I am working on Part 2 of the story, as promised. It’s more difficult to write than Part 1, which is unexpected. So here’s something to be thinking about in the meantime.
“You may not want to go into that basement, but if you really don’t go into that basement, it’s at your own peril. Whatever you are ignoring is not going to go away. Whatever you’re ignoring is only going to get worse. Whatever you’re ignoring will be there to be reckoned with until you reckon with it.” [historian Isabel Wilkerson in conversation with Krista Tippett, OnBeing.org, November 2016]
I put a lot of effort into investigating what was wrong in the basement, I have journals full of ruminations about it, and many journals burned in a bonfire because of the repetitive searching for what it was that was wrong in the basement. After years of searching for the problem I made the decision to stop drinking anyway, it wasn’t getting me anywhere, and maybe the problem would reveal itself to my sober self. There were several reasons why this was a good idea, physical health related mostly, and also the fact that increasingly I was hearing that alcohol had an adverse effect on mental health. Since I was suffering with anxiety, depression and mild agoraphobia I argued (with myself) that removing alcohol could only be beneficial.
Within a couple of weeks of abstinence from alcohol I was feeling, if not on top of the world, a great deal better than I had felt for a long time. I was proud of myself, my self esteem was growing by the sober day. I hadn’t believed that I was capable of “giving up” alcohol, I was prepared for a fall, or what is sometimes referred to as an “epic fail”. But here’s a thing, John stopped drinking with me to help me along. That was a powerful incentive to carry on and maybe somewhere in the background was the thought that he’d drink again eventually, sooner than later, and then I could just start again without too much discussion. There was also a bit of resentment that he was sharing the stage with me too, this amazing thing I was doing, and I sometimes mentioned that he hadn’t really had a problem, he could take it or leave it, so stopping wasn’t such a big deal for him. I had enough residual awareness to recognise that this was my ego at work – this would later turn into full awareness when I learned more about the shenanigans of the ego. I still have misgivings about sharing the stage, but it is what it is, John’s faced the same or similar temptations as me, the same questioning by friends and family, the offside comments, we’ve faced them together sometimes and supported each other all the way.
Anyway, back to the problems in the basement. John doesn’t seem to have, or be aware of, any problems in his own basement, but he knows that there be demons in mine and he’s had more than his fair share of listening to me exploring them. Stopping drinking has given me the impetus to explore the area around the basement some more, acknowledge things that might shed light on the dysfunctionality that still gives me sleepless nights and dark days of sitting with uncomfortable feelings. I have been on antidepressants, and off them, and back on them again. I have discovered a lot about myself and rediscovered a spiritual side of my being that is a great comfort. Still the demons lurk in the basement, unnamed and uncomfortable. I have spent long hours talking to therapists from a variety of disciplines, undertaken an online CBT course, learned and practiced mindfulness, meditation, studied with spiritual teachers (online and by retreat) and still my soul is not at ease.
And that’s ok too. One of the things I have learned is that I have all the time in the world, no matter how much calendar time I have yet to live. Time is not an issue. There’s plenty to fill the time despite being retired and immobile to the extent that I can’t go out for long walks (with or without dogs), or run, or do hot yoga sessions. There’s still plenty to fill the time and no need to turn to alcohol to blot it out. There are more books in the world than I could ever manage to read, there are blogs and podcasts that I will never engage with. Many films I have never seen, and teachers I have not yet discovered (although I do believe that when the student is ready the teacher will find them). There are friends, more than I knew or thought possible, and there’s me, sober, a human being rather than a human doing.
Sometimes, in the effort to discover what the problem is in the basement, I have been inclined to invent one. You know, place a lot more attention than it ever deserved on something in my life that is long over and done with. I have read blogs telling me that if I don’t deal with the reasons for my drinking in the first place then I am doomed to failure. Like Isabel Wilkerson (quote above) said: “Whatever you’re ignoring will be there to be reckoned with until you reckon with it.” Maybe so, but I’m not ignoring anything that I can perceive, or not intentionally anyway, and I am beginning to think that it’s time to leave the basement alone, in peace, and stop digging around at its foundations for something that might just be a figment of an over-active imagination.
Namaste my friends, much love to you all and thanks for listening.
Nana Treen xxx