Category Archives: The Story So Far

My Voice, His Story – Celebrating 225 Weeks Sober

This is my voice, but His story.

This video was recorded back in March, just a few weeks before my four year Sober anniversary.  For weeks leading up to the recording I would find myself going over and over the story in my head, it had be suggested some time before that I make a testimony video, so I bit the bullet and arranged with Phil to record one, this is the result.

It has been played at all of our Church campuses, but this is the first time it has been shared on-line, I choose to share it now, the 225th week of my sober journey.

I am so thankful for those few days, where darkness turned to light and I felt the touch of God upon my soul, when the bottle fell from my hands.

I have to thank Gareth and Leanne, the senior Pastors at Everyday Champions Church, for not only giving me the chance to make this video, but for being there when I needed a second chance at life, also a big thank you for everyone who has stood by me on the journey so far.

Please feel to share this testimony.

MERCY TREE by LACEY STURM
On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broken weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole
Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation by the mercy tree

In the spot between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Beaten, battered, scarred, and scorned
Sacred head pierced by our thorns
It is finished was his cry
The perfect lamb was crucified
His sacrifice, our victory
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth quaked at love’s display
Three days silent in the ground
This body born for heaven’s crown
On that bright and glorious day
When heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed!
Praise him for the mercy tree!

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

One day soon, we’ll see his face
And every tear, he’ll wipe away
No more pain or suffering
Praise him for the mercy tree

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

My Defender (Exodus 15:2)

My Defender (Exodus 15:2)

Here I am stronger
In the presence of my Lord
My defender
My protector
The author of my salvation
I fight the darkest nights
And walk the brightest days
Singing my praise as I walk
Raising my voice to His love
My defender
My protector
I thank You for my all

Exodus 15:2

Exodus 15:2

Are You Alone (Matthew 11:28)

Are You Alone (Matthew 11:28)

Are you alone?
See His light

Is your heart cold?
Feel His warmth

Are you afraid?
Hold on to Him

Is it all too much?
Just don’t let go

Can you carry the weight?
He will take it

Are your skies falling?
In Him you’ll see heaven

Are you so weary?
Our saviour will be your peace

Can you feel Him now?
He’s always been beside you

Matthew 11:28

Matthew 11:28

The Story So Far – Chapter 25 – Surviving Christmas

CHAPTER 25 – SURVIVING CHRISTMAS

With that ordeal out of the way I set my mind on Christmas again.  Once the Christmas meal was out off the way the panic attacks went away with it.  I still couldn’t sleep at night, but I was learning to deal with that, each night I felt like I could sleep a little longer.  The Doctor had said it would take until around Christmas before I was back to normal sleeping patterns and he was spot on.

One thing that I really find disappointing during this period was that I stopped journaling, through all the struggles I found I gave up on that time I would find each night to record my most internal feelings, I regret that now, it would take a good few months before I got back into that habit, but I regret letting it go.  I kept my blog up to date and posted about where I was with things.  I am always honest on my blog, but there are also things I chose not to disclose.  Some of my deepest struggles I have kept to myself, I didn’t share them on my blog, with anyone at Church or with my Connect Group.  I prayed over them, I never kept anything from God, at the end of the day I figured He knows my heart anyway, He knows the pain I have inside and He wants me to come to Him with it.  I did that daily, as I said before at times I prayed not wake, as I didn’t want to live the way I was.  There were times I prayed for strength, I prayed for peace, I prayed for me, I prayed for the kids, I prayed for Victoria, I prayed for us, I never stopped praying, I may not have been able to share it all with anyone else, but I certainly shared it all with God.

I also kept putting things into poem form, I guess in a way this became my most honest way of posting, things I couldn’t outright say to someone’s face or even write about in a post, I could certainly put into a poem, where I could disguise the content to a certain extent, I could let off steam without being direct about the problem that I didn’t want to disclose, that’s the beauty of poetry, you can be direct and ambiguous at the same time.   I wrote a number of poems during this period, but many didn’t actually get finished a posted until some months later.

For a while as Christmas approached and the tablets were doing what they were supposed to do, I left behind those feelings about wanting cut the words “I Will Never Be Enough” into my forearms, they were consigned to the desperate times when I felt so alone and out of touch with every one, when I couldn’t explain to anyone where my mind was or how I was thinking.  I couldn’t think how I was going to explain these feelings to anyone, they weren’t rational and I chose to just bury them, until they rose again, I would fight them, pray for peace and sleep it off.

But with Christmas days away they came back.  The previous year I was invited for Christmas Dinner at Victoria’s Mum’s and afterwards I spent the rest of the day alone, this year there was no invite.  Victoria asked if I wanted the kids with me, but as I didn’t really have any plans, I would see them in the morning and evening anyway, I thought that they would enjoy being around their cousins at Victoria’s Mum’s and Gran’s again.  So I chose to be with them whilst they opened their presents, I would then go to Church, when I return they would be gone, so I would make myself some dinner and watch TV until they came back.

But as this day approached I began to imagine myself coming home from Church, going upstairs into the bathroom and carving “I Am Not Enough” into my arms again.  I would do that and then just wait there until someone would find me, passed out from the loss of blood.

Even though my mindset was so much stronger than it was the previous month when I had these thoughts, I still couldn’t shake them and they got stronger and stronger.  Then came Christmas day, I spent the first few hours with the Kids as planned, at one point I left the room to cry, I didn’t want them to see, then later I set off for Church as planned.

The Christmas Day service was good as usual, I felt a little odd, everyone else had their families around them, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Then I left to walk home, that was when the imagine of cutting into my arms came on the strongest, because now I was entering the actual point where all this could happen.  I cried as I walked home, because this year I knew the house would be empty, there would be no life when I got home, just emptiness.

When I got in, it felt so bleak, so empty, I felt so lost, so alone.  I didn’t feel like eating, I didn’t feel like cooking either.  I made myself something to eat anyway, nothing like a Christmas dinner, it was the first Christmas Day ever that I hadn’t had a traditional Christmas dinner, but it was okay, I wasn’t that hungry anyway.

I had prayed on the way home, between all the tears, all I wanted was peace, I didn’t want to do what I imagined myself doing, I didn’t want them to find me like that on this day of all days, I had cried out in tears.

So now I was home, I had eaten, yet the house was still empty, there was no one here, I had felt so alone, I had felt so empty, but suddenly all of that had vanished, I just settled down, watched a bit of TV and fell asleep for a while.  Later when the kids and Victoria came home, I felt okay, all that despair and loneliness was gone, there was no blood, there were no tears, just a happier me.

I spent some of Boxing Day alone too, but that was fine.  I actually did get to have a Christmas dinner, albeit a day late, Victoria’s Mum had made a plate up for me and sent it home with Victoria, I warmed it up for Boxing Day dinner.

Between Christmas and New Year our merchant’s is open, usually just until lunchtime.  I actually don’t mind this, it’s not busy and it was good to get out the house and still actually be in a routine.  I prefer routine, I’m a much more together person when I have a routine, without that daily routine I can slip back into the lazy waste that eventually became an alcoholic, as I don’t want to go down that road again, I prefer to stay in a routine, I don’t mind the odd lazy day, but generally I thrive on routine.

For some reason over Christmas I had to go down into the cellar again.  Last time I was in there I pulled out twelve empty bottles of wine, I wrote out twelve bible verses, put one in each bottle and then placed them in the bottle banks.  This time I came across a number of other bags that had empty bottles in too, this time twenty five of them.  So on New Year’s Day I decided it would be the perfect day to take these out and do the same with these, one verse for each bottle and then dispose of them.

So I took the bottles out from the cellar, spent the moving searching for verse and writing them down on coloured paper, my daughter was inquisitive as to what I was doing, so she asked if I could help, mainly because I was using her coloured paper!  She found a couple of bible verse for me and wrote out a few on the paper, but then they all went out once again and left me alone once more.  So I finished writing out the verses, but this time I not only put them inside the bottle, but I stuck the verse on the outside of the bottle, over the label and then took them into town.  As I placed each one into the recycling bins, I felt an enormous sense of freedom, a release from all the fears and anguished I had subjected myself to over the last few months, all of that seemed to lift as I let each one go.

Verses & Bottles

Verses & Bottles

It was a new day, a new year and now a new start, I was determined not start 2014 the way 2013 had finished, I was determined that things were going to get better and I was going to start moving forward again, with the release of these bottles, I was hopefully finally letting go of the past and now could truly move forward.

LEARNING TO FALL by THIS BEAUTIFUL REPUBLIC
I’ve heard it said a million times
That I should hold on tight to Jesus
But I took this road so far from home
And distance came between us

When I walked away, I knew one day
I’d need Your grace

So now You’ll find me on my knees
Surrendering
Cause I know that I’m really not so strong
And now, I’m done fighting for control
Oh, You can have this life
That I’ve been holding for so long
I’m learning to fall
Let my world crumble

You ran so fast to rescue me
While I was barely breathing
You picked me up, You touched my face
And I began to see more clearly

So now You’ll find me on my knees
Surrendering
Cause I know that I’m really not so strong
And now, I’m done fighting for control
Oh, You can have this life
That I’ve been holding for so long
I’m learning to fall
Let my world crumble

Though I’m such a disgrace, You still forgave
Your love remains

So now You’ll find me on my knees
Surrendering
Cause I know that I’m really not so strong
And now, I’m done fighting for control
Oh, You can have this life
That I’ve been holding for so long
I’m learning to fall
Let my world crumble

Take me as an offering
I surrender everything
No more living without You

So now You’ll find me on my knees
Surrendering
Cause I know that I’m really not so strong
And now, I’m done fighting for control
Oh, You can have this life
That I’ve been holding for so long
I’m learning to fall
Let my world crumble

The Story So Far – Chapter 24 – No Sleep ‘Til Christmas

CHAPTER 24 – NO SLEEP ‘TIL CHRISTMAS

The only problem with December is it brings with it the dark side of the Christmas festivities, well I guess the dark side of my Christmas was to drink more than I usually would during the rest of the year.  Who needs an excuse to drink at Christmas, it’s almost like it a ritual that goes with the holiday.  Certainly even before when I worked pretty much full time for the Architects, we would close over the Christmas period and when we were doing well I would get a bonus before we broke up.

Although I used that to get the kids and Victoria presents for Christmas, it would also allow me to pretty much fill the house with booze.  We didn’t usually get many visitors, so I wouldn’t really buy for anyone else, all for my own consumption and off course there were the bottles of wine I would buy in specially for Christmas day.  When I was off work over Christmas I would probably start drinking during the day and then carry on through the evening too, not at a great pace, not at the pace I eventually was able to drink at, but it was definitely a time to enjoy alcohol.

But since I had had this new job at the merchant’s the concept of Christmas meals was introduced too.  The first year I joined in with the other’s, drank whilst we ate and then ventured around town to the various pubs and carried on drinking, eventually turning to shorts, before going home a little worse for wear.

Although before I liked to drink, I didn’t like the atmosphere of the busy pubs in town, especially over the Christmas period, where things were generally more hectic, people had consumed more alcohol and things were more likely to kick off.  Thankfully that time nothing kicked off, but I guess I didn’t really enjoy the evening, I just took part because I didn’t want to be left out.

The year after that was my first Christmas sober, it was difficult sitting in the restaurant watching everyone around me drink.  Sometimes it’s not the urge to drink that makes it difficult, but when you look and see what people are actually drinking, you’re reminded of how much you actually enjoyed the taste and I guess kind off miss it.  Let’s be honest here, I don’t miss all the side effects and mess that drinking brought me too, but I do sometimes miss the taste.  Even when I see adverts on TV I sometimes wish I could just taste it again, but I know I can never do that again.  That Christmas I stayed for the meal and then went home alone, I didn’t miss the pub crawl and actually enjoyed watching TV with my Son at home more than the meal anyway.

So now December 2013 was moving on and I was still trying to get my head back to some form of normal, the tablets had by now kicked and I was beginning to feel a degree of normality to my mindset, the drawback still was that I couldn’t sleep at nights and would still spend them watching Christmas movies.  But having said all that I still felt a better person, much better than I had done just a month before.

This Christmas meal was arranged for a pub in town, which also had restaurant facilities, the meals were booked for a Saturday evening and the usual pub crawl would take place afterwards.

The week before someone at work asked me about my drinking, they asked if I felt I could ever drink again and I said no, I couldn’t trust myself if I did, to that the reply was “that’s because you’re weak!”  I was livid, absolutely livid, I tried to laugh it off and walked away, but it was eating away me as I worked, when I walked home it was boiling over, but during the twenty minutes of so it takes me to get home, I started to get over it.

But after that the panic attacks that I had suffered earlier in the year returned, not as severe as back then, but they were uncomfortable, especially coupled with the jittery feelings I was still experiencing.

During the week I began to question whether I really wanted to go, I felt I didn’t, but as it was all booked, I also felt I couldn’t really pull out either.  On the afternoon of the actual meal itself the panic got worse.  I was so undecided as to what to do, one minute I was adamant that I wasn’t going, then I was going, then not, it went on all afternoon.  About forty five minutes before we were due to meet at the pub, I finally made my mind up that I was going, but as before, coming straight home afterwards.

As I generally dislike being late, I was the first to arrive at the pub, so I ordered a coke, stood there looking completely out of place and waited for everyone else, I felt so awkward as I waited.  Thankfully I only had to wait about five minutes, but that was bad enough.  We went upstairs to the restaurant area and sat down for the meal.  I didn’t have to sit near the person who had called me weak, but I did sit opposite her partner.  During the evening we spoke about my not drinking and I explained things to him, he totally understood and commended me for my will not to drink.

Despite all of that, I still felt out of place and that I just didn’t want to be there, I couldn’t wait to get out of the place.  Then when the conversation around me turned to first politics and then religion, I felt an even stronger desire to get out of there, there’s one guy at work who definitely likes the sound of his own voice and won’t listen to anybody else’s opinions, he will just continue to force his and try to provoke a reaction that he can argue against, it’s was getting a bit like that and in the end I just sat there, talking to no one and hoping that everyone would just finish eating and talking, so they would all leave to go continue drinking and I could just go home.

Eventually their conversations came to a close, everyone had finished eating and the consensus amongst them all was to move on to another pub, that was my cue, thank you all for “a pleasant evening”, but I’m going home and I’ll see you all Monday.

I was so glad when I left the place, I didn’t want to go in the first place, I knew why and everything was pretty much just as I thought it would be, bloody hard work!  As I walked home I resolved that that would be the last time I went to the work’s Christmas meal, I wasn’t going next year, wherever my head was next year, no doubt it would be in a better place, but I still wasn’t going to subject myself to all that again, if I didn’t feel comfortable, what’s the point in being there.

I made that decision that night, but I didn’t tell anyone about it until a year later when the discussions about the Christmas meal came around again.

BATTLE FOR PEACE by LUMINATE
There’s a trench in the floor
From my knees, from my knees
I’ve prayed for years, I’ve wanted more
Down on my knees, on my knees

And I have lost my voice
Crying out, crying out
Until I hear You speak
I’m crying out, I’m crying out

I will fall down, I will fall down
I will fall down, at Your feet
And all this time, I was blind
I couldn’t see, I couldn’t see
That Your love, is never earned
Oh, it’s free, it’s free

What am I fighting for
Is it for peace, is it for peace
How can I stop this war
Inside of me, inside of me
I will fall down, I will fall down
I will fall down, at Your feet
I’m trading this battle for peace
I’m trading this battle for peace

The Story So Far – Chapter 23 – Inside The Fear

CHAPTER 23 – INSIDE THE FEAR

I started on the medication the day after I met with the Doctor, he suggested a minimum of a six month course, but stated I should come back within a couple of weeks to assess my condition, I booked an appointment and the only one I could get was on my 40th birthday.

The earlier side effects to the tablets were almost instantaneous, just as the Doctor suggested, which mainly manifested themselves as bouts of diarrhoea and some extreme dizziness.  The diarrhoea thankfully only lasted a day or two, but the dizziness lasted a week or so.  The only way I can describe these feelings was a little bit like on the Lord Of The Rings films, when Frodo puts on the one ring and his world turned to shadows and nothing seemed to be in focus, that was how I was seeing the world in those moments, thankfully they only lasted seconds, but it did leave me feeling very disorientated for a while afterwards.  I spoke with a work mate who I knew had taken antidepressants in the past and described the feelings to him, he identified with the same feelings and said when he knew he had to take them again, he would book off a week so he could get through these side effects, unfortunately because of the days I already had booked, I didn’t have this luxury, I had to tough it out at work.

I had kept Sarah and Paul informed of my visit to the Doctors and how I was feeling, on the Wednesday I went to their house a little bit early, neither of them were present the week before when I sat at Ally’s house in complete tears, but when the rest of the group arrived Sarah let me briefly explain where I was at and the medication I was now on.  It was hard to try and explain what the previous week was all about, as quite honestly, I don’t know what it was about or why it all happened the way it did, but in explaining the visit to the Doctors and the medication, I’m sure they understood things a little better this week.  As always they were all extremely supportive and once again, they prayed for my situation.

Once the early symptoms of the medication had all but worn off, I was left with just the odd mild jittery feeling, it would come and go, the dizziness slowly disappeared, but I would find that I felt really jittery from time to time.  By the time the weekend came around I was feeling relatively normal, compared to the last few weeks anyway, I still was struggling to sleep, I wasn’t getting many hours sleep at all, so it was making me tired, but I was getting through each day and the feelings of desperation were subsiding.

But as the day approached where Victoria was to go away, then a wave of fear began to come over me.  Although I felt that I was doing a lot better, those dark feelings of the previous weeks were still fresh in my mind.  The fear manifested itself as strong feelings that I was going to completely mess up in the ten days or so whilst she was away.  I’ve never had the kids for more than a full day on my own, yes I’ve looked after them alone, increasingly over the last couple of years, but now I had this fear that one of these dark moments would manifest itself and I would end up doing something stupid.  I couldn’t shake the feeling and after all the progress after starting to take the medication, I was beginning to be unravelled.

But I had so many offers of support, so many families at Church all offered their support and said to call them if I was struggling, a few offered to cook a couple of meals for us, which they very kindly did and dropped off for me, it eased the pressure.  Victoria’s mum had them for a couple of night’s so I could attend my Connect Group and took them over the weekend so I could have a bit of a break.

All the while though my struggle for sleep was getting worse.  I would just lay their at night unable to drift off.  The good thing about that was, that on a couple of channels on Sky TV by now were running Christmas films literally 24 hours, so on the nights I couldn’t sleep I would just lay their watching Christmas film after Christmas film, some were good, some were poorly made, but the feel good factor of the films took away any stress I had because of not sleeping.  In the daytime while the kids were at school I would catch up on the odd hour of sleep here and there, but essentially I was still only getting three or four hours sleep each day, but it was enough, I was getting by and gradually feeling better and better.

On the middle Sunday I was invited for dinner at a friend’s, I didn’t have the kids as they were at their Gran’s, so I spent pleasant afternoon in the company of my friend’s family and also a few of our senior Pastor’s who were invited too, it was a really nice way to spend the afternoon and their support and encouragement helped me even more.  Earlier that day at Church I actually felt I was able to participate in worship like I used to.  Over the previous month or so I found I just couldn’t engage with worship, I would sit at the back, on the floor, clutching my knees to my chest and just praying for help, rather than worship, if I tried to get up and worship I just found myself stood there, unable to open my mouth and unable to move, I would just sit down again and go back to that familiar position of holding my knees to my chest and crying into my hands.  But this was the first Sunday where I actually began to feel I was becoming “normal” again, it wasn’t the normal way I would worship, but it was an active worship, not crouching at the back in the shadows anymore, if there were tears, they were more of joy than despair.

We had a couple of film nights at home, I would get in sweets and popcorn and get a new DVD, myself and kids would watch the film and tuck in as though we were at the cinema, only in the cinema you’re not really allowed to lay down wrapped in your duvet like we were, but we enjoyed it, after we had done it for the first time, the kids wanted to do it again, they would have done it every night, if I had let them, but we did it a few times and we all loved it.

By the end of the second week of Victoria being away, all those fears of mine of failing and messing up big time were gone.  I surprised myself at how well I coped and began to realise that being a stay at home parent is not as easy as it looks, there’s so much to do each day, it’s not just about sitting down and drinking coffee!

On the last day of Victoria being away it was my 40th birthday, I spent the morning having breakfast with a friend and then went to see the Doctor again.  We chatted for a while and I explained how I was feeling and how I was doing so much better than when we last met, the Doctor was very pleased at the progress, but warned me to stay the course of at least six months, coming off the tablets too early will bring about a relapse, so I agreed to the six months and to come back after that for a review.

That evening at the suggestion of my Connect Group, I took the kids to see Frozen as a treat, I guess even though it was my birthday, the treat was mainly for the kids and how well they had behaved over the last ten days.  I must admit myself and Ben, my Son, both enjoyed the film, even though it was a Disney Princess film, but my daughter who was seven, totally enjoyed it, she sat engrossed in it from the beginning and talked about it all the way home.  She liked it so much so, that she insisted the next morning that she go and watch it again, so I booked her a couple of tickets so she could go with her Mum, who had arrived home in the earlier hours of the morning, I’m not sure she was too pleased to be going, but by all accounts, she enjoyed it too, they must have done, because over the next few weeks they would both go and see it a few more times!

With Victoria back and the Doctor’s pleased with my progress, the pressure was off and I able to relax a little bit.  I was feeling so much better and was actually really pleased with how I had coped, considering all the fears I had beforehand.  Although I still wasn’t sleeping, the Doctor had said it could be a month or so before I got back to regular sleeping patterns, things were going so much better and I felt I was moving forward again, slowly, but I was definitely moving forward.

FALL APART by JOSH WILSON
Why in the world did I think I could
Only get to know you when my life was good?
When everything just falls in place
The easiest thing is to give you praise
Now it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when I fall apart

Blessed are the ones who understand
They’ve got nothing to bring but empty hands
Nothing to hide and nothing to prove
Our heartbreak brings us back to you
And it all seems upside down

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when I fall apart

I don’t know how long this will last
I’m praying for the pain to pass
But maybe this is the best thing that has ever happened to me

‘Cause my whole world is caving in
But I feel you now more than I did then
How can I come to the end of me
But somehow still have all I need?
God I want to know you more
Maybe this is how it starts
I find you when
You will find me when
I fall apart

The Story So Far – Chapter 22 – Stumbling To The Foot Of A Mountain

CHAPTER 22 – STUMBLING TO THE FOOT OF A MOUNTAIN

Over the first few days after that meeting, I felt like I was getting things back together a little.  But slowly things began to change, I seemed to be totally exhausted all the time, I began to get headaches and also dizzy spells.

Gradually I started to become very angry with things, the simplest of things became a problem and it was all I could do to control and stop myself from taking it out on the innocent people around me.  At one point in my journal I actually wrote this:

… Since then instead of tears I’ve replaced them with anger.  If that’s the case I would
rather cry, let me cry, I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want that anger and aggression,
I would rather cry, I want to cry, but I’ can’t, I want the tears to flow, but they won’t.
Lord help me, I’m not me, it’s not who I want to be and I’m sure not who you want
me to be, I’m worn, I’m tired, I’ve had enough.

PLEASE LET ME CRY!!!

Mixed in with the moments of anger, were the moments of nothingness.  There were times when I felt nothing, totally empty, I didn’t know how to feel, no anger, no emotion, no happiness, there was just nothingness.  Along with those moments, I would just drift off into nothingness too.  At work I would just be stood there, staring out into the distance, I don’t know how long I would be stood there, then someone would say something or the phone would ring and I would snap out of it.  I don’t really remember what I was thinking of, if anything, I would just remember coming back into myself and not knowing where I was or where I had been.

Right in the middle of all this going on, my Boss at work decided to put me through my fork lift driving test.  At this point I hadn’t explained to anyone what was going, no one, not at work, at Church or my Connect Group, mainly as I didn’t really understand myself, so I couldn’t tell my Boss what was going on and I also really couldn’t say no.

I don’t drive a car, I never have, I’ve never had a lesson, so now I was being put into this training without really wanting to do it.  What I feared most were the dizzy spells I had been getting and more importantly these moments where I drifted off into nothingness.  The last thing I needed was for this to happen whilst I was driving a fork lift!  I kept quiet about everything and just went along with it all, hoping I would be able to keep my focus on what I had to do.

Thankfully something to focus on did help and I kept it together when I needed to.  When it came to the day to take the test, my work mates were putting me under a bit of pressure, in fairness, quite innocently.  All the way through the day, they kept asking if I had passed yet, normally it wouldn’t bother me, I would pass it off and laugh about it, but on this day, I just wanted to run away.

When it came to taking the test, I found myself singing a song in my head.  For some reason I was singing the words to the song “When You Walk Into The Room” by Bryan & Katie Torwalt, just singing these words seemed to calm me down, kept me focused and totally in myself.

WHEN YOU WALK INTO THE ROOM by BRYAN & KATIE TORWALT
When You walk into the room
Everything changes
Darkness starts to tremble
At the light that you bring
When You walk into the room
Every heart starts burning
Than just to sit here at your feet
And worship you
We worship you

We Love You, and we’ll never stop
We can’t live without You, Jesus
We Love You, We can’t get enough
All this is for You, Jesus

When You walk into the room
Sickness starts to vanish
Every hopeless situation
Ceases to exist
When You walk into the room
The dead begin to rise
Cause there is resurrection life
In all You do

We Love You, and we’ll never stop
We can’t live without You, Jesus
We Love You, We can’t get enough
All this is for You, Jesus

Come and consume God
All we are
We give You permission
Our hearts are Yours
We want You
We want You

Come and consume God
All we are
We give You permission
Our hearts are Yours
We want You
We want You

Come and consume God
All we are
We give You permission
Our hearts are Yours
We want You
We want You

Come and consume God
All we are
We give You permission
Our hearts are Yours
We want You
We want You

We Love You, and we’ll never stop
We can’t live without You, Jesus
We Love You, We can’t get enough
All this is for You, Jesus

Oh how we love You
Oh how we love You

There was just something about these words, I had been listening to the song quite abit during the previous month or so, but it was this song, out of all the songs which I listen to that came to mind and kept me focused.  It must have worked, as I passed the test with no problems at all, all that fear, all those nerves and all that doubt, were completely for nothing.

I guess passing something like this in the middle of what was going on was a bit of high point, it once again helped for a few days, but it wasn’t long before all the nothingness and emptiness returned.

Then came Wednesday 13th November 2013, that night I was at the place which is usually a bit of fortress for me, at my Connect Group meeting.  Although I didn’t initially feel that bad, I started the meeting in quite a good mood, maybe I wasn’t as involved in the meeting as I usually am, but I was feeling okay.  I don’t remember what we were discussing that evening, but as discussion went on I felt more and more distant as it went along.  Then the discussion came to me for my input, all I could do was to reiterate what someone else had said and then breakout into tears.  For the rest of the evening all I could do was sit there and cry quietly to myself.  It was really quite awkward for those there at the meeting, they didn’t really have a clue what was setting all this off and I couldn’t explain either.  By that point I couldn’t say anything else, I couldn’t open my mouth to speak, words just wouldn’t come, all I could do was cry and when I tried to speak beyond the tears, the crying became stronger.

They prayed for me, even though they didn’t understand, they knew I had been having some ups and downs of late, but I guess they never expected anything like this either.  It made for a difficult night for everyone, I guess they wanted to help, but as I couldn’t explain the situation, then all they could do was to pray for me as a group, but that was enough.

At work my Boss realised that something wasn’t right too, he came to me one day , after I had had one of those moments where I was staring into space and not in the room, he has known me almost thirty years, he knew I wasn’t myself, so he asked what was going on.  I explained as best I could how I felt, I’m not surely he truly understood, but he said if I felt like I needed space, then just disappear off, then just give him the nod and just go away and do something away from everyone else and he would cover for me.

It was causing issues with others at work to, I heard mumblings between people about the way I was acting, so eventually I began to tell them what I felt like, that I felt really depressed and I was struggling, that sometimes I just needed space and felt I needed to get away from everyone, it helped clear the situation and they cut me some slack once they knew why I was acting the way I was.

What was making things worse was the longer this went on the more I was struggling to sleep.  I was only getting a couple of hours sleep each night, which wasn’t helping my state of mind.  I found I was just laying there, trying to sleep, praying for sleep, but nothing was helping, in a way I think I wasn’t letting it help, because I couldn’t let go, the more I tried to get the sleep, but couldn’t, the more I became stressed about it.  It was taking me back to those dark days when I couldn’t sleep because of all the stress I was under, back then I solved that problem by drinking myself to sleep, now I knew I couldn’t do this and I was determined I wasn’t going to, I’m not saying I never thought about drinking, because I did, but when those desires came about, I prayed and prayed.  Maybe I still couldn’t get to sleep, but I still had that resolve to beat any urges and stay sober.

On the Friday night following my breakdown at Connect, I found once again I couldn’t sleep, at 1.30am in the morning I found myself writing a poem on my phone.  The poem I called Mountains, once again it was in prayer form, asking for help as I felt I had come to a mountain I couldn’t climb, I had nothing left and needed help to conquer the mountain.

Mountains

Oh Lord
Stand me in the palm of Your hand
And lift me high above the clouds
To place me upon the top of this mountain
So I can stamp down upon this giant
Then watch it crumble beneath my feet
But I can’t take another step
My heart is losing it’s beat
I’m beaten by the journey
I’m tired
No longer do I have strength to fight
My grip to hold is failing
All I have left are my falling tears
Yet within my faith keeps beating
For tonight I feel Your breath
So I’ll rest against You just for now
Until I can rise again
For with You nothing is impossible
So tomorrow We will conquer
Together We will start the climb
Then I will stand upon the ruins
Of another crumbled mountain
Where I’ll sing so the world can hear
My worship unto Your name

Then after another a short period of sleep, I found myself awake at 5am in the morning, this time writing the poem, I Call Upon Your Name, this time admitting I was in a battle and I knew that God would see me through it.

I Call Upon Your Name

All wounds out in the open
Old scars have been broken wide
Doing all I can to be honest
Trying to rise above my pride

Another battle here is raging
Yet not one I wish to fight
So I call upon Your name
With You I’ll make it through the night

As shadows rise around me
Before me Your light brightly glows
Your name alone repels the demons
Inside my faint hope slowly grows

As the sun rises in the morning
Your light will shower me with love
I will stand to continue the battle
With mighty strength from heaven above

For I know You’ll never leave me
It’s time to start to turn this tide
Knowing I can never be defeated
When I can feel You here at my side

But the following Sunday I really hit a big low.  I remember sitting on my camera podium, just watching the worship practice, normally I really like to just sit there and listen to them play, sometimes I write poems on my phone as I listen, inspired by what I’m listening too.

As I sat there I think I was in another one of those blank moments, just staring out.  Rebecca one of our worship leaders came by and asked how I was, after a morning of lying and saying okay, this was one too many and all I could do was cry, I don’t think I responded with anything but tears.  I guess that put her in a really awkward position, she sat with me whilst she called for husband Michael and then James.  It was James who then came and sat with me and asked what was going on.

As James had been there for me when I first came to Church and had been struggling through withdrawals and then been very much part of every step of my recovery, he had this amazing knack of calming me down and getting me to talk.  So on this day, just like that day early that year when I was hiding from everyone crying over my Nan, he managed to get me to calm down and start speaking about what I was going through.  James works for the National Health Service, so he suggested I should see a Doctor, he felt I needed help and medication to get me through what I was going through.  I must honestly say that I don’t think I would have ever gone to a Doctor over this had James not suggested it, but I trusted him and said I would make an appointment.

I struggled my way through the rest of the day, when it came to worship, I just couldn’t do it, in the end I found myself crouched at the back of the room, head in hand crying, it was Alex this time that came and sat with me, putting an arm around me as he prayed for me.

The next morning at work I spoke with my Boss when I got in, he told me to go in office at the time that the surgery opened and make the call and get an appointment.  I managed to get an appointment for later that afternoon and I left work early to go.  All through this I couldn’t take any days off, as I had no holiday left, I had booked every remaining day I had for the end of November and early December to look after the kids, because Victoria was going to Gambia as part of a group from a local charity that runs a Christian school over there, so I had to tough it out at work, but at least that gave me something to keep occupied, I believe I was better at work than being at home, with nothing to do I could have done something stupid.

One thing that kept running through my mind was how much a failure I believed I was becoming.  Every time I went home I would have these thoughts about going up into my bathroom and grabbing that old knife of mine.  But this time I didn’t want to kill myself with it, I had these thoughts about cutting the words “I will never be enough” deeply into the skin on my forearms, I don’t know why I was thinking this or what the words meant to me, but that was I saw myself doing.  When I would get in the house and especially if I was the only one in, I would shake as I fought against any urges to do it.  I thought about looking through Victoria’s room to try and find if she still had that knife, but once again I fought off the urges.

On top of all this I found myself praying at night, that if I did sleep, then please God do not let me wake.  I prayed that if this was life, then I didn’t want to live anymore, I want to just sleep and go to heaven now, I didn’t want to live life this way, I didn’t feel normal and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, I wanted it all taken away.  This became almost a nightly occurrence and I never told anyone that this was happening, neither my Connect Group, James or the Doctor when I saw him that afternoon.

The strange thing was that when I actually got to the Doctor’s I was in a good mood, not the lost or empty place I found myself drifting in and out off.  When the Doctor asked how I had been feeling, I was as honest as I could possibly be, without going into the deepest of secrets I was hiding, he asked if I had felt suicidal and I said that I had at times, I guess mainly the cries in the night not to wake again and also this feeling of wanting to carve my arms up, but I didn’t mention specifics.  In the end he said I had two choices, therapy or medication, I chose medication of the two.  He prescribed me Sertraline antidepressants and informed me there would be side effects, in particular in the short term it could heighten any suicidal tendencies!

When I got home, Victoria asked why I was home early, I explained I had been to the Doctor’s and he had prescribed me antidepressants, immediately she asked if I would be okay to look after the kids while she was away, I replied I would be and spoke no more about it.

BE MY HEALER by JENNY SIMMONS
What would it take
How many walls would you have to break down
Where do I meet you?
Where does peace heal the past and bring me home?

I want to be well
I want to be well

So how does this work,
How much will it hurt to open my heart again
Will there there be scars?
Reminding me of the way you heal me

I want to be well
I want to be well

I’m splintered, I’m many
There’s light and dark within me
But I’m bringing all these pieces
Only you can heal me Jesus
I’m here now, I’m ready
Giving everything that’s in me
Only you can mend these pieces
Be my healer, be my Jesus

So while I am here,
Living between the dreaming and coming true
I am making my way
And your making the space for me to be made new…

Cause I want to be well
I want to be well

I’m splintered, I’m many
There’s light and dark within me
But I’m bringing all these pieces
Only you can heal me Jesus
I’m here now, I’m ready
Giving everything that’s in me
Only you can mend these pieces
Be my healer, be my Jesus

Cause I wanna be whole
Yeah I wanna be whole

Cause I’m splintered, I’m many
There’s light and dark within me
But I’m bringing all these pieces
Only you can heal me Jesus
I’m here now, I’m ready
Giving everything that’s in me
Only you can mend these pieces
Be my healer, be my Jesus

The Story So Far – Chapter 21 – Washed Away

CHAPTER 21 – WASHED AWAY

By the middle of October 2013 I was really on an emotional roller coaster, walking was sporadic, I would get out for the odd day, but there was no real frequency, when I walked it helped, but it became less and less.  I tried to get out, but it was hard work.

One Sunday afternoon, in early October, I came home from Church to an empty house as usual.  I was used to that, I would make some dinner, maybe have a quick nap, then get ready and go out to karate to teach for a couple of hours, it was my normal Sunday afternoon routine.

When I got home I remember walking into the front room and just sitting down and then experiencing something I had never experienced before.

Sometimes when I pray, I make my prayers and then just sit and wait quietly, saying nothing, just clearing my mind and waiting for God to speak.  Quite often in these times I will get visions which relate to the prayers I have made.  Sometimes I can identify them and decipher their meaning.  At other times I’m not sure what they actually mean and over the next few days I pray about them, hoping for further visions or a feeling that will explain their meaning to me.  This happens quite regularly and even when I am praying with friends, I will often see things that relate to the prayers others are making and I share what I see.

But on this Sunday afternoon it was completely different.  This was a type of vision I had never experienced before.  Images in my prayers was one thing and the “day dreams” I experienced in the lead up to helping a young girl who was self harming was another, but this was like I was seeing something play out on a TV or projector screen in front of me.

Before me I saw a scene of a pathway, in the pathway there were a number of steps and just beyond the steps, the pathway disappeared to the left behind some bushes.  Then I saw myself begin to walk along the pathway and start to walk up the handful of steps.  Just as I started up the steps, from around the bend ahead, a sudden rush of water came around the corner ahead and down the path towards me.  The deluge swept me down the steps and out of view.  After a few moments I came back into view trying once more to walk up the steps as the water kept flowing, but once again, as I walked up the steps, the tide became stronger and washed me away once more.

Then as quickly as it came, the vision disappeared entirely.

Never before I had I experienced anything like this and I didn’t know anyone else who had ever said they had seen visions this way.  I know there are many occasions in the Bible where various people experience visions from God in this way, but this was new to me and I didn’t know what to do or what it meant.

I sat there for a while trying to take in what I had just seen and doing my best to work out how that related to me.  I knew I was in a little bit of a hole, I was beginning to struggle with a few things, there were a few situations that were weighing me down, but it was a little bit of an up and down journey at that time, one day I would be fine and really up and the next something would happen that would put a downer on things and I would begin to stew on them and not let them go.  But I never felt like I was going to be washed away by anything.  I knew life was becoming a bit of a struggle, but this seemed like something drastic was going to happen.

I prayed on this, but didn’t feel like I was getting the answers to the questions I was asking.  In fairness, I’m not really sure I was asking the right questions, yes I was not finding this recovery easy at times, but I didn’t feel like there was anything that I couldn’t overcome, I felt I had to be careful, but other than that I didn’t really understand what I had seen.  After a few days I put it out of my mind and just carried on as usual.

Then on one Sunday at the end of October I was on camera during a preach by one of our Pastor’s.  This particular preach was on relationships and the longer it went on, the more it began it affect me.  My relationship had disintegrated as a consequence of my drinking, of all those wrong decisions and selfish actions.  I knew this and had to live with it.  It makes it harder because although separated, we still live in the same house and no matter how much I try to put it out of my mind, I still long for her and pray regularly for something to happen that will bring us back together.  I never stopped loving her, I just stopped loving myself, I couldn’t help what I was doing when I was drinking, I had no control , I let things go the way they did and now I had to live with the consequences.

So the more I listened to this preach, which don’t get me wrong, was a great preach, but for me it brought back so many feelings or remorse and even self hatred.  There were times during the preach that I felt I couldn’t stand there anymore, I wanted to turned around to the A.V. booth behind me and ask someone to take over, but I didn’t I managed to keep going and finish the camerawork at the end of the preach.  After that I kept myself to myself as I packed away quietly and made my exit from Church without anyone really noticing, just so I didn’t have to speak to anyone and explain what was going on in my head,  my mind was running at such a pace, running through all the things I did wrong and feeling that now I only have myself to blame, I knew that and come to terms with that well before now and learned to live with it, but now it was all running through my head once again, the last time it felt this bad was on the day I wanted to end my life, that day way back in March 2012, now eighteen months later it was all back, all the self hatred and anger for my actions, I just had to get out and find some space.

I sat at home for a while that afternoon, but things weren’t getting any better, I was lost in my head once again, this time just deeper than I had been for such a long time.  In the end I got myself up and took myself into town, to the Alpha Course meeting that my Church were running in one of the coffee shops in the town centre.

I sat there quietly listening for a while, eventually Steve from my A.V. Team joined me, I spoke with him for a while, I briefly explained how I felt, not in any great detail, Steve’s also in my Connect Group, so he knows my situation, he didn’t pry, he just let me talk, which was helping to lift some of the burden from my shoulders.

By the time I got home, I was feeling a lot better and spent the evening watching the TV with my kids and with my daughter keeping me entertained.  She has a great knack for being the entertainment in my life when I am down, she seems to sense that I need cheering up and just gets on with it, I’m thankful for that sometimes.

As October drew to a close, I was still struggling, it was fast approaching the men’s Unleash weekend getaway.  The Friday morning before we were due to go away, I took a quick walk down to the lake and prayed as I walked, I had this distinct feeling that I was being told by God that if I couldn’t actually tell him what was really troubling me then I should do what I do best, write it down in a poem.

So when I came back home I wrote out a poem called My Prayer…

MY PRAYER
How could I come so far

Yet feel I’ve traveled so little
I know You’re with me Lord
But I’m feeling so empty inside
Like a cup poured out upon the floor
In desperate need of filling up

This pain is breaking me down
My mind it holds me prisoner
I know You can ease the hurting
So why am I feeling so broken Lord?
Like a heart that’s been smashed
Into a million tiny & fragile pieces

I’ve been worn down by this time
I can barely stand again to fight
You’ve given me strength from the first day
Only I’m feeling so very tired
Like a distant star that’s lost it’s shine

I have so much support around me
Great people there to hold me up
I’m standing at centre of their love
So how do I feel so very alone
Like driftwood floating between homes

I’m barely holding on to my spirit
Clutching at the hope You hold
But the embers internal are slowly fading
I just need to find the breakthrough
Just a tiny spark to ignite the fire

Is it that my mind is winning
The voice inside overcomes the heart
Eroding my patience, testing resolve
Give me patience for Your promise
Just a sign to illuminate the way

I feel so small, yet You make me great
I feel so low, yet You let me fly
I feel so weak, yet You give me strength
I’ve lost my way, yet You show the way
I feel so isolated, yet You hold me in Your Kingdom

I need You Lord, I need You Lord

That pretty much summed up how I felt at that time, I felt lost and that I was losing my way.  I knew God was there, I was still holding onto Him, I had all these friends around me, but I couldn’t really reach out to them either, I was really in a bit of a rut, was I being washed away?  At this time I don’t think so, but I firmly believe I was just starting up those steps that I had seen in my vision, but as yet I don’t think the waters had reached me.

That night we had the first meeting at the Unleash weekend and followed it with a midnight game of five a side football, well actually it was more like ten a side in a very small place, very physical, but really fun.

I went to bed that night, but couldn’t sleep, I lay there awake, wondering what this week was going to bring, I knew I was struggling, I may have shared the “My Prayer” poem on my blog that morning, but I still wasn’t in the position where I was ready to share my problems, then it happened again.

As I lay there, for the second and so far last time, I had another vision that played out like a film in front of me.

This time I was sat on the side of a harbour, it looked like I was fishing, when all of sudden something had taken the end of my line and I was dragged below the water, then a few moments later, in the distance a great whale rose out of the water and splashed back down again, then disappeared below the water.

Once again I didn’t really understand what it was I was seeing or what it meant to me.  So I grabbed my phone, open my Bible app and went straight to the book of Jonah.  I read the whole book that evening and the lay there trying to piece it all together, what I had seen a few weeks before, what had happened over the last few weeks and what I had just witnessed.

I came to the conclusion that I was going to be facing something that could completely wash me away, I could be wiped out from it, but also after reading from Jonah, that I wasn’t to run away and hide from where God wanted me to be.  I believed that being at this getaway was exactly where I needed to be, but I had to start opening up and talking with people, I couldn’t keep this all in or it would wipe me off my feet, I had to start sharing what I was going through.

I hardly slept that night, when I went down for breakfast, I was sat at the same table as Gareth, our Senior Pastor, I explained to him what I had seen and what I felt I was being told.  He agreed that I needed to talk to people, I needed to share what was going in my life and not be afraid to open up and let people know how I felt.

As the day went one I spoke with a number of people about how I felt, including Paul, my Connect Group leader, I asked if I could maybe go a little earlier on Wednesday evening and chat with both Sarah and him, to which he agreed.  It wasn’t a great day in all honesty, I was still struggling and there were a few tears, but I knew what I had to do, whether I could keep doing it, keep being open was another thing.

The next morning I was back at Church and spoke with Paul again, he said he had spoken with Sarah and if I needed to talk, they would be happy for me to come around that evening and talk about whatever I needed to.

So that night I went to their house and told them exactly how I felt about everything.  They were great listeners and really helped me that evening.  By the time I got home I felt renewed, felt like I was being the process of fighting whatever it was I was to face.  For the first time in weeks I felt happy and content, like a great weight had been lifted.

For the next few days, things seemed to okay, but it wouldn’t last long, now I could see the water fast approaching.

FIGHTING FOR AIR by A ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Suffocation comes over me
A numbness occurs
As I try to breathe
I’m fighting for air again
I’ve gone too far down
I need a reason to live

When I’ve been struck down
I hear you whisper to me
I’m breathing into you
Get up and taste the air
And take a breath again

I’m fighting for air again
I’ve gone too far down
I need a reason to live
When I’ve been struck down

I’m fighting for air again
I’ve gone too far down
I need a reason to live
When I’ve been struck down

I’m fighting for air again
I’ve gone too far down
I need a reason to live
When I’ve been struck down

Yeah, Yeah
I’m fighting for air
I’m fighting for air
I’m fighting for air

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

The Story So Far – Chapter 19 – National Champion

CHAPTER 19 – NATIONAL CHAMPION

Just like twelve months before, May was a month of picking myself up and getting myself back in shape.  The year before I was just coming out of the pain of withdrawals, back then as soon as I felt I was free from that pain, I started exercising and began a program of losing weight, in order to be fit to compete at the National Championships.  After the stop start months of March and April, May was a month to get back to where I wanted to be, especially with the Nationals fast approaching on the 29th June 2013.

This year it was to be my swan song, I had planned a few years previously that I was to retire from competition after this years competition.  I had participated in my first National Championships at the age of nine, back in 1983, this year would be my 30th time competing at the Nationals, so as I was now 39 and fast approaching 40, I thought it was perfect time to step down from competing and bring a close to what had been a fairly successful run over the years.

Three years previously I had actually won this competition, at that time I was well in the throws of my addiction, I was overweight, I even drank the night before, but I still had it together at that point to put in a good performance and win.  The following year I finished second, but by that time I had put on even more weight, I was totally unfit and as the year before had been drinking the night before.  Somehow I still managed to perform to a good standard, despite all that was going on in my life, I may have been a mess, but as I’ve stated before, once I put on the karate suit I seemed to leave that side of my life behind, somehow I managed to outperform who I was.

Obviously the year before I had tasted disappointment, I had so much expectation that I could get back to winning ways, I was fitter than I had been since I was a teenager and above all sober, but things didn’t turn out the way I had planned them in my mind, but in all honesty that was the best way, I think it was right that I didn’t win that year, I wasn’t ready for that step, I was to wait and wait I did.

Come the day of the competition we drove down on the morning of the competition, it was a long drive, well over three hours, we set off very early in the morning, ready for the 10am start of the competition.  Yet somehow I still felt calm and relaxed, ready to go.

Back in 2006 I went into the competition as probably the favourite, I had finished second the year before, I had competed earlier in the year at the European Championships and also been selected for the World Championships in Sydney later that year.  I made it through the early rounds with very few problems and went into the semi finals pretty confident.

But a combination of my health problems and the volume of alcohol I had consumed the evening before, conspired against me.

I had spent the evening before at a barbeque, watching the England vrs Portugal World Cup match, the infamous match in which Rooney was sent off and Ronaldo’s wink!  I hadn’t intended to drink as much as I had, normally the night before a competition I would limit myself to one or two.  I must add that at this point in time I don’t consider that I had an alcohol problem, I drank and drank regularly, but I drank socially, not to escape my life, at that time life was pretty good.

My blood pressure issues and circulation lead me to have clammy hands and feet, this became worse when I drank.  So at the competition in 2006 they were using a new set of mats for the semi finals, unfortunately these were proving to be a little slippy in general, most people were managing to handle them, but not me, I managed five moves into the kata Enpi and then slipped and fell.  At that point it was all over for me that year, I had fell in front of everyone present and had to carry that with me ever since.

Since then I had stopped using katas that were flamboyant or fast paced, settling for competing with katas that were safer for me to perform, yet more conservative.  So this year I decided that if I was going to go out one last time, I was going to do it with my favourite katas and not the safe option.  I was going to defeat those demons that had haunted me since that day in 2006.

Things went well through the early rounds and without any problems I made it into the semi finals.  In semi final I performed the kata Enpi, this kata I hadn’t performed in competition since 2006 and this time everything went fine, I qualified for the final as the highest scorer.

Just as the last competition, I had found a way to keep calm and relaxed before competing, part of that was praying and just breathing, it seemed to be working for me at least.

In the final I decided to use a kata I had not used since the 2007 final, on that occasion I had trouble with the fast turns in the kata, because I couldn’t get the grip with my clammy feet, so I had stopped using it too.  So for the final I sent with Sochin and performed well enough to win my second and last National Championships.  The response from my fellow competitors and old squad mates was amazing, they seemed to really appreciate what it meant to me.  At the medals ceremony my retirement was announced and I was given an unprecedented introduction as I collected my medal, usually thing occasions are quite formal, but not this time.

As I collected my medal and stood on the top of the podium to the great ovation from all the competitions, spectators and officials, the emotion began to get the better of me and I admit there were a few tears.  The whole day couldn’t have gone any better, it was just the way I had hoped it would be, in a way it was the way I wanted the previous year to be too, but now I really appreciated that it was worth the wait.

Nationals 2013

Nationals 2013

A couple of weeks later the Chief Instructor of our association and my former squad coach came to my club to conduct a grading.  We spoke about the competition and he told me that I shouldn’t retire yet, he believed that I had competed better than he had ever seen me compete and there was still more to come.  That confused my decision to retire, but in the end I stuck to my guns and decided that I had finished with competing.

MIRACLE MAKER by KIM WALKER- SMITH
I’m waiting here for my life to change,
When the waters stir You can rearrange me.
Just one touch is all I need,
I’ve nothing much but the wounds I feel,
I’ve come to find the hand of the miracle man.

Holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, You are holy,
Saviour, healer,
I’m standing at the feet of the miracle maker.

I’m holding on, with Your life in mine,
Living water’s come,
And You’ve rearranged me.

You are holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, You are holy,
Saviour, healer,
I’m staring in the face of the miracle maker.

Holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thank you, Saviour,
I’m walking in the shoes of my miracle maker.

Holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thank you, Saviour,
I’m standing with the faith of a miracle maker.