I'm back in counselling, through the Cardiff Alcohol and Drugs Team (CADT). My last experience was bad: alienating and even damaging to my mental health, although the caveat must be added that I was drinking and fighting a fruitless and painful battle to control it.
This time has started better. I went on Thursday and saw a very nice lady who had given me my assessment interview. I was amazed at the speed at which things happened and how skillfully she guided the conversation.
Initially, she just asked me how I was. I told her I thought that the entirely positive golden days of early sobriety were passed and my anxiety was ramping up and endangering my sobriety, because my way of dealing with fear is to drown it and it works, in the moment as my counsellor said.
From there it went so quickly that I'm struggling to recall the session properly. I'm sure she asked me what the cause of my anxiety was - I told her about the noisy local children. She asked me what I was scared of - I told her I feared being mocked. She asked me what would happen, what could be the worst thing that could happen in that event - I said I would be destroyed, my being would vanish.
Again, it was so fast and so emotional - and I've waited an unpardonable three days before blogging it - I can't recall everything, but, I broke down when she asked me to start visualising. See yourself as a little child she said - and that was enough, I broke down, describing how scared that little child was. "No-one ever told him things would be safe and it would be alright," she said. And it was true so I cried.
Before long I was visualising the children. I told he I would think of them as angry chimpanzees turning on one of their own number, bullying and victimising. She asked me to think of a more positive image and we agreed on baby orang utans playing. As to myself. My inner core became dust - nothing, blown away in an instant by the slightest breath of wind, by any criticism or mockery or conflict or abuse.
And that's my homework. To work on visualising myself as having a stronger sense of my own worth. And, that will take time. I have tried however, trying to tell myself my core is first a tree (what we agreed on in the session) and more recently as a metal ball and I'm trying to work on it. She pointed out that my constant monitoring of the world for threats was, in itself, a capability of a sort - a debilitating and exhausting one but one requiring some sort of skill.
This may sound ridiculous, particularly to those who don't have much time for counselling and who will find all this talk of trees and orang utans ridiculous, but to me it felt enormously powerful.
As a result, I've had a bit of an emotional week. My anxiety hasn't of course vanished, like my dusty inner core, but I felt those tears presaged some breakthrough and I know that my self-image is the one thing I have to change if I am ever going to learn to live in this world without smashing my self out with drugs or alcohol, if I am able to live without fear being my constant companion.
Ever since I can remember I have wanted not to be myself, to alter my consciousness in whatever way I possibly can. As a child by spinning, then by hyper ventilating, then by drinking, later with drugs. So, I need to go back to that to sort this all out - and it's going to be frooking hard, but it feels like the start of something.
I got myself a book on meditation out of the library and have collected another couple of numbers for martial arts groups - a way of building self-confidence. So far no call has been made, but I've made the first steps in meditation and Mrs CD very kindly just gave me a very calming massage. Both of which helped in a small way.
Because it's there and it's a real danger that could so easily push me to breakdown. The noise of children has already made me far too ready to leave the house and stay out all day to escape their noise and their conflict, and I often shelter in the pub. I do sincerely believe that a certain amount of altering of the consciousness is an entirely natural and healthy thing and maybe something like that will come through meditation. My other alternatives of choice - coffee and marijuana are starting to assume damaging characteristics. Coffee you might thing is nothing, but the amount and strength of it I drink is quite enough to cause a high - it's a cause of anxiety, so I'm an idiot inflicting pain on myself. I'm so nervous already that a spliff brings the terror of paranoia to the table, added to coffee and I'm off to the bath (the quietest room in the house) and then to bed. It's a shame, but in this state I really can't be doing with it - my intake is incredibly minimal, especially compared to my friends, but it's going to have to get lesser still.
So, a good start and two weeks to work on what I've learned about myself.