My name is Chris, and according to all fathomable logic, I should not be writing to you today, at least not about the things I’m about to write about.
I grew up on a run-down social housing estate in the poorer part of a non-descript working class town in northern England. Whilst there, I spent most of my earlier years being bullied in ways which -whilst I won’t explain them in detail here- went far beyond the typical “name-calling in the playground stuff.”
It was these experiences that led me to spending much of my late teenage years indoors, writing stories, learning to build websites, drawing pictures, fantasising, lost in a world of my own imagination.
By the time I left high school, any time that I did spend with the few friends I had was spent drinking and smoking cigarettes. At age 16, whilst on a family holiday, I first thought about committing suicide. To this day, I remain grateful that I didn’t.
Throughout my twenties, I destroyed several relationships with women who were good enough to see past my flaws, got divorced, developed chronic back pain, lost a house, became a 30-a-day smoker, became seriously overweight, developed a dependency on alcohol and became a full-blown, active alcoholic, suffered long periods of depression, suffered first with insomnia and then with night terrors, and then with some odd combination of the two, contemplated suicide several more times, destroyed another relationship (not to mention countless friendships), developed anxiety, began suffering with panic attacks, and got myself into far more financial debt than I could ever handle. Once into my thirties, I was also diagnosed with Adult ADHD, but I’ll talk more about that some other time.
When I read that list (and believe me, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg), it occurs to me that I should be in no fit position to tell anybody how joyous, wonderful, and peaceful life can be. It also makes me seriously doubt that even a single person out there would want to read the thoughts, experiences, and occasional words of advice from someone who made such a monumental mess of things.
Doubt it though I may, I’m going to do it anyway. Here’s why:
I cleaned up my mess and turned my disasterous life pre-thirty into a joyous, wonderful, and peaceful life that today I absolutely love.
I’ve sought help for my alcohlism and remained sober for over four years, successfully quit smoking, lost weight, run a marathon, healed much of my physical and emotional pain (yeah, there’s still work to be done!), travelled to new and exciting places and spent time living on another continent, performed on stage in front of 7,000 people, and met one of my heroes. I also started a modestly successful business, making a full-time income using the skills in writing, art, and web design that I learned as a lonely, isolated, bullied child.
This is where the fairytale ending usually comes in, right? This is where the ‘so now I’m fixed and yay for me and here’s how I did it,’ part comes into play, isn’t it?
You see, whilst I learned a lot in my early journey from emotionally battered and physically bruised 20 something to a sober, somewhat succesful guy in his early 30s, and whilst I believe I did a lot of growing spiritualy, mentally, and emotionally during that time, something was still fundamentally wrong.
I still experienced long bouts of depression, still experienced moments some friends of mine like to call “hitting the fuck it button,” and still had fleeting moments where suicide seemed like an inviting idea.
Something had to change.
Over the course of about 12 months, I collected all the inspiration I could muster from a wide number of sources, picking up tips, tricks, and tools wherever I could. Some worked more than others, but even the best of the bunch couldn’t help me to be free of those dark days nor fully rid myself of that lurking notion that ending it all might be my best, if not my only, option.
Finally, something clicked into place.
I’d love to tell you it was some divine moment of inspiration, but the truth is, it occured to me whilst watching dinner one night and watching the documentary Minimalist on Netflix.
Watching that started me thinking about the things in my life that were still making me unhappy and that I wanted rid of. This wasn’t necessarily a “Throw out all my furniture and household goods this instant” moment (though to be fair, that thought did flash through my mind), but something that spurred me on enough to sit down and do the one thing I always do when my ADHD-addled brain needs to make sense of a bunch of ideas: I wrote a list.
Actually, I wrote four lists, which serve as the first posts of this very blog.
First, I wrote a list labelled “THINGS THAT NEED TO GO.”
It took up about half page of A4 lined paper and included everything from ‘debt’ and ‘back pain’ to my overly cluttered email account and a Linkedin profile that I never use yet still get notifications for.
Suddenly, I started to feel inspired, enthusiastic, more excited than I had been about anything pretty much all year. So, I kept going, and wrote another list.
This one was labelled “THINGS THAT NEED TO COME IN.”
Still not quite grabbing the concept of the documentary I’d just watched, my first thought was that surely if I was getting rid of all that stuff on the top half of the page, there’d be room to bring lots more stuff in. I figured this list was sure to run several pages, and was surprised when it actually ran to only five lines. In fact, this list was so short, that I might as well tell you all of the five things that I wrote down.
1. Friends – more time and better relationships with them
2. Fresh air – more of it
5. Good health.
My thoughts were rolling now, and it occured to me that if there was so very little that I wanted to bring into my life, then surely my life must be more full and abundant than I realised.
So, I wrote a third list, this one called “THINGS THAT NEED TO STAY (THINGS I LOVE AND AM GRATEFUL FOR.”)
Sure enough, this was the biggest list of all three, and covered all kinds of things, from the roof over my head and food in my cupboards to my favourite sweater that I happened to be wearing at the time, right to intangible things, like my reasonable skills at writing, the forgiveness of others, and ‘my experiences, good and bad.’
My inspiration was now firing on all cylinders in a very clear, focussed way in which everything started to make sense.
It occured to me that there were three things I had to do:
Get rid of the bad
Bring in the good
Remember to practice grattitude for how good I’ve already got it.
Oh of course, that sounds easy, but let’s get real here. Things like “getting rid of debt and back pain” are no more easier to achieve than “developing better relationships with my friends and achieving good health,” are. At first, that’s just what I thought too, but the more I looked at my lists, the easier those things started to seem.
I started to see a very clear, direct path from where I wanted to be. I started to understand how all the advice and inspiration I’d gleamed over the course of a year were linked together, random pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that could now -finally- begin to create the picture of peace and happiness that I’d longed for.
By this point, I could no longer stop myself. I had to go for it, I had to start connecting the dots, using the tools, making small, persistent, positive changes that really worked for me.
Not only did I start to feel more peaceful and happier, I stopped feeling depressed, and haven’t considered suicide since. Not only did work become even more enjoyable, but I began to achieve more of my goals, to experience more of life, to enjoy a sense of freedom that I didn’t know existied.
I was excited too, so excited that I had to tell people, to document my journey, to start this blog that you’re reading now.
This blog is about those pieces of the jigsaw. It’s my way of explaining to myself how they all fit together and make sense, my own way of learning how to enjoy my own life whilst surrounded by so many things that are desparately -and constantly- trying to suck the life out of me.
This not a blog about alcoholism or recovery. This is not a blog about ADHD, depression, suicidal thinking or any other mental health issues. Nor is it a blog about spirituality, health, debt, or creativity.
Yet in a way, this blog is about all of those things. It’s a blog about taking whatever kind of terrible shit life gives me to deal with, and dealing with it in such a way that the outcome is a positive one for me.
I sincerely hope you enjoy reading these blog posts. I know I had a blast living and reliving them.
If you’ve taken anything from these writings, I’d certainly love to hear from you. Drop me a line in the comments, or get me on Twitter.
Til next we speak, may I wish you all the peace, love, and prosperity you deserve.