Tag Archives: Debt

Empty Hands

Empty Hands (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

In my hands
What did I find
All that the world gave
I threw it all away
Seeking a life
That wasn’t mine
And I stood broke
Before the world I owe
Debts of a life
I still have to pay

Now in my hands
I have a life
One which You gave
Though I had nothing left in return
Emptiness and brokenness
Now all replaced
By the love and the life You give
For now I am content
With what I hold in my hand
As all I have is of the grace You gave

1 Timothy 6:6-8

1 Timothy 6:6-8

Blackened Minds And All That

It seems some time since I have posted about how things are going around here, somehow I seem to find myself too busy or simply motivated to do other things.  I do veil some of my feelings into my daily poetry, particularly in Sunday’s Blackened Mind, which I will attempt to explain later in this post.

Things have settled down a little at work, myself and my colleague were issued with a written warning for not following correct procedure, both of us were caught out by a fraudster, which cost the company thousands of pounds, it’s a lesson learnt, a slap on the wrist and we carry on, but I won’t make that mistake again.

During all of the investigation for that, there was a chance that we both could lose our jobs, my colleague was especially worried as even though he doesn’t have the debt that I have, he couldn’t afford to lose his job.  Myself, I’m still paying back all the debt I amassed in my dark years.

If I’m honest, even before I “had a problem” with the drink, we were still living to our income, we weren’t saving and like many around us living on credit, but back then I was paying it back as I should.  When I lost my work and my way, any money that came in I pretty much spent on drink, I stopped paying all bills, I looked at what I had for alcohol before considering bills and debts, that was where my addiction took me and I seemingly had no control.

So for almost two years, my payments were bouncing all over the place, I was amassing so many bank charges, my overdraft which was only £450, but eventually ran to a total of over £1100, after the bank added charge after charge to my account, eventually they closed it when the Citizen Advice Bureau took over our case and rearranged my debts.

The biggest of my debts was the £8000 I owed to the Inland Revenue in taxes, this January I finally paid that off, which means a big amount that was going straight out of my account after my wages went in is no longer going out, although the Inland Revenue at first failed to cancel the payment after I contacted them, took out another payment and now owe me money, which I have applied for back, but am still waiting for, the wheels of bureaucracy run slow, they like to take your money pretty quickly, but not give it back without a fight!

But with this being the largest of my monthly repayments by some way, it took a bit of pressure off me financially, so when I realised I could lose my job, I actually wasn’t that worried by it all.  I prayed on it over and over again, each time I got a strong word from God that He has bigger things planned for me, whatever happens don’t be afraid, He wouldn’t let me fall again.

So even though my job is safe, providing I don’t screw up in the next six months at least, I am still not worried about the future, I keep praying for God to reveal His plan for me, but for now, I just keep working away, doing everything that’s asked of me.  Yes I work from 7.30 to 5pm each day, plus Saturday mornings, I teach karate too and then do work for the Architect’s.  I need the money from my work and the karate to cover our outgoings here, the work for the Architect’s is a nice bonus, it has to being seeing as they aren’t that good at paying anyway.  I can go months without getting any money from them, I still have to jump to deadlines, but I’ve managed to keep things in the time schedule I want to do them, I won’t just drop everything anymore, I would get a text at work expecting me to do what they say is just a few minor changes that evening, I would respond by telling them when I could do it and that would be that, no matter how many begging texts I got in response.  I’m sorry but if I was paid on time, I would be more inclined to put myself out, but as they don’t put themselves out to pay me, I will do things in my time and after all there minor changes were never an hour or so of work, it would end up being a few nights work or a full weekend!

Back to “Blackened Mind”, I was having a pretty good weekend, on Saturday I finally received a payment from the Architect’s, some of the invoices were from last autumn.  So I took the kids out on Saturday to do a bit of shopping in Lincoln, we had a good day out.  Then Sunday morning I felt quite positive when I left the house for Church, when I got there I felt pretty good.

During the morning I had a conversation with a friend who asked about the situation at home, between Victoria and myself.  I explained things hadn’t changed, we still live together in separate rooms, it still the same, I would start all over again tomorrow, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.  I told him how I still pray regulary for the situation and when I do I always feel like God says to me “don’t you worry about that, I have all that in hand, you just keep walking with me”, I told him how I feel all the pain and the weight of the situation lifted from me.

At the very moment I told him that, I had this overwhelming sense of warmth spread through my back, a feeling so comfortable that you just know that you’ve just had the arms of God thrown around you.  It was like God was saying to me “that’s my boy, you just keep doing that”.

All in all it was a fairly positive morning and a good preach from Sam, very encouraging, until towards the end when he began to speak about something that set me off.  He began to speak about his anniversary that weekend and how they had enjoyed it and spent it.  It set me off because that day, Sunday 10th May, was the anniversary of the first date that myself and Victoria had eighteen years before.

I don’t forget dates like that, I will forever remember, but I can’t do anything about it, for the first time in years, I had the means to celebrate it, for the first time in years I had some spare money with which to do something with, but my relationship is bankrupt and there is nothing I can do about it.

From my positive mood I slipped into the darker region of my mind and all that self hatred.  All I wanted to do was get out of the place go home.  I hate that I lie to people around me at times like that, everyone that asks how I am, I lie to, I say I’m okay and then move on, avoiding further conversation.  I packed up the camera’s and left straight away, I barely spoke to anyone on the way out, I wanted to avoid any kind of conversation, I just wanted out.

On the way home, I was in a real mess.  My mind was back in the dark days when I fell into depression.  I began to think about the times I wanted to end my life and began wishing I had actually done it, if I had I wouldn’t have to keep going through this pain over and over again.  Then I began to think that maybe this time I shouldn’t bother cutting my wrist, just cut my throat, I couldn’t get that wrong, even better, when I get home I should take the sharpest knife I could find and thrust it through my heart, just put it out of it’s misery.

When I got home I wrote out “Blackened Mind”, posted it, prayed and then just simply laid down on the settee and went to sleep.  By the time I woke a few hours later, all the darkness had gone and I was back to the more positive feeling I had earlier that morning.

It’s been so much better this week since then, on Monday evening I set up the verses for this weeks poems.  I randomly chose seven verse at the beginning of each week, the first three that came out, all spoke of perseverance through the trials, all different verses, but the same message, keep going, keep walking through the storms, things will be better on the other side, I knew that was once again the message I was being given, I felt so encouraged.

I must say that those few hours on Sunday were the darkest I have had in a long time, I have low moments, but not dark thoughts like that, indeed I don’t think I ever felt about things as darkly as that, but thankfully it went just as quickly as it came about.

Hopefully this was just a one off, triggered by a memory, I’m sure there will be others, many others, but God keeps telling me His has a plan, for the time being I just have to keep walking with Him.

I came across this song by Jeremy Camp earlier today, the lyrics made me stop and think once again, another message to keep persevering, there is a bigger plan for me.

PERFECT LOVE by JEREMY CAMP
If perfect love casts out fear
Then here I am Lord drawing near

Days have come, days have gone
I know one thing’s sure
Hanging on by the words of Your promise, Lord
You are good, you are true
Even in my pain

And I’m thankful for this suffering
‘Cause it’s brought me right here on my knees

If perfect love casts out fear
Then here I am Lord drawing near
I’m crying out and You hear my prayer
I feel the depth of how much You care
In Your perfect love
You are perfect love

I’m wide awake, wide awake
Now my eyes can see
All the hope, all the plans that you have for me
I count in joy ever time I am in this place

And I’m thankful for this suffering
It’s deepened every part of me

If perfect love casts out fear
Then here I am Lord drawing near
I’m crying out and You hear my prayer
I feel the depth of how much You care
In Your perfect love
You are perfect love

I cast my cares, cast my cares
On Your altar Lord (always, always)
‘Cause You are good, You are good
And Your love endures (always, always)
I will rest, I will rest
In Your perfect love (always, always)
There’s no more fear, no more fear
In Your presence Lord

If perfect love casts out fear
Then here I am Lord drawing near
I’m crying out and You hear my prayer
I feel the depth of how much You care
In Your perfect love
You are perfect love

Finally A Reason To Celebrate

Finally a bit of a reason to celebrate today, after all it’s been a pretty miserable January so far, this virus that I picked up before Christmas is now into its seventh week, with no real signs that it’s going away. It not as bad as it was over Christmas and New Year, but the cough persists and the on and off eye soreness is still making life a drag.

Having said that, there was a bright point yesterday at work when one of my customer’s said he thought I was only 28, that did make my day, as he refused to believe I was actually 41. I’m not sure I really look 13 years younger than I actually am, but for just a while it made me feel young again.

On to today and of course it is deadline day for tax returns here in the UK, I’ve been trying to get mine entered online all week, I somehow always manage to leave it until the last week, I finally got around to it last night, but couldn’t find the paperwork with my login details, I went through all my paperwork over and over again last night and still couldn’t find it, this afternoon I gave it one last try before requesting it to be sent again (which would also mean a £100 fine for late submission), finally I found it and got my details entered.

Then after a number of phone calls to a number of different department, none of which seems to know what the next is doing, it was confirmed that I have finally paid off the tax bill which has been outstanding for a number if years, in fact the Tax man owes me some money back.

At one point, as a result of my drinking and inability to sort my life out, I managed to accrue a tax bill of almost £8000 which I had no way off paying back, even to the point they sent in the bailiffs to seize goods (fortunately I had nothing of value and they didn’t take anything). I came to an arrangement of paying them an agreed sum each month, which at times has been a real millstone around my neck. Even when I started my job, after being taxed on my earnings the first thing that came out of my account was this additional payment to the tax man, some months all my earnings were gone within a week of payday, the rest of the month was a real struggle, it became a little easier when I stopped drinking, but it has still been a struggle over the last few years, there have been times I’ve been in total despair over the situation.

I still have a number of other debts, but all are under payment schedules and none as onerous as this tax bill, but as I say they are being managed.

So I’ve celebrating this evening by taking my daughter to see Big Hero 6, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

Hopefully now as tomorrow morning brings a new month, this year can really kick start for me, it seems like it’s been a real long hard struggle through January, a month I had big plans for, which through one thing and another never materialized, maybe now I can begin moving forward once again.

HALLELUJAH by JAKE HAMILTON
I heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the LORD
all I want is to play that music for You
it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift
and all I sing is a broken hallelujah

hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

I know that there is a God above
that is all I’ve ever known of love
to see His Son there broken, beaten, for me
so while we’re here let’s sing this song
I want you all to sing along
let’s raise a cry, let’s raise a hallelujah

hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

In the still and quiet place
I still can feel His warm embrace
although I know the storms they rage around me
to live your dream is quite the cost
just don’t look back, and don’t get lost
my offering is a broken hallelujah

hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Consequences

Although there is no doubt that my life is better in many ways since I stopped drinking and set myself upon a walk with God, there are things from that past life that still haunt me, they still rise at times, not to tempt me back into that former self, but just enough to take the edge of things, not a real downer, but just taking the gloss of things.

There are times when like this evening, I see people on nice warm evenings like this, sat outside my former local pub, enjoying a cold glass of beer or wine, if only.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t so much that I want to drink, I know that’s a no no, but I did have memories of so good times, sat there with both friends and family, it was the upside of drinking, spending time with others, but I know I can’t go back there, it’s just a memory, one I have to deal with and overcome.

Then there is of course the financial burden I have created for myself, for a while I wasn’t earning as much as I was spending each week on alcohol.  I was in that place where my drinking came before anything else, including paying bills, I only paid them when I knew I had enough to keep me going for the week, then I would pay a bill.  But my tax bill went unpaid, along with a credit card and a loan, in total my personal debt, not including what Victoria has also, was around £21000. I have no car, I don’t drive, when the bailiff from the Inland Revenue knocked on the door that was all he wanted, we rent our house, all our furniture is second hand, we really have nothing of value, obviously he went away empty handed.

Unfortunately the Tax man is not bothered about anything else other than recovering the money owed, there are some helpful people there who are understanding and will work with you, but more often than not, I got the complete jobsworth who didn’t give a monkeys about your situation, they just have a remit to get the money and that’s just what they will do.  The Citizens Advice Bureau took on our case and negotiated all our repayments into manageable ones, which we are keeping to, although it doesn’t leave us with much money each month.  I know I still have a lot of money outstanding from the Architect’s and that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming very quickly, so in the mean time we just have to manage, I’m doing everything I can to make it put it right.

There is light at the end of that tunnel, at one point my tax liability was around £7500, I’ve been making regular monthly payments (on top of the tax on my earnings) to get that down to a point where it should be paid by the end of the year, that will be a massive millstone from around my neck, one of those consequences will be removed and one of my burdens released.

The other major consequence is the situation with Victoria, although we still live together, there is no relationship, there seems to be no sign of any movement either.  It’s something I pray about regularly and the thing that probably gets me down more than most, especially when things seem more frosty than normal.

There are times when I need something physical, when I get home and I’m stressed or just down, I miss having someone to cuddle up to, to hold tight and be held tight be.  I miss the little things that maybe once I found so annoying, that now I long for.

But all I can do is pray and just trust that God has in store what is best for both of us and our two children, it’s all in his hands, by his will.

These consequences are what get me down more than most, at times I can rise above them, I can wake each day and just get on with moving forward, dwelling on these things too much can bring me down big time, this is what happened last November, I let these things get bigger than God, I let them control my thoughts and distract me from Him.  These things do still get to me, but at the moment I’m not letting them control me.  I have hope for the future and faith in His promise that what ever happens, things will be alright, there is a bright future, I just have to keep climbing, keep walking and keep believing.

WE BELIEVE by NEWSBOYS
In this time of desperation
When all we know is doubt and fear
There is only one foundation
We believe, we believe
In this broken generation
When all is dark, You help us see
There is only one salvation
We believe, we believe

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He’s comin’ back again, we believe

So, let our faith be more than anthems
Greater than the songs we sing
And in our weakness and temptations
We believe, we believe!

We believe in God the Father!
We believe in Jesus Christ!
We believe in the Holy Spirit!
And He’s given us new life!
We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe that He conquered death!
We believe in the resurrection!
And He’s comin’ back again!

Let the lost be found and the dead be raised!
In the here and now, let love invade!
Let the church live love our God will save
We believe, we believe!
And the gates of hell will not prevail!
For the power of God, has torn the veil!
Now we know Your love will never fail!
We believe, we believe!

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life!
We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe that He conquered death!
We believe in the resurrection!
And He’s comin’ back,
He’s comin’ back again!
He’s comin’ back again!
We believe!
We believe

Fears, Finances & Promises

All in all it’s been a pretty positive week, by rights it shouldn’t have been, but I’ve got through it and Praise God, I’ve come through it quite well.

My fear of yet another a fall, which I wrote about this time last week, has been extinguished for the time being, whether it surfaces again, I don’t know, but if it does I know I won’t face anything alone.

Maybe some of that fear had to do with yesterday.  For the last couple of years I’ve not looked forward to 10th May, for the simple reason is that back in 1997, that was the day I started seeing Victoria, indeed from that day we saw each other everyday until I went away with the England squad for the first time in March 2005.  Our relationship which was destroyed by my drinking is the hardest thing for me to deal with, I would love to get things back on track, but there seems to be no movement.

So for the time being, I just get on with sorting myself out, with walking my journey and trying to put right everything else.  Our financial position is not great, I still have a significant amount of debt, that I amassed in those dark years of drinking, I’m getting down it, slowly, all my repayments are agreed and scheduled.

I have to admit, even without an expensive drinking habit, I am pretty bad with money, I’m getting better, now with a regular monthly wage, all my repayments now go out within days of getting paid, unfortunately it doesn’t leave much for the rest of the month, but we make it through.

I’m still owed about six months money by the Architect’s, hopefully I’ll get a bit more of that soon, put it this way, I’m not going out of my way to complete work, not until I get some more money, I think I’ve been more than fair and more than patient.  Don’t get me wrong I still complete the work, but I’m working to my schedule and not being dictated to, if they pay I may be a little more reactive.

When I was out of work and the debts were piling up and the little money that was coming in, I was spending on alcohol, indeed I would work out how much beer/wine I could afford before I even attempted to pay any bills.  I couldn’t deal with the piles of letter that came in as payment after payment bounced, I simply retreated into the shadows of my addiction, leaving Victoria to deal with everything, to call the debtors and meet with the Citizens Advice Bureau to organise repayments.  I just couldn’t deal with it and to be honest, I still can’t, I still find it hard to pick a phone up and admit I have a problem paying.  Yet this week I managed to do just that, Friday afternoon I managed to pick the phone up and sort out a debt that was growing again, I paid the arrears and arranged the direct debit payments for the rest of it.

I always fear that I’ll get someone on the end of the phone who won’t understand and start making threats of action, you know the kind, they have a job to do and they are going to do it, no excuses, they take no prisoners.  I must admit I had to pray before I made the phone call, but it went really well, there were no problems, it was fine and all arranged.  That was probably all part of the fear that I was facing too!

I feel I have a promise from God for my situation,  at times when things get hard here at home, I start to lose a bit of faith in that promise, I start to question whether it really is all going to come together and work out.

But once more this week, I felt I was being told, don’t worry, it’s still all in hand, you still have My promise, just keep holding on, keep walking with Me and it will all work out in the end.

The vision I got was of that jar in the cupboard, you know the one which you can never get the lid off, every time you try it just doesn’t want to come off, you try everything, but it still stays stuck on there.  Then one day, you pick it up and it just comes off as easy as anything, not from anything special that you’ve done or that you’ve tried any harder, it’s purely because it was the right time for it to come off, it was ready to let you have what it held inside.

Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to read these words, maybe they are just for me or maybe they are for any one of you reading this, but simply put, God will come through on His promise, when the time is right.

PROMISES by SANCTUS REAL
Sometimes it’s hard to keep believing in what you can’t see
That everything happens for a reason even the worst life brings
If you’re reaching for an answer and you don’t know what to pray
Just open up the pages; let His Word be your strength

And hold on to the promises (hold tight)
Hold on to the promises (all right)
Jesus is alive, so hold tight
Hold on to the promises

And all things work for the good of those who love God
He holds back nothing that will heal you, not even His own son 
His love is everlasting; His faithfulness unending
Oh, if God is for us who can be against us
So, if you feel weak

Just hold on to the promises (hold tight)
Hold on to the promises (all right)
Jesus is alive, so hold tight
Hold on to the promises

Neither life nor death could separate us
From the eternal love of our God who saves us

Neither life nor death could separate us
From the eternal love of our God who saves us

Just hold on to the promises (hold tight)
Hold on to the promises (all right)
Jesus is alive, so hold tight
Hold on to the promises

Just hold on to the promises (hold tight)
Hold on to the promises (all right)
Jesus is alive, so hold tight
Hold on to the promises

Neither life nor death could separate us
From the eternal love of our God who saves us

Begging, Borrowing & Stealing

It is amazing what faith can do sometimes, just three months ago on the 14th April, I found myself once again at Church in tears, hands raised, tears falling, asking God to breath life into my dry bones, to breath into the two situations which where pulling me down, now at least one of those situations is being address, hopefully that may lead to the other being address also.

It’s no secret where my addiction has left me, with over twenty thousand pounds worth of dept and a failed relationship, these were the very two things that were holding me down.

At that point I was broke again, we had no money in the bank, the bills were beginning to mount up and no sign on the horizon that things were going to change.  As a result the tensions at home were beginning to rise and the chances of things changing were evaporating before me, I was lost again, it was all happening again, once again I felt that notion of complete and utter uselessness, once again I was unable to provide for my family, this time for absolutely differing reasons to the last time.

Previously my addiction had taken control of me to the extent that I had no sense of control over the little money that I was bringing into the household.  I was at the point that I was lucky if I had two days of work each week, lucky if I was even able to bring in £150 a week, some weeks I had no work and no income, but I still had an ever increasing reliance on alcohol and a habit that was demanding close to £100 per week and rising.

But my mindset was such that I put my need for alcohol before my need to meet my obligations to my family, to Victoria and the kids.  Bills, food and everything else took a distant second place.

When tea time came, whether I had been working or at home all day, I would scout around to find what money I could, scrape together as much loose change as I could to afford myself six cans of cider/lager or if I was lucky a couple of bottles of wine, forget paying bills, I had to get through the night and my fix came first.

THE BEGGING

As much as I tried to hide my alcohol consumption from Victoria, which was pretty pointless as no doubt she would see the empty cans and bottles I left all over, until I started to hide them as well, but there were times when I had to go to her, to beg for any money she had.  At that time she was the one who was working, she was earning, not great amounts, but the roles had reversed, she was the one trying to keep the family afloat, I was the one trying to sink it deep down below a sea of alcohol.  I would ask and begrudgingly she would provide, after all she knew how bad I would be to be with if I didn’t drink, a drinking me was better to be around than a miserable, wound up, short tempered waste of space.  I hated going to her, but I hated not drinking more, I couldn’t stop the rollercoaster that was my alcoholic ride to self destruction.

THE BORROWING

I would borrow money from my both my parents and out of my karate club funds, my parents to be fair would rarely expect it back, they knew borrowing meant taking, but never questioned it, no matter what excuse I gave them, they knew I enjoyed a drink, but never knew how bad I was getting or got, indeed their response when I eventually confessed to them was one of denial, maybe I will discuss that some other time, I’m still a little confused by their reaction, but I understand the protective parent thing also, but as I say that’s another story.

I would take from the karate club, I don’t get paid for teaching although at the time I was teaching almost nine hours a week.  Some of the money I borrowed I paid back, some of it wasn’t, but as my Mum and Dad handled the money side of things, if we were short on the rent for the hall, they would meet most of the shortfall and if I could I gave them back as much as I could afford, but again, not before I had made sure I had enough to survive on and when I say survive, I mean in a drinking sense, not a family sense.

THE STEALING

Now don’t get me wrong here, I wouldn’t class myself as a thief in the normal sense, I never stole directly from any one, I never shop lifted or burgled the next door neighbours, never anything in the criminal sense, but I did take from my own kids.

This is one of things that bothers me most about my past, this one thing I carry so much shame about, taking my kid’s birthday and Christmas money.  Like most kids they get a fair amount of money for birthdays and Christmas from family, between them they can get hundreds of pounds and they would trust us to look after it for them until they found something they wanted to spend it on.

But obviously when things got tight, we would borrow it to pay for shopping, but quite often we would put it back.  But eventually as things got tighter if I knew the money was still there I would borrow it.  Ben would hold on to his money more often than Eve, it would be in one of the cupboards, at first I would ask him if I could borrow some of it, I would put it back, well that’s what I promised him.  He would always say yes, so I would grab £10 make my way to the shop, get my fix and an amount of chocolate and crisps to keep the kids happy also.  But the problem was, it was that money I would never pay back and I guess to this day I’ve never actually paid back, I might put the odd £10 back in the pot, but would probably “borrow” it again a night or two later.

I’m not sure how much money over the couple of years I was drowning that I have taken from them, it must be over well over £500, probably closer to £1000, not to mention all the things they’ve gone without because we couldn’t afford it, in short I stole that money from them, I was a thief and now I have to live with that regret, that I stole from my own kids to feed my habit.

My kids are good kids, they have never complained about it, they have never asked for too much, they are quite grounded and thankfully have put up with me and somehow they still love me!

But things are looking up, since that day, that Sunday of despair back on the 14th April, within a couple of weeks of that date I have so much extra work, I just don’t know where I’m going to find the time to fit in the all the work I’m getting.

In fact over this last week alone I’ve completed over 25 hours of drawing work, that is on top of my full time job, karate commitments and Church commitments, I know there is at least another few days work to be fitted in over the next few weeks and it still keeps coming, the money is slowly coming in too, so hopefully I can start to get ahead of myself with the bills and down a few of my repayments, that without all this extra work, zap my wages so I have very little left.

Also maybe, I can start to treat my kids, I maybe can’t pay back everything I have stolen from them over the years I spent in my darkness, but I can hopefully start to make an amends.

The only draw back to all this work is the time I now get for blogging, I’m down to maybe one detailed post a week and possibly a couple of poems, due to the lack of walking I have very few photos to post at the moment, but I may get chance to post a few in the next few days, time permitting.  But the main problem is I don’t get chance to return the compliment and read as many of your blogs as I used to, that together with my laptop is running so slow and my iPhone app for WordPress isn’t working properly either, means I just don’t get time, which I miss, I will try to address this over the coming weeks and catch up with each and everyone of you and reply to your many comments, which I still read and am still very grateful for.

After all the work I put into the National Championships a few weeks ago and the long hours I put in last weekend, I’ve not been walking as much as I usually do, but I’ve started again this week.  Usually whilst walking I listen to a real mix of Christian music and other inspirational songs, but this week I’ve just been listening to one artist as I walk, I’ve got so into the album Still Believe by Kim Walker-Smith that I’ve put it on each time I’ve walked this week.  The title track of the album contain a lyrics that I just love, it really does mean a lot to me, because I know it so true, “Your blood sets the addict free right now”.

STILL BELIEVE by KIM WALKER-SMITH
Your blood makes the deaf to hear right now
Your blood takes away the curse right now
Your blood heals every disease right now
Your blood sets the addict free right now

And I still believe
You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever
And I still believe
Your blood is sufficient for me

Your blood mends the broken hearts right now
Your blood compels me to forgive right now
Your blood transforms my mind right now
Your blood brings the dead to life right now

And I still believe
You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever
And I still believe
Your blood is sufficient for me

You’re the higher power
Darkness cannot stand
No longer bound to sin
I am free

And I still believe
You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever
And I still believe
Your blood is sufficient for me

Keeping My Head High Amid The Turmoil

Last week seems so long ago now, this last weekend saw the last of series of great anniversaries, since then it’s been such a busy week, I really just want to sleep so much, but I have so much to do also, oh well, I’ve always said I function better when I’m busy!

Today holds another selection of anniversaries, both good and bad, to top that off this week my financial nightmares began to bite again, another storm to walk through, but I am keeping my head up, walking tall and trusting that only good can come of this situation.

Firstly, if you have read my post Wylie & Me, about the death of my dog Wylie Burp, you will understand how badly that affected me at a time when life was falling apart, it sped up the process somewhat, my drinking began to steadily increase and I lived in increasing isolation from those around me, my ability to communicate my problems diminished and I climbed down in to the pit.  A certain part of me died that day, but I must say that having wrote the article about Wylie, I have come to terms with the regret and remorse, I see him in the good times we had together and sometimes wish he was walking with me in the mornings, he would have loved that.

Today hold another anniversary of sorts, sixteen years ago I was introduced to Victoria by her Mum!  Victoria’s brothers had been coming to my karate classes for some time, she would sometimes come to watch, but to be honest I hadn’t really noticed her.  It was the day of my sister’s wedding, as my parents only knew one person with a video camera, that was Victoria’s mum, Viv, so they asked her to record the wedding and the evening do.  During the break after the wedding, you know the bit where the photo’s are being taken and everyone jostles for position, except me I hate photographs, I got to talking with Viv, where she told me how much Victoria liked me and that she would bring her to the evening do.

So during the evening do, as the night progressed, it got towards the end of the night when the slow songs are played, well naturally I asked Victoria to dance, which she agreed to, we hadn’t really spoken much at that point, but that was the first time I really noticed her and indeed danced with her.  It would be four weeks later when Viv engineered an evening together for us, where we talked about what we wanted from life and everything inbetween.  From that evening we saw each other everyday for almost eight years, until I went away for the first time with the JKA England squad to Norway for the European Championships.

I don’t think she remembers these significant dates, I understand that, but I remember, I may have drifted away a couple of years ago, I may have buried these memories myself for a while, maybe a prerequisite of entering the pit was to forget, but now I remember all the great moments and long to continue building a library of those, only time will tell, I just continue to pray about the situation.

Then to the finances, to be honest I am struggling to survive on the wages I earn, simply the repayments of the debts I amassed during the lost years in the pit are swallowing what’s left of my wages, since Victoria lost her job last year and the Government at the same time in their wisdom slashed our Working Families Tax Credits things have been tight, but never as tight as this, less than two weeks after being paid and I have no money left until the end of the month, it’s drags me down, but I refuse to be beaten by it, I pray about that too, I pray a lot to be completely honest.

But I wont return to where I was, that pit has been filled in, there is no entry there anymore, I may have slid back for a while last month, the lonely feelings returned for a moment, but I found through prayer a strength to pull through, so I face these storms this time looking forward directly into the eye, because this time I know I have someone behind me, I know this time whatever I face I don’t face it alone, even though I may not have faced it alone last time, this time I stand tall and fight.

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding onto Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
(Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) by Chris Tomlin)

How Did I Fall So Far?

So, at what point did this all go so very wrong, when did I start to descend down that spiral into the dark pit that I found myself in. Tuesday 13th March 2012 was one of the lowest points in my life, but how did it get to that point, what were the triggers, the reasons for finding myself face down on the floor and just five days later so close to ending it all with a knife blade at my wrist. That Sunday lunchtime it is clear to me now, I would never be able to take the easy way out, the cowards way out, because again that day like all the times before, God placed his hands on wrists and whispered in my ear the only words that really mattered.

But how and why did this happen to me, alcohol definitely became a crutch to hold me up, it’s an understatement to say I became dependant on it, I convinced myself I couldn’t sleep without it! But how did it come to this point?

I’ve always enjoyed a drink, but never really classed myself as a big drinker, it didn’t take much for me to get drunk on a night out, but at home I could drink loads and not feel drunk at all, that only seemed to happen when I was out which wasn’t very often.

I had been self-employed since 1998. I had already struggled with debt when I first started out and paid that back over time, but I let it happen again taking out loans and credit cards to pay off bills and debts, at that time the banks were throwing credit at everyone. I lived quite comfortably with my partner and two young children, I taught karate and had made it on the England squad, times were good.

But 2009 brought change, I retired from the England squad at the age of 35, although I passed my 4th Dan black belt later that year, there became a sense, that after all that I had lost a little bit of purpose in my life, I had at that point no goals to aim for. Then at the end of 2009 the “Credit Crunch” hit the UK, work just seemed to dry up and with it money, for the first time in over ten years I didn’t have any regular work, although this had happened before, then I had no kids and still lived with my parents with very little to worry about in terms of responsibilities, this time I had rent to pay, bills, loans, tax arrears and a young family to care for.

At one point I signed on at the Job Centre, if I was to pick a time where it actually felt like it all went wrong, it was probably that day, I sat in the Job Centre with people who quite clearly did not want to work, they would do anything not to, I swore that I didn’t want to become like that, I wanted to work and wasn’t afraid to, I didn’t really want hand outs, I wanted to pay my own way in life. Before I could complete the paperwork, I got a bit more work in, so I promptly signed off before receiving any money, anything not to have to step foot in the job centre again, don’t get me wrong, some people there were clearly looking to find work, but some were clearly there just for the hands out and had no intention of working. But as time passed, I became just like the lazy, workshy locals, that I sat next to in that Job Centre.

Work was hit and miss, a few days here a few days there, it barely paid the rent never mind the bills. The days I wasn’t working I found that gradually I didn’t even get out of bed, I would lounge around all day, pottering about on the computer, nothing productive, Facebook or games, watching the TV at the same time. Although money was tight I always managed to find cash for alcohol, the nights I wasn’t out teaching I would go to the local shop, buy either eight cans of cider or two bottles of wine, and drink the lot that night. If I was out teaching I would go to the pub after and have four pints of 5% cider. One thing I never did was drink before a class, I managed to keep it together for karate, that was the only place where I considered that things were normal.

As the weeks and months went on through 2010, work carried on to be inconsistent and money was getting harder to come by, in the mean time I was wracking up debts and bank charges. But I couldn’t break the cycle and things were getting darker, If I wasn’t working or teaching I wouldn’t really get up, wash or even dress, if I went to the shop I would just throw some tracksuit bottoms over the clothes I had slept in the previous night, eventually I spent so much time on the settee, I never left it, I just fell asleep watching TV with a can or bottle in my hand, I just started sleeping on the settee, I took myself out of the bed I had shared with my partner since 1997.

I couldn’t face dealing with the money issues, I just couldn’t get motivated to do it, if I was at home I just wanted to do nothing, just watch the TV programs I had got used to watching on a daily schedule and doing nothing constructive. At night I had convinced myself I had to drink, if I didn’t I couldn’t sleep, I would have bad dreams, nightmares, you know the kind where you keep going over the same problems, you wake thinking it’s real, you try to get back to sleep, but the same dreams comes back, the same problem, but if I’d had a drink that wouldn’t happen, I get into a deep sleep with no bad dreams, so I had to drink, it helped me escape my problems rather than face them. If I had continued to have these bad dreams, night after night, I would probably have been forced to deal with my problems, but as it was I was hiding behind the alcohol.

This cycle continued throughout 2010 and 2011, I knew deep down I had to sort this out, I knew a large crack was forming in my relationship and I knew if I didn’t sort it soon it would be too late, but I couldn’t seem to do anything about it, I just wanted to drink, I was convinced I needed to drink, if I didn’t I couldn’t sleep, I would be edgy, I would walk around the house rubbing my hand restless, I was hooked, I was no longer in control.

Towards the end of 2011 I got a full time job, regular money together with a bit of extra part time work. I thought this would be it, regular money, get caught up on some of the repayments and sort things out at home, I could get our relationship back on track once the money issue was resolved. I was wrong, because I still didn’t realise I had a drink problem, I thought it was the money that was driving the wedge between us not the drink. Earning regular money didn’t help either, it just meant that I had more money to buy more alcohol with and that was just what happened, to the point that in the weeks up to my complete and utter breakdown, I could get through anywhere between of 20 to 30 pints of cider and 8 to 10 bottles of wine a week.

The drinking habits got worse, I couldn’t not drink now, I had money, no excuse now not to drink every night. If I fell asleep with a can or bottle that I had started and I woke up in the middle of the night, I would finish it. If I woke in the morning with the alarm to get up for work and there was an unfinished can of cider I would finish it and go get ready, if it was a bottle of wine I would finish it, if it was nearly empty, then get ready or if there was more than half a bottle I would drink some more then save the rest for later. Some nights I would get back from the pub at 1am in the morning, I would search for something else to drink, then lay on the settee watching TV until I fell asleep, get up and go to work, I was spiralling out of control, I couldn’t leave any once I had started it, I couldn’t just pour it down the sink, that was a waste, I would it drink warm and flat, it didn’t matter it was still alcohol.

Then in March this year things happened at home and I had to find out where we were, my worst nightmares were confirmed, my relationship of 15 years was over and there was no going back, I had never felt so low in my life. During the last two years at my lowest points I had contemplated suicide a number of times, usually Sunday lunchtimes when the family were at Church and I was alone at home, I would sit on the edge of my bath with a small pen knife in my hand, trying to find reasons to end it or not. I knew the way the system here in the UK worked, I couldn’t provide, I wasn’t capable of providing for my family anymore, if they were a single parent family the state would pay for everything, they would be better off without me, they didn’t need me dragging them down anymore, but it always came down to one reason to carry on, that one message that was whispered in my ear every time I hit this point, that reason was that I knew the first person to find me in that bathroom, dead in a pool of my own blood, would be one of my kids, no kid should have to live with that, it would be better to live with me how I was, than live with the memory of finding me dead, that was the only thought that made me put that blade down, every time.

After that Tuesday night I couldn’t eat, I had no appetite for anything but alcohol, I was drinking more, but not eating, but after another suicide episode the following Sunday, I decided this time if I couldn’t find a way out then change was the only way forward.

I’m not all right
I’m broken inside
And all I go through
It leads me to you
(I’m Not Alright by Sanctus Real)

The next day started with a phone call that started a journey with God, a way out of the darkness and ten days later an end to the drinking. It hasn’t been an easy journey since, but I’m still sober and still on my journey with God, but now I am enjoying every minute of life, I refuse to let things bring me down anymore and I try to deal with things head on, not hide away.

Life now just gets better everyday and I can only thank God for that.