A year ago, I was sitting on my couch thumbing through a book I had got for Christmas and scrolling through Twitter, when I realized someone I followed in the support group #RecoveryPosse, was doing exactly the same thing. Cue the start of a very cool, trans-Hemisphere friendship, based initially on words, but would grow into a real friendship and mutual support.
The book was a series of letters written by famous people to their 16 year old selves; and Matt @SobrietyMatt and I decided we would give it a go ourselves and write our own.
It was not as easy as either of us thought, but very rewarding. https://chrissiestable.com/2020/01/12/dear-me/
Fast forward to the end of 2020 and the writer’s itch came back, and we decided to collaborate on a follow up. This year has been extraordinary for both of us; not only world events, but our own personal journeys.. So, we decided to write to ourselves 1.1.20…
I am very privileged to welcome my dear friend Matt as my first guest blogger, and here are our 2 letters; Mine and then Matt’s…..
Dear Me 1.1.20
Dear Me 1.1.20.
Well! Where to start? Lol…
I guess by telling you to brace yourself! The Hairiest year imaginable is headed your way, and you never see it coming! But it has a gentle end, that you will just love.
1.1.20 you feel as though you are finally getting your shit together, sadly this is just an illusion and while the world burns, you will find yourself ripping apart some of the work you did in the last 3 months and building it all again – but like the Bionic woman you are better; stronger and more whole than you have been in years. But there will be tears and heartbreak because, as in all growth spurts, there is pain.
Early in January, you bite the bullet and “join” the #RecoveryPosse on Twitter. It will be the best decision you make. More about them later though…..
The world burning? That wee virus that you’re vaguely hearing about as you plan your next few years, slowly takes over the world; and you are left sitting on the side-lines wondering WTF? Coronavirus and its subsequent sad cousin “Moronavirus” spread like, well like viruses, turning the world on its head. And disrupting everyone. That country that adopted you all those years ago has been amazing! We became the team of 5 million; and you played your part. It was an easy decision to make. With Liam and Mum in your life, looking after the vulnerable was a no brainer – well, it should be a no brainer. But in some places it became a political thing and mass stupidity followed. And you just sat, helpless on the side-lines, feeling a weird type of “survivors’ guilt”. But the lockdown, tho disturbing, gave you a chance to start to really heal and recover. After years of rushing around, you became still..
I remember NYE 19. Pizza night as always. Outwardly you were your usual calm; but inside all those familiar feelings were burbling. The helplessness and exhaustion of always having to be in control; always being “there” for people; the desire to just be alone… and all the feelings of inadequacy, and self-loathing simmered beneath your calm competent exterior. Some of that still remains; but you have learned so much this year, that it has all become manageable. Mostly.. lol
You will be encouraged to do that most terrifying of things – telling those in your RL, that you have MH problems. And it is scary – you hate pity, you don’t do vulnerable and you hate stuff being about you; but here’s the thing… EVERY single person you tell does none of that. They just want you to be happy. They love you. And trust me Hun, it does get easier to do. And by the end of the year you do the unthinkable and share your story on FB, so everybody knows.
Sadly, over the year, you will have to edit some of your relationships. Your decision to end that significant one still stands. And altho that sadness never really leaves, you ultimately know, it was never healthy; you are better for it not being a thing. Some losses will just side swipe you. A couple in particular, you don’t see coming. But you survive. And by the end of the year, you finally realise you can do this stuff alone, but you also learn to ask for help in the tough times. Who knew? lol
The other gift 2020 will give you is Zen. Pockets to begin with. And then as the year draws to a close you realise you have found calm. Deep, centring, and inexplicable. Even when the saddest thing happens, when you lose your haven; and you find yourself literally sobbing on the floor, deep down you know that this will pass, and the bad stuff will end, and you will be happy again… you’re not perfect but you have made progress; you have tossed so much in the “Fuckit Bucket”; that you are unrecognisable!
Now the #RecoveryPosse? You finally find your tribe! This group of people who are all recovering from addiction, mental health or just life are your people! Compassionate; kind; caring and wise; you learn so much from them. They give you the tools to really unpick your life and start to rebuild it in a healthy way. You learn that you aren’t weird at all; and you even start to like yourself – I know really strange huh? lol. I think it is the absolute acceptance of who people are; and the honesty with how they share their stories, gives you the courage to share yours. And you will start going to some recovery meetings; initially just as a support person, but you eventually overcome your shyness and start to participate. And one day you will find yourself agreeing to do the main share; and it will liberate you! And that anonymity that you currently cling to? Gone. As the year progresses you will find the lines between your RL and your online life blur. You have nothing to hide anymore, it makes life so much easier. You make real friends in that strange world that Twitter is.
And your companions, the Bitch Troll and The Black Dog? You struggle with her for most of the year. But eventually you knock her for 6! You simply don’t listen to her crap anymore. You are NONE of the things she said you were. A lot of what has happened was NOT your fault; YOU did nothing wrong. You are so much lighter not carrying her around Hun. And the Black Dog? He hovers. Nips in and out, but now you know he’s only there on a temporary basis. You just need to weather him out. These “evictions” take time. And they bring anxiety attacks like you’ve never had before. Covid, Lockdown and learning to live on your own terms, bring on the worst attacks. You learn to lean on others, and you know what? It is quite nice to let people look after you for a change..
The other amazing thing you do; and this one will really blow your sox off; those early morning walks you do? they morph into a love of long distance walking. It becomes the main stay of your Recovery.. you, music, and the kilometres do the most to improve your mental health. Eventually you ditch the music too, and just listen to the sounds around you. Your beloved beach becomes the place that saves you from lockdown. Within the 1k boundary, you walk that beach every day! And once the restrictions ease you move further afield, until you accidentally walk a Half Marathon! Every time you drive past the point that you reached that day, you are amazed! Sadly, your old habit of not looking after yourself bites you on the arse; and you damage your knee. For 6 weeks, you are grounded; it will force you to find other ways to meditate; find other things to calm your brain; and it will ironically see you in togs in the pool for the first time in years, as you gently exercise yourself back to health. It shows you tho, that exercise is the key, and solitude the answer. You’ve just got back into it at year’s end, and BOY! Does it feel good! Overall, you cover an amazing 1527.29+ kms! (No bloody app is perfect apparently lol, and so this is the very least you have walked!)
So, Babe… This is now Us 1.1.21; unrecognizable! But not there yet! You realised late in the year that you have so much unresolved grief in your life from all the end on end crap you’ve ploughed through, all your adult life, that the road forward includes addressing all of that; and slowly putting them away, tidily and dealt with. And there are 1 or 2 more tough conversations to be had with the most important people in your life. But I know we will find the courage to do it. So, Chick, we did the Mahi, did the work; 1.1.21 finds us better, stronger, slightly wiser but definitely happier than 1.1.20. I am so excited for the next bit; I wanna see where we end up. I know tho, that if we keep doing #ODAAT; #SelfCare and all the other things we’ve learned; and keep trusting the process, we will get there. We will find that thing we are searching for.
We are beautiful; we are “Fucking Cool” and I really think we will be ok.
I just thought I would write you a quick letter to fill you in on a few things vis-a-vis 2020. You might want to be sitting down for this.
For you it is New Years Eve 2019 and 2020 is a new opportunity full of hope and potential. You’re currently in Ireland with your folks, all cosy and safe. You’ve had your first sober Christmas since childhood and you are feeling pretty good and rightly so, but there is still more to come – you are going to keep changing and developing and learning about yourself and others in ways you can’t yet imagine. One thing is certain, this year will be a great test of your new-found sobriety, but it will also act as an opportunity – if you embrace it.
Look, I’m not going to walk you through every inch of the year and its events, that would be to take all the fun out of it, instead I’m going to give you some things to think about which might come in handy as you face each interesting twist and turn (and there are plenty of those). So as to save time I am going to write them in list form – feel free to print this out and stick it on the fridge, but be sure to remember to remove and re-attach onto the new fridge when you buy it (oh, order a bit earlier, there’s a delay in manufacture because of the factories being closed down. Ooops, “spoiler”).
Okay, here goes. “Things to think about for 2020”:
- Work hard at your programme: meditate, “hand it the fuck over” and keep talking to other alcoholics and addicts. This stuff will be more important than ever during the next 12 months. Stop trying to work out how you’re supposed to have a Higher Power when you don’t believe in God and just cling hold tight to the fact that YOU are not God! The most important thing to do is realise that you can be impulsive and this is one of the things that constantly gets you in trouble and makes you want to go back to your old thinking and old behaviours. Things will be happening this year that require considered and composed thinking and you will need to talk stuff through with those around you and constantly re-evaluate the situation. If there is one thing that is true of 2020 it is that things don’t stand still for long – events are moving at an extraordinary pace and decisions will need to be made after clear forethought.
- Make sure you have plenty of toilet roll in before March. Don’t ask, you’ll thank me later.
- Be generous this year, not necessarily financially, although that wouldn’t hurt either, but more importantly be generous with your reactions to others. People respond to difficult situations in many ways, some step up and want to lead, others panic and fall to pieces, some face their fear with anger or outrageous humour – and others do a mixture of some or all those things! You will recognise that in yourself, right? Well, if you don’t you will have plenty of evidence of it this year. When someone presents you with one of these characteristics, don’t do your normal thing of overreacting right away, instead try sitting on your hands and THINK. Sleep on it, talk to people and then talk to some more people. Then and only then talk to the person involved with sincere open-mindedness and empathy.
- You’re about to make some serious friendships this year, not least the New Zealand lass* who you’ve just started chatting to. There are others too, all over the world and they will become true friends and even cynical old you won’t be able to deny it. Cherish that and nurture it. This Irish lady you follow** will suggest to you that you join her for an informal recovery catch up type thing in March, you’ll have reservations because it involves meeting people, but it’s going to be really beneficial and lead to all these fantastic friendships, so DO IT!
- Keep writing; you enjoy it and you’re finding a voice you didn’t know you had. Embrace that and run with it, but don’t take it too seriously or do it too intensely, you’ll only burn yourself out and destroy all interest in it. Let it happen when it wants to happen.
- Be prepared for change – and lots of it, stay calm and just talk everything through with R*** and your friends in recovery, you’ll find it exhilarating and scary, but that’s okay. There is nothing that you can’t handle with the support of those around you.
- Recognise that your alcoholic thinking and behaviours can present themselves in many ways and this year they will. Try not to leave it too long before you call on your friends for support – you’re so used to wallowing and moaning that you forget that there is another way – advice and action. Towards the end of the year a big issue rears its head for you, something that if I asked you about right now you’d probably say didn’t exist, but this chap will come along one day and say something in a meeting that brings this niggling trifle out into the light. You’ll find it a relief to air it and, if you remain open-minded your HP (whatever the fuck that is) will throw something in your path that will help you explore and resolve it (hopefully, it’s still a work in progress as I write).
- I would like to write a sub-list of words, phrases and people that will be unfamiliar to you now that by the end of the year you’ll be rather tired of:
- Hands, Face, Space
- Baked Potato Song
- Face Covering
- Joe Wicks
- Matt Hancock
- Zoom (it’s not the sound of a passing car)
- Bubbles (not the type kids like)
- Covid-19 (you’re not going to believe this one, so I won’t try and explain).
And there you have it, you can take nothing for granted during 2020 and that is a valuable lesson for us all. Your programme has taught you the value of “keeping it in the day” and that will prove very useful over the next 12 months and probably beyond. Keep ploughing on and remember, if you want to ever “get out of your head”, help someone else – you’ll soon forget your own worries.
Good luck, you’ll need it.
*** Long-suffering husband