Don't you find that some weeks last longer than others? My time with my counsellor is coming to an end and has become a review of time travelled and the journey made. She asked me to find something in my home that could be a symbol of recovery for me as part of building a toolkit (my words) for the future. This was difficult to tie down as I've made quite a few connections during the past months.
A significant one of these was a white flying horse or should that be a flying white horse, can't decide. During one particular session with her, I found myself standing in a cave watching my family playing outside in a meadow in the sunshine. It was really bright and they were running around with each other, laughing madly, but no matter how much I wanted to join in I couldn't leave my cave. Yes it was dark and cold and damp but I was filled with fear of ruining their fun so I stayed behind watching. Gradually I became aware of a white horse standing beside me and a rope in my hand. I was holding onto the rope so tightly that my hand was red raw and the skin stuck to the rope. Being in the cave reminded me of my early days in recovery when I had imagined myself in a dark room with no doors or windows and while I couldn't see anything at all I was in a very comfortable armchair and felt very safe. Over time I moved from the room to a tunnel and though I couldn't see the light at the end of it, I could see the way to take by the torches held out for me by my friends in AA and found myself taking a journey of hope. This cave felt like the end of that tunnel and with sight of the light a realisation that it could be time to step out into it. Further reflection and discussion led to an awareness of my horse having wings and that we were one and the same. Throughout my counselling many of my descriptions of where I am, and have been, have resulted in descriptions connected to horses such as being saddled to a horse, racing on a blinkered horse, unable to stop a running horse. The connections have also been positive such as flying free, running free, and the feeling of being unleashed and allowed to roam. It became apparent that I have a habit of being so focused on an end result that I don't have any awareness of what happened in between and we developed a theme whereby I would ask myself what would happen if I stopped to eat the grass.
When I first came into recovery I was very aware of the need to take everything moment by moment, in contrast to projecting into the future and ruing the past. While my only focus was stopping drinking this was quite simple, to do what was in front of me, to live in this moment only, to let go of my worries and fears of that which could not be dealt with. As time has moved on, and living in this world as it is, it has become more difficult and I hadn't realised how I had lost this gift. I had returned to the racehorse, either stressing out in the stalls worrying about what lay ahead or collapsed at the end, knackered by what had been. The race itself had passed me by and I wouldn't have been able to tell you whether there was any grass never mind what it tasted like. I know how much effort it had taken to slow down, to change my thinking patterns, to hand it over to my Higher Power and to let it go. It wasn’t always easy, I spent a lot of time in meetings cleaning out my fingernails and making sure that I wasn't hanging onto the tiny threads of whatever it was I was attempting to hand over, attempting to keep control of it, to force myself to fail and keep all the misery that comes with that failure. My second recovery journey has been so much harder as my disease has taken hold again and whilst I didn't drink, my head, my thinking was lost. During the week, I have been scouring the house looking for this symbol, no flying white horses in sight, when on the last morning I saw my car parked outside. I am a very lucky girl when it comes to my car. It was an incident with a car that forced me to look at my drinking and during my first year in sobriety I had to buy myself a new car. 'Had' might be a bit strong, we had a family car but if I was to get to work independently, get to meetings regularly and to keep us both sane then another car was key to that. Given that every single other decision I had ever made prior to this point was as the old me, this was big time. It was also a lonely one.
I isolated from my family in my first year of recovery, struggling to understand what was going on, determined to work out the answer on my own. The consequences of recovery on a family are not straightforward; many families already feel isolated from the alcoholic, angry with them for the years of misery and very unwilling to be part of the change. Let’s face it, it is a big change and in more ways than anyone can know or anticipate. Buying a new car became symbolic of many things, and I don’t remember being conscious of any of them, I just did it. I partly did the right thing of working out what I felt the budget should be (note the use of the word ‘felt’ rather than ‘calculate’) and started to search for likely contenders. I also had an idea of how old I ‘felt’ it should be and what age. How I came up with the criteria I don’t know, probably another reason why I did it on my own, following my feelings rather than using any facts! As part of my research into the 2nd hand car market I found myself repeatedly coming back to the MX5. Whilst some, including my husband (hereafter known as J), might not have seen this two-seater sports car in the family bracket, I became more and more convinced that this was the answer. The logical argument used at the time was based on value for money, reliability, that we already had a family car and wouldn’t necessarily need another one with four seats. In my usual way, I started to pitch the idea to anyone that would listen, not really gaining any support from anyone and annoying J with the airing of what he believed would never happen. Eventually I realised that I had gone off on my own and asked my Higher Power for guidance on whether this was a ridiculous notion or an appropriate one. Yes, it did feel slightly bonkers, so much going on in the world and there I was, praying for help with buying a car. However praying for help was part of what was suggested to me and what I came to understand as the solution; through a slow realisation that my life was governed by self-will run riot, that selfish and self-centred were my middle names and that I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t change. The change suggested is to find a higher power and eventually, after trying not to follow any suggestions, I did indeed look for and find my HP. This is why I now pray, quite a shift for a committed atheist, and probably covered in more detail later on. (Stepping back a moment, I’m sorry it’s taking me so long to get to the point, sometimes more background is needed than one might have been expecting.)
Praying for guidance, indeed anything, has become a core part of my life and yet one that I can easily forget as well. Many aspects of the life of a recovering addict can appear contradictory, although to be honest this provides an insight into our world and the life that goes on inside our heads. I asked for a sign to help me know if I was doing the right thing by my family or if I was being selfish and self-centred. The next day J told me of a car he’d seen for sale at the gym, clearly labelled with price, mileage and age at an exact match to my search. Only difference was in terms of colour, this was red and I wanted dark grey or blue. Coincidentally (loving these), an interest-free credit offer arrived in the post. Some of the most amazing coincidences have happened to me in my sobriety, some of which have also seemed amazing to other people and while this one might have been slight, I took it as a definite seal of approval and embarked upon the purchasing of said vehicle. (Finally, I get to tell you why it is a symbol of my recovery and I get to build my toolkit. I’m tempted to say the rest of the story is in the next post but given the patience of those of you who have gently asked for this one, I shall make it a complete story.)
My time with my car added to my life. It was a joy to drive; hugging the road even at slow speeds. Driving with the roof down and my hair flying allowed me to really connect with the world around me and even with the roof up and the rain beating down I could feel that. The children loved it and it provided some great one-on-one bonding even on trips to the supermarket. I began to appreciate my time on the way to and from meetings, listening to my music and understanding the purpose of the journey and not just the destination. It reminded me of a bright red beating heart, smaller than many of the cars around it, beaming loudly in its own special way. Slowly this car began to remind me of me in a ‘this is who you are and could be’ way. It was full of love; small and compact; great to be with; enjoying life; could let its roof (hair) down; made people smile, the list went on. I had the reminder of what recovery could bring to me every day and yet I had chosen to put the roof up, not look after it, and shut my eyes and ears to that journey. Coming back to recovery is not something I want to repeat, I really want to stick with it this time, to keep myself on track and to do whatever it takes to stay sober. This is not an optional disease, it does not go away, I do not get better. I need to be very clear that not only do I know what my toolkit is but that I have it with me and remember to use it. The programme gives me all of that but I have to stick with it and make sure that it remains current and honest. I need to look after myself, to understand my maintenance regime and put the necessary structures in place to keep me safe. Why? Because I’m worth it.