some of the experiences that I have had and trying to unlock their power over me and seeing if my part in those experiences was a factor or not. In short, taking as much of a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself as I have been able. That has been some of what I have been doing in myself but I don’t feel qualified to begin to suggest what my God has been doing in me. What I am qualified to say is that He has been working in me and the proof of that is that I am still here at all.

Further proof can be seen by the fact that I’ve just been staring at a brick wall communing with my God. Slowly, bit by bit I am learning to let go of some of the rules that I have lived under all my adult life. Rules that include how and when I can commune with my God. Some of these rules came from well-meaning but misinformed people around me and some came from my own immature and scared mind. Those that I made up and stuck to were safe-seeming self-defense mechanisms that would have been discarded when I had felt loved and secure. Until recently, I have not felt secure enough to review a lot of these rules and so I have continued to live with a metaphorical straitjacket in the area of spirituality. I had been able to loosen a few of the straps but the jacket had stayed firmly on. I have now started to unbuckle those straps.

I have been aware of having eyes that see beauty where others see the mundane for a long time. I have repeatedly shown my gratitude to my God for His beauty and for Him allowing me to experience it. The change that has been occurring in me is to finally be able to see that while I am lost in awe and wonder of the beauty around me, I am actually directly communing with my God. I am sharing a moment of time with my God. A moment of joy. A moment of just being with Him. A moment of worship. Those moments can be as long or as short as they happen to be. I don’t care anymore because I can now see that He gave me this gift so that we could share it and that blows my mind clear out of this orbit and into a brand new trajectory.

And that’s one of the times when this recovery thing rocks. It rocks so much that it makes it easy to keep fighting for more.

 
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Posted by on Jul 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Sometimes I fucking hate being an addict

So, I had a relapse recently and have been putting some of the pieces back together slowly. I’ve been getting time and distance under my belt and putting back into action certain behaviours and practices that I need to grow and stay strong. Like so many of my peers, I am incredibly lazy and prone to procrastination and so it has taken a little bit longer than I would have liked but it is what it is. I don’t actually have much of a choice here. If I want any peace, joy and happiness in my life then I have to work at it. I know from my own experience that it doesn’t come easily but when it does comes then all of a sudden it seems well worth the effort.

But, and here’s the rub, I want to listen to the voice in my head that screams, whispers and repeatedly tells me to just ‘go on, go on, go on’ and take a break. Go and get myself a little something to take the pressure away just for a minute, evening, day or, and let’s be honest here, just for a week or two. Damn, but I know I need it! I am so tired anyway! It would only be for a while and ‘we’ know ‘we’ can get it all together later after ‘we’ have had that reward that ‘we’ so desperately need. I want to run and go hide. I love the feeling of letting go and relaxing into the slow, groove of a mind altering buzz. I want to take control of the crazy thoughts running riot through my head and put them on hold while I slip the brake on and chill.

The promises that slide through my thought processes are all similar lies. They assure me that my actual experience is the lie and this time it will be different. This time it will stop my washing machine head and supply a superior kind of peace. They tell me that the tiny pieces of enjoyment that I have had before will unexplainably gel into one long, pleasure-filled night of wonder. Alongside these lies are the other lies that tell me that I will achieve a new acceptance of myself, suddenly become desirable to women and will be the centre of attention at a party that is perfectly suited to my every desire. Lies, lies and more lies and every one of them sounding exactly like my own voice which somehow gives more credence to the words.

As these voices continue to scratch at my resolve I find myself struggling the most when I am out and about. Scanning the pavement in search of a partly used bag. Hoping that some idiot has dumped a little bit of some drug or other and that I am the one to find it. Or better still hoping that someone approaches me to ask if I want to join them in taking whatever mood-altering substance they happen to have.

I am now fifty-four years old and have thirteen years of living with a recovery head. I know the score. I know all about running the tape forward and thinking through what the result will be. For fuck’s sake, I know from multiple experiences how it ends up. I have been there, many times, and lived through the struggle of trying to get clean after yet another lapse. I have been that bloke that goes to meetings and goes straight back out for another hit somehow unable to keep it all together. I have been there and I’m too old to go back out there . . .but . . .those lies sound so appealing.

If it wasn’t for a loving God, I know that I would be back out there. If it wasn’t for the people out there that are not afraid to show me love. And so, I am getting back to that place where I get to choose whether or not I am going to enjoy my life. I have put in the work and am continuing to do the things that I need to do cos when it does come there really isn’t a comparison.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Spinning Plates

My life was so much easier way back when I thought that spinning plates was an image that concerned keeping on top of the best practices that would ensure a good spiritual connection with my God. I had one plate on a stick that I had to remember to keep spinning that was reading the bible regularly and then there was the other plate that represented spending time talking to God. There were other plates with labels like tithing, serving others at church, witnessing, controlling my language, reading the right books, etc etc. These plates were already becoming hard to keep an eye on and as time passed they were only added to with more directives. The ‘world’ held so many different distractions that could take my mind and will away from ‘serving my God’ in the way that I was told was so important and the way to fight this was to keep these plates spinning.

Little did I know that I was actually too busy spinning a different set of plates to be able to give these old plates the time they needed. Since getting into recovery I have started to learn that I was an expert at keeping myself lost in levels of denial that have kept me incredibly busy. I was denying how I felt about past situations that confused and hurt me, I was denying how I felt about most of the relationships I was either in or had been in, I was denying how badly I thought of myself and I was denying how little hope I held for my future. I had learnt how to be a chameleon as a massive defence mechanism and I had learnt to take all my feelings and stuff them in some random room in the mansion of my mind. I was a walking, talking defence mechanism. Old childhood ways of defending myself from pain and discomfort had carried on into ‘adulthood’ and were choking me, stopping me from maturing and blocking any real chances of creating useful, working relationships with anyone around me.

Now I am in recovery and have been offered a set of tools that can help me to look at theses things. I have worked through a lot of the past situations that used to have the power to confuse and hurt me, I have spent time looking in the metaphorical mirror at myself and seen a generally, genuinely good man looking back and I have put work into creating a future that holds hope and promise for me. I have also put work into looking at the area of relationships from the past and those I am in now but this is the one that keeps possibly the strongest hold on me. I don’t want to admit to myself how certain women in my life have held excessive power over me either because they represent a critical parent role to me or because I want them to desire me sexually. Yet another area where the saying ‘progress, not perfection’ protects me from complete meltdown.

Alongside these areas of deception and denial, I am very aware of more denial concerning the things that I allow myself to do that I do not consider to be the best choices I could make. That ugly word ‘justification’ comes to the fore here. I can happily explain to myself or anyone in earshot just how I can’t be expected to bring too much change into my life, or how I surely deserve a bit of a reward considering my situation, or maybe even the old fallback of how God hasn’t really pricked my conscience over this particular subject. Some of these things are works in progress and some are just going to be thorns in my side for the foreseeable future.

I have found much solace in the knowledge that I am not alone in my struggles, it is one of the reasons that I enjoy 12 step meetings. I can go into a room of people that are basically just as mad as I am and are happy to admit that truth out loud. It doesn’t take too much of a mental jump to extend that truth to all those other people around me that are following a similar spiritual path. I am not alone in my struggle and just as long as I can keep myself from insisting that there can be any rules or laws that others can break that I have any right at all to challenge then I can hold open the possibility of connection. With connection comes love and with love flowing not only from my God to me but also from me to others then continued growth is a real possibility.

So I am slowly learning to put all these plates down. As a wise woman told me the other day I need to stop being and start doing and one of the best ways I feel that I can achieve this is by speaking through these areas of denial and bringing them into the light cos it’s amazing to watch them shrivel.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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How the mighty . . . Pt 2

No doubts about it, I am remarkably fortunate to still be breathing fresh air and have the opportunity to tell the tale. I can see no further than that this is due to a loving God who, in His infinite wisdom, has a plan for me and my life. He did not save me from the waters to just leave me to die on the beach. Having been there for me, even though I have made some fantastically crazy decisions throughout my life He is still watching over me and I can’t help but wonder about what part I may have to play in His grand plan. This recent period of my life has included a large amount of joining the dots concerning ideas and concepts that have been ruminating through my mind over time. Like smoke, these ideas swirl in front of me and I see clarity as often as I see a knotted mess.

The one thing I am sure of at the moment is just how much ground I lost by picking up. I believe that we all operate in a holistic manner. Everything is interconnected. The spiritual effects the physical which in turn affects the emotional and so on. My mental capacities seemed slightly slower and easier to derail after my relapse, I was a complete and utter wreck emotionally and I see the links between these two aspects of my personality. When I am not firing on full capacity in these two departments I will obviously struggle to connect the dots and laziness kicks in big time. My struggle with shame loves such an opportunity to step in and suggest that I don’t deserve to gain understanding anyway.

So it seems that I have some work to do to give myself the best chance of being ready for the next big adventure. I am starting to put into action a number of the suggestions that have repeatedly been sent my way over the years. Top of the list for me is creating a close circle of friends that I can meet with regularly and share my journey with. Like a lot of people around me, I can draw further and further into myself and fail to work on trust issues because, after all, I am special and unique. Experience tells me that this doesn’t actually work all that well for me and instead of moving forward I tend to stagnate and seek escape through damaging practices. When I do give this option a try I usually find a security and safety that encourages me to try more things.

The other thing I am trying to do is to find a good reliable way to connect with God on a one to one, daily basis. I have tried various ways of ‘having a quiet time’ over the years and usually give up because it becomes formulaic or legalistic and I find myself following a set routine without actually checking out if God is with me. Some of the elements of previously tried quiet times are probably worth putting back into practice to begin a structured routine but I know I need to be careful that I don’t just tick boxes and shoot off thinking that God will be happy to squeeze Himself into my plans. My heart longs for an honest connection with God but my head thrives on being busy in a quiet time and after a while, there is no space for God to capture my attention and connect with me.

At this moment in time, with my relapse fresh on my mind, I feel a pressing need to push myself as much as I can but I am aware that this strong desire for change will probably start to ease off over time. I am, therefore, reliant on my God meeting me halfway as I step out. I am relying on a loving God and can not think of a better way forward than in His hands.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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