The Story So Far – Chapter 20 – Slipping

CHAPTER 20 – SLIPPING

The only problem with retiring from competition was that it kind of took away that need to keep fit.  I also took away one of my goals, each year I had that goal of competing and doing well at the Nationals, it gave me some focus for my karate and as that was a major part in my life a focus for that too.  I strongly believe that without my karate in the years that I consider myself lost, I would not have made it as far as I did.  Somehow I managed to keep sober for karate and keep focused through it that apart from the obvious slip in my fitness, it never affected my ability to teach or greatly affect my ability to compete.  That little bit of focus was all I had in my life at that point, I didn’t have God in my life at that point and as everything else fell apart, karate kept constant.

But for some reason after retiring I took my foot of the gas.  I stopped getting out for my morning walks, which had become a major part of my life and my walk with God.

When I walked in the mornings, I would put on my worship music and get out walking whatever the weather.  On the week days I would walk for about five miles each morning and then at the weekends anywhere between eight and thirteen miles.  When I walked I found myself having a lot of praying time.  Anything that was bothering me I submitted to God in those morning walks and he lifted them from my shoulders and reassured me that everything was going to be fine.

I remember so many times walking down the secluded cycle track, with no one around for miles, I would cry out to God with tears falling uncontrollably, praying about the situations that were causing my to struggle, so many times after these desperate prayers would a sense of calm and peace come over me, I always felt God saying “don’t worry about any of this, I have it all in hand, you just keep walking with me and doing what you are doing, I’ll do the rest!”

It was amazing how this calmness the God brought over me would just remove any doubt or fears and I could just go back home and face the day without any problems.

The days when I got out walking always seemed to so much smoother, it was as though they were much better balanced, then the odd day when I didn’t get out, they just wouldn’t be the same, when I came across those little problems at work say, I could clearly find a way past them, the days I didn’t walk, just weren’t as good.

But now as July rolled into August I had stopped walking and things didn’t seem to be as strong.  I did get out on the odd days, but by the end of September I had pretty much stopped all together.

The situation at home hit a few frosty patches and instead of being able to walk them off like I used to and submit these to God for His reassurance, I dwelt on them and let them start to eat away at me.  There were a couple of days that were really hard to deal with and I felt completely broken, they took some getting back up from.  I never stopped praying to God about them, but without walking I just couldn’t seem to hit the right balance in my life and I felt I was letting things slip a bit.

For a couple of weeks at the end of August and the beginning of September I had missed a number of days of my blood pressure medication, my prescription had run out and I hadn’t been to the Doctors to renew it.  So I made an appointment to see the Doctor.  I had been on these tablets for thirteen years, in 2000 I was diagnosed with a heart strain and chronic high blood pressure.  After six months back and forwards to a heart specialist, he finally found a combination of tablets that could keep my blood pressure and cholesterol under control.  Since then I had been on two tablets a day for my blood pressure and one to keep my cholesterol under control.

When I went to the Doctors I explained I had missed a few weeks, he checked my blood pressure and surprisingly it was still pretty good.   At that time, so good in fact that he decided that he would try removing one of my blood pressure tables and see whether it had any effect.  So after thirteen years on three tablets, it was a great boost, at a time that I really needed it, to have me medication reduced.  After all the fears of eighteen months before, when my blood pressure was completely out of control, just like my drinking, it really felt like I was finally sorting myself out.  I am still to this day convinced that if I hadn’t stopped drinking on 29th March 2012, I would not have made it through the year, I am still convinced that with the state of my blood pressure at that time, I was heading for a serious problem, that was if I hadn’t taken my own life before hand, but to finally realise that after all these years, my body was finally beginning to heal itself, I thanked God for that blessing.

There were ghosts of my drinking that were haunting me too.  Over the years since I stopped drinking and actually I still get these from time to time, I would get what I term as guilt dreams.  These are always hard when they come along.

It’s hard to really describe these unless you have suffered the guilt of being an alcoholic.  Basically you find yourself in a dream where for some reason you see yourself drinking.  In the dream when you realise you have drank, you get this enormous feeling of guilt that you have failed, that you have let everyone down.  Then all of a sudden you wake at that very moment, but the problem is then that it’s almost impossible to decipher whether you are still dreaming or it’s reality.  You wake and sit there believing that you have just drank, you can’t get your head around where you are and the guilt is making your whole body shake.  Many times I have found myself looking around on the floor for evidence of bottles or cans, I have to look, so I can be sure that it wasn’t true, I hadn’t drank and I hadn’t let any one down.

One of the big things that kept me going was to be able to write the number of days I had been sober at the top of the page, every night I filled in my journal, as long as that count was kept going, I had knew I was still walking with God and not let anyone down yet.  These dreams would shake that feeling, but then the following evening when I put the number of days sober at the top of the next page, the guilt of the night before was completely eradicated.  These dreams don’t come along to often, but when they do they shake me, even now.  During this period I found they were more vivid than ever and maybe more frequent.

I had no desire to start drinking again and in all honesty the dreams served as a good reminder of how bad I would actually feel if I did drink again.  Though only a dream the feelings were so real in the moments after waking, that I knew I could never drink again.  Although they were hard to take at the time, they served a good purpose too.

In the middle of this period where I felt I was beginning to slide, I had an evening where for some reason I was once again rattled by the ghost of my past.

At one of my Connect Group meetings, we were having a social gathering, with a bit of food and just soft drinks.  I remember sitting on one of Sarah’s settees and on the coffee table in front of me was a bottle of fruit juice.  There was nothing more than sparkling fruit juice in this bottle, it was innocent enough, but the bottle itself looked just like one of the bottles of wine I would regularly drink.

It was just raspberry juice, but I couldn’t take my eyes off this bottle.  So many times throughout the evening I just wanted to stand up and move the bottle.  But in my head the reason why  sounded so strange that I just sat there and began to get increasingly agitated about this bottle.

After all this was an innocent bottle of juice, my friends who had brought it along, did so innocently too, nobody else in the room suspected anything was going on and I did my best to hide it, but in the end I was relieved when I got out of the place.  All night I wanted to just stand up and move then bottle, then sit down and hope nobody had noticed, but I couldn’t do it, it seemed to have me firmly fixed in my seat, I couldn’t move, I could only sit there and stare, slowly becoming more and more freaked out by this bottle.

I have had these kind of problems with glass bottles in the past too.  As I used to buy two bottles of wine and try my best to sneak them into the house without Victoria knowing, I would hold them in the plastic bag in a way that they wouldn’t bang together, that way she wouldn’t hear what I was bringing into the house.  I don’t really know why I bothered in all honesty, as I left the empties on the kitchen side in the morning, but as addicts do, I had this need to sneak them into the house without anyone knowing what I had brought and then hide them down the side of my settee.

So one morning I purchased two bottles of fruit juice, in glass bottles just like this one which was now haunting me, as I got them to my back door, I heard the two bottles clang together in the bottom of the bang, I freaked out, quickly parted them and rushed into the house and hid both bottles in my old hiding place.  My old self took over for a while, haunted by old memories, the same was happening on this night, this night that bottle represented everything that was bad about me and I couldn’t sit in the same room as a simple glass bottle.

The next morning I was off work.  A couple of weeks previously I had been down in the cellar and come across a carrier bag with a number of empty wine bottles in.  I got to drinking that many bottles of wine, that eventually there wouldn’t be that much room left in the bin, so Victoria used to bag them up and put them in the cellar to throw away at a later date.  I thought that this was the only bag at the time, it contained twelve bottles in it so I hatched a plan.

To get over the memories of the night before, I looked up twelve verses for addiction and wrote them all down on separate pieces of paper.  I took the bottles from the cellar and place one verse inside each bottle.  Then I took them down to the recycling bins in town and put each one in the bins.

The Message In The Bottle

The Message In The Bottle

There was such a sense of relief, a sense of complete freedom and a return of the control that I thought I had.

As well as all of this going on, I was called a witness to a case at court, it was a case of outstanding fees owed to the Architect’s that I still did work for.  I’ve never been to court before and although it was only County Court, it was still a long day sat around waiting.  I never got called in the end, but I did have to sit there and listen to all the bickering and blatant lies from the other side that were being thrown at us.  But in the end it was adjourned to a later date for more evidence, so I was due to go back in the future to sit through it all again.   The down side to this was that I was owed for some work by the Architect’s too and payment really hinged on this case being settled, so it just dragged things out further at a time when I could really have done with the money, because things at home were still tight.

All of this seemed to add to the slide I felt I was going down, but I seemed to be unable to lift myself from it all, I knew I had to get out walking, but I felt so tired I couldn’t get myself to get up and go every morning like I used to.

What I couldn’t get my head around was whether I was mentally tired from everything that was going on or physically tired from it all.  I convinced myself I was physically tired, so I stopped walking and took the lie in every morning, while in actuality I was probably more mentally tired and would definitely have benefited from spending time walking and talking with God, all of this I could have submitted to him, but I wasn’t I was holding it all in, just like I used to.

GET UP by CIRCLESLIDE
What if I told you I wasn’t ready for this life
What if I told you this wasn’t what I had in mind
What if this mountain’s just too high

Get up get up
Brush off the dust from your soul
Get up get up
The past is beyond your control
Get up get up
Don’t ever give up on love

What if I told you my whole world broke down last night
What if showed you my surprising ugly side
What if I’ve fallen out of line

Get up get up
Brush off the dust from your soul
Get up get up
The past is beyond your control
Get up get up
Don’t ever give up on love

What if I told you there was time when I believed
What if I told you I’m exploding with doubt I’m infected with weakness
I’m breaking the silence crying out, crying out

Get up get up
Brush off the dust from your soul
Get up get up
The past is beyond your control
Get up get up
Don’t ever give up on love

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