What’s their problem?

Our tree this morning

The question to ask is not, ‘What’s wrong with this person?’ But ‘What does this irritation tell me about myself?’

Anthony Demello

When someone makes us upset, we have to remember that we are choosing to react to something. It’s not the things they say or do that upset or offend us, but rather our judgment about those things.

The irritant is never the other person. It’s always something within us.

The Daily Stoic

Damn those bloody Stoics and their silly truths!

I’ve been struggling with parenting this week, struggling with trying to find work, with having meetings to discuss possibilities, with writing a kids book that may never amount to anything, with finances, with blah blah blah.

This is life. People have faced similar dilemmas for all of history in one form or another. This week I allowed others to annoy and disappointment me. From that closed mindset, it’s been a simple task to blame others, blame the state of the world, blame Covid and numerous short sighted politicians.

I’m better than that. We all are. So today I will focus on sweeping my side of the street, take responsibility for my thoughts, emotions and do what matters, in accordance with my values.

Onward ho

Boozebrain


Bravo Lena Horne

I don’t know much about Lena, (actor, singer, civil rights advocate) but this quote certainly speaks to me right now. We all have our loads to carry and these COVID-19 times have added a myriad of complications to the way I am precariously carrying mine.

Personally, I wondered if controlled drinking may help me carry that load a little better. As I discovered, it did not. It made the load much harder to grasp. In fact I dropped it, it smashed and I cut myself to bits. I’m thankful I escaped with only a few scratches. It could have been worse.

So now, it’s back to carrying the daily and hourly load of life. I’m rediscovering different ways to adjust it so that I can still laugh, sing and dance as I go. Thanks for the tip Lena.

Boozebrain


Reality is complicated – an unpublished post

I wrote this a few weeks back – at the beginning of my ill advised experiment with controlled drinking. (A spectacular failure by the way) It’s worth sharing it now for my own reflection and learning.

I’m delighted my experiment is over. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in several weeks and this morning I feel wonderful. Thanks to all here – one day at a time.

(Written on August 8th)

We are dealing with the real world here. What matters is how you’re going to deal with this situation right in front of you and whether you’re going to be able to move past it and onto the next one. That’s not saying anything goes – but we can’t forget that although theories are clean and simple, situations rarely are.’

The Daily Stoic

And the world at present is anything but ‘clean and simple.’ So many uncertainties and yet so many ways to respond.

For the most part, the only thing I can shape with certainty is little ole me. Despite my ongoing search for a job and concerns about our financial future, I will maintain what’s got me to where I am today – daily meditation, reading, reflecting, exercise, good coffee, music and laughter.

Now, I also took the most unusual step of visiting a pub with two old friends the other evening. It wasn’t a rash decision. I’ve been thinking about having a drink for over a month now. Again, I journaled, reflected, talked with my partner about my decision, and then explained my rationale with my old friends. We yarned about alcohol, addictions, habits and so forth. Once that conversation was had, I had two mid strength beers! The first alcohol I’ve had in seven years.

As the Stoics often talk about, theories can be ‘clean and simple’, but reality rarely is.

It was so very strange to be in a pub having a beer, and I did thoroughly enjoy it. It was my reality for that night, but what next?

I feel like the qs is, can I now cultivate a new relationship with alcohol – an adult to adult relationship? Can I put into practice all that I have learned these past seven years? Time, as always, will tell.

I was listening to an addiction specialist recently, who said sobriety is all well and good, but it doesn’t automatically mean you will be a better person. It won’t change your perception of the world. It’ll change others perceptions of how they see you, but how you interpret things won’t necessarily be altered. Think of ‘dry drunks’, as they mention in AA. Yes, they don’t drink, but they are negative and miserable sods!

That got me thinking. The key for me is to maintain consciousness. Sobriety alone won’t ensure I’m a conscious or awakened soul. Sobriety can and has certainly helped me significantly over the years, however for a while now, abstinence feels as though it’s become an obstacle, rather than an ally.

Food addicts can’t abstain from food, nor sex addicts from sex. They are called to learn a new way of managing and responding to those situations and triggers. So how do I nurture a new way of being with alcohol? Can it even be done? I honestly don’t know. As I told my partner, if having the odd drink doesn’t bode well, then I return to abstinence.

The decision to explore this relationship further, feels like a good and necessary one. Either way, growth and development is guaranteed. Be it a positive or harmful development waits to be seen.

I have to say though, I do feel very uncomfortable posting this here, as so many of you are consciously not drinking, which is obviously the right thing for you to do. If it’s working for you, please keep going. I’ll support you all the way.

As for me, I’m approaching this like a curious scientist. It’s an experiment. The outcome is unknown.

‘Maintain consciousness’ is my mantra.

I’ll keep you posted,

Boozebrain

(The pic is of a recent walk where I continue to ponder on life)


Brief experiment into insanity officially over

On August 1st, following several weeks of contemplation, journaling and conversation with my partner, I decided to undertake an experiment. After seven and a bit years of sobriety, I chose to see if I could successfully navigate the world of ‘controlled drinking.’

The short answer is NO! I most certainly could not.

In five short weeks, I went from sobriety to feverishly drinking anything I could get my hands on. The first two weeks were oh so very sensible and my ego thoroughly enjoyed it. The last three weeks descended into a cocktail of beer, wine, gin and vodka.

It surprised the shit out of me how quickly I lost my bearings. Untethered, I drifted helplessly towards old patterns long forgotten. It has been scary how quickly I descended into the chaos of drinking after seven years of not having a single drop. Once again, I found myself using alcohol as a way to manage my anxieties – this time around my ongoing Covid inspired time of unemployment, growing financial concerns, parenting issues and my relationship. But at the end of the day, it honestly could have been anxiety and frustration around anything – I was simply happy to be drinking again. It had its fun moments – no doubt. Four or five times I absolutely loved it and my partner and I had a couple of wonderful late night yarns around the fireplace. Alas.

I’m very grateful that I went there. I honestly believed all those years of thorough, committed inner work – degrees, meditation, courses, books, retreats, blogs and so on, would have held me in good stead but no.

So there you have it. In five short weeks I fell, stumbled, tripped into oblivion. As many of you have mentioned, perhaps some of us, for whatever reason, are simply not designed to ‘dance with alcohol.’

It’s good to be blogging once again. I’ve been watching from afar, but I didn’t wish to share I was back drinking, at least not until I had some sense of how it was all going to turn out.

Thankfully, it’s been a very short experiment. It could easily have lasted five months or years.

So, there you have it. I hoist myself back onto this aging, sober horse of existence and set out once more for all that reality has in store for me. I’ll continue to share my learnings as the unpacking of this short lived experiment unfolds.

Talk soon,

Boozebrain


Teilhard the wise

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Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through some stages of instability

and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;

your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

will make of you tomorrow.

Only the Beloved could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give the Divine the benefit of believing

that her hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer

Of late, when my addled brain is in full flight, this little gem from Teilhard helps restore me to sanity.

I’ve noticed in recent years that we are not all that good with ‘time.’ It appears it has become our enemy, a foe we grapple with c/o time lines, constraints, deadlines and so on. This pandemic has allowed me the freedom to reassess my relationship with time. Losing my job back in March has inadvertently provided opportunities I otherwise would have missed. Realising that as a family, we can and are leading a far simpler and humbler lifestyle has been one of my learnings.

I wonder what else this virus will teach me in the coming months?

Boozebrain


Rilke and us boozehounds

I’ve just returned from a weeks family holidays down south…famous for being excellent wine country.

Each night the extended family would gather for dinner, fires crackling, soft rain falling, surrounded by beautiful Forrest and I would watch all the adults drink red wine and laugh.

It’s the closest I’ve come to having a drink in many years. At one stage, back in the chalet, when no one was around, I picked up a bottle with the intention of having a wee small glass. Alas, the bottle was empty.

For the last two days I’ve been processing what that episode was all about. It really wasn’t anything to do with the taste of wine. As best I can tell, it was largely context. Fire, family, cold and rain, music, wanting that little spark that the first drink or two would provide. I wanted to experience a little of what they were experiencing.

Next time, I will be better prepared and take some non alcoholic wine or beer. Sparkling water and cups of tea in such an environment don’t quite do the trick.

And of course each morning I was both relieved and delighted that I hadn’t taken a drink. It’s easy for me to forget my past, the sheer desperation, the unhappiness and self loathing each mornings hangover would bring. Context is so significant. I think that’s largely why I don’t go to pubs or attend loud, boozy parties anymore.

So there you have it. Even after seven years of sobriety, I slightly tripped and nearly fell. Not that it would have been the end of the world…I feel I have learnt enough during these past years that I would have recovered quickly. But then again, who the hell knows. Why tempt fate for one drink. I know the dark places where one drink has led me in the past – pretty much every single time.

Best I stay sober. This is ceaseless work. Good work, but it requires ongoing commitment.

Having you all around helps keep me grounded. Thanks to all of you in this little online community. You wouldn’t even know from my lack of interaction at times, but I am very grateful for knowing you are all only one click away on my phone.

As for this poem of Rilke, I read it today and it just spoke to me in a profound way. May we all plunge into the depths and be kind to ourselves when we fall – which we will inevitably do on a regular basis.

May we create some quiet moments today to consciously drink in reality, in all its ‘is-ness.’ For the good moments and for the bad.

Carry on,

Boozebrain


Road to nowhere

‘Does my life have meaning?’ Is a road to nowhere Qs. Whether I give myself a thumbs up or a thumbs down, there’s a flaw at the heart of the qs, a flaw created by my old nemesis, the overweening ego.

Here’s the poem that opened my eyes, by the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz:

Love

Love means to learn to look at yourself

The way one looks at distant things

For you are only one thing among many.

And whoever sees that way heals their heart,

Without knowing it, from various ills.

A bird and a tree say to them: Friend.

Then one wants to use oneself and things

So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.

It doesn’t matter whether we know what we serve:

Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Embracing the fact that there’s no way to know with precision whom or what I’m serving helps free my words and actions from the ego’s dominion.

A sense of peace comes when I understand that I am ‘only one thing among many,’ no more or less important than the bird and the tree he writes about. There’s much I don’t know about birds and trees, but this I know for sure: they don’t wonder or worry about whether their lives have meaning. They simply be what they be. In the process, they befriend people like me who are elevated simply by taking time to appreciate the gifts so freely given by the natural world.

There’s nothing like a walk into the woods, mountains, along the ocean, or out in the desert to put ones life in perspective and help me take heart again. In places like that, I can settle into the comforting knowledge that I am ‘only one thing among many.’

Parker J Palmer

Am I glad that an old friend gave me this book recently. I sometimes forget how wonderful Parker is at helping me see where I fit into the great scheme of life.

Rock on,

Boozebrain


Manic Screaming

We should make all spiritual talk simple today:

The Beloved is trying to sell you something, but you don’t want to buy.

That is what your suffering is:

Your fantastic haggling, your manic screaming over the price!

Hafiz

Oh, how I have spent much time screaming and haggling over the years.

I would allow myself to be swept up by both my ego and the events swirling around me and haggle furiously in a futile effort to bend the unbendable. Sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously. Throw in my drinking and I was in no place to hear what the beloved was trying to sell me…and at virtually no cost.

Overall, I am no longer interested in haggling. At times, my anxiety still triggers the shit out of me but I am learning to make room for all those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and sit with them until they teach me their lessons. Is it fun? Not overly but it’s not really meant to be. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I’ve found it’s far more helpful than screaming, fighting and haggling.

May you all find a bargain today.

Boozebrain

(The photo is from last weekends walk – cold, cloudy and delightful)


To new beginnings

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As long as we cling to our usual ways of seeing things, and our habitual ways of reacting to difficult situations, there isn’t much room for anything new to happen. Sometimes we have to hit the wall before we’re willing to stop. Sometimes we have to empty out the old before we can take in anything new. This is not a comfortable place but it’s quite possibly the only place from which something new, healthy and life giving can emerge. Sometimes we have to give the old life a good send-off before a new one can emerge.

Noel Giblett

This quote is from an old friend, Noel, who last year published a wonderful book on relationships and marriage titled ‘Marriage is for grown-Ups.’

It’s a wise and wonderful read. Doesn’t matter if your gay, lesbian, Hetero, de facto or simply in a long term committed relationship, it’s pure gold. He doesn’t know I’m mentioning his book on my blog, but if you are keen to do some work on your relationship then I highly recommend it.

For us boozehounds, his writing can apply equally to many of our covert marriages to alcohol.

May we all one day send off our old ways of living and welcome in the new.

Hurrah,

Boozebrain


Where you are…

Beautiful. So clear and simple, and yet I work with many people, myself included, who so often do not start from where they are. They start from where they have come from, their past stories about who they think they are – all the accompanying hurts and successes. Or else they start from where they want to be in the future.

My experience has been that we often tend to start from anywhere but the now. And as we all know, there is nowhere else but the very now. This moment, this breathe. Everything that happens to us, happens in the now. The next conversation I have, the next action I take, it all arises out of my ability to be present to this very moment.

When I’m all caught up in past or future, I’m not here. Consequently, my conversations and actions can be all over the place. Add alcohol to that mix and no wonder my live was a mess.

‘Start from where you are’. Today, Mr Ashe, I will endeavour to do just that. If nothing else, breathing into this present moment helps keep my anxiety at workable levels. It also allows me to fully enjoy this cup of coffee I’m about to drink. Oh yeah, coffee is calling.

Grand Sunday’s to you all.

Boozebrain