I’ve been awake since 2:30am.
It’s pouring with rain outside and it’s freezing.
Whenever it rains at night, especially that hard driving miserable rain, I think of the homeless. I lay in bed, snuggled under my duvet and blanket and I imagine how awful it must be for them trying to stave off the cold and the wet.
I start to feel guilty for lying in my warm, dry bed and I start to imagine how unfair it is that, in this day and age, all people of the world don’t have the basic necessities of life – food, shelter, warmth.
Because waking up at the witching hour plays havoc with our minds, doesn’t it. Once our minds are awake, and it is quiet and still, and all we can hear is the steam train that is our thoughts, there is no stopping them.
I read somewhere once that if you suffer from insomnia or are a light sleeper, that if you don’t fall back to sleep within 20 minutes, you should get up, make yourself a cup of tea and read a few pages of a book. The idea is that your sleep cycle will kick in and within an hour or so you will feel sleepy and then you should go to bed. You will have suffered a break in your sleep, but you at least won’t have lost an entire night’s sleep.
I don’t think that will happen with me.
A lot has been going on in my life over the past few weeks and months.
Like a deluge, the onslaught has seemed like it has been endless.
And with each thing that happens, my brain is struggling to find a place to store it, or let it go, and so it sits there, in my conscious mind, ruminating.
And ruminating is the death cry for someone with depression.
I’ve been trying to do some work on my (what new agers will call) shadow side. There can be no light without the shadow, and in order to see the light we have to confront the dark.
It has brought up a lot of anger.
And I don’t do anger very well.
Not the kind of anger that I’m feeling right now.
My anger is usually directed towards injustice of some kind – political, social, community.
But this anger is different. This anger is borne of years of feelings of unworthiness. It is borne of looking at myself and wondering why certain events have happened, questioning my role in them, questioning what it is I have done to attract the trauma that has occurred in my life. It is a dark anger at myself and others.
Every alcoholic knows that this is a necessary and vital part of healthy sober living. We became alcoholics because we could not cope with the pain that life threw at us. We were angry with life, hurt by it and turned to drink to numb it.
There are those of us that are so sensitive that we question if life is really worth the effort. I argue that it is, but it takes work. Hard fucking emotional work.
Like a death, when shit in life happens we have to process, grieve and then let go.
And so I’m working on it.
It’s dirty and it’s ugly.
And when I find myself, like tonight, with a mind that is rushing past my very eyes, opening and shutting memories, trying to recall conversations, wondering what I have done to deserve all of this shit, frantically trying to make sense of it all, trying desperately to hold onto some kind of self worth, trying to understand people’s motives and actions, and trying to process the why me of it all, I ask myself:
What would Buddha do?
When I was 14 years old, I was introduced to Buddhism by my then boyfriend’s mother. I was at an anglican school, and even back then I could see the injustice of organised religion. From the get go I loved the idea of karma – of being accountable for your own actions, of being your own judge and jury, of an inner knowing of whether or not you were doing right or wrong. I could never quite get my head around the idea of rebirth, but I loved the central tenet of kindness and compassion, and first do no harm (good thought, good deed, good speech).
I never became a full blown Buddhist though. I had issues with the myriad of gods that emerged. I later learned that Buddhism was borne out of Hinduism – almost a social movement against it and the caste system it steadfastly fostered – so it made sense that people of the time could not let their gods go, though they followed the central tenet of the philosophy.
But even then Buddha said that unless you experience it, you don’t have to believe it, even if those that are in power tell you that it is true.
I loved that – being accountable for my own actions and being allowed to think for myself.
And ever since I was 14 I have tried to be kind, to live a kind life, and to be kind to people. But I have also allowed myself to think for myself and to speak up when I see injustice.
But I am slowly learning that no matter how kind you try to be, how you might stand up for injustice, life – and shit – happens. There is no stopping it and there is no controlling it. It just happens. And deal with it I must.
Life on life’s terms.
And so, when I am faced with anguish and sleepless nights, I refer to Buddha. Kind, wisdom filled, first do no harm, be kind Buddha.
What would Buddha do?
He’d meditate for sure.
I tried that and unfortunately, at 3:30am that isn’t working.
He would encourage kindness and compassion in thought, word and deed.
I like to think that he meant that not only for others around you, but to yourself as well.
And that is where I am falling down.
I’m having to work really hard not to fall into a pit of despair. I feel victimised with recent and past events. And I am asking why me? Of course, because I am an alcoholic, because life of life’s terms is hard, because I am so sensitive, I assume I am defective in some way. And so I want to drink. Because feeling worthless and valueless is unbearable.
Be kind in thought, word and deed.
The other day I lay in bed for pretty much the whole day. I recognised that I needed time out, to just be. I really did not want to take that drink.
Two hours sleep I have had tonight.
Fuck, this life thing is hard.
But Im working on it.
Every day is a new dawn and a new day with new possibilities.
Every day is another day I can celebrate the success of not taking that drink.
5 years, 8 months and 2 weeks of living life on life’s terms.
Despite some pretty big awful things happening.
I can do this. So can you, by the way, if you are struggling too. WE can do this.
We don’t deserve the shit that gets thrown at us, but shit happens. It does. And we have to look at our role in it, accept our part in it (Step 4), atone for it (Step 5) and move on. If we were the victims, then we walk away and move on. As alcoholics, our very life depends on the ability to do that. With kindness and compassion to ourselves and those we are leaving behind, we walk away.
Because that is what Buddha would do.
Until next time,