So I’ve been reflecting a great deal in the last few weeks. It’s been triggered by changes in events, seeing T2 Trainspotting and a trip to my old spiritual home Brighton. I’ve been struggling to stay in the present – right here and now and so I’m getting it down on paper. Just like Spud in T2 to me writing is a vital addiction recovery tool.
This image is of a friend of ours who is no longer with us. We met Mark as I worked with his partner in medical sales and marketing while living in the city. He was a great guy who was heavily involved in the music and art scene in Brighton and we last saw him at a 40th bday party for a mutual friend of ours back in 2007. This graffiti art was sprayed in the North Laine to commemorate Mark who took his own life in 2013. He had long struggled with depression and it finally won in March of that year – he had not long celebrated his 51st birthday. This was the first time we’d been back and seen this fitting memorial and it really hit me hard.
What triggered the trip to Brighton was that our plan to emigrate to Australia hasn’t been going as well as we hoped. Although I have a valued skill which has been welcomed my age is counting against me in the visa process and our family out there have had happy family news here and may be returning later this year. If that happens our Australia plan may well be sadly no longer viable. So we were thinking about where else we might like to live – and we’ve missed Brighton since we left and hence the visit.
This scene from T2 and what Renton said has really stayed with me, particularly his last words about getting away.
I interpreted that as him getting away from Edinburgh but actually I think he also may have meant getting away from himself. And that has got me really thinking about whether, in AA wisdom, I am trying to do a ‘geographic’.
Let me explain. Stopping drinking was hugely motivated by giving my kids a better childhood, and therefore future, than I had. I assumed that this meant giving myself the headspace to make better decisions for them including about where we work and live. But actually when I think about it really deeply where we are has nothing to do with that.
My childhood was less than ideal because I had a father whose primary concern was alcohol and a mother who was at best emotionally unavailable (because of her own self pre-occupation) and at worst emotionally hostile. Having more emotionally stable, present and available parents would have ensured a better future for me rather than where we lived as children.
Drinking kept me in that same emotionally unavailable place. Us not drinking has already improved my kids future in terms of how it compares to both my parents way of relating to me in my childhood. Plus I recently realised that all the professional development I’ve been doing for the last 12 years wasn’t about career advancement but about re-parenting myself so that I could parent my children better. Psychology degree, health visitor training, school nurse post, child and adolescent psychotherapeutic counselling training – notice a trend? Maybe that valuable training, experience and getting sober is how I’ve already improved their future?
So does it matter whether we are in Australia or Brighton or where we are currently? Wherever I go there I am. So although Renton suggests he was trying to escape the geography of where he was – I think it was more than that and I wonder if that is true of me too?
Reading Pete Walker he says
No “positive” feeling can be induced to persist as a permanent experience, no matter what Rational-Emotive Therapy tells us. As disappointing as this may be, as much as we might like to deny it, as much of a cause of ongoing life frustration for each of us as it is, and as much as we were raised and continue to be reinforced for trying to control and pick our feelings, they are still by definition of the human condition, largely outside the province of our wills.
I think I am guilty of that here too. Whereas I am no longer ricocheting off of verges drunk I’ve been cognitively bouncing between the potential sober happy future of Australia and the memory of a happy and booze soaked past in Brighton – and yes memories came back of me taking a break from drinking even when we lived here (I remember achieving one stint of 18 days AF). I’ve been chasing fantasy chocolate unicorns rather than living in the present – right here, right now. The week-end in Brighton has allowed me to accept this – not in resignation or defeat but as a sign of growth. And anyway who needs to live in Brighton when you can have your every fantasy chocolate creation now delivered wherever you live in the UK? 😉
And that segways nicely with this tune that spun round (and video shot as though I was running along the beach) that Sunday morning as I was making this important realisation.
In memory of Mark – much loved and missed in the present.
Edited to add: Hot dang – Mark Manson wrote a post about a very similar thing on the very same day! https://markmanson.net/disease-of-more