Category Archives: The Story So Far

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.

The Story So Far – Chapter 18 – Numb Again

CHAPTER 18 – NUMB AGAIN

Just when you think you are back on your feet and moving forward again, there is always something else just waiting around the corner.

You could say it was no exaggeration that I struggled with the death of my Nan, from the moment I found out, right up until the funeral I was struggling with the whole thing, most of it stemming from that deep resentment for my own actions over the previous years.

Then just as I thought I was back in the groove, walking each day and moving forward once again, the peace was broken once more by yet another phone call.

At 4.30pm, Saturday 27th April 2013, everything came crashing down yet again.  This time my Dad rang to say that his Mum had died earlier in the morning.  So once again that numb feeling returned, after the phone call ended I sat there in tears once more.

That early heartbreak held for a day or two, but it wasn’t really the same as last time.  Mainly because even though I loved my Nan, I wasn’t as close to her as I was my other Nan, whereas I spent so much time in my childhood with my first Nan,  I hadn’t spent quite as much time with this Nan.  My Dad’s family were from Blidworth, near Mansfield, although it’s not that far from us, less than twenty miles, neither of my parents could drive when I was younger, so to get there we had to take a rather unreliable bus service.  My parents would put my sister and I on the bus in Newark and my Nan would meets us at the other end.  We would spend the day with her and then she would put us back on the bus at night and my parents would meet us at the bus station. I wouldn’t dream of doing that with my kids now, but back then it was just one of those things that happened.  What was more interesting was that we didn’t have a telephone until I was about eight, my parents weren’t that well schooled either, they could barely spell and not the letter writing sort of people, so I’m not sure to this day how they managed to arrange things, because everything seemed to go to plan, there was always someone there to meet us on time.

My sister would go and spend weeks in the summer holidays with my Nan in Blidworth, but I never did.  So that closeness I felt for my Nan on my Mum’s side was far more than I felt for my other Nan.

But nevertheless, that shock that she had died still hit hard over those first few days, but even though once again the funeral was to be a couple of weeks away, I managed to deal with the grief better this time around.  Maybe it was because I had actually seen my Nan few years before, my Mum and Dad took me to see her in hospital in Mansfield when she had been ill at one point and not really expected to pull through.  I remember seeing her and not really liking what I saw, it wasn’t the Nan I remember, somehow she wasn’t there, she remembered me and even called me stranger, but other than that she seemed to be in a world of her own, nothing like the memories I had of her.

This visit came at a time when I was struggling with the alcohol, it was just before Christmas 2010 and I was deep into my problems by then.  I guess because I had actually seen her during this time, I didn’t have the same deep routed remorse that I had had for my other Nan, so it seemed easier to deal with this time around.

It wasn’t until the day of the funeral until I really broke down.  I went with my Mum and Dad to meet everyone at my Aunt’s house in Rainworth, the funeral procession would start from there.  I was okay whilst I was stood there talking with my Uncle and cousins, but as soon as I saw the hearse pull up, I began to struggle, I remember one of my younger cousins breaking down in tears in front of me and then from that point, I broke down too and descended back into that feeling of wanting to deal with this alone and in my own way.

I sat with my family during the service, but once again stood alone at the burial just like the last time.  Once again I felt like I had to do this all alone, that was until my Aunt came over and wrapped her arms around me, we cried together for a while and as soon as she released me, it felt like it was all going to be okay.

I sat quietly through the wake, I was sociable, but not overly talkative.  Whereas last time I had started to come around and start to open up and let things go a bit, this time it seemed like it was all a delayed reaction.  I remember sitting there writing a poem to both of my Nan’s on my phone, which I then posted on my Blog.  When I got home later I took the unprecedented step of posting my poem on Facebook, I thought that my cousins and family would appreciate it too, I don’t usually share anything on Facebook these days, but this time I thought it would be fine and it was, my cousins soon liked the post.

That day I had actually written two poems, I wrote one in the early hours of the morning to my Nan and then this one in the afternoon, both were quite personal, but I still shared them.

Always And Forever

Do we ever say the words
That reside deep within our soul

We hold them for a special moment
That never really comes
A time, a place
That’s perfect in our dreams
Yet we let those moments pass
Opportunity lost
And words are left unsaid
Now death has come between us
Can you hear these words I write
Can you see them
Can you feel them
Can you look within my heart
And take these words
Hold these feelings
Of this love I’ve held inside
That I’ve never before said
And know that I mean them now
With all I am
Like always
And forever

 

My Goodbyes

My goodbyes
Now they’re all said
As I stood there
In my silence
Tears leaving tracks
Gradually falling
Into space

I’ve said goodbye now
To both of you
My treasured Nans
I’ll hold my memories
Close to my heart
Forever carrying
The love you both gave

Goodbye to you both
My ladies of strength

At the funeral there was a couple of friends of my Nan that I didn’t really know, one of them was called Steven, I didn’t know him, but my Nan often spoke of him as a friend from her Church, but the other guy I didn’t know at all, my Dad did, but I don’t actually remember who he said he was.  Towards end of the wake they got up to leave, but this guy came over towards me, as he approached he said to me he felt like he had to come over and say something, at that point he put his hand on my shoulder and then suddenly stopped speaking, he took his hand away and all he said was “your gonna be okay!”

To this day I’m not sure what he felt when he put his hand on my shoulder or what it was he was actually going to say.  Knowing that he was a friend of my Nan’s from Church, I hope he felt the Hand of God on my shoulder too, I’m sure he felt it, he never said, but I like to think that that was what happened.

When I got home later that day another odd thing happened.  Years before my kids had brought me a key ring of Barney Gumble from the Simpsons, it was one of him in his typical drunk state with a pint of bear in his hand.  As I closed the gate and turned to lock it, it fell off my keyring.  I never noticed that it was close to falling off before, but it chose this day to fall off for good.  I took it as a sign that the fight against any cravings for alcohol was finally over, when this image fell away, it took away any stigma I had attached to myself about being an alcoholic.

Things really didn’t improve for me that evening either, I still felt really low and it continued into the next day too.  Thankfully it was a Wednesday evening and I set off for Connect Group at Paul and Sarah’s house.  I was distinctly quiet when I got there, still trapped within my own mind, I didn’t really interact with anyone, which isn’t like me at Connect Group, we all get on so well.  But as the night went along, this group of people seemed to have a way of just bringing me around, by the time I left their house that night, I was back to what could be considered somewhere near normal, even Sarah the next week commented on how during the evening I completely changed, how I came out of my shell as the evening went along.

Once again with all of that out of the way I managed to get myself back on track, get out walking most mornings and moving forward again.  It had been a strange couple of months, in the space of less than two months I had lost my two remaining Grand Parents, although sandwiched in between were those great days of my first anniversary of being sober, it was all a bit of a rollercoaster ride to say the least.

SLEEP AND DREAMS by CHARLIE HALL
Close your eyes, it’s time to sleep
The day is done and it’s the time to breathe and dream
I pray that bands of angels fill your room
And the songs of God would come, consume you

Rest your head on hallelujahs
Rest your head on all God is
Rest your head, the day is done
And now it’s time to sleep

And put your mind on things above
And let your heart be filled with faith and hope, and love
I pray that bands of angels fill your room
And the songs of God would come, consume you

Rest your head on hallelujahs
Rest your head on all God is
Rest your head, the day is done
And now it’s time to sleep

Rest your head on hallelujahs
Rest your head on all God is
Rest your head, the day is done
And now it’s time to sleep

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
May the God of dreams come and fill your sleep
And may the God of dreams come and fill your sleep

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
May the God of hope come and fill your soul
May the God of hope come and fill your soul

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
May the peace of Christ come and fill your life
May the peace of Christ come and fill your life

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
If you’re yearning, if you’re thirsty
Child, come

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs

Rest your heads on hallelujahs
On hallelujahs
Rest your heads on hallelujahs

The Story So Far – Chapter 17 – One Year On

CHAPTER 17 – ONE YEAR ON

With my Nan’s funeral out of the way, a sense of normally returned to my life once again.  All of the darkness that came about with the remorse for my actions had been lifted by my family at the funeral.  So as March 2013 came to a close I was able to focus on the first anniversary of being sober.

Somehow that date of 29th March 2012 doesn’t seem to be a random date to just quit drinking, that day seems to have some significance, I’m not sure why, but the anniversaries or significant milestones always seem to fall on days of significance too.  The first anniversary happened to fall on Good Friday, I’m sure it didn’t just happen to fall on that date, if it did I am thankful that it fell on that day, because it made it all the more memorable.

To be able to not only celebrate my freedom from addiction on that day, but to combine it with the day where we remember Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross for us all.  It was the first time that I really felt I understood what Easter was all about and to experience it on a day that was such an important milestone in my life was an added bonus.

The weekend after James held a celebration at his house, inviting a number of people from Church who had been so supportive of me over the previous year.  We had a great night, catching up and chatting about the previous year, it was a great way to celebrate and not a drop of alcohol in sight.

The previous twelve months had gone by so fast and so much had happened.  The only low points up until then had really came about with the death of my Nan.  There were times in those couple of weeks where I was at a real low and if I’m completely honest the thought of drinking again did cross my mind, but thankfully I was strong enough to avoid any temptation.  I knew that not drinking was the only way I could survive and get through it.

In reality the only serious threat to my sobriety in the previous twelve months had come during those few weeks were the pain of the withdrawals were at their greatest.  I knew then that my body was struggling to adapt without the alcohol that it had become accustomed to, I knew then I could end all of that pain with a drink, but through prayer and reaching out to friends, I found a way through it.  Now those friends were coming together to celebrate with me, twelve months on there were so many people I owed a word of thanks to and they were there that night with me.

After the low start to March, it ended in such a great way, celebrating the strength I had found in God to get through.  I had made through a year, I was grateful for that, because I knew in my heart, without that God intervention I would not have made it through the year, I was convinced that I would have suffered serious health problems or  even worse, took my own life.  But now I was celebrating life, celebrating all the amazing things that God had done in my life in just twelve short months.

By this time I was beginning to truly appreciate all of the points in my life before I got sober, in the those dark times when I was drinking to hide from my problems, where I could now really see God’s hand on my life.  I obviously didn’t know it at that time, I couldn’t see it or hear it, but now I could appreciate it all.  Even before I started to struggle I had stumbled across Christian music and found an interest in it.  I didn’t know why, I didn’t really understand what it was saying into my life, but I sang along, not knowing why I was really listening to something I didn’t really believe in, but now I began to understand that this was just one of the stepping stones that God was putting in my path so I could find him.

Then came the people I would meet, over the years before my recovery I met so many people that in time would become such a support when I needed them.  Before that they were just faces and names, people I liked, but never really thought I would have anything really in common with or would even really want to spend time with.  But when it came down to it and I needed a support network, they were there in place already.

When I wobbled at the death of my Nan, they were all there once again, helping my through it all the way once again.

I guess there were so many stepping stones that God put before me when I was a lost alcoholic, I found myself desperate and stranded on the far side of the river, separated from the life that God meant for me and the only way over was to take a step on each of the stones laid across for me.  Except when you then get close to the other side there’s one more step, but you can’t see it, you just have to believe it’s there, a deep breath and a step out in faith.  I reached that step the night I prayed, to make it across to freedom I had to step out and trust in God, I did that night I first prayed, I stepped out and found my footing even though I couldn’t see the step below, then when I found that sobriety I finally made it to the other side and found the Father’s arms.

As March 2013 ended and April began, I was back in the spring of things, I was back out walking again and focused again.  As the month went along everything seemed to be falling back into place after early March’s slip, but then it happened again, the numbness returned.

THANK YOU by JAKE HAMILTON & KIM WALKER-SMITH
Thank you for the summer
And thank you for the rain
And thank you for the pleasure
Thank you for the pain

Thank you for the flowers
That bloom in early may
And thank you for the winter
That washes fall away

I want to say thank you
Thank you for it all

Thank you for the deserts
Thank you for the trees
Thank you for the failures
And for the victories

Thank you for the pruning
That gives me room to grow
Thank you for the seasons
Where I learn to reap and sow

So come, let us worship
Let us release a joyful sound
Let us enter his presence
Let us all bow down

The Story So Far – Chapter 16 – Numb

CHAPTER 16 – NUMB

By the time March 2013 came around I was doing really well, I was well clear of any urges to drink, I was out walking every morning and getting my life back into some sort of order.  I had taken the last few days of February off work, I had a little bit of drawing work to do for the Architect’s, but I also intended to help out at Church on Friday 1st March in preparation for the Raise Conference the next day.

On the Friday I got up early as usual and set off for a walk, I remember shortly before 7am being sat at the side of the lake and watching the sunrise over the water, in a spot I had found to be very peaceful.  Then my phone rang, it was my Mum’s mobile number, this was odd as she never rang at that time of the day as she worked early morning’s, so something had to be wrong.

It was, she didn’t sound right on the phone, then she told me my Nan had died during the night.  I guess at first I didn’t really respond to the news, I wasn’t sure how to, she started crying on the phone, I had never seen or heard my Mum cry before, she’s not that sort of person, my Dad’s more emotional, but my Mum’s not that way, I didn’t know what to say, the phone call didn’t last long, there was not much more to say at that time.

I felt quite calm, but the peace of the moment was shattered, so I stood up and turned to walk home, by that time it had hit me, I rang Victoria as I began to walk home and instantly began to cry as I told her.

Overnight Eve my daughter had been sick and couldn’t go to school, Victoria was working in the morning so I had agreed before going out to walk to look after her.  When I got home I was a bit of mess, I just sat crying, Victoria asked if I was still okay to have Eve, if not she would rearrange things, I said it would be okay, I would look after her.  I decided that I actually needed to get out the house, so I was going to nip into town and then set off to Church to help set up.

It actually helped having Eve there with me in those hours that morning, I picked up a few things form town, got her something to keep her occupied and we both set off to Church.

As long as I was busy I was fine, as long as I put my mind to something I was calm, when I stopped and actually had time to think, I would just break out into tears.  I had not had to deal with a death of a family member, not since I was eight and my Granddad died, I really didn’t know how to deal with it, I guess nobody ever does, we all cope in different ways and there’s very little that can be said to people right in the middle of the grief.

I stayed at Church as long as possible, it was keeping my mind busy and free from dealing with the pain.  When I got home later that evening I just sat there blankly staring.  I remember Victoria coming into the room, the Inland Revenue were calling regarding my outstanding tax bill, I took the phone but couldn’t deal with it, I politely told the woman on the end of the phone what was going on and thankfully as I quietly broke into tears again, she kindly agreed to call back in a few weeks.

The next day I was on duty with the A.V. Team at the conference, I was on video camera all day, which was fine, it kept my mind busy and throughout the morning I was walking around with a camera on my shoulder getting footage as the event took place, it was tiring work, the camera feels quite heavy after a while, but it was keeping my mind off the grief that was really still waiting to hit me.

We broke at lunch and I remember going outside and speaking with Ally from my Connect Group, I felt okay at that point, I couldn’t eat anything, but I felt fine.  Then I went back inside and it hit me, I remember walking into the A.V. booth and crouching down, holding my knees to my chest and just crying, there was so much going on around me, nobody heard, but it was all beginning to catch up with me again.

It was a guy call Dale who found me, I didn’t know Dale that well, we had met a few times over the previous weeks and I got to know him a little more on the Thursday night when we were setting up the lighting for the event, he didn’t know what was going on at the time and jokingly patted me on the head, until he realised I was crying and in a bit of mess, I don’t think he knew where to put himself at the moment, the next thing I know James came in and sat beside me, Dale had obviously fetched him or someone had anyway.  James had that amazing way of calming me down, I had been there for me in the toughest parts of my recovery in the months before and he was the one clearing up the mess that was me once again.

It did the job though, I calmed down enough to clean myself up and get back to my duties.  Dale took over the roaming camera duties for the afternoon, I took over the static camera, which was a little easier, that was until another member of the team joined us later on and I was allowed to stand down.  I was so tired and worn out, I guess by this time both physically and emotionally.

After the conference I didn’t have the energy to stay and help clear up and get the Church turned around for Sunday’s normal service, I normally would have done, but the other guys made it clear that I had done more than enough over the weekend, especially considering the situation.  I walked home, slowly, I never walk slowly, but on that day it was all I had.  I cried a lot more when I got home that night, I also noted in my journal that my temper was getting the better of me, maybe that was the tiredness or even the onset of guilt which would hit me over the next week or so.

The next day I was a real mess, I tried walking in the morning, but it felt like I was just dragging myself along, I think I got as far as the lake and turned back.  Whilst at home I was in a real state, the temper that had risen the night before had taken over, I was on a real short fuse and clashed with Victoria because of it, I guess I was being completely unreasonable, regardless of what was going on there was no need for me to act like that, to take my anger out on everyone else.

I went to Church early that morning, I wasn’t on team, but I knew that it was better to be around people who could help me.  I broke down so many times during the morning and spoke with so many people.  The good thing about speaking with all these people and speaking out about the situation, is that eventually the truth starts to come out and the source of all this anger was routed deep in remorse I held for my actions over the previous few years, the anger was aimed at myself.

My parents were both working parents, they left school with no qualifications, yet neither had been out of work for more than a few weeks.  So as a child I spent as much time with my Nan as my parents.  I would go to her house for dinner instead of school dinners, I was a fussy eater when I was younger and refused to eat school dinners, so my Nan cooked for me everyday.  I would then go there afterschool as my parents worked until early evening.  My sister and I, together with my four cousins would spend every school holiday at my Nan’s, we took over her little one bedroomed bungalow, we ran her riot, but although she may have complained to our parents, she would have us every time.  Despite being as old or older than some of the other pensioners in the neighbourhood she would go shopping for them, cut their lawns for them, she would do anything for anyone, she was always happy when she was doing something for someone, though she didn’t like people doing things for her, she preferred to just get on with it and stay busy.

I guess that’s why she lived until she was 95, she stayed busy and even when she was well into her late eighties my Mum and her sisters tried to slow her down, but she would have it.  Victoria used to tell me that she would see her in town shopping, she would tell her not to tell my Mum, as she wouldn’t like it.

She used to come over to our house every Sunday and help cook Sunday dinner, even when I was in my mid twenties and still living with my parents, she would go into my bedroom on a Sunday afternoon, whilst I was out at karate and clean it, I couldn’t stop her, there was no stopping her doing anything.

I was her youngest Grandchild and in a way her favourite, again even until the day myself and Victoria moved out of my parents house, she would bring my crisps and cans of Cherry Coke every Sunday, she had done it for years and there was as I say no stopping her.

A few years earlier though she had had knee replacement, it was at that point that my Mum and her sisters insisted that she move into a home, as looking after her bungalow would be too much now.  But this was around the time when I was beginning to struggle.  My Mum would often ask me to go and see her in the home, but I kept making excuses, I always said I was busy.  But to be honest, at the time I was only working a day or so every now and then, maybe a week here or there, in reality I had plenty of time to go visit, I just couldn’t do it.  To this day I can’t really explain why, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to see her and I was her favourite Grandchild, all my cousins went regularly and my sister, but I never went.  I just made my excuses and went back to my life in the shadows, with my alcohol and my self pity.

So now my Nan had gone and I hadn’t seen her in so many years.  When I began to get sober I still made excuses, I didn’t want my Nan to see me how I was, I wanted her to see me at my best, to remember me that way, plus I wanted her to see me with Victoria by my side, not on my own, I didn’t want her to see how badly I had failed.

But now it was too late, she was gone.  All of a sudden this remorse, this self pity was materializing itself as anger.  But the more I discussed it with my friends and supporters at Church, the more I came to terms with it.  They made me see that my Nan wouldn’t want to see me this way, she wouldn’t blame me, she loved me.

Later that day I made it to karate, where I saw my Mum and Dad for the first time since I had received that phone call.  They seemed to be doing pretty well, but in truth I was still struggling and there was still an amount of anger bubbling under the skin.  I managed to get through it and teach the class, again as long as my mine was occupied I was fine.

Over the next week I picked up a bit, I got out walking each morning and felt a lot better about the whole situation,  I was tired, very tired and began getting a few headaches, but I was doing a lot better than the previous weekend.

But by the end of the week I started to suffer from panic attacks, which slowly got worse, until on the Saturday afternoon I had a real bad one.  I’ve never suffered from these before, I don’t know where they came from or why, but they were worrying, the worst one was that Saturday afternoon and after that they seemed to go as quickly as they started.

The Sunday morning though, everything came crashing down once again.  I got out walking and made it to the lake, I sat there just looking out over the water, then I began to think about walking out into the centre of the lake.  Just taking all I had with me, wade out into the middle of the lake and just disappear under the water.  I was convinced that nobody would notice if I just disappeared, nobody would be bothered by it.

I knew I had to leave that place and quick.  It was Mother’s Day again and for the second Mother’s Day in a row I was threatening to kill myself, why was this happening again, why did I feel this way?

I went home and did what I always did after my previous suicide tendencies, I went in the bath.  I remember lying there convincing myself that I couldn’t go into Church that day, there was no way I could let them see me this way, they had all worked so hard to help me, that me being this way was just letting them all down, I didn’t want anyone to see me like this.

But then I heard this voice in my head clearly telling me…

IF CHURCH IS THE ONE PLACE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE,
THEN THAT IS THE ONE PLACE YOU NEED TO BE.

That morning I dragged myself to Church, I was supposed to be on A.V. Team, covering lights, so I had to be there early.  I slowly walked to Church, fighting the urge every time I came to a point where I had to turn a corner, not to just keep walking by, somehow I made it to Church.

On the way in I met with Paul and Jo Tilley, immediately I think Paul could see there was something wrong.  He calming asked if I was okay, I not sure I really wanted to discuss what had gone off that morning with anyone, but eventually I told him what had happened.  He told me that after Church I was to go back with Jo and himself for dinner, I declined, it was Mother’s Day and didn’t want to intrude on their family dinner, but he wouldn’t have it, he insisted and I wasn’t allowed to say no.

I stood in the team meeting before all the teams split to begin their setup, Dominic my team leader that day could see that I was in no state to fulfil my duties and thankfully excused me, which was a bit of relief.  I spoke with a few other people that morning, in particular James and Gareth, but I didn’t tell anyone else what had happened at the lake, I didn’t feel like reliving that one all morning.

My headache had go worst that morning, I struggled through the service, if I closed my eyes, I drifted off to sleep, if I kept them open my head felt like it was going to burst open, I was struggling, for the first time in almost a year I was on the edge.

I went back with Paul and Jo, for lunch with their family, it seemed to make all the difference, whilst I was there the headache disappeared and the gloom seemed to lift, by the time I left later that afternoon I was beginning to feel normal once again.  I went home and slept the rest of the afternoon, which I think I really needed.  Later that night I posted on my blog what had happened earlier that day, I posted about the moments at the lake and how low I felt at the moment, once again the more I shared the problem, the more it seemed to be lifted from my shoulders.

Come Tuesday it was finally time for the funeral, I so wished it had been sooner, I really wanted it to be out of the way, to say my goodbyes and get some closure.  I made my own way to the funeral, I walked alone, refusing lifts from other members of the family.  During the service and the burial I stood alone, I didn’t want to grieve with anybody else, I wanted to grieve in my own way on my own, I guess I’m still very much prone to do things alone and in my own way.

I didn’t really speak with anyone until my Aunty came over to me at the wake, I know she could see I was struggling in my own way, she hugged me and quietly told me just to remember all the good times I had with my Nan and it would all be okay, from that point onwards I came around a bit.

The funeral really did bring closure, the pain of the last few weeks days was finally gone, as the wake went along I became more social again and even started to laugh as myself and my cousins recounted all the stories of our childhood and how we ran our Nan to despair.  It made me see things in a different way and as I say put all that remorse and self hatred aside.

I spent a few hours with a few friends from Church later that evening, discussing my feelings over the last two weeks, it helped to put it all behind me and begin to move on again.

As a tribute to my Nan I put together a lyric video to the song Mama by the band Flyleaf, which I posted on my blog.  A few months later I got a message on my blog from Lori Mosley, the Mum of Lacey Sturm, Flyleaf’s lead singer, she had found my video and blog, she congratulated me on my journey and told me how Lacey had asked her to sing with her on the song and how proud she was of her daughter too, she can be heard in the final part of the song, which she wrote and sang. It may have been a random message, but seeing as Flyleaf had been one of those bands that I listened to as a none Christian and they had become a band I got a lot of inspiration from in the early days of my recovery, it became a great motivation to receive such a great message of encouragement, especially at that time I received that message I was really beginning to struggle again.

With that all behind me and as March moved on it would soon be time to celebrate the first anniversary of some of the most memorable moments of my life.

MAMA by FLYLEAF (ft Lori Mosley)
What makes you happy
What makes you smile
And when you smile please
Is it for real

I know you’re not one
One to pretend
Even when I was a child

You grow up too fast
And have to be brave
Braver than most strong men
That I’ve ever seen

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Little girl
You can come out now
The danger’s all gone
You can come out

All that you’ve held
Was too much to hold
So let it all go now
And you will become gold

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
Dance freely singing
You’re beautiful now

Laughter and tears
Gracing your face
The music of your strength
Held up this place

Your daddy’s right here now
You can let go
He’s holding it all now
And healing your soul

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
Dance freely singing
You’re beautiful know

There’s something
I’m trying to tell you and
I’ve tried to tell you before and
Each time that I profess it
It just leaves me wanting more and

I think you are beautiful
And I’m proud of you
What I’m trying to say is
I love you
I love you

The Story So Far – Chapter 15 – Connecting

CHAPTER 15 – CONNECTING

Come January I joined my first Connect Group at Church, I had been approached about joining one many times over the previous nine months, I hadn’t previously felt that ready to join groups or anything like that.  Maybe it was my shy nature, me the guy how can stand lonely in a crowded room, I’m not someone who can just go up to somebody I don’t know and start a conversation, that is well outside of my comfort zone.  The only time I am comfortable in this situation is when I’m in a karate suit and I can approach someone with confidence that comes from seniority, I could walk up to someone I didn’t know and offer them advice on what they were doing or start a conversation, but once more, when the suit came off that persona came off with it and I became the quiet awkward guy once more.

Maybe I was worried previously that I would be out of place in a group of people that had been Christians for so much longer than myself, maybe it was just that little bit of insecurity or fear of looking like I didn’t really know anything.  But by the time the New Year came around I felt it was at least time to give it a try, not that I knew that much more than before, but the timing felt right now.

To be fair I didn’t really know what a Connect Group did or what was expected.   I remembered Victoria used to attend one a few years back, but she never really explained what they did at these things and to be fair I never really asked.

I was placed in a group where I knew less than half of them and of those I I did know I didn’t know that well.  I had met and briefly chatted with some of them over the previous months, but I didn’t really know them and I guess they didn’t really know me either.  A couple had been present at the Unleash weekend a few months earlier where I shared my testimony, but other than that I felt a little awkward, even more so as I was really about the only one who was not part of a couple, other than a couple of younger teenagers that is.

But the thing was that once I got there, none of that mattered, not at all, I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.  It was an interesting first meeting, which focused on just getting to know each other.  It was different and fun, they all turned out to be a great bunch of people.  That first meeting was on Wednesday 16th January 2013, initially we met every other Wednesday, then eventually every week.  But I have enjoyed them so much over the last few years, that to the point of writing this I have never missed a meeting.

If I previously felt that I wouldn’t really fit in or Connect at one of these meetings, that sort of went out of the window in the first few weeks.  I had no problem sharing my story or my feelings on the subjects we were discussing, on some occasions I felt like it was only me who had anything to say and other times I was content to just sit back and listen to the discussions.  In those times if I felt I didn’t really know that much about the topic of conversation, then I was more than happy to sit back and quietly listen and learn.

My Connect group has been so good for me over the last two years, as I say I have never missed a meeting.  There have been times when I have been shaken badly by what had been going on in my life, but that never stopped me from attending, I may have sat there quietly on those nights or on one occasion crying through pretty much all of the meeting, but I knew that that was the best place for me to be, the only place for me to be.

The group may have changed quite a bit over the last two years, but the nucleus of those that were there at that first meeting are still there and we still support each other and look out for each other.

I remember coming home after that very first meeting and writing this poem as soon as I got in…

Connecting

A small gathering
Of us only twelve
All sat closely together
Each knowing only a few

My shyness is rising
I fight to keep it in
Time now to open up
A moment to be me

Introductions are made
New friendships are born
Relaxed I am now open
It’s OK to be just me

We trade tiny moments
Sharing snippets of our past
Creating tiny pictures
Of who we have become

Our goodbyes are spoken
Each heads home to rest
Seven days will slowly pass
Until we gather once again

RIGHT BESIDE YOU by BUILDING 429
I’ve seen it and felt it
Hopelessness with no lifeline
The wicked are feeding on
Innocence and our decline

You and I we are the same
Torn apart by different things
All our faith is barely alive
But we’re going to make it through the night
I want you to know

When the world is on your back
And you think that you will never last
When you’re lonely and you are confused
I’ll be right beside you
When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When you think there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you
I’ll be with you

We are precious
More than priceless is our worth
Loved by the Father
Heaven’s children here on earth
You and I we are the same
Lifted up above the pain
By it’s wounds we have been healed
And by our love it is revealed
I want you to know (I need you to know)

When the world is on your back
And you think that you will never last
When you’re lonely and you are confused
I’ll be right beside you
When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you

Hold on, don’t you let go of me
I’ll be here through it all
Hold on, when you’re ready to fall
I will carry you
I will never leave you
I will lift you if you fall

When the world is on your back
And you think that you will never last
When you’re lonely and you are confused
I’ll be right beside you
When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you
I’ll be with you
I’ll be right beside you